The classic Greek salad, or horiatiki, provides a tantalizing combination of fresh and savory flavors.
It makes a satisfying side dish with grilled and roasted foods, or as a stand-alone meal for lunch accompanied by a crusty loaf of artisan bread or the traditional warm pita bread.
And just what do you need for a Greek salad?
Well, the traditional ingredient list is quite basic, featuring ingredients that are essential to a healthy Mediterranean diet.
It consists of chopped tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. These are topped with slabs of feta cheese, side-dressed with black, briny olives, and lightly seasoned with oregano and salt. The whole dish is finished with a hearty pour of flavorful olive oil.
Regional additions can include capers and sliced bell peppers, but lettuce is typically not present in authentic horiatiki offerings.
The foods used are based on what a typical Grecian shepherd or farmer would have on hand for breakfast or lunch – in the same way a ploughman’s lunch reflects the foods an English farmer might have in the pantry.
Other names for horiatiki include country, peasant, or village salads, and close variations can also be found in a Cypriot or Turkish shepherd’s salad.
For our recipe, we’ve lightened up the olive oil by making a red wine vinaigrette, with a touch of Dijon mustard, fresh Mediterranean herbs, and a touch of salt and pepper.
I first sampled this simple, but delicious, vinaigrette on the Grecian isle of Ios – red wine vinegar, as well as lemon juice, are the most common acidic components for cooking used in many parts of the Aegean.
However, if you want to go all-out Zorba, stick to plain olive oil as a dressing, and garnish with the minced fresh herbs in the dressing recipe.
But, of course, you can add and use any ingredients you like. Take a look below for the recipe!
- 2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound vine-ripened tomatoes
- 1 medium cucumber
- 1 red onion
- 1 red or green bell pepper
- 1/2 pound feta cheese preferably sheep or goat milk
- 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
- Mince the oregano, basil, parsley, and garlic.
- In a medium-sized jar with a tight-fitting lid, mix together the minced herbs and garlic, mustard, and vinegar. Add the olive oil a few tablespoons at a time, shaking well to emulsify after each addition. Season with salt and pepper.
- Chill for a couple of hours before preparing the salad.
- Coarsely chop the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and bell pepper. Combine in a large bowl.
- Add the olives to the vegetables.
- Pour three-quarters of the chilled dressing over the ingredients and toss lightly.
- If needed, cut the feta cheese in large pieces. Lay the cheese on top and drizzle on the remaining dressing.
- Cover with a clean dishtowel, and let stand for 20-30 minutes at room temperature to allow the flavors to blend. Serve!
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Organize
Read the recipe, gather your tools and ingredients, and wash the vegetables, using a colander for the most effective draining.
Step 2 – Mince the Herbs
Finely mince the herbs and garlic with a sharp knife and cutting board.
Step 3 – Mix the Dressing
In a medium-sized jar with a tight-fitting lid, mix together the minced herbs and garlic, mustard, and vinegar. Add the olive oil a few tablespoons at a time, shaking well to emulsify after each addition. Season to taste with freshly ground salt and pepper.
Extra garlic? Learn how to store these cloves properly!
Chill the dressing in the fridge for a couple of hours.
The flavors and texture of the dressing will be vastly improved if made ahead of time and allowed to chill before serving.
Step 4 – Chop the Veggies
Chop the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and pepper. Place them in a large bowl.
Add the olives after the vegetables are chopped. Searching for even bolder flavors? Try roasting the olives in herbs and garlic before adding them to this dish.
Step 5 – Add the Dressing
After the dressing has chilled, pour three-quarters of the dressing over the mixed vegetables and toss lightly.
Step 6 – Garnish with Feta
If needed, chop the feta in large pieces.
Lay the feta on top of the mixed veggies. Drizzle with the remaining dressing.
This tasty meal is usually served in small portions, but it delivers full-sized delight with the hearty, earthy flavors that it offers.
Featuring a delicious combination of fresh vegetables and herbs, along with the aged, savory flavors of brined olives, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and feta cheese, it’s a dish guaranteed to satisfy and please!
For the best flavor experience, remember to chill the dressing before serving, and allow the finished dish to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Enjoy your horiatiki for lunch, or as a starter for any meal with roasted or grilled foods, or as a side next to a warm and hearty moussaka.
And it’s a must for any Mediterranean-themed patio party!
Include small servings on a mezze (appetizer) plater along with toasted pita, grilled kebabs, seasonal vegetables, and homemade tzatziki sauce.
Always a popular choice, there’s never any leftovers. And don’t forget the retsina… Opa!
Do you readers have any favorite ingredients for this Greek dish? Share your ideas in the comments below, and join us for more food fun on our Facebook page!
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Photos by Lorna Kring, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.
2 thoughts on “The Classic Greek Salad: Simple Ingredients, Fabulous Flavors”
I have recently been into red wine vinegar on salads! I’m definitely going to try this one, the dressing sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing 🙂
This dressing is definitely one of my favorites Stephanie, hope you enjoy it! And remember, you can make your own delicious red wine vinegar at home… check out this article for the details: https://foodal.com/drinks-2/wine/recipes-brew/dont-toss-that-stale-vino-make-vinegar-instead/