Fresh Broccoli Salad with Tomatoes, Black Olives and Feta Cheese

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...This salad adds lovely color to a Mediterranean-style meal. I served it this evening with lamb kabobs and Greek-style lemon potatoes. The table was a riot of color and the only hue missing was the blue of the Aegean Sea. This is one of the few salads that I prepare year round. The ingredients, while not always local, are readily available and relatively inexpensive. Making the salad ahead of time eases the strain of dinner service, while still guaranteeing that everyone gets a vegetable with their meal. I know that many cooks like to serve this type of salad raw. I understand their rationale, but I prefer the color and crisp-tender bite of perfectly blanched vegetables in salads such as these. This one appeals to me because it is dressed simply with oil and vinegar. While the recipe calls for amply coating the broccoli, I just nap mine and use only enough dressing to flavor the salad. You can prepare the salad several hours before you plan to serve it, but if it sits too long or you use too much dressing it will get goopy. I actually dress mine just before it is served. I have only one caution regarding the preparation of this lovely salad. Keep your broccoli florets bite-size, so folks don't have to use knives on their salads. Many of you do not stock Greek seasoning in your spice cabinets. I know I don't. I've included instructions for making the spice blend in the note at the end of the recipe. If you don't want to bother with it, simply use a bit of oregano or marjoram and everything will be fine. I do hope you'll try this. Here's the recipe.

Fresh Broccoli Salad with Tomatoes, Black Olives and Feta Cheese...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite

2 cups blanched fresh broccoli florets
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
3/4 to 1 cup thinly sliced or coarsely chopped scallions (white and tender green)
1/2 to 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, drained
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive, or commercial Greek-style salad dressing
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Greek Seasoning as desired (see note below)
Crisp leaf or Boston lettuce for garnish
Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese as desired for garnish (optional)

1) To blanch broccoli: Drop into boiling salted water and cook for 2 minutes over high heat, or, microwave broccoli in water to cover in a glass heat-proof bowl at HIGH power for 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately rinse broccoli under cold running water to stop cooking action. Drain well and pat dry.
2) Combine blanched broccoli, garlic, tomatoes, green onion, olives, and feta cheese in a deep medium bowl. Add enough vinegar and olive oil or commercial dressing to moisten broccoli mixture well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add Greek seasoning if using. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
3) To serve, line 4 to 6 salad plates with crisp lettuce leaves, or, line a large salad bowl with lettuce leaves. Spoon broccoli mixture onto each salad plate, or into large salad bowl. Garnish each individual salad or large salad bowl with a sprinkle of grated cheeese if desired. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Note: To make Greek seasoning, combine the following ingredients and store in an air-tight container for up to 6 months : 1 -1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried mint, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, 1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion, 1/4 teaspoon dried minced garlic

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