This simple dish, a twist on a classic, was stolen from executive chef David Ogren of Ammos Estiatorio, an upscale Greek fusion restaurant located near Grand Central Station in New York City. Feta cheese, a blend of sheep’s and goat’s milk, originates from the northwest region of Greece known as Epirus. It is sliced into two slabs, smothered with olive oil and broiled. The cheese develops a golden brown crust with a warm and gooey center. The lemon-dressed frisée, croutons and toasted filberts cut through the creaminess of the cheese. The dried cranberries add a fruit flavor to the dish, while the lemon vinaigrette has a touch of Tabasco sauce.
Using only the freshest of ingredients, Ogren has created an eclectic mix of refined Greek cuisine with distinct Mediterranean and North African influences in the menu at Ammos. He imports many of the ingredients directly from Greece, such as sea salt, dried oregano from Mount Paygetos, capers and caper berries, and many of the staples used in the dishes — like olive oil, honey and halloumi cheese — are produced on a family farm in Cyprus.
Ammos is the Greek word for “sand,” and the restaurant’s airy, open design, light woods and weathered stones conjure the sun-drenched atmosphere of the Greek Islands. Sandstone pillars, sweeping ceilings and suspended umbrellas create drama at this Greek refuge. The entryway and bar are lined with tiles made of Thassos, a Greek white marble. Leather banquette seating in shades of sand and wood blend organically with the room. A two-story wall of wine stretches to the mezzanine, while an oversized image of a boat drifting on a turquoise sea decorated with ammos transports diners to the isles.
About the chef: Executive chef David Ogren is originally from East Lansing, Mich. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and then trained at the famed French Laundry. Before becoming executive chef at Ammos, David was the executive chef of Level Bistro in Cape Cod. In June 2008 he was awarded a three-star review from Bob Lape, food editor of Crain’s New York. Ogren takes pride in using only the freshest of ingredients to produce foods with clean and exciting flavors.
52 Vanderbilt Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Baked Epirus feta cheese with toasted filberts, cranberries and frisée and ciabatta croutons is served at Ammos for $12.
Baked Epirus feta cheeseDavid Ogren, Ammos Estiatorio
1 restaurant serving
For lemon vinaigrette:
In a blender mix one ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice with three ounces of Greek extra-virgin olive oil and the Dijon mustard. Add three shakes of Tabasco sauce and one teaspoon of high-quality honey. Turn blender on medium speed and season with a small pinch of white pepper, kosher salt and dried oregano. Blend for one minute, pour into a squeeze bottle and refrigerate for use.
Cut the slices into strips and then into small squares. Do not use the crust. Toss the pieces of bread in Greek extra-virgin olive oil, white pepper and salt.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and bake the croutons at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, turning frequently, until golden brown. Cool.
For baked feta:
Turn your broiler on high.
To clean the frisée, use your fingers to pick off the large green outer leaves and discard. Put the inner, more delicate yellow leaves into ice water and shake the sand free, then dry on paper towel.
Toast the filberts either in the oven or on the stove. Separately chop the nuts and cranberries.
Cut the block of feta into two 1/4-inch slabs and smother with olive oil on both sides. On a sheet pan place the cheese under the broiler for roughly 10 minutes or until a golden brown crust develops. Take the cheese out of the oven and let it cool slightly, so that it will retain its shape.
Using a large spatula, take the warm cheese and place it in the middle of your plate; in a small bowl dress the frisée with lemon vinaigrette, salt and pepper. Place the frisée on the cheese.
Using your squeeze bottle, make a ring of creamy lemon vinaigrette around the cheese on the plate, then sprinkle the toasted nuts, cranberries and croutons on and around the cheese. Enjoy!
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