Category: Culinary

The Perfect Greek Salad


4-6 Roma Tomatoes
1-2 Cucumbers
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…


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
Balsamic Vinegar
Lemon Juice
Dried Mediterranean or Greek Oregano (sweeter than Mexican)
Fresh Cracked Pepper
Sea Salt

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.

I swear I will upload a better picture the next time I make this, which will be soon. 🙂

There’s a restaurant in San Diego up in Hillcrest called Ortega’s Bistro ( that makes a Puerto Nuevo Style Shrimp Cocktail that is truly drool-worthy.  I’ve come pretty damn close to recreating it, though I leave out the diced mango and don’t add as much jalapeno.  This cocktail sauce is a little on the sweet side, but there’s just enough Tabasco and finely minced jalapeno to give it a nice kick, without making it hot overall.  Above all, even though it will come out looking very Zsa Zsa, it’s pretty easy to make.  The bulk of the work is chopping, dicing and mincing a few things, but it’s hardly work unless you’re a buzzkill.  The other good news is, this holds up perfectly for a good 5 days before the cucumber and avocado start to get a little soggy.  The low acidity also helps keep the avocado and cucumber bright green (unless you overdo it with Balsamic, which I don’t recommend, as it turns everything into mush and darkens greens.)

So here it is:

1/2 cup of finely chopped red onion (cut this up first and soak in balsamic vinegar while you chop the rest, then drain, reserve balsamic for later, you may want to add a tablesoon or less at the end.  I wouldn’t add too much more.)

1 lb. cooked shrimp, size is your business, cooked, peeled, and deveined

1 1/2 cups of Clamato

1/4 cup of ketchup (you may want to add a tablespoon or 2 at the end)

1 very healthy tablespoon of crushed or very finely minced garlic

1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped, but not minced, somewhere in between, you wanna look like you got spinach on your teeth?

1/4 cup of fresh lime juice OR zest of 1 lime and less lime juice, add slowly to taste if using zest first

1 teaspoon of Tabasco, you really don’t need anymore, let the jalapeno do the talking.

1 jalapeno, seeded, deveined, and VERY finely minced so it looks like little green glass beads

1 avocado, peeled, seeded and diced (ADD THIS LAST IF YOU’RE LETTING THIS CHILL OVERNIGHT)

So that’s it.  These are just guidelines, you get to do whatever you want.  Some people add horseradish, I felt the jalapeno was enough. I like the idea of 1/2 of a yellow bell pepper diced, partly for the bright color contrast, but it’s also the sweetest of the bell peppers while still having a little zing.  

I didn’t even add much more than a shake or two of sea salt and cracked pepper.  This is one of those deals that’s really sensational as is, on top of looking pretty, as well.  It should be chilled, ideally, for 2-3 hours, giving your sauce a chance to blend and thicken up a bit.  But if you really want to ace it, wait til lunch the next day, dicing up the avocado an hour or two before serving.  I served it with some fresh French bread with a compound whipped butter I made with lime zest, garlic and cilantro.  There were no leftovers.  🙂

Serves 6.

The Queen’s Tabasco

To celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, William & Son has teamed up with fellow Royal Warrant holder, TABASCO® Pepper Sauce . 600,000 limited edition sauce packs have been decked out in red, white and blue and offer the chance to win a one carat round brilliant diamond, set by William & Son and worth £15,000, with every purchase. They will be on-shelf at leading supermarkets and independents across the UK from the beginning of May and will be available for 6 weeks, throughout the Jubilee celebrations. Open your bottle carefully, and if it has a special white insert under the cap you’re the lucky winner.

Open for several years now, this is hands-down one of the best places in the area for food, atmosphere, wine and entertainment.  And now they come with a brand new website as well!

Truffles and Salt

OK, I know.  NEVER go into a gourmet-type store when you’ve got a (literally) high case of the munchies.  Among other things, I came back with this… Sicilian Truffle Sea Salt.  Now, I’m a big salt fan, it’s basically like cocaine in our family, for the most part.  In fact, if you were to put a teaspoon of both in front of me and tell me I can have whatever one I want, but that will be it for the next 12 months…. I’m taking the salt.  Seriously.  If I want to be edgy and paranoid, there’s always work for that.

