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Eric Akis: A Salt Spring farm-stand feast

I’m spending part of my summer on Salt Spring Island and most of my dinner plans here have started with me visiting a few of the Island’s many farm stands to see what’s available.
Barbecued chicken is flavoured Greek-style, with such things as olive oil, lemon, garlic and oregano. ERIC AKIS

I’m spending part of my summer on Salt Spring Island and most of my dinner plans here have started with me visiting a few of the Island’s many farm stands to see what’s available.

Recently, I came home with some ripe, aromatic tomatoes, a just-picked field cucumber, garlic and some crisp peppers. I then did an inventory of items I already had on hand and decided to use them to make a summer-fresh, colourful, Greek-style salad. Something that would make a fine side dish for the barbecued chicken I decided to serve with it that I also flavoured in a Greek-style way.

To prepare that chicken, I first marinated the thighs and drumsticks in olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and spices. I then cooked it on a barbecue using the indirect-heat method, where you set the chicken on one side of the grill, turn the heat off underneath it, and leave the other side of the barbecue on.

As noted in previous columns, the indirect-heat method turns your barbecue into sort of a convection oven, where heat rises up on one side of the barbecue, hits the lid, and then swirls around and over the chicken, tastily cooking it without flames directly touching and scorching it.

When the chicken is cooked, you then move it over to the lit side of barbecue and char each piece a few minutes, further enhancing their colour and taste.

With regard to the salad, rather than toss all the ingredients together and serve them in a bowl, I choose to more artfully arrange them on a wide platter. Doing that allows each ingredient to stand out more, creating an eye-appealing version of Greek salad.

To round out this Greek-style meal, you could also serve the chicken and salad with warm pita bread, tzatziki sauce and some boiled or steamed miniature potatoes, sprinkled with chopped mint, dill, parsley or fennel fronds.

Greek-style Barbecue Chicken

Olive oil, lemon, garlic, oregano and spices combine to give the juicy, lightly charred, barbecue chicken a Greek-style taste.

Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus marinating time

Cooking time: 34 to 36 minutes

Makes: four to six servings

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling

2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp dried oregano, or 2 to 3 Tbsp chopped fresh

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

• pinch or 2 red pepper flakes

6 bone-in chicken thighs

6 chicken drumsticks

• sea salt, to taste

• lemon slices and fresh oregano sprigs (optional), for garnish

Place the 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, cumin, paprika, black pepper and pepper flakes in a 13- x 9-inch dish. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover, refrigerate and marinate chicken four to eight hours, turning occasionally.

When chicken has done marinating, preheat barbecue to medium-high (about 375 F in the chamber; see Eric’s options). Season the chicken with salt.

Set the chicken, with the thighs sitting skin-side-up, on one side of the barbecue and brush with any marinade left in the dish. Turn the heat off on that side of the barbecue; leave the other side at medium-high. Close the lid and cook chicken undisturbed about 30 minutes, or until cooked through. While the chicken cooks, make sure the temperature in the chamber remains at around 375 F.

When the chicken is cooked, move it over to the lit side of the barbecue and lightly char each piece two to three minutes per side. Set the cooked chicken on a serving platter and garnish with lemon slices and oregano sprigs, if using. Drizzle chicken with a little olive oil, and serve.

Eric’s options: If you don’t have a barbecue, you could roast the chicken on a non-stick or parchment paper–lined baking sheet in a 375 F oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until cooked through.

Greek-style Salad on a Platter

In this version of Greek salad the ingredients are artfully arranged on a platter and topped with flavourings. It’s then allowed to sit awhile, so the tastes of the various ingredients in the salad can happily meld together.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: six servings

3 ripe medium tomatoes, sliced

1 medium field cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced

1 medium orange or green bell pepper, halved, seeded and cut into strips

10 to 12 cherry tomatoes, each halved

1/2 small or medium red or white onion, very thinly sliced

18 to 24 kalamata olives

100-125 grams feta cheese, broken or pulled into small nuggets

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp dried oregano, or chopped fresh oregano, to taste

• salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• fresh oregano sprigs, for garnish (optional)

Set the sliced tomatoes in a single or slightly overlapping layer on a 14-inch or similar sized round platter. Now, at various points around the platter, set on the cucumber, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, onion, olives and then, finally, the feta cheese. (The salad could be made to this point about an hour before serving. Cover and keep at cool room temperature until needed.)

When ready to serve, drizzle the salad with the olive oil and lemon juice. Now sprinkle the salad with the dried (or chopped fresh) oregano, salt and pepper. Let salad sit 20 minutes or so to allow the flavours to meld, garnish with oregano sprigs, if using, and then enjoy.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.