Food writer and recipe tester Linda Avery reviews cookbooks.
photos by John Lee
Tyler Florence Fresh is eye candy of the highest caliber. Tyler Florence's focus on fresh is a worthy one. He believes that fresh food means healthier people.
The book opens with a five-page “paper” where Florence articulates is point of view. It’s convincing. In a nutshell: fresh is good; GMO’s (genetically modified organisms), HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) and chemical additives are bad. There’s a whole lot in between to make you a believer if you didn’t already embrace that philosophy.
He ends his introduction with “This entire book is about fresh – fresh ideas on how to make your tongue happy, a fresh perspective on nutrition, fresh dynamic flavors, a fresh approach to cooking techniques, and most important, a healthy decision to put fresh first.”
There are two rather unique approaches employed in the book. The table of contents is arranged by ingredients i.e. Anchovies, Apples, Artichokes, etc. You’ll have to look at the Index to find recipe names.
Then he fulfills his promise to give us “simple ways to transform healthy ingredients into absolute showstoppers.” The recipes (well, most of them) are not plated per se. Instead, the food is artfully displayed on a white background so that you can identify almost every ingredient used in the recipe. Very appealing, very cool.
He wakes up your mouth with new combinations: Butternut Squash Tortellini with Lentils, Yogurt and Sumac, | Pickled Beets with Salmon, Sprouts, and Fromage Blanc, Sweet Pea Falafel | Charred Corn, and Pink Chile Mayo | Balsamic-Glazed California Squab, Crushed Clementine, and Grits.
The book is peppered with pages headed “Hero Ingredients” and “Hero Techniques” where he speaks briefly on subjects like lobster or raw milk cheese, quick pickling or making “pearls” – once you learn how to use agar agar powder to make balsamic pearls, Katie bar the door, you’ll want to make pearls of everything! Perhaps that makes up for the fact there are no headnotes, but I did miss those.
For the pickled beets
4 medium red beets
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 small onion, finely sliced
For the salmon
1 whole side of boneless, skin-on salmon (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 ruby grapefruit
1/2 pound fromage blanc
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup white daikon radish sprouts
Extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt
Make the pickled beets
1. Scrub the beets, then slice them into 1/4-inch-thick disks. In a medium pot, combine the vinegar, sugar, caraway seeds, and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the beets and the onion slices. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until tender. Remove from the heat and allow the beets to cool in the pickling mixture.
Make the salmon
1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
2. Using a very sharp filleting knife, carefully remove the skin from the fish fillet in one piece, reserving the skin. Thinly slice the salmon flesh, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat. Place the skin in the center of the parchment and spread it completely flat. Season it with a little salt and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place another sheet of parchment on top of the skin, then place a second baking sheet on top to hold the skin flat. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake the salmon skin for 25 minutes, until completely crispy and golden. Place the crispy skin on a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
3. Use a sharp knife to slice off the rind and pith from the grapefruit. Cut between the membranes to free the grapefruit segments. Whip the fromage blanc with the lemon juice until light and creamy.
4. Transfer the beet slices to a serving plate, draining off any excess liquid. Top with the salmon slices and grapefruit segments, and dot with the fromage blanc. Garnish with the sprouts and a few pieces of pickled onion.
5. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with sea salt. Dress very lightly with some pickling liquid from the beets. Break the crispy salmon skin into small pieces and scatter over the top.