Pavlos Georgiadis from Slow Food Thrace in northern Greece explains how to prepare an authentic horiatiki – what most of us know as a Greek salad.
“There is no such thing as a "Greek salad” in Greece! Here we call it horiatiki, which means "of the village." It is a typical summer salad that combines sun-ripened tomatoes, chilled cucumber, onion, olives, feta, rye rusks, wild mountain oregano and extra virgin olive oil - the noble emblem of the Greek culture.
In each of Greece's historic regions, the salad expresses the flavors of the territory. The variations are endless, based on the hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, dozens of types of feta cheese and the diversity of olive varieties. On the islands, people usually add pickled capers and their leaves. In northern Greece, we like to add spicy green peppers.
This salad is the epicenter of the summer table, which has been nourishing Greek families generation after generation. We must take time to taste and to understand the story and the origins of our food. It is the only thing we can do to overcome the crisis we have been thrown into by the standardized industrial food system. Put some Greece in your life, create a garden and enjoy this salad!”
The quality of this salad is determined by the flavor of the sun-ripened tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, aromatic peppers and oregano and intensely flavored olive oil. Without them it will be flat and tasteless, so stick to making it during the summer months.
To serve 4
6 sun-ripened tomatoes, fresh from your garden or a local organic farm/market, at room temperature
1 cucumber, chilled
1 small onion
a handful of quality olives of your choice, preserved in olive oil, salt or brine
200 g fresh goat/sheep’s-milk feta, crumbled with the hand into generous pieces
dried oregano (to taste)
1-2 rye rusks (called Paksimadi in Greece- a hard, dried bread made from 100% wholemeal stone-milled rye flour)
extra virgin olive oil
Optional: 1 long banana pepper (or similar elongated light-green spicy Capsicum)
Cut the tomatoes and cucumbers into cubed pieces and place in a salad bowl. Slice the onion and pepper thinly and add together with the olives and the rusks crumbled into pieces. Mix gently. Top with the feta, season with a sprinkling of oregano and sea salt and dress generously with the olive oil. Leave to rest for half an hour to allow the dry rusks to soak up the juices and the flavors to mingle.
Illustration: Dimitra Tzanos © Creative Commons