A Flavorful Metamorphosis

CookbooksEvery now and then I get the question “who is your favorite chef?” As of today, I would have to say one of my favorites is Yotam Ottolenghi. His insatiable curiosity for reinventing the traditional brings new vibrancy to seemingly banal ingredients. So while the internet has attenuated the need for physical cookbooks, three of the handful I own physical copies for are his. His recipes are also elaborate, and thus relegated to “special occasion” projects. The result is almost always the same: colorful, packed with flavor and a truly unique experience. The two recipes in this post – Pistachio and Pine Nut-Crusted Sea Bass with Wild Arugula and Parsley Vichyssoise and Caramelized Fennel Bulbs With Goat Cheese – are from the cookbooks Nopi and Plenty, respectively.

FennelGoatCheeseSome fun fennel facts (say that 5 times fast): fennel is a part of the carrot family, can grow up to 8-feet tall (2.5-meters) and has the same flavor compound as licorice – though the two are unrelated. This affinity means it’s a bit of an acquired taste, but this recipe may sway even the staunchest of naysayers. I’d been eager to try another dish from Ottolenghi’s Plenty, and came across this one. The goat cheese, caramelization and fresh dill bring a wholly new character to the vegetable; and make for a delectable side to any meal. Click HERE to see the recipe for this flavorful dish. 

Vichyssoise1The origins of vichyssoise are unknown, though the French claim seems to have more weight than the American one (albeit perpetuated by another culinary icon of mine, Julia Child). Regardless, the recipe is a summer icon: as it’s traditionally served cold. This particular vichyssoise was a nice upgrade – where traditional vichyssoise is a creamy ivory that is served cold, this was a vibrant emerald and served warm. The medley of greens also lent a nutritional punch to the dish. The trick to getting this recipe right is to buy really fresh greens, and to cook them just long enough so they retain their color.

NutCrust1The nut crust is the “crown jewel” of the dish – and fairly easy to make. You can use almost any medley of nuts, but the pine nut / pistachio combination is quite delicious. What’s even better is you can make the nut crust the day before (in fact, you can prepare this whole recipe in advance, with the exception of the fish). The original recipe calls for halibut, but our local market had a good sale for Chilean sea bass. In case neither is available, any flaky white fish will do the trick. You can bake or broil the fish, whichever works best based on your oven. Click HERE to see the recipe for this beautiful main course.

Fish1As I mentioned at the start of this post, Ottolenghi is a chef who brings new life to traditional foods. So for the musical pairing, I wanted to find a composer who followed a similar style. In the art world, one movement that captures this is Neoclassicism: effectively a wave of works that drew inspiration from the arts of classical antiquity. In classical music, there are a slew of composers who fall within this category. One of my favorites is Paul Hindemith. Born at the turn of the 20th century, Hindemith viewed his writing as “utility music” (or Gebrauchsmusik). This style was considered to be a reaction against the complexity and difficulty of 19th- to 20th-century music, and Hindemith took pride in composing works for the “everyday” amateur. Perhaps his most famous composition is Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, which premiered in 1944. Seven years prior, Hindemith and his wife had fled Berlin with the rise of the Third Reich, first taking refuge in Switzerland and then moving to the United States. It was here that he was approached by the choreographer Leonid Massine. Massine wanted to collaborate with Hindemith on a ballet that leveraged themes by Weber. The partnership ultimately fell through, but the music endured and was premiered on its own as Metamorphosis. The below recording (Movt I – Allegro) features the New York Philharmonic with Alan Gilbert. Enjoy!

To hear the whole piece, here are the links for Movements II, III and IV respectively.

Sources Cited:

 

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When Art Meets Science

SalmonVide_1

It’s February!! Which means the “I don’t feel like cooking” attitudes following a miserable commute of bitter wind and slushy sidewalks are here for 6 more weeks (thanks for that, Punxsutawney Phil!) So I’ve turned to a cooking method that – albeit fancy – is quite fun: sous vide. I’ve prepared salmon a number of ways: baked, grilled, slow-cooked, raw for sushi – but cooking it inside of a Ziploc bag was a new one for me. As strange as it sounds, trust me when I say this was one of the most delicious salmon dishes I’ve ever had. Packed with flavor and extremely tender, this Salmon Sous Side has become a quick favorite in my weekly repertoire.

