The Bow and Spade; My level 5 menu project.

 

When I started conceptualizing for this menu project I immediately knew I wanted to represent the gardening aspect of my life. Since I began culinary school I have been on an internal journey of discovery. Discovery of myself, my passion and facing the duality of my personality. My career as a gardener has always represented balance, patience and nurturing, while the culinary side of my life is about passion, risk and adventure. Through this menu I wanted to bring harmony to the two things in my life that have had the biggest influence over who I have been, and who I am becoming.

In order to represent the garden in this menu I have chosen to use a variety of blossoms from my own garden as garnish. The desserts all have a floral theme to them. The blossoms are edible and organically grown. I have a deep fondness for bringing such a fragile product into an environment filled with fire and sharp knives. It brings a gentleness to the plate and serves to remind us that all our food comes from nature, was hopefully once outside growing in the sun, grazing on grass or buried in the soil. In our kitchens, as cooks, we will work countless hours in windowless environments, rendering these gifts of nature into an entirely different life giving, memory inducing, sensory expanding product. I truly feel that, as a cook, you deserve to be as stimulated and nurtured by what you are producing as the people who will receive the gift of your creation. That stimulation will help fuel you to further create and respect the products of the natural world.

The culinary side of me is represented by my use of wild game and offal. Several times over the course of this program my fellow classmates have referred to me as primal, an animal and the beast, all of which I have genuinely loved. Many nights through this experience I have felt like a huntress and the hunted, tracking myself and hunting my future. It extends beyond these easy words to something more like a feeling, the feeling of the rhythm of a kitchen. There is a natural rhythm of cooking much like the natural rhythm in nature. The prance of a deer is never out of rhythm with the rest of it’s environment, for it could lead to certain death. In the kitchen any misstep can lead to a cataclysmic evening of late dishes slapped together with little thought or care.

Cooking is also a very sensual experience. Much like smelling a rose on a hot summer day. It washes over you and transports you and distends your sense of time. I chose to use rosewater in my rice pudding to help convey that sense of sensuality and timelessness. Roses have religious and romantic symbolism that stretches back through the history of humans. They are medicinal and can help prevent women from hemorrhaging during child birth. They are represented in many major religions from Muslim to Christian. The rose is both wild and tame, has inspired women to passion and men to the very specific control of hybridization to create ruffles and fragrance that are purely human creations. Rosewater’s origins are as old as man and can be traced back to the Phoenician’s, Greeks and the Romans. Used in flavoring food and relieving the senses of generally unpleasant smells. We humans have been infatuated with roses since we first stumbled upon them.

I feel the harmony of these dishes is best represented by the wine pairings, which allow a mellow flow and cohesive influence to each dish. For the first course I chose a 2010 Jurancon sec clos lapeyre. The sweet and spicy notes of this wine compliment while the underlying minerality helps cut through the fat that each dish inhibits.

For our second course I chose a 2009 Pavelot- Pernand-Vergelesses for it’s light bodied forest floor qualities that pair well with the morels in the Rabbit ballantine but don’t over power the delicateness of the rabbit meat.

For the fourth course I chose a 2010 Elian da ros sua spunte , whose bright acidity helps lift the dishes rather than a typical dessert wine that would be heavy sugar on the pallet.

menu

dedication

duck liver mousse with port wine gelee

duck liver mousse with port wine gelee

 

 

 

carrot thyme fritter over parsley coulis

carrot thyme fritter over parsley coulis

 

 

Bone marrow with roasted garlic, micro arugula salad and salvia

Bone marrow with roasted garlic, micro arugula salad and salvia

 

 

chilled asparagus and dill soup, creme fraiche, thyme blossoms

chilled asparagus and dill soup, creme fraiche, thyme blossoms

 

 

squid ink ravioli, dill cream sauce

squid ink ravioli, dill cream sauce

 