So here’s my dilemma:  WHAT do I do with it?  Truffles in some areas are wonderful.  My favorite duck liver pate with port from Marcel & Henri at Trader Joe’s has really big pieces of truffle in it, and it’s absolutely fabulous.  This, however, considering how little is in it, is remarkably pungent.

I’m still convinced I was drawn to nothing more than the color of the packaging.


Update:  OK, I tried it.  A little on a soft-boiled egg.  I cannot begin to describe how fucking ghastly this.  Don’t do it.  Seriously.

Online Store – Sabatino North America.

Trader Joe’s made a deal with Annie Chun, who’s real name is likely Muriel Rabinowicz from the Upper East Side, to repackage these little gems under their own label, and they are REALLY good!  They can be pan-fried or used in soup, but because of the texture of the wrapper, they work perfectly in the microwave of all things.  5-6 at a time take 60 seconds and there’s an easy formula on the back, which is a lot like a tempura dipping sauce (I add a squeeze of lime, it goes well with both soy sauce and cilantro):

2 Tblsp Soy sauce

2 Tblsp water

1 Tblsp rice wine vinegar

1 Tblsp brown sugar


Long story short, don’t pick up just one bag!

Toaster Tragedies

Toast can be a terrifying tragedy for some people.  Take “Les Miserables” for example.  It doesn’t matter if you’re using the book or the musical as a point of reference, both were equally long and drawn-out.  Anyway, this guy steals a loaf of bread, and then suffers for the rest of his life.  Over toast.  It doesn’t sing and thank God for the bar during intermission.

I have parents who come close to Defcon 1 on a daily basis over toast.  Reagan had an easier time with Gorbachev, frankly.  One likes charcoal, the other, not so much.  It’s like listening to 2 chronic parrots about to blast each other to kingdom come.

So I found this, from some uppity French company that thinks a $350 toaster with glass panels is the solution to these travesties.  Williams-Sonoma has it down to $250, but I still think they’re high, as in stoned.  Still, it’s pretty, in a I-can’t-live-without-it-but-don’t-know-why-kind-of-way.

Magimix by Robot-Coupe Vision Toaster | Williams-Sonoma.

“Pool Cue” Chopsticks

These got my attention for coming apart like a pool cue.  The bamboo tip unscrews and slides into the aluminum base for portability.  Of course, I’m still going to be a dick and request a fork and knife when I go to a sushi bar SINCE I’M NOT IN JAPAN.  🙂

In the mortgage and lending world, the “Four C’s” pertains to the 4 base components in rendering a decision when approving a loan.  They are credit, capacity, collateral and capital.  When I was walking by an underwriting manager one day talking to one of my processors, he asked her what the 4 C’s were.  I, coming in partway through, didn’t realize they weren’t talking about shopping, so I jumped in and said, “Color, Cut, Carat and Clarity!”

Needless to say, I received an arched eyebrow from both of them.

Anyway, we have a new set of C’s now, and it is Civet Crap Choice Coffee, and at $35 for TWO OUNCES, it is now the most expensive coffee in the world… until we can start force-feeding coffee beans to minks like we’re making foie gras…

ThinkGeek :: Civet Crap Choice Coffee.

Miso Horny!

If you’re a Miso soup lover, you’re gonna LOVE this stuff.  I was at Cost Plus World Market picking up a Miso kit from another company, which was pretty good until I found this one.  The one I was buying was instant and came with all of the little spring onions and seaweed that magically unfolded from things that were 1/8″ square.  Frankly, there was usually too much seaweed.

This is the base Miso soup only, nothing else, and it’s the closest thing to a sushi bar you can get.  Squeeze 1 tablespoon into a coffee cup and you’re set.  Then throw the rest into the fridge and use it regularly until it’s gone… This is not instant, it’s a condensed broth.

Marukome » Miso and Easy.