Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Not on My Watch

Sometimes things don't always work out the way that you expect.

There are those times when even I would admit that I've had a "thin" idea that wasn't well thought out, or I couldn't find the ingredients that I wanted, and then there's this week, when I had a beautiful idea that I couldn't execute due to an outside factor.

I really wanted to offer a classic way of baking fish with a wonderful miso marinade made with the white variety of the soybean paste blended with mirin, or sweet rice cooking wine, rice vinegar, ginger and a touch of sesame oil. The mixture is then spread over fillets of fish and broiled or, in my case, baked in a high temperature convection oven until it caramelizes slightly, using orange slices as a barrier between the pan and the fish to prevent it from burning while also imparting a hint of citrus flavor that really pairs well with the miso glaze.

As a little playful nod to the Japanese influence of the miso fish I thought I would use the most abundantly available summer vegetable - zucchini - in an unusual way by finely cutting it into log, thin strips resembling noodles and sauteing them in oil, garlic and Walla Walla onions until soft.

For the sauce I really wanted to emphasize a spicy ginger note within a puree made by first slowly cooking it with whole cloves of garlic and chopped scallions. I added a touch of the Indian spice garam masala to give it a little dynamic since it plays well with the same types of ingredients that are found in both cuisines. I simmered this base with carrots until they're ultra soft, giving me a silky smooth puree once whirled in the blender.

The problem with all of this is that when I placed my fish order for true cod fillets with an unnamed company, I knew right away that something was wrong with it. Not only was it whole fish instead of fillets, I was immediately suspicious of it's quality, but it wasn't until I setup my "demo" plate used for this photo and to ensure the validity of the dish that I was sure that I was given garbage due to the taste and texture of the fish. I could tell that it was probably frozen and thawed a couple of times, and I was assured by my rep that it "wasn't representative of the type of product" that they sell, and blah, blah, blah.

The good news? I will have fresh, local line caught true cod available for the rest of the week. The bad news? No one had the special Tuesday night. I guess there's a first time for everything!

This year, instead of a reoccurring entree special of a sliced heirloom tomato plate I thought that this time it would be more interesting to offer it as a cocktail!

I used a mixed case of heirloom tomatoes from California (sorry locavores; tomato season was evidently canceled this year in the PNW) to make separately colored purees so I could use them to create a layered effect. Last week I started an infusion just for this by mixing 100 proof vodka with chopped celery and freshly cracked black peppercorns which ended up replacing our usual bloody Mary spice blend because it allows the fresh flavor of the tomatoes to shine through yet has enough spice to keep it complex enough.

And just for giggles I used pink Hawaiian sea salt to rim the glass, which gets its color by being rich in trace minerals and is traditionally used to cleanse, bless tools and in healing rituals.

I garnished it with a chipotle-pickled carrot that we use to accent all of our bloody Marys!!

Fortunately the rest of them looked a lot less like cotton candy than this one!!

With Love,