Traditional Greek Salad
Americans typically think traditional Greek salad starts with romaine lettuce and ends with tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumbers, olives, feta and maybe some red onions. Here's the thing; you will never see a Greek salad in Greece that includes lettuce. Traditional Greek salad is a simple platter of tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, kalamata olives topped with a big slab of fresh feta (never crumbled) and an oil and vinegar dressing that is seasoned with oregano. No lettuce is included, ever!
Likewise, traditional Greek salad is served on a platter, not in a bowl.
My Slight Variations on Traditional Greek SaladWhile I encourage authenticity, I also am a big believer in modifying to personal taste. My version of Greek salad is nearly authentic, with a couple small twists. I love sweet red, orange and yellow bell peppers, but not so much bitter green peppers. So I use red, orange and yellow in my traditional Greek salads. I also love fresh herbs, so in addition to oregano I often add fresh mint or dill. I don't always have kalamata olives on hand, so sometimes I deviate and use my favorite Italian Castelvetrano olives, which I always have on hand. I also sometimes add capers or caper berries, something I never saw in Greece. I also sprinkle with a few crushed red pepper flakes for a little contrasting heat. If I'm making a big platter, I will cut the feta slabs into the number of portions I am serving, as opposed to one big slab.
Use Great Olive OilTraditional Greek salad is a very simple dish. To let the flavors shine through and to boost the nutrition of this classic Mediterranean dish use great olive oil. Here is a quality Greek olive oil I recommend.
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Use Good Fresh FetaGood feta will be sold in brine, not wrapped in plastic. Trader Joe's has a great fresh Greek feta sold in brine. Middle Eastern markets are a great place to purchase feta as they often sell fresh feta from large crocks. Many will allow you to taste before buying. Feta can be very different. Some feta cheeses are more crumbly, some are creamier, some are saltier and some have a grassy flavor. Feta can be made from sheep, goat or cow's milk. Authentic Greek feta is made primarily from unpasteurized sheep's milk, although Greek feta imported to the U.S will likely be pasteurized. Israel, France, Bulgaria and the U.S. also make feta cheese. So check out a few to find your favorite.
QuantitiesThere is no need to get hung up on recipe quantities when making traditional Greek salad. Use this guideline as a rule of thumb to calculate per person quantities:
- 1/2 large tomato
- 1/2 bell pepper
- 1 small Persian cucumber
- 1 thin slice of red onion
- 5 - 6 kalamata olives
- 2 ounce slab of fresh feta
Make Traditional Greek Salad a Couple Hours AheadThe beauty of no-lettuce traditional Greek salad is you can, and in fact should, make it ahead of time. Authentic Greek salad should be served icy cold. So prepare your platter a few hours ahead of time, cover it and refrigerate it. When you are ready to serve remove the platter from the fridge, drizzle your salad dressing over the platter, garnish with some herbs, salt and pepper and serve.
Traditional Greek Salad
Yield 4 Servings
Traditional Greek salad contains no lettuce, is served icy cold on a platter with big slabs of fresh feta cheese. Once you've tried the real McCoy you will never put lettuce in your Greek salad again!
For the salad:
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped into 2" pieces
- 4 Persian cucumbers, sliced diagonally into 1" thick slices
- 2 small to medium bell peppers (I prefer red, orange or yellow over green)
- 4 thin slices red onion
- 10 ounce slab of feta cheese
- 20 Kalamata olives
- Fresh mint (optional)
- 3 T capers (optional)
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
For the dressing:
- 1 T minced shallot
- 1 T red wine vinegar
- 1 T lemon juice
- 2 t dried oregano plus more for sprinkling over feta
- 6 T very good olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- Arrange the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper and onions on a platter. Top with feta slabs, olives and sprinkle with mint and capers if you are using them. Cover platter and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Put the shallots in a small bowl. Add vinegar, lemon juice and oregano. Whisk in olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Drizzle dressing over salad platter. Garnish with a little crushed red pepper flakes and dried oregano. Serve.
Trader Joe's sells fresh Greek feta in brine in a 10.5 ounce package that includes two slabs. This is perfect for a salad for four.