Food Sides

Village salad

10 March 2016

I was always an annoyingly fussy child. Many hours of my childhood were spent at the dinner table, forbidden to move until I ate my meal. (To this day, I still wouldn’t touch girello with a ten-foot pole.) I usually “won”, as I would stay there all night, stubbornly, pouting until, alas, bedtime.

Naturally, I never really ate salad until I was about 22. I had just left home where I seldom cooked, had moved in with Alex and was shoved into a world of being the main cook. My only two recipes at that time were Chicken or Tofu Stir-Fry (using a packet sauce) and Spaghetti Bolognese (using a packet sauce). Given that Alex was a vegetarian, I was due to expand my cooking repertoire. I started following recipes and slowly I became a decent cook. At first it was mostly spaghetti, but soon my vegetarian cooking became more varied.

Salads never even crossed my mind before this time. I soon learned that salads were an important part of every meal by watching Alex cook. A very popular and much-loved dish in Costa Rica is the casado (literal translation: married). A traditional casado is made up of rice, black beans, fried plantains, an additional protein source (usually meat, but we use eggs, cheese or quesadillas mostly) and a salad. Alex loves casado. It puzzles him that I can eat an entire meal of one main without mixing it with anything else (eg. a risotto or pasta by itself).

So Alex introduced me to casado, and with that came salad. Basic at first – lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and shredded carrot with a dollop of ranch dressing (which is delicious mixed with rice, mind you). As the years went by, I got more confident with salads. My favourite salad lately is this deliciousness: the Village Salad.

I first tried the Village Salad at a local Greek eatery called Jimmy Grants. Jimmy Grants sells delicious souvlaki (their falafel version is really incredible), amazing fries bathed in garlic oil and feta, and of course, a few salads. When I first tried this cucumber and mint grain salad, I was very impressed, and decided to recreate it at home. So simple, yet so fresh and delicious.

Village salad
Serves 8
  1. 1 cup pearl barley
  2. 5 Lebanese cucumbers, peeled, cut in quarters lengthways, chopped into 2cm pieces
  3. 1 ½ cups mint leaves, roughly torn
  4. ½ cup parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  5. 150g feta, crumbled
  6. 2 tsp dried oregano
  1. 3 tbsp olive oil
  2. 1 ½ tbsp vinegar
  3. Juice of 1 small lemon
  4. ½ tsp salt
  5. Cracked black pepper to taste
  1. Cook pearl barley according to packet directions until tender but still slightly chewy. Drain, rinse with cold water and leave to cool in fridge.
  2. Combine the chilled barley, cucumber, oregano, mint, parsley and feta in a large salad bowl.
  3. Whisk dressing ingredients in a small jug and add to salad. Gently mix to combine. Serve.
Adapted from All the Good Things
niveous moon

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