The flavors of Greece are so unique, and they maximize fresh, easy, natural ingredients that combine to make an incredible meal. In addition, Greek food relies on ingredients that are typically inexpensive and full of natural flavor and nutrition.
And it’s delicious! I adore Greek food because I appreciate the different flavor combinations that can be created simply. Greek food emphasizes clean proteins like fresh seafood or lean meats like lamb that is easy to prepare and meant to be shared among friends and family. And mealtime in Greece is meant to be savored and enjoyed.
I decided to make a recipe that maximizes the flavors of Greece in a satisfying meal that is both easy to make and delicious. The inspiration for this dish came from my time living in New York City when gyros were popular on any street corner in Greenwich Village. The gyro made a perfect lunch on-the-run but I wanted to elevate those flavors a bit and turn the traditional gyro into a more wholesome, versatile salad.
This salad combines is high in protein and high in flavor. You can make the meatballs in advance and then add them to the salad base. The salad can be any combination of greens you prefer–the meatballs pair well with almost any combination of vegetables. The dressing is easy to prepare, stores well in the refrigerator, and can be easily stored in its own container then poured over the salad right before eating to keep the greens or vegetables crisp and the meatballs tender.
Greek Meatball Salad can also serve as a simple dinner, especially during summer, or as the perfect dish to bring to a party, backyard barbecue, to a beach house, on a boat ride, or camping trip. Any of the ingredients can be modified according to your tastes and can be doubled or tripled depending on the number of people. Serve this alongside crusty bread, pita triangles, fresh fruit, or olives and the whole dish becomes even more elegant. The possibilities with this dish are endless!
Greek Meatball Salad
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cucumber
- 2 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- Pinch fresh black pepper
- ¾ cup cooked couscous, cooled
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ pound ground beef
- ½ ground lamb (or use pork depending on preference)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- Pinch of fresh ground black pepper
- Pinch of salt
- 1 ½ tablespoon extra -virgin olive oil
- 5 to 6 cups chopped lettuce (Romaine or Iceberg)
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, whole or chopped
- 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into one- inch chunks
- ½ cup black olives, chopped
- ½ cup carrots, chopped
- ½ cup celery, chopped
- ½ cup watermelon, cubed
- Prepare the sauce.
- Peel the cucumber and remove the seeds. Grate onto a dishtowel, washcloth or cheesecloth. Roll into a ball and squeeze out the liquid. Place in a strainer and drain any remaining liquid.
- Sprinkle sat over the cucumber and toss to coat. Allow to drain 30 to 40 minutes. Squeeze out remaining liquid once more.
- Add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Prepare the meatballs.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine the couscous, egg, mint, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Add beef and lamb and mix well.
- Shape into 12 to 14 meatballs
- Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown half the meatballs in the oil on all sides until evenly browned. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain. Brown the remaining half of meatballs.
- Bake meatballs until cooked through, 15-17 minutes.
- Allow to cool slightly.
- Prepare salad.
- Toss lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, celery and watermelon.
- Add meatballs and top with tzatziki sauce.
Featured photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi