Playing With Your Food
For those of us that work in the kitchen, our duty as chefs is to recreate borrow, manipulate and alter the ingredients we are given every single day. To me, this is one of the pleasures of cooking for a living, a life-long process of how?….. lots of “how” happens in the kitchen.
Think of all the things you can do with your vegetables. Juicing, soaking, curing, smoking, shredding, fermenting (obviously 😉 ), frying, grilling. The options are endless if you’re willing to be creative. I always turn to a different technique when I’m at risk of becoming complacent with a certain ingredient.
Take sunchoke, for example. At the peak of the season, WE’RE ALL OVER IT. A few weeks down the line, the magic wears off. ‘Should I just…. roast it again? Thoughts go to the deep fryer…. the easy crutch of a restaurant. When all the typical preparations wear off, sometimes you got nothing left to lose.
Bring out the juicer, bring out the dehydrator, bring on the KOJI. Through this, vegetables, once thought boring, can be reimagined. Sunchokes become sunchoke dashi, by juicing the ‘chokes, dehydrating the pulp and borrowing a vegetable stock recipe from Gjelina (a Venice staple). Suddenly, sunchokes are fascinating again. Through my insatiable love of donuts, parsnips were roasted and transformed into a silky puree. Adjusting and merging this with a yeast doughnut recipe? Fuhgettaboutit. Things as bitter and (sometimes) intimidating as mustard greens can be salted, and made to be a satisfying companion to steamed rice or ramen noodles.
Then of course – the piece de resistance – fermentation. Such seemingly mundane vegetables turn into magic through fermentation. Rutabaga becomes sweet, briney and satisfying by submerging in a 3% salt brine for several weeks.
So. Play with your food. Manipulate. Be curious about cooking. By trying out different cooking techniques, you’ll be surprised at how your love of the humble vegetable (or fruit!) can grow. Cooking is a life long education.
Make curiosity your main ingredient 😉