Balancing Act

September 9, 2010

Watermelon and Jalapeno Cocktail

I was watching the penultimate episode of Top Chef last night and something one of the cheftestants said, really stuck with me. Over the past few seasons, the final four chefs have been sent home for a refresher prior to the finale which takes place in some exotic, or special location. This year the chefs traveled to Singapore for the first ever international rendition of the final episodes and the challenge of identifying, and using foreign ingredients clearly affected some of the chefs more than the others. But when faced with this problem, Kelly took solace in tasting. As she proclaimed, her cooking style is rooted in balancing flavors, no matter what the ingredients. Which when broken down, is the best advice any cook could take, no matter how well, or how often you find yourself in the kitchen.

Spinach Stuffed Flounder w/ Watermelon Salsa

And it’s that balance of flavor that you know I strive for. This watermelon, jalapeno, and vodka cocktail along with the spinach filled flounder topped with a watermelon and tomato salsa took this balancing act to the next level. On their own, the drink and the meal each had a wonderful combination of acidity, spiciness, and sweetness. But together, the sum was much more than the parts. The pairing was a home run!

So next time you find yourself following a recipe or freestyling your dinner, taste, taste, taste, and then taste some more. And if something is missing, trust your instincts to find that balance!

Go-to Balancing Act Additions:

Sweetness: Honey, Agave Nectar, Fruit Preserves

Acidity: Citrus, Apple Cider Vinegar, Pickle Juice, Mustard

Spiciness: Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, Siracha, Jalapenos

Savory: Miso Paste, Dried Seaweed, Homemade Stocks


Iron Deficiency

August 25, 2010

Grilled Steak w/ Raw Corn and Watermelon Salsa

If you couldn’t tell by the plethora of pesce posting (needed some italian for that alliteration), I love cooking with seafood. Particularly in the summer, when light and refreshing dishes are a must, there is nothing better than fish and shellfish. But all that aside, sometimes all I want is a medium rare piece of beef!

I had been craving a steak for a few days and had been thinking of accompaniments to keep the dish summer appropriate. That watermelon salsa I had made last week had come to mind but a simple repeat would not suffice. This time I added some fresh raw corn because while everyone has been obsessing on tomatoes, there’s been some pretty awesome corn this year as well! With a little heat from a serrano chile, this salsa went great with this seared to perfection steak.

I’ve been trying my best to purchase the local grass fed beef whenever possible. For a multitude of reasons I buy into the quality that is being offered and quite frankly if you are careful, the best cuts shouldn’t cost you too much more than the alternative. The one caveat to grass fed beef is that it’s much closer to game meat in terms of the fat content. Typically the grass fed cattle are leaner which means cooking their offerings requires a bit of attention. If you are not a medium rare meat eater, grass fed may not be for you.

But back to the dish! With a bit of smashed avocado and some quickly toasted pita, this meal definitely did the trick. Craving officially squashed!

What would Bobby Flay do?

August 20, 2010

Panko Crusted Chicken with Watermelon Salsa

I think some of the coolest eating experiences are the eye-opening moments where sweet and salty find a perfect balance, particularly in some non-traditional situations. Now, it’s funny to think how much food has changed and how much of what seemed “non-traditional” when our parents were growing up, is now pretty common place. Thanks to Bobby Flay we have mango salsa!  (Kidding) But all joking aside, fruit has a place in savory dishes, and it’s place can make or break a plate of food.

Watermelon is a perfect example. The majority of its consumption comes from giant picnic slices and depressing fruit salads. But it’s a fruit that pairs extremely well with salty components. For example, last year when I paired watermelon bites with creamy feta cheese at a cocktail party, there were those that were a bit reluctant. But once they dove in, it was the first app to go.

So when I got my second watermelon in the CSA this week along with a dozen beautifully orange tomatoes the first thing I thought of was salsa. Diced tomatoes, onion, watermelon, and minced parsley made up the base of this topping that balanced acidity, sweetness, and saltiness in a way you can only hope for. The freshness of the ingredients worked perfectly to cut the richness of the mustard and panko crusted chicken breasts. And yes, that is Bud Light Lime. Don’t judge!

So as we get into mid-late august (how is that possible by the way), make sure you’re taking advantage of the abundance of fruit and vegetables available. And don’t be afraid to cook them together!

Enjoy the weekend!

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