Greek kitchen basics
Polítiki salata, is a crispy cabbage salad, that comes in many versions. In its essence it’s a naked coleslaw with pedigree from the Greeks of Istanbul.
Head straight to the recipe.
Polítiki salata, let’s have a tiny language course. Salata, I am pretty sure you can guess it stands for salad. Polítiki is a bit trickier to guess, it means from Istanbul (Turkey). In Greek -Poli – the first part of the word is the nickname of Istanbul. Istanbul in itself means ‘in the city’ or better yet The City, as Constantinople – modern-day Istanbul had been acknowledged for many years. So, Polítiki Salata is the one from Istanbul, specifically from the Greeks that used to live in Istanbul.
When it comes to immigration we Greeks have quite some stories to tell. The Greek-Turkish population exchange in the first quarter of the previous century is possibly one of the toughest. In the Balkans, WWI did not quite end in 1920s. It was followed by the last Greco-Turkish war which saw the flaming catastrophe of Izmir (one of the biggest Greek minority cities in the then Ottoman empire) which ended bitterly with a population exchange based religious principles.
The agreement of swapping minority populations between countries was a bumpy ride. Imagine growing up in Northern Greece as a Muslim in Greek territory, you were sent packing and forced to make a new home in a land miles
If you haven’t tapped in this part of Balkan history there are many great resources to check here and here. If you prefer a softer version than hard facts, there is a great film that treats this period of history calls A Touch of
Relocations, no matter how hard or smooth, always bring something else along, in this case, something very tasty. The Greeks of Istanbul, Polites as we call them in Greek, have left a profound mark on Greek cuisine. Their dishes were renowned for their eclectic use of spices and herbs, but most of all their love for good food. Polítiki salata is one of this great dishes, a simple signature salad, crisp and fresh that still accompanies our tables.
Polítiki salata has a good measure of vinegar, some add as much as a cup of vinegar diluted with as much water and give the shredded cabbage a bath. They are making a quick pickle.
I do enjoy my vinegar, however, I am not always too keen on pickle sharpness. Especially when I want my salad to complement and not overpower my main dish. So, I have a simple slaw, with a higher ratio of vinegar than olive oil and a bit of lemon. It is still sharp and works really great with roasts or actually on its own.
- 300 gr white cabbage, shredded
- 1 large carrot, grated
- 1-2 pickled red pepper (piperia Florinis)
- 1 small stick of celery
- 3-4 sprigs parsley Dressing
- 3 tbspn red wine vinegar
- 1 tbspn olive oil
- 1 lemon, for its juice
- In a large mixing bowl, put together the shredded cabbage, carrot, celery, pickled red pepper and parsley.
- Toss with salt and gently squeeze the shredded cabbage.
- Before serving, mix together the olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice and add to your salad.
- You can keep it chilled in the refrigerator for up to 2 days without the dressing.
Have you ever tried it? It’s a staple of mine and I keep wondering why I haven’t posted about it for so long. I hope it becomes a healthy staple salad for you as well. Let me know if you like the film.
From Athens with love,