Friday, April 27, 2012

A Feast for the Senses: Evolve Cuisine's Cambrian Event

We first met Chef Daniel Barron at The Epilepsy Foundation's Gingerbread City 2010. We were at the at The Grand Del Mar and Chef Daniel was one of the celebrity chefs for the gala. His creation of the evening was Wild Sonora Coast Prawn "Scallop" with sweet corn espuma, white ponzu nitro, and lobster chicharrón. I vaguely recall that the prawn was somehow deconstructed and then reconstructed to resemble a scallop, covered with a frothy foam, and accompanied by a wafer that melted and smoked as soon as it hit your tongue.

We crossed paths three times the following year, at The Gourmet Experience, San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, and again at Gingerbread City 2011. Chef Daniel won the prestigious Chef of the Fest with his Crispy Laughing Bird Shrimp and Curry-Glazed Sous Vide Pork Belly, cauliflower polenta, and roasted ginger kaffir lime air. At Gingerbread City, he created a dish called Corvina-Almonds-Pumpkin, with duck fat and butter poached local corvina, pumpkin custard, smoked almond fluid gel, crispy Maitake nitro, and crystallized micro Thai basil. I'm still patiently waiting for the margarita recipe he promised from The Gourmet Experience, the most amazing Cadillac Margarita, garnished with a slice of jalapeno and float of lime foam.

My limited experience with modernist cuisine comes from these creations by Daniel Barron, although we did successfully sous vide a tri tip for our Weird Science Halloween Party, and I made a variety of powders for a Daring Cooks' challenge: Skate, Traditional Flavors Powdered, a recipe found in Chef Grant Achatz' Alinea cookbook. But these are extremely mild in comparison to some of the techniques employed by Barron (OMG, please excuse the hideous food photography in these earlier posts).

We continue to see Chef Barron at various charity events, giving back to the community, but he is now sporting a black tee, silkscreened with Evolve, Cuisine Forward. Although he still wears one of his stylish hats and blue sneakers, I must admit I cringed a bit when he donned his latest kinda-creepy black gloves.

Chef Daniel describes his newest venture as "the culinary intersection of modernist cuisine and fresh, organic fare - science and nature" presented during pop-up dinners and catering events. We were thrilled to recently attend Evolve Cuisine's second pop-up dinner series, The Cambrian Event, held at Fixtures Living. It was truly an entertaining evening and a treat for the senses.

The aforementioned black gloves

Guest Chef Alex Emery (currently a chef at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront)

We started off the evening with passed hors d'oeuvres: Steamed Bao Bao with Seared Local Yellowtail Belly and Cucumber SalsaKumiai Oysters with Salted Lemon Air and Kelp Kimchee; and Laughing Bird Shrimp Ceviche, with chili thread, white soy ponzu, jalapenos, and cilantro.

Monique with Kumiai Oysters with Salted Lemon Air and Kelp Kimchee

Guest Chef Tiffany Serin (currently with Truluck's and owner of Petite Farine) plating Laughing Bird Shrimp Ceviche

Modernist Molecular Mixologist, Mike Yen, wowed us with a pre-dinner cocktail. "Modernist techniques serve as a portal to a new dimension of artistic expression. I love being able to apply whimsical twists to nostalgic ideas and redeliver them in a package that surprises the audience."

Bay Breeze Cocktail Sphere

Following hors d'oeuvres, we were whisked off on an incredible journey through eight delectable courses and a very innovative dessert. Unfortunately, I'm still too new at this cuisine to accurately describe the techniques that go into each of these dishes, and I've found myself looking up many of the ingredients to find out what they are and where they come from...maybe I can become more knowledgeable after a few more Evolve dinners, and a visit to Chef Barron's research and development kitchen! For now, you'll have to settle on photographs and your imagination (see all of our photos from the evening, here).

1st Course
Scallop, Watermelon, Pistachio
Baja Mano de Leon scallops, pistachio fluid gel, dehydrated watermelon and serrano chile crisps, pistachio toffee, Kinh Giới leaves

Spanish for Lion's Paw, the golden orange shells of Mano de Leon Scallops look like big lion's paws. Known as the superstars of the scallop world, they are carefully harvested by divers in pristine tropical lagoons off Mexico's Baja Peninsula. They have a wonderfully rich and sweet flavor, and sear beautifully. There are less than eight of these jumbo scallops in a pound.  

