This salad proves that rules are meant to be broken. I have always considered the classic Greek salad to be the platonic ideal. I balk at fancy upgrades since the cheap red wine vinegar, kalamata olives and romaine are fundamental to the dish. Hell, I even prefer stuffed grape leaves from a can to those from the deli counter. Then one day I had a few grape leaves left over in the fridge, and I tossed them on the grill to warm them up. The oil-marinated leaves crisped, the rice steamed and softened inside and I had somehow managed to improve upon my favorite snack. With the rules out the window, I tossed all the veggies on the grill (save the cucumbers and tomatoes), and it worked. It’s not a replacement for the fresh Greek salad, but with the old-school Greek diners becoming a thing of the past, this is a fun variation to make at home.
Greek Salad on the Grill
4 hearts of romaine, bottoms trimmed, cut in half lengthwise
1 small red onion, cut into rounds 1/4-inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
One 6 oz slab feta cheese, 1-inch thick
1/4 cup Kalamata olives
8 to 10 canned or fresh vegetarian stuffed grape leaves (dolmas)
1 medium ripe heirloom tomato, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 to 3 small Kirby or Persian cucumbers, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 or 5 oil-packed anchovy fillets (optional, but highly recommended)
Red wine vinegar
Garlic Breadsticks or Melba toast (optional)
Prepare a charcoal fire, heating until the coals turn white.
While the coals are heating, brush the romaine and onion rounds with oil and season with kosher salt, pepper and the oregano. Place the feta and the olives on a rectangular piece of aluminum foil and fold the edges upward to create a shallow boat. Drizzle them with oil. (Tossing the cheese on the grill is optional, but it’s a nice way to warm it up before serving. Feta sticks to the grill, so be sure to use foil if you decide to do this step.)
Spray the grill grate with cooking oil or brush with vegetable oil.
Place the stuffed grape leaves, romaine, onion and feta/olive packet on the grill and cook until the vegetables have a nice light char on all sides, about 4 to 5 minutes. The feta should be warm throughout. Remove from the grill with tongs.
On a large platter, make a bed of the grilled romaine (keeping the halves intact) and top with the tomato, cucumbers, grilled onion, olives and stuffed grape leaves. Cut the feta into one-inch cubes and toss them on top. Drizzle the whole mess generously with oil and season very lightly with sea salt (the olives, feta and anchovies add lots of salt already) and black pepper to taste.
Top with the anchovies and pepperoncini, if using. Serve with red wine vinegar and oil on the side, plus breadsticks or Melba toast if you want to make a nod to the salad’s roots.