Composed salads from Greece and Italy

By Jim Bailey

A friend who is also a chef posted some pictures of a traditional Italian antipasto. It was a Caprese Salad, or Insalta Caprese as rightfully heralded. Although a great salad in its own right — and admired worldwide — I think I have a better one, and it’s not Italian.
While working for the Brountas family here in Maine many years ago, I developed the love of Greek cuisine. Among the outstanding ingredients they use is Feta cheese. It may be an acquired tastee, but my palate instantly admired the crumbly texture of this cheese, and I think you will too.

Cretan Salad
Named after the island of Crete, off the coast of Greece, this salad has the simplicity and flavor a beginning course should portray. I have slightly broiled this recipe, but if you prefer it cold, by all means serve it cold. I also didn’t put olives in this recipe when I made it and took the pictures, although it truly should have them. The reason? I don’t care for olives, nor do my children.

Top photo, the broiled Cretan salad;
Bottom, the classic Insalata Caprese

2 ripe tomatoes
1/2 small red or white onion, minced
1 green, red or yellow bell pepper, cored and julienned
Kalamata olives
Feta cheese, sliced 1/4-inch thick
Salt, cracked black pepper and oregano
Extra virgin olive oil
2 c. loosely packed spinach leaves, stemmed and shredded
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. loose basil leaves

This recipe is enough for two good sized portions.

Preheat broiler while preparing recipe, making sure the oven rack is at least 3 inches from heat source. Divide the spinach leaves among two plates or shallow bowls. Lightly sprinkle tomato and feta slices with oregano, garlic, onion, salt and pepper, drizzle with oil on both sides. Place on an oven proof pan and broil for 2-3 minutes, or just until the cheese just begins to soften.
Lay the tomatoes and cheese on the plate with spinach, overlapping each. Sprinkle with julienned peppers, basil leaves and olives and you are good to go.

Want to make your own, quick Caprese Salad? All you have to do is substitute fresh mozzarella for the feta and season as directed above along with the tomatoes. Alternately stack tomatoes with the mozzarella and slip in a few leaves of fresh basil. Sprinkle a bit of oregano throughout if desired.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeThe Yankee Chef

About the Author: Jim Bailey is a third generation Yankee Chef, New England food historian and newspaper columnist. His first cookbook, simply titled The Yankee Chef, has been published. He welcomes all feedback, questions or comments at

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