Sunday, June 9, 2013

Salade of Russian Smoked Sturgeon and Quail Egg on Petit Lettuce with Pancetta Lardons a la Blue Lotus Flower Licorice Vinaegrette

A nice composed gourmet salad that features exotic flavors!

     It has been quite some time since I have posted a salad recipe.  Ever since GMO produce has become standard issue at grocery stores, salads and raw vegetable recipes have gone by the wayside.  Organic vegetables are overpriced and local old fashioned organic farm stands are not an option in the high Mojave desert.  There is a couple of great farmer's markets in Las Vegas, but the food tends to be priced for the yuppy crowd.  Because of GMO produce and high price organic Non-GMO Project produce, salads have become a once in a blue moon item at this food site.
     Salads at this food site are easy comfort style recipes, classic salads and formal composed salads.  Hard to find items are sometimes featured in the salad recipes, but I do let readers know what kind of market stocks those items.  I found some nice imported cryovac packaged Russian smoked sturgeon that was pre-sliced at an eastern european market in Las Vegas.  If Russian smoked sturgeon is available in an eastern  european market in Las Vegas, then the chances are that it is available in a similar market in any other city around the globe that has a population of eastern europeans.
     Quail eggs are a gourmet item and they are perfect for making canapes and hors d'oeuvres.  Quail eggs are used as garnishes in fine dining restaurants.  Many western world gourmands and chefs do not realize that quail eggs are popular in asia.  Thailand and China are two of the top producers of quail eggs.  There are a few options for purchasing quail eggs at asian markets.  Fresh quail eggs are the first option.  Hard boiled fresh quail eggs do not take much time to cook because of their size.  
     The second option is quail eggs that are buried in lime, so they cure like thousand year eggs.  Thousand year quail eggs require no cooking, but they do have an acquired taste.  Many cash register clerks at asian markets freak out and exclaim that a western world customer chose the wrong egg, when an American like me tries to purchase some.  They figure that westerners do not know the difference and to avoid problems with returned merchandise, they choose to tell the unknowing customer that they probably would not like the thousand year quail egg.  This happened to me at a few asian markets in Chicago where there are plenty of middle of the road midwestern shoppers who do not have a clue about exotic asian food.  In Las Vegas, asian cash register clerks assume that every customer knows what they are buying, even if the customer is not asian, so buying thousand year quail eggs is not a problem for me in this city.
     The third option is to purchase canned boiled peeled quail eggs.  Some people scoff at the thought of any kind of canned food, but they are wrong in doing so.  Many food items do particularly well when they are canned.  Many great executive banquet chefs use canned hard boiled quail eggs when making canape platters.  Canned quail eggs that are packed in brine are a nice product.  The best canned quail eggs that I have ever seen come from Thailand.  Issan Thailand is prime quail hunting territory and Thai chefs demand top quality quail products.  Thai canned quail eggs packed in brine were used in the salad recipe.
     Licorice grows wild worldwide.  Licorice root is a traditional spring tonic medicine and it rids the body of toxins.  Licorice root is known as sweet root.  High quality dried slices of licorice root can be purchased at Chinese apothecary's and at asian markets.  Licorice root adds a gentle interesting sweet flavor to light sauces and vinaegrettes. 
     Blue Lotus Petals?  Nile River Sacred Blue Lotus from the days of ancient Egypt have been listed as an extinct species for a very long time.  Sacred Blue Lotus is a regional asian plant that was not restricted to the middle east or mediterranean islands where it went extinct.  Sacred Blue Lotus is a narcotic plant that was made famous in ancient Grecian lore.  In Homer's Odyssey, the island of the Lotus Eaters (Djerba) was a place of sleepy bliss.  Odysseus confirms that Jason and the Argonauts were captives of the Lotus Eaters and many of the crew were turned into farm animals by the queen of the island, so the Island of the Lotus Eaters was no sleepy narcotic paradise.
     Sacred blue lotus is one of the strongest of the medicinal lotus plants.  Medicinal lotus is strongest when a fairly large quantity of the petals are added to a mild alcoholic beverage like wine.  The alcohol extracts the active narcotic chemicals from lotus petals.  Many species of lotus are narcotic, but they are listed as hypnotics and not opiates.  White lotus extract was an Allied Forces substitute for morphine when there was a shortage of opiate pain killers in WWII, so the active chemical is potent in its pure form.  The effects produce drowsy sleep and not much else, but sleep is something that sounds good to a person who suffers.  
     Blue Lotus of the Nile is still considered to be sacred by modern Egyptians who respect the commands of the ancient Pharaohs.  There are modern Egyptians who will not eat molokhia, because it was banned by a pharaoh in ancient times.  Showing polite respect for Egyptians who value tradition is a must do when visiting that country.  
     A similar species of blue lotus that is possibly related to Nile Sacred Blue Lotus was discovered in Thailand a few decades ago.  This may be the only existing species of blue lotus in modern times, but who knows.  The age of discovery never seems to end.  
    Lotus flower petals have an exotic wonderful flavor.  Blue lotus flower petals possibly have the nicest lotus flower flavor of them all.  I personally have tasted all kinds of lotus flowers over the years.  I know about the narcotic sleepy time powers of lotus, because I made lotus flower teas to get to sleep while in chemo therapy a few years ago.  Large quantities of blue lotus flowers are narcotic and they are a potent hypnotic.  When a couple pinches of dried blue lotus flowers are added to a vinaegrette, only the flavor is noticed and there are not enough active alkaloids present to cause narcotic side effects.  Many medicinal plants can be used as herbs in minute quantities and blue lotus flowers definitely have a pleasant unique gourmet herb flavor. 
     Anyway, blue lotus is usually sold as Sacred Blue Lotus.  The petals are hand picked and dried with care, so the full flavor profile is retained.  Where does a gourmet cook find dried blue lotus petals?  Thailand is one place or try the Bouncing Bear link at the bottom of this page.  Bouncing Bear is a great source of sustainable medicinal plants and the company is run by natives of the Americas who have protected tribal land in Bolivia and the rain forest, so it is a good cause to support.  By the way, blue lotus flower petals combined with licorice root flavored vinaegrette is a superb flavor combination. 

