Saturday, August 20, 2011

Traditional Greek Salad

This wonderful dish is literally translated from the Greek as 'rustic salad' or 'summer salad' and indeed when you are in Greece you find it is very common during the hot summer months.  Nothing really tastes better on a sultry afternoon than a traditional Greek salad. 

Kevin and I had the pleasure of spending two weeks in Greece in 2008 and one of the souvenirs we brought home was this little recipe.  Unlike American salads, the Greek (summer) Salad does not contain lettuce.  Instead it is made up of tomatoes, sliced cucumber, red onion, sliced or cubed feta cheese, and black olives.  It is typically seasoned with salt and dried oregano, and dressed with olive oil.  In a couple locations it also contained cubed green bell peppers, but this did not seem to be common.  We use Greek olives, which are salty and sour, but you can also use Kalamata if you prefer.

As you can see here, we serve it with a slice of feta cheese on top as this seemed to be the way most of the local (not tourist) restaurants served it.  You simply use your fork to break up the delicious feta cheese, taking a small bite with each piece of vegetable.

Feta, as you may know, is an aged crumbly cheese, commonly produced in blocks and has a slightly grainy texture. Only those cheeses produced in a traditional way in select areas of Greece (mainland and the island of Lesbos), and made from sheep milk or from a mixture of sheep and goats’ milk (up to 30%) may bear the name "feta".  With that said, our local Italian grocer carries a wonderful American-made "feta" so do try a few varieties to find the one you like best.

Julian on the island of Santorini
If you get the chance we strongly recommend you visit Greece.  The country has so much to offer in terms of history.  We visited seven of the islands as well as much of the mainland.  Each tells a unique piece of the history of the region, from the pre-Greek civilizations, through the classic Greek period and on to the Dark Ages and time of the Crusades.  It is a beautiful region and is filled with so much to see and do.  Try out the many local foods and don't be shy when it comes to the slow-roasted kid (baby goat).  All highly recommended!

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