Perhaps you have been wondering where I have been. Or, at least, why there haven’t been any recipes posted in the last 3-4 weeks. Perhaps you suppose it’s because a) I am lazy, or b) I have simply been too preoccupied with shopping for gifts, or c) I have been working overtime for the holidays, or d) I have been hanging out in my robe with my cats (which, quite honestly, is an excellent guess). I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but none of these suspicions is correct.
Friends, I only disappear with good reason. And this time, I was off galavanting around Southern Germany visiting my friends and family. Admittedly, this is not my first visit to beautiful Bavaria. I have had the pleasure of spending various summers relaxing on the Main River, eating perfect pretzels and meandering past what my Canadian-American upbringing insists are uncomfortably nude couples sunbathing in the vineyards, hills, and gorgeous fields surrounding my family’s home. But the most magical visits of all have been the holidays spent exploring the various Weichnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets), with plenty of Glühwein (mulled wine) and gebrannte Mandeln (roasted, spiced almonds) to celebrate. Believe me, nothing warms your soul quite like huddling with your favorite family members amidst crowds of strangers, laughing and drinking Feuerzangenbowle (a sugary, rum-spiked wine that is set on fire before serving).
I suppose what I’m getting at is that this particular visit to Germany was not filled with firsts. I got to see my lovely family, all the familiar places I like to go to, various Christmas markets in tiny villages and bigger cities, and my favorite city ever, the beautiful München (otherwise known as Munich). But! One cool first is that I got to try Horiatiki Salad, a delicious, lettuce-free Greek salad composed of really thinly sliced red onion, cucumber, tomato, and bell pepper, paired with olives and feta. I realize it’s strange to travel to Germany and try a traditional Greek salad, but that is how it happened. And let me tell you, this salad is quite the divine experience.
Still, we all have our ways of tuning things to our own preferences, and I have done just that with this recipe by adding extra, extra olives and avocados in place of tomatoes. To those of you who seem skeptical, wondering why tomatoes need to be completely replaced, and how on earth I decided that thirty olives was the correct number, do you know what I have to say to you? Tomatoes are irrelevant when you have two smooth, velvety avocados just waiting for you to pair them with cool, refreshing vegetables and salty, crumbly feta. And as for the number thirty, a salad that does not house at least half a jar of kalamata olives is not welcome at my table anyway.
Now, because of the time of year, and because I am assuming that everyone you know is either charitable (in which case I will fit in) or miserable (in which case this will be a refreshing change), I am willing to negotiate–you can add fewer olives, I suppose, if you really think it’s necessary. And if you add more, then you deserve a firm handshake.
I like that this salad is a needle in a haystack, a healthy treat amidst cookies and gingerbread and cream-topped hot chocolate. The best part is that it’s ah-mazing. And I only stress the first syllable of that word when I really mean it.
One last thing before I disappear again–I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season, wherever you are and whatever you do and however you celebrate.
Avocado Horiatiki Salad
Makes 8-10 servings
1 medium-sized red onion, sliced thinly
1 red or green bell pepper, sliced thinly
1 cucumber, sliced thinly into half moons
2.5 dozen kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half lengthwise
6 oz feta, cubed
1 tsp dried oregano, plus more for garnish
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for garnish
sea salt to taste
2 ripe avocados, pitted and sliced thinly, or into cubes
Combine onion, bell pepper, cucumber, olives, and feta in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with oregano, olive oil, and sea salt, stirring to incorporate. Garnish with freshly sliced avocado and additional pinch of oregano and drizzle of olive oil. (Drool.) Serve immediately.