THE OTHER STUFF
(Or, Power to the Produce)
It used to be, in the olden days of restaurants, that our main course was composed of a giant hunk of protein, a few pedestrian vegetables, a baked potato in tin foil or a scattering of what was called rice pilaf. And that was what you got. It was all about the protein product and not necessarily about your health or piquing your palate. There was, and in some cases, still is not, a consideration to the Plate as a whole.
In these enlightened times, it gives me great joy to be able to put an equal amount of importance on all the things that go on the plates I serve at my restaurant. A dazzling array of beautiful vegetables and starches are available, not just to me, but to all of us. And I can’t help but want to include them and honor them with every meal I serve.
I feel that as a Chef, it is incumbent on me to make each part of the entrée plate as interesting as the other. The fish I serve, in its sauce; fresh from the ocean, should be balanced and complimented by the two, three or four additions to the plate. The vegetables should be seasoned and cooked with the same care as the fish. The starch accompaniment should be a logical and flavorful foil to the entrée that rests against, upon or next to it.
The idea of vegetable or starch sides should be cast aside. The are not “sides”, they are an integral part of an entire plate. We as Chefs owe it to our guests to place as much importance on every flavor that goes on our plates. The gorgeous organic produce available to us should be thought of and treated with the same level of respect that once was given solely to that giant hunk of protein.
NOT JUST SIDES ANYMORE
When I compose a plate to serve in my restaurant, I try to take into consideration each of the flavors that I will be using and attempt to create a full palate where spicing and textures will be complimentary. I use a lot of local tropical fruits in my cooking and find that ginger, garlic and cilantro are flavors that don’t just stand out, but also act in concert with fruits like mango, pineapple and papaya, to heighten their flavors.
If I’m serving fish I like to use a lot of bright crisp green vegetables because I love their texture alongside the tenderness of the fish with a fruit salsa. Both the crunch of the just cooked bean and the bite of the garlic and ginger act as compliments to the dish. I use this method for cooking the local organic green beans. This method also works nicely with broccoli or bok choy. A cilantro accented green rice (recipe next month) would be great with this.
GINGERED GREEN BEANS
8 oz. (227 grams) fresh green beans, stem end cut off
4 cloves peeled and chopped garlic
1 piece of ginger the size of the first digit of your thumb, peeled and grated
cooking oil (canola)
Blanch green beans in boiling water for 3-5 minutes (depending on size) and immediately drain and shock in an ice bath.
Heat cooking oil in pan and add garlic, ginger and salt and pepper.Saute until garlic and ginger begin to give off a nice scent and add green beans, still wet from ice bath to the pan.
Toss beans with garlic and ginger and return to heat.Sprinkle a bit of sesame oil and soy over top of beans and heat through.
Remember that the sesame oil is not a cooking oil, but a flavoring oil and should not be added directly to the hot pan.