Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Greek salad; baked and dressed courgettes

Greek salad inevitably reminds me of a restaurant we used to go to as students, a ridiculously cheap Greek place with an alarmingly long menu, which we liked just because it was cheap, really, and set up like a real restaurant, unlike the other cheap places. We often went for people's birthdays and before I went on my year abroad, my friends (who mainly weren't going abroad) took me to dinner there and there was a big cake with good luck inscribed on it in colourful icing. Anyway, whatever you ordered, they always plonked a huge Greek salad on the table as well and I always used to steal the torn pieces of oregano-infused feta cheese from the top. I should admit now that I don't eat raw tomatoes, which apparently makes me something of a pariah; it wasn't a great position to defend when I lived in the south of France, where they seemed to be almost compulsory. This is the last salad in the book apart from the green salad, that I promise I have made but didnt take a picture of because, well, it looked like green salad and as someone who doesn't eat tomatoes, I have eaten an awful lot of green salads. I put off the Greek salad purely on account of tomatoes; I have trouble seeing tomatoes in salads as a good thing. I finally decided to make it, though, to go with lamb chops and baked courgettes and pretend summer was coming, which is obviously unlikely in rainy February.

The salad is easy - mix plum tomatoes, roughly cut up, with wedges of avocado, black olives, chopped shallot, oregano, splashes of red wine vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper. Add cos lettuce leaves (the larger leaves torn) and dress with lemon oil (ratio 1: 3 lemon juice: oil) and transfer to a bowl; crumble feta cheese over and drizzle with olive oil and more oregano.

With the salad, I made lamb chops and simple baked and dressed courgettes, also from Jamie. You should use small courgettes. wash and dry them, then toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and then bake for 15 minutes. Dress with red wine vinegar, chopped parsley and mint; balance with extra virgin olive oil and more seasoning if needed.

The salad was good; I approve of the addition of avocado, but then I'm a fully paid-up avocado fan. The courgettes looked simple but tasted surprisingly nice and, given how easy they are, they are definitely to be repeated. The lamb worked well with the courgettes and salad.

It doesn't look beautiful but nice dinners frequently don't, well, not unless some food stylist comes along and changes everything. Speaking of food stylists, am I the only one to be irritated when in a cookbook a photo bears no resemblance to the recipe cited, and you can very well see that the recipe has been altered slightly (presumably to improve the photo)? That was a rhetorical question as I know it has exercised the mind of Julian Barnes, the wonderful Pedant in the Kitchen. Jamie is less guilty than some (Donna Hay springs to mind, and I do like her recipes, but... ) because his books take care to appear less orchestrated (but we all know that the natural look takes time to achieve). Simon is our resident photographer; when I get hold of the camera our dinners all look muddy.

Anyway since the salad section is complete, time to take stock. One recipe stood out: the Fifteen Christmas salad. I loved that and it is really versatile. I also loved the homemade coleslaw- what a revelation. Other highlights for me: potato and horseradish salad with fine herbs and bresaola and warm salad of crispy smoked bacon and Jerusalem artichokes, as well as the all-day breakfast salad and the warm grilled peach salad. I think that might be too many favourites, but I am only a blogger and not a professional constrained by hierarchies. I am now a convert to warm salads. I can't believe another section is finished. At one point I felt as though the book would go on forever; now I can see the end and I don't want to, because there has been something exciting about the whole project (I can't explain why) that makes me not want it to end. I guess Jamie needs to write another book soon...


Freya said...

Hi Kathryn,
I really love Greek Salads, I always use a recipe from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros for mine. The baked whole courgettes look really good! I had never thought of cooking them that way!
Wow, one section complete! Seems like only yesterday...(etc.) wipes away tear...

Gemma said...

Hi Kathryn,

I can sympathise with your sentiments regarding realism - that is why I love the photos in Nigel Slater books even though I know Julian Barnes criticised some of those (I loved that book). Doona Hay photos are fab but do I really want to be styling my food and having it go cold every night?!

Gemma x

Kathryn said...

Hi Freya,
I haven't tried Tessa's recipe, though I do have Falling Cloudberries. To my shame I've cooked very little from it.

Gemma - I don't mind styling at all, but I am annoyed when the photo is blatantly of a variation on the stated recipe. That sets even more false expectations!


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