Tangy Feta Adds Zest To Salad



Married couple and business partners Holly Hadsell El Hajji and Moumen El Hajji grew up in separate cultures on different continents, but have been in the food world their whole lives, having been born into families in the restaurant business.

Part of Holly’s first job at The Compleat Kitchen, while she was a Punahou student, was setting up the weekly cooking demonstrations at the store, which introduced her to fine food preparation and gourmet cooking. Holly went to University of Hawaii and then traveled to France to attend La Varrene cooking school in Paris.

Moumen grew up in Morocco, where he was surrounded by delectable cuisine and a family that loved to cook. He left Morocco to attend college in Hawaii, where his uncle, a successful chef, owned a catering company; cooking won out over his plan to attend medical school.

Since their marriage in 1992, their culinary careers have included opening an award-winning restaurant, Beau Soleil, and running the very successful company Pacific Catering, which feeds just about all film crews, actors and movie stars on location in Hawaii.

The El Hajjis’ newest venture is running both the new juice and snack counter, Juiced!, and the tapas-style bar and lounge called The Bar Honolulu at newly renovated Honolulu Club.

Here is a delicious and cool salad recipe they are sharing with MidWeek readers.

Feta cheese, a Greek specialty, dates back to the Byzantine Empire. It is an aged, brine-curd cheese made primarily with sheep and goat milk, but today there are feta-style varieties made with cow’s milk. The flavor is tangy, mildly sour and salty, with a slightly grainy texture, and it can be bought in blocks or crumbled for salads.

Feta cheese contains calcium and small amounts of vitamin D, iron and folate. A 1-ounce serving contains about 4 grams of saturated fat. To reduce saturated fat and cholesterol, use less or substitute low-fat feta. Because of the strong flavor of the cheese, you don’t need a large amount to get the flavor.

This salad is nice served with a crusty loaf of French bread or flatbread.


* 1 Japanese cucumber, diced

* 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half

* 1 medium red onion, diced

* 1 cup Kalamata olives (rinse for less salt)

* 1 head romaine lettuce, sliced

* 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (may use less, to taste)

* 1 tablespoon chopped dill

* 4 cups diced skinless chicken breast

Toss together cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, olives and lettuce; add feta cheese and toss to combine. Sprinkle with dill and lightly toss. Top with chicken breast. Add dressing and toss to incorporate.

Makes four servings.

For Dressing:

* 1/2 cup Dijon mustard

* 1/2 cup red wine vinegar

* 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

* salt and pepper

Whisk all ingredients together until combined.

Note: For a lower-fat dressing, use bottled nonfat or low-fat red wine vinaigrette dressing.