I’ve been assigned two main projects to work on here at Alicia, both of which I’m really excited about. I’ll be sure to have lots of smaller side projects scattered in for good measure (like the carrot air of last week), but my main attention will be focused on these two topics, which I’ll be working on simultaneously throughout the two months that I’m here.
The first involves Alicia’s garden. Many of the fruits and vegetables grown here are heirloom varieties, ones that are pretty rare, whose uses and attributes are not well known. For each of these varietals within the garden, Alicia’s goal is to create a document that describes its unique characteristics, lists its assets in regards to cooking, and depicts its best-determined cooking methods. This has been an ongoing project all season, and now it’s my turn to carry it out. Each week I concentrate on one or two varietals, experimenting with a wide variety of cooking techniques and preparation methods, and performing all sorts of taste tests.
Last week we harvested the last of our tomatoes, many of them still green. And so, as part of this project, I spent the week analyzing the best possible ways to utilize these green tomatoes. The most interesting (and delicious) preparation in my opinion was Green Tomato Marmalade. Following a very systematic process, and documenting each step along the way, I conducted a number of trial recipes, slightly altering and refining the method with each successive attempt, until I finally arrived at a marmalade that our taste tests deemed ‘the best’. I did the same with Green Tomato Pickles.
This work is such a perfect mix of culinary art and scientific research. At once, it’s the work of a chef and a scientist. Each endeavor is approached very methodically, and every step and result is recorded meticulously. The pace is careful and slow, so different from the kitchen environments I’m used to. I have so say, I’m could definitely get used to this!
And three, to experiment with and document all the possible ways of manipulating the texture of olive oil. In other words, take this oily liquid phase that is normal olive oil, and turn it into as many different textures as I can: olive oil powder, olive oil pudding, olive oil jellies, olive oil ice cream, olive oil foam, olive oil pearls, olive oil pasta, spherical capsules of olive oil, olive oil air, olive oil soup, olive oil gummy bears, and so on and so on…