Posted by: CCT | March 18, 2010

“THE” Greek Salad [78]

[#78] This is our third of the 80 recipe countdown and yet another favorite.  It easily adds a bit of international flair to any meal, and is really simple to make.

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Original recipe courtesy of The McDougall Quick and Easy Cookbook. Notice that I did not thinly slice the cucumbers as recommended below. I cut them into small wedges since that's how we like our cucumber here at home. Many prefer the thinly sliced cucumbers for all of the reasons that I've described below.

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Oil-free Italian dressing – Very easy to make & healthy to boot (click here)

Salad ingredients include the following, which store well for up to 5-days:

  • 5 large vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into small wedges
  • 1-2 cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 medium green bell peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2-cup of whole ripe olives (ex: Kalamata olives are my favorite)

Once again - all of the basic ingredients, all of which store well for about 5-days.

The recipe without the raw onion. - Don't worry - still very tasty.

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1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Toss to mix well.  Serve at once or cover and chill until serving time.  Serve the healthy Italian dressing on the side.

Thoughts and Recommendations:

1. If you like cucumbers a lot, add more.  If you hate peppers, remove them from the recipe as I did with the raw onions (can’t digest them).  If you want to add flaky feta cheese, your call.  It does taste more decadent with the added cheese.  But it’s less healthy.  And you don’t really need it since you’ll be using that oh-so-decadent Italian dressing recipe (from above).

2. Thinly sliced cucumbers have a much different texture than those cut into small wedges.  This changes the feel of the salad as you eat it and how well the dressing adheres to the slices as well.  Just something to think about if you’re trying to make a more authentic Greek salad.  Again – a food processor makes short work of this.

3. There are all different types of cucumbers.  Some have skins that are more rubbery, or more bitter, compared to others.  I’ve found some organic imports from Canada that are individually plastic wrapped and have great skin flavor and texture.  Remember that a lot of the nutrients in many fruits/vegetables are in the skin. So peeling it off kind of defeats the purpose.  However, if it bothers you, get rid of it.

4. Scraping off some of the seed goo from the tomatoes (as you chop them up) prevents the salad from getting too gooey as well.  If you’re not planning to eat the whole thing in one hit, this becomes important.

5. I personally like the Kalamata black olives over all of the others.  You can find these at any high-end grocery store.  They do taste differently and have a smoother texture than regular olives.  Did I ever tell you that my sister and I ended up in Kalamata, Greece once? So she said, “Oh My God – Do you know where we are?” And I said, “No.  Is it important?” And then she said, “YES!  This is where all of the Kalamata olives come from in the world – right here!!!” So we each pulled one off of a nearby tree and tried to eat it.  And it was the most bitter thing I’d ever tasted!  My mouth almost collapsed in upon itself!  Lesson learned.  Evidently olive eating requires some sort of preparation…. like brining (aka “curing”) for instance.

6. And Finally – If you really want the onions in the recipe, do the following:

(1) First and foremost, use only sweet onions – not yellow, or boiler, or red onions. For the life of me I can’t figure out why restaurants use raw red onions on salads and such, except for the fact that their client-base just doesn’t know any better.  Well now you know you can do better!  So don’t settle!  Yellow, boiler and red onions are too bitter and rarely prepared properly in restaurants, so don’t even think about following their lead when using raw onions at home.

Onward.  The next secret to incorporating raw onions into this delicate salad  is to (2) finely chop it (use only about half an onion here).  Then (3) put the chopped onion in a bowl of hot water and let sit for about 10-15 minutes.  This allows the slices to dispel/release some of their pungency into the water, similar to what happens in the swiss water process of decaffeinating coffee beans.  It also allows them to cook ever so slightly.  Finally (4) drain off the water and disperse the onion slices throughout the salad.  And viola – you’re done!  You can do the same with potato salads and other different types of salads as well.

About how much you'll have with 5-tomatoes, 2-cucumbers, and two peppers. Notice that I did not thinly slice the cucumbers as recommended above. I cut them into small wedges since that's how we like our cucumber here at home. Many prefer the thinly sliced cucumbers for all of the reasons that I've described above.

What the cucumbers look like when you thin slice them for the salad rather than cutting into small wedges. The salad loses some of its visual appeal when they're sliced like this. It also changes the texture, which we didn't really like.

Another happy customer. 🙂

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