Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Quinoa, Almond, Cauliflower, Popped Sorghum

I’m always intrigued to learn new cooking techniques and flavor combinations, and that’s what great chefs offer. In the book Coi: Stories and Recipes by Daniel Patterson, of which I received a review copy, he shares not just the beautiful food as it’s presented at the restaurant but also what inspired it and how the dishes evolved. It’s not your standard cookbook with ingredient lists next to numbered instructions. This is a book of stories about food, cooking, foraging, sourcing, ingredients, flavors, and seasons. There are stories that introduce each dish and then a description of how the dish is created. For exact ingredient measurements, you flip to the back of the book. It puts more emphasis on the thought behind the food and gives you a broader understanding of the process and the goal. Regarding innovations in food, cooking, and presentation, while reading this book I was reminded of my reaction to the documentary El Bulli: Cooking in Progress. Months were spent testing dishes with complicated techniques and unbelievable styles of presentation. It was a form of art. But, I couldn’t help wondering what a restaurant might be like that instead spent that time working with seasonal, perfectly fresh ingredients and finding nuances in flavor based on how things had been grown or raised. So, I was thrilled to read Patterson’s explanation of his approach to haute cuisine. Rather than turning to expensive ingredients just for the sake of their price and cache, he writes: “I find it much more challenging-and rewarding-to construct an extraordinary dish out of ordinary ingredients… The farmers’ markets and the different farms that we work with directly bring us flavors from diverse ecosystems and soil types, which allow us greater range of expression than if we used products from only one area or farm. This way of sourcing ingredients provides both challenges and inspiration.” He's creating innovative food but with a focus on seasonality and place. Of course, not all of these dishes can be easily replicated at home. Some do require special equipment or more time to prepare than you usually wish to spend, but there’s something to learn on every page. And, most dishes could be simplified in ways to make them more doable at home. 

Did I mention this is beautiful food? The Inverted Cherry Tomato Tart with Black Olive, Basil is a perfect rectangle of crisp tuile made with black olives that sits on tomato mousse with peeled cherry tomatoes under that which sit on a layer of basil pesto. In the description of how the dish came about, other similar tarts are mentioned all inverted with a piece of tuile on top. I want to try them all or make up some of my own. The Crayfish and Spring Vegetable Stew with Spicy Crayfish Jelly isn’t made as a stew at all. All the components are prepared separately to keep the flavors “cleaner, brighter, and more energetic.” It’s artfully arranged with peas, fava beans, artichoke hearts, fennel, crayfish tails, and fava flowers. The dish New Olive Oil, Brassica, Charred Onion Broth is all about capitalizing on the flavor of just-pressed olive oil which is used in a puree of potatoes and dandelion greens, and the smoky, charred onion broth, used as a sauce here, is something I can’t wait to try. The dish I had to experiment with first, though, was the Quinoa, Almond, Cauliflower, Popped Sorghum. I don’t hide the fact that I have a serious popcorn problem. I love it and can never get enough. I knew that popping amaranth seeds is possible. I’ve tried it. The seeds are tiny, and they do pop but don’t amount to much. What I didn’t know is that you can pop sorghum kernels. I had never heard of this amazing fact before reading this book. I immediately got my hands on some whole grain sorghum and popped it. It’s delightfully small, but otherwise looks just like popcorn. The flavor is similar but different and maybe less buttery than popcorn. The rest of the dish is just as simple as popping sorghum. Quinoa was cooked, and red and white quinoa is suggested. I always have a blend of red, black, and white quinoa which I used. If using separate red and white quinoa, it would be fine to simplify by cooking them together rather than separately as directed. Next, cauliflower was roasted, and I used a pretty, locally-grown, green cauliflower. After roasting, the cauliflower was simmered on top of the stove until completely tender and then pureed with a little milk. I left the puree a little thicker than suggested and didn’t use a siphon for serving. A quick salad was made with the cooked and cooled quinoa, toasted almonds, some thinly sliced, raw cauliflower florets, and snipped chives. Just a touch of rice vinegar was added for seasoning along with some olive oil. To serve, the cauliflower puree was layered on the bottom covered by quinoa salad with popped sorghum on top. 

The almonds and minced chives were additions to this dish after it had been tried on the menu without them. It was perfect with the crunchy, toasted nuts and mild onion flavor of chives. It goes without saying that I enjoyed the popped sorghum element as well. I look forward to several more discoveries as I try more things from this lovely book. 

