My adventures recreating Alinea Restaurant’s food at home

SALSIFY, Smoked Salmon, Dill, Caper (Part 2)

SALSIFY, Smoked Salmon, Dill, Caper (Part 2) – Alinea Restaurant cookbook recipe, pages 264-269.
A fancy recipe for bagels and lox, Alinea style. Continued from SALSIFY, Smoked Salmon, Dill, Caper (Part 1)

Alinea cookbook recipe for Salsify, Smoked Salmon, Dill, Caper - Alineaphile

Day Two


Salsify goatsbeard oyster plant tragopogonWhat is Salsify?

Salsify (sawl sih FEE) is the edible root of the Tragopogon plant, a member of the sunflower family. Originally a winter European vegetable, it is now readily available year-round as Black Salisfy (Scorzonera hispanica), Purple Tragopogon and White Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius).

After its brown skin is peeled off, the salisfy’s surface will darken and weep a milky white sap, so I keep them in a bowl of water. When cooked they have a creamy, sweet taste not unlike that of an oyster, and a soft texture. Salsify is also called ‘tragopogon,’ ‘oyster plant’ and ‘goatsbeard.’

Learn More…

Mise en place:
Alinea Recipe Salsify

I peeled the roots and kept them submerged in a bowl of cold water so they would not brown…

Peeled salsify kept in water

There are a bunch of options for cooking sousvide style. I use a SousVide Supreme Water Oven and SousVide Supreme Vacuum Sealer. These are very handy and work like a charm.

SousVide Supreme vacuum sealer

I trimmed the salsify, added them to vacuum bags with butter and thyme, then sealed them up with the vacuum sealer.

Sealing a bag of salsify with butter and herbs with my SousVide Supreme vacuum sealer

I should note that it takes awhile for the SousVide Supreme to come up to temp, so you should ‘preheat’ the oven before you need it. I cooked the salsify en sous vide in the SousVide Supreme water oven at 190ºF.

sous vide cooking

After 45 minutes, I removed them from the water oven and plunged the bags into an icewater bath. (This stops the cooking.)

Salsify, cooked en sous-vide

Peeled salsifies
Challenge Brand unsalted butter
Fresh thyme

Smoked Salmon Powder
This is an easy component to make. Freeze a piece of smoked salmon, then grate it up with a Microplane. Dehydrate. Done.

Mise en place:
Mise for Salmon Powder

I retrieved a piece of smoked salmon from the freezer, which I’d frozen the night before.

Grating Frozen Salmon

The grated it up with a fine Microplane grater.

Salmon Powder

Smoked salmon

Olive Oil Mayonnaise
This is an easy, 30-second recipe for making your own mayo, sauce mayonnaise, based on Escoffier recipe 202 mayonnaise.

Escoffier’s traditional recipe for Sauce Mayonnaise takes a little time and elbow grease to complete. He tells us to whisk, whisk, whisk. That’s fine and dandy… but with an immersion blender you can do it in 30 seconds. I use a Cuisinart SmartStick brand immersion blender to emulsify the mayo.

Cuisinart SmartStick immersion blender

In reality, you can use a light oil like canola, or a heavy oil like olive. You can use vinegar or lemon juice, or a combination of both. Just as long as you have enough acid for the emulsion to work. Some people add pepper, dijon mustard or sugar to taste (personally, I don’t like sweet mayos like Miracle Whip). But it doesn’t matter. Whatever suits your own taste. It’s up to you!

Mise en place for Olive Oil Mayonnaise

I added the egg yolks, lemon juice, a pinch of salt, water and a pinch of salt to a narrow container. I poured in the oils and allowed to settle. Then positioned the immersion blender head in the oil at the bottom of the container. I pulsed gently several times to get the emulsion going, then longer until all the oil is blended.

It will be very thick. If you let ’er rip too fast at the beginning, the emulsion will break, and you’ll get nothing usable.

Here’s a video of how easy it is:

Store in a sealed container or squeeze bottle in the fridge, just as you would for store-bought mayo.

30-Second Mayonnaise Recipe

Egg yolks
Fresh lemon juice
Grape seed oil
STAR Brand extra virgin olive oil
Morton’s kosher salt, to taste

Olive Oil Powder
Another easy recipe. Two or three ingredients (two if you nix the salt).

Mise-en-place for making olive oil powder

I put the olive oil into a large bowl, adding the maltodextrin and mixed.

Mixing olive oil and maltodextrin

It takes a bit more dubious white powder than you’d first imagine, but after adding more and more maltodextrin, I got the powdery consistency I wanted.

