When I began dating my now-husband Jeremiah, I was introduced to a plethora of traditions, from watching the Westminster Dog Show every Thanksgiving to crying my eyes out to “It’s a Wonderful Life” every Christmas Eve. He’s instilled in me the courage to live life like no one is watching and uncovered an unknown appreciation for sitting down at our dining table whenever we are ready to eat.
The act of eating in a formal setting during every meal is one that has influenced my love for throwing formal dinner parties. Whenever I have a reason to set the table for 4, 6, 8, 10 or more people, I get giddy. While my own family often ate together, space in the very small apartment my two brothers and I were raised in didn’t offer the ability to dine as formally as I do now. And perhaps that is the real reason behind my complete adoration for doing so today.
Throwing a formal dinner party allows me to gather the people I hold most dear together in one space, specifically around our mahogany dining table that has seated 14 of our friends and family on more than one occasion. Paired with the great company is always a culinary spread that makes our guests wish they never have to leave. And it is during these types of gathering when I get to explore the many courses that make up a formal meal.
Salads are known to start many formal dining experiences, and it is the one course in which I tend to put the least amount of my time and effort. Toss some mixed greens with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice or a flavorful vinegar, and you’ve got yourself a decent starter to what will ultimately be an amazing meal. It is the route I’ve taken time and again. And although it is a pretty timeless one, I have sought to turn it into a road less traveled.
This Greek Salmon Salad is me turning something basic into something you and your guests will crave anytime you think of putting anything green in your belly. Instead of reinventing the wheel, it combines elements of the traditional Greek with the simple mixed green salads that find their way onto our plates both in restaurants and at home. Paired with a vibrant creamy dijon vinaigrette, there is no flavor stone left unturned.
For your next formal dinner party, let this recipe pull you from the salad rut. Wow your guests by serving this dish as a powerful starter or a healthy and fulfilling main course.
Greek Salmon Salad with Creamy Dijon Dressing
(recipe serving size – 4 people as an entrée, 8 people as a starter dish)
For the veggies:
10 oz mixed lettuce (or your favorite leaf)
1/2 lb block of feta cheese, hand crumbled
1 English cucumber, cubed
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
12 artichoke hearts, drained, quartered and patted dry
Prepare the feta, cucumber, tomatoes and artichokes and store in the refrigerator until the fish is cooked.
For the salmon:
(*this portion of the recipe can be doubled if the salad is being prepared as an entrée and more fish is desired per serving)
1 lb salmon, cut into 2 filets
1 tb olive oil
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
Heat a grill pan over medium to medium-high heat. Drizzle the fish with the olive oil and sprinkle both sides with the salt and pepper. Cook with the flesh side facing down for 4 minutes. Tent during the cooking process with aluminum foil. Turn the fish over and cook for another 2 minutes, untented.
Remove the fish from the heat. Set aside on a plate and let cool. Once cooled, cut the filets in half, leaving you with roughly 4 even pieces.
(*If this dish is being served as an entrée, do not cut the filets in half after they are cooked. Serve each filet as 1 fish portion)
For the creamy dijon dressing:
2 tb white wine vinegar
2 tb olive oil
2 tb greek yogurt (or mayonnaise)
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp chopped parsley
1 tsp chopped basil
1 tsp chopped mint
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Combine ingredients in a mason jar and shake until fully incorporated.
Bringing it all together:
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
For individual plating (primarily used if serving as an entrée), divide the lettuce amongst 4 bowls. Place equal amounts of feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumber and artichokes into 4 individual sections on top of the lettuce in each of the bowls. Gently place a single piece of fish in the center of each individual salad. Allow your guests to add crushed red pepper flakes and to dress their own portions.
For family style serving (primarily used if serving as a starter), place all of the lettuce into one large bowl. Add the feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumber and artichokes into 4 individual sections on top of the lettuce. Break the cooked salmon into hearty chunks and gently place the small pieces of fish in the center of the salad. Bring the bowl to the table to allow your guests to take a look before tossing the ingredients together. You can then dress the salad, toss to coat the components as evenly as possible and serve.
There are quite a few renditions of this salad that you can make to suit your dietary needs. Here are just a few.
- There are other fish in the sea! Fish like tuna and its shell-wearing buddies shrimp, lobster and crab go wonderfully with this dish.
- Any non-fish protein will work. If you are not a fan of fish at all , substitute the fish for any other kind of protein. My recommendation either way would be to keep the seasoning simple (salt and pepper). The big flavors will come from the fresh ingredients and the vibrant dressing.
- Vegetarians and vegans are welcome! If you do not eat meat or fish of any kind, omit it completely. And if you are vegan, substitute the yogurt with coconut milk. And instead of feta, cube up some firm tofu. The dish will still remain massively flavorful!