Because I get to test all kinds of recipes in my home kitchen, my fridge is full of a rotating cast of ingredients. Sometimes it's overflowing with seasonal vegetables, sometimes it's piled high with steak and chicken, and other times—like this week—it's full of cheese. But two things I always keep around are feta cheese and wide variety of pickles. Both of these ingredients perk up leftovers, salads, and the occasional lackluster recipe. But I'd never thought to take these two kitchen stalwarts and combine them.
Thank goodness Tenaya Darlington thought of it for me and told me how in her new cheese-centric cookbook, Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese. She first packs cubed feta into a brine of coriander, mustard seed, cilantro, shallot, and plenty of vinegar. Then she lets it soak up all that tang for five days or so, before tossing the cubes in a salad with strawberries, olives, and spinach.
Why I picked this recipe: I needed no excuse to combine two of my favorite things: pickles and feta.
What worked: The spiced vinegar amped up feta's already briny qualities, infusing it with tang and vigor.
What didn't: No problems in sight.
Suggested tweaks: You can use any feta you'd like here. Keep in mind that softer fetas, like French or Bulgarian, will crumble into smaller pieces, while firmer Greek-style fetas will remain in cubes. Since this is a refrigerator pickle, you can also tweak the pickle brine however you'd like. Fennel and lemon would make a lovely alternative to the coriander and mustard. You can also eat the pickled feta on its own if you'd like to skip the green stuff.
Reprinted with permission from Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese: A Guide to Wedges, Recipes, and Pairings by Tenaya Darlington. Copyright 2013. Published by Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Yield:Serves 6 to 8
- Active time: 20 minutes
- Total time:20 minutes, plus 5 days pickling time
- Pickled Feta
- 3 cups Champagne vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
- 1 medium shallot, sliced
- 4 whole garlic cloves
- 4 sprigs cilantro
- 2 pounds feta, diced or crumbled (roughly 6 1/2 cups)
- 1 pound Cerignola olives (red, green, or black), pitted and cut in half
- 1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and cut in quarters
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 12 ounces baby spinach
- Salt and white pepper
To prepare the pickle: Combine the vinegar, 3 cups of water, sugar, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, shallot, garlic, and cilantro in a small saucepan. Bring the pickling liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to a simmer, and allow the contents to cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool completely.
Place the feta in a large mixing bowl or divide it between two 1-quart jars, and pour the cool pickling solution over the cheese. Make sure all of the feta is completely submerged. (If you use quart jars, you will have a little bit of extra brine left over, which you can use for a salad dressing.) Cover the feta and refrigerate it for at least five days.
To prepare the salad: Remove the pickled feta from the liquid and drain it on paper towels. In a salad bowl, toss together the olives, strawberries, olive oil, chopped cilantro, and spinach. Stir in the feta, then season with salt and pepper, if desired.
Note: This dish should be served fresh as the strawberries will begin to break down and lose color over time. Use any leftover pickling solution to drizzle over salad greens.