Saturday, April 16, 2011

Small Bites: Big Flavor

Since finishing my internship at Pure Food and Wine, I have been experimenting with recipes, dabbling into their cookbooks and making new creations of my own. I wanted to bring my favorite dishes from the restaurant into my kitchen, taking some of their flavor inspirations and techniques and layering them into my daily meals. One of my favorite things to plate (and snack on) on the line was their tarts, served as an hors d'ouvre. This is something that seems to change quite often in the restaurant, but I loved the bold flavors that came out of these small bites. This recipe is as close as I can remember, though I believe we used an apple cider reduction as the sauce. There are so many different ways to play around with this. I made my base more of a cracker, instead of a tart, as I did not have tart molds on hand to create the shape. This worked out just fine, and I actually prefer having the leftovers around to snack on. Here is my latest version and what I learned from Pure Food and Wine.

Pinot Noir Crisps with Herbed Cashew Cream
Trumpet Mushrooms + Caramelized Shallots
Apricot-Riesling Sauce

The Apricot Riesling sauce, along with the freshness from the herbs brightens up the heavy Pinot Noir, shallot and trumpet mushroom flavor. With the sweetness from the maple shallots and truffle oil notes, this makes for one awesome bite. I used Dr. Cow's Cashew Cream Cheese as a base and added my own herbs, but you can certainly make your own cashew cheese. I added fresh chives and parsley. Serves about 4

Black Pepper-Pinot Noir Crisps
1 cup pecans, soaked for 1 hour
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
3 1/2 Tbsp Pinot Noir
3 1/2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of sea salt

In a food processor, blend all the ingredients until smooth. Add more wine as necessary until you get a smooth consistency, like peanut butter. Spread the mixture evenly on a Teflex-lined dehydrator tray, using an offset spatula to spread evenly. 

Dehydrate for about 2 hours, until the surface is completely dry. Use a cutter of your choice (depending on what size/shape cracker you want) to score shapes into the mixture. Dehydrate for another 2 to 3 hours until the tops feel dry. Flip onto the mesh screen, peeling off the Teflex sheet and dehydrate until crisp. 

 Marinated Trumpet Mushrooms
1 cup black trumpet mushrooms (I used dried)
1/4 cup Pinot Noir
1/4 medium shallot, peeled and finely minced
1/4 cup nama shoyu
1/2 tsp white truffle oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the mushrooms and pat dry. Mix the ingredients in a bowl and toss. Place mushrooms in the dehydrator until ready to serve.

Caramelized Shallots
2 medium shallots, peeled, cut in half, and sliced very thin
Splash of maple syrup
Splash of extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt

Toss ingredients in a shallow small hotel pan, or mini loaf pan until evenly coated. Dehydrate until shallots are broken down and the liquid is mostly evaporated, about 2 to 4 hours.

Apricot-Riesling Sauce
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup dry Riesling
Punch of sea salt

Puree ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth.

To assemble, drizzle the plate with the Apricot-Riesling Sauce. Place a Pinot Noir Crisp on the plate, stack with a spoonful of the herbed cashew cream, a pinch-ful of shallots and trumpet mushrooms. Top off with more fresh herbs and a few drops of truffle oil.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Avocado Toast: Revisited

I posted a while back about my favorite any-time snack, The Avocado Toast. It's healthy and fresh, full of flavor and satisfying. I have turned many people with many different palettes onto this and I've recently upped-the-anti with a few additions. I continue to enjoy this savory creation, playing with new and different flavors, especially as the Summer months approach us with all of its ripe produce.

I used Mana Bread in this recipe, but any good multi-grain bread will do the trick. Mana bread is organic and sprouted, and contains no yeast, salt, oil, or sweeteners. It's full of protein and fiber and has a wonderfully nutty taste. It's a bit dense, but sliced thin and extra toasted, it makes for the perfect bite.

I top off this recipe with fresh organic, raw sauerkraut. I have really gotten into pickling and fermentation lately and favor the tastes, along with the health promoting qualities that this process offers. Naturally fermented foods contain active cultures and enzymes (like those found in yogurt) that help support proper digestion, aid in nutrient absorption and contribute to healthy metabolic function. Studies have shown that regular consumption of naturally fermented vegetables positively correlate with low rates of asthma, skin problems and autoimmune disorders in children and also have potential anti-cancer links. You can make your own sauerkraut or purchase from your local market. I recommend Real Pickles brand, but just be sure it's raw and organic. 

Avocado, Tomato + Sauerkraut Toasts
Serves 2

6 slices mana bread (or other multi-grain bread)
2 avocados, halved + pitted 
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt
crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 ripe tomato, thinly sliced and cut in half
couple Tbsp raw sauerkraut
fresh basil tops
splash of extra virgin olive oil

Slice bread thinly and toast to liking. Scoop out the avocado and place in a bowl. Add the lemon juice + a pinch of salt and smash until slightly chunky. Spread the avocado onto the toast with a fork and top with crushed red pepper flakes. Next stack the tomato slice, then the sauerkraut and top with the basil. Finish with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil and a bit more crushed red pepper flakes.