July 31, 2008

Perfect peas and some fishy ideas

Occasionally, you have one of those days that's so blindingly average and mundane that you're left desperately seeking some kind of creative, interesting outlet to salvage the day. Tuesday was one of those days.

Lav bought some fantastic looking peas and had an idea for a salad of roasted beets, sweet raw peas, caramelized sweet onion, and green beans. The inky red juice of the beets bled into everything, making a wonderfully unified salad permeated with the natural sweetness of each ingredient.

She also had some sashimi-grade bluefin toro and a filet of Alaskan black cod, but wanted me to do something different with them. With the toro, less is more... you don't want to mask the unctuously rich flavor from its perfectly matched, meltingly tender texture. One of the things that seems to be getting more popular at sushi places these days is to lightly torch the top layer of the fish to extract some of the oils and intensify the intrinsic flavor of the fish... not to make it "fishy", per se, but to ensure that the fish actually tastes like something... like itself. That's the point, after all, right? Here, the aroma of the tuna was definitely heightened by the technique, while retaining most of the best qualities of being raw... much better than doing a quick pan sear, which tends to really overcook the fish.

For the black cod, I stole an idea from an episode of After Hours, which featured Michael Cimarusti of Providence in Los Angeles. Chef Cimarusti served a dish of raw Australian lobster in a lightly sweet broth scented primarily with purple shiso. I can only imagine how magical that pairing was, with the herbaceous scent of the shiso wafting ever so lightly as a backdrop to the sweet flesh of the lobster. Here, I adapted the concept for the black cod. We slowly reduced two cups of sake, infusing it with regular shiso (from our garden) and ginger. I thought the sake would be sweet enough on its own, but to ease up the impact of the lightly residual alcohol, we also added a few small dice of the roasted red beet. This resulted in a more complex dimension for the light sweetness of the broth and also made the flavors a bit rounder... ginger, shiso and sake each have their own slightly harsh edge.

The black cod was pan seared in browned butter, constantly basted as the sear was developing with the butter (just like we observed at Le Pigeon). This was served atop melted kale and a lightly cooked radish. To complete the dish, I poured the broth of sake, ginger, shiso and beet into the dish. It's been a while since a new effort like this has resulted in a really fantastic composition. The colors were vibrant, the flavors paired beautifully (ultra rich, buttery flavor to the cod, lightly contrasted and enhanced by the flavors of the broth). The one major edit that needed to be made was the radish, which hadn't been cooked long enough to get rid of its natural earthy funk.

In the end though, it was a pretty way to salvage an otherwise unremarkable day.


  1. honestly this is the only first time i saw peas on a pod, i never thought they would look beautiful!

    bdw, I am from Asia, and I am trying my best to learn cooking (decent meals :-)), thanks for sharing your yummy recipes... Busby SEO challenge


  2. Hello! I'm new here, and your photos are gorgeous! May I ask what kind of camera you are using?

  3. Thanks Pointedview... we use a Canon Rebel XT, but truth be told, it's all about the lens. Once we replaced the stock lens that came with the body with the 28-135mm, the pictures came out much clearer. We may someday use a photo editing program as well, but for now, I'm just resizing the photos with the MS Paint application that comes with Windows.