Posts tagged ‘feta cheese’

January 17, 2012

Salad Series {post #7) Carrot Salad with Feta, Toasted Hazelnuts and Spicy Pan Roasted Shrimp

Pottery handmade by Catalina Aguirre Hoffman

Pottery handmade by Catalina Aguirre Hoffman

Carrot Salad with Feta, Toasted Hazelnuts and Spicy Pan Roasted Shrimp

It turned out to be a very exciting week as my pal Val (grinning) handed me a clipped newspaper article with the headline “Largest asian market to open in south Florida”, and they grow their own vegetables! Could this be true? And within driving distance of us? This is extraordinary news, but not exactly around the corner. It takes a special kind of place to get us to drive out of our comfortable 2 mile radius, and it usually involves some sort of ethnic food. But, if we have to drive “out west” there’s no better way to go than with my extra special friend Val, in her extra large, extra cool 62′ Cadillac. So, as soon as we coordinated our schedules we headed to the market, chatting non-stop about all the possibilities (giant fish tanks, pleasantly unfamiliar smells, crazy looking fruits and vegetables that we don’t know how to prepare…but will buy anyway).
Just a single wrong turn and we finally made it to the market, full of anticipation. As we walked through the large double doors it was just as exciting as our imaginations lead us to believe. There they were, large fish tanks stacked 3 tall and 6 across with live shrimp, snapping crabs, fish of all shapes and sizes, jet black eels (((slithering))). We quickly moved past the cute little frogs and turtles lined in a row, staring up at us from the bottom tanks. Each step was more exciting than the prior. Giant clams, sea snails, jelly fish! Val’s fish of choice was a whole Pompano, and after much pondering, I chose these beautiful shrimp. Discovery after discovery, we made our way through the rest of the market, leaving with an array of baby pickled vegetables including tiny heads of garlic and lotus roots, granulated honey, julienned dried red chilies, fresh udon and a mixed bag of exotic, extra ripe fruit discovered on the bargain rack. During the ride home I felt inspired and satisfied – day dreaming about the little frogs and turtles, secretly planning for their future escape.


February 22, 2011

Two Salads and a Mandolin

Fresh Zucchini Salad with Avocado, Toasted Almonds and Feta

Fennel, Orange and Walnut Salad with Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette

I haven’t always liked the mandolin; it scared me, for the obvious reason – it can seriously hurt you! One of my first positions out of culinary school was at an amazing restaurant in Los Angeles. I dreamed about working at this place. I started in the pantry station (salads, hot and cold appetizers, pretty much the bottom of the brigade, but boy was I happy to be there!). One of the first jobs the Chef gave me was to slice a case of Brussels Sprouts. That’s probably the equivalent of the entire display at the grocery store, and I was to use a mandolin, gulp.

But why couldn’t I have just used my knife? “No, they need to be shaved extremely thin, like only a mandolin can do.” Surely this must have been a test. She could have easily given the job to one of the more experienced Chefs, who could do the job in a fraction of the time, blindfolded. This was one of those defining kitchen moments that would determine my destiny. If I’d failed, I’d have been humiliated and sentenced to peeling potatoes and chopping mushrooms for the duration of my stay.

So there I was, the newbie, and the only female on the hot line, sweating, not from the extreme heat but because of all the eyes fixed on me, giggling to themselves. They probably had bets going to see how long it would take me to get rushed to the hospital, quit, throw something or even worse – cry! Did I mention this was a non-paying internship?

Well, failure wasn’t an option, so I put on a triple layer of latex gloves, took a deep breath, put my head down and shoveled through the case, one by one. I survived with only minor injuries, which I kept to myself.

I’m not big on kitchen gadgets, I use very few of them. But the ones I own, I use all the time, and the mandolin is one of them. It’s a time saver that makes beautiful, uniform slices and ribbons of any size, from paper thin radishes for salads to potatoes, perfect to scallop or fry into chips. Few of us can manage this with a knife, and for the rest, there’s a mandolin. If you’re not already using a mandolin, I encourage you to pick one up. You may consider getting a pair of cut resistant gloves, because you can never be too careful. In my opinion, the Japanese Benriner is the best, it’s scary sharp, lightweight and for $20, the price is right! (click here for more info)

I received this amazingly fresh Zucchini and Fennel in my CSA share this week, and immediately knew I wanted to use them in salads, uncooked. These are bright, summery salads, and judging by the horrific weather a lot of you are having this winter, I hope it brightens your day a bit.

Fresh Zucchini Salad with Avocado, Feta and Almonds:
I was so excited to unwrap the ginormus, New York Times Cook Book for Christmas. One of the first recipes I flipped to was called “Zucchini Carpaccio,” it sounded perfect. I’ve adapted it a bit. I didn’t have pistachios or the oil, but I did have slivered almonds and almond oil, and thought a firm salty feta would be a nice addition. I also added the Thyme to the Zucchini as it marinated, I wanted the Thyme to have a chance to marry with the rest of the flavors in the dish, instead of adding it at the end as the recipe suggests. I have to say, this is one of the best salads I’ve had in a long time.

Fennel and Orange Salad with Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette:
I used the Tangelos and Lemons from my share, but any orange or tangerine will work great. If you don’t have a lemon, white wine or champagne vinegar will do the trick. I added the fennel fronds and fennel seeds to bring out the full flavor of the fennel. The smokiness of the Paprika plays well with the sweet tangelos and tart lemons.

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