Shopska salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and feta, a fresh and delightful Bulgarian or Croatian salad.
Shopska salad or similar salads are popular all over Eastern Europe; they are refreshing, flavorful, and made with ripe, fresh produce. Perfect during the hot summer months.
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What is shopska salad?
Shopska salad – one of the most popular salads in the Balkan area and Eastern Europe. I have been eating a version of this shopska salad all my life without even knowing it was called like that.
Apparently, the shopska salad was created in the Shopluk region of Bulgaria during the 1960s “as part of a tourist promotion by the socialist party to highlight local ingredients”.
Nowadays, the shopska salad has become a standard not only in Bulgarian cuisine but also in Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, and so on, all over the Balkans and parts of Eastern Europe apparently. And the salad is really not very different from the Greek salad (made with olives) or the Turkish Coban or Shepherd's salad.
And some interesting information I found when reading about the origins of the salad. 2014 the shopska salad was voted as the most popular food in Europe in a “Tastes of Europe” competition. It was followed by the Lithuanian beet soup and the Romanian sarmale. Yuppy! My beloved sarmale made it in the top 3!
- I used a rather huge beefsteak tomato, ripe and sweet. It weighed about 350 g/ 12.3 oz. If you don't have beefsteak tomatoes, you can use 2-3 regular tomatoes.
- Just make sure that they are perfectly ripe and sweet; underripe tomatoes will definitely ruin the salad.
- I used mini cucumbers because I find them crunchier and tastier, and I buy them every time I happen to find them. You can replace them with regular longer cucumbers.
- However, if the large cucumber has a lot of seeds, scrape them out with a tablespoon; they tend to make the salad watery if not served immediately.
- I used a combination of red, yellow, and green peppers.
- The shopska salad can be made with either fresh or roasted peppers. I chose to make it with fresh peppers because that is the way we had in Croatia. But I will definitely try the roasted pepper version soon; it sounds great!
- Perfect for the shopska salad would be the Bulgarian sirene cheese, which is brined white cheese. Similar sorts of this kind of cheese are to be found all over the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
- This kind of cheese is made of sheep, cow/ goat's cheese, or a combination of those. I am not an expert in Bulgarian or Croatian cheese, but I can say more about the Romanian version of this brined white cheese, called telemea.
- Make sure you buy a creamy feta in brine; the creamier, the better. The cheese used for the shopska salads we ate in Croatia was incredibly creamy, so creamy that it was actually rather smeared than crumbled on top of the salad.
- Many shopska salad recipes I saw online use olive oil. Olive oil is fine, but I am absolutely sure that the first shopska salad we had in Croatia (the best of them all) was made with sunflower oil; I could taste it.
- However, if you prefer olive oil, do use it; it tastes great as well, provided you use a good quality extra virgin olive oil.
How to make shopska salad?
- Clean and chop all the vegetables.
- Mix them in a large bowl.
- Dressing: Whisk sunflower oil, red wine vinegar, fine sea salt, and pepper. Add to salad and combine.
- Crumble the creamy feta on top. Or you can mash the cheese with a fork and smear it over the salad.
- Adjust the taste with salt and pepper and more vinegar if you like it. I always add more vinegar than most people do, I grew up on rather sour salads, and that is the way I liked them. But do add vinegar according to your taste.
The shopska salad is best served immediately or on the day you make it, but leftovers the next day are fine as well.
What to serve with it?
- 1 large beefsteak tomato about 350 g/ 12.3 oz or the same amount of regular tomatoes (See note 1)
- 3 mini cucumbers each about 15 cm/ 6 inches long or a regular long cucumber (See note 2)
- 3 bell peppers red, yellow and green
- 1 medium onion red or white
- 1 handful fresh parsley
- 3 tablespoons sunflower oil]
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar to taste
- 1 cup feta cheese See note 3
- fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Chop the tomatoes into cubes. Halve and chop the mini cucumbers. If using a large cucumber, remove the seeds with a tablespoon. Chop the bell peppers. Finely chop the onion and the parsley.
- Mix all the vegetables in a large bowl.
- Dressing: whisk together the sunflower oil, red wine vinegar, fine sea salt, and pepper. Add to the salad and stir.
- Crumble the creamy feta on top of the salad. Sprinkle cheese on the salad or mash it with a fork and smear on top of the salad. You can also crumble it and stir it into the salad.
- Adjust the taste with salt and pepper and more vinegar, if you like it.
- Make sure that the tomatoes are ripe and sweet; unripe tomatoes would ruin the salad.
- You can use a regular long cucumber. If so, remove the seeds unless you serve the salad immediately. They tend to make the salad watery if you leave it for a while or if you have leftovers.
- Preferably Bulgarian or Balkan style sirene cheese – brined white cheese, but a tasty and creamy feta cheese can be used instead.