I really like Greek salad. The summer I spent in Prague, having been rather not thrilled by the Czech cuisine (which is hearty meatiness done to perfection), I practically lived on Greek salad, yogurt, and stracciatella gelato. And beer. Because in Prague, they are really proud of their beer (I just read that... it made me laugh) and the waiters always looked terribly put out if I asked for water.
The combination of flavors -- grassy cucumbers, briny olives, onions, tomatoes, and the pungent creaminess of feta -- is genius. Still, I've never liked how a bad Greek salad arrives at the table: a bowl of massive vegetable chunks, soaked in a pool of bad vinaigrette. What's the point of making a salad when all the components are almost too big to fit in your mouth? You get assaulted by singular explosions of flavor. I AM A TOMATO! I AM AN OLIVE! I AM A PIECE OF ONION SO VAST THAT I WILL POLLUTE YOUR BREATH FOR THE NEXT FIVE HOURS!
Which is why I am obsessed with and addicted to the following recipe. Everything is on a smaller scale and the addition of fresh herbs and lemon cut through the loud flavors with zing and sparkle.
Greek Salad With Orzo
(adapted freely from a recipe in the now sadly deceased Gourmet magazine.)
3/4 cup orzo
1 (15-oz.) can garbanzo beans
1 basket cherry tomatoes (or several normal tomatoes, whatever floats your boat.)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (or more. I like a huge amount of parsley.)
1 tablespoon chopped oregano (or more.)
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and chopped
1/2 red onion, minced
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, slivered
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 lb. feta
Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain in a sieve and rinse under cold water. Drain well.
Chuck garbanzo beans, vegetables, herbs, and olives into a large bowl. Drizzle over the oil and vinegar. Throw in the lemon juice and zest. Add about 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and loads of pepper. Toss everything together. Add the orzo and crumble over the feta. Give everything a good toss and season to taste.
Chop up the lettuce and put it in bowls. Spoon the pasta/vegetable mix over and serve.
Improvise at will. As you can see, I forgot to buy tomatoes.