When coming up with a good Greek salad, certain ingredients are a staple of this dish. These would include sliced cucumber, green bell peppers, pieces of tomato, red onion, sliced or cubed feta cheese and Kalamata olives. It would be seasoned with salt and dried oregano, and the dressing would be olive oil. This is the authentic Greek salad, and as with any native regional dish would include only those ingredients locally grown or produced.
But as Greek restaurants and therefore Greek cuisine have taken on a world-wide flavor, variations have developed from the authentic Greek salad. In North America, the United Kingdom and Australia lettuce will be the base ingredient with Greek-inspired vegetables plus of course feta cheese as the standard. Added items could be radishes, anchovies or sardines may be added, and the salad may be topped with prepared dressings with various seasonings and herbs instead of the standard olive oil. Other European countries will have their own version of a Greek salad with varying degrees of authenticity to the original Greek version.
Many people who are familiar with Greek food know that it is delicious, and like its counterparts throughout the Mediterranean we have been told of its health benefits. Most of the food would fit into the category of liver cleansing foods. It is plant-based but it also is quite elevated in fat. Feta cheese, a staple in much of the Greek diet, is high in fat, but it is also a great source of calcium, riboflavin, phosphorus and vitamin B12. It is produced from sheep milk, or a (up to 30%) mixture of goat’s milk, and is a brine curd cheese.
But compared to the processed cheese we find in our stores, it is a much better alternative health wise.
The same goes for another staple in Greek salads and Greek cooking: olive oil. It is fat, but a healthy fat if it is used in moderation and will be a healthy part of our diet. In the Greek diet it will be used extensively instead of butter or, thankfully, margarine. And Greek olives, or kalamata olives, are a major part of the diet, and their naturally salty flavor is healthier than adding sodium to your food.
Plus they don’t go without desserts, and they are very sweet and tasty. But rather than using sugar to give desserts their sweet taste they will use fruit and many times honey to replace the use of sugar in recipes. These natural sweeteners are much better for your health, and add richness to food that sugar cannot provide.
The main point about Greek food in particular and Mediterranean food in general is it is a healthy alternative. They rely on whole, fresh foods, and the lack of processed foods and ingredients that are not in their natural state make the diet not just healthier, but richer in flavor. When meat is eaten it is in small portions with the bulk of the meal made up of vegetables and other natural ingredients. Everyone is familiar with Greek salad recipes, but it is only the beginning of a delicious, and healthy, Greek meal.