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The Bend Magazine

Feast de Resistance: Crafting Edible Art w/ Local & Curveball Ingredients

By: Kayla Butts  Photography by: Rachel Benavides


In each issue’s Farm to Table section, The Bend’s in-house culinary expert Kayla Butts shares recipes for readers to recreate at home. This month, however, our team decided to up the ante. We challenged Kayla to create an elevated and artful five-course meal. To spice things up a little more, our editorial team provided Kayla a list of required ingredients per course: a set of two locally sourced ingredients and one curveball. So, what happens when a home cook is challenged to not just make a meal, but craft edible art? Let’s find out...


 

Course One 

Hors D’oeuvre

Curveball Ingredient: Shiso (shee•sow)

Shiso, known to some as perilla leaf, is a fresh herb common to Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Due to its complex flavor profile—a spicy mint with hints of cinnamon and clove—shiso is used to pickle plums and garnish meat and noodle dishes, or can be battered in rice flour and deep-fried. 

I showcased shiso in two dish components. Adding shiso to the beet puree gave it a compelling “What is that?” flavor, and also lent complexity to the brine for our pickled beets. Shiso is stocked in the produce section of Asian Market, a frequent stop for any self-proclaimed foodie. 

Locally-Sourced Ingredient: Beets, Edelen Farms

When to Buy – Late fall through early spring. 

Tasting Notes – Beets have an earthy taste, thanks to geosmin (a volatile, organic compound that is formed by soil-dwelling bacteria, such as streptomyces, and aquatic cyanobacteria). We can attribute the same compound to the “dirt” taste in most mushrooms as well.

Quick Tip – Assuage the bitter notes of beets by roasting them or pairing them with bright, acidic ingredients.

Locally-Sourced Ingredient: Microgreens, McNabb’s Microfarm

When to Buy – Available for purchase year-round. 

Tasting Notes – These nutrient-dense legume, flower, or herb sprouts are one of the workhorses in haute cuisine, adding crunch and freshness to an otherwise much-too-rich dish. 

Quick Tip – Use microgreens as a bed for a poached egg, in between sandwich layers, or even in your morning smoothie.

On The Plate: Shiso-Pickled Beet Carpaccio with Goat Cheese, Microgreens, and Pomegranate Reduction


The colors of fall inspired the hors d’oeuvres. I kept the preparation of the locally sourced beets simple to show off their variegated interiors. The beets were steamed, sliced, then pickled overnight in a brine of shiso, white wine vinegar, sea salt, and granulated sugar. We alternated the thinly sliced red and golden beets with blood orange and grapefruit, and topped them with local microgreens, goat cheese, and shaved pecan. We garnished the dish with a shiso-infused beet purée and balsamic pomegranate reduction. 

The balance of acidity from the citrus, salinity from the goat cheese, and sweetness from the pomegranate reduction pulls this dish together. Most of these ingredients are companions, like peanut butter and jelly, and are often paired because they complement each other so well. Put a plate of beets, balsamic vinegar, and goat cheese in front of me, and I’m all over it. 


Course Two 

Appetizer

Curveball Ingredient: Lychee (lai•chee)

I’d like to introduce you to my new favorite ingredient: lychee. Okay, so some of you already know about lychee—I mean, it has been cultivated in China for over a millennium. Lychee has a thin, red outer shell and large seed, making fruit access an onerous task. 

For this dish, a lychee coulis was incorporated into the sashimi-grade ahi tuna. To create a coulis, you must puree, reduce, and strain the lychee. Canned lychee is equally delectable and hassle-free, and can be found at the Asian Market. One word of caution: Lychee can be toxic. It’s recommended that children avoid under-ripened lychee and its seeds. Otherwise, please enjoy lychee in cocktails, boba tea, desserts, or salsas. 

Locally-Sourced Ingredient: Sea Salt, GLOW

When to Buy –  Available for purchase year-round. 

Tasting Notes –  With lovely notes of orange zest and lavender, the Afterglow Sea Salt adds an ideal balance of floral acidity to any dish. 

Quick Tip – Try finishing off your next cocktail with an Afterglow Sea Salt rim; the bright and floral notes of this hand-harvested salt make the perfect final touch to a refreshing libation. 

Locally-Sourced Ingredient: Untar de Queso Panela, Knolle Dairy Farm

When to Buy – Soft cheese varieties are available for purchase year-round. 

Tasting Notes – The Untar de Queso Panela is by far my favorite cheese from Knolle Dairy Farms. It features a sweet and nutty flavor profile while maintaining a mild punch. 