SalmonVideSous vide is French for “under vacuum” – and it’s a technique where art meets science. In a nutshell, sous vide involves cooking foods in a water bath, ranging from 120°-160°F, where the food is sealed inside of a vacuum pack…or Ziploc bag for “sous vide sur un budget” (how I roll). The process was developed separately by a gourmet chef, Georges Pralus, and a scientist, Bruno Goussault. Each claims to be the original “architect” behind the method: although they ultimately worked together to popularize and ensure safety standards for the technique. Fun fact! The term “cryovacking” is also used to describe sous vide – which I personally think is super cool / fun to say five times fast.

Joule1    Joule2
The sous vide equipment I own is called Joule: you can control the timing and the temperature all from your PHONE. Just download the app, select a recipe, grab the ingredients and hit “go”. I plan on using this thing a lot, and imagine my next venture will be steak (stay tuned!) In the meantime, here are my thoughts on the process as a whole: it’s fun, yields an extremely tender meal that can be seasoned and seared to your heart’s delight, and is absolutely worth it if you are looking for a method to spice up your daily routine. Click HERE to see the recipe for this delicious dish. 

SalmonVide_2One of the first things that came to mind when considering a musical pairing for this dish was the “golden ratio”: 1.618. The concept is embraced across multiple genres, and is believed to be the calculation that captures the aesthetically beautiful. The graphic on 270px-Golden_ratio_line.svg.pngthe left best illustrates how this ratio works. Both the Parthenon in Greece and Leonardo da Vinci’s De divina proportione (“On the Divine Proportion”) are living examples of the proportion. In classical music, the composer Béla Bartók had an appreciation for such proportionality: so much so that he aspired to recreate it in his own compositions.

A great example is Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. In its entirety, (movements I through IV) the work is roughly 30 minutes in length. While the second and fourth movements are fast-paced and lively, it is the first and third movements that embrace the golden ratio. The first movement centralizes on the note “A”, where the strings build from a muted introduction into a climactic center, and slowly diminish back into a hushed, arpeggiated texture. This climax occurs at measure 55, out of the 89-measure movement, effectively making it the “golden mean” of the movement. (89 ÷ 55 = 1.618). The third movement opens with a xylophone solo built on a Fibonacci sequence: 1:1:2:3:5:8:5:3:2:1:1 – a sequence that is intimately connected to the golden ratio. The piece is both haunting and lively, which makes for a great listen. The following recording is with the London Symphony Orchestra and Georg Solti – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
Hesser, Amanda. “Under Pressure,” New York Times
“Golden ratio”, Wikipedia
Frey, Angelica. “Five Classical Pieces with the Golden Ratio”, CMUSE

South of the Orient: Part VIII

Mangalorean
Everyone has their special recipe – grandma’s marinara, a secret chocolate chip cookie recipe, dad’s favorite BBQ sauce. For Tom, his recipe is this beautiful Mangalorean Curry. Chunks of swordfish are slowly cooked in a curry sauce that will knock your socks off. He’s made this for me several times, and I’ve been dying to feature it on the South of the Orient Series. This is a dish that he has updated and perfected over the years, making it absolutely perfect for special occasions. A word of warning: this may become your new favorite curry…in fact, I can guarantee it.
155775_1693169418572_4572868_n This isn’t just a recipe Tom found in a Williams Sonoma cookbook, but rather one that harkens back to his travels in India. Tom shares more about what led him to this recipe:

“Certain curries reach a legendary status with the culinary elite on the subcontinent. The Mangalorean Fish Curry was a dish I’d heard about as far north as the Nepali border, so when I found myself in Karnataka, its birthplace, I couldn’t resist taking the train, a full day off-course, to track down the recipe. Mangalore is a gritty, medium-sized port city on the Indian Ocean which makes a living through trade. I fought through the honk and bustle for a couple of days, talking to chefs at local restaurants, the ladies preparing dinner in homestays (the real founts of gastronomic knowledge) and consulting spice markets, and rendered this recipe, which I believe captures the spirit of the thing.”

