There’s alot of good things happening with this salad, you’re gonna learn a couple of things, be frugal and fancy all in one dish! The centerpiece of the salad is the phyllo cigars filled with Feta cheese, walnuts and almonds, some lemon zest and ground anise. There’s more licorice flavour echoed in the salad greens as I’ve added some sliced fennel bulb, tossed with salad.
The dressing is where we get creative. Ever buy some grapes only to find that they are so tart that they make your face pucker when you taste them? You want those grapes for what we’re making here…verjuice or agourida in Greek. When one makes a salad you need fat (olive oil) and acid, which is usually vinegar or lemon juice. The acid in this instance is the agourida made from tart white grapes and made by simply plucking the tart grapes off the stems, placing them in a food processor and then straining them. What you’re left with is a tart green-hued liquid called verjuice or agourida in Greek!
So, if life gives you no lemons, make an agourida – same dressing ratios…I like 3 parts oil to 1 part acid and I always add a little mustard to emulsify the dressing. Keeping with the grapes, we’re going for balance in the salad as I’m using a unique ingredient from the Niagara wine region called ice syrup.
Ice syrup was created by Steve Murdza who instead of making ice wine with the frozen grapes he turned them into ice syrup. Much like with ice wine, the grapes are left on the vines through part of the winter and when the temperature hits -8 Celicius, they can be picked then turned into sweet grape juice with the fermentation being bypassed (that’s when ice wine is made).
This salad is about contrasts: crunchy baked phyllo filled with soft Feta cheese, tart agourida balanced by the sweet nectar of Niagara ice syrup. Greek extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts and almonds, sliced grapes and some sultana raisins, ground anise in the cheese filling and some sliced fennel in the salad. I loved this salad and I’m looking forward to making it for family and friends in the near future!
4 sheets of thawed commercial phyllo
1/2 stick melted butter
4 sticks/batons of Feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp. verjuice (agourida)
1/2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup extra-virgin Greek olive oil
1 small clove of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
fine sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Niagara ice syrup
4-6 cups of mixed salad greens, rinsed and spun-dry
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- Ensure you’re using tart, unripe grapes to make the agourida (verjuice). Rinse the grapes, pick off the stems and place in a food processor and whiz until a purée. Pass through a strainer and you’ve your tart verjuice/agourida.
- Take your thawed phyllo out of the fridge and pre-heat your oven to 350F. Cut your phyllo vertically into two, brush each sheet of phyllo and place one sheet on top of the other.
- Cut your sticks of Feta to about 1 inch smaller than the width of your phyllo and place near the bottom of sheet. Sprinkle the chopped nuts above the cheese, grate some lemon zest and sprinkle some ground fennel. Now fold the bottom flap of phyllo over the cheese and tuck-in the sides and roll-up. Brush with butter and place on a baking sheet and bake in your oven for about 15 minutes or until golden.
- In the meantime, wash and dry your salad greens, slice the fennel and place in a bowl. Place your verjuice, mustard, olive oil in a jar along with the garlic, chives, salt and pepper and place the lid on and shake to emulsify. Taste and adjust seasoning, oil to acid ratio.
- When the phyllo cigars are golden, take out of the oven and now toss your salad with the dressing. Cut your phyllo cigar in half on the bias, place on your plated greens. Garnish with grape halves, sultana raisins, sprinkle with sesame seeds and drizzle with Niagara ice syrup.
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