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The Ultimate Greek Salad

by . Featured in NIGELLA SUMMER, and Nigella Quick Collection
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Introduction

Greek salad is the sort of abominated fixture in the culinary canon which no appetite for retro-chic can make cool. Forget about all that, because a good Greek salad is, not surprisingly, made for languorous picking at in the heat. Whenever I make this, it's met, at first, with just slightly patronising amusement - and then the most colossal greed.

I think the trick is twofold: substitute sliced fennel for the more traditional cucumber (which also has the benefit of not making the salad go wet and soggy on standing around); and let the onion steep, sprinkled with dried oregano, in the oil and vinegar for long enough for it to lose any potential for that acrid, rib-sticking aftertaste. This version is mild, abundant, gloriously summery. If you don't like fennel, then just leave it out, but exclude, still, the cucumber.

Greek salad is the sort of abominated fixture in the culinary canon which no appetite for retro-chic can make cool. Forget about all that, because a good Greek salad is, not surprisingly, made for languorous picking at in the heat. Whenever I make this, it's met, at first, with just slightly patronising amusement - and then the most colossal greed.

I think the trick is twofold: substitute sliced fennel for the more traditional cucumber (which also has the benefit of not making the salad go wet and soggy on standing around); and let the onion steep, sprinkled with dried oregano, in the oil and vinegar for long enough for it to lose any potential for that acrid, rib-sticking aftertaste. This version is mild, abundant, gloriously summery. If you don't like fennel, then just leave it out, but exclude, still, the cucumber.

The Ultimate Greek Salad
Photo by Petrina Tinslay

Ingredients

Serves: 6-8

Metric Cups
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 200 millilitres extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 medium tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1 pinch of maldon salt
  • 1 very large cos lettuce
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 125 grams pitted black olives
  • 400 grams feta cheese
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 medium tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon superfine sugar
  • 1 pinch of sea salt flakes
  • 1 very large romaine lettuce
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • ¾ cup pitted black olives
  • 1 pound feta cheese
  • juice of ½ lemon

Method

  1. Peel and finely slice the red onion then sprinkle over the oregano and grind over some pepper.
  2. Pour in the vinegar and oil and toss well, cover with clingfilm and leave to steep for a good 2 hours; longer's fine. What you'll notice, once it's had its time, as well, is that the blooded crimson of the onion is somehow now a luminescent puce. It's a science thing, something to do with the acid in the vinegar: don't ask. You don't need to be fully conversant with the technicalities to be able to take advantage of them. That's to say, I often use this trick in other ways. An otherwise overwhelmingly brown slab of meat can be immediately lifted (in looks and taste) by being covered with some red onions, cut into wedges of 8 or so, and then fried in olive oil, to which, once softened, you add the juice of a lemon.
  3. On top of the lemony pink onions add some sprinkled Maldon salt and a generous amount of summer-green chopped parsley. Or make a quick sauce for pasta (this should be enough for a 500g / 1lb packet of spaghetti) by cutting a red onion into very fine half-moons (ie, cut the onion in half and then slice each half as finely as you can), frying it in olive oil, spritzing in the juice of half a lemon, as before, and then tossing this, along with 200g / 8oz tuna cut into thin little rags, into the cooked drained spaghetti; the heat of the pasta will cook the raw tuna plenty.
  4. Add seasoning to taste, and some extra virgin olive oil as you like, and a goodish amount of chopped fresh parsley (again). But these are just suggestions: the pink onion technique can be drawn on in whatever way pleases you.
  5. But to return to the case in hand: when you want to eat, get started with the rest of the salad. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, then cut each quarter into quarters (always lengthwise) again, so that you have a collection of very fine segments (rather than chunks). Sprinkle the sugar and a pinch of salt over them and leave while you get on with the rest.
  6. Wash the lettuce if you need to (I always try and get away with not) tear into big pieces and put into a large, wide salad bowl.
  7. Slice the fennel and add that, then the olives and the feta, cut or crumbled into rough chunks, and toss well.
  8. Now add the tomatoes, the red onion - now lucidly pink - in its marinade-dressing and the lemon juice. Toss gently, but thoroughly, so that everything is well combined. This is addictive: you will find yourself making it all through summer - and beyond.
  1. Peel and finely slice the red onion then sprinkle over the oregano and grind over some pepper.
  2. Pour in the vinegar and oil and toss well, cover with clingfilm and leave to steep for a good 2 hours; longer's fine. What you'll notice, once it's had its time, as well, is that the blooded crimson of the onion is somehow now a luminescent puce. It's a science thing, something to do with the acid in the vinegar: don't ask. You don't need to be fully conversant with the technicalities to be able to take advantage of them. That's to say, I often use this trick in other ways. An otherwise overwhelmingly brown slab of meat can be immediately lifted (in looks and taste) by being covered with some red onions, cut into wedges of 8 or so, and then fried in olive oil, to which, once softened, you add the juice of a lemon.
  3. On top of the lemony pink onions add some sprinkled sea salt flakes and a generous amount of summer-green chopped parsley. Or make a quick sauce for pasta (this should be enough for a 500g / 1lb packet of spaghetti) by cutting a red onion into very fine half-moons (ie, cut the onion in half and then slice each half as finely as you can), frying it in olive oil, spritzing in the juice of half a lemon, as before, and then tossing this, along with 200g / 8oz tuna cut into thin little rags, into the cooked drained spaghetti; the heat of the pasta will cook the raw tuna plenty.
  4. Add seasoning to taste, and some extra virgin olive oil as you like, and a goodish amount of chopped fresh parsley (again). But these are just suggestions: the pink onion technique can be drawn on in whatever way pleases you.
  5. But to return to the case in hand: when you want to eat, get started with the rest of the salad. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, then cut each quarter into quarters (always lengthwise) again, so that you have a collection of very fine segments (rather than chunks). Sprinkle the sugar and a pinch of salt over them and leave while you get on with the rest.
  6. Wash the lettuce if you need to (I always try and get away with not) tear into big pieces and put into a large, wide salad bowl.
  7. Slice the fennel and add that, then the olives and the feta, cut or crumbled into rough chunks, and toss well.
  8. Now add the tomatoes, the red onion - now lucidly pink - in its marinade-dressing and the lemon juice. Toss gently, but thoroughly, so that everything is well combined. This is addictive: you will find yourself making it all through summer - and beyond.

Additional Information

For vegetarians make sure the feta is one that uses vegetarian rennet.

For vegetarians make sure the feta is one that uses vegetarian rennet.

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What 1 Other has said

  • I am so excited to find this recipe here tonight as it is definitely my all time favourite. I never knew what to do with fennel until I discovered this recipe. Hint: I sometimes just make up a bowl of the onion mix and leave in the fridge for a few days to use as my salad topper. Ultimately delish..!!

    Posted by Miseve on 24th July 2014
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