Greek Salad


Greek Salad 

 “Greek” salad with feta cheese is in fact a more general type of salad enjoyed throughout the eastern Mediterranean, from Bulgaria to Turkey to Lebanon as well as in Greece. It was introduced to Americans through Greek restaurants, and thus its common name. Romaine is the most appropriate available lettuce, but other types of loose-leaf lettuce, and even iceberg lettuce, can make a successful salad. In the US, the feta cheese is typically crumbled and sprinkled on top of the salad. In Europe bigger chunks are arranged around the salad for the diner to break up and eat along with the salad. The method I describe here produces the salad familiar to Americans. 

The recipe serves six. 

Vinaigrette (dressing)

1 medium-large clove of garlic

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

3/8 teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground

1/2 teaspoon oregano, crumbled between the fingers

Juice of one lemon

2-1/2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon water

4 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil 

Salad vegetables

2 hearts of romaine lettuce or 1 medium-large head of romaine

1 medium cucumber or 2 small Persian cucumbers

1 small-medium onion, red if possible

3 medium tomatoes or 1 1/2 cups “grape” or cherry tomatoes

4 sprigs flat (“Italian style”) parsley (optional)

1/4 pound feta cheese

20-24 black Greek (e.g., Kalamata) olives

10 small pickled green peppers (“pepperoncini”) or 1/4 cup sliced pickled banana peppers

6-8 anchovy fillets (optional) 

Prepare vinaigrette: Thoroughly crush garlic in a bowl with the salt and sugar, using the back of a spoon. Mix in remaining ingredients. 

Prepare vegetables: Rinse and drain lettuce and tear or cut into 2-inch pieces. Place it in a very large bowl. Peel cucumber only if skin is tough or waxed. Cut cucumber in half lengthwise. Cut out seed cavity, unless seeds are very small. Thinly slice cucumber on the diagonal, and add to the bowl. Peel then thinly slice onion lengthwise into thin “julienne” strips or crosswise into rings and add to the bowl. Core then cut tomatoes into chunks (or cut grape or cherry tomatoes in half lengthwise) and add to bowl. Cut leaves off the parsley, if used, and add to bowl. 

Drain feta and either slice it 1/4-inch thick (and cut in half if the pieces are long) or crumble it. Set aside. Drain and set aside the olives, peppers, and anchovies, if used. 

Shortly before serving, add vinaigrette to lettuce mixture in bowl. Toss to moisten thoroughly. Taste a piece of lettuce and, if necessary, add a little salt or vinegar and toss again. When fully seasoned, place the salad mixture on a large platter or wide shallow bowl. Distribute feta slices or sprinkle if crumbled, on salad. Arrange the olives, pickled peppers and, if used, the anchovies on top of the salad, and serve immediately.

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