Fermented, tree nut cheese and market veggies with a warm sherry wine and raisins dressing

I came up with this dish because I had some leftover fermented cheese from the production at Matthew Kenney Culinary. (Please note if you don’t have fermented nut cheese ready, you can not make this dish on the spot. Fermented cheese needs to be made 2 days before.) I also had some market veggies I bought at the market a few days ago. Baby corn, summer squash and these beautiful heirloom romanesco. Also known as Romanesco broccoli or Roman cauliflower and it is a type of brassica.

heirloom romanesco

All these veggies are great with nuts, especially almonds, onions, garlic and they go well with a bit of sweetness too. Since the fermented cheese had a bit of tang as a result of the fermentation I decided to go for a warm, sweet dressing.

plated salad

For this salad you will need to pan roast the vegetables, make a warm dressing and have some kind of tree nut cheese ready to serve with. If you are not vegan this dish is amazing with goat chevre!

Ingredients (yields 4)

  • some kind of fermented or unfermented tree nut cheese or for not vegans herbed goat chevre
  • olive oil
  • 2 green or/and yellow zucchini (medium), chopped into small cubes
  • 8 baby corns, sliced same thickness as the zucchini
  • 3-4 small heirloom romanesco or 1/4 big romanesco or cauliflower cut into small pieces.
  • 1 big or 2 small shallots, slices
  • 1/3 cup of raisins
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup of cherry wine
  • instead of the white wine vinegar and cherry wine you can use sherry vinegar about 3 tbsp but make sure you boil it out a little bit, so it is not that strong. I used the wine and the vinegar so I get a deep flavor without way too much vinegary taste)
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • chili flakes
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill
  • 1 tbsp sliced toasted almond
  • some fennel flowers/pollen,(or just fennel fronds if you don’t have the others)
fennel flowers, pollen and sliced almonds

Components of the dish

Pan roasted vegetables

close up of the salad

Simply chop whatever vegetables you have at home, but it is really good with baby corn, summer squash and romanesco or cauliflower. Heat some olive oil and quickly pan roast the vegetables for just 5 minutes on high heat. At the end of cooking, season with salt and black pepper. Not during cooking because salt will bring moisture out of the veggies and instead of the nice roasting it will just steam… Set vegetables aside, keep them warm for plating.

Warm sherry wine and raisins dressing

sherry wine and raisins dressing

Slice shallots and quickly sautee them on some olive oil. Add the raisin, splash of white wine vinegar and some sherry wine. Season with salt, pepper and chili flakes. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes only. Taste and season to your liking with adding more heat or a splash of lemon juice or even agave if you want sweeter. You want to end up with a pretty strong, peppery, spicy, sweet dressing.

Fermented herb chevre made with macadamia and cashew

herbed chevre made with macadamia and cashews

If you want to use fermented cheese, you have to make that a few days earlier. This is a an adapted recipe from  Matthew Kenney, the flavoring is adjusted the way I made it at the workshop.

In a blender mix all these ingredients until smooth, then put it in a cheesecloth, wrap tightly and ferment in a dehydrator for a day or in the back of your kitchen cupboard (without opening the door) for 2 days.

  • 1/2cup soaked macadamia
  • 1/2 cup soaked cashew
  • 2 tbsp water
  • the content of 1 capsule acidophilus (this is the probiotic that needed for fermentation)
cheese ready for fermentation

After fermentation flavor the cheese with

  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp lemon juise
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (or instead of the salt and garlic powder you can use garlic salt)

Then roll the flavored cheese into a log and cover with chopped, mixed herb of your liking.

Assemble the dish

  1. Put all the vegetables in a big bowl and gradually add the dressing, mixing carefully and tasting. Add as much dressing as you want but make sure it does not overpower the great taste of the veggies.
  2. Slice the cheese.
  3. Place a few slices of cheese on each plate and spoon the dressed vegetables around.
  4. Sprinkle the almond all over and finally
  5. Decorate with fresh chopped dill or whole baby dill springs and the fennel flowers, or fronds.
  6. Don’t forget to have a glass of chilled white crispy wine with it! 🙂


ENJOY and please let me know if you want to know more or have any comments!



