Greek salad

We were having people over for New Year’s Eve and ordering out was not an option because the food would’ve never reached us on time and instead of asking the cook to make something I thought it would make a good idea for me to put together some grub for the family and the extended family (read: no boring food and the usual biryani/pulao-gravy-dessert menu). I didn’t want to make anything that we normally make and I knew that everyone was looking forward to this meal because all along they’d only tasted a few pieces of cake or seen pics of the food on FB. Yes, the expectations were high (I know I’m being dramatic now!) so I decided to go with a mixed menu: we had Khubbus, Hummus, Baba Ganoush, Greek salad, thin crust pizzas, spaghetti in mushroom sauce with broccoli and then for dessert there was an eggless chocolate mousse cake.

That’s our NYE dinner

I usually like the table set up in neutral tones when we’re having people over but when there was so much food to put out I thought it would be a good idea to use one of the dishes as the centrepiece and it just had to be the Greek salad. This dish looked so colourful, with all the bold hues, that it just stole the attention away from the rest of the dishes.

Doesn’t that make for a beautiful centrepiece?

And now for my little secret, I was short of time and I knew just two-three stores where you get good feta cheese in Chennai. But it was just my luck, the day I went to both these I couldn’t find any feta cheese! I didn’t want to change the menu just three hours before the guests arrived, so I quickly did a Google search from my phone and looked for alternatives. I wasn’t very pleased when the search results showed paneer but since I didn’t have a choice I just went with it.

Here’s what I did for the fake feta cheese

50 gms of paneer, crumbled
1/4 tsp of dried basil
Salt to taste
Some water

Mix all the above together and keep it in the fridge for an hour or so. Just before you need to use the ‘cheese’, squeeze out the excess water and sprinkle on the salad. You won’t notice the difference, trust me on this!

And now for the salad…

I’m a huge fan of salad and they are a meal in itself where I’m concerned and Greek salad is one of my absolute faves because it is so simple, delicious and easy to rustle up. Just this and some bread – heaven! The recipe I’ve used is something that I’ve adapted from Rachel Ray‘s and it works well for me.

2 green capsicums, de-seeded and cut into strips
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 cucumbers, cut into strips – I left the peel on but it is a personal choice
1/4 cup of black olives, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced and soaked in 1 cup of water with 1 tsp of vinegar – this helps to reduce the pungency of the onion
1 small red bell pepper, de-seeded and cut into strips
3 tbsp of feta cheese, crumbled
Some chopped parsley to garnish

For the dressing
1 tsp of oregano
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp of freshly crushed black pepper powder
Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients together for the dressing in a jar and shake well to ensure that they have combined. Keep this in the fridge for an hour or two before pouring on the vegetables.

Place all the vegetables in a salad bowl and drizzle the dressing over this, sprinkle the crumbled feta and chopped parsley over this. Chill the salad for at least 30 minutes in the fridge before serving, this helps the flavours to come together really well.

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