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, June 24, 2013

New Italian Renaissance

Italian is the go to American food.  Think about it, every day people are ordering pizza, pasta salads and lasagnas without even thinking they are dabbling in another countries history.  American Italian has seen some dark days but the sun is on the horizon and a new renaissance is blooming.  Chefs are concentrating on regional specialties showcasing their interpretation of the history and culture of individual areas.  We decided to try our hand at re-inventing some true Italian classics with modern twists and exciting ingredients.

Pasta salad has always been my go to during the hot summer months.  It’s very easy to make, its filling, completely customizable, and won’t wilt at a picnic.  But being my go-to for so long has made this dish stagnant, sometimes boring.  Not anymore, a recent personal discovery of a fun and exciting pasta shape has reinvigorated my love of this dish.  Presenting our newest summer salad, trotolle pasta salad with grilled eggplant, diced tomatoes, spinach, shredded asiago and finished with a light and refreshing roasted garlic vinaigrette.  These funky little pasta shapes trap and hold bits bright dressing that bursts with every bite.  The grilled eggplant adds a deep slightly smoky flavor creating a deep flavor to compliment all the light and fresh ingredients.  The pasta salad has been reborn, and trotolle is its savior. 

Lasagna is a true classic.  A perfect example of Italian home-style comfort in a pan, with each layer a symphony of flavors and textures, yielding effortlessly to the next.  So what can we do to put a new spin on history? What possible changes could we make to tradition that could make this dish better… take away the noodles!  Introducing our newest, and gluten free, comfort creation; Italian Grilled chicken and vegetable spoon bread layered with orange scented polenta.  We started with a layer of diced grilled vegetables, then poured on a thin layer of polenta enhanced with orange zest and shaved parmesan cheese.  We followed this with alternating layers of grilled chicken mixed with mozzarella, more polenta and a traditional mixture of sautéed spinach with ricotta, eggs and a dash of nutmeg.  With one final layer of polenta our newest classic was ready for the oven.  The result was light and fluffy “lasagna” with a bright orange bouquet invigorating your senses before diving through each flavorful layer. 

Many people view Italian food as heavy, rich sauce laden, cheesy pasta dishes that sit heavy in your stomach and are only balanced out by an even more powerful wine.  This is simply not the case.  The coasts of Italy are renowned for some of the best seafood in the world, creating the most amazingly flavorful yet light dishes around.  In the spirit of the Amalfi coast fishermen we present our grilled pino grigio brined sword fish on a bed of parleyed orzo highlighted by bright lemon zest drizzled with lemon infused olive oil.  The brine kept the fish moist and juicy, while the wine provided a perfect acidity and crispness to enhance the delicate flavors of the swordfish.  The lemon and parsley orzo perfectly complimented the sword fish by enhancing the citrus notes of the brine while adding an herbal touch to balance each flavor.   A true taste of the lighter side of Italy.

 Now let’s talk cobbler.  No matter what the season I love a warm and sweet cobbler topped with a big scoop of rich ice cream.  So why not end our Italian adventure with a taste from the great explorers of Italy.  Presenting a dish with worldly origins, our apricot and bing cherry cobbler with polenta biscuit topping and crystalized ginger ice cream.  This creation was truly a treat, combining the juiciest ripe apricots with plump sweet and tart cherries that exploded with flavor all topped with a crisp and sweet polenta topping.  The crust was a great discovery itself, with a flavor and texture reminiscent of a sugar cookie but with a beautiful grit and chew from the corn meal.  This flavor bomb was then topped with a crystalized ginger ice cream with added a sweet and spicy bite to the rich fruit. 

America is waking up to the true joy that is traditional Italian dishes, rich in flavor and steeped in tradition.  It is now our job to take these classics and bring them into the modern age by adding our own personal touches and creating something new and exciting.  Stay tuned for more inspired dishes from Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions Research and Development Department!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Lighter Side of the Street.

Is there anything better than street food?  Hot and comforting, street foods are a direct connection to the society that created them.  Each bite is a tribute to someone’s home land, a taste of history dancing from fork to tongue.  But these dishes are designed for comfort, not waistlines, so they tend to be rich and heavy.  Why not take these classics over to the lighter side with some fun twists and delicious adaptations!

Pizza is as iconic to the American street food scene as hot dogs and meat on sticks, yet we have traveled too far from this classic dish’s noble roots.  Pizza used to be an art, from the perfect dough to the exact manipulation of the wood fired ovens to produce the perfect pie.  We decided to take this classic for a spin by using a whole wheat crust topped with grilled marinated artichokes, shaved red onions, baby kale, and tarragon rubbed smoked goat cheese, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with preserved lemons.  The dough is rolled out thin then introduced to a screaming hot grill, adding beautiful crispness, flavor and a slight char that once was only achieved in the heat of a wood fired oven.  The flavors melt into each other as the flames licks the crust, providing you with a bright and fresh taste of the garden with every bite.
While pizza may reign king for now, another challenger from south of the border has quickly made a name for itself on the street food market.  With fillings ranging from deep traditional, to Korean fusion, the taco is a perfect vessel for today’s curb consumer.  Let’s take this south of the boarder treat for a trip through the garden with our new Grilled Charmoula Vegetable taco topped with fresh cilantro and Cilantro yogurt crema.  The veggies (zucchini, squash and red onions) are rubbed with a spicy combination of cayenne, paprika and cumin, grilled to perfection then splashed with an herbal concoction of parsley, cilantro, extra virgin olive oil, and lime and lemon juice finished with smashed garlic.  The vegetables take on a smoky spice from the rub while keeping a crisp tender texture that pops with a drizzle of the cilantro crema.  As one of our diners said, “I usually go out of my way to avoid things that don’t have meat, and I would fight someone to get that!”

Since the birth of the food truck movement a change has occurred in the way people view what is acceptable street food.  Along with the pizza, hot dog and taco scene, newcomers like grilled cheese, donuts and pies are carving out their spot on the culinary landscape.  But the gooiest and richest player in the game has to be my personal favorite, Macaroni and Cheese!  So let’s take this decedent classic for a bit of a twist and introduce our newest evolution in cheese, the Grilled Cauliflower mac with whole wheat noodles, crisp manchego and sharp cheddar cheese sauce topped with fried shallot rings and a red and golden pepadew relish.  Each bite is a flavor bomb of sharp cheese, smoky bits of cauliflower, the vinegary hit from the pepadews and the final crunch of the fried shallot rings.  A dark and light combination of flavors titillating your palate. 

Now while we in America have some rock star curbside cuisine, our neighbors to the north have a dish so rich and flavorful that one bowl could keep a burly grizzly warm through the winter.  I am talking of course about poutine.    Poutine is the classic dish made from thick cut French fries, cheese curds and rich thick gravy.  To turn this cholesterol bomb around we substituted the French fried for sautéed zucchini and squash batons, the sprinkled on seared brussel sprouts and grilled radishes then spooned over a light but flavorful vegetarian stock gravy then garnished with shaved parmesan.  Each bite was warm and comforting yet somehow summery and light.  A fun and festive tribute to our neighbors up north.

With our new curbside culinary culture growing faster and faster our dining options are radically changing and expanding.  It is our job to take these new classics for a spin and develop our own take on the take out cuisine. Stay tuned for more inspired dishes from Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions Research and Development Department!