Greek Village Salad is rustic combination of garden vegetables, feta cheese and kalamata olives－but no lettuce. The basic ingredients are tossed in a flavorful vinaigrette that will transport you to Greece…or at least make you feel like you’re in an authentic Greek restaurant!
There’s something quite special about a salad that nails authentic Greek flavor. The tangy, herby, perfectly seasoned blend of vinegar, lemon juice, oregano and olive oil is something to behold.
I perk up when I dig into a dish that hits all the right flavor notes in perfect balance －and with such basic ingredients. My appreciation likely stems from growing up with a Greek friend (she joked that her family was one of the few who grew grapes for the leaves!) as well as living in an area with some incredible Greek restaurants.
(Side note: if you live in Lancaster, Souvlaki Boys on West James Street makes the quintessential Greek salad dressing. My whole family adores their Signature Greek Salad with Chicken Souvlaki. The last time I checked, the price for the larger dinner portion size was a very reasonable $9.40.)
The Greek word for the following traditional recipe is horiatiki salata, which translates to village or peasant salad. The village salad shines in its simplicity, relying on a short list of fresh, seasonal ingredients and a perfectly balanced dressing.
And there happens to be no lettuce!
Traditionally, the salad is prepared with large chunks of the various ingredients, and individual servings are often topped with a thick slice or large cubes of feta. I tend to chop the ingredients in somewhat smaller pieces and crumble the feta, for what I think is more flavor in every bite, but you may opt for a larger chop if preferred.
The vibrant salad is an ideal way to make use of the abundant supply of vine-ripened tomatoes and other seasonal produce that taste so good right now, and it complements basic proteins, grains and a wide variety of other vegetables, too.
I anxiously await the return of good, vine-ripened tomatoes each summer because they make this salad such a treat. My husband and boys adore it, and I often serve it with grilled chicken and corn on the cob.
Additionally, the village salad complements fish, steak, pasta and other plant-based recipes that rely on grains (like quinoa, bulgur and couscous) and legumes (like garbanzo and other white beans).
For an all-in-one, protein-rich meal, you could even toss in a can of rinsed and drained garbanzo beans and serve with a side of crusty bread or pita to mop up the flavorful vinaigrette.
In a nutshell:
- The salad can be prepared a couple of hours in advance.
- The combination of lemon juice and red wine vinegar adds depth of flavor and prevents the dressing from seeming either too citrusy or too tangy.
- A perfect complement to corn on the cob, burgers, steak, grilled chicken, fish, pasta and most grains and legumes.
- Excellent way to use lots of seasonal veggies
- Crusty bread is great for soaking up the sauce (pita would be a traditional alternative)
- I like to crumble the feta instead of cubing it. By doing so, I use about half the amount of feta than is used in traditional Greek salads, but still get good flavor in each bite.
- 4 tomatoes (3½ to 4 cups or 24 ounces total)*
- 1 slender cucumber (use 2 if small; an English cucumber works well, too)
- 2 large bell peppers (I like a mix of colors)
- 1 small red onion (or half a medium – may go lighter if preferred)
- ½ cup pitted kalamata olives or mix of favorite olives (I like to slice; may halve or leave whole)
- 4 ounces (1 cup) feta cheese, crumbled
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1½ teaspoons minced fresh oregano (or ½ teaspoon dried)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Optional: 1½ teaspoons minced fresh mint or dill
For the dressing: Add the ingredients to a screw top jar, seal and shake well. May prepare in advance; shake again before serving.
For the salad: Cut the tomatoes into wedges or chop if preferred. Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise (or quarter if cucumber isn’t all that slender), and then in cut into chunks.
Core, seed and chop the peppers. Peel the onion, slice in half from top to bottom and then cut into thin slivers.
Place the prepared ingredients in a bowl and top with the olives and feta.
Pour the dressing over top, toss to combine and garnish with a few fresh herbs, if desired. Serve in individual salad bowls.
*Regular vine-ripened tomatoes are perfect, although a mix including grape, cherry, and plum tomatoes is quite nice, too. When tomatoes are especially seedy and juicy, I like to drain the excess juice before adding to the salad.
If you’d like to further substitute or customize this salad:
•Kalamata olives are traditional, but I often add some green olives, too.
•For added protein and complementary flavor, you could add a cup of garbanzo beans. A whole can (rinsed and well drained) would turn this into a filling vegetarian meal (vegan if the feta is omitted), although you may wish to make extra vinaigrette in this case.
•If you’d like to serve with a grain, bulgur, couscous and quinoa would all complement nicely (opt for the quinoa if gluten-free). Again, you may wish to double the dressing recipe for drizzling over the grain of choice.
•Chicken, fish, steak and lamb pair beautifully with this salad, as does pasta. We’ve long enjoyed this recipe for Greek Pasta Salad, but you could also try doubling this Village Salad dressing recipe and adding pasta.
•If you’d like to serve Village Salad with Greek chicken, Absolutely Famous Greek Dressing makes a fabulous marinade. (It reminds me of Gazebo Room dressing for those who are familiar－which also makes a terrific marinade.)
•I haven’t tried, but those who are not fond of cucumbers could prepare this salad with fresh raw zucchini. Grilled and cooled zucchini would likely add great flavor but would lack the crisp crunch provided by the cucumbers. (But I think it would still be worth trying!)