I’ll continue to climb trying to reach the top…but no one knows where the top is.
~Jiro Ono, world's greatest sushi chef
I was watching the inspirational documentary/movie, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, about 85 year-old Jiro Ono, the first 3-Michelin star sushi chef in the world and owner of a 10-seat restaurant located in a Tokyo subway. This is a beautiful, thoughtful and engrossing movie of his life but what's amazing about it is the humbling lesson I took away from Jiro. As brilliant as he is, he has never lost track of his craft and is always striving to do better.
In this day and age, many of us creatives on the other hand, tend to get caught up in social media and all of the other time wasters that technology has brought us (yes, I'm guilty too!) and then we forget the very reason why we're doing what we're doing in the first place. So I've decided, from now on, I am not going to forget. I've come such a long way from 2 years ago when I couldn't cook zilch to now, and will continue to push boundaries with my cooking. Let me tell you something, this is actually very easy to do when you don't know very much to start with and are not limited by rules. The story of my life...
Well, I don't know where my vegan journey will eventually take me but I'm willing to jump in at the deep end and see how far I can make things work by being extra creative in the kitchen. Like for this week's French Fridays with Dorie's assignment, for example, Warm Scallop Salad with Corn, Nectarine and Basil. It's a beautiful assortment of fresh, raw and minimally seared ingredients tossed together to make an exotic salad.
Not so long ago, when I ate seafood, I rarely ate scallops. Now that I'm trying to give it up entirely, I struggle to recall what scallop tasted like and had to think what ingredient I could possibly use to substitute it with. Those giant oyster mushrooms would be a good choice, except that I couldn't find any. Firm tofu is also suitable, but I'm bored of eating so much tofu lately. Then it came to me....eggplant!
Yes, I simply cut out scallop-shaped eggplant pieces with a round cookie cutter, marinated them in a mixture of miso paste and aren syrup that helped with the caramelization process during searing. Maple syrup would be a good one to use for this purpose as well, as it adds a bit of sweetness to the saltiness of the miso and earthiness of the eggplant.
I had persimmon on hand and since it had a very similar texture to nectarine, I used that instead. The persimmon was already sweet, so I didn't bother searing it but left it raw. I actually missed out reading Dorie's instructions about grilling the fruit, but you didn't think I was going to admit that, did you? :) I was concerned that there may be too many sweet elements in my salad - persimmon, eggplant scallop and the sweet corn. But I worried needlessly, because the tangy chili lime dressing and fresh basil coulis balanced this salad out quite beautifully.
Dorie was right in saying that the exotic star of this dish was the raw corn. I absolutely adore raw corn and eat it in many dishes and desserts. However, my other shining ingredient here has got to be the eggplant scallop. It might not have had the exact scent of the sea, but it was close enough in texture and appearance that I'm happy to imagine it was the real deal. It really is worth checking out how the other Doristas interpreted this recipe here.
Have a lovely and fun-filled weekend, everyone!