Thursday, September 4, 2014

Failure In The Form Of Granita

                       sour milk granita
grilled cantaloupe
lemon basil

Failure #1: Ricotta Non Grata

I've made ricotta before, but in my latest attempt the curds would just not set. There was a faint ring of whey but no sturdy blocks of curd to strain into fresh cheese. Maybe my lemon wasn't acidic enough? Did I add acid at the wrong temperature? Even after adjusting with vinegar and adding back to the heat, there was no positive result. As soon as I was ready to throw in the towel (and the spoon and the pot), I decided to taste the murky milk mélange. The flavor was bright, tangy and straddled the line between buttermilk and yogurt. It's possible that this failure could be rectified.

Failure #2: The Lemon Basil Incident

Not so much an incident as a result of ignorance (though, it would make for an intriguing Seinfeld episode). I bought some beautiful lemon basil from the Santa Monica Farmers' Market and had them wrap it up for me to tame its unwieldy foliage. I was not going home right away and had these precious herbs tucked away in my bag for a good 10 hours. Even when I got home I made the mistake of transferring directly from my bag, still wrapped, into the fridge and forgot about them for another whole day. When I was finally ready to use them, they had gone dark and wilted. Still super fragrant, I hung them upside down in the kitchen window until they dried. This is when I added them to my failed ricotta/sour milk mixture to infuse as well as some sugar and salt to make an ice cream base. I figured I might as well add one failure to the other.

Failure #3: I Only Have Ice For You

Thinking I had come up with a brilliant solution for all of my culinary bungles, I was ready to make an creamy frozen yogurt of sorts, employing all of the benefits of lactic acid with a texture indistinguishable from ice cream (i'll be slinging quenelles in no time). The initial churn proved it to be too soft, which I hoped would be resolved with a quick firm-up in the freezer. When I opened the finished product, too many ice crystals had formed and I really thought my perseverance through all of these failures had ultimately resulted in...failure. However, even though the texture was not what I had planned, that doesn't mean it was bad. The flavor was still on point and I decided to go at it with a fork, right out of the freezer, resulting in a snowy and fragrant lemon basil sour milk granita.

The sweet and sour contrast in the granita gives it a lot of versatility. It can be used as a palette cleanser between courses, just plain dessert or (my favorite way) as breakfast with fruits of any kind. For this dish I tossed cantaloupe in lemon basil oil + salt and grilled them. Kept the cantaloupe on a chilled plate in the freezer before pairing it with the sour milk granita. Though there are only two components to this dish, there are still sweet, salty, sour, charred and fruity characteristics.

• Perseverance is a plus in the kitchen. 
• We should always be thinking of a Plan B, C or even D. 
• How can you utilize creativity to prevent waste?

These are key topics that I consider with every dish I make and every ingredient I buy and something I think all chefs and home cooks can benefit from.