Recipes – № 75


A real Greek salad for real tomatoes

I wondered, for a moment, whether I should write up a dish as seemingly mundane as Greek salad, but then remembered both how sad this dish usually is and how spectacular it can be when done right. My recipe has almost nothing to do with what's commonly served in restaurants: the uninspired heap of iceberg lettuce served with dressing from a bottle and topped with a slice or two of tasteless refridgerated tomato as well as a bit of feta (so it can be called a Greek salad). What I'm talking about is closer to the original hellenic masterpiece, with its beautiful simplicity that stays out of the way of top notch ingredients like great olive oil and, most importantly, ripe, juicy tomatoes. When done right, I can't get enough of it. Horiatiki is what I do with the first peak tomatoes in July and with the last great tomatoes in September. I eat it at least once a week in between and then never again until the next summer. 

I don't really use a recipe and instead follow a few simple rules:

  1.  No lettuce or carrots. That's just cheap filler. 
  2.  No vinegar, vinaigrette or dressing of any kind other than olive oil and salt. The tomatoes have you covered.
  3.  Don't wuss out on the red onion. It lends structure and depth.
Ok, so basically it comes down to just one rule, which is this: There are nine ingredients: Tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, red onion, olives, feta, oregano, sea salt, olive oil. Nothing more, nothing less.

Serves 4 as a light lunch or appetizer

3 lbs ripe tomatoes at room temperature. A mix of colors, sizes and shapes, the more the merrier.

1 lb cucumbers

1 large green or purple bell pepper (about 7 oz)

½ medium red onion

2 dozen olives

½ lb feta. Sheep, goat or cow

2 Tbsp dried oregano. Or substitute 1 cup fresh whole oregano leaves

¾ cup olive oil

Fine sea salt

Baguette or other crusty bread for serving


Peel and slice the onion ⅛-inch thick and set aside. Core the bell pepper and the medium and large tomatoes. If the cucumbers' skin is on the thicker side, peel at least some of it off. Slice peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes into attractive, irregular, bite sized chunks and arrange in 4 plates or shallow bowls. Handle the tomatoes gently to keep almost all of the juice in the fruit. Sprinkle each plate with some fine sea salt but do not toss the salad. Sprinkle the plates with the olives and top each with one or two onion slices and then a ½-inch thick slab of feta. Sprinkle with olive oil and finally with oregano. Serve immediately with the crusty bread to mop up those heavenly juices.

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