Mangalorean 1
The base of this curry is a fragrant paste of chilies, aromatics and seasonings, all of which give the curry its unparalleled flavor and gorgeous hue. As I mention above, this curry packs a punch: two types of chilies and a healthy dose of spices take this recipe the extra mile, but air on the side of caution for those who can’t take the heat. For those who can, I promise this is curry for you.
Mangalorean 2
We enjoyed the curry with a side of our favorite Saag Paneer (using kale in lieu of spinach) and a dollop of yogurt, since Tom made this particular batch a little spicier than we were used to. Needless to say, it is a beautiful dish and fantastic way to impress any guest. What is truly remarkable about a favorite recipe is that it feels like home, no matter where you are or who you are with – why else do you think I am so in love with cooking? Click HERE to see the recipe for this fantastic dish. Mangalorean 3
This recipe’s complexity and storied introduction make it a special one, deserving of a piece that is both notable and unique. The curry is an homage to generational traditions, while also being the signature of Tom’s own style and culinary craft. So for this particular osvaldo_golijov_2pairing, I chose Osvaldo Golijov’s Oceana, for Vocalist, Boy Soprano, Chorus and Orchestra. Composed in 1996, the work was a commission for the Oregon Bach Festival’s “Cantatas of the Amercas” concert series. The festival was seeking to premiere new works that pay tribute to the genius of Johann Sebastian Bach – THE father of cantata writing – while also establishing a voice in this new day and age. Golijov’s work also draws musical inspiration from his native Argentina and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Oceano consists of seven movements, alternating between passionate choral refrains and pensive interludes. The score calls for a “Brazilian jazz-style vocalist,” a boy soprano, two choirs, two guitarists, and an orchestra consisting of a piccolo, three flutes, alto flute, percussion, and strings.      This recipe’s complexity and storied introduction make it a special one, deserving of a piece that is both notable and unique. This curry is an homage to generations of cooking tradition, while also being the signature of Tom’s own style and culinary craft. So for this particular pairing, I chose Osvaldo Golijov’s Oceana, for Vocalist, Boy Soprano, Chorus and Orchestra. Composed in 1996, the work was a commission for the Oregon Bach Festival’s “Cantatas of the Amercas” concert series. The festival was seeking to premiere new works that paid tribute to the genius of Johann Sebastian Bach – THE father of cantata writing – while also illustrating a contemporary voice. Golijov’s work draws musical inspiration from his native Argentina and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Oceana consists of seven movements, alternating between passionate choral refrains and pensive interludes. The score calls for a “Brazilian jazz-style vocalist,” a boy soprano, two choirs, two guitarists, and an orchestra consisting of a piccolo, three flutes, alto flute, percussion, and strings. The following video features the first movement of the piece (the remaining movements can easily be found on YouTube) – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
Bromberger, Eric. “Program Notes: Oceana,” La Jolla Symphony and Chorus
Osvaldo Golijov photo courtesy http://www.osvaldogolijov.com

South of the Orient: Part VII

Fish Molee 2Before I met Tom, I was fairly certain that Indian food was one cuisine that could never be genuinely replicated at home. I have since enjoyed countless dinners of remarkable Indian dishes packed with flavor, hailing from a variety of regions. This compelled me to launch the South of the Orient series on my blog, with the hope of sharing the diverse and colorful recipes we have been enjoying. One that has become a standard is Fish Molee: a dish that is as unique as it is delicious, and is quite simple to make.
192152_1895014824581_2415938_oThe above photo comes from Tom’s travels to Southwest India – it captures a unique contraption of fishing nets located along the shore of Kerala. It is an ancient mechanism from which square nets are suspended over the water by large wooden beams, balanced and controlled by stone counterweights on the shore side. It can take up to 6 fishermen to operate a single net. These nets are just one example of the regional beauty found in Kerala.
Fish Molee 3Tom’s introduction to Fish Molee was through Kerala, and he shares more about his experience below:

“After two months frozen in the Himalayas, I headed far south to a balmy cosmopolitan port town called Fort Cochin, in Kerala. The aromas from neighboring spice and tea plantations drift into Kochi when the countervailing coastal breeze lets up at sunset, and when they do they mingle with a uniquely pungent combination of curry leaves and coconut oil. To this day that smell is my South Indian madeleine. Diji, an Indian homemaker with a kitchen full of mosquitos and an incredible talent as a chef, took the time to show me the basics for making her state’s flagship recipe, the Fish Molee.”