Quinoa, almond, cauliflower, and popped sorghum 
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from Coi: Stories and Recipes. 

Yields 4, with extra cauliflower puree 

Cauliflower puree 
- 1 x 250-g cauliflower
- 25 g pure olive oil 
- 100 g water 
- milk, as necessary 
- salt 

Popped sorghum 
- 50 g vegetable oil 
- 100 g sorghum
- salt 

To serve 
- 20 g white quinoa 
- 20 g red quinoa 
- 25 g toasted almonds 
- 1 small spoonful snipped chive 
- rice wine vinegar 
- fruity olive oil 
- popped sorghum 
- salt 

Cut small florets out of a head of cauliflower – they should be spoon-size when shaved. Cut the rest of the cauliflower into medium-size pieces and toss with the olive oil and salt. Put into a pan and roast in the oven at 400°F (200°C) until tender, stirring occasionally so they are lightly browned and barely tender. Pull out of the oven and onto the stove top, and add the water. Simmer until the water is absorbed and the cauliflower has collapsed. Blend until smooth, thinning with milk as necessary, and adjust seasoning with salt. The texture should be smooth and luscious, thick but just pourable. Pour into a siphon and charge twice. Keep warm. (This makes a terrific puree even without the siphon, it’s just a little more dense.) 

Cook white and red quinoa in separate pots of salted water, and simmer until tender. Start with 5 parts water and 1 part quinoa, and keep the simmer brisk and below a boil. Cook until the little white string-looking thing appears around the ball of the grain, and the texture is just tender. The texture of the quinoa is crucial – the grains should be cooked but perceptibly individual. Strain, rinse under cold water and drain. 

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan until almost smoking. Add a thin later of sorghum and cover. Shake the pan occasionally, keeping the heat a little higher than you would with corn. When the popping sound diminishes considerably, empty the sorghum into a colander with holes just smaller than the size of the popped sorghum, and shake the colander to get rid of any broken or unpopped seeds. Season the popped sorghum with salt. 

Toast almonds deeply and cut into pieces slightly smaller than the popped sorghum. To serve, make a salad of the white and red quinoa, toasted almonds, shaved raw cauliflower (use small inside florets) and snipped chive. Season with rice wine vinegar, fruity olive oil, salt and pepper. Don’t make the salad acidic – use the vinegar only to brighten up the earthy/nutty tones. Dispense a bit of the cauliflower puree in the bottom of the bowl. Cover with the salad, and top with popped sorghum. 

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  1. Sounds like a very interesting, inspiring cooking book.
    The Quinoa dish looks amazing, love the combination of flavors and textures!

  2. ohhh que rica es la quinoa muy buena combinaciòn bella receta,hugs.hugs.

  3. Wow, this is a beautiful dish! Have never seen anything like this before :)

  4. What a pretty vegetarian dish. I love the layers. I haven't tried popped sorghum - it does look a lot like popcorn! xx

  5. A wholesome quinoa recipe, Lisa. Love the pop sorghum.

  6. That sounds like a fun book to have Lisa. I am a fan of quinoa and like you usually have a variety in the cupboard....

  7. Wow, that is incredibly original! I didn't know sorghum could be popped...



  8. The introduction to popped sorghum is intriguing! And what a flavorful and bright recipe to begin an adventure with something new!

  9. Such a delicious sorghum recipe - I have seen this dish before but you are very creative in the ingredients you use :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  10. Dear Lisa, This looks so tasty and healthy. Blessings dear. Catherine xo

  11. i'm not sure how much i would enjoy a dish as clean and healthy as this one, but your presentation is masterful!

  12. I would love that book just for the cherry tomato tart recipe!
    That one sounds heavenly.
    And yes, one of the reasons I love to collect cookbooks is to learn about food pairings.

  13. Lovely dish and an even lovelier presentation.

  14. Sounds like my kind of book. I love its philosophy. And I love this recipe! So different from the sort of thing I usually make, but it looks so good! Really fun post -- thanks.

  15. This is such a gorgeous dish! Love the popcorn on top!

  16. Wow! What a thorough review! The dish looks lovely!

  17. So cute...I never popped the different layers and textures.
    Great pictures Lisa.
    Have a wonderful week :D

  18. A local bookstore is selling autographed copies of the 'Coi' cookbook, thanks for this review.

    This dish is gorgeous!


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