Saturday, August 23, 2008

Petunia's Macro Plate

I don't usually buy carrots, but I did the last time I went grocery shopping because I wanted to see if I could do something that might wave towards Souen's macro plate. My mission was to capture that moment of bliss when your mouth comes down upon a perfectly steamed carrot dressed in a river of itself. Souen's carrot dressing eludes my ability to describe it with words. If I tell you that it is a clean, crisp flavor and that it is refreshing and subtle, as well as, airy with a fluid texture of perfect thickness to dress the vegetables rather then running off or clinging to them--I would miserably fail to describe the simple beauty of this sauce.

Although it is safe to say that I enjoy the carrot sauce, I had no intention of being a copy cat. Rather, I wanted to make something that took the macro plate as a point of reference. I knew that I would need to make a different sort of sauce because I'm not quite sure how the carrot sauce is made. I decided that a garlic yogurt sauce would work well with the vegetables. 

I am not actually sure that my plate was completely macrobiotic as I am not sure that everything I used was local. I do, however, think I was pretty close. Below is my master piece. It is more work intensive than what I usually prepare, but worth it. You can exclude the egg, but I really think you will completely be missing out. I was so delighted to dip the steamed vegetables in the runny yoke; it was like having two different sauces. Hope you try it out!

Petunia's Macro Plate: Buttered Angel Hair Pasta, French Lentils, Poached Egg, Steamed Vegetables and Garlic Yogurt Sauce 

(Cooking time: One hour)


1/4 box of Angel Hair pasta
Two teaspoons of butter 
Tablespoon of salt

Cup of lentils
Medium onion minced 
Two carrots thinly sliced
Two plum tomatoes chopped
Tablespoon of butter
Salt to taste

Poached Egg
White wine vinegar (optional)

Steamed Vegetables
One shoot of brocoli
Two carrots
One handful of yellow green beans

Yogurt Sauce
1/4 cup of yogurt
One large wedge of garlic
Two or three sprigs of curly parsley finely chopped
Two 1/4 inch slices of onion minced
Juice of half a lemon
Hot sauce to taste

Since the Lentils will be the most time consuming you'll want to start there. I find with my cooking style that vegetable prep always takes me the longest. I like to keep a plate or a bowl where I put all the unwanted vegetable parts like the green ends of carrots and the peel. Wash peel and prepare all vegetables according to the ingredient list. As soon as my cutting board fills, I directly dump my prepared vegetables into the pot I will cook them in. I used a large pot. When everything is chopped and in the pot add the butter and put heat on low. Give it a minute or two and then stir. Let the vegetables cook for about five minutes. Meanwhile tidy your work space and then rinse and sort through your beans. It is always a good idea to make sure there aren't any stones mixed in, it happens sometimes. I clean my beans in a cereal bowl and then I dump them in the pot. I add about a cereal bowl and a 1/2 of water to the pot. This is probably about two cups. If you don't like a lot of broth then you can add a bit less water. Add salt to taste and leave the lentils alone for about twenty minutes. You might want to stir and taste them one time before the twenty minutes are up, but you don't need to check more than that.

In another pot put water to boil. I like to fill a large pot half way with water. Salt your water and remember to cover it. I always put a plate to cover the water instead of a lid. This is a way to warm the plate without extra effort. Warming a plate before serving pasta keeps the pasta warm longer, for a better eating experience. I learned that from Deborah Madison. Put the heat relatively high. 

While you are working on the vegetables and yogurt sauce you will be making your pasta. At some point during the vegetable preparation you'll have to put the pasta in and then you'll have to drain. The trick is to do your vegetable work near the pot so you can see when the rapid boil occurs and to gage how far you are in the vegetable preparation. The pasta can sit for some time, but you don't want it to get totally cold. Again, use your intuition. Also, remember that you must take note of the time when you drop the pasta in. After about five minutes from when you dropped the pasta you will have to drain. You will then return it to the stove with the heat off. Drop the butter in and gently stir. Then transfer pasta to your warm plate and finish up the vegetables and yogurt sauce.

To prepare the vegetables for your steamed vegetables begin by washing all of them. Peal the carrots and the bottom part of the broccoli. Pick a nice looking plate that is large, but will fit in your microwave. You will begin with broccoli. You need to cut clean through the middle so you have two long halves. You will then cut clean through the middle of those two halves. You will now have four pieces. Please aim for symmetry, thank you. Arrange the broccoli to make a diamond shape. Next make an angled cut through the middle of each carrot. You will want to have a part of a carrot that is narrower and another part that is wider. Begin with one of the wider parts since it will be easier. Slice clean through the middle of the carrot so that you end up with two long pieces with a part that can lie flush against the plate.  After doing the wider pieces then do the narrower ones. By the end you should have eight long pieces with a cylindrical side and a side that is flat. Arrange these pieces on the inside of the diamond created by the broccoli. Lastly cut off the tops and bottoms of the green beans. Arrange them on the outside of the diamond. At this point you can place them aside until about five minutes before you're ready to eat. When ready, cover with a plate and put in the microwave for three and a half minutes. When it is done check the tenderness. If they aren't tender enough put in for a bit longer. Use you're judgement here.

After preparing your vegetables you can prepare the yogurt sauce. Cut all vegetables for the sauce according to the ingredient list and place in a bowl. Cut your lemon, seed and extract juice directly into bowl. Then add the yogurt. If you want add hot sauce, and remember to season with salt. Stir and check for consistency. You want it to be a sauce that pours over the vegetables. I used a very high quality yogurt that was quite thick. In order to get the right consistency I had to add a little water. It is fine to do this, but remember to taste it before serving. You don't want the water to compromise the precision of your flavors.

By the time you're done with the yogurt your lentils should be done. At this time you should do some clean up and then get your water ready in a skillet to poach the egg. Place the vegetables in the microwave. The great thing about a microwave is that even if you are engrossed in something else it won't continue to cook your food after the designated time has elapsed, so don't worry if you cannot get to the vegetables right away. Also, since the egg is the crescendo of your plate, you'll want to get the basics on the serving plate first. On one part of the plate arrange pasta and next to it a spoonful of lentils. When the egg is ready place it on top of the lentils. Then go fetch the vegetable plate and situate both on your serving table with the yogurt sauce. 

A final note on poaching the egg: if you're apprehensive you can simply do a soft boiled egg and then carefully remove the shell. Boiling an egg also gives you more leeway with timing, but it doesn't look as pretty on the plate. 

Okay, I hope you enjoy this exceedingly. Buen provecho!

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