Skordalia – A Garlicky Greek Salad

Skordalia! Who doesn’t associate Greece with this yummy, tasty, thick Greek salad or dip, however you want to call it? Skordalia is a unique Greek apetizer that can be eaten just with pita bread, with all vegetable and meat dishes, with fish and seafood, actually with everything except sweets!

Skordalia is a simple combination of pureed boiled potatoes, crushed garlic, olive oil and vinegar seasoning. That’s the most traditional way of preparing it, although it’s not unusual to hear that some people use soaked stale bread, walnut or almonds, or fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar. Skordalia is something between salad, spread, dip and meze plate for the Greeks.

Skordalia History

skordalia-2Skordalia is the modern equivalent of ancient skorothalmi, which was a favorite dish of ancient Athenians and included bread instead of potatoes (well, the ancients didn’t know about potatoes yet!). That says enough about the history of this thick creamy dip.

As for the modern name itself, there are suggestions that skordalia is a compound word of Greek skordo, which means “garlic” and Italian agliata, which means “garlicky”.

In the Ionian islands under Venetian rule, Greeks called it “aliada”, which may explain the Italian influence. Whatever is the root of its name, skordalia stands as old, traditional Greek all year long pleasure at the table.

Some people tend to equalize skordalia with aioli, but they are not the same – aioli is, in the best case, basically a very poor distant relative of Greek potato and garlic salad/dip.

One important thing to keep in mind is that skordalia is a matter of taste. Is it going to be more or less garlicky, more or less “oily”, it’s simply your choice. Since it has only a couple of ingredients, skordalia gives you a chance to upgrade its final result right away adding more of one or another ingredient. The rule of “no precise measure” applies to all ingredients but particularly to the amount of extra virgin olive oil needed. Actually, you can use as much olive oil as you want.

Bakaliaros with Skordalia

Bakaliaros with Skordalia

Although skordalia can be served anytime, with almost anything, one of the “must dishes” for Greeks is Bakaliaros – Skordalia made on March 25th, when Greeks celebrate the Independence Day and the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary (Panagia). It just happened that Greek’s freedom from the Ottoman Empire was gained at the same historic day when Virgin Mary learned that she was carrying the divine child.

To celebrate this day, Greeks gather around the Bakaliaros Skordalia, a dish of fried cod fish served with skordalia on the side. Skordalia is prepared the day before, as well as salted cod fish which is soaked in a  a few baths of water for at least 12 hours.

Skordalia Recipe

  • 1/2 kg. potatoes, boiled
  • 10 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Skordalia can be prepared both by blender/mixer and by hand, as in the old times. Any kind of mixer definitely makes the process of making skordalia faster and easier but there is some subtle difference if you eat one made by hand.

In any case, boil potatoes in a lot of salted water. Be sure that they are well done, drain and peel them. Using mixer or blender, add potatoes and garlic cloves and purée them together at the lowest speed until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy. It should be thick but not too much (of the later happens, add a little water and keep mixing it.) Oil and vinegar are added at the end, slowly, then salt and pepper to taste.

Making skordalia with hand is not any different, except you have to mash potatoes and crushed garlic really well before you add other ingredients.

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One Response to Skordalia – A Garlicky Greek Salad

  1. David JM March 25, 2012 at 13:41 #

    I adore this dish on a hot sunny Corfu day……. Plenty of village salad, Prawns, Pitta and Retsina. Perfect holiday fare.

    It is my undrestanding that the potatoes are traditionally cooked in the water that was used to boil dried, salted cod – the main dish which is accompanied by Skorthalia.

    DJM, east England

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