Hankerings

Whenever I get a craving for something, it simply never goes away. I sleep on it and it’s back in the morning. I can go a whole week and still not forget about it until I’ve actually tasted it. Well, Saturday night after Bridesmaids at the movies, greek salad popped into my head. Not sure how I made the transition from Whoppers, Milk Duds and comedy, but it happened. GREEK SALAD (and not just any old Greek salad.) Having grown up in Clearwater, just south of Tarpon Springs, I truly believe that all other Greeks that make salad are doing it wrong. Louis Pappas’ recipe is what I consider to be the classic–mainly because buried beneath the lettuce, feta cheese and pickled goodies, lies a heaping mound of potato salad. Louis Pappas Restaurant had been family-owned and operated on the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs, Florida since 1925. Sadly, that location closed in 2004. (No worries. There are many other locations in the Bay area.) I will always remember the many Pappas-style Greek salads that my family and I picked apart over the years. That’s what I needed. And when I woke up Sunday, it was still there, begging me to pay attention to it. So I headed to Publix.

Here’s the gist of the recipe, although I do chose to make a few changes. The original can be found here. I also, usually half the recipe for just Molly and I. And don’t get too freaked out if you’re missing an ingredient or two, just compensate. Citrus is a great replacement for vinegar. I’ve used cilantro in place of parsley. Anchovies are great, but just add a bit more salt if you don’t have them. The potato salad and green bell pepper are hard to replace however.

Potato Salad:
8-10 redskin potatoes
4 whole green onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, fchopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt
Greek Salad:
1 head of romaine lettuce
3 cups potato salad
2 ripe tomatoes cut into 6 wedges each
1 cucumber, peeled and cut lengthwise into 8 fingers
Juice from 1/2 lemon
4 (3-inch-square) portions feta cheese
1 green bell pepper, cut into 8 rings
4 canned beet slices
1 dozen shrimp, cooked and peeled
4 anchovy filets
12 Kalamata olives, sliced or pitted
12 pepporoncinis
4 to 8 whole green onions
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
Oregano

Start with the potato salad. Quarter unpeeled potatoes. Cook potatoes in salted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook them. You don’t want them to fall apart and get mushy. Cool until you can handle them. I put them in a stainless steel bowl or strainer and put in the freezer to speed things up. While cooling, whisk together in a large bowl – vinegar, salt, chopped green onions, parsley, and mayo. Add to cooled potatoes; mix carefully with a spoon or rubber spatula. TIP: If you reserve the hot water you can use it for cooking your shrimp. Simply add more Old Bay Seasoning than you think is at all reasonable and drop in your shrimp for exactly two minutes. Drain, but do not run water over them. Also put in the fridge to cool. Frozen shrimp will work fine, but make sure to thaw them first.

Make Dressing: This is a simple oil and vinegar dressing with oregano, salt and pepper added. You can make as much or little as you like, just keep the oil and vinegar ratio approximately even. Last night, I added a grated, fresh plum tomato to my dressing. Molly, my wife, has a problem with the texture of tomatoes, but I hate to deprive her of the flavor. Simple quarter a tomato, squeeze out the seeds, and run over a grater until all you have left is the skin. This is a great way to do salsa too. Add this to the oil and vinegar and whisk.

If you want to recreate the pic above, this’d be a good time to throw a steak on the grill. I do the next step once the steak is resting after cooking. Generally, you have about 10-15 minutes for a steak to rest. That’s a fair amount of time for the next step.

Building the Salad: Line a large platter with outside lettuce leaves. Mound potato salad in the center. Cut up the hearts, toss with dressing and place on top of potato salad. Place cucumbers and tomatoes around the potato salad. Arrange feta on top of salad; place green pepper rings, beets, shrimp and anchovies on top of feta. I prefer to put the beets directly onto the cheese like Pappas did it. I love the way it stains the feta. Place olives, pepperoncinis and green onions around the edge. Sprinkle with a light squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt. Enjoy with a glass of white wine or a cold beer.