Friday, October 31, 2008

TGRWT #11: Bananas & Cloves

Over at (linked in our favorite blogs), each month the site challenges folks to create dishes using unusual, yet reflective ingredients. It's an interesting idea - "If two foods share one or more key odorants, chances are that they will go well together. The first step towards finding new pairings would be to identify key odorants." From Wiki: An aroma compound, also known as odorant, aroma, fragrance or flavor, is a chemical compound that has a smell or odor. A chemical compound has a smell or odor when two conditions are met: the compound needs to be volatile, so it can be transported to the olfactory system in the upper part of the nose, and it needs to be in a sufficiently high concentration to be able to interact with one or more of the olfactory receptors.

Coming off of the tasting menu, I didn't have time to do anything fancy, but I did want to throw two creations into the ring.
First off is my Banana Clove Canolli.

Process one half of a ripe banana with one whole egg. Spread thinly on a silpat and bake at 200 F until no longer tacky, but before it crisps. Mine took about 90 minutes. Shape your tuile around a dowel lined with parchment. Bake until crisp - about 2 more hours in my case.

Warm one can of coconut cream and add 1 T. of freshly ground cloves. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat, covered. Steep for at least 2 hours - I steeped overnight. Make a 4:1 white chocolate ganache using the coconut milk. Let rest until it starts to firm, then pipe into the shell.

How did it taste? This pairing is not quite as daring as others, but I also chose the easy path by making a dessert. The banana was subtle, yet lingering and deep. The clove, on the other hand, was at first over powered by the white chocolate, but then remained the lasting taste in my mouth. If doing this again, I would work the ganache into a mousse to lighten it up (I was out of cream).

On a side note, the banana crisps by themselves were outstanding once crisp, and make super plating decorations. They were very easy to shape with a great texture, and not overly banana-ey by themselves.

As I said, I copped out by making a dessert, so I took a bonus stab at this challenge - Banana Martini with Clove "Olives."

Using Tito's handmade vodka (gluten free) I mushed the other half of the banana and let it steep overnight. I then did a gelatin filtration process to remove the solids resulting in the clear vodka again. And finally a simple clove infused coconut milk, formed into spheres and dropped into the martini.

The result looked like vodka but tasted like banana soup. It was very sweet, with no taste of vodka whatsoever. The melting coconut and clove gave a nice undertone to the second and third sips. Although it didn't taste like vodka, it still had a kick -- the vodka made my head numb and the clove made my tongue numb. This could be a dangerous drink!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Blog of a blog: Breadhunter's Blog

I added a link to this very interesting blog that focuses on the culture of sourdough (pardon the pun), and particularly the ways in which people prepare the bread. I was led to this from a recent request that someone in town had regarding an horno oven that our community might install. Check it out.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tasting Menu: Fall Memories part. 3

The desserts...

Course 11: Apple Pie and Cheddar Cheese
5-Year Cheddar cheesecake with warm apple cider and lemon cotton candy

Course 12: Riesling Marshmallow

Tasting Menu: Fall Memories part. 2

Course 7: Bean Soup
This was my favorite course to make. As a child I loved fall and winter nights where my mom would serve us bean soup. She would soak white beans over night, then cook them all day the next day with a ham hock, and typically with corn bread. We would wrap up in blankets in front of the TV and eat and fart - those were great times! In my updating of this family classic I started with two varieties of rare beans: Spotted Horse 4-Corner beans and Chaco Canyon River Runners. Both or gorgeous:

I cooked these with La Quercia organic pancetta from Iowa and made my mom's soup. I pureed the soup, finished it with chestnut oil spread it on a sheet (adding some elements to help it keep its structure), added a sliver of summer black truffle, and baked the soup into crackers.

I then cooked a bunch of Niman Ranch bacon and converted the juices into bacon powder using tapioco maltodextrin. At the farmers market I found a rare corn - Hopi White Flint corn. That was roasted, juiced, and made into a soup with a bit of brown sugar, green chile and other cornbready type seasonings.

In the final service I plated the cracker over the powder, and did a tableside pouring of the corn soup. Tyler said that this was one of his favorite courses of the evening.

Course 8: Patè
Having just secured 10 locally raised, freshly processed rabbits, and being gifted 10 pounds of rabbit liver, I set out to make a patè - my first ever. I added some brandy, currants and braised apple. I formed it in a PVC pipe to make a round.

And then served it with a ginger pulp triscuit

and baby carrot candied with palm sugar and sechuwan pepper, and asparagus espuma.

Course 9: Lobster
This was another great tasting dish. I infused a couple of lobster tails in coconut milk with saffron, then did a gelatin/agar mixture to allow me to create a warm "noodle" of the mixture.

