Growing up in Greece, Greek peasant salad (or horiatiki salata) was always present at our table during the summer months. With home-grown tomatoes that my father was planting from seeds every year (and tended religiously throughout the summer), and, with the best local Feta cheese from barrels stored in our cellar, this iconic salad was always part of our summertime meals.
A simple dish like this depends highly on seasonal and good quality produce: perfectly ripe and juicy tomatoes, crispy cucumbers, mild red onions, and wild Greek oregano. This gets topped with a chunk of creamy Greek Feta cheese (the real stuff please, no substitutes allowed here) and sharp Kalamata olives, and is then all doused with the best extra virgin olive oil you can obtain. How can you possibly get it wrong?
Oh, you certainly CAN get it wrong, and here is how:
- Lettuce or other green leafy vegetables do not belong in the classic Greek peasant salad.
- Dry, crumbled, non-Greek Feta cheese will not add much flavor to this salad–get the real one.
- Unripe, flavorless winter tomatoes that taste like the plastic in which they are wrapped will not do justice to this dish. Wait for the summer for the real thing and enjoy it!
- Balsamic vinaigrettes, although delicious, are not traditionally used in this salad.
- “Light” olive oil does not deliver any flavor, it is just a blend, so, don’t even buy it.
- Greek salad is traditionally served with thick slices of fresh, hearty, country bread; save the pita for your tzaziki, melizanosalata, or other Greek spreads.
I always say that this is a salad that is best when made at home. Ordering it out at a restaurant often disappoints and leaves you wanting the real thing. Now that you know the “rules” of the Greek peasant salad, you should try to make it this weekend and serve it family style, which is sharing it out of a large salad bowl. And don’t forget some crusty bread to dunk in the delicious olive oil and tomato juices that remain at the bottom of the bowl!
- 2-3 med. ripe and juicy tomatoes, cut in wedges
- 1 med. sweet banana pepper, or, half of a green bell pepper, sliced in ribbons
- 1 sm. English cucumber, or, 2 Persian cucumbers, peeled and cut in “coins”
- ¼-½ sm. red or mild white onion, thinly sliced
- 12 whole Kalamata olives
- 1 tsp. small capers (optional)
- 5 oz. Greek Feta cheese
- 1-2 med. pepperoncini (optional)
- ½ tsp. Greek dry oregano
- ½ cup extra olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ½ tsp. dried Greek oregano
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- Place all vegetables in a large bowl and gently combine.
- Add the olives and capers and place the chunk of Feta cheese in the center. (Do not cut in pieces). Add the pepperoncini, if using. Sprinkle with the oregano.
- For the vinaigrette, place everything in a glass jar and shake well to incorporate all the ingredients. Pour about half of the vinaigrette over the salad. Reserve the rest or adjust if needed. Do not be afraid to coat the salad really well with the simple vinaigrette.
- Use thick slices of fresh, crusty bread to mop up the delicious juices.
- Banana peppers are very mild, if you prefer a stronger flavor, use green bell peppers. I had yellow peppers on hand and that's what I used in the photo.
Have a wonderful Sunday everybody!
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