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Published June 04, 2013, 11:30 PM

Ingredients can give foods an ethnic twist

Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good. – Alice May Brock of Alice’s Restaurant fame)

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.

– Alice May Brock of Alice’s Restaurant fame)

To the above I would add that curry and chutney make it Indian; cilantro and salsa make it Mexican; cinnamon, sumac, yogurt and cloves make it Middle Eastern.

Different combinations of ingredients can give any dish an ethnic twist. And to give a dish a Greek personality, I add lemon, feta, Kalamata olives and sometimes tzatziki sauce.

But I usually use vinaigrette sauce and once mastered, you have a hundred sauces at the end of a spoon. It’s a fine sauce to whet the imagination.

One day recently we had a summer day and I hungered for pasta salad. And since I’ve been yearning for Greek food, I made my salad with a Greek twist.

Deciding what to put in the salad is largely a matter of what I have on hand. And I always have lemons, feta, yogurt and Kalamata olives in the pantry. Kalmatas are a brine-cured black olive with a fruity flavor and meaty texture.

I had some leftover salmon to put into my salad but freshly cooked tuna, shrimp or chicken are also tasty. I add a few hard-cooked eggs if I’m short of fish or fowl.

I like to use short pasta such as rotini, fusilli, macaroni or penne. They combine well with other ingredients and take on the sauce nicely.

Sun-dried tomatoes are available in packages and I put them in a jar and cover with good olive oil. The capers add piquancy.

PASTA SALAD

Vinaigrette sauce (below)

8 ounces pasta, cooked and drained

8 ounces fresh salmon, cooked and flaked

1 small zucchini, diced

1 large shallot, minced

½ red bell pepper, chopped

1 cup grape tomatoes or ½ cup sun dried tomatoes in oil

2 tablespoons capers, drained

¼ cup minced parsley

1 to 2 tablespoon minced dill weed

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

½ cup Kalamata olives

Fresh baby spinach

Pour vinaigrette sauce into a large bowl. Add pasta and salmon, and with a large spoon, turn the pasta and fish to coat. Add remaining ingredients (except spinach) and do likewise. Serve on a liberal handful of baby spinach. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

VINAIGRETTE SAUCE

1 clove garlic minced and mashed with 1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

½ cup good olive oil

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Add salt and mashed garlic to lemon juice and stir to dissolve salt. Add mustard, olive oil and pepper and briskly stir to combine. Taste and correct any imbalance.

TZATZIKI

2 cups plain yogurt

1 large cucumber peeled, seeded and grated

2 cloves garlic crushed with ½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon good olive oil

Strain yogurt overnight to thicken it. Squeeze excess liquid out of cucumber. In a medium bowl, stir together cucumber and strained yogurt. Stir in remaining ingredients and chill mixture for several hours.

Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

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