Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Making It My Own

Even to me it is still amazing where inspiration comes from. More often than not the final product has nothing to do with where the idea originated. Sometimes I will look at an ingredient and it may be at a certain angle, or in an unusual light and it will instantly remind me of something completely different; not even I could explain the connection, but I like to think of it as a "backwards muse". This past weekend was kind of like that.

Gary Snyder, my wife and I met up with some fellow culinary enthusiasts for a serious food adventure on Vashon Island at the highly sought-after Sunday dinner at Kurtwood Farms, which operates primarily as a creamery producing amazing small batch cheeses and is owned and executed by Kurt Timmermeister, a former Seattle restauranteur.

I'll spare you the complete lowdown, since there are already many compositions out there, including an article devoted to him in Food and Wine, but I do have to state that EVERYTHING you eat is produced on the property, minus a few basic pantry items. As a chef, I relished the level of quality that the meat, eggs and produce embodied, but what really blew me away was Kurt's glowing gratification of the fact that the foods that they were serving were quite literally the fruits of his labor.

Before going I was banking on inspiration from the intensity of flavor of local produce in season, but it was the aspect of "handcrafted" that truly exhilarated me. This stirred the desire to not only use the obligatory seasonal vegetables, but to forge the ingredients of my next special myself.

Now, of course, I cannot farm the produce for the restaurant on the balcony of my condo on Eastlake, so I'll source the vegetables from my purveyor Frank's Quality Produce (who has a stand in Pike Place Market) and do the rest on my own.

So I start with protein: I have been wanting to make my own sausages, so I incorporated a recipe I developed for wild game meatballs using coriander and juniper berries by using wild boar and some extra fat for succulence, and encased it by hand. I poached the coils, then finished them off on the grill before slicing into thin rings.

I found that corn has shown up abundantly early in the market so I grilled the kernels, saved them for the final dish, then grilled the cobs again, which I used to make a hearty grilled corn stock that I used as a base sauce for this dish.

Last, but certainly not least, I mixed fresh, blanched spinach with tangy sour cream, grated parmesan cheese, eggs, flour and seasonings that I shallow poached in batches to form pillowy soft dumplings that were combined with the grilled corn stock, tomatoes, reserved corn kernels and sausage, and finished off with fresh chopped dill and more parmesan.

Maybe not my prettiest concoction, but what a wave or flavor it delivers!

~ ~ ~

True to my style I decided to impose a twist on what has now become a cocktail staple in bars and restaurants across America, and even if you don't habla espanol, I bet you know this one word:


Don't get me wrong, Me Encanta uno Mojito, but with everyone else doing it, why not do it differently? So, for this week only we are offering the Thai Mojito: muddled lime wedges and fresh Thai basil, with a lemongrass syrup and coconut rum, all shaken with ice and poured into a chilled martini glass and topped with a splash of club soda to lighten it up and tickle the palate.

Come and Enjoy the Fruits of MY Labor!!

With Love,