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News / Life / Clark County Life

Experiment with Greek-inspired salad rolls is a wrap (sort of)

For light and bright dinner, try bundling up Greek salad ingredients

By Monika Spykerman, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 10, 2024, 6:06am
3 Photos
These Greek salad wraps tuck Greek salad into individually wrapped lettuce pockets &mdash; in theory, though not in practice.
These Greek salad wraps tuck Greek salad into individually wrapped lettuce pockets — in theory, though not in practice. (Monika Spykerman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

I did quite a bit of cooking while my daughter was home for spring break, but the day after she left, I reverted to feral scrounging habits and, well, let’s just say I ate a lot of cold cereal. In a barely perceptible nod to nutrition, I did eat the cereal with bananas, which have vitamin B, fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and manganese. I now have 3,000 times the recommended daily allowance of manganese in my body.

In my defense, I usually love all vegetables except boiled or fried okra, which is unendurably slimy, although I do like pickled okra. Besides, okra isn’t even a vegetable. It’s classified as a fruit, which makes it even more disgusting when you think about it in terms of the normal deliciousness levels found in most fruits. Okra aside, I’m 100 percent vegetable-positive.

After a couple dark days of Grape-Nuts, Life and raisin bran, I finally felt the faint urge to consume a vegetable, or at least look at one on my plate. My husband and I went out for Thai food, which has lots of appetizing veggies. While perusing the menu, I developed a sudden and powerful craving for salad rolls — a Vietnamese dish found at most Thai restaurants — with carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, cilantro, vermicelli and tofu or shrimp inside a translucent rice wrapper, served with peanut dipping sauce.

The salad rolls absolutely hit the spot and my vegetable-deprived body practically shouted “Hallelujah!” I wanted to re-create that fresh vegetable experience at home, but not necessarily with the same ingredients. For example, I couldn’t find rice paper wrappers (or banh trang) at my local grocery store. And though I like tofu’s springy texture and mild flavor, my husband does not. He’s wrong, of course, but I try to humor him. At the very least, I hoped to capture the vibe of a salad roll, which is cooling and crunchy and flavorful.

My husband may not love tofu, but he loves Greek food, so I decided to create a Greek salad-inspired lettuce wrap filled with punchy flavors like salty olives, sweet tomatoes, spicy red onions and crisp cucumbers. I’d use big iceberg lettuce leaves instead of rice paper wrappers. In place of tofu, I’d use tangy feta. I’d use orzo instead of vermicelli and fresh dill instead of cilantro. Genius! Or maybe not.

To start, I forgot the olives and red onion at the store. I should have realized right from the get-go that the salad rolls were plotting to overthrow me. Nevertheless, I soldiered on. I made lemon orzo, chopped up the tomatoes and cucumbers, crumbled the feta and made an amazing lemon-tahini sauce. It was time to wrap!

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to separate an entire leaf from a head of iceberg lettuce, but it’s a lot harder than it looks. The leaves don’t want to be flat; they want to keep their round shape, and the leaves cling to each other as tenaciously as white cat hair on black pants. Eventually, I had about 30 lettuce-leaf parts and one mostly intact leaf. I arranged the prepared ingredients carefully across the leaf, then tried to roll it up, at which point the lettuce tore apart and everything fell out the sides and onto the plate. In no way did this qualify as a wrap. What I ended up with was a Greek salad-inspired Greek salad.

Still, it was pretty darn tasty for a salad. If you want to try this for yourself — and maybe it will work better with romaine, Bibb or butter lettuce? — here’s how to make the lemon orzo and lemon-tahini sauce, which I also used last May as part of a Mediterranean meatball bowl.

First, the orzo. Start by toasting 1 cup of dry orzo in a skillet with one tablespoon butter then add one 10.5-ounce can of chicken or vegetable broth, two minced garlic cloves and ¼ teaspoon each lemon pepper, coriander and dill. Simmer uncovered on low until most of liquid is gone. Squeeze in the juice of ½ lemon and add 1 tablespoon each chopped fresh parsley and dill to taste. Remove from the heat and cover. The orzo is done when it’s soft.

For the sauce, combine ¹/3 cup Greek yogurt with ¼ cup tahini, the juice of half a lemon, ¼ teaspoon salt and a heaping teaspoon of chopped dill. Stir vigorously and voila! You’ve got an addictive addition to sandwiches, wraps (proper ones) and salads or a dip for pita chips or vegetables.

I should point out that these Greek salads can be vegetarian if you cook the orzo in vegetable broth. If you want something a little meatier, you could add cooked ground lamb, even though lambs are very cute and no lamb ever hurt you.

There are a couple ways to assemble the wraps. The easy way is to pile ingredients near the bottom of the lettuce leaf and roll up, folding the sides over the filling as you go. The more complicated way results in a filled lettuce packet (at least, it did on YouTube). Take a whole leaf of lettuce and slice it up the middle to a spot halfway between the top of bottom so it looks like a lily pad. Lay ingredients on the leaf in whatever order you like, working from left to right in a clockwise fashion. Start folding on the lower left side until you’ve folded all the way around. Alternately, you can prep the lettuce leaves beforehand, bring them to the table with the other ingredients and let each person build their own wrap according to what they like, then laugh at them as all the food falls out.

Greek Salad Rolls

1 head iceberg, Bibb, butter or romaine lettuce

1 cucumber, peeled and sliced

1 or 2 tomatoes, diced or sliced

½ cup sliced red onion

½ cup black or Kalamata olives, pitted

1 cup crumbled feta

Fresh chopped dill and parsley to taste

  • Lemon orzo:

1 cup dry orzo

1 tablespoon butter

One 10.5-ounce can of chicken or vegetable broth

2 cloves minced garlic

Juice of ½ lemon

1 tablespoon each fresh chopped dill and parsley

  • Lemon-tahini sauce:

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

¼ cup tahini

Juice of ½ lemon

¼ teaspoon salt

Sprinkling of fresh dill

Prepare orzo by toasting dry orzo in skillet with butter, then add chicken broth and garlic. Simmer uncovered until most of liquid is gone, then add lemon juice and fresh herbs. Remove from heat and cover. Orzo is done when it’s soft.

Next, separate four to six lettuce leaves from the head and wash. Set aside. Slice or chop cucumbers, tomato and onions, pit olives if needed and crumble feta. Set aside. Make the lemon-tahini sauce by mixing yogurt with lemon, salt and dill and stirring vigorously until combined.

To make the wraps, lay cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, olives, orzo and feta atop the lettuce leaf, then roll the lettuce around the filling. Serve with lemon-tahini sauce. Alternately, save yourself the aggravation and toss all the ingredients into a salad.