Zimmern, Nicholas and Ming, Oh My!

Ming Tsai signing autographs
I return from the Aspen Food&Wine classic with a renewed inspiration for cooking.  More than anything, it helps me think outside of the box and try new things.  This couldn’t be more true for three of the classes that I attended taught by Andrew Zimmern, Ming Tsai, and Top Chef 2011 Winner Nicholas Elmi. 

Andrew Zimmern – Bitter is the New Black

Andrew Zimmern, the unmistakable host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods series, blew me away last year at the Food & Wine Classic Cook-Off, and I was
looking forward to seeing him again this year.  He gave an enlightening discourse on what he feels is the least appreciated and understood of the five flavors: bitterness (the other four being sweetness, sourness, saltiness and umami).  As the hottest trend in mixology today is the
Negroni cocktail, with a bitter flavor derived from Campari liquer, Zimmern would like to see
this same type of trend happen in the food world.  Although bitterness historically has served mankind as a warning sign of poisons, I was willing to lend him an ear.
Zimmern prepared Goat Tartare with Roasted Tomatoes and Bitter Curry.  This bitter curry is also called rempah, a Malay word meaning mixed spices, and can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks (see recipe below).  The bitterness in the rempah comes from the lemon grass, which mixes well with sweet meats like goat; however, he added the rempah could also be tasty on grilled meats and roasted chicken.  He took raw goat loin, minced it fine, and added the rempah with some oven roasted tomatoes for an appetizer that left me with the appreciation that there is more to goat than just cabrito.  In addition, a wonderful tip, which I am sure to try, for adding bitterness to a dish is by zesting blackened dried lime on dishes.  Traditionally used in Persian and Arabic cuisine, black limes can be found at
Kalustyan’s in New York City.
Ming Tsai:  In Hot Water

A well-known television personality who hosted East Meets West from 1998 to 2003, Ming Tsai was someone I watched religiously when I started my first foray into cooking as a newlywed.  He currently owns and operates Blue Ginger in Wellesley, MA.  I almost forgot I was in a cooking class as he regaled us with stories of working in his family’s restaurant, his love of four-letter words and catering disasters.  For no reason in particular, I rarely eat (or make) Chinese food these days, but I was reminded of how much I love it and miss it.  While sipping a Ty Ku Sake
Sangria (see recipe below) he skillfully prepared scallion pancakes, pork and ginger dumplings, and stir-fried spicy beef and vegetables in the 45 minute class.  Yum, yum…I think that after a few of these sake sangrias I will be ready to give a couple of his recipes a try (for more information on the recipes, feel free to email me).

In the Kitchen with Top Chef Nicholas Elmi: Season 11
The winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Season 11 is 33-year old Nicholas Elmi.  Shortly after winning the culinary challenge, he opened Restaurant Laurel in South Philadelphia, a French-inspired American BYOB dining experience.  Before Top Chef, Elmi honed his skills at some of the top rated French restaurants, including Guy Savoy, Le Bec Fin, Union Pacific and Lutèce.  In his debut class at Food & Wine, he chose to focus on
crudo (raw fish) dishes using local (to Philadelphia) fish such as fluke, albacore tuna and mackarel (see fluke recipe below).  Filleting them in front of us in seconds, he prepared three beautiful, yet simple, presentations while emphasizing the importance of knowing what to look for in fresh fish: clear (as opposed to red) eyes, red gills, body firm to the touch with a bit of bounceback.  So what am I waiting for?  I am off to the store for the ingredients and will report back!  In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend.

xo M


1 T sesame oil
1 T peanut oil
3 T shallots
2 T curry powder
1 T minced ginger
2 t minced garlic
1 T minced lemon grass (white mass only)
1 t minced fresh hot chili
4 T sake
2 T soy sauce

Heat the oils in a sauté pan.  Add all ingredients except sake and soy.  Sweat for 5 minutes.  Add sake and soy and cook until liquids are nearly evaporated.  Removed from heat, cool and purée.

Ty Ku Sake Sangria

1 750-milliliter bottle rosé
1 750-milliliter bottle Ty KU Silver
1 750-milliliter bottle Lillet Blanc
5 ounces peach Mathilde
2.5 ounces cranberry juice
16 ounces pineapple juice
Fresh pineapple chunks and cranberries for garnish

Mix all liquids and regrigerate 4-8 hours.  Serve in chilled glasses garnished with fruit.

Kombu-Cured Fluke with Saved Radishes, Dill and Lemon

One fluke filet (can also use grouper or bass)
2 sheets kombu seaweed
2 lemons, zested and juiced
3 small radishes, thinly shaved, for garnish
3 sprigs dill for garnish
3 T fruity EVOO
1/2 T sea salt
fresh ground white pepper

Wet kombu and rinse.  Sandwich filet between two sheets of kombu and cure for 2 hours in the refrigerator.  Remove from kombu and slice filet on a bias into 1/4-inch pieces, working towards the top of the fillet.  Arrange the fish on a platter.  Sprinkle the lemon zest over the fish, and garnish with radishes and dill.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil, season with sea salt and white pepper to taste.  Three things to look for in his dishes: salt, texture, and acidity.  In this dish, he uses sea salt, a
radish for texture and lemon juice for acidity.  The zest, he says, adds nuance and brightness, the sprigs of dill are for color.

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