Monday, September 17, 2012
After spending this past week in Pantelleria my mind is filled with all things caper-related. Which sort of explains, I guess, why I’m writing one final post on Greece.
The food I ate in Pantelleria reminded me a lot of what we had eaten in Paros (here, here, and here). And this makes sense since both are islands floating in the Mediterranean and their cuisines make do with what’s on hand.
While Pantelleria is synonymous with capers (and more on that later on this week and next) I have to admit that I've always just taken Greek capers for granted. They are everywhere, literally. The plants are forgiving and grow in just about every wall crevice and most families pick and brine their own.
But I’m not going to get into the whole caper process here (I’ll save that for my Pantelleria posts) Instead I’ll move right on to one of my ‘non recipe’ recipes in which capers feature prominently: Greek Salad.
Because I feel sort of bad. When I write my posts I always try to leave you with a take-away. Something you can use. And so far, up to now, my posts from my trip to Greece have been great if you ever find yourself looking for a restaurant in Paros (which you very well might be doing some day, right?) I did manage one recipe, but the rest of my posts have been travel porn, pure and simple.
So I leave Greece with a final take-away: just about the easiest recipe on Earth.
If, like me, you’ve ordered a Greek Salad anywhere outside of Greece you’re probably used to getting an over sized bowl full of lettuce, topped with a few tomatoes and cucumbers, and a sprinkling of feta.
I’ve never seen this concoction in Greece.
Here follows a few of the best photos I took of our daily (or sometimes twice daily) dose of Greek Salad. It’s everywhere, and we - like most people - ordered at least one for the table to split.
As you can see from the photos there is no lettuce involved.
Because lettuce is not local. Leafy salad greens don’t grow in the scorching heat of a Greek summer.
What does? Tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers. And that pretty much sums up most of the recipe.
The vegetables are cut into chunks, topped with some thinly sliced onions and then heaped with either a massive chunk of feta or a scoop of fresh goat cheese.
But the briny stars of the show are, of course, olives and capers. Big, shiny, salty, black olives and plump, green, intensely flavored capers. Although they are little, and often fall to the bottom of the bowl, hiding beneath the chunky veggies, they pack a lot of punch and add an essential element to the dish.
This is definitely not a dish to see you though the Fall, but I think you can still get your hands on some late tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. For one last burst of summer crunch?
And the capers. Don’t forget the capers. This recipe may seem simple,(and it is) but if you don’t make it with capers it just won’t be the same. And if you do make it right, capers and all, you just may believe - for at least a few seconds - that you’re on a sun-drenched Mediterranean island. At least that’s my plan.
(serves 2-4 as a first course)
1/2 green pepper
1/2 red onion
150 grams of feta cheese
2 tablespoons of capers
Prepare this salad only minutes before you serve it. Otherwise it will just get soggy.
Chop the tomatoes into large chunks.
Slice the cucumbers.
Cut the green pepper and onion into thin slices.
Place all in a bowl and top with feta.
Scatter with capers and olives and drizzle with olive oil.
Sprinkle with oregano and serve.
In Greece the salad comes dressed with neither salt nor vinegar. The salt is provided by the capers, olives and feta. You can add vinegar if that’s your thing, but it’s not traditional.