Superba Snack Bar
Feast (Snack?). Mushroom special (shiitake?) with homemade ricotta. Brussels sprouts in a dashi broth with poached egg white. Cauliflower T-bone steak. Chicken liva’ toast.
Dishes of the night were the mushroom special and the cauliflower T-bone steak. The mushroom special had shiitake mushrooms lightly sautéed in a dashi broth topped with bonito flakes. The umami combination was a one-two punch in creating a snack-ish atmosphere (“once you pop, you can’t stop”). Needless to say, the dish didn’t last long. Throw in some homemade ricotta, and we had a marketable, addictive combination of fatty, salty, and mouthwatering goodness that would’ve brought shame to Pringles.
The Brussels sprouts were an interesting concoction, as an order of sprouts in trendy Los Angeles usually confers grilled or sautéed sprouts, balanced with an acid amongst a cliché backdrop of bacon or garlic. Brussels sprouts at Superba on the other hand, seemed to be blanched first, then browned, and then simmered for a short period of time in a dashi broth. Raw egg whites were most likely dropped in just before serving, to cool the broth and to undergo a light poaching, so the final presentation was a white protein jelly concoction strewn across the top of dashi-braised Brussels sprouts. Umami again, soft sprouts, and gelatinous, semi-curdled protein. Texturally interesting and pretty tasty.
The cauliflower T-bone steak was a clever result of culinary “wood-work” and nimble, adaptable vegetarian tastes. We were served a cauliflower that got stuck on the wrong end of a sawing table, which allowed a normally voluminous head of cauliflower (in bunches) become a neat and well-trimmed caulifower (this is the cauliflower you want to bring home to your parents). The difference in surface area allowed it to be grilled, and then topped with some ornaments in a sweet n’ salty agrodolce-veggie dealio. It was rather simple, really.
Now that I’m writing about this cauliflower dish, it reminds me of a particular Masterchef episode that saw (the Australian version) of a terrine made out of leeks and lobster. The method of preparation yielded the same idea- “create a steak out of vegetables,” except in this case, compressed, boiled vegetables. From a glance at the recipe, my guess is that the concoction adhered as one slice as a result of cooking the leeks to just when the fibers began to break down, allowing the cooling and gravity of compression weakly bond the starches and sugars. I wanted to apply the same concept to here to cauliflower.
Unfortunately, such a task would be difficult because a cauliflower head is obviously not shaped like logs, so lining them up in a deep casserole style dish to set would be a difficult task. The final cut would be fairly uneven, and there is no guarantee that a steak-style cut can be properly achieved, since fitting a head of cauliflower into a log shaped casserole dish would be a organizer’s nightmare.
So I proposed that we needed stems. One could use the normally discarded cauliflower, broccoli, or Chinese broccoli stalks, with the outermost layer of skin peeled off using a peeler. These would subsequently be boiled for a lengthy amount of time, and then lined up in a deep casserole dish.
In between each layer, drizzle some (not too much) sweet and spicy honey; this would ensure a bit more of binding power between the stalks (viscosity), and would add a nice balance to the sour, crunchy toppings that would later finish off a slice of this “flower terrine.” Leave the log concoction in the fridge (viscosity increases as temperature drops) under some heavy bricks to set.
Toppings: The cauliflower and broccoli heads (the fuzzy tops) can be chopped off and pickled in some apple-cider vinegar, salt, and brown sugar.
Finely dice up some red and green pepper, chiles, scallions, and garlic. Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and olive oil, and when the agrodolche is finished, add in an appropriate amount to cover the diced vegetables.
Sweet n’ Spicy Honey: In a pot, 1:1 of honey/water, couple of cinnamon sticks, some whole cloves, star anise, cardamom pods, and ginger. Simmer until fragrant. Reduce until fairly syrupy. Remove solids. Allow to cool, then drizzle between logs.
Agrodolche: 2:1:1 of vinegar/sugar/water, spices of choice, and a chopped onion if preferred. Reduce until slightly syrupy. Strain if desired, and cool.
When done, slice the log concoction horizontally, add your pickled toppings and a drizzle of peppery olive oil. Enjoy.