Monday, February 4, 2008

CSA week nine - Greek salad

I had a Greek roommate a while back and to his mind a proper Greek salad consisted of tomatoes, feta, olive oil, salt and pepper and that's it. He was quite firm on this point. You could maybe gussy it up with some onion, a few olives or a bit of oregano, but adding cucumbers, peppers or especially lettuce was right out.

With a recipe that simple there's a lot riding on the quality of the ingredients. The tomatoes need to be very ripe and juicy, the feta should be flavorful and salty, and the olive oil should have a spicy bite. Unfortunately, I had problems on all three counts.

My tomatoes from last week's share were threatening to skip right over ripe to rotten so I figured today was the day to use them, but when I cut one open I discovered I was mistaking the firmness of a meaty tomato for the firmness of an underripe one. So the tomato was ready to go but it was the wrong sort for this recipe. However, it is a perfectly fine sauce tomato and I have been meaning to make a batch so I know where the other one is going.

As for the feta, I was able to find three varieties at Whole Foods but none were the really salty and sharp salad feta I wanted. I bought the least blah one I found, but it really didn't work. The texture was a bit off too. A good salad feta should be crumbly, but the block should be moist on the inside so it melts into the olive oil combining with the tomato juices to make the salad dressing. I really can't imagine what a cheese this bland and dry is meant for. I can't imagine it melts well, but maybe it will work crumbled on a focaccia.

And the extra virgin olive oil I have on hand happens to be a relatively mild fruity Spanish oil. Not really right for this application. Really, both the feta and the olive oil for a good Greek salad should be a bit too strong to enjoy without the tomatoes and bread to mellow them out.

I added sweet onion, fresh oregano and some kalamatas hoping to salvage it, but I can't say I enjoyed it much. Even the flatbread I bought has kind of a fluffy wonder-bready texture I don't care for.

I guess I need to stop trying this sort of thing and adjust to Miami by cooking more Cuban. Those ingredients I can find.

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