Greek salad. You’ve heard about it somewhere. Right? What is all this fuss about this salad anyway? Why do bloggers and chefs around the globe swear you are going to love it? Well, I am Greek and I know! I’ve been eating this traditional Greek salad all my life and let me tell you this: you are most definitely going to LOVE IT!
UNDER 2 NON-NEGOTIABLE CONDITIONS …
#1 non-negotiable condition
You absolutely have to use the BEST QUALITY seasonal produce you can find. This is the first big secret behind this salad. It isn’t about the recipe. Not at all. It is ALL about the fresh, ripe, sweetest tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, authentic Greek feta cheese, naturally preserved olives, and (super) extra virgin olive oil.
Therefore, keep in mind that the deliciousness of this salad is related to seasonal ingredients. I don’t know about you but, even in the mild Mediterranean climate, rarely have I tasted flavorful tomatoes and cucumbers in full winter. Their taste is bland, to say the least.
I suggest making Greek salad from late spring to early autumn and while you are waiting for hot spring/summer days, serve this traditional cabbage salad instead.
#2 non-negotiable condition
Share it. This is the way we eat food in Greece and, believe me, it adds so much more to the flavor. Not only it is fun but sharing food is a way to bond, socialize, and be part of a group. The sense of belonging is an important aspect of the Mediterranean way of living. We tend to talk about food, ingredients, and perfect recipes but we neglect the social factor and the primal human need to interact and get a sense of belonging. This is so wrong!
Eating with a company has an extremely positive impact on our well-being and we should seize every opportunity to get together with friends and family.
Don’t skip it! If you don’t like feta cheese, probably this isn’t the recipe for you. Make this melon-caprese salad instead. Ok, I am just kidding. Truth be told, Greek salad without feta cheese is like food without salt. In my humble opinion, a Greek salad without feta cheese is just a tomato-cucumber salad. It may be good but it isn’t Greek salad. Feta cheese adds this distinguished tangy flavor that enhances all flavors.
Go for the authentic feta cheese. It isn’t difficult to purchase. Greek feta cheese contains sheep’s milk or/and goat’s milk, rennet, and salt. That’s it.
Topped the salad with large chunks or blocks of feta and not crumbled feta, if it is possible.
You may use a mix of bell peppers but just green bell pepper would work fine too.
I like plum and heirloom tomatoes which I find delightfully sweet. However, go for quality and purchase the juicer, sweetest tomatoes even if it is cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, etc.
Seeds included. This salad should be a little bit watery (find out the reason below). In Greece, cucumber is usually served peeled. However, you may leave the skin on or partially peel it, if the skin is thin like an English cucumber.
It is a matter of taste. I like all kinds but I propose Kalamata olives for those who aren’t familiar with their taste yet. However, don’t choose a canned product because their taste has nothing to do with the freshness of this salad. Go for pitted Greek-style olives that are naturally preserved in jars, using curing procedures. You will find it online or in Greek delis.
It doesn’t matter if you cannot find naturally preserved olives. Omit it and enjoy the rest of the ingredients.
Being Greek and having trouble digesting raw onion is bad news. So, I had to find a way to enjoy this salad. Here it comes. Slice the onion into half-moons and place it in water with vinegar as long as you make the rest of the salad. It may not take away all the side effects but it will take the edge off. Rinse the slices and mix them with the rest of the ingredients.
I wouldn’t recommend skipping onion since it adds so much to the flavor.
You may avoid eating the salad’s onion, which isn’t difficult because the slices are quite big to distinguish.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The best quality you can purchase.
Greek oregano’s flavor is stronger and truly amazing. Don’t add too much because the salad will turn into a bitter mess. A generous pinch (or two depending on the quantity) is enough.
This is the best part. Homemade bread to soak up the juices of this heavenly delicious salad. No words to describe the taste. It’s a culinary experience (read below how and why).
If you ask me, no need to add salt here. Authentic Greek feta cheese will do the work and add the perfect amount of saltiness to this salad.
Red Wine Vinegar
The authentic version of the Greek salad doesn’t include vinegar. So it’s up to add whatever you like to this salad. No problem. However, if you ask me, I would say that any kind of dressing is unnecessary IF the extra virgin olive oil is top quality and the veggies are in season.
Otherwise, it would be a good idea to add vinegar’s acidity to enhance its taste.
Caper berries (and/or leaves)
This ingredient is optional. However, in Greece, it is usually present in the traditional Greek salad, especially in areas where it literally grows on the streetside. I absolutely adore capers leaves and I never share them (lol).
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
Here is all you need to do:
Cut the red onion in half and then into thin slices. Place them in a small bowl and cover with water and a tablespoon of vinegar.
Cut the peeled cucumber in half length-wise, then slice into thick halves.
