|Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 22g||28%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||19%|
|Total Carbohydrate 9g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||7%|
|Total Sugars 5g|
|Vitamin C 17mg||87%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
Shopska salata is a salad that originated in the Shopluk region of Bulgaria. It is said to have been invented in the 1950s as part of a tourism promotion by the socialist party to highlight local ingredients. Different salads, from other Bulgarian regions, were also created, but only the shopska survived, and it's now considered a national dish.
In a practice common among Balkan countries like Serbia and Macedonia, this salad highlights the colors of the Bulgarian flag with bright red tomatoes, green cucumbers, red or green bell peppers, and onions. A light dressing of red wine vinaigrette is usually served on the side, but a generous amount of sirene cheese, similar to feta, is crumbled on top.
There are slight variations on the standard recipe, as every household has its take on the salad, but in general the basic ingredients remain unaltered. Since olive trees are not as plentiful in Bulgaria as they are elsewhere, sunflower oil is used in most cooking and salad dressings.
For the Salad:
4 medium tomatoes (chopped)
1 large cucumber (unpeeled and chopped)
4 green or red peppers (roasted or raw, chopped)
1 large yellow onion (chopped; or 6 green onions, sliced)
2 tablespoons parsley (fresh, chopped)
For the Dressing:
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Salt (to taste)
Black pepper (freshly ground, to taste)
For Topping the Salad:
1/2 cup Bulgarian Sirene cheese (or feta, crumbled)
Gather the ingredients.
In a large bowl, place the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, and parsley. Toss well to mix.
Place the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a screw-top jar. Close and shake until well incorporated.
Pour the dressing on top of the vegetables, turn into a serving bowl, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Alternatively, refrigerate the salad and dressing separately and allow each guest to add the desired amount on top of their salads.
When ready to serve, top the salad with crumbled cheese.
What is Sirene Cheese?
Sirene cheese is a dairy product common in the Balkans, and not exclusive to Bulgaria. The cheese can be made of cow's, goat's, or sheep's milk, or a combination of these. Although other cheeses, like feta, are similar, sirene cheese's flavor depends on the region where it's made, even thought it's the same production process. What the animals eat influences the flavor of the milk, and ultimately the resulting cheese.
Also known as "white brine sirene," this is a type of brined cheese, which means it's matured in a salty brine. It has a sharp flavor, is widely used as a table cheese, and is incorporated into multiple savory and sweet recipes.
How to Serve Shopska
This salad makes a wonderful appetizer served with hearty bread and a glass of rakia. As a side dish, it is a wonderful accompaniment to all kinds of meats, although its refreshing flavor is particularly wonderful when served with steaks, grilled chicken, or any type of pork roast.
Use the salad as a filling for vegetarian wraps, or combine it with any cold cuts of your liking to make sandwiches. Mix the salad with pasta, orzo, barley, or rice to make a refreshing summer salad, and add extra parsley on top to garnish the dishes.
Without the dressing, the salad can keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. The tomatoes will become soggy, so eating it as soon as it's made is best.