Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Where's the Beef?

It would probably come as no surprise that at any given time that I sit down to figure out my next special, I'm usually trying to figure how I can put more meat into a dish, and more often than not it would be some form of pork. I must be coming down with something (swine flu?? waa-waa) because when I reached deep down inside to come up with another great idea, a vegetarian dish is what I found.

Perhaps I was inspired by all of the great local produce that I am seeing right now, or maybe it's another step in my growth as a chef by working out of my comfort zone in order to expand my horizons and potential. Either way, I am happy with the outcome, and after only one night as a special I was called out to the dining room to meet a guest who declared the exact words that I was hoping to hear:

"I'm not a vegetarian, and I love this!!"

If that isn't convincing enough, allow me to entice you: I started by salting thick slices of local eggplant to draw out the bitterness and any excess moisture, then grilled them until tender and pliable. I filled the slices with red lentils that were cooked with a fresh vegetable stock and then mashed with Japanese breadcrumbs, onions, garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

Due the the inherent mushiness of both the eggplant and the lentils I knew that I had to add some crunch to balance their textures. Since I also have an extensive knowledge of Pastry Arts I sometimes like to crossover sweet ingredients and concepts into savory dishes, like last week's Corn Custard, so for this I made an unsweetened crumble out of butter, flour, fresh thyme and oregano, cashews and dried porcini pieces - similar to what you might find on top of an apple crisp.

Yes, the eggplant is also complimented by sauteed baby swiss chard and a fresh sweet bell pepper sauce that was blended with a touch of mild middle eastern spices, but what really completes this dish is a warm and luscious brie sauce that gets its unbelievably velvety texture by passing it though my trusty whip cream canister.

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I am starting to feel like a radio DJ because I've been getting requests for repeats. I usually ignore the requests for the dinner specials unless they're something that is transformable like a flatbread or a seasonal item like my heirloom tomato plate simply because I like to make something new and you can only try one entree at a time, but as far as cocktails go, I'm all ears!!

So when a regular requested my Vodka Lavender Lemonade (a favorite of mine as well!), I gratefully complied.

To my loyal fans and followers, this bud's for you...;)

With Love,