Olive oil powder

STAR Brand extra virgin olive oil
Tapioca maltodextrin, from WillPowder
Morton’s kosher salt, to taste

Parsley Dust
Have you ever gone to a steakhouse, ordered, and received a grand bouquet of parsley garnishing your plate? I’m sure you have. It was for years the old school method of fancying up the plate. But no one ever ate it. Until some articles came out about the healthful benefits of eating fresh parsley. Well, as a prep-cook in an old-school steakhouse, we used parsley just like that. What else ya gonna do with it?

This is an age-old, classic kitchen technique, taught by all culinary schools. Chop, rinse, squeeze, dry. I washed and patted dry a bunch of parsley, removed the stems then roughly chopped. Then chopped fine. When you’re in a hurry, you can use a butcher knife or cleaver in each hand and go nuts on it (sounds like a machine gun)…

Then I put the finely chopped parsley in some cheesecloth, wetted under the faucet, and wrung out the water, very tightly. then reserved in a container.

Or — how about dehydrating it and adding it to a breading mix?

Sounds good. It’s done all the time in the pre-packaged food industry. So why not take that technique and apply it to our home cooking? Simple enough.
Put it a dehydrator and voila! Dried parsley flakes.

Or — buy a bottle of dried parsley flakes, if you dare…


Toasted Crumb Mixture
This is simply stirring together some of the already-done components, to make a fancy Italian-style bread crumb mixture. I mixed together some of the toasted bread crumbs, dried Picholine olives, olive oil powder and parsley dust, then stored in an airtight plastic container.

Toasted Bread Crumbs, reserved from previous day
Dried Picholine Olives, reserved from previous day
Olive Oil Powder, reserved from above
Parsley Dust, reserved from above

Dried Vegetable Coating
So I’ve been a dehydration maniac for the last day or so, and all my veggies should be crispy now. You can take each of these and grind up with a mortar and pestle if you’re feeling medieval. I wanted a rough texture, not powder, and lightly pulsed in a spice grinder. Then reserved the mixture in a sealed plastic container.

Finished Dried Vegetable Coating copy

Smoked salmon powder, reserved from above
Dried capers, dehydrating from previous night
Dried ginger, dehydrating from previous night
Dried lemon zest, dehydrating from previous night
Dried red bell pepper, dehydrating from previous night
Dried red onion, dehydrating from previous night

Lemon Pudding

Lemon pudding

I combined the water, sugar, salt, lemon zest and saffron in a medium saucepan and brought it to a boil to dissolve the solids, then removed from the heat to let steep for about twenty minutes.

I strained it into a clean saucepan, added the agar and brought to a simmer, whisking for about two minutes.

I then strained it into a stainless bowl set in an ice bath to cool and set up.

After it had set, I chopped it up. This helps the blending process immensely.

…and blended with the lemon juice until it was smooth.

I had to agitate the mass with a ladle, and ending up adding a bit more lemon juice than the recipe called for to loosen it up.

This recipe made a whole liter of lemon pudding!

Finally, I transferred some to a squeeze bottle and stored in the fridge.

C&H cane sugar
Diamond Crystal kosher salt
Lemon zest
Saffron threads
Agar agar
Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cutting board and kitchen knife
Salter digital scale
Measuring cup
Cuisinart SmartStick immersion blender
Rubber spatula
Plastic containers

To Be Continued…

Next, SALSIFY, Smoked Salmon, Dill, Caper (Part 3)

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SALSIFY, Smoked Salmon, Dill, Caper (Part 1)

SALSIFY, Smoked Salmon, Dill, Caper (Part 1) – Alinea Restaurant cookbook recipe, pages 264-269.

Continued in SALSIFY, Smoked Salmon, Dill, Caper (Part 2)

Alinea recipe for Salsify, Smoked Salmon, Dill, Caper

Bagels and lox — that’s what this is!

Alinea Restaurant’s version of lox keeps the flavors of salmon, capers, lemon, dill and toasty bagels, but mixes them up in an entirely new presentation with salsify. The flavor combinations are classic, and a treat to eat. This was a three-day recipe for me…

mise en place for alinea salsify recipe

Day One

This recipe has eight dried components: dehydrated Picholine olives, lemon zest, bell pepper, capers, ginger, red onion, dried salmon “powder” and a thin sheet of dehydrated garlic that you break up into chips. I decided to tackle them all first — to get ’em all in the dehydrator together.

Dried Picholine Olives
The last time I was in Los Angeles, I stopped by the Cheese Store of Silverlake, where I came upon some really good Picholine olives — among many other gourmet delights. Many other things, I should say, that I convinced myself into thinking that I actually needed. Foodie rationale taking over… Anyway, it’s one of my favorite haunts in the City of Angels.