2nd Course
Venus Clam, Radish, Kelp
Sunomono gelee, fermented black bean sauce,
Bac-Ha, shaved radishes, Wasabi agar agar, lotus root chips

Venus Clams have multicolored shells with plump meats, a briny taste with a hint of umami, and a seaweed, metallic flavor on the finish. The meats are larger and more plump than Manila clams, yet still tender.

Chef Jeff Bonilla

3rd Course
Spot Prawn, Daikon, Mango
Pickled Daikon-wrapped San Diego Spot Prawn filled with mango nuoc mom,
shaved green papaya, sesame powder, fried shrimp shell garnish
Served with liquid carbon dioxide and purified ocean water

4th Course
Uni, Salicornia, Coffee
Truffle-uni bisque in a catheter syringe, seabean and truffle espuma,
sea beans with sweet sesame dressing, freeze dried coffee toasted sesame seeds

Truffle-uni bisque, in a syringe...a bit strange, but incredible!

5th Course Cocktail

"My craft is like gift wrapping mixology with the aesthetics of sushi. The resulting product is something that is pretty, flavorful, and alcohol-sneaky. Each gelatin shot is a definitive reflection of its cocktail counterpart in both taste and presentation. It is a Jello shot like no other..." 
- Molecular Mixologist Mike Yen

Margarita, a  Mike Yen cocktail creation

6th Course
Yellowtail, peanut butter, celery
Pan seared sous vide yellowtail, peanut butter powder, raisin coulis,
braised celery, toasted rice, ocean water, clarified peanut butter

7th Course
Abalone, Ramps, Naan
New Zealand blue abalone, robata boneless pink grouper cheek, wood grilled wild foraged ramps, cilantro naan bread, black olive oil, Greek yogurt, compressed cucumber

8th Course
Halibut Cheek, Coconut, Ginger, Rice
Halibut cheek confit in coconut oil, ginger kaffir dashi sheet, red rice,
white asparagus, coconut powder, epazote

Baja Shrimp, Buttermilk, Sponge, Thyme

The dessert course was created by Pastry Chef Jeff Bonilla of L’Auberge Del Mar’s Kitchen 1540. By his own admission, he's "just a big kid that plays with food." Using modernist cuisine techniques, he expertly transformed Baja Shrimp into a Whipped Prawn Brulee masquerading as a slice of pumpkin pie with buttermilk gelato, streusel, bourbon crème, micro thyme.

Pumpkin Pie  à la mode

Tickets to Evolve's pop-up dinner events sell out quickly.  It is advisable to follow Evolve on Facebook or Twitter, and check the web site often to keep up with Chef Barron and his creative team.

I'm sorry to miss next week's dinner, A Modern Tribute to the Classic Cuisine of America's Finest City, but I'm sure Chef Barron's twist on San Diego's famous fish tacos is going to be a doozy.

Evolve - Cuisine Forward
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Monday, April 16, 2012

The Sandwich that Changed My Life: Shrimp Broodje

Maybe not the sandwich, but the man who fed it to me.

It's been over 20 years since I took that adventurous trip to Club Med, Turks and Caicos Islands. I had just graduated from law school and passed the bar exam, but needed a break before starting my career. My law school sweetheart was anxious to start his, so I went alone. A few rum-laced kisses turned into a long distance relationship with Rob, who lived in the Netherlands, and Mark was history.

During my first visit to Holland, Rob introduced me to a Shrimp Broodje. Our romance eventually fizzled, but the memory of that shrimp broodje lives on. When I received one of the weekly chef recipes from Tasting Table, Dutch Slider - Amsterdam Takes on the Small Bite, I hoped it was a recipe for that Shrimp Broodje I so fondly recall. Almost, but not quite.

Dutch Broodjes (pronounced Bro-chess), are small sandwiches or sliders. They are also the specialty of Amsterdam Bar & Hall, in St. Paul, MN, where chef Thom Lowe creates inventive versions such as beer-braised smoked-pork broodjes and shrimp-and-squid broodjes. I made the shrimp and squid broodjes yesterday, which are flavored with a homemade curry mayonnaise laced with cardamom and Sriracha. Instead of sliders, I used fresh Brioche buns.

Trapper appears quite disinterested here, but I assure you he perked right up when I brought the platter of broodjes out to the patio. I envision a Dutch-themed concert in the park this summer, with all sorts of broodjes.

Shrimp and squid (rings and tentacles) are quickly sauteed in olive oil with minced onions and garlic

The seafood is allowed to cool and then refrigerated for at least an hour
The sauce is easily prepared while the seafood chills.
The seafood is folded into the sauce, with a few chopped scallions, and served on slider rolls or buns.

