[ vegetarian improvisational peasant fusion cuisine for the 22nd century ]

Friday, December 15, 2006

cooking can be god: nashs farmshare dec 15th

In the beginning I was going to have this tricked out mangologue extolling the virtues of plant hybridization and the popularity of the new, blue, "mangochoke" (mangochofra en espanol), a fruit with the calming alien appearance of your standard artichoke (not those of the holy land) but with the scrapings of flesh orange, sweet, creamy, and tropical in flavor. Seriously.

Come to India: low on jobs, but high on fruit.

But one look at the ingredients and Kia leaves me no other option but to get into the intricacies of the Savoy Truffle. The Savoy Truffle has been a favorite dessert of the British royal family for hundreds of years, made and consumed under conditions of strict secrecy and whose very existence (to mention nothing of taste, medicinal qualities, or gods forbid, the actual recipe) has been made suspect. George Harrison caught the wispy wind on his pudlian palate after the Beatles 1965 decoration with the "Order of the British Empire", but even then was forced to parody the divine dish on his White Album track of the same name.

So here we are. A few farmers and loyal farmsharefolk in the village of Sequim-upon-Dungeness, about to tender the jewel of the lotus, as it were. Only because in return for centuries of rape and pillage of Indian silver, cuisine, and philosophy, there is a karmic debt to be paid.

Savoy Truffle

1 Savoy Cabbage
royal quantities (there is no measuring the queen's larder) of:
Golden (silver will not do) Beets
Dark colored carrots

Each of the four colors will be a different filling -- the dish takes some preparation. The easiest way to make this would be to roast the carrots, beets, and parsnips in neat rows on a baking dish at 400 degrees (F). You can intersperse the beets with cloves, the carrots with cinnamon, and the parsnips with nutmeg. Meanwhile steam the arugula until wilted, mince well and mix with lemon and ginger.

The more nuanced method involves a separate preparation for each filling. I've witnessed a gentle caramelization of the carrots, diced finely so the jaggery (evaporated cane juice; what brown sugar always should have been) and minced ginger can show off on each surface. Keep sauteeing (ideally in butter) the carrots until they've browned, then a little more. When the omnipresent threat of The Burn rears it's ugly maw, deglaze the pan with some white wine and lower the heat. As the wine simmers away and the sequestered flavors roam freely once again, your carrots will soften and cream in a risottoan style. When Santa has drunk all the wine, mash lightly and set aside.

The beets should be peeled (I know they're organic, but this is a British recipe. All sins will eventually be forgiven), grated, and cooked down in either milk or coconut milk until pasty and all the liquid has evaporated, then served with some freshly ground cardamom. You can sauté them in butter or ghee for a couple minutes at first, then add the (coconut) milk and lower the heat. The texture should be mayonnaise, or "Velvetona" as they say in Indian English.

The parsnips should be made into a risotto, like the recipe from a couple months back. Use onions at first and slide them into the cooked world on low heat, taking care with your sweet sweet mantras. Adorn with freshly smuggled nutmeg at crucial intervals, never forgetting the Gospel of the Salt.

With the arugula we'll be making an arugula-mint pesto. Yes, you can use spinach. Yes, you can use wilted kale, but after the digestive processes detailed above (guaranteed to kill any ambient microbial life), it's nice to have a little raw green goodness in your social life. Soak some cashews (or blanched almonds) overnight and blend them. A child's handful will do. Add ginger, arugula, mint, and lemon. Add freshly ground black pepper and salt. Adjust to taste and keep on the thicker side, thinning with water or fresh yogurt if necessary.

The only question of authenticity -- having learned this Truffle in India -- lies in the sauce. It's a traditional keralan affair, involving roasted coconut and coriander, and I'm not sure if it was included in the original. But by the time George and Elizabeth got around to it, it had probably taken hold. To start, roast freshly grated coconut (you can use the dessicated stuff, rehydrated) and ground coriander. Pay close attention to the smell and color of the coconut -- any lapse in attention will result in the aptly feared "riot in a skillet". When the nuttiness overpowers the cocoadelicious, empty the pan and replace with a few teaspoons of coconut oil (also recommend for washing your hair). Fry some minced shallots until brown, and add a gentle teaspoon of cayenne pepper, fry a few few seconds (until coughing). While the shallots fried you blended your coconut-coriander mixture with enough water to form a paste, and now, moments after the chile powder, you added it. Tilt in half a teaspoon of turmeric and mix well, thinning with water and coconut oil (depending on the titles and landholdings of the guests) until you have an umbered curry. Taste, add salt and black pepper, and taste again.

Finally, the assemblage. Stack your clean, dry Savoy leaves on a clean, dry cutting board. With a sharp knife and steady mind, cut the largest rectangle (or diamond) that nature's fractal will allow. Order and chaos. Chaos and order. These are the layers of your truffle -- the flaky leaves of your savory croissant. As in baklava, brush a bit of olive oil on the diner's plate (and infused oil, a truffle oil even, works wonders) and firmly stack two savoy leaves on top of it. brush on a layer of your carrots and cover with two leaves. Align. Spoon on a layer of your parsnips, evenly, and cover with two leaves. Align. Then the beets and two leaves. Then the spinach and two leaves. Drizzle with the intensity of the South Indian sauce.

Take the remaining loves and peaces of the Savoy, slice into elegant rapiers, and consecrate the plate. Peace be upon us all, and particularly George Harrison.

"But you'll have to have them all pulled out /After the Savoy truffle"