spectating participant

July 30, 2005

flavor combinations

Filed under: cooking, food — suzanne henderson @ 6:45 am

I have been working out in the kitchen lately and I am finally remembering to track my progress with the camera and a post. This was the first meal I seriously considered and planned the entire menu. I wanted all of the flavors to play well together and learned that I need to work on this concept. I was trying to keep everything fairly light and summer-y. Upon initial consideration, each dish sounded like it would work well to suit my wish and balance the meal as a whole. I missed out on a few key ingredients in the cucumber salad and it threw the balance off. However, it was still a great meal.

The menu:
Chilled Peach Soup
Cucumber Salad
Parmesan Twists
Roasted Salmon with Tomato/Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

The meal took all afternoon to make, mostly because the majority of it either needed to be made ahead of time to chill or because it could be made ahead and I prefer to have no more than 2-3 dishes needing attention at a time.

The Chilled Peach Soup was my main focus of the meal. I planned everything around this dish because it sounded so tasty. Sadly, I waited until the end stages of prep to take pictures. You start with four (4) pounds of peaches, pitted and chopped, simmered in several cups of white whine, honey, and lemon juice for half an hour. Then begins the tedious task of getting it pureed enough to make it through a sieve. I tried both the food processor and the blender to process the soup; the blender worked the best (a surprise to me since I typically feel my food processor can do everything superior to the blender). I need a better sieve, one designed for tasks like this versus the one used almost more for sifting purposes. The soup turned out rather “savory”, as Chris put it. It was sweeter than I expected it to be and more suited for an after course than a soup course. Not quite dessert, but close enough that there is no need for dessert later.

The cucumber salad took a while to make but was extremely simple. Peel, seed, and slice the cucumbers. Salt and rest in a sieve under a bag of ice water for an hour to remove excess moisture. I didn’t read the recipie close enough when selecting this dish, otherwise I would have realized that the rice vinegar and the toasted seasame oil seasonings would be very overpowering for the whole meal. The smell of the toasted sesame oil was rather pungent throughout the kitchen for the rest of the afternoon, something I found to be quite annoying and put me off from wanting to eat much of the dish. It tasted okay, but I doubt that I will make it again or that the leftovers disappear any time soon.

The Cheese Twists were simple and tasty. It used puff pastry dought, brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with grated gruyere and parmesan, chopped thyme, and salt and pepper. Cut into long strips, twist, and bake for about 15 minutes. Simple and quite tasty. Do not store leftovers in a plastic bag, it steals away their crispyness that makes them so addictive.

The seasoning for the roasted salmon took a while to make. It had at least 10 spice ingredients that needed ground into a powder. I started with the mortar and pestle, but switched to the mini-processor to get the task done faster. There were still things that needed an initial grinding before adding to the processor, but I couldn’t imagine actually grinding all of it by hand. It made a lot of seasoning and had I been smart I would have saved part of it instead of using the entire batch to dredge the salmon in. It was hard to throw out the leftovers after spending so much time making it. The seasonings worked well with the salmon, which was roasted skin up in a hot oven. This allowed the juices to mix with the spices and turned it into a textured glaze instead of a dry seasoning. It was quite yummy.

The Tomato/Red Pepper Sauce didn’t make it into any photos other than the final one. (The final dinner picture happened only because Chris had the sense to remind me that I would probably want a picture; by that late in the day and the process, I just wanted to sit down and eat.) It was supposed to be made from fresh tomatoes , skinned, seeded, and chopped, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it at the end of the day–canned tomatoes to the rescue. I added roasted red peppers to the recipe, something that turned against me in the overall menu. The tomatoes and peppers are cooked in oil until reduced and then a wine, cream, and shallot reduction is added along with thyme and seasonings. Then add a stick of butter and viola, a delicious sauce full of red pepper flavor. In the menu, it overwhelmed the overall flavors and didn’t match well with the cucumber salad. Also, the salmon only needed a small amount of sauce and it probably would have worked out much better if I had left out the red peppers altogether. But I find them to be quite yummy and am looking forward to the dish I make with the leftovers.

The dinner went well and it was very enjoyable, despite my inability to match flavors better. I have company coming next week and we shall have at least one dinner next week to the same calibration. This being my first attempt to make such a complex meal, even with most dishes having simple recipes, and I must say that I did a great job.