I have learned that I really enjoy Greek flavors. Greek salad, the kind that's on every lunch menu in town, is not my favorite, but rather tabbouleh type salads with lots of cucumber, feta, lemon and herbs. My standing favorite was Mediterranean Tabbouleh with lots of kalamata olives and bulger wheat, but this middle eastern salad was just different enough with the chickpeas that I had to try it. I'm glad I did. It's a totally different taste and now I have two go-to Greek-like salads up my sleeve.
Fatoush, a Middle Eastern salad with feta and toasted pita bread is definitely the inspiration for this dish. The thing that really makes this salad stand out is the addition of all three fresh herbs; parsley, mint and basil. You put the three of them together and you can't imitate the flavor any other way, so be sure and use all of them.
Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad
adapted from Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That? By Ina Garten
10 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded, cored, and 1/2-inch-diced (I used red bell pepper)
1 hot house cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded, and 1/2-inch-diced
1 can or jar (12-16 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 coves)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil
8 ounces feta cheese, 1/2-inch-diced (I used 4 ounces)
Toasted pita bread, for serving
Place the scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, parsley, mint, and basil in a large salad bowl and toss to combine.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Pour the dressing over the salad, tossing gently to coat all the vegetables. Add the feta, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss gently. Serve the salad with toasted pita bread.
To toast pita: I cut pita bread into wedges (naan bread works too) and sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Then I stick it into a 350 degrees oven for about 5-10 minutes until heated through and lightly dry on the sides. I like mine more like bread than chips.
note: I wanted to make this salad more hefty for a main course so I added 1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa to the mix.
Make sure to use Greek feta and be sure to dice it rather than crumble it. It's prettier and the cheese doesn't get muddled into everything. Traditionally, the pita would be tossed in with the salad. Ina likes hers on the side but it's up to you how you want to do it. I like to make a big batch of this and snack on it all weekend long. It's the perfect, healthy lunch.
On a personal note, I saw "The Social Network" last night and kinda loved it. Zuckerberg to the Winklevoss (sp?) twins: "If you really were the inventor of Facebook, you would have invented Facebook". Smart flick.