How to Make April Bloomfield's Greek Salad

A collage of juicy flavors and sun-drenched colors, this salad "is basically summer on a plate," says the celebrated chef and cookbook author. "You can't get better."

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

A Girl and Her Greens

"You eat with your eyes first," declares April Bloomfield, sorting through a jewel-like array of heirloom tomatoes to find the perfect green zebra. "Your food should look pretty." This is not surprising coming from a professional chef, as first impressions can make or break a restaurant meal. But she's talking about the priorities of a home cook. "You want people to be like 'oohhh, ahhh,' especially if you are cooking for friends at home," she says. In the veggie-centric world of April Bloomfield, executive chef and co-owner of The Spotted Pig, The John Dory Oyster Bar and various other New York hot spots, this isn't as hard as it sounds; no need for exotic or expensive ingredients. A great dish comes down to choosing perfect ripe ingredients and treating them with care, as she explains in her delightful, chatty book A Girl and Her Greens: Hearty Meals from the Garden. Eager to get a firsthand view of the English expat at work, we invited Bloomfield to Food Network Kitchen to prepare one of her quintessential summer dishes: Greek Salad. Here's how she does it. 

Trim Away the Hard Stuff

"Tomatoes should just slightly give when pressed with a finger. And they should smell amazing," says Bloomfield, prodding a craggy scarlet heirloom. "Take out the eye or stem first. Move your knife around in a circle," she instructs, deftly removing a stem. "Then cut the tomato in half. It should be shiny and bright — not mealy. If there are white bits, cut them out, because they are hard," says Bloomfield, who even trims the stem ends of little cherry tomatoes. "Take off what you need to." 

Your Plate Is a Landscape

"I like nice sharp angles," says Bloomfield, whose precise knife work makes slicing through a tomato skin look as easy as cutting butter. "The more variety you get in your salad, the more fun it is to eat," she says. "When you stand the pieces on the plate you have peaks and troughs — it adds texture." She transfers a sheet tray full of vegetables to the refrigerator for 30 minutes. "I like tomatoes chilled," says Bloomfield, blithely breaking the "thou-shalt-not-refrigerate-tomatoes" commandment of storage. 

Handle with Care

"The amazing thing about cucumbers is they are cool, crunchy and refreshing," says Bloomfield. "The last thing you want is to cut them too skinny — they will just wilt when you add salt. I like them chunky." Here again, she varies her shapes and keeps the edges sharp. "I cut some in half-moons, some into oblique pieces." She gently picks up each piece: "Don't just dump them in a bowl; keep them flat." 

Make a Quick Pickle

Spring onions are a treat from Bloomfield's childhood. ("My mum used to make tomato sandwiches with them. They were mind-blowing.") She peels off the thin outer layer of skin, chops the onions into different-size pieces and marinates them in Banyuls vinegar, made from sweet French wine. "It has an aged, oaky taste," she says. "I like taking something clean and fresh — the onions — and adding aged depth." Red onions and sherry vinegar are fine substitutes. 

Use Your Fingers

You don't need fancy knife skills to prep olives. "Press down on them with your fingers to reveal the pit," Bloomfield demonstrates with her thumb. "You can also leave the seed in, but tell people before you serve them. I like the process of biting on a pit." Either way, "keep them nice and cold so they are salty and clean." 

Look for Visual Cues

Bloomfield blends the oil and vinegar with a whisk ("the cutest ever," she marvels). "The dressing is ready when it goes creamy," Bloomfield says. "Awesomeness!" she declares after taking a taste. 

Take Time to Drizzle

"Take time to drizzle," Bloomfield says, distributing the dressing among the produce on her sheet tray. "Make sure everyone gets a little something. You don't want a mouthful of undressed tomato. Taste when it's on to make sure the seasoning is right."

Balance Shapes and Colors

"If you take the time to cut these shapes, then take the time to make the plate look good," says Bloomfield. She transfers each piece of tomato and cucumber individually, her spoon hovering around the plate until she is satisfied with the composition of the ingredients.

Measure with Your Hands

"When I was working on my book, I didn't want to tell people to shove herbs in a cup to measure them," says Bloomfield, referring to how easily tender herbs can bruise. "So we came up with a five-finger pinch — not a fistful, a pinch. It's usually quite consistent." 

Serve Straightaway

"This is the ultimate showstopper salad — it's a salad but a refined one," says Bloomfield, scattering chunks of creamy feta over the top. "It is very umami — there are salty olives, aged cheese in brine and tomatoes." When you take a bite, "it will be like 'Bahhh!'" 

Get the Recipe: Greek Salad