Shopska Salata

I recently spent two weeks on a mission trip in Vienna, Austria working with students who are studying in a theologian degree program with TCMI International Institute. These students come from mostly Eastern European countries to spend some much needed rest time in the Vienna Woods while attending classes towards their degree. We, as short-term workers, are there to take care of their everyday needs such as meals, housekeeping and maintenance of the campus so they may concentrate on their studies.

This year we had 57 students from 11 different countries. One of my greatest joys is to meet these students and learn about their family and their ministries. They are always willing to share traditions and especially food dishes from their native homeland. As I sat at meals with the students, I made a point to ask them which of their country’s traditional dishes they would like me to spotlight on my food blog. It’s a blessing to see their faces light up when they talk about their favorite dish and reminisce about a family member who makes the best one.

So, for the next 11 days I will be spotlighting each of these countries and a traditional dish in honor of these students and their love for their homeland. I encourage you to try some of these dishes and if you like them, do further research on that particular country’s cuisine. You may find a new favorite recipe or two for your family!

Spotlight: Bulgaria

Dish: Shopska Salata

Shopska salad, also known as Bulgarian salad is a cold salad popular throughout the Balkans and Central Europe. It is made from tomatoes, cucumbers, onion/scallions, raw or roasted peppers, sirene (white brine cheese), and parsley.

The vegetables are usually diced and salted, followed by a light dressing of sunflower oil (or olive oil, which is less authentic), which are occasionally complemented by vinegar. The addition of vinegar contributes, however, to the sour flavor that the tomatoes impart. In restaurants, the dressings are provided separately. Lastly, the vegetables are covered in a thick layer of grated or diced sirene cheese. This salad is often consumed as an appetizer.

I love a salad that doesn’t have lettuce. Don’t get me wrong. I like lettuce but this type of salad is like getting all the good stuff in every bite. We have made this for the students in the past and I’ve made it a couple times at home as well. It is delicious and refreshing!

Ingredients:

  • long, thin English cucumber
  • 1/2 of a large red onion
  • 1/2 of a large bell pepper (color of your choice)
  • large, very ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely crumbled Bulgarian feta cheese

Preparation:

  1. Half peel the cucumber by paring every 1/4 inch or so to create a striped pattern and then slice it into 1/2 inch rounds. Toss them into a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Chop the onion and bell pepper into a 1/2 inch dice and add them to the bowl.
  3. Seed the plum tomatoes and dice and add them to the bowl along with the olives and parsley.
  4. Whisk the oil and vinegar together and add it to the mix. Toss the vegetables untill they are coated with the dressing. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Now place the salad into an appropriate size serving bowl and shower the top with the feta. Chill before serving.

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