Today I’m going to ask you to use your imagination. Have a glass of wine, close your eyes, turn on some Simon and Garfunkel, and imagine you’re entertaining your nearest and dearest. Imagine you’re tasked with cooking a fabulous dinner for your terribly handsome beau on his 50th birthday. And imagine that last minute rush before dinner is served—the rush to get dinner on the table and make sure that hot food stays hot and salad stays fresh.
Can you imagine that? Good. Now imagine that the beautiful ingredients below came together in a perfectly composed salad that I didn’t have a chance to photograph on that lovely night before serving it!
Sorry, folks. By the time dinner was served, the sun had gone down and I couldn’t justify whipping out my lighting set-up to photograph the finished salad. So just imagine a bed of velvety greens tossed in sweet and sour pear vinaigrette, topped with creamy, pungent Cambozola, toasted walnuts, crispy apples, and my mad scientist experiment, hibiscus pearls. Imagine that!
A word about those hibiscus pearls: this was my first foray into molecular gastronomy. It was a success, and much simpler than I imagined. I steeped a cup of hibiscus tea and spiked it with hibiscus extract from l.c. finn. I boiled that with agar agar, and used a regular eyedropper to squeeze the mixture into a tall glass of cold oil to form the pearls. That’s the extent of the special ingredients and equipment. The flavor of the pearls was distinct but not overwhelming; a little tart, like pomegranate juice. The texture was smooth and gelatinous—sort of like biting into a creamy drop of tea. For instructions on making agar agar pearls, visit http://molecule-r.com/en/content/67-pearls-training. You can purchase the extract here.
- ⅓ cup pear juice
- 2 tablespoons pear vinegar
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed (discard stems)
- ¼ cup Olive Oil
- Salt to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 4 cups chopped baby butter lettuce
- 1 green onion, sliced
- 1 apple, cored and chopped
- ¼ cup toasted walnuts
- ⅓ cup Cambozola cheese, chopped into small bits
- Hibiscus pearls
- In a blender combine pear juice, vinegar, thyme, salt, and pepper. While running the blender, slowly stream in the olive oil.
- Combine lettuce and green onion, and toss with dressing. Divide greens between four plates and top with apples, toasted walnuts, Cambozola, and hibiscus pearls.