Fish Molee 4My favorite part of this dish is the cashews – they provide a unique texture to the dish, lending a hearty crunch with every bite. This dish also calls for curry leaves – a popular “curry” seasoning – which are similar to bay leaves in that they are purely intended to add flavor (in other words, don’t eat them). The consistency of the sauce comes from the coconut milk, ground almonds, and onion puree. Overall it is packed with nutrients and flavor, and has become the go-to Indian curry for both of us. Click HERE to see the recipe for this unique dish!
Fish Molee 5The textures and flavors of this recipe make it wholly irresistible, all of which are heightened by it respected history. Colorful and traditional are a rare yet beautiful combination, which led me to choose Igor Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite as the SAND_Maurice_Masques_et_bouffons_12musical pairing. This piece is neoclassicism at its finest. The work was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev, who was the founder of the Ballet Russes and one of the primary influences behind Stravinsky’s ballet repertoire. Diaghilev wanted a ballet inspired by commedia dell’arte, and Stravinsky was naturally tasked with creating the musical score…while the costumes and set were designed by none other than Pablo Picasso! The ballet is based around Pulcinella (pictured right), who was a classic character of the commedia dell’arte genre. Stravinsky revised the original music (believed to have been written by 18th-century composer Giovanni Pergolesi) by incorporating contemporary harmonies and rhythms and by scoring it for a sizable chamber orchestra. He says the following of the piece:

“Pulcinella was my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible. It was a backward look, of course—the first of many love affairs in that direction—but it was a look in the mirror, too.”

The ballet was premiered for a Parisian audience in May 1920. 2 years later, Stravinsky abridged the ballet into a “Suite” for chamber orchestra, which uses 11 of the original 18 movements – the work has since become a standard of the orchestral canon. Like the above dish, Pulcinella is by far one of my favorites – the colors and characters are truly unparalleled, and I hope you enjoy it!

Sources Cited:
“Chinese fishing nets,” Wikipedia.com
“Pulcinella (ballet),” Wikipedia.com

A Simple Beauty

Mediterranean Salmon 4“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” What I love most about this quote (Einstein) is it encourages the belief that beauty can be born from simplicity. We often pressure ourselves to go to extremes to write the perfect narrative, create a superb presentation, or cook an amazing meal. If there is one thing that life has taught me, it’s the joy you get from achieving something wonderful without stress or hardship. Cooking is the perfect example – we often forget that food is food, and mother nature knows what she’s doing when it comes to flavoring natural ingredients. So you can imagine how I excited I was to share this Mediterranean Baked Salmon: it is the definition of simple, but is far from being “simple” in taste.
Mediterranean Salmon 1This is one of my favorite methods for preparing fish – the culinary term is en papillote, but it’s basically a foil or parchment “pocket” into which you can pack any number of vegetables or aromatics. It’s a popular method for cooking fish since the pocket locks in moisture along with all of those great flavors. As a result, the process is more akin to steaming than baking. I wanted a dish with Mediterranean flair, and so I included kalamata olives, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and lemon with the salmon.
Mediterranean Salmon 2The result was a to-die-for combination of flavors, and yet it came together in less than 30 minutes! Right towards the end, I opened the foil packet to allow some of the liquids to cook down. This also gave the toppings a crisper finish, while still maintaining the beautiful texture of the overall dish. You can cook individual packets for each guest, but we ended up cooking the entire portion of salmon in a single pan. It was fantastic, and is the perfect recipe for a weekday meal or fancier occasion – click HERE to see the recipe!
Sweet Potato Quinoa 2As a side dish, I roasted some sweet potatoes with thyme and garlic, and then tossed them with quinoa, arugula and blue cheese. Tom has called me out on this…I think I might have a minor addiction to sweet potatoes. He’ll ask me about a vegetable or carb, and I always say sweet potatoes. I know they don’t qualify as a vegetable…but why not?? They are orange and versatile and highly addictive and OH MY GOD you see what I mean?? Anyways, this was a quick side that could easily make for an amazing lunch or vegetarian main. I will be making it again, mostly for the sweet potatoes. Click HERE to see the recipe!
Sweet Potato Quinoa 1Beauty is by and large defined by its evocative and provocative outcomes – whether it be a person, an item, a piece of music…we see beauty as something that has the ability to move us. Sometimes, it is the simple things that are truly beautiful, where the weight of added embellishment would seem folly. In music, a great example of a simple masterpiece is Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante dèfunte (“Pavane for a dead princess”). Written in 1899, the solo piano work is based on the pavane: a slow traditional dance that was popular during the European Renaissance. Though the title alludes to such, the work is not an homage to any one person or “princess”, but rather “an evocation of a pavane that a little princess might, in former times, have danced at the Spanish court” (Ravel’s own description). Its beauty lies in the juxtaposition of pure innocence and emotional depth. It is quite unlike the Ravel many of us know and love, as confirmed by concert critic Samuel Langford

