My Big Greek Salad
Memories from a childhood in Greece moved this Washington, D.C., reader to create a zesty and colorful rice salad.
Growing up in Greece, where her father worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, Katherine Andrews recalls enjoying Mediterranean flavors, including fresh fruits and vegetables, from village markets. Dishes were seasoned with fresh oregano, which grew wild on roadsides. Olive oil, stored in a huge bottle in the kitchen, was drizzled on practically everything. "Food was part of the culture," says Andrews, now 25 and working in international relations. "We usually ate dinner late, and often the meal turned into a party."
It was not surprising, then, that when Andrews volunteered to bring a dish to a summertime potluck last year, she decided on a salad filled with ingredients she ate in Greece. The party was nothing fancy, "just a group of friends getting together in an old Washington row house," Andrews says. "I needed something on the fly and thought it should be more substantial than the tomato and cucumber 'village' salads typically eaten as a side dish in Greece."
Andrews shopped for the makings of her Greek-Style Picnic Salad: garbanzo beans, kalamata olives, feta cheese, oregano, and, of course, olive oil. "I knew these ingredients would work together." To make it heartier, she added rice, transforming the salad into a main dish. She served it at room temperature, which kept the rice tender and allowed the flavor of each ingredient to come through. When friends requested the recipe, Andrews was hesitant to divulge that it was created ad lib, with a little help from her girlhood taste memories. "I am filled with nostalgia every time I eat Greek food," she says.
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