Foodiva's Kitchen: June 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

5-Star Makeover - Raspberry Salmorejo with Balsamic Caviar

"Between soup and love, the first is better."
~ old Spanish saying

First of all, thank you for the outpouring of compassion and well wishes from everyone following my last post. I am very grateful and overwhelmed by how kind everyone has been, however soon after that grief started to kick in and I suddenly found myself in that weird place called 'shut-down'. Luckily I recognized this and immediately made the decision to take a hiatus from this blog (and also others) for a few weeks. If I hadn’t been coming round to your lovely blogs to say ‘Hello’ or ‘Wow!’ lately, well this is the reason.

All this isn’t even newsworthy, so why am I telling you about it? It's not that I think anyone out there is pacing for my recipes or stories, in fact I’m still amazed that in between the chaos of stuff on the internet and the lushness of life, someone out there would want to pause to read my stuff. I’m just trying to say that I felt sad, burnt out and needed some time out to recover, perhaps make some space for new things, more creative and loving things. I am not that type of person who can write, create or participate in something just for the sake of it, I needed to feel that it’s really coming from the heart or I’d rather not be doing it at all.

Anyway, now that my art-making, love-initiating engine has cooled down sufficiently, I’d like to restart it with this chilled soup recipe – Raspberry Salmorejo with Balsamic Caviar. Salmorejo is a typical dish from Cordoba in the south of Spain, it's similar to a traditional tomato gazpacho but richer and has the velvety texture of vichyssoise due to the addition of bread. As you can see in the above picture, I had picked a lot of tomatoes from my parents' farm last weekend and could have gone down the traditional tomato Salmorejo way. But I wanted to kick it up a notch for this month’s 5-Star Makeover Challenge and went with raspberries instead.

Berries in cold soup make a lot of sense to me, it's light, refreshing and perfect for warm weather. I just needed to carefully balance out all the flavors because this could have very easily turned into a smoothie rather than a savory appetizer. 

I served mine up with extra raspberries and brunoise-cut (very small cubes) bell pepper, basil and onion placed at the bottom of the serving glass. It makes for a lovely and flavorful hidden surprise for anyone eating this. To complement the raspberry flavor of the soup, I also made balsamic caviar out of balsamic vinegar and agar agar. A few flower-shaped croutons and a cucumber ribbon completed the dish. It was fun and very simple to make, and a great initiation into chilled soups for me - yes, it's my first time eating it too! 

Thanks to Lazaro and Natasha again for hosting this monthly event. I'm really glad I decided to participate and am looking forward to the round-up of all the chilled soups this Friday over here.

Raspberry Salmorejo with Balsamic Caviar
Makes: 4 servings

Raspberry Salmorejo 
100g stale white bread (1/2 baguette)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
400 g (14oz) frozen raspberries
1/5 garlic clove, peeled
120 ml extra virgin olive oil
100 ml mineral water
1/2 tsp salt

1. Break the bread into small pieces and mix with the olive oil, vinegar and water in a bowl, Set aside while you make the soup.
2. Process raspberries with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Pass mixture through a fine sieve.
3. Put strained mixture back in the processor (rinse it beforehand), add the soaked bread and salt and blitz it into a smooth puree. Keep in the fridge until serving. It needs to be really cold before serving so allow for a few hours in the fridge before serving.

Brunoise of Raspberry, Bell Pepper and Basil
1/2 handful of basil leaves
75 ml (2.5 oz) extra virgin olive oil
25 g raspberries, sliced into 4
15 g peeled red bell pepper, cut in cubes
5 g of finely chopped onions

1. Process the basil with the olive oil until smooth.
2. Mix the basil oil with the rest of the ingredients and reserve.

4 cucumber ribbons (cut them thin lengthwise with vegetable peeler or mandolin)
4 tablespoons balsamic agar caviar (see below)

Balsamic Agar Caviar
1 cup light, vegetable oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon agar agar powder

Extra equipment: Needle-less syringe or small plastic pipette

1. Pour oil into a tall, vertical container such as a glass. Place the oil in the freezer for at least 30 mins. You need the oil to be very, very cold because you'll need to inject the agar agar into the oil later on.
2. For the agar solution, stir the agar powder into the balsamic vinegar in a small heatproof pan. Warm this up on the stove or microwave until it just starts boiling. Take it off the heat, let it cool for a minute and start to fill the syringe or pipette with the liquid.
3. Inject agar solution drop by drop into the oil, just underneath the surface. You can adjust the size of the spheres by the amount of liquid you inject. Let the droplet float down to the bottom of the glass. 
(Note:  The cold environment surrounding the agar droplet would cause the agar to solidify immediately. To get very round spheres, the glass needs to be tall enough for the droplet to form into a perfect ball as it falls slowly to the bottom. Note: If you're making a lot of spheres, the temperature of the oil may rise, so return it to the freezer to make it cold again).
4. Pour the oil through a strainer to retrieve agar spheres. You can re-use the oil. Rinse the spheres under running water to get rid of the oil and keep in the fridge if not using immediately. 

