They call it “cheese salad,” but it’s never just made of cheese. Salad has, by definition, some kind of fruit or veg, yes? At least in California this is the case. Anyway, Holler’s No Croutons Required challenge this month is to make a cheese salad, and my losing battle with pudge made me instantly wary. Cheese is one of those addictive, fat-laden foodstuffs that have stood in the way of us becoming entirely vegan — and remotely thin. We try to limit its use, but… with a cheese salad? Is it possible?
Continuing our trend of enjoying ‘vaguely Mediterranean’ cuisine (that is, dishes we invent using traditional Mediterranean produce and seasonings), we thought we’d use Greek cheese for our salad. From there, we built our meal from what we had on hand. We came up with an incredibly good “cheese” salad incorporating lots of veg, minimal mayonnaise, the very non-Greek kohlrabi, and …garam masala. (We did say vaguely Mediterranean, didn’t we?!)
We tend to be of the ‘chop-and-dump’ school of thought with salads, so add ingredients accordingly.
Random Feta Salad
- 1 c. “chicken” (Quorn) or 1 block firm smoked tofu, chopped
- 1 whole English cucumber, peeled and diced small
- 2 green onions, sliced finely
- 2 medium sized tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
- 1/4 of a raw kohlrabi, peeled and diced small
- 1 tbs. brine-cured capers, chopped
- 10 green olives, chopped
- 1/3 c. sprouted beans (we used lentil, kidney and chickpea sprouts)
- 100 grams (3.5 ounces, or half a small block) of Feta cheese
- 1 tsp. mayonnaise (we used Plamil’s egg free)
- 1/2 c. thick Greek yogurt
- 1 heaping tbsp. wholegrain spicy mustard (homemade is best!)
- 2 tbsp. hummus (homemade, or Cauldron’s chickpea paté is interesting)
- 1/2 tsp. chipotle powder or cayenne pepper, OR 1 green chili, desseded, sliced fine
- 1/2 tsp. garam masala (also homemade)
And really, that’s all there is to it.
We suggest that all of your chopping and dicing yield ingredients of roughly the same size so as not to create mouthfuls which are dominated by cukes or cheese. Also, don’t forget to have fun with the ingredients. Why not add a teaspoon of sunflower seeds to your serving? Or pumpkin seeds, if you crave an additional crunch? We’ve been known to make these salads and substitute celery for kohlrabi, and use cumin, allspice and ground white pepper in place of the garam masala. Sometimes we add a few tablespoons of dried cranberries for a piquant chewiness, or even raisins to play up the hint of cinnamon in the masala.
The kohlrabi adds a nice spicy crunch, augmented by the bite of the onion; the cukes add a crisp, cold sweetness which is balanced by the tangy creaminess of the feta. The savory flavors are warmed and pulled together by just a hint of spice. In no particular order, simply toss it all together, tuck it into a warm pita, and enjoy. Salads are one of the best things about warmer weather, and whatever your particular ingredient preference, this basic recipe is the platform for creating some tasty treats.
Καλή όρεξη! Bon Appétit! Enjoy!