Thursday, January 26, 2017

Manouri and Kefalograviera Tomato Salad

     A Salad of Tomatoes and Classic Greek Cheese To Wet The Appetite!
     Tomatoes and good cheese are a classic combination for a simple salad appetizer.  Today's cheese and plum tomato platter can be served year round, but this salad is best when ripe local tomatoes are in season.  If the tomatoes are Non-GMO organic Heirloom Plum Tomatoes, the flavor will be even better.
     Ripe Plum Tomatoes are a classic choice, but it seems like all Plum Tomatoes at regular grocery stores are genetically modified and grown at chemically dependent farms.  Plum Tomatoes at high production farms are shipped green, stored cold, then quickly ripened with ethylene gas.  The result of all this abuse is a plum tomato that tastes like cardboard.  The flavor is the key when making a simple tomato salad appetizer, so it pays to be selective when shopping for Plum Tomatoes.  
     Insalata Caprese is a classic Italian recipe.  The original Insalata Caprese was made with Fresh Mozzarella and a simple lemon flavored olive oil sauce.  Many chefs simply feature a top shelf olive oil with mild cheese from the Mediterranean region, with nothing extra added.  Depending on the cheese selection, the "simpler the better" does not always apply.  Today's recipe features a simple garlic herb vinaigrette that is not too acidic.  
     Today's recipe features two classic Grecian cheese varieties that are protected by originality control laws.  Both Manouri and Kefalograviera pair well with tomatoes.
     Manouri Cheese is made with the whey byproduct from Feta Cheese or sheep milk cheese.  Cream is added to give this cheese a light semi firm texture.  Manouri has a delicate texture that easily crumbles, so care must be taken when handling this cheese.  The flavor is light and it is not tart tasting like goat milk cheese can be.  Manouri is pleasantly light on the palate.
     Kefalograviera is a hard cheese that can be aged for an extended time to increase flavor.  A short aging period results in a smooth hard texture that is easily sliced thin.  Kefalograviera that is aged for an extended time will be extra hard and it will crumble if care is not taken when slicing.  Kefalograviera is usually made with goat milk, but depending on the local point of origin, sheep milk can be in the mixture.  The sharp flavor of Kefalograviera remains mellow on the palate even when aged for an extended time.    
     Garlic Oregano Vinaigrette:
     This recipe yields about 2 tablespoons.  (1 petite portion)
     For this cheese platter, the dressing should have a mild flavor that is not too acidic.  Virgin olive oil is far too strong of a flavor for the Manouri and Kefalograviera Cheese selection.  Pomace Olive Oil should be used to make the dressing, because it has a milder flavor.  Keep in mind that only a small amount of the dressing is needed, especially if the Plum Tomatoes are ripe and "sweet."
     Step 1:  Place 1 teaspoon of water in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of white wine vinegar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.  (Rub the oregano between your fingers to release the full flavor.)
     Add 1 small pinch of ground dried mild red chile pepper.  (Paprika or dried Kashmir Pepper are good choices.)
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Set the mixing bowl aside for 5 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Step 2:  Slowly add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil while whisking, so the oil partially emulsifies.
     Place the vinaigrette in a container.
     Stir before serving.
     Manouri and Kefalograviera Tomato Salad:
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer salad portion.
     Manouri and Kefalograviera Cheese are available at Greek delicatessens.  These cheese varieties are shaped like thick wheels, and they are usually cut into wedge shaped pieces for customers.  Purchasing a thin wedge of each cheese will make assembling this salad much easier.
     Tango Lettuce is nice for garnishing plates.  If none is available, any petite spring lettuce green will do.
     Step 1:  Cut 1 ripe large Plum Tomato into 3/16" thick slices.
     Slightly overlap each of the tomato slices in a circle pattern on a plate.
     Step 2:  Cut a thin wedge of Kefalograviera Cheese into 5 long triangle shaped pieces that are about 3/16" thick.
     Arrange the Kefalograviera Cheese triangles in a star pattern on the tomato slices.
     Step 3:  Cut a thin wedge of Manouri Cheese into 5  long triangle shaped wedges that are about 1/2" thick.
     Arrange the Manouri wedges in a star pattern between the Kefalograviera slices.
     Step 4:  Place a few small pieces of Tango Lettuce on the center of the plate.
     Place a few small thin Bermuda Onion slices around the lettuce.
     Drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons of the Garlic Oregano Vinaigrette over the center of the cheese wedges and tomatoes.
     Viola!  A simple appetizer salad with a Greek theme!

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