     Pancetta Lardons:
     Pancetta is an Italian dry cured seasoned rolled pork belly.  The best pancetta is imported from Italy and sold at Italian markets.  For a salad like today's recipe, go with the best!
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced pancetta.  
     Saute till the pancetta becomes golden brown.
     Use a slotted spoon to place the pancetta lardons on a dry towel to drain off any excess oil.  
     Keep the pancetta lardons warm on a stove top.

     Blue Lotus Flower Licorice Vinaegrette:
     Blue lotus flowers are a hypnotic narcotic.  In minute quantities, they add flavor and there is not enough active alkaloids present to cause sleepy side effects.  
     Place 1/5 cup of dried licorice root slices in a sauce pot.  
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine.
     Place the pot over low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce, till the liquid becomes full of licorice root flavor and only 1 tablespoon of liquid remains.  (1/2 ounce of thin licorice syrup)
     Pour the thin licorice syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a cup and set it aside till it cools to room temperature.
     Place 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar in a mixing bowl.
     Add the 1/2 ounce of thin licorice syrup.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of dried blue lotus petals.
     Allow the liquid to stand for five minutes, so the flavors develop.
     Add a thin stream of 2 tablespoons of good vegetable oil while stirring, so a loose emulsion is created.
     Add a thin stream of 1 tablespoon of pomace olive oil while stirring.
     Set the blue lotus flower licorice vinaegrette aside.
     Stir before serving. 
     Salade of Russian Smoked Sturgeon and Quail Egg on Petit Lettuce with Pancetta Lardons a la Blue Lotus Flower Licorice Vinaegrette:
     Trim the tough skin off of a 2 ounce to 2 1/2 ounce slice of Russian smoked sturgeon.
     The two lateral bones and backbone can be removed, but it is best to leave them intact, so the slice of smoked sturgeon looks nice.
     Chill the slice of smoked sturgeon.
     Use a 5" ring mold to place a small mount of mixed petite lettuce on the back center of a plate.  (Leave the ring mold in place.)
     Evenly space 3 slices of plum tomato near the lettuce on the front portion of the plate.
     Cut several supremes of Persian preserved pickled lemon.  (Lemon supremes = no seeds, no membrane, no pith and no skin.)
     Bruniose dice the pickled lemon supremes.  (Brunoise = 1/8"x1/8"x1/8" dice.)
     Place 1 teaspoon of brunoise pickled lemon on the plate between each tomato slice.
     Spoon a small portion of the blue lotus flower licorice vinaegrette over the lettuce.
     Bend the edges of the slice of smoked sturgeon and place it on the mound of lettuce.  Ben the edges of the slice of smoked sturgeon so it stands tall and so there is room on top of the lettuce for the quail egg halves.
     Cut 1 hard boiled quail egg in half. 
     Tuck the quail egg halves on both sides of the smoked sturgeon on top of the lettuce.
     Spear the lettuce behind the sturgeon with a pointed trimmed scallion spear.
     Carefully remove the ring mold.  Repair any damage if necessary.
     Spoon a generous amount of the blue lotus flower licorice root vinaegrette over the tomato slices and on the plate around the lettuce.
     Sprinkle some of the pancetta lardons on the back half of the plate around the lettuce.
     Place 1 bias sliced green onion top sliver on each tomato slice.
     Place a few bias sliced green onion slivers on the lettuce greens near the smoked sturgeon. 

     This is actually a pretty easy gourmet composed salad presentation to make, but French precision knife cuts are required if it is done right.  The blue lotus flower licorice vinaegrette not only tastes nice with the salad ingredients, it tastes great with Russian smoked sturgeon.  


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    1. Thanks Prachi Thakur! During a recent editing job on this blog, I started attending an associates degree culinary operations program at Le Cordon Bleu. Because of the extensive amount of research papers I write for school, articles at this food site have improved. All information is encyclopedic knowledge at this site and it is informal. I don't mind passing good information along. It does create interest in culinary arts.