My Grandpa William immigrated to the US from Romania when he was about 18 years old. He died when I was less than 10 years old, so my memories of him are mostly tied to childish delights, like his card tricks or how he cut the skin of an orange in one long, swirly piece. Grandpa was a great cook. Mom says he cooked “out of self-defense”, in an age when a home kitchen was generally a woman’s preserve. Grandma’s idea of dinner was boiled chicken and limp vegetables. I remember watching him add ketchup to that dish in a valiant effort to give it taste.
Grandpa, my mom and my aunt in the late 1920’s.
My mom taught me to make Grandpa’s Greek salad and now I’m passing the recipe down to you. It is a simple, but delightful salad. The only secrets to success with the recipe are great summer tomatoes and letting the salad “steep” for at least 1 hour, preferably longer. The salad creates its own juice if the tomatoes are good, so plan to serve it with excellent, crusty bread, such as a French baguette, sour dough, or peasant-type black bread.
The origins of Grandpa’s Greek salad recipe remain a mystery. When I was growing up, the salad had only 3 main ingredients – tomatoes, green pepper, and celery. Last week I asked my mom why the salad doesn’t include feta and olives, typical ingredients in “standard” Greek salad recipes. Mom told me that she and her sister disliked them, so when they were kids, Grandpa took feta and olives out of the recipe. I put them back in, smiling as I do – for all the parents who bent to the culinary wishes of their kids and wondering what my Grandpa would have done in the age of Stay at Stove Dad.
Greek Salad – 2 servings Total cost – $4.12 (just over $2 per serving)
The color of the tomatoes doesn’t matter, but isn’t this yellow one pretty?
Block of feta cheese and pitted Kalamata olives.
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- ½ to ¾ green pepper, chopped
- ½ stalk of celery
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup (heaping) of chopped or crumbled feta cheese
- ¼ cup chopped or sliced olives, preferably Kalamata (Greek, oil cured) Note: Whole olives with the pit still in are cheaper, but believe me, use pitted unless you are a glutton for punishment or have an obsession with carving bits of olive off a pit.
Of the 2 serrated knives in this picture, the large one is better to use but if you don’t have it, a steak knife like the other one is fine. A straight edge knife won’t work well on tomatoes.
- Cutting board
- Knives (serrated edge for tomatoes, straight edge for green pepper, olives & cheese)
- Measuring spoons
Preparation – 3 steps that translate to chop, add and mix!
- Cut the vegetables and mix them together.
- Add the sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper.
- Chop the feta cheese and olives and add them to the salad.
Without feta it’s a vegan salad, but my Grandpa wouldn’t have the slightest idea what that’s about.
Refrigerate the salad for serving at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld together.
I like this salad alone or on top of mixed greens.