Quick Tip –Knolle Dairy Farms recommends cutting this cheese into thin strips and pan-searing in oil until brown. 

On The Plate: Tuna Tartare with Panela, Avocado, Mango Mostardo, and Lychee Coulis



For the second course, I created an ahi tuna tower. Standing at a whopping 5” tall, this sizable tower was no small feat. Advanced prep included smoking sea salt in the oven and creating a coulis out of lychee. Sashimi-grade ahi tuna was lightly seasoned with smoked sea salt, drizzled with lychee coulis, and wrapped in a thinly sliced cucumber. I then spread on an ample layer of fresh panela, added diced avocado, and topped the behemoth with fried beets. Caviar served in a rambutan shell (a bigger, furrier cousin of the lychee) was included to cleanse the palate after each bite.

This appetizer took shape as I reflected on the many great sushi offerings we have in town. My favorite element of the dish may just be the coulis I created from the curveball ingredient, lychee. The sweet tropical flavor with floral notes was a nice contrast to the umami tuna and rich cheese.


Course Three 

Salad

Curveball Ingredient: Yuzu (yoo•zoo)

Yuzu is a citrus fruit native to China. Highly aromatic and as tart as lime, the yellow fruit isn’t often eaten raw, but instead used as a flavoring in ponzu, cocktails, marmalades, and desserts. The Japanese immerse themselves in yuzu-infused bathwater during their winter solstice to fight off colds and improve circulation. 

Opening up the yuzu extract I procured from our beloved Asian Market, I detected floral notes and an intense acridity. It’s true that the aroma of yuzu is nothing like the citrus we have in the States. Importation of fresh yuzu is actually banned in the U.S., making this a hot (and pricey) commodity. Utilizing yuzu extract as the base of this dressing was a no-brainer. It added the perfect touch of acidity and tartness needed to balance out the rest of the ingredients. Yuzu is also a great stand-in for vinegar. 

Locally-Sourced Ingredient: Avant-Garde Greens, Terra Madre

When to Buy –  Late November through early February.

Tasting Notes –  The varied avant-garde greens seen in this salad feature a mixture of flavors. ​​Baby greens are sweeter and less bitter than mature greens, while the Malabar spinach is crisp and has a bright, slightly sweet taste. 

Quick Tip – Local growers experiment with heat-tolerant greens in early fall and capitalize on the greens of growing root vegetables. The colder the temperature, the more crisp the lettuce. As temps warm up, greens get bitter.

Locally-Sourced Ingredient: Strawberry Jam, Sherry’s Goodies

When to Buy – Available for purchase year-round. 

Tasting Notes – The jam texture was spot on with this one, as was the immaculate strawberry flavor. The fresh strawberry taste is paired with a subtle hint of lemon, yielding just the right amount of sweetness.

Quick Tip – Trying to choose just one jam from Sherry’s Goodies is no easy task. Strawberry was the chosen flavor for this course, but I recommend selecting a few different varieties and spreading them across sourdough bread with creme fraiche to find your favorite. 

On The Plate: Avant-Garde Greens with Watermelon Cubes, Radishes, Cucumber, Egyptian Starflower, Strawberry Jam Compote, and Yuzu Dressing

 

A note on salads: they should be vibrant and rich in color and texture. A good salad has sufficient crunch and perfect symmetry in salt and acid components. Taking all of that into consideration, it’s now time to break out the tweezers!   

Tender frisée, baby chard, beet greens, and local Malabar spinach require a lighter touch. Young greens tend to be less bitter and won’t overwhelm other ingredients. I often gravitate toward watermelon cubes and cucumber for their fresh flavors and higher fluid content, as was the case here. Radishes add a peppery bite to otherwise subtle flavors, and tart yuzu dressing and a few dollops of jam compote add sweet and sour elements to finish off the dish. 


Course Four 

Entrée

Curveball Ingredient: Squid Ink (skwid•ynke)

A jet black, sticky pudding that is unwaveringly umami, it’s no surprise squid ink can intimidate even the most seasoned home cook. Once you get past the smell and consistency, squid ink can be a wonderful flavor and color additive to explore in pasta, sauces, or grains. 

Squid ink gets its coloration from melanin. Cephalopods use the liquid to confuse and evade predators, leaving them in a cloud of ink. Cuttlefish ink can be substituted in a pinch, as squid ink can be more difficult to find. This culinary treat can be delivered to your door in about three days (usually from a producer out of Italy), but is not available locally. The savory nature of squid ink provided a nice richness to the dish, and playing off the luminescence of the ink allowed for creative plating. 

