There is nothing quite like the crisp fresh flavors that you find in a Greek salad. A classic to be sure and not to be messed with, but trying an alternative to an oil and vinegar dressing wouldn’t be construed as culinary heresy would it? Certainly not my intention.
But I have been playing around with some tried and true good old American salad dressing recipes over the summer. I have to say a green goddess dressing using fresh herbs is about as robust and tantalizing as any salad dressing you will ever make. The original recipe was created at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in 1923 that was inspired by a recipe created by Louis XIII chef. If that doesn’t give this dressing any pedigree, Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, surely does.
Cutting to the chase, adding a salty goat’s milk feta cheese into the green goddess dressing mix really ups the flavor quotient and adds a zesty background that accentuates the freshness of the green herbs. A Greek salad dressed with this savory green sauce seemed duly apropos.
Ideally this dressing should be made a day in advance so that there is time for the flavors to meld together and bloom.
Greek Green Goddess Dressing: makes 2 cups
- 4 oz Greek goat’s milk Feta cheese ( or sheep’s milk feta), at room temperature, crumbled
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh oregano leaves + whole leaves for garnishing
- 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh lemon thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
- 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons buttermilk + more for thinning
- 4 twists of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup full fat Greek yogurt
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated (microplaned), about 2 teaspoons
- ½ teaspoon anchovy paste (or ¾ teaspoon fish sauce)
- ½ teaspoon honey
- sea salt to taste
You may question the use of fish sauce in lieu of anchovy paste in this recipe, but both the Greeks and the Romans developed and used fermented fish sauces to flavor their foods. It is that fifth taste in addition to sweet, salty, sour, and bitter that has brought flavor to life in the Mediterranean and Asian cultures since ancient times. A staple in my kitchen!
I prefer using a food processor for combining the feta with herbs, vinegar, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of butter milk for a smoother base for the dressing. That said you may do this by hand, but be sure the herbs are very, very, finely minced.
Place the crumbled feta, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, lemon thyme, parsley, and chives in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine the ingredients, stopping from time to time to scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Continue until the mixture holds together into a very thick paste. Scrape the mixture into the bottom of the work bowl and add 2 tablespoons of buttermilk. Process for a minute or two until the mixture is nearly smooth.
Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and add the freshly ground pepper, the Greek yogurt, grated garlic, anchovy paste (or fish sauce), and the honey and stir until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.
At this point the dressing will be quite thick and may require thinning with some additional buttermilk, stirred into the mixture a tablespoon at a time, until the dressing is the consistency of chilled Greek Yogurt. Keep in mind the consistency of the dressing will firm up when refrigerated as well.
Taste the dressing and add additional salt if needed and stir until completely incorporated into the dressing. Transfer the dressing to a glass jar, close tightly with lid, and refrigerate overnight. The dressing will keep for about a week refrigerated.
For the salad:
- romaine lettuce leaves, torn
- head lettuce (iceberg), torn
- radicchio leaves, torn into thin strips
- wild arugula leaves, stems removed
- cherry tomatoes, or sliced vine ripe tomatoes, seeded
- cucumbers, seeded and cut into bite size pieces
- red onions, thinly sliced into rings
- black calamata olives, pitted
Combine the leafy salad greens along with most of the tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion slices in a large salad bowl. Reserve the remaining tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion slices to garnish the salad later.
Spoon some dressing over the contents of the bowl and toss until all the contents are evenly coated with dressing.
Transfer the dressed salad to a large platter or to individual salad bowls. Top with the remaining tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion rings. Add small dollops of dressing over the salad and top with the pitted olives. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves and serve. Serve with additional dressing in a bowl on the table as well as a pepper mill.