Salad is apart of almost every meal in our culture. Not just for Greeks, but for many different ethnic groups, it is very common and expected to serve a salad with a meal. The French eat the salad as the last part of the meal, whereas the English eat the salad first. It doesn't mean that one culture is right and another is wrong, it just means that there are different ways to enjoy salad.
One salad that we often hear about in regards to Greek food is the Horiatiki Salata, also known as the Village Salad. There are many variations of this salad, but many will typically include tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and feta cheese (an no lettuce!). So, can you have a village salad without feta cheese and/or without oil during Great Lent? Of course! And, the easiest way to do enjoy a salad without oil (if that is your preference) is to choose the ingredients you like the most, and put them all together and call it salad. Even without dressing, salad can be light and refreshing.
While we were feeling a little more artistic, we sliced tomatoes and cucumbers thinking about making a traditional salad. But, using no cheese, we added a little chopped onion to give a little kick of flavour. Then, we realised it was an oil-free day, so we wanted an alternative to dressing. That is when we decided that we could just eliminate the oil and allow the juices from the tomatoes to create the liquid in which we planned to dip our bread. And, we needed some flavour enhancer. That is when the creative juices started to flow. When choosing a tomato, we chose a sweet, ripe variety that will provide great flavour, in the absence of oil.
Usually, we would use salt, pepper, oregano, oil, and vinegar and make a salad dressing. We normally just sprinkle, free-hand, over top of the bowl using approximate measurements. This time, we used a little salt, pepper, and oregano and lightly sprinkled each one over the sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. Then, we snipped some fresh dill. Since Greek salads don't usually have lettuce, adding a deep green colour to the tomatoes and the peeled cucumbers really gave visual appeal. The dill also gave a different note of flavour, something with less bite than oregano, but still a distinct flavour. But, we needed something else.
In the past, we have just used lemon juice as a fasting dressing for a salad. That is the easiest answer, especially in a restaurant. If you are ever in the position of eating with colleagues or clients and it is during Great Lent, order lemon wedges with your salad, and use that for dressing -- your company will think you are so clever and saving calories! Plus, the lemon juice doesn't drip on your clothing where you have to worry about that big oil mark in the middle of your tie!
Today, we did not use lemon since there was no lettuce. We chose to lightly drizzle some red wine vinegar over the salad. It provided enough of a tartness to make the salad more salad like. And, the juices from the tomatoes did contribute to make the perfect combination of dressing in which to dip the bread! Yes, this was successful, and it is now going to be one of our go-to salad dressing during Great Lent. At this year's Clean Monday meal, the entire salad was eaten until there was not a single piece left.
"And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it."