Friday, August 5, 2011

Greek, Italian and Tunisian Salads

I know that Greek salads are generally open to interpretation and I would not begrudge a man or woman of his or her romaine and pickled beets if it means world peace. But my Greek salad is devoid of these ingredients choosing instead to make a happy family with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, sweet peppers, sheep's milk feta, pickled hot peppers and imported Greek olives.

(OK, I will hazard a domestic crisis by giving a big thumbs down to the use of those metallic tasting pitted black olives that have invariably shown up on Thanksgiving tables everywhere since they were first introduced to a naive public. You know the ones I mean and if you don't, thank your saint that you were spared the experience.)

So, this is my take on the classic salad that has had staying power all these years in its many interpretations.

Greek Salad

Two large tomatoes, sliced
1 cup thinly sliced sweet red onion
1 cucumber (or 3 lemon cucumbers) sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 sweet bell pepper (diced)
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
1/3 cup of pepperoncini peppers
3/4 cup feta cheese, preferably imported Greek sheep's milk feta
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup of red wine vinegar
Pinch of salt
Several grindings of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of good quality dried oregano

Put all the vegetables plus the olives and pepperoncini together in a salad bowl and toss.
Make an emulsion of the olive oil and vinegar.
Add to salad along with the seasonings and toss again.
Crumble cheese into salad and gently toss a final time.

As I stated on the show, the use of bread for a salad seems to cross borders and a quick search found other countries in the Mediterranean with their own versions of bread salad. The first I ever had was a Greek version made for a group of us by friends who had just come back from a long stay on Crete. I have since made different versions but the following is something I love to have for lunch or dinner with nothing else save a glass of Nero d'Avola. (Yes, I know it's red but so what? lol)

2 tomatoes
1 cup thinly sliced sweet red onion
1 sweet pepper
1 cucumber, sliced
1 can good quality tuna
1 can garbanzo beans
3 1-inch thick slices of good quality bread
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 plus 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Slice tomatoes and place in a large bowl along with the onions, sweet pepper, cucumber, tuna and beans. Lightly toss.
Tear up and add the bread.
Whisk oil and vinegar until an emulsion is achieved.
Pour onto salad along with a pinch of salt and several grinding of black pepper. Toss well. You may need to toss a few times more so the bread becomes saturated and starts to break down.

I will admit that I have not tried the following salad but plan to in the very near future. The amount of hot chiles seems a little much at first but then I remember how fiery hot the Tunisians like their harissa, a red paste that the uninitiated should use sparingly. (The spiciest version of the North African condiment I ever had was a tube purchased in Sicily but produced in Tunisia, Sicily's close neighbor to the south.)

Tunisian Mixed Salad

1 cup ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup hot green chiles, minced
1-1/2 tablespoons vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small green apple

Place all vegetables in a bowl. Sprinkle with vinegar, olive oil and mint. Peel and coarsely chop the apple, stirring the pieces to the bowl as you go so as to prevent discoloration. Salt and pepper to taste.

No comments:

Post a Comment