The Greek salad is one of the most popular and well-known Greek dishes outside and inside Greece. Greeks love the horiatiki, which means village in Greek. In the summer months it is present on most Greek tables at home and at the tavernes.
It is basically a salad made with tomato, cucumber, olive oil, olives and feta and there are variations around Greece. For example on the islands another white soft cheese is used instead of feta cheese and in Crete there is the well-known dakos; tomato and feta (or other local white cheese) piled on a large barley rusk that has been soaked with a bit of water and olive oil.
Before we go on with the recipe, we need to make some clarifications and correct some misconceptions.
How to Make a Traditional Greek Salad
Here are some rules of the Greek salad:
- There is no lettuce or any other leafy greens in the salad.
- The salad is not mixed before it is served.
- The feta cheese is not cut in cubes but rather a large piece is placed on top of the salad.
- The tomato and cucumber should be cut in fairly large pieces not small cubes.
- There is no red pepper in the traditional Greek salad.
- The salad is served with bread, not pita.
- The salad is served in a shallow bowl; do not serve it in a deep bowl.
- Use the best ingredients. As with most simple dishes, the horiatiki needs excellent ingredients. Make sure you have extra virgin olive oil, in season ripe tomatoes, juicy Greek black olives, good fragrant oregano and real feta (Greek) cheese…
- Some folks here in Greece do not add vinegar. Vinegar is added due to the cucumber (mostly in homemade Greek salads). The women in my family added it, but for an outside resource you can check the Tselementes cookbook (a classic and one of the first widespread Greek cookbooks) also mentions vinegar.
How to eat a Greek salad
1. With your fork break the big chunk of feta.
2. With your fork grab a piece of feta, a tomato and whatever else you can manage and eat it.
3. If you want to be polite you can spoon out a serving on your plate, but the beauty of the Greek salad is that it is best consumed directly from the serving plate. That way you have a choice of the different combinations you can eat with your fork; tomato and feta or cucumber, pepper and olive? The combinations are endless. Why limit yourself to a small serving on your plate? I personally cannot enjoy a Greek salad if I can’t just eat it directly from the serving dish.
4. If you’re really comfortable with the other people at the table, grab a chunk of bread and dip it in the leftover mixture of olive oil, juices from the tomato and crumbles of the feta.
Nutritional Value of the Horiatiki – Greek Salad
Juicy red tomatoes, crisp cucumber, sharp onion, olive oil and of course … feta. I love the horiatiki salad, because it is healthy and almost decadent at the same time, just like most Greek food.
The horiatiki salad that usually serves as an appetizer, can be an excellent main course, especially in the summer. After a day on the beach, a horiatiki salad accompanied with some crusty bread and a glass of wine hits the spot. But this salad is not only about looks, it has substance too. Rich in fiber and antioxidants due to a combination of tomato, onion and olive oil. Feta cheese is the perfect complement, providing the necessary protein. How many calories? A whole horiatiki salad will provide you with about 600 calories, 100% of your daily vitamin C needs, and 50% of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and vitamin B2.
Photo by Wendy for Flickr