Greek potato salad with herbs

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A Greek potato salad made with fresh herbs and a light lemon vinaigrette.

A Greek potato salad made with fresh herbs and a light lemon vinaigrette.


We were well into our teenage years before we realized that North American potato salads were typically rich with mayonnaise. Our parents used mayonnaise quite sparingly in their cooking, and in fact one of the only recipes we remember which used lots of mayo was the classic Russian salad. Beyond that, mayonnaise was something we saw spread on pieces of white toast sandwiching a slice or two of bologna at our non-Greek friends’ homes.

We grew up with potato salads, like this Greek potato salad with herbs, which were fresh tasting, light, mayonnaise-less and easy to bring along to a picnic. With the warmer weather fast approaching and our herb gardens growing, now is the perfect time to make this family favourite.

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Potato salad with smoked herring

A traditional Greek potato salad with smoked herring from Messinia

A traditional Greek potato salad with smoked herring from Messinia


Σαλάτα με πατάτες και καπνιστή ρέγγα. Our parents are from Messinia, a region found in the south western part of the Peloponnese. The capital is Kalamata and it is a marvelous part of the country. Soaring mountain ranges, fertile flatlands and forests, picturesque villages, citadels, vineyards and orchards are some of what make Messenia such a rich and glorious land.

Visitors have learned that there is much that this area has to offer and tourism plays an increasingly large role in the economy. Still, this fertile area is an agricultural wonderland and crops remain the most important industry for the region. Some of the main products are olive oil, Kalamata olives, oranges, sultana raisins and figs.

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Cretan dakos (Κρητικός ντάκος)

Cretan dakos

A traditional Cretan salad of tomatoes, feta and herbs on top of a barley rusk

Cretan dakos

 

Oh Crete, how we love you!  We’ve both had the great pleasure of visiting this largest and southernmost island of Greece,  spending weeks exploring the cities, beaches, gorges and of course, the tavernas and restaurants.  Cretan cuisine, like all Greek cooking, is based on fresh, local ingredients and the regional specialties often showcase food items you can only find there.  Fortunately however, much of what is loved and devoured in Crete can be replicated off the island, and this dakos salad is a perfect example of that.

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Maniatiki Salad (Potato salad with oranges and fennel) (Μανιάτικη σαλάτα)

Perhaps your new favourite potato salad! Loaded with oranges, and lots of great flavours.

Perhaps your new favourite potato salad!

Our parents are from the Peloponnese region of Messinia, the western-most peninsula of the part of Greece that looks a little like a hand which is missing a finger. Messinia is where our heart lies in Greece, and where many of the recipes which we share originate.  However, the Peloponnese is rich with variety and this potato and orange salad is named for the middle finger of the Peloponnese, the Mani peninsula.

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Greek-style Cobb salad

Greek-style Cobb salad

The Cobbopoulos; a delicious, Greek-inspired, Cobb salad

Greek-style Cobb salad

This salad is satisfying in so many ways.  First, it delivers in flavour, with simple and fresh ingredients that come together in a delicious way.  Second, it manages to put a Greek spin on a classic salad making it, in our opinion at least, even better; feta and Kalamata olives tend to do that.  Finally, the presentation speaks to each of us, at different moments.  The initial plating, ordered and with each ingredient clearly in its place, satisfies the need for organization that one of us has.  When the salad gets tossed together to coat every little bit with the delicious dressing…well that’s organized chaos in a bowl, and hits home with the other one of us.

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Greek salad (or Horiatiki salata) (Χωριάτικη Σαλάτα)

Greek Salad

Greek salad, or Horiatiki (Village) salad should be part of every Greek meal.

They say you are what you eat.  If that’s the case, then in the summer months we are villagers. When garden tomatoes have ripened, we use them to make, and eat, delicious Greek salad, also called a horiatiki salata (horio means village in Greek).  We eat this salad every day.  Not almost every day…but every, single, day.  And we never tire of it.

It would be next to impossible to tire of a salad so full of flavour and amazing texture. For us, Greek salad or horiatiki salata is a gift of summer; easy to prepare, filling, deliciously fragrant and healthy.  In fact, the only down side is that we live in a country where local, vine-ripened tomatoes are not readily available year round.

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Maroulosalata (Μαρουλοσαλάτα)

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Maroulosalata, a deliciously, simple, easy lettuce salad where the lettuce is the star!

A classic Greek green salad prepared with finely chopped lettuce and plenty of fresh herbs.

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.

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Greek pasta salad

Greek pasta salad

A light and refreshing orzo salad full of Greek flavours!

The world is big, and when our mom emigrated from Greece in search of a better life, she could have ended up in several places; in particular, the United States and Australia already had a significant number of Greek immigrants that she could have joined. Circumstance however, had her dock in Nova Scotia.  From there she travelled to Montreal, where she settled, worked, and raised enough money to travel back to Greece to marry our dad, and to then return back to Canada with him.  In those early years, our parents sponsored several of their siblings and they too made their way across the ocean.  It was in Montreal that most of their children were born and their families raised.

We love our city.  It has a rich history (some of it controversial) and in fact, Montreal is currently in the midst of celebrating it’s 375th anniversary.  It is an energetic place, with a European influence evident in the architecture, art, food, and people.  Although it is officially a bilingual city, with French and English being the two official languages of our province of Quebec, that description is a little simplistic.  In fact, Montreal is a great multicultural and multilingual metropolis, with waves of new immigrants from all corners of the world arriving and enriching our city.  There are so many obvious reasons to love Montreal (you should come visit!) and yet, there is one great reason which is often overlooked, or cursed.  The weather.  That’s right…the weather!  It can be horrible, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Roasted beet salad (Σαλάτα με παντζάρια)

Roasted Beet Salad topped with Feta cheese
Roasted Beet Salad topped with Feta cheese

Roasted Beet Salad topped with Feta

Greek beet and feta salad recipe

Whether or not you like eating beets, you have to admit that they are some of the most beautiful looking vegetables out there…or actually, under there; beets are root vegetables whose bulbs grow underground.  In any case,  although the most common type of beet is the deep red variety,  there are a number of other vibrant colours, such as orange, yellow and red candy-cane striped beets called chiogga beets.  Nature is truly marvelous.

Although it is true that beets are beauties, there is so much more to them than meets the eye, and all of it is delicious.  The bulbous portion of the beet plant is the beetroot (or the taproot) and the stems and leaves form the beet greens.  Beet greens are often discarded, which is a shame because they are packed with flavour and nutrition.  Our parents know this and would never dream of tossing these lovely greens into the compost or trash.  In keeping with their philosophy of waste nothing, this salad incorporates both beetroots and beet greens, and is as pleasing to the palate as it is to the eye.

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