Next, I created a chestnut flour w/black truffle pasta, filled it with summer squash

and made ravioli.

The final plating included a squiggle of 25-year balsmico. muscovado smear, and balsamic glazed squash seeds.

Not the prettiest plating, but very good.

Course 10: Rabbit Goat
Speaking of not the prettiest...

No, I didn't serve maggots! This is wild rice that I puffed for a savory granola (celery root, onion and rice). And again, speaking of not the prettiest...

Sous vide cooked rabbit that was later shredded and filled into the granola.

In the final plating: the granola rabbit topped with a sunchoke gratin filled with truffle cheese; fresh tortilla, avocado mousse, goat carnitas and a squirt of juniper berry cream. The plating sucked because we had some dish washing issues, but it was all good, if not a bit much for one plate.

Tasting Menu: Fall Memories

(I'm a few pictures short of the full meal, so I'll add them as I get them from friends, and I'll break up this post into two sections for length.)

It was a super meal - not perfect, but I was very happy with the meal, the response and the staff. First off, I had a new-to-town guy just happen to walk into the store on Thursday asking for kitchen work. I was ready to send him away because we didn't have any work, but he happened to mention a few words that caught my attention. In the end I found out he worked at Shade in Houston as a sous, and then I was thanking the kitchen angels for sending him my way at the last minute.

He served as my sous for Saturday night which freed me up to focus on plating and entertaining. His girlfriend was taking pics for me so I hope to have her pics in a day or two. To recap - this meal was a tasting menu for 18 customers with a theme of Fall Memories, focusing and reinventing meals that came from my childhood in the Fall. As with my previous tasting menu, it was highly locally sourced, organic and modern. My goal is to show people what can be done with local foods.

Course 1: Champagne Toast
I simply gelified some sparkling NM wine and cut it into spaghetti sized noodles. Those were then coiled on a spoon and tossed with pomegranate seeds. A simple amuse to kick off the night.

Course 2: Bread Service
This was my regular sourdough, but made into mini batards and included rosemary and orange zest. I served it with butter formed into madeleines.

Course 3: Borscht
A delicate sour cream scone served with a beet sorbet sphere, lemongrass foam, celery ice. I think this was the most beautiful dish of the evening, and the beet was one of the best tastes of the evening.
(You'll note that I haven't posted any pics yet because I was madly cooking and plating at this point.)

Course 4: PBJ
A childhood favorite: peanut butter and jelly, except mine was a sheet of black sesame paper infused with garam masala and finished with gray salt. The sheet was suspended above the bowl of grape gel made from locally raised concord grapes.

Course 5: Tuna Tempura
My self-imposed signature dish! I started with a little flame set inside of a chile pepper.

This was then enclosed in an oil lamp chimney. On top of the chimney was a skewered, tempura battered prickly pear tuna (fruit) filled with chuchupate (an indigenous herb), white chocolate ganache & blueberry. Its a great dish since it tastes great and folks really think its tuna fish. Both times I've done this there have been table arguments about whether it was tuna fish or not, and I enjoy having that diversion at that point in the meal.

Course 6: Oyster Terrine
Locally foraged oyster mushrooms & morels set in a terrine, served with a savory cocoa soil, basil powder and lemon olive oil pudding.

Not my favorite dish, but the soil is a solid component for me, and that olive oil pudding was amazing! Also in my top taste for the night. It has many future possibilities for me - as many possibilities as there are oil profiles!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

For those of you interested in the process of tasting menus, here is my final day's itinerary:

8:30 am Sv wrap rabbit, and put in pot at 150F
Farmers Market: wine grapes, cantaloupe, micro greens, filler greens, carrots?, eggs
Juice grapes and make geleè; dry skins coated in sugar
Shred cheddar for crisps
Make sunchoke gratins in muffin pan
Make corn soup
Asparagus espuma
Olive oil smear (82)
Prepare jujubes
Fix SA droplets
Fix tuna chimney holder
Need fabric for tablecloths
Ingredients for scones

2 pm Carrot sauce for patè

4 Bread out to proof
Brioche out to proof
Cut carrots into babies
Carrot geleè – need acetate sheet

5:30 pm Cotton candy machine on – make, cut, store
Make tortillas
Prep SA grape caviar and bath Bake sour cream scones

6 500 g lemongrass tea, 250 g sugar, 4 ½ sheet gelatin (softened)
Heat in saucepan til dissolved; add gelatin and immersion blend; pour in soda make with 2 charges, chill
Bake bread
Make carrot knots and chill in ice water