Curried Shrimp and Calamari Broodje
From Tasting Table (Recipe adapted from Thom Lowe, Amsterdam Bar & Hall, St. Paul, MN)
Yield: 8 broodje (sliders) or 4 full-size sandwiches
Cook Time: 10 minutes plus 1 hour chill time


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ pound (16 to 20) shrimp cut into 1-inch pieces
½ pound squid with tentacles--cleaned, bodies cut into rings and tentacles left whole (or use one pound of either shrimp or squid)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced on a bias
8 small soft rolls or slider buns, or 4 soft sandwich rolls

½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mild curry powder (I used Madras Hot Curry Powder)
¾ teaspoons ground cardamom
¾ teaspoons Sriracha or sambal chile sauce


1. Make the broodje: In a large skillet, over medium high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the minced onion and garlic and stir often until the onions soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Increase the heat to high. Once the onions just start to brown, add the shrimp and squid. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the seafood is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large plate or shallow bowl and allow cool about 10 minutes before covering with plastic wrap and chilling in the refrigerator, for at least 1 hour.

2. Make the mayonnaise: In a large bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, curry powder, cardamom and chile sauce.

3. Add the chilled seafood mixture and scallions to the mayonnaise and stir to combine. Slice the rolls open, top with the seafood and serve.

Friday, April 6, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie: Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto

I must confess - I'm not overly excited with two of the four French Fridays with Dorie recipes this month. Although this week's Asparagus with Bits of Bacon sounded fine, I took the liberty to transform it into Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto. You probably won't see me for Sardine Rillettes and Coconut Friands, but I will surely be back for Navarin Printanier, slowly braised lamb stew with fresh spring vegetables, and a classic staple of the Easter season.

This week's Asparagus with Bits of Bacon called for blanched asparagus, tossed in walnut oil and lemon juice, and garnished with bacon bits and quickly sauteed chopped onion. I simply added a few more ingredients, including some homemade shrimp stock taking up freezer space, and was able to stretch Dorie's side dish into a dinner entrée.

I blanched the asparagus, cut the stalks into small pieces, and reserved some of the the tips. I cooked chopped pancetta (rather than bacon), and then quickly sauteed the shrimp in some of the pancetta fat. I coarsely chopped the cooked shrimp, but reserved a few whole shrimp for garnish. I sauteed minced shallot and garlic in a little more of the pancetta fat and butter, added the risotto, a splash of white wine, and then slowly added shrimp stock until the risotto was almost done. I mixed in the chopped shrimp and asparagus, a squeeze of lemon juice, and finished cooking the risotto. I garnished with the pancetta bits, asparagus tips, whole shrimp, and lemon zest.

My Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto was adapted from Dorie's Asparagus with Bits of Bacon, and David Leite's Shrimp Risottohere, but I've also blogged a few other risottos, here, and here.

French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Amazing Thomas Keller - Curried Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad

This should be called the Three-Day Curried Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad. As with most Thomas Keller recipes, the main recipe is composed of several sub-recipes. I've retreated from many Keller creations, after scanning the ingredients and coming across the dreaded (see page ...) after a listed ingredient.

However, this salad sounded too good to pass up, despite being referred to page 342 for the Sachet, page 257 for the Pickled Red Onion, page 258 for the Wine-Steeped Golden Raisins, page 182 for the Curry Vinaigrette, and page 342 for the Fried Parsley Leaves. You'll also need to soak the chickpeas overnight, toast the pine nuts, blanch the cauliflower, and crisp the endive. Be sure to have the three kinds of vinegar required, and do your best to track down fresh chickpeas, and red Belgium endive.

The reward is an incredibly stunning and flavorful salad filled with healthy ingredients, all of which have been individually pampered and lovingly seasoned. This is how great chefs create amazing dishes.

Pull this one out of your hat for a dinner party, lavish buffet, or gourmet picnic and you will be a star.

