Summer’s best vegetables shine in this classic chopped salad! Not all salads need greens — Mediterranean Salad is the perfect example of how delicious a lettuce-free salad can be. And it just couldn’t be easier: chop up your favorite veggies, toss them with herbs and a well-seasoned vinaigrette, and you’re good to go! Serve as a side dish, or as a main with lots of crusty bread.
I know that as a vegetable gardener, I’m strongly biased in favor of vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Once you’ve grown your own and tasted how utterly amazing tomatoes and peppers and strawberries are actually supposed to be, it’s hard to let them go in favor of packaged foods.
Meat is easy to leave off the menu. Dairy, too. Except for cheese, which I’ll cut out of my life for weeks at a time, and then run back into the arms of fontina and Merlot Bellavitano and Cambozola Black Label (no affiliate links – I just love them all).
For me, vegetables are always the star. They don’t have to be your star, though. I have a lot of vegetarian recipes on this site (and a lot of omnivore recipes, too), but I try not to get in your face with my preferences, because at the end of the day, I just want people to eat more veggies, and to know that meat-reduction success does not mean you’re left sitting there, gnawing on a carrot like a cartoon cotton tail.
Just as most people don’t slap an unseasoned steak on a grill for a few minutes and call it a day, you absolutely don’t have to pile raw vegetables on a plate to honor their substance and spirit. Herbs, salt, lemon zest, dressings, etc., enhance the flavor of vegetables in significant ways, and make them quite lovely and craveable.
How to Make the Best Chopped Mediterranean Salad
- Choose vegetables you like. There are traditional vegetables in a classic chopped salad, to be sure, but, if you hate cucumbers, don’t torture yourself. Substitutions are absolutely fine. Instead of cucumbers, try zucchini. Or celery instead of bell peppers. Or mild yellow tomatoes instead of acidic red. The Mediterranean Salad police will not come knocking on your door, I promise.
- Size matters. It’s a little extra work, but be sure to chop the vegetables into equal sizes, a medium dice. The purpose here is to be mindful of the bite on the fork: you want room for several vegetables, not just one big chunk of bell pepper.
- Herbs! Use lots of fresh herbs. They add so much flavor and character to vegetable salads. Stick with tender, leafy greens – dill, parsley, cilantro, mint, basil, marjoram. Use a mix for added interest (I used dill, mint and cilantro), and chop them finely.
- Extras you’ll love. I love the briny saltiness of olives in this salad (it’s traditional, too). Kalamata olives are always a good choice, but if you can find them, I highly recommend castelvetrano olives, which are bright green, soft and buttery. They’re my favorite! In any case, make sure they’re pitted, or that you have a proper olive pitting tool. If you really love briny things (as I do), try adding capers, too.
- Tame the burn. Red onions are perfect for this salad, but if you have issues with strong onions, give them a quick pickling first: soak the chopped onions in a 50-50 solution of red wine vinegar and water for about 15 minutes. Rinse, drain and blot dry. This will cut that strong bite, leaving behind the lovely red onion essence.
- Dress it up. Toss with plenty of your favorite vinaigrette. Italian and Greek have slightly different flavor profiles, but they both work great here.
- Cheese. Cheese is completely optional in this otherwise vegan, dairy-free salad, but the extra, salty-creaminess of feta is very welcome here.
While the season’s vegetables are fresh and abundant, make this rainbow-colored Mediterranean chopped salad for a healthy, texture-rich side to grilled chicken, burgers or even tacos. It’s summer food at its best!
More gorgeous summer salads to love:
- 20 or so cherry tomatoes, sliced or quartered
- 1 small red bell pepper, diced
- 1 small orange or yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1 small cucumber, diced (a pickling cucumber is great here)
- 1 cup sliced olives
- 1/4 cup diced red onions
- 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (such as cilantro, dill, mint, basil)
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup Italian or Greek vinaigrette
- feta cheese, crumbled (optional, for garnish)
- Toss the chopped veggies in a large mixing bowl with the herbs and a couple pinches of salt. Drizzle the dressing over the top, and fold, until all of the vegetables are coated, adding more dressing as necessary. You might not use all of the dressing called for; you might need more. Serve with feta cheese on the side.
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