At Inspired Occasions we are constantly searching for new and innovative dishes to wow and amaze our client's and their guests.
This website is designed to take you on a journey by bringing you into our kitchens to observe our culinary creative process from conception to final presentation.
As we create each new dish we will define our inspiration, discuss challenges, present our solutions and post some great pictures along the way.
So join us in the Inspired Occasions Research and Development Test Kitchen for some amazing new dishes! I guarantee an amazing journey!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Last Harvest

The fall, a wondeful time of the year where all the leaves change color, the oppressive heat of the summer fades into memory, our culinary direction turns towards hearier fare and the cold breeze of winter can be seen over the horizon. But fall has one last treatsure for us before we dive into the long cold, a bountiful late season harvest of hearty greens and vegetables from the gardens!

Yes this year I have been blessed with a mountain of green and semi ripe cherry tomatoes, thick and beautiful heads of bok choy, and swiss chard so deep green you can lose yourself into the leaves.  These colors and flavors were my inspiration to roll down my sleeves and face the cold to harvest some creative dishes.

I know we recently talked about pumpkin here but we would be doing a great disservice to you readers if we didn’t present you with our newest pumpkin treat!  Here we have a roasted pumpkin hummus served with grilled sage pita.  The roasted pumpkin adds a body and some sweetness to the hummus while not at all reminiscent of your mothers pumpkin pie!  The earthy and rich flavor is complimented by the char and hints of sage from the grilled pita.  A perfect bite every time!

When it came to this next dish, our discovery process was a bit backwards.  When we harvested everything we could form our garden, before the frost, we ended up with pounds of green sun gold tomatoes.  Well we did the only natural thing, we pickled them all!  We made a simple rice wine pickling liquid with chili’s and herbs, pickled the tomatoes and gave them a try a few days later.  They were so good we tried coming up with new ideas on how to serve them, and that’s when it came to us.  We made a pureed tomato cognac soup, served with a grilled cheese crouton and pickled tomato skewer.  The velvety smooth soup with just a touch of cream was the perfect foil for the bright acidity of the tomatoes while the grilled cheese crouton added a beautiful texture and a bit of tasteful whimsy.

Our next dish is an example of on the spot inspiration.  We make an amazing marinated vegetable salad, tossed in a fine herbs and caper vinaigrette.  I love this dressing and so the last time we made the salad I kept some of the vinaigrette back, added a little extra virgin olive oil and fresh orange juice, and my new favorite salad.  This salad has the last of our ripe heirloom tomatoes, tossed with freshly sliced oranges, feta, shaved red onion, and baby arugula.  The sweetness of the oranges and the tomatoes played delicately with the acidity of the dressing and the salty crumbly texture of the feta while the peppery bite of the arugula evened out the entire dish. Bright and refreshing but still some body behind every bite.

One of my favorite crops this year has been our baby bok choy.  They are growing into perfect tight little bulbs packing so much flavor and color.  We harvest a few heads and developed this next taste experience, grilled bok choy risotto with fresh lemon and topped with julienned red radish.  We started this dish like a standard risotto, but instead of using just wine to start the rice we used a combination of chardonnay and mirin, a sweet rice wine.  As the rice was cooking we grilled the bok choy then finely sliced some of the heads down.  Right as the rice was almost finished we gently stirred in the grilled bok choy, lemon zest, a little shaved parmesan and a touch of butter.  The dish was a beautiful contrast of bright green and pure white with little bits of red from the radish garnishing the top.  Each bite was refreshing and light, with the lemon and mirin bringing brightness to the deep flavor of the bok choy while the raw radish added a slight hint of heat.

As we come upon winter our starches tend to become heavier and less creative.  Potatoes of all different varieties and styles show up on our tables with as much enthusiasm as a kid for candy the morning after Halloween.  So at LLIO we want to get away from the classic potato side dishes and come up with new and exciting options!  we did just that, and then some, for this dish with lentils and rainbow swiss chard.  Here we have my new go to dish, a seared filet of salmon set on a bed of orange and black lentils tossed with roasted tomatoes, and swiss chard sautéed with a touch of garlic, chili’s and lemon.  The fish is then dressed with a caramelized fennel brown butter sauce.  I just want to let all of that sink in, don’t worry I will wait.  

Each bite was an exciting journey down flavor town road, with the earthy body of the lentils mixed with the sweet roasted tomatoes then brightened and darkened by the sautéed chard was taken to another level by the delicate seared salmon.  The dark and nutty brown butter sauce carried a sweetness and body from the caramelized fennel draped over the salmon highlighting the fish with a dainty shine.

Winter is coming, but with the last of the harvest comes new and exciting inspiration for the season.   Stay tuned for more inspired dishes from Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions Research and Development Department!