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14 Jul 2010

PaperChef 54 with a magic quartet

Zucchini, raspberries, beans and cereals; these are the actors of today' show.
As every first weekend of each month, it is PaperChef time! If you remember I have already taken part to this creative challenge, quite a few months back. Voids of memory and travels have impeded me to rejoin the happy crew for the monthly ride.
Miraculously this month I remembered of it and checked the dedicated blog  even before the host and ingredients were disclosed; I told you it had something of a miracle, no?
This month host is Karen of Prospect the Pantry and she is the responsible for the weird combination of toys I had in front of me. To be honest, fate is the responsible but, have you read of the power of thoughts on stochastic event? if not, it is a pretty cool scientific/philosophical topic to delve into. Anyhow, the whole ingredients list (Zucchini, raspberries, beans and cereals) didn't look so strange if it wasn't for the raspberries.

I know, I know, "what's the problem? use raspberry vinegar" that's what you might say to me but I have a whole bag of frozen raspberries that is cramping my Lilliputian freezer so I wanted to take this chance and use them as long as possible; though, considering their strength, it will be difficult to use more than few raspberries per person in this context.
I took a few afternoons for myself to think about what to put together and sitting in the lovely terrace of the local tea-room I started scribbling down few ideas.

As a fly circling around a flame in ever closer circles, I started with pretty vague and rough ideas for dishes till I burnt my fingers at the final idea. For completeness, and in the hope to stimulate some discussion, here you are the original scribbled page.
I started with a pretty generic cous-cous dish with fava beans, parsley and fried zucchini.

The second idea was actually pretty fertile since it started with a black soy bean, raspberry and chocolate sauce to be served with a tarragon rice sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and served with fried zucchini. I actually tried to realise the sauce and it was quite remarkable, you might find it on this channels pretty soon.

The third idea was a terrine of zucchini, rice and fava beans in liver paté to be served with an orange-scented raspberry sauce. Pretty cool idea this one too actually (even if I say this myself) but I didn't have enough time to let the terrine set so at the end I had to discard this as a possible dish.

With the forth idea, I started including in the picture brown rice with a brown rice, edamame and pistachios risotto served with raspberry tuiles (or rather crisps) and fried zucchini. The raspberry crisps idea is an interesting one, I thought at how to realize them for a while but it needs further development so, not a candidate.

The fifth idea features a raspberry-Parmesan frico served with back rice, fried zucchini, green chili and snap peas. Interesting and fresh idea; the raspberry frico titillated my imagination for a while but as the crisps, this also need further development.

The sixth idea uses lentils as beans in a rice with lentils dish, spiced with chervil and sprinkled with nigella seeds served over zucchini with a cumin-raspberry sauce. Mmmm interesting sauce! Not totally convinced of the main component though, so not a candidate (at least not as a whole dish).

The seventh and latter idea uses a protein other than the beans and it reads like seared salmon fillet served with a zucchini and rice timbale, black eyed peas cooked with mint and garlic and a raspberry sauce.

As you might have noticed, the fried zucchini came in the picture quite often since I believe that if cooked this way, they deliver the maximum flavor and sweetness apart from having a lovely texture. I tried not to introduce other proteins in the dishes except the beans but at the end I couldn't resist and fell for salmon and this is actually the dish I chose to realize for you.

Seared salmon fillet served with a zucchini and rice timbale, black eyed peas cooked with mint and garlic and a raspberry sauce

Ingredients (makes 2 servings):

  • 2 salmon fillets;
For the timbales:
  • 1 small zucchini sliced, roughly 30 slices not too thin;
  • canola oil to fry;
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped finely;
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed;
  • 4 tbsp Arborio rice;
  • vegetable stock, as necessary;
  • 2 fresh branches of thyme;
For the beans:
  • 3 tbsp dried black-eyed peas, rehydrated in hot water with a little baking soda;
  • Extra vergin olive oil;
  • 1 garlic cloves, sliced;
  • 1tbsp Apple cider vinegar;
  • salt and pepper;
  • leaves from 2 branches of fresh spearmint, shredded;
For the raspberry sauce:
  • 4 tbsp water;
  • 1/2 tsp Marmite;
  • 1 tsp roasted cumin, grounded;
  • 8 frozen raspberries, thawed;
  • 3/4 tsp fructose;
  • 1/2 tsp Worchestershire sauce;
  • 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce;
  • 2 tsp Extra vergin olive oil.

Let's start by cooking the risotto. In a small saucepan warm up some olive oil and sweat the shallots till translucent, then add the garlic and cook slightly. Add now the rice and stir to coat with the oil and shallots mixture. When the rice will start being translucent, add the thyme leaves and enough vegetable stock to cover the rice; simmer till fully absorbed. Continue this process till the rice will be cooked (roughly 3 refills). When ready set aside to cool down a bit.
While the risotto is cooking prepare the beans. Over a medium flame, gently fry the sliced garlic in olive oil then add the beans and enough water to cover them. Simmer till the water will be absorbed, continue adding water till the beans will be cooked but not mushy. At the end add the vinegar and let it evaporate. Season with salt, add the shredded mint and set aside to steep.

Now to fry the zucchini, start by warming up some canola oil in a skillet. Wash and pat dry the zucchini slices and fry them in the hot oil till golden brown on both sides. Set asides between paper towels to drain the excess oil.

For the sauce, in a small saucepan put all the ingredients except the olive oil and let simmer till reduce by half. At this point taste it and add extra salt or fructose if needed, the sauce shouldn't be overly sour. Add now the olive oil and emulsify with a little wisk, a spoon or a milk foamer. Strain and keep it warm.

Line two timbales molds of 6cm/2.5in in diameter with plastic wrap. Start the timbales with a first layer of zucchini (5 slices per layer), then 1/4 of the rice pressing it down with a spoon to level. Continue with other two layers finishing with a layer of zucchini arranged in a decorative fashion. Set aside and keep warm.

In a skillet, pan fry the salmon fillets till golden brown on both sides and in the meantime warm up all the other components of the dish.

To plate, unmold the timbales on the plates, slide the salmon fillets aside them, spoon the beans between the two and glaze the salmon fillets with the sauce making some decorative pattern on the plates as well. Decorate the timbales with fresh time leaves and the beans with a little sprig of mint and serve.

Verdict: The dish was simply delicious. The crispy top of the salmon and its oily fishy taste combined perfectly with the fruity sauce. The aroma of cumin links the salmon and raspberries just beautifully. The timbale has a rich texture counterpointed by the sweet crispy zucchini; the thyme notes are delicate in the complex. The beans have a delightful caramel notes to them with a good bite. The garlicky notes are lightened by the slight acidity, and complemented by the aromatic spearmint. 

Now I need your help, I quite liked the ideas I put down for this challenge but what did you think of them? Which one should I tuck into next? I opened a Doodle poll for you to help me.


  1. Nicely done! Love all your ideas.. hope they'll come to fruition someday.. :))

  2. I love it! Ilva

  3. This dish looks stunning, I would be delighted to be presented with that in a restaurant and all of the suggestions in your poll sound wonderful too. It should have been you on a food bloggers' masterchef not me!!

  4. Well done for winning Paperchef 54!

    Looks stunning, Alessio, and I love how you documented your thought processes :)

  5. I'm intrigued by many of your postponed ideas (the raspberry crisps, the raspberry-Parmesan frico, the raspberry-cumin sauce). The meal you made looks fabulous!