Loaded Mediterranean Salad

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(Note: this post was originally published on August 18, 2019. The date above reflects migration to the new platform.)

Farmer's Market Haul

I want to introduce you to my latest salad masterpiece: this super eclectic, somewhat deconstructed, oh-so-pretty Loaded Mediterranean Salad. Inspired by Italy and Greece, this big platter of veggie goodness celebrates all of late summer's best produce.

To be honest, this idea started off as more of a classic Greek salad: cucumber, tomato, and feta, with a thyme vinaigrette. But then I went to the farmers' market one Saturday morning and went a little bit crazy. There were gorgeous baby peppers, tomatoes of all shapes and sizes, and the cutest baby eggplants (called "fairy tale" eggplants!). I had also acquired a bunch of (non-local) figs that needed a home.

So then I had a conundrum. Was it a Greek salad? An Italian salad? I eventually settled upon a fusion of the two, and the Loaded Mediterranean Salad was born.

Colorful summer vegetables and fruit on a platter

Flavors, Textures, and Shapes

This epic salad is full of ingredients from across the Mediterranean region including tons of gorgeous veggies, figs, feta, parmesan, and a zingy mustard-based Greek-style dressing with a bunch of sumac and fresh thyme. To make the textures and flavors more interesting, I grilled some of the veggies and left some raw, and also pickled some shallots for a pop of brightness.

As you'll see in the photos, I couldn't bear to dice up all my gorgeous veggies, so I left some of the baby ones simply cut in half. There's really no right way to do this, but if you want a salad with lots of visual intrigue, try to get as many shapes, sizes, and textures as you can. For example, you can leave some small tomatoes whole, cut others in half, and cut the biggest ones into slices. Similarly, cut some of your cucumbers into slices and leave a couple cut in half, lengthwise.

One final tip about this loaded salad: marinated feta! Just take your feta, dice it up, and marinate it overnight in some olive oi, lemon zest, and black pepper. It brings such complexity to the feta, and hardly takes any extra hands-on time. I like to toss it in some sumac at the end to give it exciting color and a bright, lemony taste.

Sliced, colorful summer fruits and vegetables on a platter

Make It Work for YOU

This salad is really more of a concept than a specific recipe, so feel free to change it up in whatever way works best for you. Salads are really my favorite blank canvas, so please have fun with this one! The options are endless.

Some ways you can change it up? Omit the cheese and add avocado instead for a vegan version. Add salty marcona almonds for a delightful crunch. Put some grilled romaine, fresh arugula, or chewy farro underneath. Add your favorite grilled protein or some big dollops of hummus on top to make it a meal. Go a bit sweeter with melon or grilled peaches.

If you're looking for a more traditional feel, you can certainly treat this like a chopped salad. Just chop everything up into similarly-sized pieces and toss it together.

Colorful Mediterranean salad on a platter

Let's Talk Ingredients

Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.

  • Feta. Feel free to omit this for a vegan version, or use cubed tofu instead.
  • Olive oil. Something really flavorful and robust!
  • Lemon. You'll use both the zest and the juice for maximum lemony goodness.
  • Baby "fairy tale" eggplants
  • Baby bell peppers
  • Tomatoes. The more the merrier! I love this salad with a crazy assortment of heirloom varieties.
  • Cucumber. Either baby or big, whatever you can find.
  • Fresh figs
  • Parmesan. Leave this off for a vegan version.
  • Pickled red onions. Or shallots! Buy them or make your own at home.
  • Fresh thyme
  • Sumac. Get yourself some of this and thank me later. I promise!
  • Red wine vinegar. Or champagne vinegar.
  • Coarse-grain mustard. Learn to make your own here! It adds such great flavor and body to any dressing.
  • Honey. For a vegan version, use a dash of maple syrup instead.
  • Salt and pepper

Close-up of a colorful Mediterranean salad

Closing Thoughts

I've made this salad numerous times since the original and have done it a little bit differently every time; it's really a blank canvas. It's a gorgeous centerpiece salad for entertaining, and so practical because everyone can take exactly what they want.

My biggest tip? Hit up the farmers market in August and go wild! In New England, the August farmers markets are exploding with colorful and crazy-looking heirloom tomatoes, eggplants of all shapes and sizes, cool-looking purple peppers, and unfamiliar melons. This salad is best the evening of a farmers market run, when everything is wonderfully fresh.

Have fun with this one! It has fulfilled all my wildest salad dreams this summer, and I hope it will fulfill yours too.

Colorful Mediterranean salad on a platter

Share It!

It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.

Suggested Pairings

Figgy Thyme Gin Fizz

Loaded Lemon Hummus

If Green Beans Went to Southern Spain

Cauliflower and Farro Salad with Caramelized Lemon Turmeric Dressing

Grilled Peach and Farro Salad

Loaded Mediterranean Salad

A celebration of summer, this Mediterranean salad features a rainbow of grilled and raw veggies and a zippy Greek-inspired vinaigrette. Take this concept and customize it however you like!

Author:
Lee

Ingredients

For the Salad

  • Small block of feta
  • Tbsp of good olive oil
  • Zest of a lemon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Oil of choice for grilling
  • Few baby "fairy tale" eggplants
  • Assorted baby bell peppers
  • A lot of fun, differently-shaped, differently-colored tomatoes
  • Few baby or one large cucumber
  • Handful of fresh figs
  • Small wedge of parmesan
  • Few forkfuls of pickled red onions or shallots
  • Few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp sumac, plus more for sprinkling on top

For the Dressing

  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1 tbsp coarse-grain mustard
  • Dash of honey
  • Dash of robust, flavorful olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Optional but highly recommended: the day before you plan to serve this salad, marinate the feta. Cut your feta into bite-sized cubes and put it into a resealable container. Add olive oil, lemon zest, and black pepper. Close the container, give it all a delicate shake, and let it sit in the fridge overnight or as long as a couple days.
  2. Cut the baby eggplants in half lengthwise and grill them cut-side down on a well-oiled rack until delicately charred. You can also grill some or all of the peppers, depending on your preferences. Let the grilled veggies cool to at least room temperature so that they don't wilt your other salad ingredients.
  3. While your grilled items are cooling, prep the dressing. Give all the ingredients a thorough whisk, taste it, and adjust as needed. You can add more honey for additional sweetness, or more oil for additional decadence.
  4. Prepare the other ingredients by slicing the peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and figs. Your salad will look more intricate if you can achieve a variety of shapes and textures with your veggies and fruits.
  5. Lay the veggies and fruits out on a serving platter, mixing the grilled items in with the raw.
  6. Take your feta (regardless of whether you marinated it or not) and drain off any excess moisture. Toss the feta cubes in a tsp of sumac.
  7. Top your salad with feta cubes, shaved parmesan, pickled red onions (or shallots), thyme leaves, and a good sprinkling of sumac.
  8. Drizzle the salad with half the dressing, then serve the rest on the side for adding to individual portions.

Leave a Comment

Please Share Your Thoughts!

Did you make this recipe? Did you make substitutions? How did you serve it? Any helpful tips? Please share your thoughts, since these insights are really useful to both me and to other readers.

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Sarah
August 30, 2019
Made a vegan version of this last night with marinated tofu. No one missed the feta! Added some almonds too for crunch.
CJ
September 15, 2020
Those baby eggplants are adorbs!!!