A hand-painted platter elevates homemade antipasto.
By Chef Murray Schulman
I’m not sure how time gets away from us so easily. I know that this year has been more stressful than most. Plus, Thanksgiving is drawing near and Christmas is looming large. With all this pressure eating away our brain cells, I decided to try to take my readers with me into a more fanciful realm. Let’s all take a deep breath, calm our spirits and clear our minds as we visit a much more pleasing side of life.
Most often, I share my ideas about recipes, flavors, menu plans, seasonal dishes and a few personal stories just to keep it interesting. Finally, after all these months, we have been able to spread our wings just a bit more to explore and discover new ideas. I discovered that I now see things with a clearer and more vivid perspective. The idea that we eat with our eyes has taken on an even greater level of importance to me. What I am about to share with you are some images of my own presentations as well as the creativity of some great chefs I have recently met on a trip to Mexico.
This first presentation is an antipasto that I prepared and served to friends at my home. The platter is from Italy and painted by hand. It provides the perfect platform for the varied and colorful components of this dish. The colors and textures of the selections combine to paint a vibrant picture that draws you in and excites the senses.
The Antipasto was followed by my freshly made tagliatelle pasta with rainbow cherry tomatoes, garlic, green peas and basil. The pasta was accompanied by store-made Italian sausage cooked over a hardwood fire. Just imagine the beauty of that long elegant pasta tossed with the natural brilliance of the tomatoes, plump peas and green and purple basil from my own plant. And yes, it tasted every bit as good as it looked.
We were fortunate to have the opportunity to travel with friends to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Here, we dined in several restaurants featuring top regional chefs. The food scene in this region is truly making a statement. By combining world-class culinary talents with a regional flair for spice and rich flavors, the cuisine that we experienced was visually dramatic and a delight to the palate.
Keeping with the local flair of the Yucatan, a dish of fork-tender cuts of pork smothered in delicately spiced pineapple chutney served on a heavy skewer balanced on a cob of roasted corn was both delicious and eye catching.
Surf and turf anyone? Well, if you know me, you can only imagine the twist on this old classic that I selected for dinner. Think of the finest New York strip steak perfectly grilled over open fire and encrusted in a unique blend of local chilis. The gentle heat of the chilis was tempered by the sauteed greens smothering that delicious beef. The real twist to the surf side of this dish was, accompanying my steak was the most delicious roasted octopus you can imagine. This presentation stretched the imagination and was a testament to the skills and talents of the culinary team.
The final dish that I want to show you is nothing short of sheer artistry. The plate presentation is a delight and the dish itself had to have been the best of its kind that I have ever tasted. This was a classic tandoori duck breast. But simply referring to this as classic fails to conjure the experience of tasting this amazing offering. First, the duck breast was perfectly prepared from the expertly crisped layer of fatty skin on top to the succulent, juicy, joy of the duck itself. Second, the brilliant balance of flavorings was literally mind-blowing. The tangy salty sweetness combined with that subtle heat that is a trademark of the region. The hint of wine and honey all combined to evoke sensory overload that is seldom achieved. Just take in this image and let your mind do the rest.
These are just a few of the wonderful dishes that we have enjoyed lately. I hope that you have had some fun exploring with me. Just remember that food is a multi-sensory experience. With a little imagination, your next meal, be it a PB&J sandwich or your most elaborate dish, can be just a little more special.