Thursday, March 03, 2011

Greek-ish salad

I call this vibrant salad a Greek-ish salad as I have zero Greek credentials and everywhere I look there is debate and criticism on what a Greek salad really is. It seems that a number of Greeks get quite hot under the collar about this, perhaps their most famous national dish. Some insist that the salad should be onion-free whilst others say that finely sliced red onion is a vital component (and that this is the way their mother/grandmother/great-grandmother made it). Controversy also surround the use of cucumber which, to me, has featured in all 'Greek' salads I've ever tasted. There is also disagreement about herbs - fresh or dried? Dressing - plain olive oil, olive oil and lemon juice or something more elaborate?

My take on all of this is that there is no such thing as a truly 'authentic' recipe. There are recipes. There are variants. All are valid. There is no such thing as a 'wrong' recipe. There are many ways of creating a good 'Greek' salad. This version is mine and it contains the things that I love and the combination of flavours that work for me.

I served this alongside some harissa turkey burgers (recipe to follow) and it was a real hit. Wonderfully fresh, vibrant and crunchy and beautifully colourful too. If you can get those knobbly, hard-skinned cucumbers for this salad, so much the better. You'll definitely need to peel them and cut out the seeds but they are crunchier and (in my opinion) much more flavoursome. Obviously this salad is all about the quality of the ingredients - it would be miles better when tomatoes are actually in season. I was lucky enough to find some on-the-vine tomatoes with plenty of flavour in my local supermarket but I know this would have tasted much more wonderful with fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, still warm from the sun! Go for the best feta you can afford too - there is quite a difference in flavour.

My Greek-ish Salad
Serves 2 as a side dish


Half a red onion
1small  lemon
4 good-sized tomatoes
Half a long cucumber or a whole knobbly, crunchy one
100g good quality feta cheese
small handful Kalamata olives
4tbsp good quality extra-virgin olive oil (Greek, if possible!)
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper

1. Half an hour before you want to eat the salad, slice the onion very finely and place in a bowl with the juice from the lemon. This will soften the onion and take away some of the harsh flavour of raw onion.

2. In a small bowl, measure out the olive oil and sprinkle in the oregano with a good sprinkling of salt and pepper. Set to one side.

3. Chop the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and remove the seeds and mushy middle bit (unless you love seeds and mush, in which case feel free to leave them in!). Peel the cucumber and remove the seeds/fleshy core. Chop the crunchy flesh into small pieces. Cut feta into small cubes and olives into rough quarters.

4. Assemble the salad just before serving. Throw tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and olives into a bowl and mix gently to combine, season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle softened onions over the top and pour over most of the lemony juices over the salad. Use your judgement here - I found I used just under the juice of a whole lemon! Finally pour over the oregano oil which will mingle nicely with the lemony juices.

5. Devour and mop up the gorgeous juices with crusty bread!

This salad would be great with so many things - a side dish at a barbecue, alongside some simply-grilled fish or chicken, a summery lunch time dish, with grilled and marinated lamb chops....

And here is my lovely Sinbad enjoying the Spring-like sunshine in the garden. Absolutely irrelevant to this recipe, but equally lovely...

Sinbad, the husband and I are off on holiday next week. We're heading to Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast. we plan to eat lots of fish and plenty of picnics (probably in the rain, knowing our luck!). Look forward to sharing it all on our return!


Peter M said...

You may exhale now, you've made a Greek salad. As long as there is no iceberg lettuce (gasp) in're good!

However, non-Greek friends often ask why my Greek salad tastes better than theirs and my reply: use Greek extra-virgin olive oil, Greek Feta, Kalamata olives, source some pungent, aromatic dried Greek oregano and choose ripe tomatoes.

bellini valli said...

Greeks do seem to be very strict about what goes into many foods.If you add a different ingredient it must be called something else. There seems to be no allowance for creativity although there are certainly many, many creative Greek cooks.When I was in Greece I never tired of greek salad because of their use of only the best ingredients. In fact I had a salad every day for 5 weeks:D

Antonia said...

Peter - so please to hear my salad passes the test. As you say, I used really good Greek extra-virgin olive oil and Kalamata olives as well as Greek feta. Only improvement would have been in-season, local tomatoes!

Val - that is really interesting to learn. I could easily eat this salad on a very regular basis!

Anne said...

The salad looks lovely and fresh, brings back happy memories of warm days spent in Greece :)

Enjoy your holiday!

Lucy said...

Authentic or not, this salad looks delicious and reminds me of summer - I love feta! Hope you have a gorgeous holiday in Aldeburgh and that the weather is good - the Orford Pump Street Bakery is well worth a visit too.

LF said...

I love Greek salad, but have never attempted it myself. Perhaps I should :) Lovely blog. x

lynn said...

Oh my, that does look good. As soon as the snow clears, I'll start back on salads - honest.

Nicisme said...

Definitely a Greek salad, but oh you've got me wishing for a very hot summer day now!