TRADITIONAL GREEK SALAD
4-6 Roma Tomatoes
1 Bell Pepper
1 Red Onion
1/4 lb. Feta Cheese
1 dozen Kalamata Olives
1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
This is the basic, core, “no frills” version of a Greek, or village, salad. There is no, I repeat, NO lettuce. Veggies crudely hacked up into chunks. No fuss, no muss, it’s about using today’s vegetables from the garden topped with a nice slab of feta. The only real “detailing” is scooping out any seeded areas in the tomatoes or cucumbers that are really loose. Serves about 4-6 depending on whether you’re going small, regular or biggie-sized.
Then there’s my way…
IMPROVED TRADITIONAL GREEK SALAD
Grape, Sugar Plum or Cherry Tomatoes (stronger flavor and they don’t need slicing/coring)
Cucumber, seeded, all or partially peeled, diced
Yellow/Gold Bell Pepper, seeded, deveined, diced
Red Onion or a combination with Shallots, chopped, soaked in Balsamic (do this first)
Feta Cheese, whole or crumbled
Kalamata Olives and/or Capers, drained and rinsed
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Dried Mediterranean or Greek Oregano (sweeter than Mexican)
Fresh Cracked Pepper
I didn’t do much about quantities, though the ingredients are listed in order of most-to-least. This is not a fragile recipe set in stone. Add more or less of what you want. You really can’t screw this up. This is, however, a heavy-duty salad, not a ton of lettuce (there isn’t any) with a sliced carrot and a radish. Many times, a Greek salad ends up being lunch or dinner by itself.
Generally, there are about equal parts of both tomatoes and cucumbers and about half as much of bell peppers and onions . I’ve gotten it down to 4 parts tomatoes, 3 parts cucumbers, 2 parts bell peppers and 2 parts onions. Since the onions get toned down by the balsamic vinegar, I use a lot more. That yields a decent mid-sized salad when most people treat it like a side dish instead of a separate course. Don’t worry, leftovers are rarely a problem. Anyway…
- Dice the red onion, chop the shallots, and marinade in balsamic vinegar while chopping the rest (Do not let sit for more than 45-90 minutes, as they will lose their crispness after that).
- Tomatoes are left alone (thus the size, this is a no-knife salad).
- Cut a narrow cucumber lengthwise in half and half again, then cut into 1/4″ slices (Narrow cucumbers are still more solid in the middle, so no seeds generally need scraping out). All, part or none of the skin may be removed.
- De-seed and dice bell pepper (I use yellow partly for the sweeter flavor and partly to add another color besides green).
- Add about 3-4 unpitted Kalamata olives (pitted tend to be mushy) and/or 1 teaspoon of capers (drained and rinsed) per person. Once I started using capers, I never went back to olives.
- Add approx. 1 tablespoon olive oil per 1-2 servings. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, Oregano, cracked pepper and sea salt (if needed) to taste.
- Drain balsamic from onions, add to salad, stir together and let sit for about 10-20 minutes.
- Before serving, put a slice/wedge of Feta Cheese across each bowl, sprinkle with a little more Oregano and pepper, followed by a light drizzle of oil, then serve. Since I used a mold for the above picture, I used crumbled Feta instead. Again, your salad, your rules. :)
The Balsamic reduction is totally my idea and optional. It gives a little more flavor without drenching your salad outright with a globby dressing. Add 1 tablespoon of Soy Sauce and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to 1 cup of Balsamic Vinegar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer and reduce by about 50-60%, approx. 15-20 minutes. Let cool, then toss in fridge. This will thicken up like a syrup, so take it out of the fridge about 15-20 minutes before you need to drizzle it, so it pours better. Do NOT add too much, this is concentrated and a little goes a long way. If you do get carried away with some lovely swirly design, drizzle a little more olive oil on top of everything to compensate. Ultimately, it’s hard to go wrong with these ingredients.
This is best served at room temperature and only chilled afterwards for leftovers. This is also a salad that gets better after sitting. By the next day, water from the sliced cucumbers, as well as traces of balsamic from the onions, has created a really nice vinaigrette.
There are also plenty of variations. Adding Dill in place of, or along side of, Oregano, works well. A little chopped and/or roasted garlic also works. I also like the idea of adding celery. Veggies come and go through trial and error (I thought hearts of palm would be good, but they were too pickled and mushy). I do, however, keep the Feta separate right up until being served, so not everything tastes too jumbled. Some people prefer crumbling up the Feta and mixing it all together. The beauty of this simple, village salad is that it really has no rules except it’s not supposed to be too much of a production. It’s also a very healthy combination of ingredients without tasting like health food. Finally, when in doubt, add more cheese.