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My favorite restaurant is Mandolin Aegean Bistro. Although I do enjoy other establishments in Miami, I never get sick of eating our food — we have an incredible team. We work together to come up with a special seasonal menu that changes daily according to the produce we receive from the farms, our local fish monger and butchers. We work with the freshest ingredients and it helps to keep the menu changing and creativity going. Even when I dine out or cook at home, I prefer the light clean flavors of Mediterranean food, preferably Greek cuisine. It’s the healthiest way to eat without compromising flavor.
My favorite kitchen tools are:
• A quality peppermill is essential in any kitchen. I put cracked pepper on everything.
• An Atlas peppermill (originally designed for the Greek army) is something I recently picked up on my travels.
The Williams Sonoma Lemon Press extracts so much juice and is a great tool. I use it all the time as lemon is the base of most of my dressings.
My favorite items to collect for the kitchen: Wooden spoons and cutting boards. I’m always buying cutting boards, vintage ones, small ones, long ones, marbles ones. They’re functional and great for serving at parties. (food52 has great ones online)
My must have pantry items are extensive, but I always have Daphnis & Chloe spices sourced from small farms around Greece – you can use these herbs on anything and everything. Once you use quality herbs you cannot go back to the grocery store variety — there’s a huge difference that elevates your food. Try their oregano, wild thyme flowers and smoked pepper flakes. A good quality cold pressed extra virgin olive oil is a must Lia Olive Oil, or Navarino Icons Estate are great choices and are staples in our house – we drizzle it on salads, eggs, and more! I also love Kalamata olives, a good salt and Mandolin’s hot sauce!
The Best of Mandolin Box filled with all of the pantry essentials mentioned above, can be found at House of Lilac, a Miami-based online gifting company that we collaborated with and ships nationwide around. This is the perfect starter set for the essential Greek Pantry.
I also can’t live without a good pair of floral shears – I freak out if they go missing. I use them all the time at work and home. I use a Japanese variety and a heavy duty style. I think I’ll come back as a florist in my next life.
THE MANDOLIN GREEK SALAD
Nothing is greater than a simple Greek Salad. It tastes like summer and there's no better season to enjoy it since most of these ingredients are at their peak. It's the perfect balance with the crunch from the cucumbers and peppers, the bright and bursting sweetness of the tomato, the brininess of the olives and capers, the pungent extra virgin olive oil, and saltiness from Dodona’s barrel aged feta. It’s a perfect summertime meal. Break some bread to sop up all the juices at the bottom of the bowl, and you have a full meal right there. I can eat it morning, noon and night.
WHAT YOU NEED
4-6 ripe tomatoes cut in wedges
1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cubed
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1⁄2 green pepper, thinly sliced
1 handful of marinated Kalamata olives
capers to taste
1 slab of Greek feta crumbled or cubed (in brine)
2 pinches of dried oregano
salt to taste (try to use sea salt)
1 pinch of cracked pepper
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
WHAT YOU DO
1. Cut up the tomatoes, cucumber, onion and peppers and toss together in a large serving bowl. Add 1 or 2 pinches of salt (remember, you're adding feta cheese on top which is already very salty).
2. Arrange crumbled feta, and olives on top of the salad. sprinkle with oregano and pepper.
3. Dress the salad with a generous amount of olive oil and a splash or 2 of red wine vinegar.
4. Present the salad as is. do not mix ingredients until serving at table.