That amazing panzanella

Just in case you never heard about this salad. Originates in Tuscany and predominantly consists of stale bread and tomatoes.

Just like so many great, simple dishes this one is a result of using leftover. Bread that can not be used otherwise anymore, and needs some moisture to bring back to life. And what is better for that than beautiful, ripe, juicy, flavorful in season tomatoes?


In this version I grilled some ingredients, to give it a bit of extra flavor and more suitable for those barbecue days.



  • stale bread
  • ripe, juicy tomatoes, any kind (best with heirloom )
  • red onion – both grilled and fresh
  • garlic
  • fresh basil leaves
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • red wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • shaved parmesan

You can also add fresh cucumbers or grilled zucchini if you want. But it has to be mainly all about the tomatoes.



  1. Cut the red onions in half and grill them. (If you cut them any smaller, they will easily fall apart and difficult to handle.)
  2. Drizzle olive oil on the stale bread and season with salt.
  3. Grill the bread.
  4. While the bread and onion is cooling down, chop the tomatoes into big chunks, if you use cherry tomatoes too, only half those.
  5. Put all the tomatoes in a big bowl, season GENEROUSLY with salt, add ground black pepper, minced garlic (use only one clove for about 4 portions), good splash of red wine vinegar, olive oil and chiffonade basil leaves. Mix it with your hands, carefully not to break the tomatoes too much and let it sit for 5-10 minutes so that you get juice out of those tomatoes.
  6. Then add the grilled, chopped red onion and the grilled bread cut or torn into similar sizes as your tomatoes.
  7. Let it sit again for about 10 minutes so the bread can start soaking up the good juice but will not get oversoaked!
  8. Finish it off with fresh basil leaves and shaved parmesan.


Serve this salad as a side dish at your barbecue. It will be great by itself or with steak, shrimps and even chicken! Enjoy and have a great July 4th weekend!

Tips on how to make a plate of salad look stunning

When I made this salad last week I thought about writing a quick piece giving you some tips on plating. Sometimes we think we are not capable of doing something. And why?  Just because we never tried.

At culinary school I didn’t get much advice on plating. I know, it is hard to believe…. And I was not confident about it. At all. Then, as time went by, I saw photos, videos and slowly but surely picked up pieces without even noticing. Most of my plating is for photography. It is different from real life plating. In the past it did happen I plated something, took many shots, and I could not make one single picture work. So I started again. At that point I knew what was wrong. Sometimes the plate was too messy. Sometimes the food was not on the right part of the plate. Sometimes the ingredients were to flat. It all depends. On the angle of the photo.

But what if you are plating for real life?

Then bear in mind how the person who eats the food will look at the plate. Definitely not from a headshot view. As a consequence plating a salad in real life so that it looks good from above may not work.

Also when you plate for real life, i.e. eating the food, always always respect the dish. Meaning?

The priority is the flavor and the joy of eating the food. The look should enhance it. The way you plate your food should help the dish shine. Sometimes people want to make a plate so pretty that they forget about the fact that we want to eat it. And we don’t want to lick that 3 tiny drops of sauce from the side of a plate….  You know what I mean, right?  So here is a few tips on plating and below the recipe for this light and gorgeous salad.

You can also make this salad family style, in a big bowl, all components mixed and have it at your barbecue. For meat lovers, this is great with a piece of Mexican-spiced steak.

  • Always try and plate from the angle of view. So when you serve the dish, the food looks stunning from the angle of the diner’s view.
  • Then start with knife cuts. In this example I shaved the fennel with a knife, you can use mandolin but be very careful. If it is nice and thin, will be easier to chew on, digest and it will start curling, which is beautiful. Try and have consistent and beautiful cuts.
  • When you add different kinds of fruit and vegetable, it is always a good idea to have at least two different kinds of cuts so when you build the salad, there is a beautiful variety. Here the strawberries were both sliced and quartered.
  • Try and give some height to the dish. Always. Even if you spread the food out on the plate, in an interesting form, give certain parts some height.
  • Work in odd numbers. It always has more appeal. You know how to buy flowers? Always odd numbers.
  • Avoid strict symmetry. Planned imperfection and asymmetry looks best.
  • Think in colors. If a plate looks a bit dull in colors, finish it off with some green, or edible, colorful flower petals.
  • Plate in order, starting heaviest and most amount of ingredient and work towards the lightest and least.

