For many years I thought that I didn’t like Greek salad. Too salty! Too oniony! Too briny! Swimming in dressing! Fortunately I came to the realization that I’d been eating crappy Greek salads and totally changed my tune.
Over the course of my MSc program in nutrition, my cohort of international nutritionists hosted many potluck meals, and our Greek nutritionist, Thanasis, almost always contributed some sort of rendition on a Greek salad. Though he lamented the quality of ingredients available in Sweden (Here is a Greek salad. It has the worst tomatoes, the worst cucumbers, the worst feta, and the worst olive oil.) I thought his salads were fabulous. Not too acidic, and with a generous quantity of olive oil, they were just the Greek salad I’d always been looking for.
I can’t call this a Greek salad because I’ve totally bastartized it, so Mediterranean Chickpea Salad it is. The red onions are mellowed out by a brief marinate in red wine vinegar, a trick I learned here and have never stopped using. It’s vegetable heavy, olive moderate, and made more substantial with the addition of chickpeas for protein and heft. I’ve left out the usual feta, replacing it with optional croutons of seared halloumi which are served on the side and easily left out for a vegan salad.
This salad packs up decently well and makes for good picnic fare, and it makes a lot so is great for sharing. It will last only a couple of days in the fridge before the cucumbers and tomatoes start to go all wilty, so you may want to scale the recipe according to your needs rather than being left with a huge quantity of salad you’re frantically trying to go through before it becomes sad. Like all salads this one is a template for your palate, so I’d love to hear how you make it yours.
Chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans, are a super food! They contain about 12.5 grams of fiber per cup, which is 50% of the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber. About two-thirds of the fiber in garbanzos is insoluble, which is great for digestive health, particularly in the colon. The remaining third is soluble fiber, which can help lower our LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides; important for cardiovascular health. The protein-fiber combination in chickpeas is key for stabilizing blood sugar levels, as both protein and fiber move through our digestive systems at a moderate pace. This protein-fiber combination is also beneficial for improving our sense of satiety, which can help prevent over eating. Chickpeas are notable for antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, but also contain concentrated supplies of antioxidant phytonutrients such as flavonoids and polyphenols. Chickpeas also contain valuable amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the body’s omega-3 fatty acid from which all other omega-3 fats are made. Chickpeas for the win!
Two years ago: Boiled Broccoli with Poached Scrambled Eggs
- ½ a medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp ground sumac
- 1 long English cucumber, diced
- 2 large tomatoes, diced
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- 1½ cups chickpeas (about 1 400g tin)
- ½ cup kalamata olives
- 200g halloumi, cubed (optional)
- Place the sliced red onions in a small bowl. Toss with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and sumac and set aside to marinate while you prep the other ingredients.
- In a large bowl combine diced cucumber, tomato, red pepper, chickpeas, and olives. Add the marinated onions and all of the accompanying liquid, and toss the salad well to combine.
- If using halloumi croutons, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add a tsp of olive oil, and sear the halloumi cubes for a few minutes, until they are golden on all sides. Remove from the heat.
- To serve, spoon the salad into individual bowls, tossing the salad a bit before serving as liquid will have settled to the bottom. Top individual bowls with halloumi croutons, or leave them off for a vegan salad. Enjoy!