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August 6, 2013

Do you like to Salsa, Meringue or Amba?

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/do_you_like_to_salsa_meringue_or_amba/

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I am excited to announce that I will be competing on the Food Network’s Chopped on Sunday August 18th! Chopped is a cooking competition show that pits four chefs against each other in a three round competition. In each round, the chefs are given a mystery basket of ingredients and must create a delicious dish. In the end, there is a winner who is crowned the Chopped Champion. Leading up to the competition, I trained at home with a plethora of odd ingredients. One of the ingredients I encountered was Amba, which happens to be the entry in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food that I am writing about this week.

Amba is a condiment made from pickled ripe mango and is seasoned with curry (EJF pg 16). Its origin is Iraqi, but is now commonly found in Israel and is served with Sabich (Iraqi eggplant sandwiches), shawarmah and falafel. When I first encountered Amba during my Chopped training, I had mixed feelings about its flavor and aroma. While it is fruit based, there is a definite bitterness that comes from the pickling process which is heavily seasoned with overpowering spices.

I intend to transform Amba into something most people love. At the root, Amba is made of very appealing ingredients like mango, mustard and fenugreek. The bold odor and taste comes from the intensity created through the pickling process. I have included all of the same root ingredients in my dish, but adjusted the quantities of spice and removed the pickling. The end result is an Amba salada made with ripe mango, Persian cucumber, feta cheese, basil and sour fenugreek-mustard vinaigrette. A raw salad showcases the deliciousness of ripe summer mango. Like classic Amba, the salad is slightly acidic because of the sour vinaigrette dressing. I wanted to include basil because of its strong fragrance, which is a critical element in traditional Amba. Anything pickled has a salty flavor, which is why included salty feta cheese. The cucumber provides relief for the palette from the other bold ingredients in the salad. The final dish is sweet with complex flavor from toasted spices that is balanced with bright acidity.

If you are salivating over the thought of eating Amba salad, I implore you to come to my pop-up restaurant Fress this Thursday night at the Wine Expo in Santa Monica. Also, don’t forget to set your DVR’s to record Chopped on August 18th.

Amba Salad  serves 6

3 ea   Ripe Mangoes, peeled and cut into 1” dice
3 ea   Persian cucumbers, cut into ¼” slices
¾ C   Feta Cheese, crumbled
½ bunch  Basil Leaves, torn into bit size pieces
To taste  Kosher Salt
To taste  Ground Black Pepper, fresh

For the Dressing
¼ C   Lemon Juice (about 3 lemons)
¾ C   Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 t   Whole Grain Mustard
¼ t   Fenugreek Seeds, whole
Pinch   Granulated Sugar
To taste  Kosher Salt
To Taste  Ground Black Pepper, fresh

Procedure
1. In a dry sauté pan over medium high heat, place the fenugreek seeds and toast until they smell sweet. Quickly remove from the pan to prevent burning.
2. In a blender, place the lemon juice, mustard, fenugreek, sugar, salt and pepper and on low speed slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil.
3. In a bowl, toss the mango, cucumber and feta cheese with a generous amount of dressing and a pinch of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
4. Just before serving, tear the basil leaves and scatter over the top of the salad.

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