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Staff Picks: Guest Blogger Jessie H. brings the Mediterranean home

One of the qualities we look for in a potential employee at CMB is an interest in specialty foods and enthusiasm about trying new things in the kitchen. To encourage a growing knowledge of food, and especially the products we carry, if a staff person is curious about a product at CMB, we have a tendency to give them the product (great perk!), and then ask them to bring in the results of their labors for our weekly staff meeting (or at least be ready to share some thoughts with the rest of our staff). This week on the CMB blog, I am thrilled to share the reportings of Jessie H. who has recently joined us from England and splits her time working in the store and answering the telephone downstairs. Jessie was quite taken with the idea of easy summer meals- and she has a serious thing for garlic- so we packed her bags with new Mediterranean products, and without more ado, here is what she thought of CMB’s newest offerings (in her own words).

This week, I was lucky enough to be asked to test out two of our new products; Les Moulins Mahjoub’s Sundried Garlic Spread ($8.95), and La Cabra Verde’s Medallas de queso joven en aceite de oliva (goat’s cheese medallions in olive oil, $18.00). These were pretty appropriate samples for me, because I rarely cook without garlic and my feelings on Cheese have been aptly addressed by Tim Minchin in a Music Video posted on YouTube.

Les Moulins Mahjoub grow all their products in Tunisia, and oft quote the Roman natural philosopher Pliny

when discussing their business inspiration, “Here under exceptionally tall palm trees grow olive trees, under the olive trees grow fig trees, under the fig trees grow pomegranate trees and below them vines. And under the vines cereals are sown, to be followed by legumes, then vegetables, all in the same year, and all feeding on the shade provided by another tree or plant.” A pretty stunning image, if you ask me.

When speaking of the Mediterranean, I should mention La Cabra Verde’s Medallas (see Previous Blog Post: Cheese Please: Le Chevre (Decoded)) are immersed in organic extra virgin olive oil of the highest quality- from the Sierra de Cadiz – with spices and herbs, to give their goats cheese such a unique flavor (so unique, that it has in fact, won four awards throughout Europe).

I first tried the two of them, for a light lunch on Olive Oil Crackers, with Salami, and a sprinkling of dried herbs. It was divine, the perfect summer picnic lunch. I was even able to use my math enthusiasm to try all possible combinations of the three main ingredients (Garlic, Cheese, Salami), the best grouping, were all three together; a choice I will definitely be repeating.

I went on to try the garlic spread as a dressing over a calamari, mint and lime salad, it added a really lovely bite, to the meal, the garlic, despite being sundried, had retained its kick.

I tried mixing it in with ketchup, as a sauce to a steak and vegetable meal. I’m not usually a big ketchup fan, not only did it improve it for me, but my mother (whom I have never seen eat ketchup) took second dollops!

My favorite garlic choice, was a marinade for scallops, mixed with some olive oil and lemon pepper, I left it in the fridge for about four hours, and then poured everything in the grill pan. Once cooked, the garlic became much sweeter, which made a beautiful contrast to the lemon aspect of the marinade.

I tried the goats’ cheese in two separate recipes, once in a chef’s salad with salami, tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, spinach, carrots and onions. I then made up a dressing in the sundried garlic jar, so as not to waste a milligram!

In my final recipe, to create a Sunday Lunch starter, I pan-grilled two thinly cut fennels for around six minutes, in oil, salt, pepper and dried herbs, then placed some slices of the goat’s cheese on top for another minute or two. Not long enough for it to turn to liquid, but enough time for it to melt into the food.

I’m pretty in love with the goat cheese, it is the perfect summer cheese in my opinion, light and creamy, a perfect addition to most lunches. The sundried garlic on the other hand, while could be a little more garlic-y for my taste, but then, when it comes to garlic I’m practically (to stereotype) French (or an anti-vampire, your choice). I feel it makes a good ingredient within sauces, dressings or marinades but alone is missing something.

How fun to get Jessie H.’s thoughts, and hopefully it inspires your own summer meals! I do want to mention that everything in this review was purchased in Chelsea Market! Truly one stop shopping along the corridor, and your complete list of ingredients and where to find them includes:

Sundried Garlic Spread, La Cabra Verde’s Medallas, The Fine Cheese Co.’s Olive Oil Crackers, Sir Kensington Ketchup, Zoe’s Olive Oil, Cape Herb’s Herb Garden & Lemon Pepper: Chelsea Market Baskets
Salami: Buon Italia
Peppers, Cucumber, Mint, Limes, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Avocados, Spinach, Carrots, Sundried Tomatoes & Fennel: Manhattan Fruit Exchange
Calamari, Scallops: The Lobster Place
Steak: Dickinson Meats