Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Yacht 2.0

Sesame Parmesan Tuille with Dungeness Crab Salad and Gazpacho Sorbet

Slow Roasted King Salmon with Charmoula Spices and Avocado Hummus

Pork Tenderloin Crusted in Fennel Pollen and Toasted Orange Peel with a Grilled Peach and Red Pepper Salad

Basil, Tomato & Walnut Tabouleh

Raw Artichoke Salad with Arugula, Feta and Sumac-Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Baby Roasted Potatoes with Smoked Tomato Romesco

Cheesecake with Chocolate Crumb Crust and Cherry-Rhubarb Compote

Dinner at the crew house awaited the X’s and guests after a day spent at the boat yard. Feeling obligated to showcase my favorite new toy and let the X’s know how much I appreciate and will use my PacoJet, I started things off with a little amuse-bouche; a “Pacotized” Gazpacho Sorbet in a sesame parmesan tuille with Dungeness crab salad. It proved to be a hit and I’m now reviewing my list of restaurant grade kitchen appliances to see if there might be anything else I’ve forgotten – an airbrush for cake decorating or perhaps a commercial chocolate tempering machine? Strike while the iron is hot, I always say! (Perhaps when we upgrade to Yacht 2.0, with a galley twice the size… )

The main dishes of my menu were inspired by “Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean” by Ana Sortun, the cookbook given to me recently by a few fellow bloggers. This book instantly intrigued me because so many of the recipes reminded me of the flavors and dishes that I grew up with. Although, I was a bit skeptical of the recipe for a Basil, Tomato and Walnut Tabouleh as my family is Lebanese and tabouleh is one of those sacrosanct dishes of which the recipe is unvarying and absolute and to which my mother, grandmother and I could quite possibly be considered the Holy Trinity and protectors of our families recipe… But, I decided to yield to my cultural rigidity and give something new a try – even though I knew I could be damned to hell for such an infraction.

The recipe begins by making a pesto, of basil, parsley and walnuts and combining that with bulgur that has been softened with lemon juice. I found the texture of the tabouleh to be a bit mushy and my gastronomic altimeter went a little screwy trying to relate this to anything close to the tabouleh that I grew up on. The recipe calls for topping the tabouleh with sliced tomatoes, garnished with walnuts and basil. But instead, I made a salad of halved cherry tomatoes, walnuts and torn basil leaves dressed with Aged Balsamic Vinegar and Spanish Olive Oil and poured that over the top and this dish turned out to be the surprise of the night. The fresh tomatoes, torn basil and walnuts along with the tabouleh really made this dish come alive. My initial skepticism was diminished after the dish was garnished. The guests raved about it, and Mr. Precious said he could bathe in it. And although that’s the not the image I want burned into my mind, I was quite relieved that it came out well and even I enjoyed it.

But what I really could've bathed in was the avocado hummus! The recipe is a basic hummus recipe that substitutes avocados for chickpeas. This recipe charmed me when I first read it but after making the tabouleh and feeling a bit gun-shy (no one had eaten the tabouleh and raved about it – yet), I wasn't sure how the hummus would turn out, so I made just one batch. Pleased with the results, I immediately made another batch so there would be enough for the guests after I consumed my fare share. The hummus had this amazing nutty, richness to it, and a creamy, smooth texture. Midway through my second batch (making it, not eating it!) I had to call my Lebanese grandmother and my mother and give both of them the recipe. The hummus went beautifully with the slow-roasted salmon, garnished with pepitas and lemon.

In “Spice” Ana Sortun combines toasted orange zest with sumac and fennel seed for fish and chicken, but I decided to combine the zest instead with fennel pollen, fennel seed and coriander for a dry rub on pork tenderloins. I peeled 4 oranges, cut out the zith and let the peel dry out on a sheet pan for a few days before toasting it on a low oven until it was slightly golden brown and then grinding it to a fine powder. The aroma was sweet, floral and toasty and the flavor was pungent and warm. I rubbed it on the pork loin a day ahead, and then grilled it and served it with a grilled peach and red pepper salad with fresh mint, parsley, Aleppo and lemon vinaigrette to make a lush, bright and beautiful combination.

The roasted baby potatoes with smoked tomato romesco was just an idea that I’d had rolling around in my head for a week or so and I decided to give it a go. I smoked a few tomatoes on my stove-top smoker with alder and cherry wood and then added them to all the traditional romesco ingredients; almonds, bread crumbs, sherry vinegar, ancho chili. It came out great and I highly recommend giving the smoker a try with tomatoes or other fresh veggies. Hmmm, maybe a smoked tomato sorbet is in order?

Well, I didn’t kill anyone with my cooking and apparently the bosses were quite pleased with the progress of the yacht and the efforts the crew made to make the final visit before the launch enjoyable as we’ve just been informed the bosses are flying all of us to Las Vegas for three days and putting us up at the Belaggio!

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? HA! Not when you have a blog!

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