Lenore and I have been together 20+ years now and at some point along the way we were able to articulate just what makes “us” work. We have dubbed it the “satisfaction factor.” Believe it or not this does have something to do with food, too.
But first, the satisfaction factor is at work every day in our relationship when each of us is feeling that our viewpoint, feelings, or otherwise personhood has been respected and given the satisfaction of being heard. Not that we always agree on things, not at all, but that we know each others true thoughts and feelings can be expressed without judgment or reprisal. It’s our recipe for a good relationship, if you will.
The phrase also applies nicely to what we believe is the true pleasure of cooking! It is not just eating a well prepared meal with foods hand picked from local farms and markets. What makes the satisfaction meter climb is when we do the cooking ourselves. We watch this happen over and over in our classes. People working to make a better omelet in Omelets 101 class, for example, don’t make a better omelet at all—they make the BEST omelet they ever tasted!! We hear that all the time. We decide that what is at work here is the satisfaction of doing it themselves.
And finally we apply the “satisfaction factor” to making sure every plate has enough variety to help our taste buds remain “satisfied,” or go the distance to to last bite. First advice to apply is use a smaller portion of high flavored foods. Second, layer flavors rather than mixing them, allowing each bite to be just a little different than the last, and finally, serve wine and foods at the temperature our taste buds can truly enjoy; not too hot not too cold.
We use an analogy to describe our concept of designing small plates; we call it the “chocolate experience.” When you take a bite of really great chocolate, like from Belgium, you experience an incredible rush of luxurious rich chocolate in your mouth. Second bite maybe the same, but by the third or fourth you are beginning to loose the original sensation until you are just eating chocolate. Your brain knows it is still good, but you are no longer using your taste buds. So no matter what you are eating, the taste buds cannot go long on “one note” of flavor. By putting a variety of flavors on the plate, you increase the duration of taste bud enjoyment. Serving food at a temperature that brings out the best of the food is also key since you only have a few bites until your taste bud experience fatigue.
White Bean Salad with Grilled Garlic marinated Ahi Tuna served with Minted Gremolata is an example of a small plate that has high flavors and enough variety to promote full satisfaction. At work here are the clean flavors of each component working side by side, getting an occasional hit from the high flavored Gremolata.
Here’s the recipe. Enjoy! Ciao, Bob
White Bean Salad with Gremolata and Grilled Tuna
As needed EVOO
1 carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 leek, minced
3 shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3 cups cannellini beans, cooked
1 orange, zested
1 TBS oregano, minced
sea salt, ground coriander and pepper
1 orange juiced
Method: heat oil in large saute pan; add vegetables and cook until aromatic and soft; add beans, zest and oregano; toss to combine; adjust seasonings; remove and chill; add additional oil and juice of orange to flavor; refrigerate until, needed.
Minted gremolata: 2 lemons, 1 cup chopped parsley. 1/8 cup chopped mint, 4 cloves garlic paste, 2 anchovies-pasted- Method: zest lemons into a small bowl; stir in chopped herbs; fold in garlic and anchovies; adjust seasonings with sea salt, ground coriander and pepper; adjust consistency and additional flavor with EVOO.
Grilled tuna: 1# Ahi Tuna, 3 TB EVOO, a tsp ea sea salt, pepper and coriander, 2 lemons, peeled into long strips, 4 cloves garlic minced.
Method: place tuna in a non reactive pan or dish; combine remaining ingredients in a bowl to combine; gently toss with tuna and marinade for 4 – 8 hours. At service, drain and remove any bits of marinade; then grill using high heat to seal in juices.