To me the cooking ideal of fresh, seasonal and local is hardest to live up to in the spring. Summer is bounty time; crisp fall brings novel late-harvest crops; cold winter welcomes hearty root vegetables and winter squashes. But spring’s warmer air and bright green landscape tickle yearnings for fresh new produce. And right now in the supermarket, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers from Mexico are awfully tempting. Oh, and avocados.
Add an avocado to anything – a turkey sandwich, a burger, an omelette, sushi – and it becomes Californian. Avocados are native to central Mexico, but 95 percent of avocados grown in the United States are from southern California, where the popular Haas variety was cultivated by an industrious mail carrier.
Avocados are nature’s butter, lending smooth richness to all kinds of foods. Rich and satisfying, avocados are wonderful spread on toast or blended in a smoothie. Avocados are rich in vitamins, fiber and healthful monosaturated fat. Fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E and K – require fat for digestive absorption. A good fat such as extra-virgin olive oil or avocado beats soybean oil used in commercial salad dressings both on nutrition and on taste.
The combination of tangy, densely crunchy, Greek salad with soft, buttery avocado slices is my idea of a perfect lunch or light dinner. I love making it – chopping colorful bites of crisp vegetables, with no lettuce to wash and dry. And while a well-emulsified dressing helps to coat leafy greens, with Greek salad there’s really no need. A generous drizzle of good olive oil, a light drizzle of vinegar or lemon juice, sprinklings of dried oregano, salt and pepper. It’s even better after an hour or so of marinating.
If I have them all, I pile up a big bowl of cucumbers, bell peppers, grape tomatoes and kalamata olives. But even two of them makes a happy party, especially if you have crumbled feta to add.
Half an avocado on a plate, sliced.
Fan out the slices.
Top with a generous amount of Greek salad.
So beautiful. This is the salad to convert vegetable-haters. I ate it three days in a row, serving it to family and friends. And in our Ohio spring, we relished an early taste of California summer.
I feel silly posting this as separate from my basic Greek salad recipe, but I think having a separate recipe might be more user-friendly.
California Greek Salad
Tangy, colorful and crunchy, Greek salad is always a favorite of mine. But served over a buttery bed of avocado it becomes a meal in itself.
- 1 large English cucumber (aka seedless or hothouse – the shrink-wrapped kind)
- 1 bell pepper (red/orange/yellow are sweeter than green)
- 1/2 small onion (optional)
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (start with 1/4 teaspoon if using table salt)
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 lemon OR 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4-1/2 cup crumbled feta
- 2 ripe Haas avocados (avocados should give slightly when gently squeezed)
- Chop cucumber into bite-sized pieces (I cut ends off and quarter lengthwise into four long sticks; then chop each into 1/2-inch pieces). Place in large bowl.
- Chop bell pepper into bite-sized pieces (I find it easiest to cut the sides of the pepper around the core like an apple; then cut each side into 1/2-inch strips and strips into 3/4-inch pieces). Add to bowl.
- Dice onion, if using. To take the bite off the raw onion, put diced onion in a small bowl and pour a cup of very hot water over. Let sit for a few minutes, then drain and add to salad bowl.
- Halve tomatoes and add to bowl.
- Halve kalamata olives and add to bowl.
- Add salt, pepper, oregano, lemon juice (or vinegar) and olive oil to the vegetables. Mix well; taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
- Add feta and mix gently.
- Halve avocados; twist to separate halves. Hit a sharp chef’s knife into the avocado pit and twist to remove the pit. Carefully cut the peel off each half. Place half avocado cut-side down on plate and slice lengthwise. Press down gently to fan out slices. Top each half with a generous serving of salad.
Makes four generous or eight small servings.
- Hardier than leafy salads, this keeps well if made a couple of hours ahead of time (keep at room temperature or refrigerate). Refrigerated leftovers are not as fresh but still good the next day.
- If you use regular cucumbers instead of English, peel the cucumbers first, cut in half and use a spoon to scoop out seeds. Persian cucumbers may be used without peeling or seeding.
- You can of course substitute any tomatoes for the small grape ones listed. I like the grape tomatoes because they hold together better in the salad and are more consistently flavorful. But in the summer any ripe tomatoes will work well.
Here’s the link to a printable version.
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