I made a refreshing and easy Greek salad recipe last night using mostly local ingredients.
The cucumbers came from Ginkgo Organic Gardens on Chicago's north side. I've been volunteering here throughout the summer, although this is the first item of produce that I've taken home with me. That's because all the food grown here is donated to Vital Bridges, an Uptown non-profit that serves low-income, HIV-positive individuals.
I absolutely love this idea because when I think of food pantries, I think of canned goods that are high in sodium and not always nutritious. In fact, I was even made fun of once for buying a low-fat, low-sodium canned soup to donate to a food drive, but I felt that someone who can't afford to eat healthy shouldn't eat this kind of processed food in the first place.
That's what leads to health problems like obesity and high cholesterol for a group of people who have little access to quality health care.
I don't know of any other dedicated "food pantry" gardens in the city, but this one donates about 1,500 pounds of food a year - all from a lot that is the size of single family home. When I think about all the vacant lots in Chicago, a lot of people could be fed with nutritious produce.
Yesterday after all the food had been harvested for the weekly delivery, I was helping to clear the cucumber bed when I discovered a few big ones left behind. We determined that they wouldn't last another week, which is how they ended up in my salad.
I combined the cucumbers with some grape tomatoes that I picked up at a farmer's market on Damen in the North Center neighborhood and added a green pepper from my CSA. The rest of the ingredients were not so local - the red onion and feta cheese came from Whole Foods, as did the lemon that was squeezed into the dressing which included olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Greek Salad (from mediterrasian.com)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic—minced (crushed)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and extra for garnish
3 tomatoes—cut into wedges
¼ red onion—sliced into rings
½ cucumber—sliced into thick half-moons
½ green pepper (capsicum)— julienned
4 oz (120g) feta cheese— cut into small cubes
16 kalamata olives (I didn't include olives)
Place the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano in a small jar with a screw-top lid and shake to combine.
Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine just before serving.
Garnish the Greek salad with a little freshly ground black pepper.