Recipe from the Whitney executive chef Michael Lutes
1 pound good-whole-solid Greek feta cheese packed in brine
1/4 teaspoon flaked dry red chili peppers
2 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
2 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
2 tablespoon dried parsley leaves
2 tablespoon dried basil leaves
2 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon ground fennel
2 bay leaves
4 cups good quality Greek olive oil
Remove the feta cheese from the brine and pat dry. Meanwhile, mix together all of the dry flavorings. Press the seasonings into the feta cheese completely and firmly, being careful not to break up the cheese. In an air-tight container, place the cheese and cover with the olive oil. Cover the container with either plastic wrap or tight-fitting lid. Let marinate overnight.
Toasted pine nut and oregano dressing:
1 cup good-quality crumbled feta cheese
1 cup toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups good-quality Greek olive oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
Salt and fresh black pepper
Preheat oven broiler. Place the pine nuts onto a baking sheet and place into oven. Constantly shake the baking sheet in order to get even browning on the nuts. Keep close watch to prevent burning. Remove nuts from oven and cool slightly. Place nuts in food processor along with the rest of the ingredients and pulse just until the feta has emulsified itself into the oil and vinegar.
For the salad:
2 large red or golden beets, green tops removed
2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (see method above)
10 red grapes
1 seedless cucumber
5 cups lettuce (Mache is preferred however any mixed greens, romaine or iceberg lettuce would work)
Wash beets and rub them with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Wrap them in aluminum foil and place into a 375-degree oven for 45 minutes or until you can slide a sharp knife into the center and have it remove quite easily. Once the beets are finished cooking, let them cool at room temperature. When you can handle the beets use a dish towel and gently rub the outer skin. (If you are using red beets, wear rubber surgical or dish pan gloves to prevent staining.) Dice beets or cut into circles or half moons, or just simply cut them into julienne sticks.
Remove the feta from the oil and let drain for 15 minutes. Slice the feta into 1/4 -inch stripes or simply dice the feta or crumble it on top of the salad.
Wash lettuce, slice up some cucumber and halve grapes. Take all of the components, with exception of the beets, and place into a suitable bowl. Toss together with enough dressing to coat everything and season the salad with a little salt and fresh black pepper. Place the salad onto individual plates or a nice serving platter. Garnish with the red beets, and sliced marinated feta. Serves 6.
Per serving: 1,191 calories; 119 g fat (28 g saturated fat; 90 percent calories from fat); 16 g carbohydrates; 89 mg cholesterol; 1,229 mg sodium; 22 g protein; 4 g fiber.