Monday, July 14, 2008
I am a vegetarian, but I pretty much hate salad. I know this sounds like a contradiction, but consider: whenever there is no actual vegetarian food, people say, "You can have a salad!" By salad they mean 15 calories worth of iceberg lettuce. This is not a meal, people. So I embittered toward all salad. Also, I don't really like lettuce. I mean, I'll eat $10/pound micrograins watered with the tears of virgins and tended by sacred goats (which makes me sound like a hipster, I admit), but your average iceberg or romaine does not turn me on.
When I went to Greece, I wasn't sure what to expect by way of food. Because of the whole vegetarian thing, generally when I travel food is more necessary caloric sustenance than a part of the experience (Scandinavian countries, I'm looking at you), but Greece was an absolute revelation. It was the best food I've eaten in my life, ever.
Classic Greek salad is called "Horiatiki," which literally means "Village Salad." I guess it has its origins as a simple, humble food. It is still simply prepared, but humble is not the word. According to a placemat at one restaurant we ate at (and aren't placemats the best source of culinary history?), horiatiki probably started out as simply a slab of feta topped with a bit of sliced red onion, sprinkled with herbs, and drizzled with olive oil. It evolved to include a few more ingredients, but only a few. Classic Greek salad contains only cucumber, tomato, onion, and feta, dressed with olive oil and a few herbs. Some places may toss in a couple extra ingredients, like sweet peppers, bell peppers, olives, or capers, but no more than that. The best part about Greek salad? NO LETTUCE.
This week I went to the farmer's market with no inspiration for what I wanted to make for lunch this week. I am cheap and I enjoy my own cooking so I bring my lunch to work every day, making a big old something on Sunday and eating it throughout the week. I ran into a friend at the market and she described a Greek salad she had made and it all became clear. Greek salad alone isn't going to be enough to fill me up, but what if I combined it with tabbouleh? And added some chickpeas for more protein and fiber? The answer is delicious.
Drain and rinse:
1 can chickpeas
2-3 cloves garlic and add to chickpeas along with
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil.
Stir and let sit for the flavors to meld.
In another bowl, reconstitute 1 cup bulghur wheat according to package directions, except before measuring out your water put into the measuring cup:
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Then fill the measuring cup the rest of the way with the necessary amount of water, and pour over the bulghur. Soak until the liquid is absorbed.
1 bunch fresh parsley (I prefer flat leaf)
1-2 sweet and/or bell peppers
1/2 red onion
1 pint grape tomatoes, or 3 full size tomatoes
1 small handful fresh mint leaves
8 oz feta cheese (can use fat free)
1 Tbsp capers (optional; not chopped)
Mix all ingredients together. Add cracked pepper and salt to taste, drizzle with more olive oil if needed.
I also got a pint of raspberries, because my gmail had randomly suggested this Salt-Kissed Buttermilk Cake recipe to me. I love buttermilk and had some in the fridge that needed to be used, and I love salty-sweet, so I had to try it. The Whole Foods didn't have whole wheat pastry flour (how I miss Austin's Central Market that had whole wheat pastry flour in bulk!) so I used 1 cup all purpose white flour and 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour. I didn't have any coarse sugar, so for sprinkling on top I used 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (made by putting a vanilla bean in a jar with some sugar and letting it sit). For the salt topping I used coarse sea salt. I am not good at photographing baked goods; trust that the cake tasted better than it looks. The flavors are very simple and the lemon zest really stands out. Next time, though, I'll sprinkle some cinnamon on top for a little bit of kick.
There is much sewing to discuss and even more stashing to confess, but food is so much easier to photograph than I am!