Recently one of my friends actually had the audacity to cook something NOT on my blog. To my satisfaction, what she decided to make did not please husband and the next day she ended up back on my blog, making the Turkey and Green Beans in Lettuce and later telling me what a HUGE hit it was with her husband and mother. I felt that warm sort of satisfaction that comes from feeling like I'm always right. When we talked later, I mentioned to her that her husband's tastes buds aligned very well with the flavor profiles on my blog and that she should know that, because my blog is fairly consistent in the flavors it uses and showcases. I don't often do experiments and for the most part, you almost know what you are going to taste if you are consistent user of my blog because I tend to go with very consistent flavors and style. For example, you aren't going to find very French influenced dishes on my blog, only because I tend not to like them.
But the consistency of food and flavors on my blog is also a bit of a handcuff - because I generally steer towards and cook those ideas of food that are familiar and comfortable. I don't really extend myself beyond my comfort levels - classic baked goods, easy meals, marinated meats, starches. I am not expanding nor am I really innovative or different in my cooking. Perhaps the biggest stretch this year has been the Korean Tacos as it pushed my food ideas a bit, but even that wasn't that much of a reach for me. I've been locked down to my food and flavors and I'm interested in trying to change that.
Over this past weekend, I had the opportunity for 49 hours in Napa with some girlfriends, and one of the things that I really wanted to do was to look for some things that were unexpected in cooking. During a trip to Signorello Vineyards, I had the chance to watch Chef Eric prepare some food that was going to be used in a wine and food pairing on their terrace. (Incidentally a gorgeous property with a beautiful view and pool - worth going for the view and food pairing.) He was cooking up some Kobe beef but it was this one side dish that intrigued me - this peach and jicama salad. I didn't get to taste it but watched him prepare it and was very intrigued by the flavors involved. He had cotija cheese on top of his and jicama and it all seemed very unusual and weird. I asked him about it and he told me the following, "I was originally going to do it with mango and not peaches, but the mangos were not good this morning, but the peaches were so I ended up doing it with peaches." Really I thought. He could just decide to put a different fruit in and it would taste good.
Since I did not pay for a food and wine pairing, I did not get to taste it, but the flavor combination intrigued me so much that I decided to try a similar idea. I found a couple of beautiful yellow nectarines at the grocery store and thought the flavor contrast between yellow and white nectarines would be nice. The rest I sort of figured out on the fly, and it was DELICIOUS. I was cautious about trying it with some Korean Marinated Flank Steak and Korean Chili Paste Spicy Chicken and found myself extremely surprised by how well they went together. As a person with a pretty traditional Korean palate, I'd probably want to serve this more with a simple chicken, or grilled fish, or just regular steak (unmarinated like Chef Eric did when he made it), but it is an excellent side dish.
Daughter #1 could not get enough of it. She ate the lion's share of the portion I made today (equivalent of 4 good sized peaches) and kept on saying that the salad was too yummy. Daughter #2 gave it a few bites, and she preferred it without cheese (she is not a cheese lover) and liked it sprinkled with the special pink Himalayan salt I picked up this weekend. I offer two versions - one with feta and one sprinkled with salt, both equally delicious.
Nectarine Salad with Cilantro, Scallions and Feta
Serves 4-6 as a side dish
4 nectarines, cut around the stone, sliced about 1/4 inch thick. (a mix of white and yellow is lovely)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled (can be left out for a dairy-free option)
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl, quickly whisk together lemon juice, olive oil and cilantro. In a large bowl, place the nectarines and scallions. Pour the cilantro lemon juice dressing on top and toss together. Right before serving, add the feta cheese and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Enjoy!