Until most recently, I usually made Greek salad with sturdy Romaine lettuce, and considered it a full-on meal (maybe with some wonderful crusty bread or pita on the side).
A Greek friend and I were having a conversation the other day about this culinary treasure, and he asserted that there are absolute, quintessential Greek salad components.
The following are those components:
Red wine vinegar
After that, he gently added, you may add anything you’d like, including bell pepper or capers and, he did firmly note that a Greek Salad in Greece does not have lettuce.
Crusty bread or pita on the side is entirely allowed (and per me, entirely recommended)!
I warmly invite you to follow my guidelines below, rather than a hard-and-fast recipe, to enjoy this ultra-simple yet incredibly delicious Mediterranean classic.
Tips on how to choose / where to shop for ingredients are also included.
As usual for August in LA, the dog days of summer have arrived. In my experience, increasing heat and humidity are begging for a cool Euro dish to be served up, with no cooking required.
According to our angel Carlos Ortez, passionate owner of the exquisite Un Solo Sol in Boyle Heights – just celebrating its 10th anniversary this year – Greek Salad is one of the most nutritious plates in the world.
All the more reason to bring this to the table right now.
The following will serve about 4, as a side dish. Increase amounts if more servings are required, or if you wish to serve as a main dish.
3 ripe Roma tomatoes – cut in quarters, slices, or cubes
1 large cucumber – peeled, seeded if desired, sliced or cubed
Few very-thin slices of red onion
Olives – as many or as few as you prefer, pitted if preferred
Thin slices of fresh or roasted red or green bell pepper
Capers (squeezed a bit, from brine)
Toss all ingredients in large mixing bowl.
Extra-virgin olive oil, up to ¼ cup, or less if desired
Red wine vinegar
Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper (optional)
Feta cheese – as much or as little as you’d like, crumbled
Dried Greek oregano
Drizzle generously with olive oil, toss salad again to coat everything well. Add a splash of red wine vinegar (about 2 Tbsp). Season with only a bit of salt and pepper if you’d like.
Transfer to serving bowl or platter, and crumble cheese on top. To serve, pinch dried Greek oregano and crush between fingertips to sprinkle over salad.
Since this plate is so simple, it is imperative that you use the freshest and best-quality ingredients possible. It’s what they do in Greece, and we do well to follow their lead.
- Tomatoes – choose the reddest, ripest you can ransom; a bit soft to the touch.
- Cucumber – a large, firm garden variety is great; if you prefer small Persian cucumbers, use about 3 per recipe, and no need to peel / seed them.
- Red onion is the best choice but a sweet white, Vidalia, or Kula onion would also be fine if you prefer, or if a good red onion is hard to come by for whatever reason!
- Olives – Greek Kalamata are classic; find them at Marcel, fine deli counters, or even a jar of pitted Kalamatas at Trader Joe’s. Your personal favorite olives are fine as well.
- Feta – I personally love the French Feta at Marcel’s cheese counter (tell the gentlemen I sent you ;), and even at Jon’s International Marketplace.
- If you are able to try a few feta varieties, choose the one that you like the best, and everyone else will be fine with that.
- When you purchase fresh feta at a deli counter, tell them you’d like the brine; they will package it with the liquid – my preference.
- Oil, vinegar – as usual, the finest quality you can get is recommended. Excellent, well-priced varieties of each are found at Marcel.
- Dried Greek oregano – your local Greek grocer will have – i.e., Papa Cristo’s in LA)… if not, Mediterranean oregano will work.
- Penzeys has a Greek seasoning (includes oregano).