Here the shaved fennel and sweet onion is the base, tucked in some orange segments in the bottom.



Then I added the thin slices of radish. I actually have it on the plate in 3 different formats. One vertically, tucked in the salad, one flat on certain sides and I also made little funnels with the radish slices and you can see those on the ends. They look so pretty.



And finally I added the strawberry slices and quarters and covered parts of the salad with small fennel fonds. If you have blossoms or flowers, arrange them randomly, on top, on the side, around. But don’t make it too much. You can serve the vinaigrette on the side.DSC_5720.jpg



Fennel and citrus salad

Salad ingredients for 1 serving

  • 1/2 medium fennel shaved into thin slices
  • 1/4 sweet onion cut into thin slices
  • 1 cara cara orange segmented (or 1/2 orange and 1/2 grapefruit)
  • 2 strawberries sliced and quartered
  • cilantro and chive blossoms
  • if you don’t have blossoms chop cilantro and chive and spread generously on the salad


  • juice of the orange
  • 2t  lime juice
  • some zest of the lime and the orange
  • 1t honey
  • salt, black pepper and cayenne to taste
  • light olive oil – twice as much as the orange and lime juice together

Summer salad


This salad celebrates some great summer fruits peach and watermelon. The sweet watermelon and the tart and sweet peach need some contrast in the salad. So I added crispy prosciutto and a hard, salty cheese ricotta salata. It is a variation of ricotta and it is dried and salted. For the vinaigrette I used the juice of a peach, added some lemon and lots of lemon basil. Lemon basil is a lovely, fragrant variation of the basils. If you don’t have it, use basil and mint.


I also added some interesting herbs and edible flowers in the salad, it is a great experience to come across a bite of different flavor while eating the salad. Feel free to experiment with whatever you have.


salad ingredients

  • mixed salad leaves (young spinach, young kale and arugula works best)
  • sliced peach
  • watermelon cubes
  • prosciutto pieces crispened in olive oil
  • crumbled ricotta salata (you have to have it at room temp to be able to crumble it)
  • sliced scallions or chopped red onion
  • lemon basil leaves
  • anise hyssop leaves
  • borage flowers
  • radish flowers



  • 1/2 chopped shallot
  • juice of 1 peach
  • lemon juice
  • light olive oil – at least twice as much as the peach and lemon juice (extra virgin would have a very dominant taste)
  • salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper to taste
  • at least 1T of chopped lemon basil



Vanilla rice pudding, balsamic strawberry sauce and strawberry nectarine salad

How to make this yummy balsamic strawberry sauce?

Chop 1 pound of strawberries and cook it on low heat with about 1/2 cup of white cane sugar, juice of 1/2 lemon,  1 T very good quality, thick balsamic vinegar and approx. 1/3 cup of water.  Feel free to adjust, you have to end up with a sweet, thick sauce. Cook it until you achieve a thick consistency, the strawberries are falling apart but you still have some big pieces.

And the fruit salad that will be sweet and fragrant?

Chop strawberries and white nectarines into similar size. (I chopped them small, bigger one is good, but not too big) Mix it with chopped lemon verbena and anise hyssop. In case you don’t have access to these herbs you can use mint and lemon zest. Finish off with finger lime caviars, or if you don’t have this fun fruit just squeeze some lime juice on it.

