Admit it, if it wasn’t for the holidays and snowball fights winter is a boring season. This winter has just been a cold and mostly snowless void, and with the holidays over winter has no reason to still be here. In my quest to cure myself of the wintertime blues I called on a few friends and channeled the spirits of springtime future and roused myself from this long winters nap.
With our coals glowing our team was ready to introduce the world to a seasonal sensation of “grilled flatbreads”;, grilled pita spread with a savory goat cheese Alfredo topped with balsamic caramelized onions, grilled pineapple, fire torched oranges and finished with wilted arugula. The finishing touch of the wilted arugula provided a peppery bite to round out the party of flavors.
While we were grilling the cold winds cut through our clothes, demanding that we abandon our quest for spring and send us back inside to hibernate. We fought on, but required something warm and rich to enhance our strength! That’s when we created our new grilled cauliflower soup. We grilled thick cut slabs of cauliflower seasoned with salt and cracked black pepper till they were just tender with hints of smoke and char from the flames. To make the soup we used one of our greatest secret ingredients, smoked beef butter which adds a slight kick of smoke and body to our dish. We sweated onions, thyme, and garlic till tender then added our cauliflower and stock. A trip to the blender and we had a velvety smooth concoction with hints of smoke and BBQ, but there was something missing, something to add that element of spring to the dish. Puttanesca sauce or charmoula grilled shrimp were the answer. Both add a spice and texture so different from the soup, while the vinegar in the puttanesca and the lime/lemon juice in the shrimp cut through the richness and left the soup light and delicious.
With our grill dying down we still had the urge for something more, a dish that truly represented the essence of spring, but what could that be? A fresh tomato tart! But not just any tart, we changed up the rules and developed a hot bacon, lettuce and tomato tart with house cured pancetta, hot house tomatoes, wilted arugula, smoked herbed goat cheese and finished it with lemon zest. We used a combination of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, summer savory, basil and homemade red chili flakes. This went into our skillet with the halved tomatoes and crispy pancetta then topped with a sheet of puff pastry and into the oven to work magic. We watched as our pastry crust slowly rose becoming crispy and golden as the tomatoes beneath wilted into the crust. When all was ready we flipped the tart onto a plate then topped with smoked herbed goat cheese, fresh lemon zest and wilted arugula. Ripe and tender tomatoes, yielding like a rich sauce to your fork with crispy flavor bombs of pancetta draped with the light smoke from the goat cheese was finished off by the peppery bite of the arugula. I can almost feel that spring time air with each and every bite.
While we still have a couple more months of winter left to battle, at least I can rest assured knowing come springtime we will be ready with some of your new favorite inspired occasion’s creations. Stay tuned for more inspired dishes from Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions Research and Development Department!