 

rabbit ballantine stuffed with rabbit liver and morel pate, micro salad, carrots glace a blanc with salvia blossoms

rabbit ballantine stuffed with rabbit liver and morel pate, micro salad, carrots glace a blanc with salvia blossoms

juniper and pepper encrusted venison, cherry wine reduction, sauteed fiddleheads, poached beech mushrooms and roasted fingerlings

juniper and pepper encrusted venison, cherry wine reduction, sauteed fiddleheads, poached beech mushrooms and roasted fingerlings

madagascar pink rice rosewater pudding, candied pistachios, candied rose petals

madagascar pink rice rosewater pudding, candied pistachios, candied rose petals

elderflower panna cotta, kumquat reduction, candied kumquats, borage

elderflower panna cotta, kumquat reduction, candied kumquats, borage

le bete noir with fleur de sel, candied orange peel, orange blossoms and orange blossom chantilly

le bete noir with fleur de sel, candied orange peel, orange blossoms and orange blossom chantilly

A healthy dose of fear

Sometimes in this life you have to shake your senses up. Step outside the doldrum of your routine and bring a little fear of the unknown into the equation. Currently I wage the battle with this thing called fear.  I have walked a sure and steady path for years now.  Sleep came easy and the bills were paid.  Now I stand on the precipice of discovery, heartbreak and ultimately a very human experience.  Leaving gardening and plunging into the fire of a culinary path for earnest and true.

I am bound for southeast asia in a few months to blow in the breeze and work outside my comfort zone.  I am ready to taste and explore a  world so vastly different from everything I have ever known. Food is my ticket, and baby I am ready to board that fuckin’ plane. A healthy dose of fear is my main baggage.

Food can make you sigh with pleasure, comfort your broken heart, evoke powerful memories and it can open your mind to horizons you never dreamed about. It can transport you through your senses to places you’ve never been.  It can bring that element of fear right to your plate.  I decided to work with silkie chicken as a symbol of  this current tidal wave of fear.  If your unfamiliar with silkie chickens they have a natural purplish black hue to their flesh.  This is not what we typically want in our chicken which is generally chosen as a comforting food rather than a challenging food.

silkie chicken

I wanted to maintain this color and deepen it to what you now know to be my favorite color, black, so I chose to smoke it.  I paired it with ginger infused forbidden black rice, spicy pickled enoki mushrooms, pickled  purple cabbage, pickled Quail eggs and served with a ginger spiked dashi broth.

IMG_2049 IMG_1969 IMG_2055 IMG_1959 IMG_1964Never settle for  a life that leaves you wondering what you could have done.  Step into the abyss and find out what is waiting down there in the dark of the unknown.  In respect to my current mindset I name this dish the Phoenix, cause sometimes you have to burn everything to the ground for anything new to grow.  And just to relate it to the garden path I have walked for so long, even the forest knows this.  Only after a fire do we see such magical things as morels.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ~ Frank Herbert, Dune

 

 

Vernal Equinox, the balance of day and night

That time has come to us once again.  The day and night find a balance.  We reemerge from the shadows to find the joys of lighter clothes, animals freaking and plants bursting forth with color and fragrance to relieve our tired winter senses.  Even for a crank like me, spring holds me in it’s spell.

Spring, most importantly, mean asparagus.  That complexly flavored veggie that only stays around for a few short weeks. But oh, what a glorious few weeks it is.  Rising out of the ground like a tiny chlorophyll packed tower just waiting to make you feel awkward about the way your pee smells in a public restroom.  Grilled, steamed or made into soup, bring it on till it runs dry.

asparagus

chilled asparagus soup with yogurt, meyer lemon and terragon swirl and fried tips and meyer lemon zest

chilled asparagus soup with yogurt, meyer lemon and terragon swirl and fried tips and meyer lemon zest

So, to you I say, happy spring.  It’s almost time to set aside root veggies and indulge in a sensuous new cooking season. May it bring you closer to nature in a way you never thought imaginable.

Big bird meet little bird

It all started with an emu egg.  So glorious in its aquatic toned speckles, it beckoned to me  and I was powerless to resist. I have a very special connection with Emu’s, this being the power animal of one of my favorite people on the planet. I had to make sure to take this product seriously, and well, not so seriously.  The balance of my relationship with my human Emu is just such.  We appreciate the vast and innumerable differences we have and yet these are the things that have kept us bonded and infatuated with each other over the years. Yes, I do refer to her as the Emu, please stop rolling your eyes.

