Friday, February 04, 2011

Leatherwood Vinegars add zing to Mediterranean cooking

By Laura Leasman

Within the last fifteen years, I was introduced to the fresh taste of Mediterranean cuisine. My first experience was with the family for whom I used to nanny. One night after work I was invited to join the family for dinner. They were making falafel and had hummus and pita bread on hand. We snacked on Kalamata olives and chatted as the falafel cooked in extra virgin olive oil. The falafel was served on the pita bread with humus, tomato, and lettuce.

I slowly became hooked to the light fresh flavors that can be found in Mediterranean cooking. I now love the large quantity and variety of vegetables, and the contrasting colors, they impart to the savory dishes. Eggplant is one vegetable, often used in Mediterranean cooking, that I am still working with. I find the eggplant to be very versatile, it absorbs the flavors of the food it is cooked with beautifully, but I have yet to perfect my cooking technique. Hummus, falafel and pita bread are still a favorite. These three ingredients, layered with tomato and lettuce, are a light and flavorful meal.

My favorite Mediterranean dish is the Greek, or Turkish, salad. The basic ingredients are: lettuce, tomato, red onion, Kalamata olives, Peperoncini peppers, and feta cheese. This salad is wonderful drizzled with olive oil, Leatherwood Vinegary vinegar and topped with freshly cracked black pepper.

I like to make my own dressings. It is easier to control the amount of the ingredients and I can tailor it to my taste craving of the day. I love to use the herbal vinegars. Ones I would recommend include basil, thyme, rosemary, and garlic, as well as any of the fruit vinegars. If home-made hummus is on the menu to accompany the salad, a dash of vinegar added to the hummus adds depth to its flavor.

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