TL;DR – This is now our 4th inspiration series where we start with using season ingredients.

Recipe: Using fresh ingredients we created a three course meal. The appetizer is a unique take on California Rolls. The main course is Salmon wrapped asparagus topped with spherified egg yolks and pickled radish and bitter melon. And the dessert is Apricot sashimi served with fresh mint.

Soundtrack to this post: Summer

The importance of seasonal ingredients directly correlates to the importance of quality. Using what’s available during the time you are creating a dish will allow you to use ingredients with higher quality leading to better taste, aromas, and presentation. There is also a philosophy among chefs that ingredients that are found together, belong or work well together–whether it is geographies, location, or time.

You’ll notice that I also tend to go low carb as that is my personal dietary preference. Feel free to add carbs wherever you please.

Research

1. The first step for this was to figure out what ingredients were at season during this time. Using BBC and Epicurious I was able to put together a base understand of what should be available during this time:

  • Okra
  • Rhubarb
  • Radish
  • Bitter Melon
  • Squash (Zucchini, Summer Squash, and other varieties)
  • Asparagus
  • Artichoke
  • Avocado
  • Mint
  • Chervil
  • Apricot
  • Peaches
  • Halibut
  • Tuna
  • Crab
  • Salmon

2.  Another way, and what I eventually did, was just heading over to your local farmer’s market as they will be selling whatever is being grown at the time. A great way to get hands on with the product and ask the growers questions.

Development

So the idea for this inspiration is to create dishes using season ingredients. As an extra challenge (other than regular pantry items like salt and oil) I limited my self to using minimal other ingredients.

My first idea started when I began thinking of how to use Zucchini fresh instead of cooking it and I thought of Vietnamese or Thai summer rolls. Pun fully intended. My first idea is what I decided to go with just because the dish fit–seasonal ingredients, a name fitting of the season, and a style that would be a great way to showcase the freshness of the ingredients.

The concept itself is simple, but the execution–putting it all together–would be the difficult, especially since what is season in California might not be in season in NY, so I told East Coast that I would need to get dirty for the development and I could fly solo on this one.

Concept Draft

Instead of my usual approach, I went out to the Farmer’s market to actually buy the ingredients so that I could play with them. I was thinking of making three different courses so that the seasonal fruits could also play their own part, and as the supplement for this post as modernist cooking, I took a bit of inspiration from there.

After going to the Farmer’s Market I tasted the ingredients (bitter melon was not what I expected) and then started to lay out a plan:

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1. A different approach to a “California” roll — also such a fitting name given my location and ingredients

2. Using Salmon as the roll itself, this would be the main dish, and so pickling some vegetables

3. A desert dish, using the apricot and mint, over sweet sticky rice?

I jumped back into the kitchen and started experimenting with the ingredients. Some things, such as the tuna/asparagus rolls came to together easily. Other things such as the California roll took more trial and error.

Recipe (Testing/Execution)

1. Appetizer – California Roll with a Soy-Avocado Foam

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  • Using a mandolin cut strips of squash
  • Cut a strip of seaweed, place the zucchini on top (make sure the length of the seaweed is longer than the squash) and fill with crab meat
  • Roll and wet the end of the seaweed so that it attaches back to itself

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  • Prepare the foam by combining avocado, soy sauce to taste, a bit of oil, lemon, and estimate the amount of water required to make the sauce not too viscous
  • Before adding the water to the mix, add 1% of the total weight of Xanthum Gum or Agar which will act as a stabilizer for our foam
  • Immersion blend

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  • Add to a siphon, charge it, shake, and refrigerate until ready to use

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2. Main: Salmon + Asparagus Roll with Pickled Bitter Melon and Radish

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  • Cut strips of salmon about a inch wide, few inches long, and quarter of an inch thick
  • Chop asparagus in 1 inch cuts, slice in half, and grill on a pan in butter
  • Roll asparagus into salmon, and squeeze lemon

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  • To create the topping: fill a syringe with egg yolk and gently create droplets into a sauce pan filled with butter, add asparagus buds
  • Gently remove and pour (while still hot) over the salmon rolls
  • Sea salt

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  • For the pickles, use the mandolin again to cut thin slices of radish and bitter melon (make sure to take the seeds out of the bitter melon)

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  • Combine into a brine of vinegar, palm sugar, salt, and mustard seeds

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  • The longer you refrigerate and keep the mixture the better (up to overnight)

3. Desert – Apricot Sashimi

Due to time constraint, I didn’t manage to create the sticky rice, but my impromptu change actually resulted in an amazing dish exemplifying how good fresh, season ingredients can be. This looks simple, and was, but was amazingly delicious. Slice apricot and chiffonade some mint.

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Special Equipment/Ingredients

Post Game Analysis

West Coast

  • Main and dessert came out delicious and I think looked great as well
  • The appetizer needs some work, zucchini was a bit too bland, and I don’t think the plating (the messy foam) came out as intentional enough. I want to try marinating or blanching the zucchini next time
  • Fresh ingredients taste SO much better
  • Want to master the spherified egg yolk, use fresher eggs to get better color
  • A dish is what you make it, don’t be scared of changing a recipe you find by another chef–summer rolls in the traditional manner is just one’s interpretation of food, here was mine

East Coast

  • Beautiful plating all around! The apricots look kind of lonely, but the plating does highlight the simplicity of the dish
  • Love the egg yolk dots. Would add salt to the egg yolk mixture before filling in syringe for more taste
    • West Coast Edit: tales of pre-salting eggs causes difference in cooking/texture, to be tested
  • Appetizer and main dish could be served with a side of soy sauce if necessary
  • This dish inspired me to take a trip to the green market – let’s see what’s in season on the east coast