Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pickled Zucchini Tops



Whenever preparing zucchini, I usually cut the tops and bottoms off to be discarded before slicing in half to grill or in rounds to sauté. Lately, instead of discarding the top, I have been slicing it thin and pickling it in my cucumber brine. It's got a snappier texture, not unlike celery. A simple and sustainable addition to sandwiches, salads and pretty much anything.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Comfort

Smoked Vegetable Broth
Pearl Barley [Soft & Crispy]
Grilled Zucchini
Wilted Swiss Chard
Grape Tomatoes
Radish
Thai Basil Flowers

How is comfort defined in terms of cuisine?
Everyone seeks comfort in different flavors, preparations and ingredients; often tied to ethnicity and upbringing.

Cue the grandmother laboring over the stovetop ladling spoonfuls of hearty such and such in the dead white of a suburban winter or the third floor of a Queens apartment building or the back porch of a Bible-Belt Brownstone. At least that's what marketing has taught us. Comfort Food™: The opposite of molecular, complex cooking. Nostalgia via rusticity and down-to-earth soulful food made with love. Not that stuffy high-end, white tablecloth fine dining.
Unless you're pumping out corn chips for Nabisco, all food should be made with love. It can be complex and comforting all the same. It seems as there is a disconnect created when we apply terms to food (farm-to-table, molecular gastronomy, fusion, etc.). As much as we feel like it helps us understand it more by giving it a definition, it can create false and unnecessary expectations.

If you care about what you're serving, it should be made with fresh ingredients of great quality hopefully from a farm or local market. Therefore, 'farm-to-table' is unnecessary. If you employ new technology in your kitchen because you want the food to taste better or be economically more efficient, should you be stamped with such a bludgeoning term as 'molecular gastronomy'? We're wasting our time trying to pigeon-hole the food we eat and should keep our mouths shut until we taste it.

It's one thing for the consumer ('foodie' [ouch]) to use these terms to fulfill their need to genre-fy everything, but when the restaurants and businesses start masturbating these terms as an attractive point of sale, I really start to turn red with anger. Whenever I see 'Molecular Cocktails' advertised as such because they learned how to make caviar out of anything and put it in everything, my brain begins to vomit.

But I'm not bitter...

We should be thankful for the amount of knowledge we have access to nowadays. It should be utilized towards the greater good of being progressive, not reducing the food we love (or hate) to terms that, in the end, really don't mean much.

Here, I made a broth by juicing vegetables and then simmering the juice in garlic, peppercorns, coriander, salt and the same vegetables: grilled. After letting it marinate overnight, I then strained and smoked the broth with cherrywood using the Smoking Gun. The pearl barley was cooked simply in water and once dried, I deep fried a few grains till they puffed up and got crispy. The tomato and radish are raw. The zucchini is grilled and diced. The swiss chard is wilted in chicken schmaltz and charred lemon.

Many techniques, complex and simple, were used to achieve a comforting restaurant-level dish that is still made with great care.