Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should

Beautiful, unsuspecting tomatoes

I would like to consider myself a culinary Jedi.  Brave, creative, trusting the force.  I tend to order the most unusual offerings on a menu.  I buy ingredients I've never seen before just to try them out.  But sometimes, the force is not with you.  Sometimes, you just need to say no.

I have discovered these things about myself:
1. I like lavender in potpourri, not food.
2. I love bacon. I love chocolate.  I do not love them together.  I've tried.  A lot.
3. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

The most recent example of #3 was a recipe for a Tomato Tarte Tatin in the August 2010 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.  How intriguing, I thought!  A dessert with tomatoes!  I lovingly picked the plum tomatoes from my garden, blanched and peeled them then simmered them in sugar & butter.  Once the juices turned to a caramel I added the vanilla and a puff pastry topping and transferred it to the oven.  The preface to the recipe said "Be prepared to be blown away."  Blown away, I was not.  Peeved was I (said in my best Yoda voice).

There was so much sugar in the recipe that it was cloyingly sweet.  The vanilla was overpowering.  My biggest complaint however, was that you could taste none of the tomatoey-ness of the tomatoes.  It could have been plums for all I could taste.  The recipe killed the tomato flavor. And that is what killed me. 

When you have an ingredient at the peak of its season, sometimes you can pay it the most respect by leaving it alone.  Foams are cool. I am intrigued by new ideas and molecular gastronomy.  BUT, good food does not have to be labor intensive or contain 25 ingredients.  A sweet tomato with a little olive oil and sea salt is a beautiful thing to behold. 

So the next time you're tempted to reinvent the wheel, (I'm talking to you, Bon Appetit!) step away from the tomatoes and remember that just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD. 

The crime scene

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