Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Armenian String Cheese Summer Salad










     A Tasty Summer Salad!
     Armenian cuisine is interesting, to say the least.  Armenia has a long culinary history that offers many great traditional recipes.  Everything from simple comfort food to fine pastry arts can be found in this cuisine.  Influences of Roman, Grecian, Turkish and Russian cooking styles can be noticed, but many more food traditions are unique to Armenian culture. 

     Many modern restaurant chefs overlook diverse old world cuisines.  The television food media seems to have a narrow range of focus that only places celebrity chefs in the spotlight.  Their are so many great cuisines that never seem to gain media attention.  The only way for the general public to find out about cuisines that are not featured in the spotlight is to do culinary research on their own.  The internet has become a good source of culinary information, but filtering data is necessary when seeking traditional cultural cuisine information that places importance on originality.  
     Another way to discover diverse cuisines is to dine a restaurant that has cultural cuisine theme.  For example, go to an Indian, Malaysian, Ethiopian or any restaurant that offers ethnic food and ask a few questions while ordering food that has never been experienced before.  Give the food a try.  This way an old traditional food item can be like something novel and new.  Trying traditional ethnic food for the first time can be an eye opening experience.  Experiencing the culture's traditional table service style is a learning experience too. 

     Goat Milk Yogurt Sauces are common in Armenian cuisine.  Exotic flavors are achieved with both simple combinations of ingredients and complex arrays of spices.  Fresh herbs are predominant in Armenian cuisine.  A salad dressing made with goat milk yogurt is refreshing, fat free and very healthy to eat.

     Today's recipe is not a traditional Armenian recipe, but it does feature good imported Armenian String Cheese.  The rest of the salad ingredients are common in Armenian cuisine and this supports the theme of today's salad creation.  The idea behind a creative recipe that features ingredients from a foreign cuisine is to create interest in classic cultural food from around the globe!  
     Most importantly, today's salad creation inspires readers to purchase some really good imported Armenian String Cheese.  This helps to support the Armenian traditional cheese making heritage.  
     Armenian String Cheese is different than commercial national brand String Cheese that is made in tonnage numbers at some giant cheese factory in Wisconsin.  Wisconsin cheese factories are well known for producing quantity cheese, not quality cheese.  High volume production methods usually sacrifice quality and the original character of a cheese is lost.  Basically if a bland lifeless flavor is what one seeks, then purchase cheese from a high volume domestic cheese company that only cares about bottom line profits.
     Imported Armenian String Cheese is made from goat milk, it is pure white in color and a few black caraway seeds flavor the stretched curds.  The flavor is very rich and the tangy goat milk flavor is present.  
     Salt brine is what creates the stringy texture when the warm curds are stretched.  The salt content in traditional string cheese can vary.  It is best to taste imported Armenian String Cheese to check for salt content when making something like today's salad recipe.  If the string cheese is a little salty, then add no salt to the salad dressing.  
     A peppery olive oil helps to offset salty flavors.  Virgin Olive Oil al Peperoncino is olive oil infused with mild dried chile pepper.  This type of infused oil is perfect with good imported Armenian String Cheese.  
     
    Where to find imported Armenian food products is a good question.  All that I can say is that a consumer would be lucky to find a wide variety of Mediterranean food in a common American grocery store.    
     The best source for authentic imported food products from Armenia is a Mediterranean, Grecian or Eastern European food market food market!  Another option if no such market exists in the local area, is to purchase Mediterranean food items at specialty shops on the internet.  Amazon offers a wide variety of specialty food items and sometimes free shipping is available.  

     *This entire salad recipe yields 1 serving!

     Armenian String Cheese Preparation:
     Separate a single rope of Armenian String Cheese that weighs about 3 1/2 ounces.
     Start separating the grain of the cheese at one end of the rope and pull long thin strands.
     Set the string cheese threads aside. 
     Be sure to taste the cheese to check for salt content.

     Sumac Berry Mint Goat Milk Yogurt:
     This sauce can be used for anything from making a Shawarma Sandwich to Salad Dressing!
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of goat milk yogurt in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of rubbed dried mint.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sumac berry spice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1 pinch of onion powder.
     Add 1 small pinch of black pepper.
     *Only add salt if the Armenian String Cheese is not salty tasting.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil while stirring.
     Step 3:  Add just enough water, while stirring, till the sauce is a thin consistency.  (About 2 to 3 teaspoons.)
     Chill the sauce till it is needed.

     Whole Wheat Pita Bread Toast Points:
     Step 1:  Cut an 8" whole wheat pita bread into thin wedges.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Allow the butter to cook to a light golden color.
     Step 3:  Add the pita wedges.
     Sauté and toss, till the bread is lightly toasted and crisp.
     Step 4:  Place the pita toast points on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Keep the pita toast points warm on a stove top.

     Armenian String Cheese Summer Salad:
     Virgin Olive Oil al Peperoncino is infused with dried mild paprika chile peppers.  This kind of fancy olive oil is nice for garnishing!
     Step 1:  Place the prepared string cheese in a mixing bowl.  
     Add 1/2 cup of peeled cucumber that is cut into thick quarter wedges.
     Add 4 to 5 plum tomato wedges.
     Add about 8 pickled sweet red & yellow banana pepper rings.
     Add 1 tablespoon of petite fresh dill weed sprigs.
     Add 6 to 8 large capers.  (Soak the capers in warm water to remove the salty brine.)
     Add the Sumac Berry Mint Yogurt Sauce.
     Toss the ingredients together.

     Armenian String Cheese Summer Salad - Sumac Berry Mint Yogurt and Virgin Olive Oil al Peperoncino:
     The quality of fresh herbs here in the desert can be lousy when summer temperatures are over 118ºF.  The fresh dill weed in the photos definitely was affected by the extreme heat.  Dried herbs are an option, but fresh herbs are traditional for Armenian cuisine. 
     Step 1:  Mound the Armenian String Cheese Summer Salad on the center of a plate.
     Arrange the whole wheat pita bread toast points on the plate around the salad to create a sunshine effect.
     Garnish the salad with fresh dill weed sprigs.  
     Step 2:  Drizzle a thin stream of Virgin Olive Oil al Peperoncino around the salad on the pita toast points and plate.  

     Viola!  This salad is very filling and it is meant to be slowly savored on a lazy summer afternoon.  A relaxed casual dining style is preferred by many folks prefer this time of year. 

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