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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Μπριάμ / Briam

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Briam is sometimes referred to as tourlou-tourlou (τουρλού-τουρλού), perhaps because of the topsy-turvy nature of this dish.  It’s a mish-mash of chopped vegetables and herbs swimming in a high quality extra virgin olive oil.

Briam is a phenomenal Greek dish that epitomizes everything that is great about Greek cuisine; real ingredients, prepared simply, allowing their natural flavours and textures to shine.

imageBriam is an amazing vegetable and olive oil based dish in the ladera family. Ladera (lathera) is a Greek word meaning “in oil”. These foods are usually vegetable or bean-based dishes that are cooked in copious amounts of extra virgin olive oil.

Briam is basically summer vegetables like peppers, zucchini, eggplant, tomato, and potatoes all cooked in a lot of fresh and dried herbs, onion, garlic, and a ridiculous amount of extra virgin olive oil. It is a completely vegan dish that isn’t lacking at all in flavor. These summer vegetables become melt in your mouth delicious. This is one of my favorite ways to eat vegetables because they taste rich and decadent without being unhealthy.

If you’ve never had briam, you will be amazed at how perfect basic can be. Now let’s get to our recipe.

* Important note: I had hoped to add a photo so that you could take in the sheer beauty of a pan of briam, but, alas, there is not even one photo I could borrow that pictured the briam of my childhood. So I’ll take a picture the next time I make it.


Μπριάμ / Briam

ΜΑΚΑΡΟΝΆΘΑ ΜΕ ΚΙΜΆ /SPAGHETTI WITH MEAT SAUCE — GREEK STYLE

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MEAT SAUCE:
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 large sweet yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large can tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine (NOT cooking wine)

SPICES FOR SAUCE:
Spice selection is important in making this spaghetti sauce. The spices give it its unique flavor. I always use dried herbs unless I have fresh herbs on hand. Be aware that fresh herbs impart a very different flavor. Experiment until you get the flavor profile you like. Finally, I apologize in advance for not being able to give you definite amounts for each herb. I will give approximate amounts. I add herbs until it tastes good. That’s just the way we Greeks cook.

1 teaspoon Cavender’s Greek Seasoning
1 teaspoon Mediterranean oregano leaves, crushed (crush by rubbing your hands together
1/2 teaspoon thyme, crushed
1/2 teaspoon basil, crushed
1/2 teaspoon rosemary, crushed
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Three bay leaves
2 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS FOR SAUCE:
Put olive oil in pan and allow to begin to heat. Add the onions, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, Cavendars, salt and pepper and sauté on medium to low heat until onions are transparent, about 5 minutes. Do not let the onions brown. Add the minced garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook until it browns.

Skim off excess fat by tilting the meat mixture to one side and letting the grease gather on the other side. Place a wad of clean paper towel in the grease and let it absorb it. Repeat until you have removed most of the grease.

Drain the canned tomatoes, saving the juice. Place drained tomatoes in the meat mixture and sauté them for about a minute. Add the wine to deglaze.

Add the tomato paste, the reserved tomato juice, and enough water to make a slightly thick sauce. It will thicken as it cooks down. Add the bay leaves, the rest of the spices, and the sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Let sauce simmer on very low heat for about 30 minutes. While the sauce simmers, taste and adjust spices as needed.

PREPARING THE SPAGHETTI:
This part is very important in cooking Greek style spaghetti.

1 lb. package spaghetti
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
(Please do not substitute prepared, previously grated parmesan.)
Salt to taste

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Do not skimp on salt here because the spaghetti gets its slightly salted flavor only while it is boiling. Greek style spaghetti is NEVER made with angel hair pasta. Use regular spaghetti or, if you must, thin spaghetti. (And no fancy-shaped pasta for this recipe, please.)

When water comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta, stirring as you add it. Stil often and let the pasta boil gently until it is al dente. Drain and rince in a collander, using your hands to make sure the pasta strands are not sticking together.

In the meantime, melt butter over high heat. Use the same pan (rinsed) you used for the pasta. Sprinkle a little salt in the melting butter and watch it carefully. You want to see it get very frothy and then scorch. Remove from heat and stir the pasta into the browned butter. As you continue stirring, add half of the grated parmesan and salt to taste.

SERVING:
Remove bay leaves from the sauce. Plate the pasta, ladling the sauce on generously. Sprinkle on parmesan before serving.

Yia’ sou!  Γειά σου!

 

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Μουσακά / Mousaka

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3-4 eggplants, about 4 lbs. total
1 lb. potatoes
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (or lamb)
2 large onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
Cavendars Greek Seasoning (to taste)
1 teaspoon oregano
3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1 cup grated Kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese

Béchamel Sauce:
1 cup salted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup flour
4 cups milk, warmed
8 eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of ground nutmeg (to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Using a sharp peeler, partially peel the eggplants, leaving strips of peel about 1 inch wide around the eggplant. Slice the eggplant in to 1/2 inch slices. Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt them liberally. Cover them with an inverted plate that is weighted down by a heavy can or jar. Place the colander in the sink so that excess moisture can be drawn out. They will need to sit for at least 15-20 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Saute them in butter until they are partially tender and golden. They should not get too soft, just cooked enough so that they no longer crunch. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and grease lightly.

Rinse the eggplant slices and dry with paper towels. Brush slices on both sides with olive oil and place on baking sheets. Bake at 400 degrees until slightly tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

When eggplant is finished cooking, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

 

Make the Meat Filling:

In a large sauté pan, saute the onion until translucent. Add the the ground beef (or lamb) and cook until the pink color disappears.

Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding cinnamon, allspice, parsley, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, oregano, bay leaves, Cavendars and sugar. Allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for approximately 30 minutes so that excess liquid can evaporate. It should be a drier, chunkier, tomato sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make the Béchamel Sauce:

Melt butter over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Allow the flour to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.

Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously.

Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil.

Remove from heat, whisk milk mixture into beaten eggs very slowly. Add pinch of nutmeg. Return to heat and stir until sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble the Moussaka:

Lightly grease a large deep baking pan (lasagna pan). Leaving a 1/4 inch space around the edges of the pan, place a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Spread half of meat sauce on the potatoes and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese.

Top with a layer of eggplant slices.

Add remaining meat sauce on top of eggplant layer and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle once again with 1/4 of the grated cheese.

Pour the béchamel sauce over the eggplant and be sure to allow sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the béchamel on top with a spatula and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool for 15 – 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

You can make this dish ahead up until the béchamel sauce and refrigerate. Make the béchamel sauce right before you intend to bake it.