Ελληνική Σαλάτα / Greek Salad

It’s not just a clever meme.

In my experience, it is true that no Greek cook ever measured a single ingredient!

Try it! Cook free! Yassou!

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Ingredients

This is a Greek salad you probably will not find in Greece. I think it is an Americanized version of the Greek Village Salad, using lettuce. Many folk like to use romaine. I like to use iceberg. The salad is packed with Greek flavor. But it depends on the quality of ingredients you use.

Here are your ingredients:

Tomatoes – Choose Perfect ripe tomatoes (somewhat firm but yielding slightly to the touch; glossy skin; fragrant) Cherry Tomatoes for garnish.

Cucumbers– choose  firm, smooth-skinned cucumbers. But in this salad, only a few cucumbers sliced in rounds. (Half of one cucumber might be enough.)

Choose firm and crispy lettuce (iceberg should have a firm head).

Red onions- choose firm and smooth looking onions.

Kalamata Olives

Green Bell peppers– choose firm and smooth looking green bell pepper.

Dried leaf oregano

Cavender’s Greek Seasoning

Kosher Salt

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (For authentic and best tasting Greek salad, I like to use Trader Joe’s Greek Kalamata Olive Oil.

Red wine vinegar- You can also use another citrus option like fresh lemon juice, white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar.

Creamy feta cheese – made from sheep’a milk and served in large chunks or blocks crowning the salad (Please do not buy crumbled feta cheese. The best choice is a block of feta packed in brine. (Trader Joe’s has excellent brined feta.)

So what about the dressing? 

Just use red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar or a mixture of both, and a good olive oil. But there is a method I’ll explain in the Directions.

Directions

Cut tomatoes in quarters and place in bowl. (You may garnish with cherry tomatoes, but don’t use them exclusively.)

Cut bell pepper and onions into thin slices and place in bowl.

Cut a small piece off your feta block and crumble it into your bowl.

Now add to the bowl a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, Cavender’s Greek Seasoning, and oregano leaves (crushed between your hands). Taste and re-season if needed.

Cut peeled cucumbers in 1/4 inch slices and set aside. (Taste each cucumber. If it tastes bitter, don’t use it.)

Cut iceberg lettuce into medium large chunks or tear romaine into bitesize pieces. Do not chop lettuce into small pieces. Never shred the lettuce and don’t use bagged lettuce.

At this point you may refrigerate if you are not ready to serve.

When ready, toss well until the olive oil coats the lettuce. And another drizzle of olive oil and toss again. Add vinegar, and toss again. Taste and add more of seasonings and vinegar/oil if needed. Toss again.

Arrange the Kalamata Olives, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes and larger chunks of feta over the salad.

Sprinkle with oregano.

Enjoy!

Options Depending on Your Taste Preferences

*Option #1: Add 1 clove of well-crushed fresh garlic to your tomato/oil mixture.

*Option #2: Garnish the salad with anchovies.

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Χοργιατικμ Σαλάτα / Greek Village Salad

Ingredients

This is not a recipe! It is a list of ingredients that you put together to your taste. Relax! You can do this.
Everyone has taste buds and you do, too! Be brave, taste all through the process and when it tastes good, STOP!

One caveat . . . you may get full tasting the salad and totally ruin your appetite.

You will find this Greek salad in villages throughout Greece and in the Greek Islands. As far as I know, you will not be served a salad made with lettuce in Greece. I think our ancestors who came to America made it up to accommodate Americans who insist on having lettuce salads. Both versions are delicious, but if you eat the Village Salad, you must like cucumbers!

This salad is quite simple to put together and has no shortage of flavor. But it depends on the quality of ingredients you use. And you must “wing it” on the amount of everything you put in it.

So if you go to Greece and end up ordering Horiatiki Salata, here’s what you’ll find:

  • Tomatoes – Choose perfect ripe tomatoes (somewhat firm but yielding slightly to the touch; glossy skin; fragrant.)
  • Cucumbers– choose  firm, smooth-skinned cucumbers.
  • Choose firm and smooth looking green bell pepper and onions.
  • Red onions- choose firm and smooth looking onions
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Pepperoncini Peppers
  • Green Bell peppers– choose firm and smooth looking green bell pepper. 
  • Dried leaf oregano
  • Cavender’s Greek Seasoning
  • Kosher Salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (For authentic and best tasting Greek salad, I like to use Trader Joe’s Greek Kalamata Olive Oil.)
  • Red wine vinegar- You can also use another citrus option like fresh lemon juice, white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar.
  • Creamy feta cheese – made from sheep’s milk and served in large chunks or blocks crowning the salad (Please do not buy crumbled feta cheese. The best choice is a block of feta packed in brine. (Trader Joe’s has excellent brined feta.)
  • No lettuce or any leafy greens, no additional fillers like other vegetables our croutons, no fancy dressings

So what about the dressing?

