Salads need only a little feta, Roquefort or goat cheese for accent, as these cheeses are very flavorful. Because you don't need much, this is a healthful way to use cheese.
The cheese acts as a seasoning for the greens and vegetables. Of course, if you follow the custom of some restaurants and top your salad with a slab of cheese or, even worse, with fried breaded cheese, the salad will be high in fat.
Greek feta is sheep's-milk cheese, but cow's-milk versions are available if you prefer a milder taste. The best selection of feta cheeses can be found in Greek, Armenian and Middle Eastern shops. Well-stocked supermarkets also carry it, as well as Roquefort and goat cheese; they are often located in the gourmet cheese section.
When I am in Israel, I like to add feta-style cheeses to my Israeli salad of diced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. These cheeses come in low-fat versions and add a tangy/salty taste to salads.
Even when you're following a low-fat eating program, there's no need to avoid cheese entirely. Rather, it should be used judiciously. With fresh crusty bread, the following cheese-accented salads can make light and appealing summer main courses; or serve them as first courses before entrees of grilled fish or chicken.
A superb way to use feta cheese is in this simple salad with a light oregano dressing. This salad is ready in just a few minutes, especially if you use packaged rinsed lettuce.
GREEN SALAD WITH TOMATOES AND FETA CHEESE
1 medium head romaine lettuce, in bite-size pieces
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced, separated into slivers
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
8 to 12 pitted black olives, optional
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled into bite-size chunks
Combine lettuce, onion, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and oregano in shallow salad bowl. Toss well. Top with tomato wedges, olives and feta cheese. Makes four servings.
GREEK COUNTRY SALAD
1/2 small onion
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 green or sweet yellow pepper, cut into thin strips or rings
1/2 European (long) cucumber, cut into thin half-slices
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano, crumbled
8 to 12 kalamata or other black olives
4 ounces feta cheese, cut into cubes
Halve the onion, and thinly slice each section. Separate slices into slivers. If desired, rinse pieces with cold water so onion is milder. Pat dry.
Toss onion with tomatoes, green pepper and cucumber in large salad bowl, or arrange on platter. Mix oil, vinegar, oregano and salt and pepper and sprinkle over vegetables. Top with olives and feta cheese. Makes four generous servings.
Walnut oil vinaigrette is a lovely complement for greens and cheese. For a variation of this salad, use escarole as the greens and Roquefort cheese for sprinkling.
You can use either plain or toasted walnuts.
WATERCRESS SALAD WITH GOAT CHEESE AND WALNUTS
1 large or 2 small bunches very fresh watercress (about 6 ounces)
1 head butter lettuce (Boston lettuce) or other tender lettuce, in bite- size pieces, or 3 cups packaged butter lettuce
4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
3 to 4 tablespoons walnut oil
1/4 to 1/2 pound goat cheese, crumbled ( 1/2 to 1 cup)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Use upper part of watercress - tiny sprigs and leaves only - and discard large stems.
Thoroughly rinse watercress and head lettuce and dry them. Transfer to large bowl.
Whisk vinegar with salt and pepper to taste in small bowl. Whisk in walnut oil. Add enough dressing to greens to moisten them and toss well.
Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve salad sprinkled with goat cheese and walnuts. Makes four servings.