Real Greek Salad
Greek salad is an old-fashioned immigrant story-an imported original nudged into an alternate version of itself so that it fell more in line with mainstream American expectations.
The traditional Greek version, known as horiatiki salata, is a colorful, chunky mix of raw tomatoes, cucumbers, green bell peppers, and onions; briny kalamata olives and (sometimes) capers; and thick slabs of rich, sheepy feta.
Drizzle these components with extra-virgin olive oil and maybe lemon juice or vinegar, if you prefer, and sprinkled with dried oregano.
A staple accompaniment at Greek meals, this simple, hearty dish (also called ‘”village salad”) made its way to the United States, during the 19th-and 20th-century waves of Hellenic migration and landed on the menus of many Greek-run diners and pizzerias.
When the dish didn’t gain much traction with American consumers, restaurateurs turned it into a recognizable salad by diluting the vegetables with lettuce (iceberg or romaine), crumbling the feta, and tossing the whole affair in a thick vinaigrette.
That Greek American adaptation balanced familiarity and intrigue, eventually earning such a following that it became a standard not just at diners and pizzerias but also at chain restaurants, pubs, delis, and even convenience stores nationwide.
Real Greek Salad – Recipe
SERVES 4 AS A MAIN DISH OR 6 TO 8 AS A SIDE DISH
TOTAL TIME: 25 MINUTES, PLUS 30 MINUTES SALTING
Real Greek Salad – Recipe
Cut tomatoes into 1/2 inch-thick wedges. Cut wedges in half crosswise. Toss tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in colander set in large bowl. Let drain for 30 minutes. Place onion in small bowl, cover with ice water, and let sit for 15 minutes.
Whisk vinegar, oregano, pepper, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt together in second small bowl.
Discard tomato juice and transfer tomatoes to now-empty bowl. Drain onion and add to bowl with tomatoes. Add vinegar mixture, cucumber, bell pepper, olives, and capers and toss to con1bine. Drizzle with . cup oil and toss gently to coat. Season with salt and pep.per to taste.
Transfer to serving platter and top with feta. Season each slice of feta with extra oregano to taste. Drizzle feta with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Serve.
Real Greek Salad – Drain the Tomatoes
Ripe, sweet tomatoes are a must for horiatiki, but they’re also loaded with juice that flooded the salad when added them directly to the mix.
Soaking the sliced onion in ice water tempers its heat and bite. Use only large, round tomatoes here, not Roma or cherry varieties, and use the ripest in-season tomatoes you can find. A fresh, fruity, peppery olive oil works well here if you have it. Use feta by Real Greek Feta or Dodoni in this recipe. The salad can be served with crusty bread as a light meal for four.
First step is to toss the tomatoes (halved, wedges, for chunky but manageable bites) with salt and set them in a colander to drain for 30 minutes. The salt pulls out a whopping 1/2 cup of juice, preventing all that liquid from saturating the other vegetables; plus, it seasons the tomatoes more deeply and evenly than is possible by simply seasoning the salad before serving.
Real Greek Salad – Soak the Onion
There’s nothing like red onion to add sharp, savory bite and crunch to a salad, as long as it’s used in moderation. Even just half an onion’s worth of thin slices tasted harsh, so soak the slices ice water to draw out the onion’s harsh-tasting sulfur compounds (thiosulfinates).
Real Greek Salad – Go for Greek Feta
Greek feta provides a superior flavor and texture-and for several good reasons, which stem from Greek government regulations that control the feta-making process.
First, the milk itself is rich and complex: At least 70 percent of it must be sheep’s milk, which contains twice as much fat as cow’s milk; any remainder must be goat’s milk. Because Greek sheep and goats eat uniquely diverse diets, their milks contain fatty acids that impart distinctively gamy, savory flavors to the feta.
Second, Greek feta is produced via a slower, more methodical process that encourages the development of exceptionally complex flavors. Feta by Real Greek Feta and Dodoni, work equally well in the salad. Avoid crumbled fetas, which are produced from cow’s milk and lack the complexity and rich, dense texture of the real deal.
Real Greek Salad – Green Bell Peppers
Even if you don’t care for the grassy, vegetal, faintly bitter flavor of green bell pepper, consider using one here. Those qualities (which are due to
flavor compounds in unripe peppers called methoxypyrazines) uniquely balance the horiatiki, complement.ing the fresh, sweet, briny, and rich flavors of the other components.
Real Greek Salad – Dried Oregano
Greeks cook extensively with oregano, particularly the dried leaves, which they use in cooked applications and as a finishing touch for meat, fish, vegetables, legumes, and salads such as horiatiki.
The woodsy, floral profile of dried oregano leaves is subtler and more complex than that of fresh leaves, but it’s still fragrant because oregano is a hardy herb that retains much of its flavor and aroma when dried.
Real Greek Salad Ingredients
1 3/4 pounds tomatoes, cored
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt, divided
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano, plus extra for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 English cucumber, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 2 by 3/4 inch strips
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 (8-ounce) block feta cheese, sliced into 1/2 -inch-thick triangles