Monday, September 25, 2006

A Celebration of Colors...

(... και για να δροσιστούμε και να μην ξεχνάμε το καλοκαιράκι, μια συνταγή χωριάτικης σαλάτας, ξέρω όλοι την ξέρετε, που έχει δημοσιευθεί τον Μάιο του 2006 με ανάλαφρη διάθεση και τρυφερότητα στα αγγλικά - γιατί πολύ σοβάρεψα τελευταία και σκοτείνιασα και δεν μου αρέσει να είμαι τόσο δωρική! :)

Passion red, striking and pale green, touches of black, a variety of whites, all these colours together, add some oil and voila! I am not talking about a modern painting or a piece of art, but for a salad… a Greek salad. This salad is also called 'Horiatiki', which means 'Peasant's' in Greek. Why? Well, years ago, villagers used to eat the salad all alone and had an excellent meal, since this salad covers almost all dietary needs and requirements for a healthy human body (back then it was all they had in their vegetables garden... no need for diets).

Actually this was the first course I was able to 'create', at the tender age of four. And this was the initiation to a life-time relationship with the cooking journey. I can still recall that day. It was mid-July in a tiny village, just a few hours drive outside Athens. It was a warm Saturday, all our windows in our house were open and there was only a light breeze which was moving the curtains tenderly. The shade of the old oak tree in the right side of our garden was not enough to protect us to from the stunning rays of light. We were there watering and harvesting the mature vegetables from our vegetables garden.

"Come on darling, put your straw hat on and please go inside and wash the salad ingredients." my mother suggested. She had placed the mature tomatoes and the cucumbers into a plastic bowl. I run into the house. What a relief… after an hour under the torturing sun. Shade, light breeze and fresh, crystal water on my hands! What else to desire a soul in a hot day? The cold water splashed on the hot, fresh and full of aromas vegetables… I still have the intense perfumes of those 'fruits'.

These memories are and I believe will be in my mind for as long as I live. As a native born Greek, cooking is in my genes… "What will you eat, when you will eat it, how and how much!" are crucial questions since our early existence… So, it is really important to be in a good mood whenever you cook. They say that your positive or negative energy is transferred to your cooking and your ingredients! So… enough memories and philosophical approaches… back to our salad right now! What you will need for making a perfect Greek salad:

Ingredients (serves four):

Four-five medium tomatoes, sliced in segments (must be hard, salad tomatoes, preferably of Cretan origin, are very sweet and tasty) One sliced onion (sliced it and then put it in a bowl with cold water for fifteen minutes, the strong, spicy taste will magically disappear, change water regularly during that period) 1/2 or one sliced cucumber (depends on how much you like cucumber taste) Greek virgin olive oil (you decide how much and what brand) Sliced féta cheese (Greek salty cheese made with goats' milk, I am sure you know it!) Olives (Kalamata black ones, preferably) Salt, a little pepper and oregano seasoning (if you want, you can add fresh pepper green and yellow or orange - not necessary, though)

Find a transparent bowl to mix and serve the salad. Why? This salad is a joy for the eyes and all the senses. So many colours mixed together! You softly and gently unite almost all the ingredients together with two spoons and then you spread the olive oil over them. On top, you add a generous or two slices of the feta cheese, depends on how much your guests like it, add a tea-spoon olive oil on top of the feta and finally, oregano. Insider's knowledge: You leave the olives for the decoration as an ending touch. Is really important the salad to satisfy all our senses.

The aromas of each ingredient create one of the most fresh, delicious and light salads. This salad, as I mentioned is a main course by itself, if we want to, but it accompanies excellently grilled meat, steaks and lamp in the oven.

Good luck!

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