When we were teenagers, and decided that we knew everything, we would get into heated discussions with our parents over this salad. We had heard that when a knife is used to cut lettuce, as was the case in our parents’ kitchen, there is a chance that lettuce cell boundaries will be damaged. For reasons we never really understood, this resulted in sub-par lettuce leaves. Because of this, we explained to our parents that lettuce had to be torn, by hand, into large, bite-sized pieces; this was necessary to preserve its integrity. It was also the way most of our non-Greek friends ate their salad, and frankly, we wanted to be a little like them. Our parents gave the hand-torn lettuce a try (once), and quickly deemed the non-uniform, large-ish pieces of green, to be too cumbersome to eat. Back to the cutting board.
This great lettuce debate apparently continues to be active in some circles, but not in our homes. We’ve come to realize that the neat and tidy little strips of romaine or curly lettuce that our parents end up with in their maroulosalata are easy to eat, and mess free. Regardless of what happens to the cell boundaries, we’ve accepted that the lettuce itself remains perfectly healthy and delicious. This is also the way that most of our Greek friends (and their parents) eat their salad, and frankly, we want to be a lot like them.
Maroulosalata translates to lettuce salad, and this is perfect because lettuce is not only the main ingredient, but it is also one of the few ingredients. In the summer months, our parents pick the curly lettuce that they grow in their garden for their salad. The rest of the year they purchase either a head of romaine or curly lettuce.
The key to any maroulosalata is the way that the lettuce is prepared. After washing it thoroughly in cold water and draining it in a salad spinner (ideal), or in a colander, you are ready to chop. The lettuce should be cut cross-wise into strips which are each about a couple of centimeters wide. This of course is not meant to be exact, and your pieces will of course vary in size. That’s fine…it’s only salad!
You can prepare your salad in advance and store it in the refrigerator. You can also prepare your vinaigrette in advance and keep that in the refrigerator for a few hours. However, you should dress your salad only right before you plan to serve it.
Mia Kouppa: Maroulosalata
- 1 large head curly lettuce (you can also use romaine if you prefer)
- 1 large cucumber, peeled, and cut into small chunks
- 4-6 green onions, chopped Vinaigrette
- 3 – 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) finely diced, flat-leaf, parsley
- 1 small basil leaf, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) dried Greek oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon (2ml) salt
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) Greek olive oil
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) red wine vinegar
- Wash your lettuce thoroughly and remove any brown or wilted leaves. Drain your lettuce.
- When your lettuce is dried, you are ready to chop it. Using a sharp knive, take a few lettuce leaves at a time (piled on top of each other) and start to cut the lettuce into bite-sized strips, a few centimeters wide. Place in a large bowl.
- To the lettuce add your cucumber pieces and your chopped green onion.
- In a jar with a well-fitted lid, combine all of your vinaigrette ingredients. Shake well until combined and right before you are ready to serve your salad, pour as much of the vinaigrette over it. Mix well. Enjoy!