Wednesday, May 21, 2008
One of my favorite things about having this blog is the opportunity it presents for me to experiment with new flavors. As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, despite my penchant cooking, I previously stuck to a fairly regimented and cyclical group of dishes that although varied from each other, did not offer me much room for experimentation. Now that I have a platform from which I can share my culinary experiences with other cooks and foodies, I have the chance--maybe even the responsibility--of trying out new methods and flavors so you don't have to. My goal from day one of this blog has been to encourage those who appreciate food of any kind to get into the kitchen and see how easy and satisfying it can be to cook for oneself and each other.
I thought of all this as I updated and perused my "list of recipes to test". This list is permanently tacked up on my inspiration board along with photographs of places I'll only ever get to in my dreams and furniture I can't afford. The list consists of a wide range of ideas, from recipes I've clipped out and dogeared, to recipes I'm developing and testing myself. The very first item on my recipe list has long been a somewhat controversial dish. More than one person has upon seeing the list looked at me as if I'd suggested roasting a puppy over an open flame. The dish is certainly nothing that serious, and is in fact just a slightly forward thinking fruit salad. I think the part that turns most people off is the word "savory" where fruit is involved.
Obviously most of us associate fruit with sweetness, and most definitely would file fruit salad under the sweet category. But, as I mentioned earlier, I enjoy trying out even the most questionable flavor profiles. The aforementioned scary salad is a savory watermelon salad. Fellow Top Chef watchers will recall when season 2 contestant (and fan favorite) Sam made an ill received watermelon and blue cheese salad. I was in his corner (and not just because he's soooo cute) because in theory the pairing could have worked. After all, before you can get to the tasting, and before you can get to the cooking, you first have to conceptualize. If you are writing a recipe, as I often do, you have to use all of the information available to you if you want to try and create new flavor profiles.
There are times when our instincts do us in because we have a certain perception of food. Sometimes rational thought can be a cooks best friend, as in this instance when something seemingly odd actually makes sense. For example, although this is a savory watermelon salad, consider the ingredients: olive oil (which comes from a fruit), lime juice and lime zest, salt, which when used sparingly serves mostly to draw out flavor (not for saltiness) and pepper, which comes from peppercorns, which are...dried up fruits! So you see, if we focus on bringing out certain aspects of an ingredients flavors, while downplaying others, we can create combinations that may seem unusual because of our perceptions, but that actually work. I was just experimenting for the first time with this dish, so I didn't add anything extra since I was still trying to figure out if it would work on it's most basic level. It turned out even better than I expected--so good, in fact, that I plan on trying it with some kind of nut, and possibly some herbs in a few weeks. Here's the final (not scary!) recipe, which would be a great side dish for a cookout, especially on a hot day:
Savory Watermelon Salad
1 pound seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into large cubes
juice of 1 small lime or 1/2 a large lime
1 tsp lime zest
pinch of salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
good quality extra virgin olive oil (a fruity kind, not peppery)
In a large bowl, drizzle watermelon with olive oil (about 4 tablespoons). Squeeze lime juice over watermelon and toss to combine. Season with pepper and a pinch of salt. Toss to combine and top with lime zest. Enjoy!