Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Roasted Aubergine & Green Olive Salad with Homemade Mizithra

Roasted Eggplant, Green Olive & Mizithra Salad 1, edited

Some of you will recall an earlier post in which I told you about my trip to Greece, to the island of Paros, back in June this year.  There are not enough superlatives to describe my trip, which was very profound on many levels, but I'm sure it will come as no surprise to know that a major highlight for me was of course the food.  One of the things I especially came to love was a local cheese called mizithra.  Every few days we would wander down the little lane in this photo to the "fruit and veggie man", who also happened to be the "mizithra man" - he had big tubs of it, and would scoop out a big spoonful onto a sheet of lightly waxed paper, which would then be taken home to be used in all sorts of salads.  I also loved it on toast with the local bitter orange preserves.

Greece 130

Mizithra is a soft cheese, with a mild, ever-so-slightly-salty flavour - somewhat similar to ricotta, but with a firmer texture.  It doesn't have a stand-out flavour, so not really one to eat on its own - it is much better suited to crumbling into salads, or into pasta dishes, or maybe mix with some rice as a stuffing for peppers or tomatoes.  Really, you could use it pretty much anywhere that you might ordinarily use feta, and is definitely useful when you want a slightly more subtle flavour than you might expect from feta.  I also love it on toast with apricot jam - you could actually spread the mizithra on the toast instead of butter, then dollop the jam on top, but I like to go the whole hog - butter first, then the jam, and then crumble the mizithra on top.

Apricot Jam with Mizithra

Sadly, however, mizithra is not a cheese that you can buy here in New Zealand (not to my knowledge anyhow - if you know otherwise, please let me know), and it's certainly a product I've been missing since I came home.  Imagine my excitement then, when I recently joined in with the Forging Fromage group to make my own ricotta and discovered the path to true happiness - yes, I could make my own mizithra.  This was incredibly easy to make, and kept well, and has now become a regular staple in my kitchen.   Since I didn't make any changes to the recipe whatsoever, I'm not going to repeat it here, but you can find the recipe in this post at Forging Fromage - follow the simple instructions and you can't go wrong.  I have a feeling that the mizithra we ate in Greece was actually made from sheep's milk, and I would love to try making it with sheep's milk, but of course that is not a readily available ingredient here.  I have been told though that we can get sheep's milk powder here, so I am going to try a batch using that sometime soon - I'll be sure to let you know how that goes.  Of course if there is anyone out there who has tried that please let me know how it worked for you.

Mizithra 2, edited

One of my favourite uses for mizithra is in this salad - this has a great combination of flavours and textures, and it's one that I make over and over again - I'm sure you will too.  You don't have to be too precise about quantities here - feel free to add a bit more of this, a little less of that, as the feeling takes you.  If you don't have access to mizithra, and can't be bothered to make any for this recipe, just substitute with feta.  I also use the flesh of half a preserved lemon in this salad - if you don't have that, just use freshly grated lemon zest instead - but the salty tang of preserved lemon really adds an extra dimension that makes up for the mildness of the cheese.

Roasted Aubergine, Green Olive & Mizithra Salad

1 medium/large aubergine
olive oil
salt & pepper
handful of green olives
flesh of 1/2 a preserved lemon, thinly sliced
(or freshly grated lemon zest)
rocket (or other salad leaves)
mizithra (or feta)

For the dressing:
extra virgin olive oil
freshly squeezed lemon juice
honey
salt & pepper

To garnish:
1 lemon
generous handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Cut the aubergine into chunks.

Roasted Eggplant, Green Olive & Mizithra Salad 9, edited

Roasted Eggplant, Green Olive & Mizithra Salad 8, edited

Toss aubergine chunks in olive oil, sprinkle over some flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Roasted Eggplant, Green Olive & Mizithra Salad 7, edited

Roast in a fairly hot oven - about 200 degrees C (390 degrees F), until soft and golden brown.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Roasted Eggplant, Green Olive & Mizithra Salad 5, edited

While the aubergine is roasting, heat up a grill pan, cut a lemon in half, and grill the lemon (cut-side down) until charred and the juices are starting to run.  Set aside for garnishing.

Roasted Eggplant, Green Olive & Mizithra Salad 4, edited

Add the preserved lemon and some green olives to the bowl containing the roasted aubergine - use as many as you like - at least a generous handful.  I used these gorgeous Sicilian green olives from the Mediterranean Warehouse.

Roasted Eggplant, Green Olive & Mizithra Salad 6, edited

Next make the dressing, using approximately 2 parts extra virgin olive oil (the best you can lay your hands on) to 1 part freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Sweeten with a little bit of runny honey, and season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Taste and adjust the lemon juice, honey or seasoning to suit your palate.  Pour the dressing over the aubergine and olive mixture and toss to coat everything well.