6:45 Cut champagne spaghetti
Start ice cream maker with beet sorbet
Bake brioche
7 pm Seat guests
7:10 Spaghetti on fork, in baking dish
Heat corn soup
7:20 Bread service, small plate with butter form
Candy baby carrots in palm sugar and szechwan
7:30 Beet sorbet on sour cream cake set in lemongrass foam with celery ice (fork scraped)
Batter and fry tunas
7:40 Black sesame paper, Chardonnay grap SA caviar on soup spoon, wine on base
Cut terrine for plating
7:50 Tuna Tempura, burning chile
8:05 Oyster Terrine, cocoa soil, fresh cantaloupe shavings, micro greens
8:20 Bean Soup: bean paper hung/covering over bacon powder; table poured hot corn soup
Start frying tortillas
Sunchoke gratins in oven
8:35 Patè: patè rectangle, draped in carrot geleè, topped with brioche slices, carrot droplets, candied baby carrots, textured ginger square, asparagus espuma
8:50 Lobster tea coconut milk ribbon, squash ravioli, caramelized seeds, mucovado mousse, 25-year balsamic
Fry carrot knots
Fry goat shreds
Bake cheddar crisps
9:10 Rabbit with fried carrot knots & jujubes; miso granola, sunchoke gratin; Cabrito carnitas, cilantro foam, juniper crumbles, avocado mousse in tortilla.
9:35 Whiskey Cheddar cheesecake & warm cider soup
9:45 Riesling Marshmallows & cheddar crisps

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tasting Menu: Brief update

I obviously won't be posting much until after Saturday. Here's a quick glimpse into my world:

And a little tease for the dinner:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Recipe: White Chocolate Chestnut Scones

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the roasted chestnut flour that I had. The problem was that the "roasted" was too strong of a flavor for most desserts, but I really didn't want to do the obvious and make it into pasta. Finally I realized that white chocolate would make a nice complement for the smokiness of the flour, and that resulted in this recipe. It was a good scone with higher than normal protein, so a bit more nutritionally useful than a traditional scone. Enjoy!

3 C. All-Purpose Flour
3/4 C. Chestnut Flour
1/2 C. Sugar
1 T. Baking Powder
1/2 t. Salt
1.5 Sticks Butter
1 Egg
3/4 C. Milk
1/2 C. White Chocolate Chips (I used Callebaut)
1/2 C. Cacao Nibs

Oven 375 F

Sift flours, sugar, baking powder and salt together. In food processor, cut butter into dry mixture until course crumbs (Don't over-process). Stir in the chips and nibs. Pour into a bowl, make a well in the center. In small bowl, lightly mix the egg and milk. Pour liquid into well. Using wooden spoon, combine until it just comes together. If it seems too dry, add a bit more milk (It should be dry, but able to hold together).

Put on counter and knead lightly for 30 seconds. You want to keep the butter chunks distinct so they help form the flakiness of the scone. Roll dough out on lightly flour surface. I formed the dough into a square and cut it into 8 triangles, or you can be more traditional and use a round biscuit cutter. Brush the tops with cream (or milk), sprinkle with turbinado (or ground nuts) and bake for 10-15 minutes or until done.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tres Compliments at the Cafè

1. Woman tells us that her friend drives 50 miles to come get our brownies.

2. Family from France says that our bread is the best they've had since leaving France.

3. Human companion says that my dog treats are the only ones that his dog will eat.

Here's to a great weekend!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Have you seen these chocolates?

We've had the Askinosie and Patric for a while - both are highly recommended for bean-to-bar lovers. The Blanxart is just a brute of a bar. Big, bold, but nothing fancy. The red wrapper is a Taza Organic stone ground - haven't tried it yet. Others we haven't tried yet: far right - Amatller chocolate; just next to it - a Venchi chocolate bar with absynth, and a Venchi dark. Not too bad for a small town store in the desert! Anybody try some of these others?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog of a blog: Chiles in the Desert

eG friend, Klary (linked in the blog list to the left) just returned from three weeks of traveling and eating in our area. You can read her report here. She and I were also noted in a recent newspaper article .

Do Not Disturb (the new Alinea book is here!)

I'm giddy as a 6th grade school girl at a Jonas Brothers Concert! My autographed, limited edition version of the brand spankin' new Alinea cookbook is here. Did I say "cookbook"!? How about shrine to all things that food aspire to be book. You can see that someone (Tyler) already put there grubby paws on the cover, but I'll be spending the next 10 years of my life reading and practicing these amazing recipes.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, check out the Alinea website or our blog entry on our dinner there last year.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


On Sunday I taught my first sushi class. I'm by no means an expert, but I have certainly made enough sushi to walk people through the basics to having sushi in there homes. First, one of mine:

Then the class obviously had fun in the nigiri zushi part of the class:

And one participant had way too much fun - note the soy dribble on chin and chest!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hello Bready!

