It’s true that travel is an important component of any burgeoning chef’s education, but sometimes you go somewhere and the lessons don’t stick. For example, I spent ten days last summer in Spain–most of that time in Barcelona–and though we ate some truly extraordinary food, I can’t really say that it changed the way I cook. Yes, I use smoked paprika a bit more freely in my food and I’m very intrigued by the possibilities of pairing chickpeas with seafood, but beyond that? I’m still the same old me in the kitchen.
However, the trip I took in 2005 with my family to Greece (see here), stuck in a very important way: I now make a very good, very authentic Greek salad.
It doesn’t take much to do it. The first thing to know is that an authentic Greek salad isn’t anything like the Greek salad you might order at, say, a Greek diner. There is no iceberg lettuce, the dressing isn’t emulsified or bottled. The remarkable thing about an authentic Greek salad is that it’s made, mostly, with stuff. By that I mean, no filler–no lettuce–it’s just cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes, red onion and Feta cheese, all of it cut relatively big.
To make my signature Greek salad (inspired by the salads I ate that summer) buy an English cucumber, peel it just a little so there are vertical stripes running the length of the cucumber. Cut it into 1-2 inch rounds and place in a bowl.
Cut a green pepper into strips and dice a red onion not too small; add them to the bowl. Finally, cut up tomatoes (which are best in season, though I found some decent ones at Gourmet Garage recently.)
Mix it all together and then add a generous splash of olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir it up and taste. How is it? Adjust it so it tastes terrific.
Finally, take authentic Greek feta (it’s a bit more expensive than the other Fetas you might find) and slice into large squares which you should lay on top of the salad. Sprinkle everything with dried oregano.
Voila! You’re done: an authentic Greek salad.
And if you make the leg of lamb I posted yesterday, this is a great way to serve the leftovers:
So there you go; proof that traveling halfway around the world has a payoff. Not that you needed proof of that, but for those that did, there you go.