Archive for June, 2011

Feta Compli

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

"Greece" is the word.

I have just finished sampling Greek salads in the City, and I am thirsty. It’s mostly those kalamata olives—which serve as a reminder that the word “salad” actually comes from the Greek word for salt.

Speaking of kalamata olives, they acquire their flavor by being slit (ouch!), then “brine cured,” which means soaked in a “canning salt”/water mixture.

Another key ingredient in Greek salads is feta cheese. It’s made from sheep’s milk or a blend of sheep’s and goat’s milk; soft feta is sweeter, less salty, rich in aroma and less spicy, while semi-hard feta is saltier and spicier, having a stronger taste and aroma.

In addition to the olives and cheese, a typical Greek salad has a base of either iceberg or romaine lettuce, which is combined with tomatoes, cucumbers, sliced bell peppers and red onions. The dressing is usually a mixture of olive oil and either wine vinegar or lemon juice, plus herbs/seasonings like oregano and chopped parsley.

I was somewhat relieved to learn that Greek salads are actually eaten in Greece (unlike, say, Chinese food). Abroad, however, they do not contain lettuce. Hub’s, a suburban Greek-style eatery, must know this, as they offer a leaf-less “Greek village salad.” But their salads are too bland—as Leah and I agreed while continually shaking on extra salt and pepper during our most recent ritual lunch there.   Better quick-food Greek greens are at Panera’s; but I won’t again order the Mediterranean Veggie sandwich with it as part of the You-Pick-Two combo, as it’s basically a Greek salad on bread.

Somewhat disappointing was the Greek salad at the fancier Psistaria Greek Taverna in Lincolnwood, where the vinegar overpowers the dressing. This is also a problem at East of Edens, but at least you get a dollop of dolmades on your greens.

Sabrina and I love the Greek salads at Ceres, where the chef adds halved hard-boiled eggs and tosses the salads in a slightly sweet vinaigrette. Best of all, though, is Sopraffina’s Mediterranean Salad, where generous amounts of feta cheese are crumbled (not just cut into several big chunks) on greens that are lightly tossed in a tangy–but not too salty–Athenian lemon dressing. Opa!

Yours till the Grecian urns,
NJL