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Ye-gads, it’s been a while since I posted a recipe here! It’s not for lack of effort. I have tons of food pics and recipes jotted down here and there… just no screen time. Sorry.

Well, summer is high in Chi-city and we are lovin’ life farmer’s market and CSA style. Tomatoes, cukes, peppers – each week our CSA fills our fridge with delicious bounty and we’re forced, like good Greek peasants, to eat what we have makings for. And what do we have makings for? Greek salad! WOOT!

Traditional Greek Salad (Horiatiki Salata)

Traditional Greek Salad (Horiatiki Salata)

It may not surprise you to hear that the Greek salad that is served in most restaurants is not the real deal. For one, Greeks don’t have lettuce – at least they didn’t for a long time. In fact, my grandmother used to use our lettuce in soups, thinking it was just another leafy green to cook, rather than using it in salads. Of course, this has most certainly changed these days, but the Greek salad of my youth was closer to the recipe below. When you are inundated with fresh garden tomatoes and cukes, this is the best treat in the world.

A note on ingredients: There is a variety of cucumber that I’ve never seen anywhere besides Greece. They are smaller (kirby sized), lighter skinned, kind of football-shaped, and crispier than anything we find here. The closest I have been able to find in texture is the Armenian Cucumber, a long, pale green, ribbed and slightly fuzzy cuke that is available at my farmer’s market. If you can get your hands on one of these, hubba-hubba. Also, the green peppers I’ve had in Greece are nowhere near the massive, watery bohemoths you find in our supermarkets. They are small, thin-walled and incredibly flavorful. Unfortunately, I have no clever tips on how to get your hands on something comparable here. Oh, well.

Traditional Greek Salad (Horiatiki Salata)

  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut in thick wedges or large chunks
  • 1/4-1/2 of an Armenian cucumber or 2 pickling cukes, sliced in rounds
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 small red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/4″ thick slice of feta cheese (please don’t waste your money on the pre-crumbled stuff!)
  • olive oil
  • kalamata olives or capers
  • salt
  • oregano

Directions in 30 words or less: Throw all the veggies into a serving bowl. Salt and toss. Drizzle with more olive oil than you think you’ll need. Place feta on top. Sprinkle with olives or capers, and top with oregano.

Dang! Four words over. It’s ok. You’ll forgive me.

BPA-free tomatoes available at Whole Foods

BPA-free tomatoes available at Whole Foods

If you’ve been following the BPA (bisphenol-A) craze of late, you’ve likely unceremoniously lobbed your old, clear Nalgene into a ditch on the side of the road and replaced it with the now ubiquitous stainless steel water bottles with perty flowery doodles on the outside. And perhaps you know to avoid storing food, especially acidic food, in plastic containers. Maybe, like me, you’ve replaced much of your tupperware with the pyrex storage sets so you don’t have to even think about what the numbers inside the recycle sign on your plasticware means (is 5 ok? I forget… what about 2? 7?) Well, good on you. BPA-free, right? Not so.

Turns out one of our most common methods of exposure to BPA is from canned food. Apparently the lining of the cans is made of an epoxy resin that contains BPA. And just like the acidic foods that eat away at your tupperware, the highest concentrations of BPA are found in acidic foods like crushed tomatoes. Make that canned crushed tomatoes. While companies have had success with alternative linings for less acidic foods, a lining that will withstand the sting of tomato juices remains elusive. So while it’s becoming easier to find BPA-free cans of beans (I hear Eden Foods makes some), it’s even easier to ignore cans altogether. Switch to dried beans (infinitely tastier anyway) and frozen (or better yet, fresh) fruit and vegetables and you’re pretty much golden. Except when it comes to tomatoes. And honestly, if I had to pick one canned item that is always in my kitchen, no matter what, it’s canned tomatoes. They are just so dern versatile! So imagine my heartbreak upon hearing about BPA in tomatoey cans. Stinkers.

But then I read this happy little blog post that made my heart sing. Apparently those cartony containers that hold soy milk, rice milk, premade broths and soups, and yes, parmalat, can be BPA-free. And there are a few companies that put crushed tomatoes in them. Yipppee! Although the blog post says they can be found at TJ’s, I’ve only been able to find them at Whole Foods. But no matter. They’re in my cupboard and that’s all that matters. Yeeehaw! Tomato soup, sauce and stuff will be ours again. Sweet.