Simple! You will use vinegar or lemon juice and a good olive oil, always to taste

Directions

  • Cut tomatoes in quarters. (You may garnish with cherry tomatoes, but don’t use them exclusively.)
  • Cut peeled cucumbers in 1/4 inch slices. (Taste each cucumber. If it tastes bitter, don’t use it.)
  • Cut bell pepper and onions into thin slices.
  • Place all vegetables into a large bowl.
  • Add olive oil, vinegar, part of the oregano, salt, pepper and Cavenders.
  • Cut a small piece off your feta block and crumble it into your vegetables.
  • Toss well and taste. When it tastes good to you, pour it onto a serving platter.
  • Arrange the Kalamata Olives, Pepperoncini peppers and large chunks of feta over the salad. 
  • Sprinkle with oregano.

— Kalliope Manis Findley
From a family recipe

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Γαρίδες Σαγανάκη / Shrimp Saganaki

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If you have ever been to Greece, it would be impossible to have missed out on this delicious Greek shrimp saganaki appetizer, served in every Psarotaverna (fish tavern)! This is a very easy Shrimp saganaki recipe. You can recreate this simple and beloved traditional Greek appetizer from scratch in less than 20 minutes. It is inspired by a recipe from Santorini. In my house, because we eat much less than my Greek family did, this is not an appetizer for us. It’s a full meal with crusty bread to dip into the very best dipping sauce you have ever tasted. Of course, your meal must include a Greek salad, a genuine one! Enjoy! – KMF

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Oh my! Just delicious! You will dip crusty bread into the sauce until  not a drop remains! From my kitchen to yours . . . Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large shallots, diced, about 1 cup
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Cavender’s Greek Seasoning
  • 2 pounds large ripe tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 ½ pounds extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 5 ounces Greek feta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint, parsley or dill
  • 1/4 cup white wine (optional)

PREPARATION

Put 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 to 8 minutes. At this point you may deglaze the skillet with 1/4 cup white wine (if using). Lower heat as necessary to keep mixture from browning. Remove from heat while preparing tomatoes.

Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add whole tomatoes and cook for about 2 minutes, until skins loosen. Immediately plunge tomatoes in a bowl of cold water to cool, then drain. With a paring knife, core tomatoes and slip off skins. Cut tomatoes into thick wedges.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Return skillet to stove over medium-high heat. Add tomato wedges and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until mixture is juicy and tomatoes have softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to a shallow earthenware baking dish or an iron skillet.

Clean, peel and devein the shrimp. Put shrimp in a mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, season shrimp with salt and pepper and sprinkle of Cavender’s. Stir to coat. Arrange shrimp over tomato mixture in one layer. Crumble cheese over surface and sprinkle with oregano.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until tomatoes are bubbling and cheese has browned slightly. Remove from oven and let dish rest for 5 minutes. The shrimp should be pink. Sprinkle with fresh mint or dill and serve.

Garnish the shrimp with chopped parsley, fresh mint or dill and serve while still hot. You may also garnish with Greek Kalamata olives. Enjoy this traditional Greek shrimp saganaki recipe with crusty bread, a Greek Salad and a cold glass of ouzo!

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ΣΠΑΝΑΚΟΡΙΖΟ / SPINACH AND RICE

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1/4 cup olive oil

2 sweet vidalia onions, chopped

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon Cavenders Greek Seasoning

1 teaspoon oregano

2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed and stemmed

1 can tomato paste

2 cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 to 1 cup uncooked Uncle Ben’s rice

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place onions in the skillet. Add sugar, Cavenders, oregano, salt and pepper to the onions and sauté until translucent. Add spinach, and cook stirring for a few minutes, then add the tomato paste and water. Bring to a boil, and adjust seasonings. Stir in rice, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Add more water if necessary.

Serve with fresh lemon juice, a Greek salad, crusty bread and, if you’re lucky, keftethes.

Σπανακόπιτα / Spinach and Cheese Pie

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2 lb. fresh spinach, washed, dried, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch scallions (about 10 small), white and light-green parts only, finely chopped
2 cups crumbled feta cheese (10 oz.)
1/2 cup finely grated Greek kefalotyri cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp Cavendars Greek Seasoning
1/2 tsp. sugar
Kosher or fine sea salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1/2 pound melted butter
1 pound phyllo pastry

Directions:
Heat the oil in a large saute pan, add the spinach and saute until spinach wilts, tossing with tongs, about 2 minutes.

