Susan Feniger's Dream Guest

Photo courtesy of Border Grill

Dream Guest is a dineLA series that asks chefs and bartenders who they'd most like to see walk into their restaurant or bar, and what they'd serve this special guest.

Even in a city like Los Angeles that's fueled by celebrities, Susan Feniger continues to stand out, thanks to her megawatt smile and oversized talent in the kitchen. She's partnered with Mary Sue Milliken on LA restaurants since the early 80s and appeared regularly on the Food Network and Top Chef Masters. She branched out in 2009 with the opening of Susan Feniger's STREET in Hollywood, and continues to co-manage the Border Grill empire. Feniger recently released her latest cookbook, Susan Feniger's Street Food, which highlights over 80 recipes based on her global culinary interests. She also discussed her dream guest and shared a recipe from her cookbook with dineLA.

Q: If you were to have any guest come into your restaurant who would it be?
A: And I can only pick one? Well, if it were at any point in time, it would be Nelson Mandela. But if it were for right now, for sure President Obama.

Q: What would you make for President Obama?
A: It depends, if he came into STREET, which I think would be good because then it’s global food from around the world and I think that would be appropriate for him. I would want him to taste many different things. For sure I’d want him to taste varenyky, tatsutage (fried chicken), kaya (toast), paani puri and the burmese (gin thoke) melon salad. I’d want him to taste things from all over the world and then we’d send him over to Border Grill for churros for dessert.

 

Burmese Gin Thoke Melon Salad

Courtesy of Chef Susan Feniger and Chef Kajsa Alger, Susan Feniger’s Street Food
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • ½ small seedless watermelon (2 ½ pounds)
  • ½ ripe cantaloupe melon (1 ½ pounds)
  • ¼ ripe honeydew melon (1 pound)
  • 2 (3-inch) pieces young ginger peeled and minced (1/3 cup); or 2 (3-inch) pieces of regular
  • fresh ginger, peeled and minced (1/3 cup)
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted
  • ¼ cup lime juice (from 3-4 limes)
  • ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup dried green lentils
  • 2 cups wide-flake unsweetened coconut
  • 1 ¼ cups raw blanched peanuts
  • 4 fresh kaffir lime leaves, chopped

Method

  1. Start by cutting up the melons: Trim off the rind of all 3 melons, remove any seeds, and cut the flesh in to ½- inch dice. Put all of the diced melon in a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the ginger, sesame seeds, lime juice, soy sauce, ¼ cup of the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Mix well and pour over the melon. Toss, and let marinate at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  3. Put the lentils and 4 cups cold water in a small saucepan set over high heat, and bring to a boil, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook for 5 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain, rinse with cold water to chill, and then stir into the melon mixture.
  4. Combine the coconut, peanuts, kaffir lime, remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, remaining ¼ cup olive oil, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in a large sauté pan. Toast the peanut mixture over medium-low heat, stirring it constantly, until the coconut and peanuts have toasted, somewhat unevenly, to a golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  5. Just before serving, add the peanut mixture to the melon mixture and stir gently to combine. Serve in a large bowl, preferably at room temperature.