Saturday, May 14, 2011

Feta Vinaigrette

I learned to cook by reading recipes and following them to the letter, treating them kind of like all the chemistry lab procedures I’d tackled over time (although usually with better results). It was with this less than flexible mindset that I followed a recipe for a Greek Sandwich with Feta Vinaigrette from the May 2001 issue of Cooking Light magazine. It was a vegetarian sandwich with lots of arugula (I think I actually deviated from the printed word by necessity and used something else), tomatoes, olives and cucumbers on sourdough bread. I was really happy about it, or so I remember. It was a long time ago.

I very neatly and accurately recorded the exact recipe, printed it off and placed it in a 3-ring binder. I did not, however, make that sandwich ever again. I’m sure it wasn’t because the recipe was difficult. It was a sandwich for crying out loud.

I didn’t forget it, though, and when I looked at the recipe some time ago, I said to myself, who is now more enlightened when it comes to recipe improvisation, “Hey, dummy, you don’t have to make this as a sandwich. It’s really a salad. On bread, sure, but it’s mostly a salad.” And the most memorable part of that salad was the dressing: a lemon vinaigrette with the feta cheese crumbled right in.

I get pretty excited about salad dressings this time of year, simply because the early greens have to tide me over until the other vegetables have time to grow (although the rhubarb, asparagus and morel mushrooms are coming!). Unlike the original sandwich, this vinaigrette is definitely one I’m going to return to often. It’s delicious enough for me to make sure there are always lemons in the kitchen and feta cheese in the refrigerator. I also added a bit of shallot, which I find to be such an enhancement to even simple vinaigrettes, that it, too, has earned a spot on my regular shopping list.

This tart and cheesy dressing was really nice on my spinach salad and probably would go well with your other spring and summer salad greens. I minimally accompanied my (locally grown!) spinach with a few kalamata olives and some thinly sliced Vidalia onion (because that’s what I happened to have on hand). Some nice, ripe tomatoes and crisp cucumbers would be great to add if they’re in season where you are. Sigh. I’ll still have to wait. Try not to gloat too much.

Feta and Lemon Vinaigrette
Based on a recipe in Cooking Light magazine

1 small to medium garlic clove
a heavy pinch of coarse salt
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

1. Mince the garlic clove on a cutting board and sprinkle the salt over it. Make a garlic-salt paste as described in this post. Combine the garlic-salt paste with the shallot and lemon juice in a small bowl.

2. Add the sugar, oregano and pepper and whisk to combine. Whisk in the olive oil until well mixed. Stir in the feta cheese.

Makes enough to dress about 4 side salads. Refrigerate any leftovers for a few days.

Other recipes like this one: Basic Vinaigrette, Chickpea and Olive Salad with Greek Flavors, Deconstructed Spanakopita Salad

One year ago: Seitan Stir Fry with Asparagus, Green Beans and Black Bean Garlic Sauce

Two years ago: Simple Shredded Carrot Salad with Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette


  1. When does the shallot come into play?

  2. Add the shallot with the garlic paste and lemon juice. Thank you for asking and pointing out the omission! I'm glad I had the chance to correct the error and I have added the change to the recipe to reflect that correction. Thanks again! And I hope you enjoy the recipe!