Slice the green bell pepper into rings.
Cut the tomatoes in half. Then cut them again to make quarters and finally into wedges or large chunks.
Place everything in a large salad platter/dish/bowl. Add the Kalamata olives.
Mix lightly, add the feta cheese the olive oil, and the oregano.
HOW TO (SEMI) PREP GREEK SALAD
I would be honest. It isn’t quite usual to prep Greek salad because it is mostly based on freshness.
However, you may wash and cut the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onion. Use a paper kitchen towel to pat them dry and start layering the veggies in the serving plate/bowl. First the cucumbers, then the tomatoes, and finally the pepper and onion. Don’t mix. In fact, don’t even touch anything Just cover the plate/bowl with a plastic wrapper and place it in the fridge for up to 5 hours. Top.
Don’t let it sit in the fridge for too long because you will end up with a soggy salad. Nobody likes this. When it is the time to serve, add the feta cheese block, capers (optional), the extra virgin olive oil, and the oregano.
MAKE IT AND EAT IT. THE GREEK WAY!
So, you’ve purchased the best ingredients. Hooray!!! All you have to do now is to assemble them. BUT again! You need some basic instructions. Because you may have found the perfect ingredients but now it is time to make it and eat it the Greek way.
I hear you! Is there a way to eat a salad? Yeah! In Greece, there is!
Share it! (Remember #2 non-negotiable condition for loving this salad?). Don’t make or order an individual Greek salad, please. Why stay strictly confined to your own space at the table instead of sharing the food with others? The Mediterranean way of eating is all about sharing meals and social interaction.
So here it goes: You adjust the quantity in respect of the number of people. You serve it in a big salad bowl/platter! You place it in the middle of the table at everyone’s reach. Finally, you make sure there is plenty of homemade or artisanal bread.
Great! Are forks ready? … GO. A piece of advice. Be ready and be fast. Because when most of the ingredients are gone the fun part begins. There should be enough salad juice left to dive in. Grab a generous slice of bread and soak up all the delicious remains of vegetables, olive oil, and feta cheese. Lick the plate clean until no traces of food remain. Now, you know why this is not just a salad. This is a ceremony, a tradition, a real experience.
Salad Serving Suggestions
Greek salad makes a light, satisfying meal on its own. I cannot think of a better light lunch, especially on those hot summer days.
Pair it with a slice of homemade bread (preferably whole wheat), pita bread or flatbread and you will enjoy a delicious, nutritious, and filling meal.
It goes without saying that this is an excellent salad served with any kind of dish.
Therefore, it would also be delicious with any of these meat recipes:
Chicken with shallots and orzo
Additionally, the perfect combination with a pie as well like:
STORAGE – LEFTOVERS
This salad is best enjoyed fresh. I wouldn’t recommend storing it. Nevertheless, you may use some ingredients for the next day’s cooking. My grandmother’s -zero waste food- method uses leftover tomatoes and Greek salad liquid for cooking “ladera”. Those dishes use tomato & olive oil to simmer vegetables or/and legumes so Greek salad’s leftover tomatoes are serving that purpose!
If you make this recipe, you have to let me know! I absolutely love your feedback. This is a huge motivation for me and it keeps 30daysofgreekfood’s kitchen alive. Bookmark this recipe and leave your rate and comment below, or take a photo with your Traditional Greek Salad and tag me on Instagram with #30daysofgreekfood and Facebook with @30daysofgreekfood.
Traditional Greek Salad
- 3 large or 4 medium ripe tomatoes, any kind
- 1 pound (about 400g) cucumber, any kind, peeled
- 1 big (or two small) green bell pepper, cored
- 1 medium red onion
- Greek Kalamata olives, pitted, as many as you like
- 4 tablespoons quality extra virgin olive oil
- Greek feta cheese, blocks or big chunks
- Salt, you may skip due to feta’s saltiness (optional)
- Dried oregano, a pinch
- Capers (optional)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (optional)
- Cut the red onion in half and then into thin slices. Place them in a small bowl and cover with water and a tablespoon of vinegar.
- Cut the peeled cucumber in half length-wise, then slice into thick halves.
- Cut the tomatoes in half. Then cut them again to make quarters and finally into wedges or large chunks.
- Slice the green bell pepper into rings.
- Place everything in a large salad platter/dish/bowl.
- Add as many kalamata olives (and capers - optional) as you like. Top with the feta cheese block or/and big chunks.
- Pour the olive oil all over and finally 1 generous pinch of oregano. If the oregano isn't too strong, add some more.
- If the ingredients are in season and the olive oil is extra top quality, the vinegar isn't necessary. Taste some and add to taste.
- Serve and mix the ingredients at the last minute.
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