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First off, when dealing with an egg of this size you get to use power tools to open it. This is always a bonus for me! I debated with my culinary colleagues about the best process for opening this treasure and being the male dominated brains they are they opted for tools that would give me straight edges to work with.  Dremel was first choice for them but I opted for a simpler technique of drilling a series of holes and then just cracking it open to obtain a more jagged appearance in the finished product.  Now, what to make?  So much egg to deal with.

I ran through all the potentials in my head of mousse, baking a soufflé in the actual shell, poaching one giant egg… but when it came down to it pasta was the best choice.  Yes, another post about pasta.  Sorry.  Why pasta though? Cause what else would look more like a nest? and why not pair it with quail to add humor and tastiness to the project? So this silliness was born:

a posse of quails, chill in

a posse of quails, chillin, pre seasoning.

coriander grilled quails in and emu tagliatelle nest
coriander grilled quails in an emu tagliatelle nest

Now for the more serious side of this project.  Quail has always been a fond meat for me and pairing it with dark fruits like cherries or plums really makes me happy.  Here in Cali we are still months away from these fruits so I purchased dried santa rosa plums and soaked them for a few hours in a port wine bath.  I pulled the meat off the little birds, pureed the plums and mixed them together to stuff some emu raviolis and then finished the dish with a  sauce beurre blanc studded with port poached plums and garnished with fennel frond.

Emu egg ravioli stuffed with coriander grilled quail and port poached plums

 

human size portion

human size portion

the bloody rose has no thorns

I fell in love with panna cotta long ago.  The silkiness of this dessert is heaven to me.  Texture, texture, texture.  One of my favorite things about eating.  For my 30th birthday my husband took me to Michael Mina’s in San Francisco. I had a sea urchin panna cotta that transported me to another world. I closed my eyes and felt as if I were walking on the ocean.  It was one of those moments with food that was so powerful that to this day I can recall it with almost perfect clarity.

A few weeks ago we ate at AQ and had a palate cleanser of rose panna cotta that left me aching for more.  It pulled at my longing for summer gardens and that heady fragrance of rose in the air and the droning of bees working their pollinating magic.  So the only logical thing to do of course was to come home and recreate that magic.

I just took a basic panna cotta recipe using Straus milk and cream.  Instead of adding vanilla I used a tablespoon of rose water.  Let the silky love unfold! I also made a blood orange sauce to accompany it, the citrus lends a beautifully clean finish on the palate.

natures glistening jewel

natures glistening jewel

 

one of a kind design, especially for me, by the lovely and talented Anna Payden.

one of a kind design, especially for me, by the lovely and talented Anna Payden.

rose panna cotta with blood orange sauce and jasmine blooms

rose panna cotta with blood orange sauce and jasmine blooms

floating in a sea of blood

floating in a sea of blood

Squid ink, reflection of my heart.

So, for those that know me, you know black is where it is at for me. For those that don’t know me, consider yourself educated on such matters.  Recently I have been obsessed with the idea of developing an all black dish, which has spiraled into an all black menu. So of course, squid ink has to be involved! Also what better way to start this bloggy thing than with a black dish.  Oh, maybe you were expecting bone marrow? Don’t worry, that will be coming soon.  Mmmm, marrow.

So, locating squid ink is fairly easy, you just need a good fish monger. I happen to love Monterey Fish Market in Berkeley and they are getting pretty used to me popping in and antagonizing them.  I was able to procure cuttle fish ink, which is essentially the same thing, from these masters of aquatic delights, for a fair price.  While I was there I also had to pick up a few lobsters, cause well, I just had too.

So cuttle fish ink tagliatelle was my project for dinner and I must say, what a fun way to spend the afternoon.  Making pasta is like taking a trip back to childhood, play doh factory anyone?

Yep, thats a blue egg.  Isn't she lovely?

Yep, thats a blue egg. Isn’t she lovely?

 

 

Oh yes, black.

Oh yes, black.

 

 

a great stress reliever, working the dough.

a great stress reliever, working the dough.pasta dough

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ribbons of love

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I served it with these guys all roasted with butter and garlic chives, simple and delicious.

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