Over the past week I’ve had the opportunity to work on a couple amuse bouches for dinner service alongside Chef Sadhana, which has been awesome. I’ve really loved working on them because they allow for so much improvisation and creativity. After picking a few base ingredients you can take the bite-sized amuses to a whole new level by playing around with textures and flavors.
On the first night, I decided to start out with a tamari almond stuffed date that was on a list of past popular amuses. I mainly chose it because of one of my favorite dishes I had made in my pre-vegetarian (and now pre-vegan!) days: a maple-glazed, bacon-wrapped, almond-stuffed date. Delicious, but definitely not in line with a vegan diet.
Since the instructions on the sheet I was browsing were fairly crude, lots of room was left for experimentation. I started by roasting almonds for about ten minutes before taking them out and dousing them in a couple of tablespoons of tamari sauce.
Next up came the dates, which I first halved and pitted. Though the notes called for coating them with balsamic vinegar, we decided to try out golden balsamic instead. After a couple of tablespoons of that had been added, they also went in the oven for about ten minutes.
As the almonds cooled their crunchy tamari shells glazed over, providing a salty and flavorful bite. Alongside the sophisticated sweetness of the roasted dates, we were already on our way to an great amuse.
I grabbed some mint from the herb fridge because I thought the cool bite would lend itself well to the dish. Upon tasting we decided the combination was good, but could use something else. The verdict? Lemon! I thought the combination of flavors could use some acidity, so Sahana suggested I make a cashew lemon sauce, complete with soaked cashews, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and some silken tofu for texture (and to make it go further!).
After assembling, we did the final taste test. It was so good. I loved how one small bite provided so many different textures and flavors: the gooey, sweet date; the crunchy, salty almond; the cool, crisp mint; the creamy, bright lemon sauce.
A few nights later the kitchen was once again in need of an amuse, so I jumped in! The culinary intern, Naomi, got started on an avocado spread (look at that beautiful green!) that involved lemon, olive oil, and avocados (from what I remember). I also believe some silken tofu was again added. I never knew how versatile that stuff was until I started working here!
While Naomi worked on the avocado recipe, Sadhana and I brainstormed what would pair well. We knew we needed something to serve the avocado spread on, and it needed to have some crunch. Crostini is always a good choice, but we wanted to try a few other options before reverting to the more commonly used selection.
While in the walk-in fridge I grabbed an eggplant, as I thought the flavors would go really nicely together. But, could an eggplant crisp enough to support the avocado? We sliced it a few different ways and threw it on the flat-top grill, but the answer was sadly no.
After considering a few different options (cucumber, watermelon radish), we accepted that crostini was probably the best way to present the spread. After slicing some day-old gluten free baguettes, we sprayed them with olive oil and a little salt and let them brown in the oven. As soon as they came out we rubbed them with raw garlic cloves, something I’ve actually done in the past with pizza dough at home. They smelled amazing, of course.
I also thought that the shiitake mushroom “bacon” the restaurant makes would go great with the dish. I know from my pre-vegan days that avocado + bacon is awesome, and I knew that this would also be delicious. To make the shiitakes we cut them into small slices and added a little oil, salt, and smoked paprika (which is an INCREDIBLE spice I’ve been introduced to since working here). They crisped up really nicely, giving them a crunchy, smoky bite.
Finally, we did a tasting: eggplant or no eggplant. Though the eggplant couldn’t stand alone with the avocado, it actually made a great addition to the amuse, and we decided to keep it.
And that’s it! Two amuse bouches done and a lot of experimentation along the way.
This article was written by monica