“The piece is hardly representative of the composer, with whom elusive harmonies woven in rapid figuration are the usual medium of expression. In the Pavane we get normal, almost archaic harmonies, subdued expression, and a somewhat remote beauty of melody.”

Of course, this piece has since become ridiculously famous and overplayed. I scoured YouTube for a recording of solo piano (you can only imagine how many interpretations there are…) I finally found the below video, with Laura Mikkola. Her interpretation is one of patience, giving full attention to the delicate melody and unique coloration of each harmony.

In 1910, Ravel published an orchestrated edition of the piece – the opening melody is played by solo horn, which I believe is one of the most beautiful artistic choices in a piano-to-orchestra transcription. The piece’s gentle charm is by no means overwhelmed in the reproduction – rather, its subtle harmonies are given a richer and more vibrant coloring.

Sources Cited:
“Pavane pour une infante défunte,” Wikipedia.com

South of the Orient: Part IV

Salmon Curry & ParippuA major benefit to dating a fellow foodie is that home-cooked meals are rarely boring – Tom and I often create something unique and delicious. Just the other week, we were at a coffee shop and (naturally) began to discuss what we could make for dinner that evening. The hope was to make something healthy and packed with protein – that idea led to salmon, and lentils slowly found their way into the discussion. Not surprisingly we decided to give this pairing an Indian twist, and the result was perfect: Salmon Curry over Parippu (Red Lentil Dal) and Spinach.
Parippu 3As per usual with Tom’s cooking, these recipes are permeated with a variety of spices…which reminds me to briefly discuss the term “curry”. Many assume that “curry” is a specific type of Indian spice, when in reality it is a generic term for a mixture of spices (flavors). The word is of English origin, with its creation dating back to the British Colonial government – during their colonial administration of India, British officials had come to know and love the flavors of the local cuisine. It is alleged that the mixture was created by an Indian chef for a single colonial magistrate: while preparing for his return to England, the magistrate announced that he couldn’t bear to live without the flavorful fare. The result was a spice powder that has become wildly popular throughout the British Isles, as well as across the globe in “fusion” settings.
Parippu 1 Indian cooking is often inspired by Ayurveda: a holistic practice of Indian origin that encourages well-being through physical and emotional awcareness. This practice relies on the understanding of the three doshas (or elemental energies that constitute each individual): Vata (motion), Pitta (metabolic), and Kapha (growth). Pitta espouses the life-giving properties of certain spices and foods, and legumes are seen as especially potent. This particular recipe uses red lentils (also known as Parippu or Masoor dal) – they cook more quickly than your standard brown lentils, with the difference being that these have been stripped of their outer hulls and split in half. The result is a protein that serves as an excellent thickener for stews and curries, making them a popular choice for Dal. Learn how to make this flavorful Dal by clicking HERE!
Curry SalmonSalmon with Indian spices was definitely a new one for me. Swordfish is Tom’s preferred choice for curries (more on that later), but we both agreed it might be interesting to try the oilier fish for a change of pace. I was in charge of making this dish, and it was actually fun to cook. Connecting to the previous dish, Ayurveda certainly applies here as well: salmon provides whopping dose of Omega-3’s, vitamins, protein, and amino acids. I decided to cook the salmon skin-on, but you can certainly go with your preference. For plating, we placed the Dal onto a mound of baby spinach, and topped it off with the salmon and extra sauce. The resulting dish was stunning, and needless to say our “dosha” were fully satisfied – click HERE to see the recipe for this beautiful salmon!
Curry Salmon & Parippu 2The life-giving properties of food are absolute – nutritional choices are a requisite for any healthy lifestyle. That being said, a person’s well-being is incidentally influenced by countless elements, and music certainly has a place in the formula. Think back on all of the times that you’ve turned to music: special occasions with family and friends, moments you were sad or nervous, times of laughter and joy, an instance of inspiration. These are experiences you’ll never forget, as they were integral to your personal wellness and psyche. Composer Marc Neikrug thoroughly believes in the power of music, and his work Healing Ceremony reflects this philosophy. He says of the piece:

