It’s pretty well known by now that the Mediterranean Diet is one of the most healthy in the world. A lot can be attributed to the amazing health benefits of olive oil. Some might think that high fish consumption also plays a major role in the statistics, but like most countries, fish is only available to those that live in close proximity to the sea or other water source. Greece is a rugged country, with numerous mountain ranges that were impassible until the last 75 years or so. Greeks, like other indigenous inhabitants, had to sustain themselves with what they grew and raised. That’s why the cuisine is so diverse. Several foods found in the Greek diet are specific only to the region in which they were raised.
Take black-eyed peas. One wouldn’t normally think of this tiny legume as part of the Greek diet, yet this and other beans, legumes, and pulses have been a primary protein source for centuries. The grower of these legumes has the added benefit of enjoying them fresh right out of their pod, and many months later when they are dried and stored for future meals. I always enjoy adding legumes to dishes that wouldn’t normally include them just to see if the recipient notices. If a dish is flavorful enough, even a bean hater wouldn’t complain.
My Greek salad recipe has the usual suspects: tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta. But with the addition of the black-eyed peas, whole-wheat pita, and walnuts, it becomes a powerhouse salad. Notable Greek food authority Diane Kochilas recently posted an article on the possible source of her family’s longevity. And at the end of her wonderful article is her recipe for Ikarian black-eyed peas.
Greek Salad with Black-Eyed Peas, Walnuts, and Whole-Wheat Pita
1 can (15 oz.) black-eyed peas
2 whole-wheat pitas
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 medium cucumber, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2-3 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/3 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably Greek
3/4 cup Bulgarian feta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1. Rinse and drain beans in a strainer or colander; set aside.
2. Slice pita lengthwise into one-inch strips. Slice each strip into one-inch squares and place in a bowl. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and garlic; toss to coat. Spread pita on a baking sheet and toast in a 350° oven for about 7 minutes; remove and cool.
3. In the same bowl that the pita was prepared, add drained peas, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, parsley, mint, walnuts, and cooled pita; toss.
4. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, lemon juice, pepper, and salt. Whisk until salt is dissolved. Add extra virgin olive oil and whisk until oil is fully emulsified; set aside.
5. About 15 minutes before serving, toss prepared dressing in salad and spoon into a serving bowl. Scatter feta pieces on top. Serves 6 to 8 people.