Tony (my darling husband) has developed an obsession for chickpeas lately, and I have been busy trying to create different ways for him to enjoy this healthy legume.
These foodie challenges have helped make my pandemic life a bit less boring, especially when they result in new food discoveries, like the amazing feta cheese in this Greek Chickpea Salad.
A traditional Greek salad doesn’t have lettuce and instead features a medley of chopped vegetables, including tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, bell pepper, Kalamata olives and feta cheese, often dressed with a lemon-oregano vinaigrette, or just really good extra-virgin olive oil. Chickpeas are a common ingredient in Greek and Mediterranean cuisine and blend perfectly with these components.
Because of its simple nature, I like to use ingredients that are the best quality and size for this rustic chopped salad. Instead of cherry or grape tomatoes, I prefer the Campari variety of vine tomatoes, also known as cocktail tomatoes, which are a bit larger in size and perfect for quartering.
While green pepper is often a staple in a traditional Greek salad, I prefer the flavor of red and orange peppers as well as the pop of color they bring to the salad. My recipe calls for half of each, diced into large pieces, but you can use any mix of peppers that fits your taste.
For the cucumber, I really like the thin skin and undeveloped seed structure of the English variety (also called greenhouse cucumbers). They are quite long, so I only needed to use half for this recipe.
Good feta cheese is a hallmark of a great Greek salad, and while crumbled feta may work well in a tossed lettuce salad, it does not have the star power that a good Greek feta will bring to the mix.
For this purpose, I paid a visit to GP’s Greek Kitchen, 2553 Kirsten Lane S., in south Fargo, where I knew I would find the best Greek feta cheese available. The feta you find there is completely unlike the packaged grocery store varieties, which are typically crumbly, dry and salty.
Cut into thick pieces and drizzled with olive oil and dried oregano, the Greek feta from GP’s is lush and creamy, with a mellow tang and very little salty taste. Its mild flavor profile makes this feta more receptive to absorbing the flavors of the salad, rather than dominating them. Ounce for ounce, there is hardly any price difference between this fresh feta and the packaged variety, and I will always happily add another stop to my grocery shopping for cheese of this quality.
The dressing is a simple vinaigrette made with extra-virgin olive oil (Greek, if you can find it), red wine vinegar, fresh lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic, seasoning and dried oregano. You can make the dressing up to a week in advance, and even double the recipe to have on hand for other salads.
Fresh, simple and full of healthy protein, this Greek Chickpea Salad was a hit with Tony, and I hope you enjoy it, too.
Ingredients for the salad:
1 cup Campari or cherry tomatoes, quartered or halved
1 cup English cucumber, quartered and cut into half-inch pieces
½ orange bell pepper, large-diced
½ red bell pepper, large-diced
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, remove any loose husks
¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced and cut into 1-inch pieces
5 ounces good Greek feta cheese, cut into large cubes (not crumbles)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients for the dressing:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 clove garlic, peeled and whole
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Prepare the dressing first so it has time to marinate as you prepare the vegetables.
In a small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk vigorously until fully emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Add the whole garlic clove and let marinate at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.
Place salad ingredients in a large bowl, drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and toss gently to combine.
Remove garlic clove from the vinaigrette and discard. Pour half the dressing over the salad and toss to distribute. Taste and add more dressing as desired or save for later use. Sprinkle salad with salt and pepper according to taste.
Serve immediately, or, for best results, refrigerate salad for 1 hour before serving so that the flavors can meld together.
To store: Leftovers may be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days. The vinaigrette may be made up to 1 week in advance and refrigerated until ready to use. Shake vigorously before adding to the salad.