Sunday, March 20, 2016

A New Kind of Greek Salad

Many years ago, while I was still in college, my family and I spent a couple of months in Greece over the summer.  It wasn't intended to be such a long stay, but there was a highjacking a couple of days after our arrival and U.S. airlines had stopped flying to Athens.  Eventually, since we had to go back to school, we boarded a freighter ship to Ancona, Italy, and enjoyed a few bonus days driving around that gorgeous country before flying home from Rome.  It was a memorable summer, to say the least.  But I digress . . .

Greece:  our time in this seat of global culture was highlighted by fellowship with several amazing people. A Greek friend from school was an amazing host/tour guide in Athens and at his family's home on Mykonos.  Living with the locals cannot be beat for a cultural immersion experience. My Dad's co-worker and his family were also amazing hosts, in and around Athens and also at his grandma's house in the tiny town of Leonidion (I'm not sure how to spell it in English) up in the mountains at the end of the road. In Greece, foods are served in a very unadulterated way -- close to their original forms.  Preparing food is more a pairing of flavors than a transformation.  With fresh ingredients, that's the best way.  Whatever we were eating, the greek salad was ubiquitous.  It was never discussed, we just all pitched in and started chopping -- every day.  In Greece, the salad always starts with tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese with olive oil.  There were black olives sometimes, herbs sometimes, bell peppers sometimes, but always cukes, tomatoes and feta.

As our weather begins to warm, I find myself wanting fresher flavors. Since I'm not eating cheese, I got a little creative with replicating that Greek salad tanginess.  The kalamata olives (not a favorite of  my current family but I love 'em) contributed so much toward the tanginess goal, but since I used a bit of restraint for the sake of the fam, I had to find another tang source without the pungency of the olives.  I decided to open a recent jar of pickles I made:  radish and purple onion.  Nothing gets wasted round here, so when I finished the purple cabbage kraut I had bought at the store, I repurposed the pretty brine for the pickles, adding a bit of purified water and a few drops of ume plum vinegar.  The resulting pickle concoction was just what I needed to round out my newfangled Greek salad. The salad was delicious and effectively transported me, temporarily, back to a lovely memory.

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