The Food Almanac: Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Staff Writer
It's National Greek Salad Day!
Wikimedia Commons/ Cyclone Bill
Not only are Greek salads found in every Greek and Middle Eastern restaurant in America, but in almost exactly the same form in tavernas all over Greece.

Today's Flavor
Today is National Greek Salad Day. Not only is it found in every Greek and Middle Eastern restaurant in America, but in almost exactly the same form in tavernas all over Greece. Greek salads require a certain critical mass for the ingredients to balance out, so they're usually served in an entree size. Here's what goes into it:

Green leaf lettuce, constituting only about half the salad
Sliced cucumbers
Green onions
Mild green peppers (preferably something like wax peppers, but bell peppers are okay in pinch)
Tomatoes
A great deal of feta cheese, crumbled
Kalamata olives

The dressing should be an emulsified vinaigrette with a significant herb (particularly oregano) component. Dill is essential. And it should also include a significant amount of fresh lemon juice. All of this should be tossed with the salad ingredients, not served on the side or dumped over the top.

Our two Greek restaurants (Acropolis Cuisine and Mr. Gyros) both make good Greek salads. But the best in town is at the Maple Street Cafe (7623 Maple, 314-9003). There it's served in a bowl made from a round loaf of crusty bread.

Deft Dining Rule #920
A really great Greek salad will still have a few chunks of feta cheese and a few olives remaining after all the greens have been eaten.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Olive, Indiana is a schedule point on the Chicago, South Shore and South Bend Railroad, a commuter line whose route is described by its name. A main line of the Norfolk Southern Railroad parallels the South Shore line there. Olive is near the South Bend end, where the cornfields that take up most of the land are giving way to enormous manufacturing plants and shipping terminals. Only a few houses are in the vicinity. And you have to drive three miles west to find the nearest restaurant: Kate O'Connor's Irish Pub in New Carlisle.

Edible Dictionary
manouri, Greek, n.--Manouri is a Greek cheese from the northwest part of the country. It's sort of a byproduct of feta cheese production, and combines the whey left over from feta with whole milk or even cream. Sheep's and goat's milk usually account for the entire milk component. The process makes manouri is less crumbly and less salty than feta, and lends a creamier texture. It's not aged, and comes in rolls from which round slices are cut. It's good on salads and sandwiches.

Food And Drink In War
Today in 1862, in the midst of the Battle of Antietem, a sergeant and one other soldier pulled a wagonload of food and hot coffee through Confederate fire to nourish an Ohio Union regiment. It was the bloodiest single day of battle in the history of the United States, with at least 23,000 soldiers killed. The sergeant was promoted by his colonel to lieutenant for his pluck. The sergeant was William McKinley. The colonel was Rutherford B. Hayes. Each later became President. So, if you want to get ahead, bring the working people some food and coffee.

Eating Around America
Boston was founded today in 1630. It was a suburb of Salem, the original British settlement in the vicinity. Boston has contributed a good bit to American cuisine, although the dish referred to by its nickname -- Beantown -- is not one of them. Boston baked beans are navy beans baked with molasses, the latter a product that flowed in some quantity through Boston in the days when it was a port for sugar from the Caribbean. Seafood in Boston is much better, notably the lobsters, scallops, mussels, striped bass, oysters, and codfish--although the latter is much diminished now by overfishing. Know this about Boston seafood, however: they don't fry with the lightness we do in New Orleans.

Music To Clean Your Plate By
Today in 1939, Frank Sinatra recorded his first big hit. Backed up by the orchestra of Harry James (the great uncle of Clark, the Gourmet Truck Driver, a frequent caller to my radio show), All Or Nothing At All didn't hit the charts until over two years later, after Sinatra had become a star. Coincidentally, this same date in 1952, Sinatra's career hit a low point. He recorded a little known but lovely song Why Try To Change Me Now? It was his last recording for Columbia Records. He'd reinvent himself and make a comeback the following year, and establish himself as the most-heard voice in Italian restaurants in America.

Winemakers On Television
The Smothers Brothers television show premiered today in 1965. Its satirical aspect made it controversial, and CBS got nervous and cancelled it, despite good ratings. Tom and Dick Smothers later opened a winery in Sonoma. Although the wines were good, their reputation as comedians hurt the image of the stuff. So they renamed it Remick Ridge, after their grandfather.

Food Namesakes
Today is the birthday, in 1907, of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger. . . Pro shortstop Bobby Wine hit the Big Basepath today in 1937.

Words To Eat By 
"From my table inside I watch the glamorous women outside who are lunching on spa Cobb salads without blue cheese or dressing. The man with the bread basket wanders from table to table, lonesome as a cloud. When he comes to me his basket is full and perfectly arranged. He gives me a smile of sincere pleasure when I tell him I will take both the sourdough roll and the cheese stick."--Ann Patchett, American fiction author.

Words To Drink By
"As you get older, you shouldn't waste time drinking bad wine."-- Julia Child.