I pitted the Picholine olives, then set them on a tray in my American Harvest dehydrator at 125ºF. It took them overnight to dry out. I pulsed them up just a bit in my spice grinder, then reserved the chunky powder in a plastic container.

Picholine olives, from the Cheese Store of Silverlake

Picholine Olives

Dried Capers
I rinsed and drained some bottled capers, then set them on a tray next to the olives in the dehydrator at 125ºF. Again, just like with the olives, it took them overnight to dry out. I pulsed them up just a bit in my spice grinder, then reserved the chunky powder in a plastic container.


Dehydrating picholine olives and capers

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Dried Red Bell Pepper
I trimmed. cored and seeded some red bell peppers, then flattened them out. With the pepper interior-side up, I trimmed off any ribs or nibbly parts, so I had flat ‘sheets,’ then sliced off the skins very carefully. The trick is to remove just the skin, and leave an eight-inch-thick thickness of the pepper. Now I had flat, skinned sheets of red bell pepper, ready to cut into strips! I sliced the sheets up into strips and dehydrated at 125ºF for about six hours. (It may take yours more or less.) The recipe says to season the strips lightly with salt before you dehydrate. I did not, but I leave that up to you… Then reserved the crispy pepper sticks in an airtight plastic container.

Bell pepper strips

Fresh red bell pepper
Morton’s kosher salt, to taste

Dried Lemon Zest
I trimmed strips of zest from some lemons, trying to get pieces as long as I could. Removed any remaining white pith, then cut lengthwise into strips 1/16″ wide.

Trim and cut lemon zests

Meanwhile I combined the sugar and water in a small saucepan and brought them to a boil. I added the zests and stirred, simmering them for an hour, until they were tender. Then let cool to room temp in the liquid. Technically, this can be called a lemon confit. Strained. Incidently, DON’T THROW OUT THE LEMON LIQUID! Re-use it! It’s great as a lemon syrup for teas, Italian sodas, cocktails, cooking, or even as a base for lemonade!

Boil and strain lemon zests

Dehydrated at 125ºF for about four hours (until they were crispy). Then reserved in an airtight plastic container.

Fresh Meyer lemons
C&H cane sugar

Dried Red Onion
I peeled and halved a red onion vertically from top to bottom, then cut batons from the halves, and dehydrated the onions at 125ºF with the lemon.

Red onion

Cut and dehydrate red onion

Garlic Chips
If I know I’m going to need a lot, I’ll sometimes buy a tub of peeled garlic cloves from my local Asian market. It saves a lot of time and is quite handy. So all I needed to do was trim the ends off the cloves!

Mise en place by Adrian Monk.

Mise by Monk garlic chips

I boiled the garlic in a pot of salted water until they were tender. Then puréed in my Oster bar blender until smooth.

Boiling the garlic

I strained the garlic into the dehydrator tray and dried it out overnight at 125ºF with the other components.

Pureed, strained garlic in the dehydrator

Garlic cloves
Morton’s kosher salt, to taste

Dried Ginger
I peeled a hand of ginger, then sliced it into very thin pieces on a mandolin.

Slicing and boiling ginger

I combined the ginger with some water and sugar in a medium saucepan and brought them to a boil. I simmered the ginger for about twenty minutes, drained and dehydrated it at 125ºF overnight until crisp.

Fresh ginger root
C&H cane sugar

Toasted Bread Crumbs
I cut up some bread, then drizzled the cubes with olive oil and added salt and pepper. Coated evenly, then baked on a cookie sheet until browned.

Making croutons

Removed the croutons, then pulsed into breadcrumbs in the spice grinder. Reserved in a covered plastic container.

Finished bread crumbs

Wonder bread slices, crusts removed
STAR Brand extra virgin olive oil
Morton’s kosher salt
Black pepper

To be continued…

Next, SALSIFY, Smoked Salmon, Dill, Caper (Part 2)

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Alineaphile – Seen in the Globe and Mail

Alineaphile was featured today in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail. Read it!

Think you can cook? Try making cheese curd ‘balloons’ for dinner
By Wency Leung
The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, 10 Jul 2012

Until recently, Joey Scott rarely cooked anything more complicated than instant ramen noodles (if you can consider that cooking).

But for the past three months, armed with a copy of the Alinea cookbook, an exquisite publication that’s as much about artistry as it is about culinary technique, the Chicago law student and gastronomic greenhorn has been tackling avant-garde dishes that would scare off experienced cooks.

