In Greek mythology, Prometheus deceives Zeus by giving him the choice between two offerings. One offering was skin and bones, covered with snow-white fat. The other was the edible beef, covered with unappetizing entrails. Zeus chose the pile covered with fat, and was angry to find the contents. Today some local restaurants seem to offer a similar choice, where a seductive layer of cheese in a “Greek” salad hides greenish tomatoes, soggy cucumbers, and (sacrilege) Iceberg Lettuce!
For years I thought this was what a Greek salad should be, but then happy chance brought me to the real thing. I remember it like it was yesterday. At the outdoor Greek restaurant, we were served what I thought at first was a simple platter of vegetables, resplendent with chunks of juicy tomato, cucumbers, savory onion, and crisp sweet peppers, all topped with fresh basil and Kalamata olives, and glistening with olive oil and wine vinegar. On this masterpiece reclined a wedge of feta so creamy I wanted to eat it alone. I looked around at other tables: one man carefully assembled a bite that included every ingredient. We attempted the same. It was the best Greek salad I’ve ever tasted, and since then I make them (and eat them) the same way.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Serves: 6-8 (can easily be scaled up or down)
2 fresh tomatoes cut into bite size chunks
2 fresh green bell peppers, seeds removed, cut into bite size chunks
1 fresh cucumber, half peeled into “stripes”, split lengthwise, and cut into bite size pieces
1/2 a large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, cut into 1/4″ pieces
Fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
About 25 Kalamata olives
4-5 ounces block Feta cheese, cut into chunks
Extra virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Combine tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, and basil, drizzle to taste with vinegar and olive oil, and mix. Top with olives and wedges of Feta, and salt and pepper to taste.
Devour while contemplating the origins of democracy.
Photo and recipe by Tod Dimmick