Choriatiki (Traditional Greek Salad)

The ultimate taste and picture of summer. A few years ago, I remember an Irish friend of mine saying to me: “You know the very first time I visited Greece, my friend and I sat in a little restaurant on the beach, wondering what we should order, and then as I looked at the table next to us to get some ideas, the most apetising, colourful, plentiful food was placed in a bowl in the middle of the table. I said to myself, THAT is what I’m having for lunch. Think about it. In Ireland all you have is potatoes and carrots. This salad, sitting next to me, was a feast for the eyes. The definition of summer. And it had absolutely everything. The veggies, the cheese, the olives….” As she related this, her eyes shone.

2 large ripe tomatoes

1 large cucumber (the long variety) or 2 smaller ones

1 green bell pepper

1 onion

caper or caper leaves in brine (one spoonful of capers or 8-10 leaves)

1 big piece of feta cheese around 150mg

olive oil (about half a cup)

Olives (about half cup of Kalamata, Thasos or Almades from Chalkidiki)

Dried oregano

salt to taste

Serves 4

Place the capers or caper leaves in a breakfast bowl and top with water, so that in the meantime some of the salt in the brine is washed away. Peel the onion and the cucumber(s). If you like to keep the skin on the cucumber just wash it well. Wash all the vegetables thoroughly under running water and pat dry. Cut the onion first, in rings or cut it in half and cut in fine slices so that you are getting half moons. Put aside. My father used to say that you always cut the onion first and then the tomato, because the tomato ‘cleans’ the knife of the smell of the onion. Cut the tomato in half and cut away the brown stem part. Cut the tomatoes into pieces (I cut them so they look like little boat shapes-not too thin or they will fall apart). It doesn’t really matter which shape you cut the tomatoes in, just make sure the pieces are not too small. Place them in the salad bowl. Cut the cucumber in rounds (once again you don’t want the pieces too small or too thin). Place over the tomatoes. Cut the green pepper in half and clean away the seeds and membranes and cut in half rounds. Place over the cucumber and top with the onions. At this point I add the olive oil and a little salt and toss the salad lightly, so everything is covered with the olive oil (I add the salt only to the vegetables because the feta, olives and capers are quite salty themselves). I place the feta cheese on top, the olives, the caper leaves (or capers). I take a big pinch of the oregano and rub it in my hands over the salad.I like to grind some fresh pepper over the feta cheese and will add a spoonful of olive oil over it. I serve it so that it looks appetising but before we actually eat the salad we often cut the feta into chunks with the serving spoon and give the salad a last toss with everything in it.

Enjoy with nice fresh bread to dunk in the juice (a mixture of fresh tomato juice, olive oil, tiny crumbs of feta cheese, etc.) or with nice Greek rusks that you break into pieces with your hands and toss into the salad.

Wines to drink: A lovely rose made of xinomavro like Ktima Alfa, the sideritis rose by Parparoussis “Petite Fleur”, and even an assyrtiko.