In his tiny home kitchen, he has juiced bundles of fresh spinach, arugula and romaine, creating a frozen salad, topped with a slush of red wine vinaigrette that fit in the palm of his hand. He’s steeped a crushed cigar in cream, then mixed it with gelatin to produce delicate, tobacco-flavoured bites, finished with fresh blackberries, long peppercorns, and a sprinkling of smoked Maldon salt. He’s also made “caramel popcorn, liquified,” by simmering freshly popped popcorn with water, butter, sugar and salt, then straining the broth to serve with a caramel froth.

“It’s a hobby,” says Mr. Scott, who’s documenting his creations on his blog Alinea Newb. “It’s a good distraction, especially during the semester when I just want to find something to do besides study.

It’s like, ‘Oh, let’s see what I can do in the book right now.’”

Say hello to the hard-core culinary hobbyist. The number of labour-intensive, fine-dining cookbooks has proliferated in recent years, giving rise to a small but dedicated following of ultra-ambitious home cooks around the globe, who devour nitty-gritty technical details and relish the challenge of recreating Michelin-star meals. Using cookbooks from top restaurants, such as, Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine, Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook and Mugaritz: A Natural Science of Cooking, they’re creating dishes that take countless hours – and sometimes even days – of preparation, obscure ingredients and expensive equipment. Their complex creations make Julie Powell’s challenge, of Julie & Julia fame, look like child’s play.

Like Mr. Scott, many of these hard-core hobbyists are entirely self-taught. Mr. Scott caught the cooking bug after a “mind-blowing” meal at Chicago’s Alinea last fall. The creative dishes completely altered the way he thought of food. “Before, I regarded grocery shopping as a chore,” he says. “Now it’s a fun little scavenger hunt almost.”

In Houston, Tex., Elie Nassar works as a product manager for a software firm by day. In his spare time, he practises recipes from The Fat Duck Cookbook, The French Laundry Cookbook, and Modernist Cuisine. (The latter, a radical six-volume collection is perhaps the ultimate inspiration for hard-core culinary hobbyists. Author Nathan Myhrvold, a former chief technology officer at Microsoft, spent years tinkering and teasing out the intricacies of various cooking methods. His new book, Modernist Cuisine At Home, scheduled for publication in October, promises to be more accessible.)

Mr. Nassar, who posts the results of his efforts on his blog Oven-Dried Tomatoes, developed a love of food at a young age, growing up in Lebanon and watching his grandmother make everything from scratch. Experimenting with ever-more elaborate recipes and techniques is his way of learning, he says, noting it “kills” him when people regard high-end cookbooks as mere coffee table decoration. “So much work and so much testing and care went into [books] like this that it’s a shame not to use it and learn from it,” he says.

His attention to detail is apparent in his photos of artfully plated compositions, such as the stunning, home-made carbonated Mojito spheres he created using a reverse spherification technique.

Alineaphile in the Globe and Mail

When you’re working with rare and luxurious ingredients, it’s probably wise not to wing it. Martin Lindsay of San Diego says he once spent $200 (U.S.) on matsutake mushrooms from Oregon to reproduce a dish from Alinea.

“You know, you’re holding a bowl of $200 worth of mushrooms in your hand, thinking, ‘Hm. What am I doing? I’d better not screw up,” says Mr. Lindsay, a graphic designer who is working his way through the recipes in the book and blogs about his progress on his site, Alineaphile. He recently reached the halfway point after close to four years and celebrated the milestone by – you guessed it – treating himself to a dinner at Alinea.

Mr. Lindsay has literally gone to great lengths for his challenge. He once ordered Japanese junsai, the tiny branches and bulbs of an aquatic plant, from a spice shop in Paris. And when he failed to get his hands on cheese curds for Alinea’s version of a caprese salad, he learned to make them from scratch. As it turned out, that was the easy part. He then had to warm the curds and blow them into balloons, which he filled with tomato water foam, using a pressurized canister.

Yes, he admits, the hobby can be expensive. And yes, some recipes simply don’t turn out. But cooking offers him an outlet, after sitting in front of a computer all day. “It’s always just something I’ve enjoyed. It’s a very cathartic experience, cooking,” he says.

Mr. Lindsay anticipates it’ll take him another year and a half to finish his challenge. After that, he says he’ll likely try to tackle another demanding cookbook. Just recently, he visited an online forum, where someone had mentioned how crazy it would be to execute all 5,000-plus recipes in Escoffier: Le Guide Culinaire, regarded as the bible of French cuisine.

“I was thinking, ‘Hm..,’” Mr. Lindsay laughs. “Hm. I could do that.

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