May 9, 2010

Chew On This

A few weeks ago I watched this great segment on 60 Minutes profiling Spanish expat chef Jose Andres. A former student of El Bulli's Ferran Adria, Chef Andres is credited for putting tapas style dining on the map in the US and for applying his love of physics and chemistry to push the boundaries of molecular gastronomy. I had grand plans to spend our upcoming 3rd wedding anniversary at his acclaimed Bazaar restaurant but thanks to the 60 Minutes feature, getting a reservation there has gone from improbable to impossible.
While I loved watching this master chef confound Anderson Cooper things like his pellet shaped mojito, there was one particular part of the story that struck me. Andres has been shifting his focus of late, away from meat dishes and towards vegetables, elevating them from side dish to a more starring role on his plates. And its not purely from a nutritional or environmental perspective- Chef Andres just finds fruits and veggies sexy.

Chef: (Meat) is slightly boring...You get a piece of meat and you put it in your mouth the first five seconds, all the juices flow around your mouth, they're gone. And then you are 20 more seconds chewing something that is tasteless...Something like this doesn't happen with a pineapple, an asparagus, a green pea.

- 60 Minutes transcript

I was really intrigued by this "sexy vegetable" idea but it didn't truly hit home with me until I made this Watermelon and Cucumber Mint Tsatsiki Salad.

Sweet juicy watermelon and crunchy cucumber tossed with lime juice, all seductively drizzled with a tangy, minty tsatsiki and topped with sprinkling of sea salt- a veritable sensory explosion in every bite. So much pow! flavor! in a simple plant based dish totally proved Chef Andres point. You know you want some.

Watermelon and Cucumber Mint Tsatsiki Salad
Gourmet Magazine via Epicurious
1 small garlic clove
2 medium cucumbers, divided
1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
2/3 cup chopped mint, divided
1 (3-pounds) piece watermelon, rind removed and fruit cut into 1-inch chunks (6 cups)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Flaky sea salt