Molecular Gastronomy: Bacon Wrapped Acorn Squash with Balsamic Caviar and Maple Sphere

Bacon wrapped acorn squash with balsamic caviar and maple sphere

I’m slightly concerned about my post titles being a bit too long. I can admit that they’re all a mouth full… and somehow, they manage to keep growing. To me, this isn’t exactly a problem as I think naming a dish according to the ingredients it contains gives my readers a clear idea of what the post (and recipe) is about.  I like to list the ingredients I feel are important to each dish, but since my recipe interests include things like flavour pairing and molecular gastronomy, I tend to think ALL of the ingredients are important. Woops. Predicament.

It’s also due to my own personal inability (or laziness) to come up with a catchy title. It’s clearly too challenging for me to plan a dish, make it, photograph it, write about it AND create a catchy title. That’s just taking it too far. Anyway, I personally like to see literal titles. Let the food speak for itself. Most people can look at the ingredients (if they’re relatively familiar with them) in a recipe and get a sense of whether or not they’ll like it. Right? The names and imagined flavours swirl around in your mind, forcing the idea of the dish into your mouth. I appreciate the honesty of a literal title… but again, there’s the whole length issue. What do you think? Let me know what sort of title catches your eye.

Bacon wrapped acorn squash with balsamic caviar and maple sphere

OK, so it turns out that this recipe is ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous in the best way. Nathan and Alex came to visit me some time ago. Just as passionate lovers never leave the bedroom, my foodie friends and I never left the kitchen over the three days they were around. Fevered moments of flavour creativity (some might say delirium) and collaboration were plentiful and virtuous food was abundant.  The guys brought with them a gorgeous array of fresh farmer’s market produce. Most important of this haul was bacon. Locally butchered, farm fresh strips of fatty delight. It created a revolution in my home and became part of almost every meal.

Bacon wrapped acorn squash with balsamic caviar and maple sphere

While we played around with my molecular gastronomy kits, futzing with spheres and such, Nathan remembered once again that we had bacon. How he could’ve forgotten, I’m not sure. I certainly hadn’t stopped thinking about it. Luckily, he took that thought one step further and remembered the acorn squash he’d brought. It came to everyone’s attention that wrapping bacon around grilled acorn squash would be painfully good. I’m still in pain now. Oy vay.

First, we blanched our cut slices of squash in boiling water for 3 minutes (only 4 at a time so the water doesn’t cool).

blanched acorn squash

Next, we grilled those beauties on a stove-top grill (pan frying is totally acceptable). Luckily, there was some bacon fat left on the grill which added extra flavour to the squash.

Grilled acorn squash

Now that our squash had those beautiful grill marks, we wrapped them (so hard) in bacon and baked them. Sadly, I must note that we had run out of bacon by that point, so not every piece of squash was wrapped.

I showed the boys how to make molecular balsamic caviar, which happily features in this dish.

Balsamic caviar

Maple spheres are also featured. And just look at that little guy! Beautiful, isn’t it?

maple sphere

Of all the maple spheres we made (about 8) this one was the only sphere presentable enough for a photo. When making spheres, it is important that your ingredients have a certain level of calcium in them for the thin film to form properly. Apparently, maple syrup is lacking in the calcium department and the film did not form well. They kept sticking and breaking when I tried to move them. In the hopes of getting one or two out of it, I left some in the sodium alginate bath for a long time (about 15 minutes), which paid off. If I were to try making them again, I’d add some yogurt to the mixture to avoid the same problem.

Bacon wrapped acorn squash with balsamic caviar and maple sphere

 

Bacon Wrapped Acorn Squash with Balsamic Caviar and Maple Sphere

Ingredients

1 acorn squash- cleaned of seeds (with or without peel) and divided into 8-10 pieces

Strip bacon- lots

Balsamic caviar (video instructions below)

Maple sphere (video instructions below)

Water

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 °F/ 180 °C/ Gas mark 4.

Boil a large pot of water. Place 3-4 pieces of squash in the water. Blanch them for 3 minutes then remove them from heat. Repeat until all pieces are blanched.

Grill or pan fry the squash on high heat until the surfaces are beautifully brown.

Place bacon wrapped squash in a casserole pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Garnish with balsamic caviar and maple sphere.

Eat and be amazed.

Thanks guys! It was fun!

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Transformation: Spicy Tilapia Quinoa Burgers Crusted With Almond and Hurricane Sandy

With Halloween coming up so soon, I’ve been spending a lot of my free time working on my costume (posts on that to come soon!). Unfortunately, because of the impending destruction of Hurricane Sandy, I might be all dressed up with nowhere to go. Oh Sandy, you’re such a costume block. 

Hurricane Sandy is supposed to reach New York tomorrow evening. We have been warned about possible flooding, power outages and very high winds. There is a possibility that we will lose power for about a week. Eww.

My area of the Berkshires is just outside of the affected region and hopefully shouldn’t be hit too hard. My mum has informed me that our water is connected to the electricity, so if the power goes out, we’ll have no running water. Eww squared. Being in a wooded area, trees fall often. The biggest threat to us that Sandy will throw our way is falling trees. We’ll see how that goes.

fish burger stuff

My transformation recipe this week was inspired by the extra baked tilapia (with a gorgeous tamari, Dijon, garlic and ginger sauce) that I had hanging out in my fridge. Tilapia is a flakey white fish – delicate in flavour and not too fishy. It easily gets overcooked and disappointingly dry, which no one is fond of. I needed to find a way to make the texture more appealing.

 flaked fishfish burger spin

Quinoa provided some answers to my query. The chenopod quinoa is often confused as a grain due to its grain-like appearance. Actually, it is closely related to beets, spinach and tumbleweeds. Light and unique in flavour, quinoa provides many nutrients like phosphorus, iron and calcium.

fish burger crustfish burger rows

I wasn’t concerned about the quinoa overpowering the fish, so I made them into burgers.
fish burger bite

Spicy Tilapia Quinoa Burgers Crusted With Almond

Ingredients

  • 2-3 leftover filets of tilapia
  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa
  • ½ cup oil cured black olives (kalamata will also work)
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 or 2 jalapeños
  • 2 small green bell peppers
  • ¼ cup fresh basil
  • 2 small carrots (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup pickles (2 large spears)
  • 1 cup spinach or arugula
  • 1 cup onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger
  • ½ to 1 tsp salt
  • crushed almonds (about a cup)

Directions

Preheat oven at 400ºF/200ºC/Gas mark 6

In a bowl, flake the filets into small pieces and add the quinoa.

In a food processor, blend all of the ingredients except the fish, quinoa and crushed almonds. Blend until there are no big chunks.

Mix blended contents with the fish and quinoa.

Form the mix into burgers and coat them with the crushed almonds. Lay your burgers on a lightly oiled pan.

Place in the oven and allow them to bake for about 30 minutes. They should be brown on the outside and not threaten to fall apart if moved.

Immediately place a burger on toast with avocado and alfalfa sprouts and devour.

Makes 8-10 burgers.