I recently converted my bread over to a whole wheat (20%) and have almost worked through all of the issues. These loaves are coming out large, round and great tasting...more importantly, the crust has remained near perfect. I'm still getting a few splits, but I'm adjusting my hydration and'll get there. Enjoy!

Monday's Drool Pictures

A few things I made over the weekend.

Baklawa using whole wheat fillo, nut mixture (pistachio, walnut & cashew) and a breath of orange water.

Tropical Fruit Cream Pie that was a special request. They actually wanted coconut cream, and they wanted it in just a few hours. I didn't have the ingredients for coconut, so I talked them into this which was blood orange, mango & pineapple curd with a meringue top.

And, we had rare humidity this weekend which made all of my baking very happy! The croissants were as plump as I've ever made them. Perfectly risen, baked, egg washed...and boy were the chocolate ones delicious!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Blue d'Auvergne Cheese

I have quite a few posts to catch you all up on that will rollout over the next few days. Let's start with a cheese that I think is one of the most beautiful there is. Blue d'Auvergne. unlike most blues that have the tell-tale signs of spore injection line, this blue is perfectly speckled with blue. I find it mid-tone in its strongness, as well as in texture - meaning it can crumble or spread as needed. I love blues with a bit of fig preserves more than anything else!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Experiment: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Cornmeal

I had a bad batch of dough and thought, "What the heck, let's see what would happen." I was hoping that by lining my cookie sheet with corn meal (such as I sometimes do with bread), that I would add a nice textural component, and that the corn flavor would be a nice addition.

The splitting that you see is the bad dough, so ignore that. See the seepage on the 10 o'clock position of the lower cookie? That wasn't a good sign. It resulted in some clumped corn meal on the bottom, no flavor enhancement and no textural improvement. Result: Don't waste your time. I did eat them anyway.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I'm getting closer to finalizing the next Tasting Menu (10/25). Two ingredients that I will be using are ones that I found in our backyard - not really our backyard, but out in the wilderness.

These are oyster mushrooms that we found on a recent walk in a riverbed. A tree had fallen and these large clusters were in tact, dried. I showed them to a local herboligist and she confirmed that they were in fact oysters, and she explained the flavor distinguishing factors of color. She stated that the darker the color, the more rich and caramely the flavor. I have two recipes that are vying for these shrooms.

Then we have these juniper berries. Large, picked just days before their prime. I'm anticipating these in a rabbit dish, and most likely a patè.

On an unrelated note, we have an eGulleter visiting from the Netherlands right now, and tonight she said to me, "You always do weird food." WEIRD FOOD! What the hell does that mean?! Besides that whole celery dessert kick (here, here & here), my food is normal. Everyone else's is weird!

What is Rob Making?

In case you've ever wondered what I make at the cafè, here is a Greek Salad that I made today. Nothing fancy, just a bed of organic greens, feta crumbles, kalamata, fresh tomatoes, a swirl of cucumber and some grilled pita. One of my favorites to make.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Seasonal Olive Oils

It's an interesting idea. Olive oils, specially blended to match the season of the year. This is from the Fall/Winter blend. I'm not so sure. This oil is a typical grassy French with a buttery middle tone and a very slight peppery finish - so it runs the spectrum. The lingering aftertaste is an almost sweet grass...almost tea. Its nice. I'm not sure how this fits into Fall and Winter however.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pictures to drool over...

And as always, I encourage you to click on the pic to make it larger.

First up: Pistachio Cheesecake with Sour Cherry Glaze

And how about a Lemon Curd Tartlet with Blackberry Gel (layered below the lemon)

And for those of you without a sweet tooth, my sourdough, whole wheat boulè

Friday, October 3, 2008

Compliments & Congratulations

We've been hearing increasing compliments about our food which has been fun. One of our food distributors, yesterday, said that we've raised the bar for all the other restaurants and "you're making them look bad."

Moments after that comment a customer came back to the kitchen. She just finished lunch, and had also had a meal before closing the night before with her boyfriend (I heated a bunch of our gourmet-to-go items, finished with two prickly pear tunas stuffed with Hungarian sour cherries and lemon curd which they deemed amazing). Apparently, that set the mood because the couple left the store to walk in a local park at which point he dropped to his knee and proposed. The glowing fianceè thanked me for being a part of a perfect night.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fall Tasting Menu Updates

A couple of exciting things happened today related to the Tasting Menu on 10/25. First, I secured our venue - a beautiful house just north of town. We might still catch a sunset or it may just be a star filled night.

Also, I met a woman who raises all sorts of interesting foods (interesting for this area anyway). She has Jerusalem artichokes, and heirloom beans. One in particular is a rust colored bean with white spots called a Four Corners Painted that was brought from an Indian reservation up north. I'm already thinking bao for that one. We'll see.