Peas, Beets and Yogurt

I got those really nice baby beets from a friend who grows them in his garden and wanted to do something nice with them. What I ended up with was this cool, delicious and fancy salad.

The beets:

These were roasted with garlic in an aluminum foil packet. Then I carefully peeled them and trimmed them taking care to leave the thin roots intact for presentation. I made a dressing with the now soft roasted garlic.

The Peas:

I made a Sformato with frozen peas. That’s basically a savory Italian custard that can be made with almost any vegetable from onions to butternut squash. Mario Batali has recipes for them in all his books. This one, flavored with mint, is from his Babbo Cookbook. Process is like making any custard. Blanch the peas and mint leaves and shock them in ice water. Puree the veggies and mix with eggs and milk. Pour in custard cups and cook in a water bath until set.

The Yogurt Spheres:

I’ve used an alginate bath before to make “spheres”. Usually, some sort of liquid (beet juice for example) is mixed with Calcium Lactate and frozen in ice trays. The ice cubes are then dropped in a 10% Alginate solution to form the spheres. You end up with a thin skin of the juice filled with liquid. Pretty neat. That’s how the beet spheres here were made. However, with a Calcium rich product, like yogurt, no Calcium Lactate is supposedly needed. Just drop spoonfuls of yogurt into Alginate and you are good to go. That’s exactly what I did and it worked great.  I just seasoned the yogurt with salt before making the spheres.

To assemble the dish I incorporated small salad greens dressed with olive oil and fresh croutons. I also grated some lemon zest on the yogurt and drizzled the beet-roasted garlic dressing on the beets.


Alinea: COFFEE, Mint, Buckwheat, Passion Fruit

I normally do not post about my recipe try outs from the Alinea cookbook. Since this time is the first time I actually made a laborious, awesome looking, multi-component dish that took more than a week (I really did take my time though) from start to finish, I figured it deserves more than a few flickr pictures. I picked this recipe mostly because it looked challenging and had several techniques that I was looking forward to trying out (using Methocel, Agar puddings, making filled frozen capsules, altering Alinea ice cream recipes for my ice cream maker…)


– Buckwheat ice cream. Most of Alinea’s recipes for ice cream are designed for a Pacojet. They are formulas low in fat and usually sugar. So, using a regular ice cream maker might not be a good idea since the end result is more likely to be a block of frozen cream instead of a creamy scoopable confection. Buying a very expensive Pacojet is out of the question. So, I augmented the recipe a bit by upping the fat content by using all cream and adding a few spoons of Golden Syrup. This made a nice and smooth ice cream that can be scooped and formed into quenelles.

Toasting the Buckwheat groats

– Mint Puffs. These are made using Methocel, mint and sugar. I “dehydrated” them in my oven for a LONG time. End result was very nice though. Like minty meringues without the egg whites.

Adding sugar to the mint and Methocel mixture

– Dehydrated Passion fruit curd. For both this and the pudding, I used frozen passion fruit puree. It comes in flat plastic pouches and is made by Goya. We use it to make juices by mixing with sugar and water. The classic egg passion fruit curd was spread on acetate and also dehydrated in my oven for 24 hours or so. Very delicious and crackly on its own

– Mint Jell. I used regular gelatin to set this mint extract, sugar and water mixture instead of the required Kelcogel since I had none. Seemed to work fine. Since I never had the original dish, I guess I’ll never know for sure.

– Passion fruit Pudding. Passion fruit juice and sugar set with agar and then blended with Xanthan gum to a very smooth and brilliant “pudding”. It tasted amazing and looked great. I can see many desserts benefiting from similar “sauces” made with different fruits.

– Coffee Cream Pudding. Made similar to the passion fruit pudding using cream and espresso. Both puddings went in squeeze bottles.

– Mint Cream. The recipe asks us to use a French mint liquore called “Get 31”. It is colorless and about 21% Alcohol. Well, I could not find it anywhere. I am not even sure it is sold anywhere in the US! Instead I used another good qualtiy French mint liqoure made by Marie Brizard. This one was green though, but alcohol wise, it was pretty close at 23%. Mint, cream and sugar make up this one. IT is then frozen but with the high alcohol content it never quite freezes solid. this makes sense since this is the filling for the capsules.

– Coffee Mint Capsules. As expected, this was the trickiest part of the recipe. The capsule walls are made by a thin layer of the coffee pudding on acetate. That is rolled and taped and frozen to make cylinders. In there we pour some mint cream and freeze the whole thing. I never got perfect cylinders, but I am pretty pleased with the end result. Thank goodness for the make shift “mold” I made. If it wasn’t for that, no way would I been able to make even layers of pudding on acetate.

– Coffee Cake. This is fairly standard, flavored with coffee extract and cocoa and baked in a  sheet pan.

– Buckwheat Streusel. Buckwheat flour, almond flour, all purpose flour, brown sugar and butter. It’s baked and crumled.

The final result was an delightful mix of delicious flavors, textures and temperatures. Who knew coffee, buckwheat mint and passion fruit go so well together. I might never make this dish in all its components again, but it was a useful learning experience and many of these subrecipes will be showing up again in one form or another in my dishes.

Pretty in Pink Pickles

Red Onion Pickle 

Every so often something very simple turns out to be utterly amazing. Like these gorgouse red onion pickles. They are so crunchy, sweet, sour, cold and refreshing I am almost done with the whole jar in one week! The original recipe is from The Zuni Cafe cookbook, but you can find a very good adapted recipe right here. The original recipe asks you to add a star anise pod to the brine, and I suggest you do that. It really adds an extra dimension of flavor to this addictive pickle. My favorite use so far is on cheese sandwiches, but I am looking forward to trying them on a nice thick juicy burger or a good Cochinita Pibil with corn tortillas.