01 Aug Special of the day: Celebrity Chef: Susan Feniger, Fireball of Fun
Three words to describe this week’s spotlight on a celebrity chef from the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen in June would have to be: fireball of fun. Chatting up the front row of attendees before her seminar on street food got rolling, Susan Feniger’s infectious smile and vivacious personality lit up the room, igniting enthusiasm throughout the audience.
Perhaps most famous as one of the Too Hot Tamales, Feniger and business partner Mary Sue Milliken own Border Grill restaurants in Santa Monica, Los Angeles and Las Vegas in addition to their Border Grill Truck and have co-authored five cookbooks together.
Feniger’s fierce passion for global street food sparked the opening of Susan Feniger’s STREET restaurant in Los Angeles and a recently released cookbook called Susan Feniger’s STREET Food: irresistibly crispy, creamy, crunchy, spicy, sticky, sweet recipes.
If there’s anyone who knows how to throw a party, it’s Feniger, who says having a signature drink ready the second guests walk in the door is a great way to break the ice, which is exactly what she demonstrated for us first.
Reminiscent of fresh food stands in Mexico and the Middle East, Feniger’s cocktail recipe utilized melon, limes and cucumber, which she loves to add to drinks.
Pausing to pass along a heap of helpful hints for the home cook throughout her presentation, Feniger said cutting the ends of the cucumber off first will prevent the spread of bitter juices throughout the cucumber. Her technique for dicing fruit or vegetables is to:
1) cut off the ends,
2) cut a flat side,
3) and then lay it on its flat side for cutting.
Creating a flat surface for support is useful when cutting a something round like a melon or cucumber, so they don’t roll around on you as you attempt to chop.
Feniger suggested rolling a lime on the counter before cutting it in half to maximize the amount of juice you can extract, adding that it’s important to wipe your knife off after slicing citrus fruit to get rid of the acid which can break down and damage your knives.
Admitting her weakness for the sweet and salty flavor combination, Feniger said, “A little bit of salt will pop the sweetness of a drink.”
According to Feniger, a recipe is a guideline and you should always feel free to customize it to meet your personal taste.
Feniger’s words to the wise in the kitchen boil down to “A sharp knife and getting systems in place make it easier to do a big party.” And by systems in place she means having everything you need out in front of you along with tools you might use.
Just in time to cool you down in the height of our hot summer is this week’s Special of the day: Celebrity Chef Susan Feniger, A Fireball of Fun and recipe for Watermelon-Cucumber Coolers. Enjoy!
Inspired by Susan Feniger
Makes a 2-quart pitcher of cocktails
3/4 cup cold water
3/4 cup vodka
Juice of two limes
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 ½ cups watermelon, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 cups cucumber, peeled and cut into small chunks
¼ cup sugar
Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
Combine all ingredients, except for mint, in blender.
Blend on high until smooth.
Fill margarita glasses half full with crushed ice.
Pour Watermelon-Cucumber coolers over ice.
Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.