Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Taste of Harmony

In my eyes the perfect dish is all about balance; bringing together all of 5 tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami) into harmony along with a melange of textures. Now that the sun is showing its shiny face I can take the opportunity to introduce some lighter fare.

I have been sitting on this one for quite a while now: I started curing duck breasts into a prosciutto style a month ago, a process that requires a week packed in sea salt before hanging to air-dry in the refrigerator for three or four more. The result is a firm, salty meat that is rich with flavor but not too "ducky", a common complaint about duck.

I knew that an excellent pairing with this succulent charcuterie would be a combination of two of my favorite lettuces: radicchio which has a slightly bitter and spicy taste, and frisee with its slightly peppery or nutty flavor - both give an airiness and crunch to a salad that I find irresistible.

To continue building textures I took whole almonds and toasted them in extra virgin olive oil and Garam Masala, an Indian spice blend that usually includes black cumin, cloves, peppercorns, star anise, etc. To counter the spice and crunch of the almonds I also added dried tart Washington cherries which give a nice chew with a sweet and sour flavor.

To wrap up the dish I made a vinaigrette using meyer lemons, a sweeter version that is thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. Blending the fresh juice with shallots, garlic and extra virgin olive oil I ended up with the perfect means to tie all of the ingredients together.

Every now and then I get an idea that I think might be too far fetched to end up being anything good, but if I stop there I'll never get outside of the box.

I had initially thought of using rose water in a cocktail for my Valentine's day menu but I couldn't get the proportions right; if I use too much rose water the drink ends up tasting like taking a swig from a grandmother's perfume bottle.

After more time and some trial and error, I came up with the idea of combining the rose water with gin because it blends well with the gins layers of aromatics, and then I used a syrup that I made by reducing down fresh strawberries. All of this became a base for a sparkling cocktail by topping it off with Spanish brut cava, a staple from our brunch.

Two light offerings just in time for the beautiful weather. What great timing!!!

With Love,