“I thought about the power music has over people; I wanted to write something that would change how your body feels — helping you calm down, handle stress, get in touch with inner feelings and inner thoughts…This [composition] is not a treatment, but it surely can put you in the right place.” – Marc Neikrug

Neikrug has been living on a Pueblo reservation in Sante Fe for over twenty years, and has been greatly inspired by their cultural perspectives on healing and connectivity. From the three dosha of Ayurveda described above, music is perhaps most connected to Vata: a dosha that involves your breath, heart rate, and blood circulation. Exposure to music can influence all of these elements, and Neikrug’s intention with Healing Ceremony is to invoke calmness and  through the music:

“People should be much more conscious of the power that music has upon all of them — meaning your body and everything that’s going on inside of you…It’s not just, ‘Oh this is cool — it makes me want to dance,’ it’s much more complicted than that.” – Marc Neikrug

Nearly 40 minutes in length, the piece consists of 8 movements: North – Air – West – Earth – South – Water – East – Fire/Love. The following recording is with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra performing “Earth”. Enjoy 🙂

Sources Cited
“Curry,” Wikipedia.com
“Ayurveda,” Wikipedia.com
“Ayurveda & Dosha Types for Beginners” MindBodyGreen
“Marc Neikrug, ‘Healing Ceremony’ Composer, Talks The Power Of Music” Huffington Post: Lifestyle

Achieving Flavorful Depth

Salmon DinnerYou know how some meals are just too beautiful to eat? I’m not gonna lie…we were pretty darn proud of this meal, and just how amazing it turned out. At the same time, it’s actually a fairly simple one that doesn’t necessitate the skill set of a sous chef. Avocado was the clincher: we saw some great looking ones on sale at the market, and it’s always hard to resist an avocado temptation. Creamy, rich, AND it’s actually kind of good for you? Done. My boyfriend and I needed a quick weeknight meal that didn’t taste like a last-minute option. So we ended up making a gorgeous Pan-Seared Salmon with Avocado Remoulade, with a side of Warm Quinoa Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette. Hungry yet? I thought you might be 🙂
Quinoa Salad 2Let’s start with the quinoa – awesome, quick, and healthy?? I daresay this salad was out to seduce me (my boyfriend did make it, to be fair, and he knows my food weaknesses). This ancient grain works in an infinite number of contexts, and one of my recent favorites has been serving warm quinoa tossed with vinaigrette. While you can use any vinegar or mustard on hand, it’s always a treat to have “foodie” indulgences – in this case, a Green Peppercorn Mustard and a Tarragon Wine Vinegar. Meanwhile, kale gives this dish a nutritional kick while the raisins provide a subtle sweetness. The result is a dish full of complexity and healthy goodness – click HERE for this spectacular recipe!
Quinoa Salad 1As I’ve said time and time again, salmon is one of my favorite fish types. Omega-3’s and protein aside, it is just outright delicious. For this dinner I was also able to use one of my favorite kitchen tools: the grill pan. Don’t get me wrong – nothing replaces the smoky, flame-roasted aesthetic of an actual grill, but this pan works wonders in a pinch. I seasoned the salmon with a simple spice rub (paprika, some chili powder, salt and pepper) and “grilled” them over medium heat for about 5 minutes before popping them into the oven to finish. Worth noting that I used a cast iron pan – do NOT put just any ol’ pan into your oven…unless you have a weird fascination with melted plastic.
Salmon Avocado 1Avocado and salmon are an unexpectedly perfect couple  – in addition to their congenital contrasts, they are a stunning duo in presentation. The remoulade is nothing too fancy…it’s basically guacamole with some olive oil. The oil gives the purée a glossy texture, which in essence justifies the “remoulade” appellation. While I opted to plate the dish as seen below, you can top the fish with the avocado or even set them side-by-side: at the end of the day it’s all a matter of what you want to eat (without mourning the destruction of a beautifully assembled meal). We were starving by the time this was ready, so we had no qualms whatsoever to dig in – trust me when I say we had no regrets after the first bite. Click HERE to check out the recipe for this impressive dish!
Salmon Avocado 2The wealth of this meal is bound to sweep anyone off of their feet – not to imply that this is heavy fare, rather that the complexity of flavor and texture is inspiring. So for my musical pairing, I opted for a light work with striking depth: Johannes Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53. Written in 1869, the work is scored for contralto (the composer’s favorite), male chorus, and orchestra – it runs just under 15 minutes, and yet is lush with “Brahmsian” texture and chordal progressions. He wrote the work as a wedding gift for Clara and Robert Schumann’s daughter, Julie – a girl for who it is certain Brahms had romantic feelings. Naturally, you can imagine this marriage was a source of sorrow for the composer, so he poured his anguish into his work. After reading the score for this piece, Clara wrote in her diary:

