Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta Cheese

tortilla soup 052

Aunt Sharron came for a visit a few months back.  She spent some time keeping Molly beagle company while we frolicked with Mickey and Ariel and the Pirates of the Caribbean.  She kindly delivered us to and from the airport, no small favor when you live on an island and rely on ferries to get you to and fro. 

She welcomed us home with rich and savory vegetable soup and the next day we pored over stacks of cookbooks and chose this recipe to begin our cook-fest.  Just now I realize that it has fennel in it…after my last post you know that I’ve recently become a huge fan of fennel but it turns out that fennel has been sneaking around my kitchen for a while.

You can grill or broil this.  I  broiled all the veggies together with absolutely no regard for the special handling suggested below with different cooking times for everything.  I skipped the step about cutting into smaller pieces and tossed the whole thing, hot and charred, fresh from the broiler into a bowl and onto the table.

I love that some of the veggies were crisp tender and some more melting.  I like that the feta softened and smeared all those lovely veggies with it’s tart and pungent cheesiness. The vinegar made a bright counterpoint to the spicy basil. 

With each bite I re-invented this dish, first as a sandwich piled high on a baguette and quickly grilled , then as a relish, chopped fine and served beside meatloaf or added to pasta for a healthy flavor punch. 

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta Cheese

1 small or ½ medium fennel bulb with fronds attached

1 medium orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut lengthwise into 4 or 5 pieces

1 medium red onion cut into ¼ inches thick slices

1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices

1 medium yellow squash cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

3 Table spoons red wine vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

1½ cups grape tomatoes, halved

½ cup crumbled feta cheese (2½ oz.)

3 tablespoons loosely packed thinly sliced fresh basil

Cut the stalks off the fennel bulb. Remove about ¼ cup of the fronds from the stalks, chop the fronds, and reserve. Cut the fennel in quarter lengthwise and trim away most of the core leaving just enough intact to keep the layers together.  Slice the quarters lengthwise ¼ inch thick.

Prepare a medium gas or charcoal grill fire (alternately, use an indoor grill pan over medium-high heat). Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on a tray or work surface. Brush both sides of the vegetables with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with ¼ teaspoon salt.

Grill the vegetables in batches, flipping once, on both sides are nicely charred and the vegetables are just tender about 12 minutes total for the fennel, 10 minutes total for the pepper and 6 minutes total for the onion and squash. When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, cut them into ½ inch dice and transfer to a large bowl.  Add feta.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the vinegar, ¼teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Toss the vegetables with the dressing .

Gently stir in the tomatoes and fennel fronds. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.

Serves 4…from Fine Cooking April/May issue

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