I’ll never forget my first trip to Greece. I was just a high school graduate￼ when I traveled to Greece with my family. The beautiful country full of kind people will forever captivate my heart and the memories of views on each street corner; ancient buildings, sculptures, even the smell of the diesel on the busy roads in Athens will always stay with me.
It was there in the incredible country of Greece that I first tried an authentic Greek salad, or horiatiki salad. It is also referred to commonly as a village salad, rustic salad, and summer salad. Greek cuisine features an unforgettable array of colors, freshness, aromas, and flavors you cannot find anywhere else on the planet. Every meal I ate was seasoned to perfection, and contained beautiful herbs and lemony citrus flavors.
Image: lemon tree dwelling
A wide usage of vegetables, olive oil, meat and fish echos throughout the country. Herbs, lemon juice, yogurt, cheese, and wine are featured with almost every dish. These flavors were perfectly paired with the hot sun and cool sea waters.
In Ancient Greek cuisine, wheat, olive oil, and wine, the “Mediterranean triad” was fundamental. Meat was quite rare with fish being eaten commonly. Greek cuisine spread to Ancient Rome, Europe, and well beyond.
Lemons are abundant in Greek cuisine. Fresh lemons are commonly squeezed on chicken, meat, seafood, and desserts. Traditional soulvaki marinades always contain lemon juice.
One of Greece’s most famous ingredient is olive oil, used in almost every Greek dish imaginable. Olives themselves are consumed commonly and added to many meals, including authentic Greek salads. Olive trees are prominent in Greece and throughout the region, so the production and addition of olive oil is a staple in Greek cuisine.
Common spices and herbs in Greek cuisine include oregano, mint, garlic, onion, and dill. Greece’s terrain and climate is favorable to breeding of sheep and goats, while cattle, and therefore beef, is rare. Fish and seafood are consumed widely around the coastal regions and on Greek islands.
Let’s talk cheese! Greek cuisine contains many types of cheese, namely creamy cheeses such as feta, kefalotyri, kasseri, and ladotyri. Today in our Greek salad, feta is the star cheese. Feta cheese is made from sheep milk, or a combination of sheep and goat milk. It is a white brined curd cheese, which just means it is matured in brine, so it is an aged cheese.
Feta is produced in blocks most commonly, and has a crumbly texture. This cheese is made in Greece and is a staple in many fresh Greek dishes such as the Greek salad, and also in pastries. It may be served with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs as an appetizer with pita bread. Since feta is a brined cheese, it is already salty and adds a perfect touch of saltiness, freshness, and texture to a Greek salad.
So what type of vegetables go into an authentic Greek salad? Certainly not romaine lettuce, as you sometimes see. An authentic Greek salad contains fresh tomatoes, sliced onions, cucumbers, and kalamata olives. Though sometimes sliced green pepper is added and I’ve tried this version of a Greek salad in Greece as well, and it tasted lovely.
There is no dressing other than the combination of olive oil and herbs on an authentic Greek salad. A Greek salad is often seasoned with oregano and sometimes salt. The saltiness from the feta cheese, that a Greek salad is topped with, usually means you don’t need to salt the salad further.
Image: olive tomato
What You Need:
4 Roma tomatoes
3 medium cucumbers
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup kalamata olives
2 tbsp oregano
1/4 cup olive oil
Block of feta cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup sliced green bell pepper
To prepare a traditional Greek salad, let’s begin slicing our vegetables. Cut tomatoes in half, then slice. I enjoy the flavor of medium cucumbers as opposed to large. Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise, then slice. Depending on the region in Greece, cucumbers are sometimes peeled and sometimes not, so it’s up to you whether you want yours peeled or not.
Add cucumbers and tomatoes to a large bowl. In a Greek salad, the vegetables are not cut to “perfection” but rather pretty chunky. Maybe that’s why it’s often referred to as a rustic salad. Add sliced green bell pepper if you wish.
Cut thin slices of the red onion and add to the salad. Season with salt (optional). Top with a block of feta cheese, season with oregano, and pour olive oil all over. Add kalamata olives. When serving, toss salad to mix all ingredients and crumble the feta cheese.
The presentation of this Greek salad is gorgeous. The brightness of the red and green contrast beautifully with the white feta cheese and dark olives. Your taste buds will scream with joy at your first bite, and you’ll likely never want to eat another salad again! Enjoy!