“It is long since I remember being so moved by the profound pain of words and music. It is the expression of his own heart’s anguish. If only he could speak so candidly in his own words!”

The lyrics are taken from Goethe’s poem Harzreise im Winter, which reflects on the despair and agony of young love lost. Brahms opens in the sorrowful key of C minor,  shifting to the happier Major equivalent at the promise of redemption and a revived spirit. He personally felt it was one of his best works, which for Brahms (whose self-critique was as harsh as it gets) is a big deal. I think Brahms, my boyfriend and I share a similar pride for our respective creations in this instance, which further justifies this musical pairing. The below recording is with the remarkable Marilyn Horne – a voice practically made for this piece. Enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Alto Rhapsody,” Wikipedia.com
“Philpedia: Alto Rhapsody,” LA Phil

Going All-Out for Quality

DinnerPartyThere are times when all I want to enjoy is a simple salad with canned tuna (maybe I’ll get fancy and add some capers…), but there are also times when I like to go all-out with cooking. More often than not, the latter scenario is attached to a social event or dinner party. My inner chef was dying for a challenge, and so I went on a Whole Foods excursion – I grabbed two bunches of carrots, some apples, lemons, and thyme (my favorite herb) to create a gorgeous dinner, with Tilapia with Carrot-Apple Purée as the main event.
Carrot-Apple Puree2I have discovered that I am obsessed with roasted root vegetables: sweet potatoes, carrots, beets…I can’t have enough of these beauties. Depending on the type, roasting can imbue a sweeter taste that almost gives them a “candy-like” flavor (they are much healthier for you than candy, of course). I roasted whole carrots for this dish, and then sautéed an apple with some herbs and shallots…I’m not really sure what came over me, but folks this was ridiculous. Please try it…you can even skip the fish, but this purée
BlackenedTilapia2Tilapia is probably one of my favorite fish – it cooks in a flash, and doesn’t have a strong “fishy” flavor. For this recipe, I made a quick dry rub and added some fresh thyme to create a beautiful blackened texture. You can use any spices for rub that you like, or even a store-bought one (though I promise that homemade will yield a much better result). My advice is to allow the rub to sit on the fish for about 15 minutes or so, to let the flavors settle.
BlackenedTilapia1After plating the fish, I gave each a squeeze of lemon for an added burst of freshness. It was a stunning entrée, and paired with the purée it was truly irresistible. To see how I made this dish, click HERE. I paired the fish with two sides: the first was a favorite, Lemon-Garlic Broccoli(recipe HERE). The second was a creation all my own, driven by my love for colorful salads that can pack a nutritional punch: Quinoa Salad with Orange & Cumin Vinaigrette. I tried to tie all the flavors together in this meal, and added cumin to the dressing to complement both the tilapia rub and the carrot-apple purée. You’ll go back for seconds on this one, I promise – click HERE to see the recipe.
QuinoaSaladAn “all-out” kind of meal meant a special musical pairing. Anyone who has ever attempted to perform a Baroque edition in it’s natural notation understands that interpretation of this genre is a true art. It’s not about adding a trill here or appogiatura there – it’s about having an understanding of the foundation, which should inform any added colors and expression. This led me to two true afficionados on this approach: Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr, performing their rendition of Corelli’s Sonata for Violin in E Minor, Op. 5 no. 8. In considering how to describe this piece, Manze himself says:

