Greek Salad Forever

When I was in college in the late 80's, I was lucky enough to study abroad my junior year and spend a few months in Athens, Greece. We lived in a hotel (I think we rented the whole fifth floor for our group) with a rooftop pool and very friendly, if somewhat shady, management (they would "sublet" our rooms when we would head off for a 3-day trip to an archaeological site or a weekend at an island, and we would return to find our personal belongings, right down to the picture of the boyfriend back home and Carmex on the bedside table, arranged as they thought we'd left them, but always slightly wrong).

The hotel provided daily breakfast (good black tea and coffee, baguette, butter, jam and cheese), but we were on our own for lunch and dinner. The street vendors and little storefronts selling delicious souvlaki, spanikopita and pressed cheese sandwiches became our lunch mainstay.

For dinner, we'd venture into the local restaurants (the dollar was strong and food was inexpensive). One of our favorite places was at the Plaka at the foot of the Acropolis. We could walk into the kitchen, peer into the pots on the stove, then sit down and order what we thought looked best. But my mainstay was the salad and grilled fish or chicken because they were a revelation in their simplicity.

I feel in love with the taste of olive oil, salt and pepper, and lemon. And greek salad. Lots and lots of greek salad. Made with super fresh vegetables and creamy feta, it is the first thing I think to make when I've got great tomatoes or cucumbers.

Just like in Greece

Basic Greek Salad

White or red Onion 
Kalamata olives*
Cabbage (green or red)

Dressing (in Greece it's mostly just olive oil, and lots of it)

Extra Virgin Olive oil
Lemon juice or red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper


(in two months I never came across a lettuce salad in Greece, but I do love lettuce)
 (delicious with feta and a boost of protein when this is the main meal)
Fresh Oregano - julienned
(not too much though - strong flavor)
Capers, drained
(salty, tangy goodness)
(Let a crushed clove steep in olive oil, then use to dress salad)

Peel and slice cucumbers medium-thick. Cut tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Cut onions and cabbage very, very, thinly using a serrated knife (or mandolin - danger girl). Slice olives off pits. Cut a plank of feta (the size of a credit card). Assemble starting with cabbage and finishing with cheese. Drizzle with olive oil (or douse, as the Greeks do) and a little vinegar or lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste. That's it. So good.

* There are different kinds of feta (cow, sheep and goat's milk). I love french feta (mild and creamy). If you have a greek market in your area, go there and taste. It will be cheaper and much better quality than what's shrink wrapped at the grocery store. Same goes for olives. And olive oil. Here in Mpls we have Bill's Imported Foods. Run by a local greek family. The best feta and olives.


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