Sunday, July 01, 2007

Intellectual Food


I don’t want to upset any foodie aficionados here, but I am a bit reluctant to jump on this molecular gastronomy bandwagon. You might think why the heck not? I jumped right on top of the cupcake craze and was suitably taken in by the no-knead bread fad and am completely convinced by wagyu. But somehow I am happy for this speeding bandwagon to zoom right past me. Perhaps it’s because I’m not convinced.

The idea of eating foam really doesn’t get my mouth salivating, and to be honest neither does the sound of bacon and egg ice cream or snail porridge; it actually gets my stomach churning. Call me boring but I would much rather stick to eating my bacon and eggs just how they were intended- crispy and sunny side up.

A salad with bite

All this said, I am no authority on the subject of molecular gastronomy and to be honest I have never experienced the stuff. It all sounds too scientific for me. This is coming from the girl who tried every trick in the book to skip her chemistry class. Once you start talking about food in terms of molecules and enzymes, then my mind switches off and starts to play the La Cucaracha soundtrack. Call me artsy, call me fartsy, but scientific I am not.

Maybe I am just being too narrow-minded, ignorant even. How can I even say that I don’t like the stuff if I have never tried it? Well, true. I don’t want to oversimplify a complex subject without even having experienced it. So, I decided that before I make any conclusions about this scientific approach to food, I should at least give it a try and make a better judgement from there. You can’t say that I didn’t try.

Avocado with Strawberry Salsa on Crispy Tortillas

This is where the event They Go Really Well Together (TGRWT) comes in. Created by Martin Lersch, the event aims to spark people’s imagination and creativity in the realm of molecular gastronomy. I caught the event on a good month as the theme was Strawberry and Coriander; two ingredients that on their own I love, although never would have thought would pair well. When I think of strawberries, I think of sweet desserts and when I think of coriander I think of savoury dishes. So how do the two amalgamate to create something palatable?

Since I was new to the whole unusual flavour combinations thing, I decided that creating my own recipe would be far beyond my capacity. So I decided to go with a recipe on Epicurious- an Avocado and Strawberry Salsa on Crispy Tortillas. It sounded good on paper. But I admit I was a little trepidatious. What if I ruin a perfectly good punnet of strawberries by adding some coriander to it? With the little faith I had in this branch of gastronomic science that I knew nothing about I started to chop the strawberries and the coriander and off they went into a bowl- together.

Avocado with Strawberry Salsa on Crispy Tortillas

The outcome? Well I have to say, that I wasn’t completely repulsed as I thought I would be. Suffice to say I also wasn’t entirely persuaded by the combination. I could taste the strawberries with little hints of coriander here and there and combining the nutty flavour of the avocado somehow neutralised the flavours. The salsa is best eaten on the day you make it, I tried some the day after and the lime juice had practically pickled the strawberries that I was pretty much wincing through a whole mouthful.

I would say that if you did want to try the combination of strawberry and coriander but you’re a bit of a chicken, then this is a recipe you will be able to stomach. As for the whole molecular gastronomy business, after this trial, I am definitely not discounting the whole thing, although I am still not getting on the bandwagon. But in its pursuit for reaching the heights of taste and flavour and pushing the boundaries of common cookery, then I am all for that. You never know, I might be saying pass the foam very soon.

Strawberry Salsa

This month's TGRWT #3 was hosted by Bounteous Bites, check out the round up coming very soon. Meanwhile, here is the recipe.

Avocados with Strawberry Salsa on Crispy Tortillas
adapted from

serves 4-6

Avocado with Strawberry Salsa on Crispy Tortillas


2 fresh long red chillies, seeds removed and chopped into strips

1 cup strawberries, roughly chopped

¼ cup white onion, diced

¼ cup fresh coriander, chopped finely

juice of half a lime

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp sugar (optional)

6 x 5-inch corn tortillas

oil for brushing

1 firm-ripe avocado

In a medium bowl, stir together all of the salsa ingredients.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

*The salsa can be made hours in advance and kept in the fridge covered.

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Lightly brush the tortillas with oil on each side.

Place flat in a baking tray and bake for 6-8 minutes, until the tortillas are brown and crispy. You might want to rotate the tortillas halfway through to avoid them burning on one side.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool and crisp up further.
If needed, sprinkle the tortillas with salt.
Halve the avocado and remove seed.

Dice the avocado and scoop out using a spoon.


Take a corn tortilla and place a mound of avocado in the centre, then top with a few spoonfuls of strawberry salsa.


Victoria said...

As much as strawberries and coriander just don't really 'get' to me, the gorgeous photos of them do! Cheers to you for trying to put them both together and just so you know, and not feel so alone, I'm not quite ready to leave vanilla icecream for the bacon and egg alternative. =)

bea at la tartine gourmande said...

I understand your feel about molecular gastronomy. I feel the same way as a matter of fact. As we say in French, il en faut pour tous les goûts (you need something for all tastes). So even if you were not convinced by the combo, it surely looks really colorful and pretty!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

I might call you artsy, as you take beautiful, artistic photos. I wouldn't call you fartsy - how would I know? We're on different continents. But I would call you Jen, the fabulous cook with a flair for the unusual.

In my neck of the woods coriander is the seed of the plant and cilantro is the leaves, so I was confused at first. Your salsa is beautiful and I think worth a try.

At home with Kim Vallee said...

Molecular cuisine is more than just mixing together new combination of foods. It is more about understanding what going on at the molecular level when you cook or you mix together ingredients.

The goal is to develop new cooking techniques and tools. With this knowledge, you can reinvent entirely the way we do traditional recipes. It is still a new discipline; we need to give it time to come to age.

Martin Lersch said...

I'm glad you had a go at the TGRWT #3 event and the pictures are simply gorgeous! Experimental cooking isn't always easy - and yes - sometimes the tastes come out strange. But then again, if and when the combinations work out they can be really great!

BTW, I hope you won't ditch the scientific approach after this, because it's so much more than foam, bacon and egg ice cream and snail porridge. This is what I try to communicate in my blog, khymos.

As Harold McGee puts it, molecular gastronomy is "the scientific study of deliciousness".

Evelin said...

your photos look really gorgeous! and convincing that the combination came out well;)

Although hosting the event, my knowledge isn't yet nearly as big about molecular gastronomy that I'd like it to be. But what's exciting is that there is so much to learn. just like Martin said - it's so much more than just foam.

And to be honest - I'm not that into foam either:)

Thank you for participating!

Christy said...

Well the photos have my mouth watering! I am normally not that adventurous with food combination, but this one definitely has me intrigued enough to give it a try.

charis said...

dear milk&cookies,

love the color combo of your strawberry salsa, very sweet summer-ish!

recently i became interested in cooking. and i found every dish you made beautiful. i added your blog to mine, hope you don't mind?!

have a good southern hemisphere winter day!

a sincere northern hemisphere passenger,

Susan said...

I'd be willing to trying strawberries with coriander, though I think they're most beautiful with mint and basil. And high school chemistry was the bane of my existence as a teenager. Ugh.

Erin said...

What an intriguing recipe, and your photos are just lovely. I think a trip to the market is in order for me now.

jugar poker said...

I never had that mix. But to be it sounds good. That event sounds interesting.