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25 Mar 2010

Fresh, zingy richness in a clear glass

The four Velveteers are back! After our Red-Velvet cakes we come back to you with a new adventure into our fridges, grocery stores and creative minds.
This time it took us quite a few emails before we could agree on what to propose you. At the end we settled for a Verrine.
What is that?? You might say; that is simply a layered dish prepared into a transparent glass so to admire the alternation of its colors and textures and entice our tasting experience. To make the challenge more interesting we decided to propose each an ingredient to keep secret till the day when they were disclosed all together to the others. Aparna required us to include a cheese of any kind, Asha went for zucchini or squash, Pam chose salmon and I threw in chocolate (yeah I know, I like to make things difficult).

So, let’s see what we have on hands. Zucchini have two major qualities to them: they have a lovely crunchy bite when raw and they get sweet when cooked long enough. To make the things even, I decided to use them two ways: creamy and crunchy.
As salmon I chose to use the smoked one and it is mainly salty, rich and meaty.
The flavors did work for me from the starting; the tricky part was in choosing a proper cheese that will stand out balancing the saltiness of the salmon and the sweetness of the zucchini. At the end, I chose to use Gorgonzola with its saltiness and slight bitterness.
Chocolate was naturally to be dark for me but… when pondering on the juxtaposition of the different layers, the possibility to use milk chocolate came around.

To link the various components I had my spice rack on hand.
All this thinking and pondering brought to life my:

Smoked salmon verrine with zucchini-duo, a Gorgonzola mornay sauce and peppery chocolate shards.

Ingredients (makes 2):
For the chocolate shards:
  • 15g either of dark and milk chocolate, chopped with a serrated knife;
  • Ca 50 pink peppercorns, crushed;
  • Ca 10 black peppercorns;
  • Enough acetate sheet for 4 strips of 10x20cm.
For the zucchini components:
  • 2 cups of zucchini diced in small dices;
  • 2 bay leaves;
  • 1/2 cup of water;
  • 2 teaspoons white wine;
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch;
  • 1/2 tsp butter;
  • Few lemon drops;
  • Canola oil;
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme (use 1 tsp if fresh);
  • Salt and pepper.
For the Mornay sauce:
  • 2tsp butter;
  • 2tsp flour;
  • 1/2 cup of milk;
  • 40g Gorgonzola;
  • Cornstarch (if needed);
  • Nutmeg;
  • Salt and pepper.
For the salmon:
  • About 4-5 slices of smoked salmon, crumbled or coarsely minced;
  • 2 strips of lemon peel, julienned.

Start by doing the chocolate shards. Bring some water to simmer and put the chocolate in two separate small bowls. Melt the dark chocolate by holding it over the steam; when melted add the crushed pink peppercorn to it. Using a palette knife, spread it over one of the acetate strip, cover with a second strip pressing evenly and put in the fridge with a weight on top to avoid curling.
Do the same with the milk chocolate and this time adding the grinded black peppercorns to it. Let the shards harden in the fridge for 1h or so.
For the zucchini veloute; in a saucepan bring the water to simmer, add then the bay leaves, the wine and half of the diced zucchini. Cook the zucchini until nice and tender, about 10-15 minutes.
In the meantime, in another saucepan prepare the mornay sauce. Melt the butter with the flour, stirring constantly until the roux will take just a little color. Out of the fire add little by little the milk whisking thoroughly to avoid lumps. Put back on the fire and bring to a boil continuing whisking; let simmer for 5 minutes or so. Out of the fire whisk in the Gorgonzola and bring the sauce back to a simmer and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
The sauce should have the consistency of thick pastry cream, if it is too thin use some cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water to thicken it. Let the sauce cool down to room temperature before using it.
At this point the zucchini should be ready, discard the bay leaves and puree them in a food processor. Put them back in the saucepan; thicken the veloute with some cornstarch dissolved in cold water (it should have the consistency of yogurt) and season it with salt, freshly ground black pepper and few lemon drops. Let the velouté cool down to room temperature before using.
For the second half of the zucchini, warm up the oil in a skillet with the thyme; when nice and warm sauté the zucchini for few seconds sprinkling them with some salt then drain them.
Now combine the crumbled smoked salmon with the julienned lemon peel and you are ready to assemble the verrine.

Divide the zucchini veloute between the two glasses, topped by the milk-chocolate shards (crumble it in medium pieces so to fit the glass, take care not to submerge them). Carefully now lay the mornay sauce on top of the milk-chocolate shards, followed now by the dark ones. Now complete the verrine by loosely arranging half of the salmon and half of the thyme-zucchini dice in each glass.

I just had a taste of my verrine and I quite liked it! Yum! The thyme-zucchini give you something to chew on with a nice crunch. The lemon zest refreshes the salmon with a very nice zing. The chocolate layers provide a nice warm richness while the mornay sauce gives body to the bite. Dulcis in fundo, the zucchini veloute finishes the experience with a nice cleansing freshness.

Have a check at what the other proud velveteers have come up with:


  1. You did a good job on this one. Especially liked your peppery chocolate shards.
    Yes, you did complicate things by suggesting chocolate on this one. BUt at least I like chocolate! LOL

    Whatever will we come up with next? ;-)

  2. Verrine! I learn something new everyday. WELL yours looks DELICIOUS.. i totally want one now and how funny of you to pick chocolate!! :P

  3. Just came from Aparnas place, the question you asked about coconut powder, if you have a Asian grocerry shop you will get coconut milk powder, here in belgium i get them from the Chinese store.
    Your vernine is really intresting especially with the small additiong of chocolate you have used.

  4. Very cool very complicated Alessio! I wanna eat the chocolate shards. I remember our conversation on chocolate the other day and its savoury uses. Nice :)

  5. Gorgeous Alessio - you know I love my verrines! Interesting recipe.

  6. Alessio... your photos are getting better by each post! it's like magic :)

  7. @mel harjono lol thanks my friend ;) I guess it's a matter of lights. I finally bought the day-light lamps :-)