Greek Village Salad

I’ve been to Greece once, on a family trip one long-ago summer. I was a distracted teenager then, and even though I enjoyed it I was also counting the days till I was back on the beach in Italy with my friends, so my memory of the trip is sketchy. But a few details still stand out.

There was the bakery we made a quick stop at on our way to the Acropolis, a small shop that you had to step down into, its display cases filled with flaky diamonds of baklava and every other type of filo dough pastry imaginable. I want to say the place smelled like honey and butter. Did it? I think so, but it’s hard to say for sure. I do know it was crowded so Dad decided we should proceed to our destination and stop on the way back, which we did and ~ of course! ~ it was closed. (Yes, it still rankles.)

There was the night sky at Delphi, a sky so full of shimmering stars that you half expected them to start raining down upon you like fireworks sparks.

There was the pizza, more flatbread than pizza, topped with with thinly sliced ripe tomatoes.

And there was the salad, absent of any lettuce but packed with the color and crunch of peppers, red onions, and cucumbers, tangy olives, and creamy white feta. In fact, the salads in Greece were as far as you could get from the harsh, oil-drenched “Greek” salads served in so many U.S. diners, with their assault of dried oregano and dry crumbles of feta (the flavor of which has more in common with feet than cheese, it must be said).

It would be years before I came across a recipe that did justice to the salads I remember from that trip. It’s from Anna Thomas’s classic book, “The New Vegetarian Epicure.” I make it every summer, when peppers and cukes and tomatoes are at their peak, and even the red onions from the farmers’ market are crisp and juicy. It’s a great make-ahead salad for cookouts and summer potlucks.

Incidentally, while I was la-di-dahing in Italy and Greece all those years ago, my future husband was manning the grill at a Greek-style tavern in southwestern Michigan. The owner ~ who was Greek ~ offered two salads on the menu. One was the classic Greek-American salad with lettuce, and the other, with no lettuce, he called Greek Village Salad; hence my name for this recipe.

P.S. I adore Greek food but it is not my specialty. For delicious, authentic Greek recipes I like these blogs: Marilena’s Kitchen, Mulberry and Pomegranate, and My Little Expat Kitchen. And here’s a link to the website of Greek food writer/author Aglaia Kremezi, author of “Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts.”

Makes 8 servings

Greek Village Salad

This is the salad I enjoyed years ago on a family trip to Greece. What distinguishes it from typical Greek-style diner salads is the abundance of fresh summer vegetables and the absence of lettuce ~ and bad feta. To do this salad justice, make it in mid- to late-summer, when peppers, cukes, and tomatoes are at their best. Use small Persian cucumbers or long English ones; and look for good imported Greek feta, which is creamy rather than dry and crumbly and which has an appealing tangy and briny flavor. This recipe is adapted from The New Vegetarian Epicure, by Anna Thomas (Knopf, 1997).

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber or 2 smaller Persian cucumbers
  • 1 fennel bulb, plus a small handful of fronds
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1 large yellow pepper
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 medium tomatoes, or 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 15 to 20 Kalamata olives
  • 15 to 20 green olives
  • Handful of fresh dill sprigs
  • Handful of fresh mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 12 ounces Greek feta cheese

Instructions

Peel the cucumbers ~ I usually peel in strips, leaving some of the peel on to create a striped effect. Cut them in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Slice the halves crosswise into bite-size pieces.

Trim and quarter the fennel bulb, setting aside some fronds. Remove the core from the quarters and slice them thinly. Trim and core the peppers and slice into thin strips. Slice the onion into thin half-moons. Cut the tomatoes into thin wedges. If using cherry tomatoes, cut them in half. Coarsely chop the dill, mint, oregano, and reserved fennel fronds. Combine the vegetables and olives in a large bowl and scatter the herbs on top.

Whisk together the oil and vinegars in a small bowl. Grind in some pepper and whisk in 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Crumble 2/3 of the feta over the salad and toss again.

Arrange the salad on a deep platter or shallow serving bowl and scatter the remaining feta cheese on top. Serve shortly after mixing (see NOTE).

NOTE
Don't wait too long to serve the salad once it's dressed, as the salt will cause the cucumbers to weep and become watery. If you want to make it in advance, which I often do, prep all the vegetables and herbs but wait until serving time to add the feta cheese and dressing.

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25 Responses to Greek Village Salad

  1. Dana July 20, 2017 at 9:04 am #

    I love this salad. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe, the book, and the two Greek blogs you enjoy. I love exploring other sites……I would love it more if I could explore Greece one day. Happy Summer!

    • Domenica Marchetti July 20, 2017 at 10:43 am #

      My pleasure. I hope to get back there one day myself. With any luck that little bakery will still be there. Cheers and happy summer!

