Four years, over 1000 blog posts and not one blog post on perhaps one of the most identifiable of Greek dishes…the Village (Greek) Salad.I thought to myself would I get chuckles for posting such a non-recipe or I thought to myself, how could this blog not address this salad? I chose the the latter.
In Greece, one would order a “horiatiki” or village salad. The Greek Salad outside of Greece is also known as a “Greek” or you’ll see it on menus as a “Village” Salad. When ordering a Greek salad it’s always good to read the menu card carefully or ask the waiter what’s in the salad. If you don’t, you mat see a salad arrive that also contains….iceberg lettuce (gasp).
A Village (Greek) Salad should not contain lettuce of any kind and for the record, iceberg is not indigenous to Greece and it’s arrival to Greek supermarkets came after Greece’s markets were opened-up to a flood of produce and goods from the rest of Europe in the early 90’s. Here in Canada and the US many Greek restauranteurs have added lettuce as filler and to add insult to injury – bland tomatoes tossed with suspect olive oil and Feta cheese of dubious origins. Much of the blame is pointed towards Greek restaurants in the West who have dumbed-down Greek food, added filler (like iceberg) and continue to serve inferior Greek food. Ask the server what olive oil they use, where’s the Feta from and taste the tomatoes. Here’s my revenge on lame Greek restaurants…send the Greek salad back if you’re not satisfied.
Greeks are often asked what we put in our Greek Salad that makes it so delicious and Greeks will agree with me when we snicker before we respond. I’ve also been asked to bring a “Greek Salad” to parties or to pot-luck lunches or dinners. Could it get more easier? The Greek Salad is easy to pull off and even easier to screw-up!
The proper Village Salad contains tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, olives, olive oil and Feta cheese, oregano. No lettuce of any kind. This simplistic Village Salad will earn you major points but if you want your dinner guests to laud you, go the extra mile to assemble this otherwise easy salad.
Make this salad with ripe, in-season tomatoes. I may make a Village Salad as early as April when decent hot-house tomatoes arrive and as late as early October when the last of the local, vine-grown tomatoes are in the markets. A tasty, ripe tomato will make or break your salad. I like to use red onions as they are mild (they don’t repeat on me) and I like the colour and natural sweetness. Then there’s cucumbers….whole slices or cut into halves – your choice. I also like my cucumber with the skin on – just more flavourful but again, your prerogative. There’s slices of green pepper and you can use bell peppers, banana peppers or red, yellow or orange peppers if you don’t like green peppers.
That rounds-out the vegetable component of your Village Salad. On to the dressing. The dressing…the non-recipe. The dressing is the best, BEST Greek extra-virgin olive oil you can find. Here it Canada, I recommend Acropolis Organics, Christine Cushing’s two olive oils, Kalikori and Artemis olive oil. There are many quality olive oils out (especially the Greek ones) and I encourage to try one of them, you’ll taste the difference and for Heaven’s sake…you’re making a Greek salad…use a Greek olive oil.
The proper Greek salad does not contain wine vinegar or lemon juice but a splash of good wine vinegar or squeeze of lemon juice is totally acceptable. What isn’t acceptable is to use any Feta cheese that contains cow’s milk. It’s a sin, it’s not really Feta and you’re just short of eating cottage cheese. Use a Feta cheese that’s made in Greece with goat, sheep or a combo of both these milks to make the Feta. Perfectly aware that not everyone lives in a part of the country with Greeks and therefore no Greek deli or market, then look for a domestic Feta that at least is made of goat or sheep’s milk. NO COW’S MILK FETA!
You’re going to need a sprinkle of sea salt, some pungent dried Greek oregano and a garnish of Kalamata olives. You may certainly use your favourite olive and I on occasion top my Greek salad with the wrinkly, salt-cured Throumpa from Halkidiki. Other variances to a Greek salad made be witnessed while in Greece: In the Cyclades (islands) I’ve seen the Greek salad topped with Anthotyro, a tangy ricotta cheese and the islanders will also often garnish with some local capers (also acceptable). I’ve added a handful of purslane that’s growing wild in my garden, adds to the salad without being distracting.
Village (Greek) Salad (Χωριατικη Σαλατα)
2 large, ripe tomatoes, rinsed & cut into 6 wedges
1 cucumber, washed well and sliced
2 sweet banana pepper, sliced or 1/2 cup sliced green bell pepper
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
12 Kalamata olives
extra-virgin olive oil to taste
Feta cheese, served in cubes, batons or slabs
sea salt to taste
2 tsp. dried Greek oregano
garnish of capers or purslane (optional)
- Add your tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and onions in a large bowl along with the olives and sprinkle some sea salt. Now drizzle in some olive oil and sprinkle some dried Greek oregano. Top with Feta and olives, drizzle a bit more olive oil on the Feta and sprinkle some Greek oregano on it. Garnish with capers or some purslane from the garden.
- Serve with good crusty bread.
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