The Reward

There is nothing difficult about preparing this salad, it just takes a little planning and time. The chickpeas can be made 3 days in advance, and the wine steeped raisins and pickled onions keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Star Anise and cloves for the Wine-Steeped Raisins

But only a 1/4 Star Anise and 1 clove

Simmered Red Wine Vinegar and sugar and sliced Red Onions


Fried Parsley Leaves

Curried Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad
Slightly adapted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home
Serves 6


For the Chickpeas:

1 cup (6 ounces) dried chickpeas, or ½ cup dried chickpeas plus 1 cup shelled, blanched fresh chickpeas (I used ½ cup dried and 1 cup organic sugar pea sprouts)
1 Sachet (3 thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf, 10 black peppercorns, 1 smashed garlic clove, wrapped in cheesecloth and tied)
½ medium carrot, split lengthwise
1 medium leek (white and light green parts only), split lengthwise and washed well
¼ wedge yellow onion, root end intact
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Cauliflower:

1 medium head (about 2 pounds) cauliflower
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

For the rest of the Salad:

¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted and sprinkled with Kosher salt
5 ounces (1-2 heads) green Belgium endive
5 ounces (1-2 heads) red Belgium endive (I substituted radicchio)
4 ounces (about 1 cup) pitted, oil-cured Spanish black olives (I used Kalamata)
½ cup pickled red onions (see ingredients and recipe below)
¼ - ½ cup wine steeped raisins (see ingredients and recipe below)
1 tablespoon minced chives
Curry Vinaigrette (see ingredients and recipe below)
¼ cup Fried Parsley Leaves (see ingredients and recipe below)
Freshly ground black pepper


On day one, I started soaking the chickpeas. On day two, I cooked the chickpeas and prepared the wine steeped raisins and picked red onions. On day three, I finished preparing the other ingredients and served the salad. BE SURE TO READ THROUGH ENTIRE RECIPE(S) A COUPLE OF TIMES and plan your preparation accordingly.


Put the dried chickpeas in a bowl with 4 cups water and soak overnight. Drain the soaked chickpeas and put in a medium saucepan. Cover the chickpeas with cold water, so that the water is about 2 inches above the chickpeas. Add the carrot, leek, onion, and sachet. Bring water to a gentle simmer and cook the chickpeas for about 40 minutes, until tender. Transfer the chickpeas with their liquid to a bowl, remove the sachet and vegetables, stir in the vinegar, and season with salt and pepper to taste (the chickpeas can be refrigerated in their liquid for up to three days).

Wine Steeped Golden Raisins

1 cup golden raisins
¼ star anise
1 whole clove
½ cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

Combine the raisins, star anise, and clove in a jar. Bring the wine to a boil in a small saucepan, pour over the raisins, and allow to cool to room temperature. Let stand for 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for up to one month. Remove the star anise and clove before serving.

Pickled Red Onions

2 medium red onions
1 ½ cups red wine vinegar
¾ cup granulated sugar

Cut off the top and bottom of each onion and cut lengthwise in half. Remove and discard the outer layer. Place the onion cut side down and slice lengthwise into 1/8-inch thick slices. Pack the onion slices into a 1-quart canning jar or other suitable container that can be covered.

Combine the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the hot vinegar over the onion slices and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or for up to one month.


Cut out the core of the cauliflower and remove the leaves. Cut the cauliflower into florets and trim the stems. The florets should not be larger than a 50-cent piece or smaller than a quarter. In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups of salted water to a rapid boil. Add the vinegar and cauliflower, and cook for 4 – 5 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Lift out the florets with a slotted spoon, spread on a tray to cool, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Curry Vinaigrette

2 teaspoons Madras curry powder (we felt it needed maybe 3 teaspoons)
1/2 cup champagne vinegar
1-½ cups canola oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Spread the curry powder in a small pan and heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant (about 5-10 minutes)
Whisk together the vinegar and curry powder in a bowl, Whisk in the oil, stir in the garlic, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate in a covered container for up to two weeks.

Fried Parsley Leaves

¼ cup parsley leaves
Peanut or canola oil

Heat 1 inch of peanut or canola oil to 350 degrees F in a small pot. Add the parsley leaves, in small batches, and cook for about 2 seconds. Remove immediately to a paper towel to drain, and season lightly with salt. Use as soon as possible.

Preparing and Assembling the Final Salad

Cut off about ¼ inch of the bottom of each endive and remove the leaves that come loose. Continue trimming a tiny bit off the bottom to release the leaves. Stack the leaves a few at a time on a cutting board and slice on a 45-degree angle into thin ¼-inch slices. Put the endive in a bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes to crisp it and prevent it from turning brown. Drain and spin in a salad spinner.

Put the cauliflower and endive in a large bowl, and add the olives, pickled onions, pine nuts, raisins, and chives. Toss with ¼ cup vinaigrette, and season with salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Drain the chickpeas and add to the salad. Toss with another ¼ cup vinaigrette. Taste, and add more vinaigrette if needed.

Spoon the salad into serving bowls and garnish with fried parsley.