Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Salade of Belgian Endive and Finocchio with Rose Petal, White Truffle Vinaegrette

An elegant, pretty, delicious composed salad!
     Belgian endive is a very elegant tasting lettuce with a crisp clean texture.  Finocchio is also called anise bulb or florence fennel.  Finocchio is a nice aromatic garden vegetable.
     The fennel greens are mildly aromatic and they are very nice to use as a garnish.  Many chefs just discard fennel greens, but that is a waste of good food.
     Keep in mind that when designing a composed salad, garnishing herbs must be integral and edible.  A sprig of rosemary or thyme is not considered to be edible as is.  Delicate herbs and leafy herbs are best for garnishing.  Mild herbs like parsley add a neutral flavor vantage point for the taste buds.  Cilantro, dill, chervil and fennel top do have stronger flavors, so those herbs must be matched with food that can benefit from those flavors.  Just blindly placing sprigs of any kind of herb on any entree is not part of being a quality chef.  Knowing which entrees are better with no garnishing herbs is also part of the job.
     The vinaegrette that I made for this recipe was by pure chance.  I saw Belgian Endive for sale at a Chicago grocery store for the first time today.  Finding exotic or elegant food is not easy to do in this city, so I bought the only two undamaged Belgian Endive that the store had.  Usually Belgian Endive is wrapped with a damp cloth or a damp food quality paper towel to keep the delicate lettuce crisp.  The Belgian Endive that I bought was not wrapped.  The outside leaves were limp and they had to be discarded.  Tomorrow, none of the Belgian Endive at that store will be worth purchasing, because the grocer's produce department crew has no experience handling gourmet items.  It was good timing on my part to shop today!
     Another item that was newly stocked at the store was white truffle oil.  White truffle oil has has a little bit more of a delicate flavor than black truffle oil.  I have used truffle oils as a garde manger chef in French restaurants in the past.  Truffle oils are very nice on their own, when used for garnishing.
     There are two kinds of truffle oils.  Cheap truffle oil with a weak flavor and rich tasting truffle oil that costs about three times as much.  Avoid the cheap stuff, because it simply does not have enough flavor.  Truffle oil is an infused oil, so it must be kept refrigerated after the bottle is opened.  Rancid truffle oil that was left open at room temperature can be contaminated with some nasty pathogens that can cause severe illness.  Storing the truffle oil below 40º helps to keep the oil fresh and pathogen free.  The bottle must be warmed, before the oil can be poured.  That minor inconvenience is worth the effort,  when compared to becoming ill from botulism.  
     I posted a rose petal champagne vinaegrette in this blog a few months ago.  I thought that the rose petals would be a very nice complimentary flavor for the white truffle oil.  This rose petal and white truffle oil vinaegrette has a nice aromatic flavor.
     Two very important things to keep in mind when making this vinaegrette dressing are;  Do not over season this vinaegrette and do not use more than a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar.  The acidic flavors can easily overpower the flavor of the truffle oil.
     Rose Petal White Truffle Oil Vinaegrette Recipe:
     Fresh edible rose petals or dried edible rose petals can be used to make this dressing.  I used dried aromatic rose petals.  If you use dried rose petals, then you must let the dressing stand for at least ten minutes to allow the crumbled dried rose petals to reconstitute.  If fresh rose petals are used, then slice the petals into very thin chiffonade strips that are as wide as a thread.
     Place about 1/2 tablespoon of crumbled dried rose petals or very fine chiffonade sliced rose petals in a small bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of very finely chopped shallot.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of rose water.  (Rose water can be found in any middle eastern market or Arabic market.)
     Add 4 to 5 drops of lemon juice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of water.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Stir in 2 tablespoons of white truffle oil.
     Allow the dressing to stand for ten minutes, till the flavors meld and the dressing becomes aromatic.
     Stir before serving.
     Salade of Belgian Endive and Finocchio with Rose Petal, White Truffle Oil Vinaegrette Recipe:
     Mound a small portion of baby spinach leaves and frisee lettuce on the center of a plate.
     Place a few thin slices of anise bulb on top of the lettuce greens.
     Gently peel and separate 8 Belgian Endive leaves.
     Trim the ends of the endive.
     Place the Belgian Endive around the lettuce and anise slices, so the endive looks like the petals of a flower.
     Slice a roasted red bell pepper into 8 thin strips.
     Place the roasted pepper strips between the endive leaves.
     Stir the rose petal and white truffle oil vinaegrette.
     Spoon the vinaegrette on the Belgian Endive leaves.
     Drizzle a little of the vinaegrette on the lettuce and sliced anise.
     Garnish the center of the sliced anise with anise top sprigs.
     This is a very pretty, special salad that is perfect for a romantic evening of fine dining!  Salads at home do not have to be boring.

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