I love my days off so I can plan out meals like this: a day of cutting and cooking, a table of friends, and booze flowing the whole night. Who would have thought that I was capable of something like this just a year ago? I’m not saying it was the best dinner ever, though I say with confidence it was one of the best I’ve produced, but it is fun to think about the progression of my food over the past few months. I learn something new daily at my job and several techniques from this dinner were featured, such as the beets and the poached pears. I put my twist on them, but their foundation is Etno, and especially Chef Cason. I have something great going with my vegetarian girlfriend who also happens to be very Greek. My appreciation of olive oil, bread, and the versatility of vegetables has never been higher and reaches a new peak weekly. Me, he who fiends for medium rare meat on the regular, now cooking vegetarian regularly. I probably would have punched myself in the face if Josh Kline from 1 year ago paid the present me a visit. So there you have it, I’m trying to reach a new level of the culinary arts by stepping out of my comfort zones and applying newly learned techniques, hopefully this continues to be a rewarding and challenging journey, with tons of great people, good meals, and fond memories. A picture of everything before preparation began is shown first.
I made a meal of some classic favorites with my twist. First, a watermelon gazpacho, served chilled to start the meal light and refreshing, especially on a summer night. Inspired by Tyler Florence here. Gazpacho kills it in the summer in Chicago, as seen here. Second, beet salad two ways with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, a beautiful dish with a great balance of sweet and salty. Pretty much every restaurant, bistro, or gastropub seems to serve some form of a beet salad, the Gemini Bistro, just down the street from my apartment, has one featuring two kinds of beets as I did. Third, cous cous stuffed red peppers with baked red potatoes and a basil/mint yogurt sauce, subtly spicy with cooling elements. Finally, pears poached two ways with chocolate sauce and a shot of poaching liquid infused with jameson. At Etno, we have a fantastic burger featuring a poached pear, I waxed poetic about it once here. A complete meal and a step up from my normal fare, here’s how I did it! The gazpacho and beet salad are featured on this post, stuffed peppers and poached pears to come another time.
Half large seedless watermelon, 3 tbsp cilantro, 8 roma toms with skin peeled, 1 jalapeno pepper, 1 green pepper, 1 cucumber, 3 ribs celery, 1 red onion, red wine vinegar, juice of 1 lemon, olive oil, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Combined, blended, garnished with celery sticks, diced watermelon, and fresh cilantro. Had great flavor, though next time around I will be sure to strain and reblend several times to work on the texture.
I cooked the beets in salted water until fairly tender when pierced with a knife. Cooled, then peeled. Golden beets were marinated w/red onion, oregano, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Red beets were marinated w/red onions in a balsamic vinaigrette. Salad was put together with baby spinach and arugula mixture on the base, golden beets on one side, red beets on the other, a sprinkling of goat cheese, pistachios, apples, and dried cranberries. Pistachios were lightly toasted in a saute pan. The balsamic vinaigrette was on the side for those that wanted additional vinaigrette, I felt the salad would have enough flavor with both beets being marinated.