Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Ultimate" Greek Salad

A few weeks ago I totally did something I rarely do: cook out of a cookbook. Usually I go to my favorite food blogs (like this or this or this) or Cooks Illustrated for inspiration.

But I also have a bit of a cookbook obsession. Which means I have a ton of cookbooks that I rarely use. So last week I grabbed my Forever Summer cookbook (by Nigella Lawson) and went to town. I made Thai beef wraps (which I already told you about), greek salad (which I will share with you today), risi e bisi (which I may or not ever get to) and Za'atar chicken (which I won't post because the recipe basically said to marinate chicken with oil and za'atar and bake until cooked. Quick and easy but kinda lame if you ask me.)

I haven't made that many recipes from a single cookbook since lemon week on Food-ology where I posted all these ah may zing recipes from Luscious Lemon Desserts!

Anyways, back to Nigella. This recipe jumped out at me because I love Greek salad at restaurants but I've never been able to recreate it at home... until now. OK, it might not be exactly the same, but it was close, and absolutely DELICIOUS (once I tweaked the recipe a bit).


Tomatoes and olives and feta... oh MY!

I swear, just like with the Thai beef recipe, I find my experience with Nigella's book to be slightly underwhelming. Good simple recipes (great ideas, great starting points) but just a tad off in the execution. This time the vinegar was sorely lacking. 1 TBSP vinegar : over 3/4 cup oil... for a salad?!? Nigella fail! [The general rule is 1 part vinegar : 3 parts oil]

Anyways, once I upped the vinegar this salad was instantly transformed to awesomeness. It's definitely a great salad to make for a large gathering, but I can guarantee that it's equally delicious when prepared for a party of 1.

You see that chunker of feta cheese? It's actually French feta
(not Greek or domestic). If you've never had French feta I can't 
recommend enough that you give it a try. I'm not a giant feta fan
 (it's a little too pungent for me) but French feta is unbelievable
It's like Greek feta's smoother, milder, creamier, sexier cousin.

Buen Provecho,
Jackie

(Ultimate) Greek Salad, adapted from Forever Summer

Disclaimer: I never actually made the entire salad at once, so I’m not 100% sure the proportions of ingredients are perfect. All I know is with the original recipe there were too many onions, wayyy too much oil and not enough vinegar. So I’ve tried to adjust the recipe to what sounds more right to me, but I can't guarantee it's perfect (it may still be a bit heavy on the oil). So feel free to use this recipe as a starting point and add/eliminate ingredients as you see fit.


Note: The reason I didn't make the salad all at once is because I was eating it on a nightly basis, not taking it to a party.  So I marinated the red onions in the oil mixture as described and just kept them in a small container in my fridge. Then any night I wanted salad I just assembled the individual components (“salad mixture”) and threw some of the “oil mixture” on top (with an extra splash of vinegar ‘cuz I like my salads tart).

Ingredients

Oil mixture
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
1-2 TBSP dried oregano
black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 TBSP red wine vinegar

Salad mixture
5 tomatoes, cut into 8 segments (quartered lengthwise, then quartered lengthwise again)
1 tsp granulated sugar
pinch sea salt or kosher salt
1 cucumber, sliced
1-2 large heads of romaine lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
1 bulb fennel, sliced (optional)
4 oz (1/2 cup) pitted kalamata olives, sliced in half (I highly recommend you "marinate them" with lemons like I do. Cuts their briny-ness.)
14 oz feta cheese, crumbled (French feta is a wonderful mild feta alternative)

Directions

1. Mix red onion, oregano, pepper, vinegar and oil in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to steep for at least 2 hours. (I kept mine in the fridge like this all week as I made individual salads each night and they were great.)
2. Sprinkle sugar and salt over the tomatoes and allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
3. Combine the tomatoes with the rest of the “salad mixture” ingredients in a large bowl.
4. Add “oil mixture” to salad and toss to mix.

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