The inspiration behind this meal came from one of both myself and Alejandra’s favorite midweek places to order food from: Cava. For those who don’t know, Cava is very much like a Mediterranean Chipotle. You walk in, get in line, and basically construct your bowl from the options displayed right in front of you. We love it because the bowls are always packed with flavor but they don’t leave you feeling like you had fast food afterwards.
With the new year upon us we wanted to have some recipes that are on the healthier and nutritious side, but still had sustenance and, of course, flavor. This salad bowl is exactly that!
Eating healthy is great but there is nothing worse than crushing a workout only to know that a plate of flavorless greens, grains, and protein is lurking in the shadows. For me, that 30-45 minutes on the Peloton is going to be much more productive and rewarding if I know a flavorful meal is the light at the end of the tunnel. We're all about balance here!
A Note on the Protein and the Dressing
This salad bowl requires a two homemade items: the Italian-style pork meatballs and the tzatziki vinaigrette. While we these two are the stars here, we know sometimes you're in a time crunch so you could certainly substitute for store-bought or another protein altogether. However, if you do have the time, you won't regret making this beforehand!
The Dressing is essentially Tzatziki: Tzatziki is a sauce or spread that is made from cucumber, yogurt, garlic and herbs, typically in the form of mint and/or dill. The role of Tzatziki in most dishes is to provide a fresh and sometimes cooling component. While all the same major components found in a traditional Tzatziki are also present in this recipe, you will find that it differs from the traditional script in that it is made with a larger proportion of lemon and olive oil which gives it a thinner, dressing-like consistency.
Let’s talk about the meatballs!: The reason I call these Italian-style pork meatballs is because of the spices and flavorings that we add to the ground pork. The spices and seasonings are the same spices and seasonings that are added to a traditional Italian ground sausage.These bad boys give the bowl a nice and hearty Mediterranean-laced source of protein.
Ingredients for the Ultimate Mediterranean Salad Bowl
Aside from the meatballs and dressings, here are the rest of the ingredients:
Beans: Garbanzo beans/chickpeas are my favorite choice for this meal because they have a nice hearty texture that doesn’t get lost in the bowl but you can certainly use another bean or legume such as white beans or lentils.
Vegetables: For the vegetables you want to put in here it really is the dealer's choice. The suggestions we made are well balanced and go nicely together but bell peppers, carrots, zucchini, squash and many others could work just as well. Basically, you can use whatever you have on hand or whatever you like to eat. That is one of the things that makes this meal so nice, it’s versatility.
Lettuce: Romaine is nice here because of the nice crunch it adds but you can certainly use your favorite greens such as baby kale, spinach, arugula, ect.
Pita: Pita is more of a luxury than a necessity in this recipe so you can go without but I just love having pita with my salads/bowls so we put it in here. If you want to use something else, Naan is a perfect replacement, or even large chunks of our slightly-toasted Caramelized Onion & Caper Focaccia is a pleasant replacement.
Cheese: Feta is the most logical pairing for this salad considering the ingredients and the fact that it brings a nice salty funkto the salad but if you don’t have it or simply want another cheese, ricotta salata, queso fresco, or another semi-soft cheese with a homogenous flavor works as a great replacement.
Tips for Making Tzatziki Vinaigrette
Season each vegetable with salt individually (except for the feta and olives): When you season each vegetable with salt, you bring out each vegetable’s flavor. Sometimes when vegetables are tossed in a salad or bowl, they are not seasoned beforehand. You want each vegetable to shine in its own light so in order to do that you have to season in stages.
Feel free to mix and match the ingredients: Whether it is by themselves or together, try each ingredient and mix and match them to change the recipe up as you choose. Try it with chicken or steak instead of the meatballs. Try it with bell peppers and lentils instead of chickpeas. Once you master this bowl/salad recipe, there is no reason why you can’t have a variation of this recipe 1-2 times a week without ever getting bored.
This a personal favorite weeknight meal of ours and we guarantee it will be yours as well.
Cheers and eat well!
Mediterranean Salad Bowl
This Mediterranean-inspired bowl, is the perfect light and filling bowl with bold flavors of Italian-Style meatballs, chopped olives, chunks of feta and a tzatziki vinaigrette.
If making the meatballs, preheat the oven to 350 F.
Put your portioned meatballs on a sprayed/oiled sheet tray and bake them for 12-15 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 160 F.
While the meatballs are baking, prep your bowl’s ingredients by chopping the romaine lettuce into bite-sized pieces, cutting the tomatoes and olives in half, peeling and dicing the cucumbers, peeling and shaving/slicing the red onions, and dicing/crumbling the feta cheese.
When the meatballs are about 3 minutes from being done, add the 1-2 pieces of pita to the oven, directly on the rack, and bake for 3 minutes until thoroughly warmed and slightly toasted.
Compose your bowl by placing the lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions in a large bowl and add 1-2 pinches of salt and a few cracks of freshly cracked black pepper to season. Mix to distribute.
Add the chickpeas to the bowl, along with the olives, feta, and a homemade Tzatziki Vinaigrette or your favorite store-bought. Toss to dress evenly and transfer to your dish/plate to serve.
Once removed from the oven, cut the pita into 8 wedges and place, along with the fully cooked meatballs, onto your composed salad.
Serve immediately and enjoy.
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