Assemble and Serve
1. In the bottom of a glass, place a base of the raspberry brunoise making sure you do not touch the sides of the glass.
2. Taking the same care, cover with raspberry salmorejo.
3. Finish with a ribbon of cucumber, a spoon of balsamic caviar, croutons and a pinch of salt flakes.
4. Serve immediately before it gets warm.

Friday, June 8, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie - Olive Oil Ice Cream Tart with a Quinoa Crust

Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone. 

~ Mitch Albom

Both my parents hail from big families, with at least 10 siblings on either side. I therefore grew up surrounded by as much love as there was chaos and drama. When our massive family gets together a few times every year - up to 4 generations of individuals bearing similar genes -  we always needed to prepare food and anecdotes to entertain around 250 people! Ours is very much a matriarchal family, with my grandmothers acting as the glue that holds every one of us close together. 

I am dedicating this week's French Fridays With Dorie post to my beloved grandmother (my father's mom) who had left us for good last Monday. The past two weeks was hard on all of us because she had become very ill over that period of time. Except for my 5-Star Restaurant Wars commitment, blogging had been relegated to the back of my mind as I'd wanted to savor every moment that I could spend with my grandmother. She was was my confidante, my best friend since birth and she was unconditional love personified. Although I truly miss her physical presence, I am comforted by the fact that she is now at peace and that she will always be by my side no matter what.

Our last picture together.

So back to this week's Olive Oil Ice Cream. In all honesty, I forgot that this was the week for this recipe - okay, I also forgot today was Friday - until I saw my fellow Dorista, Patty, post something about her ice cream on Instagram. I was curious about the use of olive oil in ice cream and wondered how different it would be compared to regular custard only ice cream. Patty (sorry to keep using you as a reference point) also made a rustic apricot pie to go with her ice cream and that inspired me to want to make something else to go with my ice cream too. I just couldn't figure out what.... drew a complete blank, nada. While I was busy staring into space for inspiration, this packet of quinoa was staring back at me from the kitchen counter. Hmm...would quinoa make a good crust? Well, I decided to put it to the test, and lo and behold, it did make a good crust! It was pretty easy to make too, which was a real bonus.

To make two 3-inch tarts, I simply boiled 1/4 cup of mixed quinoa (mine was red, black and plain) and added a tablespoon of flaxseed meal to it while still hot and moist. The flaxseed becomes sticky and hence acts like a 'glue' binding the quinoa grains together. I then pressed the mixture into the base and sides of a mini-tart pan and left the crust to cool down completely while I made the ice cream. You can chill the crust in the fridge or freezer to firm it up further.

The plain nuttiness of the quinoa and flaxseed played off well against the sweetness of the ice cream. What I also loved was the contrast in textures, the silky smoothness of the ice cream versus the gentle chewiness of the grains. It felt like there was a micro-party going on inside my mouth while I ate this ice cream. Oh, those red hearts made from raspberry puree? They're for you, grandma. May your strength and love continue to live in all of us.

As I said, last week was a pretty intense time for me and my family. Despite that, I did manage to carry out last week's assignment of Lentil, Lemon and Tuna Salad. The intention to participate was there but my heavy heart just couldn't think of anything pleasant or engaging to write in a post to go with my dish. So I'm now taking the opportunity to share my pictures from last week in this post. I hope this doesn't turn into a  'two-in-one' habit...

I made a few adjustments to Dorie's recipe: I used yellow lentils instead of lentils du Puy, cilantro instead of scallions, lemon juice in place of preserved lemon and black rice vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. In spite of the changes, this dish tasted great and it's something I'd like to make again. And again :). I served mine wrapped in lettuce leaves and although it looked like a light meal, the lentils still managed to fill me up.

I'm pretty sure the FFWD site has been turned into an enticing ice cream parlor this week thanks to everyone's participation. If you'd like to have a virtual taste, head on over here.

Hope you all have a beautiful, sunny weekend :).

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