A Greek Salad Inspired by the Sun
In a small town outside Nafplio, on the Greek Peloponnese, I discovered what it means to literally eat out of your backyard. Eating during my week in Lefkakia changed how I feel about food.
The vegetables permanently imprinted their tastes in my mind, the feta, incredibly fresh and creamy in Greece, outshines any feta I can buy here.
This tiny town, in the warm Greek sunlight, provided the gold standard for fresh food. A standard that is hard to replicate here in the States.
You cannot escape the oldness of the land in Greece, you are surrounded by it, even in its modern cities. The oldness permeates the stone walkways, the lemon groves, and the people.
There is a quiet feeling there, a reverence for the things the land has seen. I think this reverence applies to food as well. It makes the food different from what we eat here.
Tomatoes are allowed to be warmed by the afternoon sun and air dry until they are a hundred percent ripe. Cucumbers are picked, just minutes before eating and served with just a smudge of clay dirt still clinging to their pine green skin. Red onions sliced thin, with soft skins, are sweeter and not at all like the dried up grocery store ones.
Romaine, crunchy from the cool evenings, is allowed to ripen directly in the dirt. Vegetables come from a soil that seems to hold a secret for their excellence. My midday meal in Lefkakia was the veggies combined with a chunk of creamy feta cheese from down the road and a dash of a light lemony vinaigrette. The salad was delicious.
Like most good food memories, I have a craving to relive them when I am far away. Those memories influence the Greek Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette that I typically serve to large groups as a lighter summer dinner.
To try and imitate the salads I had in Greece, I buy produce from the farmers market and feta from my local co-op. Buying fresh and local helps me get as close in my kitchen as I possibly can to a Greek salad inspired by the sun.