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Greeks omit lettuce for superb summer salads

Pounds of produce recently made flexible meal fixings for friends.

I didn’t think it wise to risk dishes being deposited in the fridge for days until these new parents, trekking back and forth from the hospital, had time to sit down and eat. So we delivered uncooked pasta and a jar of sauce with homemade meatballs and just-harvested vegetables.

Although our garden-grown veggies were ready to augment the pasta dish or stand in wherever the couple needed them, I almost felt self-conscious for omitting lettuce or other greens that could compose a salad with the tomatoes and cucumbers.

But truth be told, lettuce isn’t much on my radar this time of year. Whereas most people consider a green salad the epitome of cooking light in summer’s heat, I first make the most of our garden’s bounty, which does not include lettuce, prone to bolting and bitterness in these temperatures.

Garden-fresh kale and collard greens do make the cut, which I massage with salt, minced garlic and lemon juice for easier eating. And Caprese and Greek salads, showered with basil and parsley, become everyday fare.

To be fair, I did furnish the family with tomatoes and cucumbers enough for a classic Greek salad. While feta and Kalamata olives are traditional, don’t let their lack keep you from making this simple and satisfying alternative to another plate of greens.

Greek Salad (Horiatiki)

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish

2 medium, vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

1 small cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 medium white onion, peeled and thinly sliced

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano, plus more for garnish

Salt and pepper, to taste

6 ounces feta, cut into thick slabs

8 Kalamata olives

In a bowl, combine the parsley, tomatoes, cucumber and onion.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar and oregano; season to taste with the salt and pepper and pour over tomato-cucumber mixture. Toss.

Transfer salad to a serving bowl and top with the feta and olives. Garnish with more parsley and oregano; season with more pepper, if desired.

Makes 2 servings.

Recipe from Saveur magazine, courtesy of Tribune News Service.

Tribune News Service photo