Sorry guys, WI was a tropical paradise last week and I just couldn't bring myself to sit inside and type until now! Anyways here's a rundown of the rest of the week's menus:
Vegetarian Sushi (as suggested by Petals)
One of the things I really wanted to make last week was a vegetarian Paella into which I would involve seaweed to give some seafood flavor. I liked Petals idea better as it already contained seaweed and rice so I made a paella flavored maki roll. I steeped the water for my sushi rice with safflower and seasoned it with sugar and sherry vinegar. As a filling I piped in a big filling of roasted red pepper, crushed tomato, onion, sriracha, olive oil, liquid smoke and agar-agar mixture. The rolls were absolutely stunning with the bright yellow rice, green nori, and bright red filling and really did taste a lot like paella. If I were to do it over, I think I'd roll it rice-side out and toast it with a torch to form a "socarrat." In addition I created a few nagiri style sushi with traditional sushi rice and seasoning topped with cucumber fish-scales that were marinated in mirin and vinegar. Both of these concepts are keepers in my book.
For dessert I made some Tayaki (essentially fish shaped japanese pudgy pies that take batter instead of bread) filled with a with macerated berries. YUM. We ate outside in a nearby park, drank some Snapple. FYI Dolphins sleep with one eye open.
It was still technically winter and I don't cook out of season, yet felt more like summer last week and I wanted to grill. So I served cauliflower "steaks." The steaks were cut out of a whole head of organic cauliflower, a little less than an inch thick which made for a cool looking tree-shaped cross-section presentation. I wanted to serve stem and all so I decided to precook the cauliflower sous vide. I vacuum sealed the steaks with olive oil, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and just a little bit of Sprite soda and left them in the bath for about an hour at 184 F, then marked them on the grill. With this I served a very thick mole style chili sauce which was basically just beer, chili powder, cumin, white pepper, and thickened with tortilla chips. I served this with a salad of chickpeas, asian pears marinated in more Sprite to keep them from turning color, cucumber, cilantro tossed with just a little olive oil.
I regretted starting the dessert precedent already but threw together a dessert of "coffee jello." which consisted of a tiny bundt mold layer with sweetened coconut milk with agar-agar and a layer of sweetened kona coffee with agar-agar. I only made one and just brought two spoons thinking that it didn't seem like the kind of thing that one would want a lot of and also because sharing a dessert seemed like a romantic idea. I originally intended on heating this dessert up as agar-agar would allow this to be served warm, like a real cup of coffee but chickened out as I didn't know what the microwave would do to it. The cauliflower was reheated though in the microwave and held up well, being fork tender even in the stem and very very tasty. Like having cauliflower injected right into your brain. The sauce complimented everything very well, the dessert was interesting but I'd like to try it warm as served cold it wasn't quite sweet enough. She had a lower tolerance for the chili sauce than I guessed and the coconut milk was just what she needed after the heat creeping up on her.
This girl is a practicing Catholic and told me earlier that the only real thing she missed from her pre-vegetarian days was seafood and specifically the great Milwaukee tradition of the Friday beer-batter fish fry and potato pancakes. I wanted to recreate the spirit of this great all-you-can eat culinary tour de force so this was my best shot. In lieu of fish I decided I'd be deep frying avocado halves. I've had avocado halves deep fried a few times and its always fantastic and the texture is similar to fish. Typically people love to marinate avocado with lime to cut the fact that its almost entirely fat but I figured bitterness would do just as well and marinated them in Pabst Blue Ribbon. I didn't want to actually use beer batter as I figured by the time it got from my fryer to her mouth it would lose its crispiness so I went this route and breaded the halves in seasoned flour, egg wash (with more beer), and panko bread crumbs. I served this on a slaw of red peppers, jalapenos, scallions, blanched cabbage tossed with dijon mustard, mayo, and a bit of pickle juice. For the potato pancakes I pureed some cooked yukon golds and put them through a food mill, then beat in a bunch of AP flour, mayo and an extra egg yolk to get a smooth creamy creamy crepe-like batter and made potato crepes. Ladies love crepes. I baked a nice crusty rye bread as well and cut some lemon wedges as pretty much this whole plate of food was pure fat. The presentation was beautiful, I served the slaw and avocados on a salt-rimmed boat and the crepes rolled up and stacked separately on a dish and the rye in a Green-bay packer towel-lined basket. Every thing reheated well, the avocado was still crunchy, and the flavors reminiscent of a 'sconnie fish fry. I was off the hook for dessert as she baked cookies for her office and contributed those herself. Oatmeal, white chocolate, craisin. A fitting Wisconsin flavored dessert.
All in all it was a productive week. If anyone wants any recipes feel free to PM, just promise that they'll be used only for seduction :)
Thanks for all your suggestions, this was a lot of fun I have a feeling I got my hooks into this one.
Edited by benway - 3/26/12 at 2:46pm