Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Never a Dull Moment

I received a pleasant surprise a little over a month ago when I strolled into the restaurant mid-week with the telephone ringing. To be completely honest, I normally ignore the phone at this point so I can hit the ground running before anyone else arrives (not to mention it is almost never for me), but this particular day I had a light workload, so I indulged myself, to my own delight.

It was a request for me to host a cooking demonstration at the Capitol Hill Farmer's Market, to which I immediately accepted. For those of you who may not know, it is held Sundays in the Bank of America parking lot on Broadway, an apple's throw across the street from our restaurant.

This past Sunday was my time to shine.

I was asked to not only feature the bounty of our Farmer's Market, but to spotlight the greens that have come into season and feature a recipe that is both easy and cheap to prepare. After trolling through the market for the last couple of weeks I decided to emphasize ingredients found at the local market that people weren't familiar with and explain the different ways to use them. So I composed a salad from Alm Hiu, Local Roots, and Alvarez Farms, potatoes from Olsen Farms, spring onions from Ze Chang, "Silly Billy" goat cheese from River Valley Ranch and garlic tops and turnips from Willie Greens (the farm whose organic greens we currently use at the restaurant).

(Click on either picture for more photos, which also includes the recipe that I presented. Email Me if you would like a copy of my outline, which briefly explains how I used each component, as well as other uses.)

The recipe was well received (especially the beet chips), so I decided extend it to this week's special - in concept, since I prefer to challenge myself each time to come up with something new.

Instead of the variety of greens, though, I wanted to use one of my favorite salad components before it disappears until next spring: Mache, a leafy green that is part of the valerian family of herbs and shrubs which has velvety texture and delicate, nutty flavor (sometimes known as "Corn Salad" here in the USA since it grows wild in cornfields). I paired it with the same vegetables - raw turnip and radishes, roasted purple potatoes, crispy beet chips and another end-of-the-season favorite: garlic scapes. Since the Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette that I used in the Demo is already on our menu with a Chopped Salad, I whipped up a dressing with fresh zest and juice of oranges, a touch of thyme, a few sprigs of mint, and a blood orange infused olive oil that I found from California...What a vibrant flavor!!!!

For the main component I really wanted to introduce a nice, mild whitefish such as Sole, but after my fishmonger left me high and dry, I was forced scramble and go with my faithful standby and close friend: pork. So I dredged seasoned scaloppine cuts of pork loin in rice flour (a gluten-free ingredient that has become a bigger dietary request than nut allergies BY FAR) and pan fried them in the blood orange infused oil to duplicate that bright zing, bringing the whole dish together:

For the final installment of the "Equalitini"... I was so busy with the demo that I forgot to brainstorm for this week's cocktail, so like any good leader, I handed off the task to Stacey, who quickly came up with the Hibiscus Cosmopolitan, based from our previous use of hibiscus in a margarita, and which has led to a successful Hibiscus Mimosa that has been offered for brunch lately.

Once she spoke the words of that cocktail's title I knew that she had a hit, and I knew (as before) that I had a creative muse to bounce ideas off of, and with all that can go wrong in a restaurant, I am reassured by the thought that I am in business with someone who cares as much about this restaurant as I do.

With Love,