Plenty of time for an intellectual board game while cooking salmon. That sounds weird. Preparing something to eat, especially something as delicate as fish, usually doesn’t leave much room or head space to focus on anything else. However serving saumon confit – spelled in sexy French – for breakfast does free body and mind to dedicate attention to something else. That could be equally sexy. I mean chess.
An entire filet of about one kilo takes one and a half hour to cook. Theoretically it isn’t cooking. It’s confire. Which literally means preserving. This eldest conservation technique according to some, is done by inserting fruit or meat in fat, oil or sugar syrop for a long time on low temperature. Today we do not practice this medieval culinairy technique only to conserve. Like we no longer solely make love to produce babies. We do it to pleasure our senses. To capture our taste buds, merging delightfully, soft and pink, becoming one and complete in our mouth with the desire to feed ourselves.
The salmon filet we confit at a temperature as low as 70 Celsius. Hence the time for a game of chess. It’s drown in olive oil. Not ‘covered’, ‘generally sprinkled’ or ‘rubbed in’ with oil; the fish meat is immersed into a shallow bath of olive oil, just deep enough to completely succomb the pink, soft and slippery flesh. Size of the tray, weight of the filet and performance of the oven influence the confit time. It’s simple to determine though when the salmon is done. When white dots of congualated protein form at the outside of the flesh, the salmon is to be taken from the oven. Gently poor the warm olive oil over in a container to free the fish and stop the cooking process. Let the flesh breath and cool down. Please don’t cut the filet. Gently tear it apart. Preferably just with your fingers. And eat it. The sensation in your mouth, because of the super soft texture, the mellow fullness of butter, the sudden burst of deep and heavy pink flavor, are all as honorable of an homage to and hopefully reminscent of what you actually did in bed while waiting for the salmon to cook.
Taking the old and worn, full of intense flavours. It’s sweetness gone stale; it’s texture trodden, sucked, torn. Take it, don’t throw it. Arouse it, water it, nurture it with new milky fluid, soft yellow yolk, spice it up with lemon zest and sugar. Baby Sugar Me as Lindsey De Paul sang in 1972:
Save me, save me
Baby, baby sugar me
Gotta get my candy free
Sugar me by day
Sugar me my baby, baby sugar me
Gotta get my candy free
Sugar me by day, sugar me by night
Sugar sugar sugar sugar sugar sugar sugar
It’s 10 am, first of January 2018. I find myself in the kitchen. The newest morning of the year. After the most worn out night of the foregone one. I am not fully aware of the symbolic thing I intuitively do. I like to loose my conscious mind in the kitchen. And just do it. Sometimes a bit frantic. Sometimes thoughtful and slow. It’s like making love. And that’s what it tastes like:
The Italian pannetone that is still in the fridge/colorful box/back of a shelf
3 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
Lemon zest of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven at 150 C
Mix eggs, milk, sugar and lemon zest in a bowl
Dice 4 cups of the pannetone – any kind of old bread or cake will do actually
Butter the individual muffin holes generously
Fill the holes with the diced pannetone
Poor the egg/milk mixture on top of it, spreading evenly
Press the diced cake down in the liquid
Take bits of butter and place them on top of each individual mixture
Place muffin tray in the preheated oven and immediately lower the temperature to 120-130 C
Set alarm for 1.5 hours, take it out, let it cool
Cut individual pain perdu’s loose and lift them cautiously out of muffin tray
Sprinkle with sugar / icing sugar / lemon zest
Fantasizing about Blue Almond Iced Tea. I’ve got the clitoria flower! It’s a dried product mainly used in Thailand for making tea and coloring blue rice. It’s the only natural genuine blue food coloring. Blue berries being discarded as too purple and algae as too greenish blue. Clitoria flower is blue as in blue. I realize the Blue Almond Iced Tea has got to wait. I feel it’s finally time for my much anticipated Sexy Sea Water Petits Ronds, the delightful desserts I got the clitoria flower for in the first place. And yes the name clitoria comes from where you think it comes from. No wonder they not only turn my raw cakes magnificent blue but also super sexy. Isn’t sex supposed to be a delightful combination of naturally sweet as rice malt sirup and dates, slightly bitter and salty as almonds and chick pea liquid; sweaty and soft as the aqua fava mixture and most of all satisfying, as fulfilling as the complexity of the whole range of our taste palette can bring about.
The recipe reminds me of one of the most complicated dessert recipes I have ever made. I was only in my early twenties, following precisely the directions as prescribed and pictured in the recipe book Desserts from the Time Life cookery book series. God they were ahead of their time with the step by step visual instructions. I’ve been brought up with Time Life, I realize now. The recipe was for the authentic British trifle, champagne syllabub included. It took several days to make it. I never felt as proud as I did when it all came out exactly like the pictures.
Right, I put the blue almond iced tea on hold for you guys. We start with a recipe as complicated and lengthy as the trifle I made 25 years ago, much less traditional; other side of the culinary universe actually. It involves no cooking, no diary, no animal products at all, no refined sugar, no gluten and no artificial flavoring nor coloring. I wonder how we ended up being so discriminative in the kitchen. Is it all because of our precious health and that of our planet? Or do humans in general like to be difficult? I don’t know. I do know I get excited by the thought of creamy, smashing blue, sweet and slightly salty, raw, plant based, guilt free, individual cakes that remind me of feeling blue or make me long for Hawaiian beaches. That’s why I call them Sexy.