Locally-Sourced Ingredient: Grass-fed Beef, Turkey Hollow Farm

When to Buy –  Available for purchase year-round.

Tasting Notes –  The tenderloin is supple and juicy, and features a distinct umami flavor, calling for very little preparation on the consumer’s end.

Quick Tip – Be mindful when seasoning your meat! This cut from Turkey Hollow Farm needs very little salt and pepper. 

Locally-Sourced Ingredient: Bird Beak Peppers, Elemental Farm

When to Buy – Late spring to fall.  

Tasting Notes – While bird beak peppers are potent, they also feature a profile of grassy, piquant, and smoky flavors.

Quick Tip – This pepper is not for the faint of heart. Despite their size, bird beak peppers pack a punch. Bird beak peppers, or Chiles de arbol, are hotter than cayenne, but milder than habanero peppers.  

On The Plate: Grass-fed Beef Tenderloin with Enoki Mushrooms, Bird Beak Pepper Salsa, and Squid Ink


 

 For most, the only selling point I need mention in our entrée is the tenderloin. 

I begin any beef preparation by letting the meat reach room temperature before exposing it to heat. This extra measure prevents muscle strands from shortening with a dramatic change in temperature. 

It also cuts down on cooking time, which reduces the likelihood the meat will lose valuable juices or cook unevenly. Large cuts of meat should also be allowed to rest for 10-20 minutes to let their juices redistribute. Get these things right, and the rest is cake. 

Now we need something to sop up the goodness at the bottom of the pan. I sautéed enoki mushrooms in a heaping spoonful of ghee, making sure to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. The ghee combined with the curveball ingredient, squid ink, is delightful. The Chiles de Arbol screamed salsa, so I pureed them up with garlic, white wine vinegar, salt, and bell peppers to mellow them out. The heat from the peppers and acidity from the vinegar added a bright contrast to the rich constructs of the dish. 


Course Five 

Dessert

Curveball Ingredient: Tamarind (tam•uh•rind)

Tamarind is a legume originating in the tropical regions of Subsaharan Africa. When ripe, its brown pods contain a sweet and sour pulp. Also known as the “date of India,” tamarind is one of the many flavors in Worcestershire sauce. The acrid pulp is also used as a condiment, pickling agent, or in desserts. It’s likely you’re most familiar with tamarind in candy form, as it is commonly eaten in Mexico. 

Tamarind is available in several forms. I prefer the compressed pulp known as tamarind paste, which can be found at various grocers. Fresh pods are also available at a local food grocer.  For this final course, the tamarind served to cut the richness of the panna cotta.

Locally-Sourced Ingredient: Single Barrel Bourbon, Aerodrome Distilling

When to Buy – Available for purchase year-round. 

Tasting Notes – This gold-medal winning, 17-year old, single-barrel bourbon contains subtle hints of vanilla, caramel, and cinnamon. 

Quick Tip – Adding bourbon to your list of ingredients when baking brings in such great flavor. Caramel or other sweet syrups are the perfect way to incorporate this. 

Locally-Sourced Ingredient: Kettle Corn, Fulton Kettle Corn

When to Buy – Available for purchase year-round.

Tasting Notes – Fulton Kettle Corn is known for its variety of gourmet popcorn flavors, especially its namesake, which was used in this dish. This kettle corn perfectly combines salty, sweet, and buttery caramel flavors. 

Quick Tip – Kettle corn is perfect for adding texture to dessert items such as bars, cheesecakes, or even cookies.

On The Plate: Bourbon Panna Cotta with Tamarind Date Sauce and a Dusting of Kettle Corn and Ginger Snaps

 

Panna cotta is a rich custard made from cream, sugar, and gelatin. You’re probably thinking, “What more do you need?”

The answer is bourbon. Bourbon adds a richness and intensity, sending this pudding to the next level. Shaved kettle corn and ginger snaps added contrasting texture and whimsy to the scrumptious panna cotta. The ginger snaps also provided a spicier bite to keep the palate interested. 

Tamarind proved to be a more challenging ingredient than most. Its gummy texture is unforgiving, and it desiccates when heated and clumps when pureed. Through trial and error, I discovered diluting it with hot water produces a tangy sauce. Medjool dates were a natural sweetener substantial enough to stand up to the dynamic tamarind to help create this magical panna cotta.