I was invited to attend a class taught by Chef David Bull at the Central Market cooking school, and the topic of the class was vegetarian dishes and wine pairings. David Bull doesn’t usually focus on vegetarian cooking as you can see in his dinner menu at Bolla at the Stoneleigh Hotel in Dallas, but he’s always happy to prepare vegetarian tasting menus upon request and there is always a vegetarian option or two on his menus. During the class, Bull spoke about textural contrast in food and recognizing ingredients for inherent flavors and balancing them. He also demonstrated some interesting knife techniques like holding the handle up and the point down when slicing avocados to prevent the slices from sticking to the blade. He created seven dishes for the class: avocado mousse with sprouts jicama jalapeno and grapefruit, cucumber summer rolls with yellow curry and coconut, white gazpacho with red grapes soy milk and toasted almonds, tomato and watermelon “tartare,” watercress salad with Texas peaches and buttered brioche, daikon noodles with green beans, and potato gnocchi with oven roasted tomatoes and black olive oil. (gazpacho, peaches, summer roll, and gnocchi are shown below)
This fall, Bull will be opening two new restaurants in Austin. Congress will be a fine dining, dinner-only restaurant, and Second at Congress will be a more casual spot with patio and terrace seating serving brunch, lunch, and dinner. Connecting the two will be Bar Congress serving appetizers and cocktails. Bull mentioned he’s working with farmers to determine how much of the menus can be sourced locally. You can also find Bull’s cuisine in an interactive format. His online cookbook is called Bull’s Eye on Food, and you can search recipes by title, type, or ingredient. Once you choose a dish to prepare, you can enter the number of people you’ll be serving, and the quantities in the ingredient list will be re-calculated for that number. It will also generate shopping lists and even send the list to a smart phone. The other nice interactive feature of this book is that new recipes are added all the time. The vegetarian dishes prepared for the class were added just after being presented.
I sampled and enjoyed all of the dishes from the class, although the wine pairings didn’t uncover any new favorites for me. The white gazpacho was surprisingly good because of how well-balanced it was. I expected something a bit on the sweet side, but instead it was crisp, cool, a little tangy, only slightly sweet, and was delightful with the almonds on top. The cucumber rolls were fresh, crunchy, and light. I considered making those with some added stick-like pieces of tofu. And, the watercress salad with peaches and buttered brioche with a peach puree and red wine vinegar sauce was outstanding. That would be a beautiful brunch dish. Last, I was thrilled to watch the gnocchi being prepared as I’ve lived in fear of attempting to make it myself for so long. I think I’m almost ready to try it now. But, the dish I had to try right away to make at home was the tomato and watermelon "tartare." It was summery and brightly-flavored with hints of savoriness from shallots and red onion. The goat cheese dressing was delicious as was the pistachio vinaigrette, and when the two were swirled together with a bite of the tartare, it was excellent.
While demonstrating this recipe, Bull explained that he was including chef’s techniques and that a home version could be simplified. I chose to make a simplification or two; I admit it. I didn’t bother preparing the tomato concasse. I left it unpeeled and just seeded it. I did make the watermelon rind pickles, but my julienne on them and on the celery pieces could have been thinner. I was happy with the ring-molded shape of the salad, and pressing excess liquid from the contents of the mold, as instructed, is necessary for it to hold together well. Then, it’s very pretty on the plate with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios and the dressings drizzled here and there. The complete, chef-version of the recipe is below.
recipe re-printed with Chef's permission
Tomato and Watermelon "Tartare" with Goat Cheese-Pistachio Vinaigrette
3 heirloom tomatoes
1 1/2 c seedless watermellon, small diced, rind reserved for celery salad
1 tablespoon shallots, brunoise
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
-prepare the tomatoes concasse by blanching them, shocking them in cold water, peeling the skins, seeding them, and then dicing them.
-in a small mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and season with salt
pickled watermelon rind:
1/2 cup watermelon rind, peeled and all red fruit removed, julienned
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
-combine the vinegar and sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. reduce mixture by half and chill completely.
-pour the chilled mixture over the watermelon rind in a bowl and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes.
-remove the rind and drain the liquid. reserve the rind for the celery salad.
1 cup celery hearts, loosely packed
1/2 cup celery, finely julienned
1/2 cup pickled watermelon rind
1/8 cup red onion, fine julienne
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
-in a small mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients.
goat cheese dressing:
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon sea salt
-mix all ingredients together in a small mixing bowl until completely. should be the consistency of yogurt.
1/4 cup pistachios, toasted, salted, and ground
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
lemon juice, to taste
-toast pistachios in a 350 degree F oven for about six minutes. remove from oven, season with salt, and grind them in a food processor until finely crumbled. reserve some ground pistachios for garnish.
-mix the remaining pistachios with the rest of the ingredients in a small mixing bowl until completely combined.
-place the tartare into ring molds and press with a clean kitchen towel (or paper towel) to release some of the juice. unmold the tartare onto plates.
-top tartare with celery salad and toasted, ground pistachios.
-drizzle the goat cheese dressing and pistachio vinaigrette around the plate and serve.