If you have ever frequented an authentic Greek restaurant or had the pleasure of enjoying this cuisine from friends or family, you will know that combining simple flavors with loads of dried and fragrant herbs plus high-quality olive oil = delight. Summer is a great time for Greek salads and the lightness of the ingredients dressed with a simple vinaigrette. Crisp and tangy with homemade (easy!) tofu feta, you will reach for this recipe over and over again to satisfy a quick meal that is also filling.
Sustainability Spotlight: "Considering its nutritional value and taste, olive oil is being consumed by a huge pool of the global population. It is extensively preferred for its properties to prevent heart diseases by maintaining cholesterol levels in the body" says Business Wire in their Global Olive Oil Market Report 2021" published just earlier this month. Olive oil is used in food production, but also in pharmaceuticals and cosmetic products due to its moisturizing and exfoliating properties. The European Union is the leading market for olive oil production; specifically Spain and Italy with Greece being the largest consumer of olive oil per capita.
But, olive oil has a growing sustainability problem, which has only been exasperated and accelerated by the global demand. Traditional farming techniques included orchard growth and harvest by hand for the olives in either a basket or a "net" spread out at the bottom of the tree and capture; even in commercial olive fields, mechanisation can simply mean using a long-handled vibrating tong to shake the olives from the branches. To make 1 liter of olive oil, approximately 5,200 to 8,000 olives are needed (stats courtesy of olivemotion.com). Olive trees need two significant winter water events to produce olives, but the trees themselves are considered drought-tolerant given their origins in Greece, Spain and Italy regions and can grow in shallow soils with limited water outside of winter rainfall. The trees can produce long-term since they also have an average lifespan of 500 years!
This all sounds fine, right? What's the problem? To increase the scale of production of the olive orchards to meet global demands in areas where (as I said above) do not have much rainfall, more water is needed to irrigate the entire crop. The more concentrated and large the orchards have become, the winter rainfall needs to be supplemented along with the "normal" other seasonal irrigation needs. These orchards are areas where water resources are already scare (by nature!), so the orchards are taxing a low water system; in some areas to the brink of sustainability.
What can you do to help? Consider other varietals of oil; my personal favorite is avocado oil, but I frequently use coconut oil as well. There is still a good sized place for olive oil in my kitchen, but I do use olive oil from different areas outside of Italy and Spain who are the largest producers. In fact, my favorite is cold-pressed Grecian olive oil for sauteing with a recent addition of Australian olive oil for dressings and finishing oil. Try new things, branch out and lean into the diversity of your local stores. Enjoy olive oil, but consider feathering in other options to help reduce the global demand for this product in the stressed regions, and preserve the history and viability of olive oil for future generations.
1/2 block extra firm tofu (pressed, drained & cut into small cubes)
2 tsp white miso
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 lemon (juiced)
1/4 cup olive oil
Greek Red Wine Vinaigrette:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp agave syrup
1 lemon (juiced)
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
~1 cup shredded brussels sprouts
1 head romaine lettuce (chopped)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (cut into fourths)
1/2 cup chopped (pitted) Kalamata olives
1 bell pepper (sliced)
1/4 red onion (thinly sliced)
1 cucumber (chopped)
Combine all feta ingredients in a small bowl and marinate at room temperature for ~15 minutes.
While your tofu marinates, chop all salad ingredients and add to an over-sized salad serving bowl.
Once the tofu is done marinating, add feta to your salad bowl with any remaining marinade.
Blitz all dressing ingredients in a personal blender until combined and slightly frothy.
Add dressing to salad bowl and toss gently to full combine.
Serve salad in large bowls with warm pita (as desired) or vegan naan bread.
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie