Shopska salad is a classic Balkan salad made with cucumbers, tomato, onions, peppers, and grated cheese. Often called the best salad of Europe, think of Shopska as a milder and tastier version of the Greek salad. (Vinaigrette is optional.)
1yellow banana peppercored, cut into strips, sub with yellow bell pepper
6teaspoonsoilvegetable or olive
2teaspoonslemon juiceor vinegar
1-2teaspoonsparsleyseasoning, or minced if fresh
Salt and pepper to taste
8-10ouncescheesegrated if feta, gouda or similar; no need to grate if using soft cheese like goat
In a medium bowl combine all salad ingredients by layering them on top of each other. (If making a vinaigrette go to step 2. If skipping it, add salt and pepper to taste and then mix all ingredients. Then go to step 3.)
(Optional) In a small bowl combine all vinaigrette ingredients. Using a whisk or a fork with quick hand movements whisk all ingredients until they integrate. (While you're whisking try the dressing and adjust seasonings to your liking.) Pour the vinaigrette over the salad. Mix everything thoroughly until vinaigrette is evenly distributed over the salad.
Top with cheese. (You can serve Shopska salad and then top it with cheese or top the salad with cheese in the main salad bowl, and then serve.)
Ingredient notes: Tomatoes: Roma, tomatoes on the vine (Campari), and plum work best. Sub with beefsteak or Brandywine tomatoes.Peppers: Local babura peppers (green/ yellow) and devil's horn peppers (red) are best. Sub with banana peppers, or yellow and red bell peppers. Avoid: green bell peppers.Onion: Yellow onion is the go-to for this recipe. Sub with sweet and white onions. Avoid: red, shallots, and green onions. (Use if you must, but the salad will taste differently.)Cheese: Mild to sharp white cow and goat semi-hard and hard cheeses (preferably brined) are great options. Feta too. If using Greek feta find a type with less salt. (Care for a recommendation? Find a mild, semi-hard white cheese.) Smoked cheeses work wonderfully as well. Crumble or grate them. Finally, soft cheeses work well too, although they melt quickly when grated. Freeze for 20 minutes before grating. Vinaigrette: This is purely a matter of preference! Some like this salad just as is. You can make the vinaigrette several hours ahead, and keep it in the fridge. Take it out 30 minutes before serving, and whisk it immediately before serving, otherwise ingredients stay separated.Expert Tips:
Storage tips: This is a simple salad that depends on the freshness of its ingredients, and NOT a salad to be prepared hours ahead. Make it just ahead of eating, or an hour-two ahead tops. Add cheese and vinaigrette just before serving.