Friday, August 23, 2013

Greek Salad

Individual Plate of Greek Salad
Greek Classic

Recipe from The Art of Simple Food

As a savvy Facebook follower pointed out, my last recipe for Spanish Basque tossed salad is quite like Greek salad. Unlike Basque salads, whose ingredients vary quite a bit, Greek salads typically contain the same ingredients: tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, black olives, and feta cheese, topped with a light vinaigrette dressing. Classic recipes call for classic sources, like The Art of Simple Food by longtime culinary wizard and seasonal chef Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse (AKA Alice’s Restaurant).

Bowls and Bottles of Greek Salad Ingredients with Pile of Fresh Oregano in Front
Greek Oregano is Traditional
Greek salad vinaigrette typically has less vinegar than most vinaigrettes. Some Greek salad recipes use only olive oil to dress the salad. Instead, the salad marinates in its own juices, including the mildly acidic juice from the tomatoes. With so little vinegar, some Greeks salads can taste a bit wimpy. Alice Waters solves this dilemma by allowing the salad to marinate in the standard (low acid) dressing, then tasting it and adding vinegar and salt to taste. Since her dressing also contains a touch of lemon juice, I served the salad with leftover lemon wedges. A light squeeze and a little salt and pepper over individual servings added a subtle zip.

Bowls of Veggies, Cheese, Olives,  and Dressing
Salad Ready to Assemble
Use any kind of cucumbers; I substituted yellow pickling cucumbers (green on the inside) for standard cukes. Remove the seeds if you prefer a less watery salad. Tomatoes can be cut into wedges or diced. You could also use halved cherry tomatoes. Some recipes use green bell pepper instead of red. I substituted an unknown sweet red pepper from our CSA. You can use dried oregano if fresh is unavailable, but remember to reduce the amount by half, to 1 teaspoon.

Don’t substitute the feta cheese or Greek olives. Goat cheese and generic black olives will not balance with the dressing and will taste decidedly un-Greek. I buy the feta in a chunk and cut it up into cubes, but you could choose pre-crumbled feta instead. I also substituted water for part of the olive oil in the dressing, as usual, to save calories and costs. Use the full amount of oil for more authenticity.

Yummy Looking Salad on Platter with Romaine Leaves
Colorful Presentation and Deliciousness
Greek Salad
serves 4

2 small ripe tomatoes
1 medium cucumber
½ small red onion or 5 green onions
1 small sweet red pepper
Romaine, 5 large leaves (optional)
1/3 cup Kalamata olives
4 oz. chunk feta cheese
Sprinkle of salt
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)
2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1/8 tsp. salt
Fresh-ground black pepper
6 tbsp. olive oil (or substitute up to 2 tbsp. water for some oil)
Lemon wedges (optional)

Prepare vegetables: Cut tomatoes into wedges (~1.25 cups). Peel cucumber. Remove cucumber seeds by scraping with spoon and blot insides dry. Cut in half or quarters lengthwise and slice into ½ - ¾ inch chunks (~1.5+ cups). Peel onions and slice thinly (~.5 cup). Cut red pepper in half and remove core. Slice thinly (~.5 cup). Wash and dry romaine leaves and spread out on serving platter.

Prepare garnishes: Rinse olives and pit if desired. Drain, or blot off water. Break up or cut feta cheese into small pieces (unless you’re feta is pre-crumbled).

Season tomatoes: Salt tomatoes lightly and toss. Allow to sit while you prepare the dressing.

Make the dressing: Stir together red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and chopped oregano (there will not be much liquid). Add the water if you are substituting it for 2 tbsp. of the oil. Stir in salt and about 10 grinds of black pepper.

Whisk in olive oil until smooth and well blended (use 4 tbsp. if you substituted 2 tbsp. of water).

Assemble salad: Season cucumbers and onion with a sprinkling of salt, and toss to blend. Taste tomatoes and season again with salt if needed. Toss together tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and red peppers.

Add about ¾ of the vinaigrette to the veggies and toss to coat evenly. Let sit for a couple of minutes for flavors to blend.

Toss again and taste. Add more vinegar (I added another teaspoon) or salt if needed.

Just before serving, toss salad again. Remove veggies from mixing bowl and pile on top of romaine leaves. Top with feta cheese and Kalamata olives. Spoon remaining vinaigrette over the top and serve immediately.

Serve with lemon wedges, if desired, and salt and pepper.

Individual Plate of Greek Salad
Second Helping: Required or Desired?

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