The Awakened Chef
Baby Heirloom Tomatoes, Peaches and Feta Cheese
Updated: Aug 26, 2020
Every month, I look forward to receiving my copy of Food and Wine® magazine.
When this great little magazine arrives in the mail, I fight every temptation to jump right in and devour through the pages. But I don’t. I won’t even peek inside. Instead, I put it on a shelf in my office; the same shelf every time. It’s a special shelf that is reserved only for these “soon-to-be-consumed” little treasures. And the magazines sit there waiting for me to be ready.
I then wait for a quiet Saturday morning. And before everyone wakes up, I sneak downstairs early, with great anticipation for a routine that I’ve come to love so much: a great cup of coffee, me, and my magazine, sitting by the pool.
Not just any coffee. My Saturday coffee is a special one. I reserve the best coffee beans for this ritual. There’s a Kenyan roast that I like (when not using Jamaica’s own Blue Mountain, of course!). I like to grind it coarsely and put this dark and aromatic coffee in my French press where it percolates for a few minutes.
My ritual also includes listening to the Spa Channel on Pandora®. That, plus the fountain running in the background, well… it just transforms the entire experience. It’s serene. It’s calm. It's heavenly.
How can one not find inspiration in this setting? I find that inspiration happens when I allow it to happen. Or, rather, when I create the environment for it to happen. By the time I’m done with the magazine, my head is usually exploding with ideas and all sorts of meals I want to cook.
The August issue of Food and Wine had a great recipe for a tomato, peach and feta salad, which I decided to try this past weekend. We are lucky to have great tomatoes in Jersey, especially in August, so I was excited to see what locally-grown produce I could find. I picked up some amazing baby heirloom tomatoes that were perfectly tart and tangy. I coated them in a nice silky olive oil (Enzo’s of course!) and sprinkled some gray sea salt.
I was also able to find great peaches. They were incredibly sweet and bursting with flavor. These were really, really sweet peaches, so I already knew they were going to be a great contrast with the tomatoes. I was excited.
Next step was to find really good, fresh feta, which I did. The recipe called for the feta cheese to be soaked in balsamic vinegar and olive oil – it was a great tip! I first mixed up the balsamic vinegar and olive oil with some salt and pepper and then poured it over the cheese. I let the feta cheese sit for 15 minutes and it absorbed the liquid beautifully. All that flavor got soaked right into the cheese.
I bought the feta cheese in a block, instead of crumbled up, so that I could carve out the cheese in the shape and size I wanted. For this salad, I cut the cheese in triangular pieces so they would stand out from all the other shapes going on in the salad. I’m a big believer that appearances are crucial to the taste of the dish.
To finish, I fried some rosemary springs until they got crisp. And for extra crunch, I added roughly cut pieces of pita chips. They were really thin and lightly seasoned.
I then took as much dedication in the assembly of the salad as I did in picking and prepping the ingredients. And…
It looked beautiful!
The tartness of the tomatoes, the sweetness of the peaches, the saltiness of the cheese, and the crunchiness of the chips and rosemary created this burst of intense flavors that balanced each other extremely well.
This salad looked like summer. This salad tasted like summer.
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