Vanilla rice pudding

Cook 1C of risotto rice in an equal mixture of water and full fat milk, pinch of salt and the seeds of a vanilla pod. You need to cook it as with a risotto, continuously adding small amount and stirring. When you feel the rice is cooked add a good 1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream and keep stirring on low heat until all the cream soaked in. Add 1-2 T white cane sugar. Taste. It shouldn’t be very sweet because you will have a really sweet strawberry sauce to go with it!!!



And what is that beautiful blue flower on top?

I decorated the pot with tiny anise hyssop and lemon verbena leaves, borage flower and bachelor button petals.

This is borage. Its flower is used for decoration, it has a sweet, fresh taste, really special. The leaves can be used in tea and cooked as stinging nettle!


Market veggies on a whipped farmers cheese, feta cloud with boysenberry droplets

This is actually a veggies and dip recipe. The only difference how it is plated and a little bit of extra tip I am going to share with you that will elevate the dish to another level.


When I get some tiny and really pretty vegetables I always feel it is a sin to ruin them with any kind of cooking. I can highly recommend you keep them as well and enjoy all the benefits of raw vegetable. Unless you have some digestion problem and you do need to blanch them. So these are the vegetables and edible flowers I used in this dish to create a plate that you first eat with your eyes and then you immerse in the freshness of vegetables and herbs.


You can add any kinds of vegetables to a crudites plate. Crudites is a French term and it  means raw sliced vegetables served with some kind of dip. I would suggest in this case definitely use radish, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and even california pepper. They are really good with this whipped dip. If you want to create a nice plate you need to cut and slice your vegetables into different shapes and thickness to give your dish a diverse look and texture. You can also serve it simply just cutting the vegetables into similar size and serve with a bowl of dip.

The vegetables, herbs, leaves on this plate

  • radish
  • carrot
  • cucumber
  • cherry tomatoe
  • salad brunett leaves
  • borage flower
  • tarragon flower
  • mixed micro greens

For the dip (not vegan)

In a deep bowl mix 2:1 portion of farmers cheese and really good quality strong sheep/goat feta cheese. Add 1-2 tablespoon of sour cream and with a fork mix it and try and whip it a little bit, giving it a fluffier texture which will work very well with the raw vegetables. Once it is done, season it with 1 clove minced garlicsalt, ground black pepper, ground caraway and hot Hungarian paprika f you like heat (or any other ground chili or paprika) Also add chopped chives, green onions and parsley and mix thoroughly.

To make your dip vegan the only thing you will have to do is to make a fermented cheese and that will replace the feta here. I made a fermented cheese using cashew and almonds and after fermenting in my kitchen cabinet for 2 days I let it age in the fridge for 5 days. Not longer because I didn’t want it to harden too much. This resulted in a stronger taste which made it more similar to a nice feta.

Ingredients and instructions for fermented, aged feta like cheese

  • 1/2 cup soaked cashews
  • 1/2 cup soaked almonds
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 acidophilus capsule or replace the water with 2 tbsp rejuvelac

Mix all the ingredient in a blender. Place the mixture on a piece of cheesecloth and wrap tightly. Ferment in the kitchen cabinet for 2 days without opening the door.

After 2 days check if your cheese looks good and make sure there is no mold. It should have a nice crust and smell fermented.


Put it in your fridge to age 3-5 days. Do not leave longer because aging not only changes the taste but also makes the cheese firmer. Here you will need a texture that can be spread.

After the aging take your cheese out from the fridge, put in a bowl and mix it well with

  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika, or 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika (or chili or cayenne pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground or whole caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon mixed, chopped chives and parsley
  • 1-2 tablespoon almond milk to adjust texture to spreadable (use any vegan yogurt if you have it)

To plate the individual crudite plates place a spoonful of cheese spread on the plate, with the back of the spoon spread it slightly on the plate. Place any kinds of vegetables, micro herbs on top.

And this is the point where my extra tip comes in. I actually really like fruit with savory dishes and vegetables. So what I did here when I was ready to eat, I smashed a few boysenberries, added a few drops of lemon juice and just sprinkled it over the veggies. You can use blackberries or youngberries instead of the boysenberries.


The dip and the boysenberry was just a real match made in heaven.