Tuesday, July 31, 2012

SOB Dinner - Agra Treasure Salad

Again, when planning this meal I knew I wanted to make an aspic of some kind.  It is just so Victorian.  But I wanted it to have a modern twist.  I looked at so many recipes, but again, they seemed to be better suited to the 1960's than the 1890's.  So once again, I decided to wing it.  

I thought of the recipes I'd looked at, and how often the aspic was described as jewel-like.  That made me think of treasure, which lead me to the Agra treasure.  So I had my connection.

Now, how to create a jewel-like salad of aspic.  I finally decided on creating several different vegetable juices, and making a separate gelatin of each.  I'd then cut them into cubes, and combine them to create a salad.  First, I had to know how much gelatin I needed in ratio to juice.  I found a handy chart here.  I decided one package of Knox gelatin per two cups of juice would be about right.  I experimented first with beets and yellow pepper, because I wanted something with distinct colors. I used my juicer to make juice from some beets that I had roasted.  That became one gelatin.  Then I juiced some yellow pepper, and it became another gelatin.  Then I tasted them.  The yellow pepper was actually pretty good, but the beet was horrid!

I scrapped the whole idea, and decided to try it instead with fruit juices.  But I'm kind of stubborn, so I decided to find a way to make it work.  I tasted the vegetable gelatins again, this time with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  That helped a lot.  Erik suggested roasting golden beets.  That's what I love about him, not only does he know wine, he knows food!  But I wanted the color of the red beets, so I combined the two.  That gave me a more palatable flavor, with the color I craved.  Other than that, I chose vegetables that would work well in a salad.  I ended up with six different gelatins.  Carrot, cucumber, tomato, beet, yellow pepper, and an herbal gelatin, made with basil.  The finishing touch was the mozarella pearls I found.   At the last minute I remembered I had some white truffle oil.  I put it in place of the olive oil, and finally had a flavor profile I could live with.

I think it was a visually stunning presentation, and it tasted better than I hoped.  Not great, we are talking about a very strange texture and mouth feel that is hard to get around.  But in the context of the dinner, I think it worked very well.  It was nice and light, perfect after the heaviness of the previous course.  Everyone ate it, even those of us who do not care for beets and will be nameless (David!), which I guess is an indication it wasn't too bad!

It looks pretty, but is it edible?

Agra Treasure Salad

Start with a variety of vegetables.  If using beets, I recommend roasting them first.  Other vegetables can be left raw.  To make it a little easier, I used commercial tomato juice.  The other vegetables I ran through my juicer.  This is a bit tedious, because you have to clean the juicer between each vegetable to keep the colors true.  Try to get about 1 cup of each juice.

Soften a package of unflavored gelatin in 2 tablespoons cold water.  Heat each cup of juice separately to just below boiling.  You want the flavor to stay fresh.  Add 1/2 of the softened gelatin (save the other half for your next cup of juice) to the hot juice and stir until gelatin is dissolved.  Place each juice in a separate container to set in the refrigerator.  

To make the basil gelatin, blanch two cups of basil leaves, then plunge into an ice bath.  Blend leaves with one cup of water in a blender until very finely chopped.  Strain this liquid into a bowl and add water to make one cup.  Use this liquid as you would use a vegetable juice above.

To assemble the salad, cut each gelatin into cubes.  Place a few of each kind of gelatin into a bowl.  Add a few mozarella pearls.  Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and drizzle with white truffle oil.

"Just see how it glints and sparkles. Of course it is a nucleus and focus of crime."

 With the salad I served Kyra Chenin Blanc 2010.  It's a lovely wine, bright and happy.  I enjoyed it much more than I enjoyed the salad!

Whoever had lost a treasure, I knew that night that I had gained one. 

Dessert is next!

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