Add scallions and saute until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the spinach to the scallions, along with the parsley, salt and pepper, seasonings and sugar. Cook over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the cheeses and cook for another minute then remove from heat to cool. (This part can be done ahead and kept refrigerated).

Stir the beaten egg into the cooled spinach mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush a baking sheet with some of the melted butter.

Unroll the phyllo dough on a flat surface and keep it covered with waxed paper and a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out and become brittle. Using a sharp knife, cut the phyllo into 3 by 11 inch strips, and recover with the towel. Use a pastry brush to brush a strip of phyllo with melted butter. Place a small spoonful of spinach filling 1 inch from the end of the pastry. Fold the end over the filling to form a triangle, then continue to fold up the strip in triangles, like folding up a flag. Continue with remaining strips of dough, placing filled triangles on the baking sheet and keeping them covered with a towel until all are ready to bake.

Brush the triangles lightly with butter, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Serve hot. (These may be frozen before baking, layering waxed paper between layers of triangles to keep them from sticking. Bake frozen triangles an extra 10 minutes.)

Much easier variation: Butter a 9 by 13 inch baking pan, and spread 8 sheets of phyllo, brushing each with butter. Spoon the spinach filling over the phyllo, then cover with 8 more sheets of phyllo, buttering each sheet. Score the top 3 sheets with a sharp knife. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until top is golden, let stand 15 minutes, then cut into squares and serve warm.

Παστίτσιο / Pastitsio

Pasta:
1 pound dry ziti pasta or elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 dash ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 stick butter

Meat Sauce:
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon Cavendars Greek Seasoning
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Bechamel Sauce:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

Melt 1/2 stick butter. Add salt to pan and cook until scorched. Add pasta, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt, pepper and toss well; allow to cool. Add eggs and toss again; set aside.

To make meat sauce: Gently fry onion and garlic in olive oil in a skillet until onion is soft. Increase heat and add ground beef, Oregano and Cavendars, stir well. Cook until meat begins to brown. Add tomato paste, wine, broth, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

To make bechamel sauce: Melt butter in saucepan, stir in flour and cook gently for 2 minutes. Pour in milk all at once and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil gently for 1 minute. Add nutmeg, salt, pepper and cool slightly before stirring in beaten eggs. Transfer 1/2 cup of this sauce to the meat sauce.
To assemble pastitsio: Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Spoon a very thin layer of meat sauce in the bottom. Add half of the prepared pasta and spread evenly over the meat. Top with remaining a meat sauce. Top that with remaining pasta. Pour on cream sauce and spread to completely cover pasta. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Bake in a preheated oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.

A Big Fat Greek Birthday Party

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What a wonderful birthday celebration for a wonderful woman, my cousin, Tasia! We gathered around a table of very simple Greek food. We had keftethes, Greek meatballs, and a recipe we call spaghetti and onions.

Κεφτέδες / Keftethes

2 pounds ground beef
2 large sweet, yellow onions
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 eggs
3 slices bread
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon Cavenders Greek Seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste
Vegetable or Canola Oil for cooking
Self-rising flour for dredging meatballs

Sauté onions in butter until transparent. Season with sugar and a little bit of Cavenders and oregano.

Wet bread with a little milk and mashup the bread.

Cool onions and mix with ground beef, bread, eggs and rest of seasonings.

Roll into balls and dredge in flour.

Cook in oil at medium heat. When brown on one side, turn over the meatballs.

Drain on paper towel.

Serve warm or cold with a Greek Salad, of course, or a Greek Village Salad.

Makes 30 meatballs. 

(You may also bake these meatballs on a rack placed inside a pan. Bake at 400° For 15 to 20 minutes.)

Our recipe for spaghetti and onions is one of my favorite family recipes. It’s affectionately called poor people’s spaghetti and it’s way more delicious than it ought to be!

Μακαρονάδα / Spaghetti and Onions

Saute 3 large yellow onions in a stick of butter. Season while cooking with salt, pepper and a teaspoon of sugar. Sauté until onions are transparent with a bit of brown on the edges.

Cook two pounds of spaghetti in lightly salted water until tender (al dente). Rinse and drain noodles. Melt one stick of butter in spaghetti pan with a little salt. Cook until the butter burns. Return noodles to this pan and toss with fresh Parmesan cheese.

Explore Greek Food and Culture

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An olive tree in beautiful Santorini

What a wonderful subject for blogging! Join me in exploring Greek recipes handed down from my family members, my father’s family from Athens, and my mother’s from the island of Karpathos.

It has been said that my Baklava is the very best. I hope you’ll try it out and judge for yourself. Stay tuned for that recipe and many others.

For now, I have to run. It’s my cousin’s birthday, and we are having a big fat Greek party! More from me later, plus the recipes from today’s gathering.