In the last few months I’ve been reading the first two books of Modernist Cuisine on the train to and from work. To my opinion, it’s the very best book on cooking science currently available. At first the 20kg heavy cyclopedia might seem pretty expensive, but if you consider that it actually contains all the knowledge from your complete bookshelf, it’s quite a bargain. What I also like in the book is that it goes very much into detail on the science behind food and cooking techniques, but everything is explained in n easily readable and comprehensible way.
The chapter on cooking techniques and utensils in the second book was so inspiring to me, that I tidied up my kitchen and preserved some space for new kitchen equipment. One of the kitchen tools I acquired recently was a microwave. Yes, a microwave, the one and only kitchen tool that has been neglected in the past decades by several professional cooks. Only recently cooks started to use microwaves due to some of its unique applications. From a culinary perspective, a microwave has a lot more to offer. I read about these possibilities in the second book of Modernist Cuisine and I’ll feature each one of them in a post on my blog in the future. First I start with the simplest basic recipe, which is based on a recipe by the famous and well renowned chef Thomas Keller.
Next to experimenting with new flavor pairings and techniques, thinking about classic dishes and transforming them into new and more interesting forms is my biggest passion in cooking. Sometimes I start meditating about a classic dish, its ingredients, the involved techniques and the possibilities behind them. The ideas pop up and evolve during this creative process. Some other times I keep thinking and enhancing distinct single ideas, which I quite suddenly assemble into a new dish or a reinterpretation of a classic. This time I combined several ideas and applied it to a Hungarian classic: the lecho (orignally: lecsó). Traditionally lecsó is a mix of onions, long bell peppers and onions simmered similarly to a stew and served either immediately or stored in glasses for the forthcoming winter. Sometimes lecsó is enhanced with garlic, Hungarian sausage (kolbász), sweet paprika powder or lard. Lecsó is usually served mixed with rice or eggs, or it can be eaten simply with a few slices of bread. I prefer the version with rice and – very nontraditionally – a lot of cinnamon, which works especially well with chorizo-like sausages.
You might ask now: why to serve a lecsó in form of a sushi? Well, I figured out how to make endless variations of nori algae sheet substitutes (the sheets you wrap your sushi into), how the texture of tomatoes and peppers can resemble soft fish meat and how to replace the wasabi by another traditional Hungarian ingredient. With the combination of the ideas described below, serving a sushi with lecsó flavor surely will make sense to you as well. So read on below for the birth story of the Lechosushi.
About one year ago, when Phaidon released the revolutionary cookbook Noma by René Redzepi, they also prepared a few short videos for promotion purposes. These short videos show Redzepi foraging and cooking four of his dishes – which actually aren’t featured in the book itself. The videos and the book both try to transmit and deliver the path to the development of new dish and the main idea behind the restaurant Noma.
Although I was inspired by a combination I collected via Foodpairing, most pairings featured in this starter are quite well known. For example broccoli is often served with almond flakes, where the almond can be replaced by other nuts, such as hazelnut or peanut. I always use the broccoli stem as well, which reminds me of kohlrabi – so pairing broccoli and kohlrabi was straight-forward. Figs might sound a little bit strange, but I already made figs and broccoli work together previously. The dish below unites the aforementioned pairings in a vegan appetizer.
Many people know cashews only as a salty snack. Actually, the unsalted and unroasted cashew nuts are very versatile and can be applied in multiple ways in the kitchen. For example cooked cashews are a great garnish and pair especially well with sunchokes. You can blend the cooked cashews into a fine puree as well, which can be served either pure or flavored with vegetable juices. Compared to other nuts, raw cashews have a slightly softer texture. Roasting them not only crisps them, but also enhances their flavor. Many recipes advise to roast nuts in skillets or dry pans. I always roast nuts in the oven, because this way they don’t get burnt spots, but roast through completely. Roasted cashews can be used as a puree, in desserts or in appetizers, like the starter below.
It was a long and winding road until the golden beetroot finally made it to my kitchen. I first encountered yellow beets on a photo in the German food magazine Der Feinschmecker. Later on, in 2009 I got my hands on a copy of Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Cookbook. It included a very simple yet funny recipe featuring orange and beetroot jelly only (see a photo here). The joke in this dish was that the flavors are swapped: the red jelly is made of blood orange juice and the yellow one using golden beets. I appreciate culinary surprises like this, because the twist and the surprise naturally forces the diner to focus more on the flavor. Among other things, this was also a reason why I began to look for golden beets. Unfortunately, the search took me 3 years, but I finally received 3 exemplars.