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Greek Village Salad (Horiatiki Salata)

Horiatiki

Not too long ago I waxed poetic on the superiority of all things tomato.  Well, this year’s tomato season is coming to an end.  It’s a sad, sad thing, but it’s something we must accept.  Soon you’ll be seeing all sorts of apple and pumpkin recipes on here, and I’ll be as happy as I was when tomato season started.

It is fitting that I close out the summer with my favorite tomato-centric recipe: traditional Greek village salad.  You know, the kind with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, red onion, and feta cheese.  The kind you always get at a Greek-owned restaurant, the kind that’s always good, the kind that can be both diner food and haute cuisine.  Turns out the salad is also pretty great when you make it at home.  It’s a reminder that when all is said and done, nothing can beat a simple dish made with simple, high-quality ingredients.

And of course, it’s easy … so easy you can barely call it a recipe.  In this particular instance, I used heirloom tomatoes, which come in all sorts of varieties and colors – but use whatever tomatoes you have that look good.  The quality of the ingredients makes the salad, so run out and buy the best tomatoes you can find while you still have the chance!

Traditional Greek Village Salad (Horiatiki Salata) with Heirloom Tomatoes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Makes as many servings as you want

Ingredients

5-6 heirloom tomatoes, of various sizes and colors, or whatever tomatoes you like and are fresh, cut into wedges
1 medium cucumber, peeled or unpeeled (your choice), cut in half lengthwise and chopped
1/2 sweet red onion, very thinly sliced
1 red, yellow, or green pepper, cut into strips
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar, or to taste
Few pinches of dried oregano
Salt, pepper to taste
4 ounces (1/4 pound) feta cheese, diced or crumbled
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives (optional)

Put tomatoes and other vegetables in a bowl.  In separate bowl, mix red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Pour dressing over tomato mixture and toss to mix.  Top with feta cheese and dried oregano.

Tzatziki

Tzatziki is one of my favorite Greek foods, and luckily for everyone, it is one of the easiest Greek foods to make.  For those of you who have never had it before, tzatziki is a dip  or condiment made with yogurt, cucumber, and garlic.  Other cuisines, such as Turkish or Lebanese, have similar dips or sauces, but what differentiates Greek tzatziki from these other yogurt concoctions is the good amount of garlic.  A real Greek household or restaurant will serve you tzatziki that will leave you tasting garlic for hours – and trust me, you will love it.  The freshness of the cucumber and hint of lemon pairs well with the spicy garlic and dill.

There are several ways to make tzatziki, but this is the recipe I have developed (and, thus, the best recipe, right?).  My tzatziki is garlicky but not too garlicky, has a hint of lemon, chopped dill, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Tzatziki can be served pita wedges and vegetables, or as an accompaniment to chicken, pork, or fish.  I will admit that when I have a big dish of tzatziki in front of me, I will put some on almost any kind of food (well, maybe not desserts).  I also recently added it to cold pasta salad with rotelli pasta, crumbled feta, roasted tomatoes, and roasted asparagus (you could try any mix of vegetables).

Tzatziki

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients

2 to 3 cups low-fat or non-fat Greek yogurt (I personally think I mixture of low-fat and fat-free is best) – this time around, I used 3 6-ounce containers of 0% Fage yogurt, which gives you 2 1/4 cups
1 large English cucumber
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 to 4 tablespoons chopped dill
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice
A little olive oil, for drizzling

1. Peel cucumber, cut length-wise, and scrap out seeded part with a spoon or knife. You now have two options: cut the cucumber into a small dice, or grate it on the largest side of a grater. Grating the cucumber is quicker and will result in a smoother dip, while dicing the cucumber gives the dip a chunky and crunchy texture. It just depends on which you like better; I opted this time around to dice the cucumber.  Place chopped or grated cucumber in a fine mesh sieve, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt, mix, and let drain for 20 to 30 minutes.  The salt pulls out much of the excess liquid in the cucumber.  This is will ensure your dip does not become watery.

2.  Mix garlic, cucumber, dill, a little freshly ground pepper, and a small squeeze of lemon juice into the yogurt.  If you like your dip very garlicky, add all the garlic; if not, use 3 cloves instead.  The same goes for the dill; you can adjust the seasonings later as well.  Cover and put in the fridge for a few hours; the flavors will develop relatively quickly.  Taste and adjust garlic, dill, salt and pepper, and lemon juice to your tastes.  Drizzle with a little olive oil, and serve.  Tzatziki will last several days in the fridge.

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