February 4th, 2010
Romain lettuce, tomatoes, cukes, feta cheese and, if you’re down, some olives and anchovies. Toss with the simplest red wine vinaigrette and you’ve got the classic Greek salad. But here’s a little secret. Try horiatiki instead (should be offered at any authentic Greek restaurant) and you’ll eat the real deal: a greek salad minus the lettuce. It may seem like a minor edit, but it makes a big difference. It’s like taking out the filler. You’re left with all the good stuff, all the stuff that matters.
In Greece, horiatiki is most often served as a slab of creamy feta over a bed of tomatoes and cukes tossed in red wine vinaigrette, garnished with a sprinkle of dried oregano and a few kalamata olives. Just describing it brings me back to lunch on the beach in Santorini or dinner in a busy tavern in Athens (or Queens, NY!). Tart from vinegar spiked with lemon, peppery from great olive oil, salty from cheese, cool and crunchy from cucumbers, it’s simply the best salad ever. (What? Me, biased?) It’s also easy to make and, served alongside simply broiled fish or with lemony grilled chicken on top, it makes a quick and satisfying meal. I sometimes even add chickpeas. Bonus! Without the ever unpopular raw leafy greens, young ChowBabies get down with this salad, too. Even eat it with their fingers!
I made last week’s horiatiki with chicken, chickpeas and a kalamata olive vinaigrette. We’re big fans of olives in this house, and this vinaigrette allows me to play with olive to salad ratio. Instead of blessing a few random bites with heavenly briny olive flavor, it’s spread throughout. It’s not a traditional approach, but I think yiayia would approve. I also crumble the feta for the same reason. Plus, spreading both olives and cheese throughout makes it easier to serve my ChowBaby who demands both in every bite.
The salad itself isn’t much of a recipe: put in as much cuke and tomato as you need depending on whether this is a side salad or main dish (I suggest 2/3 cuke to 1/3 tomato), and put in as much cheese and red onion as you like. This is totally up to your taste.
Horiatiki with Kalamata Vinaigrette
(can be served to kids 8+ mos)
for the salad
organic cucumbers (I like seedless hothouse cukes), chopped
organic tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges (you may want to pick out for kids under 10 mos)
organic red onion, diced (optional; use large dice that can easily be picked out if serving to little eaters)
feta cheese, crumbled or in a nice big slab (be sure to use pasteurized feta if serving to little eaters)
dried oregano, optional
for the vinaigrette*
3/4 c organic olive oil
1/2 c organic red wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 an organic lemon
1/4 c chopped kalamatas
salt and pepper
1. Put cucumber, tomato, red onion, chickpeas and feta (if using crumbled) in a large bowl. Set aside.
2. Whisk together oil, vinegar, lemon juice, olives, salt and pepper. Pour over salad and toss to coat. If using a slab of feta, put salad on a plate or in a shallow bowl and lay cheese on top. Garnish with oregano.
*Note: This is as basic as vinaigrette comes. I like my Greek salad dressing this way because it’s the way my yiayia made it—no frills and delicious. I’m sure adding chopped garlic and/or shallots, a dollop of dijon mustard, and/or fresh oregano or thyme would do nice things for this dressing. Have fun with it.