  2. Mark A Bauman July 20, 2017 at 10:34 am #

    Nostimo! Kali orexi!

  3. Scott July 20, 2017 at 11:40 am #

    I’m sure the late Andy Nicolaou, owner of Andy’s Restaurant, would be pleased to see the reference to his Greek Village Salad. He was a good boss (who also taught me how to make Swiss Steak for 30 people when the Lion’s Club came for its monthly luncheon).

    • Domenica Marchetti July 21, 2017 at 12:30 pm #

      This is nice. Thanks for sharing your late boss’s name. Also, could there be a Swiss Steak night in our future??

  4. familystylefoodkaren July 20, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

    Yum. I’ve never been to Greece. My daughter traveled to a few islands there last summer and said the food was the best of her entire trip (this was after touring Venice, Rome and Paris). She also wondered why our tomatoes taste “so bad” in comparison. Must be the sun and salty air. No wonder Greeks enjoy the reputation of health and longevity!

    • Domenica Marchetti July 21, 2017 at 12:30 pm #

      She’s right about the tomatoes. Even our best ones here don’t measure up to Mediterranean tomatoes. Tomato terroir!

  5. David July 20, 2017 at 5:15 pm #

    Wonderful memories! Thanks for sharing. A friend just came back from Greece, and the women in her town used only the best extra-virgin olive oil on the salad. They said the tomatoes carry enough acidity that no vinegar was necessary. Either way, I could dig into this right now!

    • Domenica Marchetti July 21, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

      See Karen’s comment above about tomato flavor. I’ll bet you don’t need the vinegar with Greek tomatoes ~ maybe just a squeeze of lemon juice. And yes, great extra-virgin olive oil. So appetizing…

  6. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way July 20, 2017 at 5:16 pm #

    We love salads but this goes beyond mere salad! I’ve made several Greek salads ( Hubby was stationed in Crete and loved the food) but I didn’t use mint. That is an interesting ingredient. I bet it added a lot to the salad. My next salad will be this one — love the herbs and ingredients.

    • Domenica Marchetti July 21, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

      Mint definitely adds a bright note. I love it, especially in summer.

  7. Betty Ann Quirino July 20, 2017 at 5:31 pm #

    What a gorgeous salad which is perfect for this week’s scorching days. I love your travel story about Greece. It made me very hungry and eager to go visit the country. Like you, I secretly will always love Italy 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Domenica!

    • Domenica Marchetti July 21, 2017 at 12:34 pm #

      Italy will always have my heart, but Greece is a quick trip from there. I’m hoping that one of these times I’ll get back…xx

  8. stefano July 21, 2017 at 7:20 am #

    one of the great dishes of Summer and the right way to celebrate a country that right now has being going through a really bad patch (in part self-inflcted and, above all, caused by a stupid and greedy European policy) and in need of hope.
    stefano
    ps for those interested in Greek Food, I would recommend Aglaia Kremezi (and, of course, Vefa Alexiadou)(both writers have books published in English)

    • Domenica Marchetti July 21, 2017 at 12:37 pm #

      Such a good point, Stefano. It’s all too easy to forget that food is just part of a larger story. And I second your recommendation of Aglaia Kremezi. I have her wonderful book “Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts” and I should have thought to link to her website. I’ll go in and update my post to add it. I’m not familiar with the other author but will definitely check out her(?) work.

  9. Ciao Chow Linda July 21, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

    I love a hood Greek salad but am so often disappointed. Now that summer vegetables are so delicious and abundant, I must get some good feta and try this. I’ve already got the mint. This weekend, for sure. And someday, I want to meander through the Greek Islands. By the way, check out Peter’s blog on Greek food, Kalofagas.

  10. Marilena @ marilenaskitchen.com July 21, 2017 at 10:57 pm #

    I loved reading the story of your family’s visit to Greece. It is so interesting that our most vivid memories of visiting a place often revolves around food! This recipe is as authentic as it can be! Thank you also for linking to my blog Domenica!😘

  11. Jan Capinegro July 21, 2017 at 11:57 pm #

    Thank you for this wonderful salad recipe! Last summer when we were in Crete, they added a wild green that had such great flavor and texture – any idea what that would have been?

    • Domenica Marchetti July 22, 2017 at 7:23 am #

      I have a Greek cookbook that calls for amaranth in a number of recipes ~ a bit like spinach. I wonder could it be that? Or maybe dandelion? Now I’m curious!

      • Jan Capinegro July 22, 2017 at 8:44 am #

        You might be right on the dandelion – he said it was basiclly a weed!

  12. Frank Fariello July 23, 2017 at 7:48 pm #

    Fantastic looking salad, Domenica! This brings me back to my one trip to Greece, years ago. Had great fun island-hopping, and I do remember salads like this one, which I really enjoyed—washed down with copious amounts of ouzo…

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