Sexy Sea Water Petits Ronds
Day 1 morning
2 cups raw almonds, roughly chopped
2 cups water
Soak for 4 hours at least
Day 1 evening
after 4 hours, discard almond water and divide almonds evenly over oven tray lined with baking sheet
Set the oven to 45 C
Hydrate overnight, at least 12 hours
This process is called activating. Nuts are nice when roasted. But then they’re no longer raw and according to some, have lost some of their nutrious properties. Dehydrating them in a temperature under 48 C keeps them ‘raw’ (enzymes don’t die) and makes them slightly crunchy
Take 1 cup dried chickpeas and 3 cups water
cut 12 rounds of baking sheet in exactly the shape of muffin tray bottoms only
cut 12 strips of baking sheet 3 cm wide, 12 cm long
Align muffin tray with the strips, 1 per hole and rounds on top of it. Make sure either side of the strips stick out from the holes
The crust will be pressed on top of the strip and the round. This is to make sure you can take the individual cakes once they’re done out of the tray without using a knife or having to damage the shape
Day 2 morning
Drain chickpeas, transfer to a pot, add twice the quantity of water and bring to the boil.
Simmer for 2 hours or until chickpeas are done
Drain chickpeas, saving the cooking liquid
Store cooked chickpeas to be used in another recipe
Bring cooking liquid back to boil adding a tbsp of dried clitoria flower / pea flower tea, turning it blue
Let the blue aqua fava (literally meaning, bean water) cool down completely
Grind 1 cup of the almonds in coffee grinder or heavy duty food processor into almond butter
It will first crumbe, hence turn into meal, keep on grinding, pauze every now and then to give appliance a break and not overheating it, keep on going until a clump is formed. Keep on going and it will turn into butter
Make crust by combining 1 cup regular pitted dates, roughly chopped, 1 cup medjool dates, roughly chopped, the other 1 cup of activated almonds, chopped finely. Form 12 balls the size of a ping pong ball, rolling between the palms of your hands
Firmly press balls into discs in bottoms of the muffin tray. Place tray in fridge until further notice
Day 2 evening
1 cup pea flower / clitoria flower blue aqua fava
1 cup activated almond butter
1 cup cream of coconut
1/2 cup brown rice malt sirup.
Mix blue aqua fava with handmixer on high speed for 3-5 minutes until stiff peaks are formed resembling egg white merengue
Make the Salty Sea water cake mixture
Mix in a separate bowl almond butter and cream of coconut, add rice malt sirup. Slowly fold stiffened aqua fava through almond butter mixture, in three badges. Once mixed, make sure to use it right away
Take the muffin tray from the fridge and fill up the individual holes with the Salty Sea water cake mixture. Place in freezer. Freeze overnight.
Day 3 anytime
To serve the cakes, dip the whole tray with it’s bottom in water (fill a shallow oven tray with just a few centimeter of luke warm water and place the muffin tray in there for 15 seconds). Pull at the baking sheet strips to gently lift the cakes one by one. Peel off the baking sheet rounds from the bottoms of the crust, can be tricky, be patient and careful.
Sprinkle the cakes with grapefruit zest and serve with sweet or sweetened fruit. I’d opt for grapefruit sweetened with maple sirup or ripe mango.
Congratulations guys. You’ve made it. Recipe for blue almond milk iced tea is next. Will be part of the KiSS series: Keep It Stupid and Simple, again. Pfffft!
Mise en place
2 cups raw deskinned almonds, coarsely chopped
1 cup dried chick peas
1 tbsp Pea flower tea / dried clitoria flower
Coffee grinder or heavy duty food processor (1000 Watt min)
1 cup regular pitted dates, chopped
1 cup medjool dates, depitted and chopped
Handheld mixer or Kitchenaid
1 cup cream of coconut
1/2 cup brown rice malt sirup
Zest of 1 grapefruit
2 cups of grapefruit particles sweetened with maple sirup or brown rice malt sirup / ripe mango
Something that doesn’t sound sexy at all. Not so much the word itself. Rather it’s association with a certain timeless salty sour, slightly bitter and harsh flavor. It’s consistency equals this sensation. Which is quite the opposite of smooth, pleasant in the mouth or softly touching my lips. It’s Jurassic like crocodiles, perky like cactusses and often cold, damp cold. Are we talking about food? Yes! And about everything it beholds: nutrition, pleasure, connection, warmth, taking care, paying attention, surprise and a whole lot of dedication. All at the same time, preferably.
In no two different culinary traditions it’s done the same way. But I dare say that each and every culinary tradition does know it’s own variation of the art of pickling. Maybe eskimo’s and Tibetans have been able to stay away from it, thanks to their fridge-worthy surroundings. The rest of the world needed methods to conserve their precious food.
A quarter of one cauliflower head, cut in the small roses, the size of cashew nuts, is to be transferred into a glass confit jar. It’s nice to use an authentic one, with orange rubber lining to secure keeping the jar air tight. But a former jam jar works just as well for these quick pickling methods. Add a six centimeter strip of orange peel to it. The jars I use contain 500 ml. But you can use any size. Then measure half of the content, in my case 250 ml, apple cider vinegar and the other half, 250 ml plain water and heat in a pot. Add a generous tablespoon of sugar and a generous tablespoon of salt. Heat until the salt and sugar are dissolved and the liquid is at the verge of boiling. Then take it from the heat and carefully poor it over the cauliflower in the glass jar. Close lid. Let it cool. Place in the fridge for 24 hours. After which it is ready to use although it can be kept pretty much timelessly. The hot liquid quick pickling method I prefer for hard vegetables like roots and cabbages or watermelon rind. The same conjunction of vinegar, water, salt and sugar can be poored cold as is, over soft vegetables like zucchini, cucumber or onion. What I like about quick pickling is that it’s so easy. Already after 24 hours, you can enjoy your very homemade pickles. To all handsome ladies and smart guys in the kitchen my message here is: ‘please don’t forget to KISS’, in other words, Keep It Stupid and Simple