Roasted Eggplant, Green Olive & Mizithra Salad 3, edited

Arrange rocket leaves (that's arugula to some of you), or whatever salad leaves you have available, on a platter.  Distribute the aubergine and olive mixture over the top, then crumble pieces of mizithra or feta over the top.  Garnish with chopped flat-leaf parsley and the char-grilled lemon halves.

Roasted Eggplant, Green Olive & Mizithra Salad 2, edited

I'm submitting this post to Forging Fromage (home of cheesy friends) and Hearth 'n' Soul (where you'll find lots of great cooks passionate about creating good food, and with many a good tale to tell) - hope you'll go and visit:

forgingfromage  

I'm also linking this post to Let's Do Lunch at My Sweet and Savory

23 comments:

  1. This salad is FAN. TAS. TIC. I can almost taste it...love the charred lemon...drool!!! I can't find sheep milk, either but I am going to be on the lookout for the powder- definitely let us know how that works out. Fantastic forge...thanks for sharing it w/ the hearth and soul hop, as well :)

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  2. As soon as I saw your link in my reader, I raced over here! This is the perfect salad - love, love, love all of the flavors!

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  3. Two of my favourite blogs posted about mizithra today (you and Girlichef). Everytime I read about cheese making I get a little closer to trying it myself. One of these days. :o) Your salad looks SO good and I'm not even a big fan of salad. Yours has so many yummy ingredients though I could forget I'm eating salad, lol.

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  4. I am sooooo going to try to make this cheese. So, that I can eat this fabulous salad!

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  5. Love the pictures, Sue! I'm a little unfamiliar with cooking with olives, so I really want to give this recipe a go. I love olives, I just didn't grow up eating them, so I'm never sure how to add themt to a dish. Thanks for sharing with the Hearth and Soul hop.

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  6. The colours are also very exciting to the eyes.

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  7. colourful salad
    delicious green olives

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  8. Hi Heather - I love the charred lemon too - it's great to squeeze over the final dish - something about warming up the lemon and charring it adds an extra dimension to the flavour. Will keep you posted on the sheep milk results.

    Thanks so much Louanne - I know you will love this :-)

    Brenda - hope you give the cheese making a try - it's really so easy. Hope you try this salad - I love big salads that are really more of a meal than an accompaniment - I could eat one every night of the week.

    Pam - hope you try the cheese, and the salad - thanks :-)

    Hi Butter - thanks for your kind comment about the pictures - I love olives too, and I throw them into all sorts of things - especially salads and pasta dishes (I'm not very restrained) :-)

    Mangocheeks & Torview - thanks for visiting and for your lovely comments.

    Sue

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  9. This is not your run of the mill recipe. It looks fabulous. Would you link it to Let's Do Lunch. I would love to share this with my readers too.

    http://sweetsav.blogspot.com/2010/11/lets-do-lunch.html

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  10. Beautiful Post Sue, and recipe! Finally I know what mizithra is!!!
    And thank you for sharing the link for the cheese blog, I followed...

    In regard to fennels, hard to find now in NZ, but often I find baby fennels in the supermarket.

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  11. Those are the greenest olives I have ever seen...stunning. The cheese looks delicious, and the picture of you on the street should be on a magazine cover!

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  12. Your salad looks fantastic. You look lovely in that pose! I would really love to try the mizithra cheese, it sounds like something I would enjoy.

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  13. Wonderful! Beautiful salad, so perfect for the cheese!

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  14. this looks very lovely..thanks for sharing this.

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  15. I wish that my local neighborhood had a "mizithra man". I've never heard of it, let alone tasted it. Lvoe this salad! The perfect mix of sweet and salty.

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  16. What a gorgeous eggplant salad, with this special cheese. Absolutely divine. Love all your photos too. Beautiful, just beautiful!
    Thank you for your kind comment on my blog!

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  17. oh my my what a colourful and gorgeous salad :)

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  18. This recipe looks absolutely to die for - as did the cheese with the beautiful jam and bread. I was getting dissapointed, though, thinking I would never be able to find that cheese and now you've given me a new thing to put on my list of things to make with that ricotta!

    Thank you
    xoxo

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  19. The pictures are amazing! I had to wait for them to load but it was worth the wait! Thanks!

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  20. oh my gosh, all of those ingredients look so fresh! What a wonderful salad!

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  21. Hi Sue BEEE Honey! *american brand name play on words pet name alert* LOL you luck girl! I AM greek and have never even been! Though, of course, I do know this lovely delicate cheese. There is something about the Greeks, which is similar to the Italians and their savory salads with a nice mild cheese like this! So glad you figured out how to make it and so glad you shared your lovely "eggplant" salad here at the heart and soul hop! (I had to translate!lol) tons of love! Alex

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  22. I wrote a comment and it took me somewhere, it should not have, so I am guessing, it did not go through. I can't recreate.

    Let me thank you for linking this to Let's Do lunch. I hope to make it soon.

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  23. Thank you all for visiting and for so many lovely comments. Hope you all give the mizithra a try - it really is incredibly easy to make and is so delicious.

    Sue :-)

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