Greek Salad: Healthy, Nutritious and Easy to Make
A Gastronomic Tribute to Homer’s Mythical Heroes and Feta Cheese
It is impossible to visit any part of Greece without eating at least one Greek Salad. I’ve had my fill almost everywhere, but I liked it better in Santorini. Not because the recipe was any different, but because the company was excellent!
I was spending one afternoon idling around the streets of Santorini with then my boyfriend Hotass (not his real name, just a nickname he acquired on a funny occurrence!)
In the evening, we stopped at a tavern for dinner, while admiring a fabulous Mediterranean sunset over the Santorini Caldera. An exquisite view from a considerable height and the remainder of a massive volcanic eruption that shaped this circular archipelago.
While mulling over the possibility that the said eruption might have sent the famous Atlantis to the bottom of the sea, Hotass admitted that he had no idea about Greek foods, so it was down to me to order what I thought was worth experiencing for the first time. A virgin to moussaka and tzatziki, my American born and bred boyfriend liked his fingers after each course and proclaimed the Greek cuisine divine!
The truth is, you can’t go wrong with things that many people grow in their gardens. And you don’t have to physically be in Greece (even if it is preferable, being a holiday hot spot for all the right reasons!) to make a simple, filling, healthy and delicious starter.
For me, it turned countless times in a whole meal, especially in the summer months when I go for anything light, healthy and easy to make.
Before you start preparing your Greek salad, here are a few things that could help understand why the Mediterranean diet is regarded as one of the healthiest ones.
Feta cheese facts:
- It was first prepared over six thousand years ago, allegedly by a mythological cyclops named Polyphemus in Homer’s Odyssey.
- The original name was tyripheta, the Greek for a slice of cheese. The current name comes from the Italian fetta that translates as a slice.
- It is made of goat milk (30%) and sheep milk (70%), explaining the sharp taste.
Kalamata olives facts:
- Are cultivated in the coastal city with the same name, two and a half hours driving from the Greek capital, Athens.
- Are rich in antioxidants that prevent the free radicals from damaging the cells in your body, reducing chronic disease risk (cardiovascular, cancer).
- An antioxidant called oleuropein (that fights bacteria and some viruses in your body) gives the slightly bitter taste.
- Oleuropein together with hydroxytyrosol (also found in Kalamata olives), reduces the inflammation level in your body, fights against the effect of the UV, and reduces the risk of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
- Are rich in vitamins B, C, E and K, which benefit your heart health and eyesight.
- Are packed with minerals such as copper, potassium, calcium (good for your bones), iron (keeps anaemia away), phosphor and magnesium, all helping to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Contain a high percentage (75%) of monounsaturated fats, mainly oleic acid, good for your heart.
- Contain a lot of water and have a nutritional value: 230 kcal, 13g carbohydrates, 7g fibres, 17g fats and 2.3g sodium per 100g olives.
The latter is also the maximum daily salt intake recommended for an adult. Keep in mind that the feta cheese is salty too, and with just one (healthy!) meal, you can easily exceed the suggested limit. Moderation is key!
What you need for two portions of Greek Salad:
Two chunky tomatoes
One bell pepper (any colour)
One red onion
A few Kalamata olives
Two slices of feta cheese (a pack has typically 200g, enough for two portions)
Three tablespoons of a quality Greek extra virgin olive oil
A sprinkle of dried oregano
A bit of pepper
A tiny bit of salt (there is plenty in cheese and olives!)
How you make Greek Salad:
It is not exactly rocket science. Just wash and dry the veggies, slices them, add the olives and place all in a large bowl. Add the salt, pepper and a little olive oil and mix.
Fill two plates with the veggies then place the slices of cheese on top, sprinkle the oregano and the rest of the olive oil, and that’s it. Your salad is ready! Colourful, healthy and I’m drooling! I’m off to the kitchen; I have just sorted my dinner! What about you?
Bon appetite or, as the Greeks would say, Καλή όρεξη [Kalí órexi]!
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