Even though the heatwave that’s rocked Portland over the past few weeks has browned out everything in my garden not hooked up to an automatic drip watering system, I can’t be that upset since it’s finally kicked my tomato production into high gear. I feel like I’ve been staring at my garden for weeks, bushes heavy with green tomatoes, waiting for them to actually ripen. And then, they all seemed to get ripe at once and I had a crapload of tomatoes, the number of which sent me into a slight panic about making time to process them all before they went bad. Luckily, I have some tomato-preserving recipes for the cookbook I’m working on (yay!) so I was able to put a lot of them to use there. The rest, though, I used to make my summer go-to salad. It’s my dad’s recipe – he perfected it over a 30+ year period at my parents Greek deli where he served it up every single day. It’s simple, easy, and packed with flavor.
As a Greek, there are two things that will make or break a Greek salad for me. One, is the olive oil. It has to be buttery, fruity, and bright to compliment all the flavors of the fresh vegetables. A bitter or bland olive oil can ruin even the freshest of produce. That is why I have used California Olive Ranch for the past several years exclusively (I am a brand ambassador for them, and it’s because I reached out to them a couple years ago to tell them how obsessed I was with their stuff. SO good.) and used their ‘rich & robust’ blend for this one. It’s peppery bright flavor compliments the sweetness of the tomatoes and the crisp freshness of the cucumbers perfectly, while cutting through the creaminess of the feta, which brings me to the other picky point I have with Greek salads. Please, *please* do not buy pre-crumbled feta from the store if you can help it. It is dry and slightly rubbery in texture. Feta should be wet and creamy, ideally you should buy it in a single large piece stored in brine. If you can only get it in a single large piece *not* stored in brine, I recommend making a brine yourself out of 2 cups water and 3 teaspoons of salt and storing the piece of feta in it in an airtight container in your fridge. It will moisten it, help it keep much longer, and make for much creamier feta crumbles.
And I lied – there’s one more thing that makes a great Greek salad, and that’s really, really good produce. If you can get your tomatoes from the farmer’s market that’s awesome, but if you get them from the grocery store chances are they’re still pretty firm. Never refrigerate your tomatoes, as it makes the texture grainier inside and keeps them hard. Just leave them on the counter for a couple days; you know they’re ready when they’re slightly soft when squeezed *very* gently. If they’re ripe, the juice should just pour out of them when you cut them. They get a little bit tangier and a lot bit sweeter when they’re fully ripe, so it’s worth being patient and letting them hang out at room temp for a bit. So, that’s all my Greek salad wisdom! I hope all these tips help guide you to your own Greek salad nirvana, and that you put all this awesome summer produce to use while you can. Fall is just weeks away! 🙂