Of my cooking classes, Greek are the most popular by far and this stems from my own passion for the flavours of Greece. Almost everyone I talk to loves Greek food and has frequented their local Greek Restaurants many times. People are always quick to mention their favourite ones and the best dishes that are served there.
I joke with people all the time that to create Greek food one basically adds olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and oregano to anything and it’s Greek. Although these may be common denominators in many Greek recipes, there’s a bit more to it than that to make good Greek food.
The most important thing to remember is ingredients from the source will always taste better in the final dish. Two ingredients that always come to mind when discussing this are garlic and lemon juice.
Garlic should never come from a jar. I see people in stores buying these large jars of peeled, chopped garlic in brine and I question it. The response is usually “it’s cheap and convenient”. Sounds like ‘fast food’ to me.
Just because something is cheap and convenient, doesn’t mean we should use it. Take any fresh cut vegetable (or fruit for that matter) and soak it in a jar full of brine – where does the flavour go? It leaches into the brine. So people who take a slotted spoon and add some of this garlic to a dish and say “I’m cooking with garlic” – I respond and say “No, you’re cooking with a residual, that was once garlic, and now most of the natural flavour has gone into the brine – which you’re going to dump down the drain in a year once you have gotten through that humungous jar”.
Many people also willingly pass through the produce section, walking by the lemons, on their way to the juice aisle to grab a bottle of lemon juice… again for the same reason “cheap and convenient”.
If you go to a lemon orchard in Florida or Italy, there are not bottles hanging from the trees. A reconstituted juice from concentrate will not give you the same flavour as what’s offered from a fresh lemon. Plus you have the added bonus of reaping the aromatic and colourful zest from the outer peel to utilize as an additional ingredient or beautiful garnish.
We have to remember that the term “cheap and convenient” is not a synonym for “flavour” and if you want your Greek food, or any food, to taste better, you need to go to the source of the ingredient you are adding for optimal results.
2 long English cucumbers, diced large
6-8 Roma tomatoes, diced large
1 large yellow pepper, diced large
1 large orange pepper, diced large
1 medium to large red onion, diced large
1 cup Kalamata olives
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp dried oregano leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp sugar
salt and coarsely ground pepper to season
Crumbled feta cheese to garnish
In a large bowl, toss the vegetables and olives together.
In a separate bowl, mix the dressing ingredients well and pour over the salad. Toss to coat.
Garnish with crumbled feta cheese, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Chef Dez can be reached at www.chefdez.com or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, BC V2T 6R4