“Arcangelo Corelli published Opus 5 on 1st January, 1700, his one and only set of violin sonatas, and arguably the finest and most influential ever assembled…all other baroque sonatas can be defined as being pre- or post-Corelli…”

What’s brilliant about their performance is both the synergy and natural flow they maintain throughout – Correlli only includes a basic bass and treble line in the score, with no adornments or harmonies included. As is the case with most Baroque works, this music requires a very intuitive performer who can give musical voice to an otherwise austere composition. The knowledge can only get you so far, as inherent understanding of musical expression is a vital piece as well. This performance shows that when you go “all-out” on interpreting the written meaning and foundation of a piece, the result will be utterly breathtaking – enjoy!

Source Cited:

“Corelli Violin Sonatas Op. 5 Review,” by Andrew McGregor. BBC-Music.com

Salmon Perfected

For those of you who have spent time in a sauna, you known and understand the beauty of cedar wood. I told you once that I had found the perfect way too cook salmon…but then I discovered the brilliance of cedar plank grilling. Not only do you get a beautifully tender meat, but also a smoky hint of cedar. I wanted a recipe that was easy, but also impressive – this was just the ticket. Who would have thought that a few simple ingredients could make one of the MOST delicious fish dishes I’ve ever had. You’ve got to give this Cedar-Plank Salmon a try!
Cedar wood’s durability and aromatic qualities have made it a popular resource for cultures across the globe. Historically, its oil was used as part of the embalming process in Ancient Egypt, while the Phoenicians utilized cedar’s strength to build ships and houses. Modern-day uses include linen storage, shingles and furniture, musical instruments, aromatherapy, saunas, etc. Most grocery and specialty stores will carry cedar planks during the summer…as you can tell from the photo, I went to Whole Foods 🙂
These attributes make it the perfect companion in cooking: it’s durable enough to withstand an open flame while also infusing a smoky flavor that is to-die-for amazing! The plank acts like a “pan” on the grill, meaning you can cook a whole salmon steak (rather than individual filets), and not have to worry about the meat sticking to the grate. This gives you more time to socialize with friends and family, rather than worry about what’s happening beneath the lid. A word of caution: this process cooks a very tender salmon,  meaning the meat won’t necessarily appear fully cooked (even though it is). The way to test for doneness is by checking resistance – a fork should slide into the meat like butter. That is what makes this recipe so perfect – click HERE to see how to make this amazing salmon!
For the musical pairing, I wanted to complement the intensity of flavor, with all its subtle nuances. When taking the richness of taste into account, I found myself leaning towards Béla Bartók. Though this fish was by and large superior to other salmon dishes, it wasn’t quite on the orchestral scale; so I chose his String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 7. The opening movement (Lento) primarily captures the thematic feel I intended – it’s a slow lento with contrapuntal dialogue throughout that ebbs and flows between the four voices. Though built like a fugue, Bartók throws in unexpected shifts that take both performer and the listener by surprise. The work in its entirety was inspired by the composer’s unrequited love for Stefi Geyer, which is reflected in the melancholic state of the first movement. The second movement (Allegretto) has a hesitant start, but begins to unfold with a playful and spirited motif as it gains speed. There is still some sign of the first movement’s anguish, but the music has developed into something braver and more adventuresome. The third movement (Introduzione. Allegro — Allegro vivace) serves as the culmination of this musical journey – from the depths of despair to the towers of triumph, our “protagonist” has found new life. For this recipe, which develops into a truly beautiful meal in spite of the standard grilling methods, this quartet was a perfect match. The recording below is with the Novák Quartet – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KcsUAp8EDo

Sources Cited:
Rutherford, Brett. “Program notes for April 15, 2009: Tákacs String Quartet with Marc‐André Hamelin,” Rhode Island Chamber Music Concerts
Bruno, Gwen. “History of the Cedar Tree,” eHOW