Chopped Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes & Sheep’s Milk Feta

This has become our salad of choice lately — a simple chopped salad enhanced with tangy sheep’s milk feta and olives. If you’re BBQ-ing this weekend, this is your salad — it goes equally well with grilled or roasted meats as it does with pastas. And it can also turn pasta shapes (farfalle, rotini, even tortellini) into a cool and summery pasta salad that is perfect for picnicking and dining al fresco. You can also put this on top of baby greens for a combo salad — no extra dressing necessary. We recommend having a nice crusty bread handy, too, as the dressing that pools at the bottom of your bowl is a peppery amalgam of tomato juices, feta, peperoncini, olive oil and vinegar that just begs to be sopped up!

With tiny bite-size tomatoes from Trader Joe’s and that lovely Greek sheep’s milk feta from Costco, this comes together in a snap. The olives we use for this salad will vary depending on what is open in the pantry — there are kalamatas in this photo, but tonight’s version has tiny green olives called Perdignon (Goya brand, but bottled in Spain). Go with the flow — this is one of those recipes that is accepting of whatever goodies your pantry has in store. This is usually what goes in ours…

Serves 4-6 persons

1 large Japanese/English cucumber, about 1 lb/455g
1lb/455g grape, pear, cherry or other bite-size tomatoes
3.5 oz/100g sheep’s milk feta
10-20 kalamata or other olives
3-5 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves removed from stems
5-8 mild peperoncini (pickled peppers)
3-5 grinds of the peppermill
1-2 jiggers of red wine vinegar
drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil

Wash and pare cucumber. Cut lengthwise into quarters and remove seedy core. Dice into 1/2” cubes. Add to salad bowl.

Wash and dry tomatoes. Halve any tomatoes that are larger than a mouthful. Add to salad bowl.

Crumble feta into salad bowl, add olives and fresh oregano leaves. With kitchen shears, snip peperoncini directly into salad, allowing liquid in the center of the peppers to drizzle over salad.

Grind pepper over salad, then drizzle vinegar and oil over all. Mix well, and let sit at room temperature while you finish preparing dinner.

(Salt is usually not necessary because the feta, peperoncini and olives provide quite a bit of saltiness. But if you’re using different ingredients, you may want to taste for salt, too)

This is ready to serve immediately but I like the leftovers even better, so this is a great do-ahead salad to bring to a potluck or include in a buffet.

Have a safe Memorial Day weekend, Everyone!