Chiaroscuro LARGE


blackberry caviar, coconut mousse, coconut crumb, coconut yolk, blackberry puree

Chiaroscuro SMALL II

Hi!  To any newcomers, welcome to my blog, and welcome to my project for UChicago’s spring Festival of the Arts!

(I’ll post more explaining this post-presentation, for all you laypeople.)

////// Okay!  SO Hi!  Yes!  Presentation went off without a hitch. \\\\\\

I gave a 7-ish minute spiel about molecular gastronomy, this here blog, my weird love of reverse frozen spherification, and the three desserts you see here, which were funded by FOTA.

Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too badly (I definitely did).Chiaroscuro SMALL I

Contrast, made edible.  Fruity, creamy, crunchy, chewy.

Why are there so many seeds in blackberries?  Getting ultra-smooth puree is a pain in the ass.

Fragola LARGE


black pepper cheesecake, lemon curd, lemon sorbet, ginger black pepper sand, walnuts, candied lemons, creme fraiche, honey

Fragola SMALL I

Early summer on a plate.  Spicy, sour, rich, fresh.

PSA: candied lemons are so incredibly addictive.  So is lemon curd.  OMg.

Fragola SMALL II

For my live presentation, I made a deconstructed strawberry pie: strawberry yolk, yogurt cream, 5-spice milk sand.
Simple, delicious.



mango yolk, watermelon tartar, avocado mousse,  lime curd, creme fraiche, grapefruit


A play on tuna tartare with raw egg yolk.  Tropical, crunchy, herb-y, tangy.
(There is nothing quite like cold watermelon on a hot day, amirite?!)


Happy to provide any of the recipes pictured for my fellow molecular nuts!


If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, even a brief glance, you were not surprised, I’m sure, at the title of this post.
I kvetch quite a lot, especially on this soapbox in my little corner of the internet.
Fun, if not somewhat depressing, fact: 1 out of every 3 posts on this blog has been labeled with “whining.”
1 out of every 10, “Stupid.”
3 of every 20, “WISE.”
At least I have that ratio going for me… WISE>Stupid.
I won’t lie and say that my project has been going especially super duper well, simply because it has been somewhat stagnant in the last two weeks, primarily due to the fact that I have 4 finals within the next two weeks and 4 APs the two weeks following.
Needless to say, that has been consuming a lot of my time, energy, and, frankly, willpower.
I wanted to make something yesterday with basil, as we have two basil plants which have outgrown their welcome flourished, Lord knows how or why, in our kitchen.
It’s difficult for me to push WISE to the forefront of my mind and my worries these days.
I itch to get in the kitchen, but I have to force myself to work on other homework, else I fall behind (speaking of which, I already am behind…).  
I am relieved that my timeline for WISE is so much longer than my other classes; it may be only a few week difference between my APs and my WISE presentation, but I’ll be darned if it doesn’t feel wonderful not to have added pressure in yet another class.
I know there are still things I haven’t gotten to.
I know there are topics that are in dire need of attention.
I know because I read my project proposal once through, yet again (I found a typo! Send help!!!), and realized that while I have gone above and beyond certain expectations that I had had, I am also lacking in more than a couple.
About the dessert, ’cause that’s what we really care about around here:
I found this dessert by Michael Laiskonis (the plating makes me want to cry, it is so beautiful. And no, I am not joking.  I love that stinking cylindrical panna cotta so much.  How could you not?  It’s a little tube of beauty.) and ran with the inspiration.
First, I kept things small- the plate that you see is a tiny little tea saucer, though it looks rather large in the photos.  
Secondly, I loved the way he cut the strawberries- it’s unconventional and transforms them into a new, unfamiliar element which attracts the eye.   So yeah, I copied him there.  
Third, I had no idea that basil seeds, like flax and chia seeds, were mucilaginous.  Steeping them in basil syrup is so logical but so unexpected.  
It heightens the herbaceous and spicy notes of the seeds, while activating their mucilage-producing quality.
Yucky name, lovely texture- sort of “squeaky,” as Laiskonis describes it.
Stick with me for a few more weeks, guys.  
We’re in it for the long haul.
P.S. humblebrag… sorry not sorry… Look at that quenelle!!  Best one yet!  I’m figuring out more and more tricks:
boiling water
small spoon
NO drying off the spoon
a tall, plastic container with a rim for the ice cream.
Hallelujah, I might have quenelling down by the time I have to present.
strawberry curd
tomato spheres
balsamic reduction
steeped basil seeds
basil ice cream


for the strawberry curd:
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter
Bring the strawberries, sugar, salt, and lemon juice to a boil.  

Allow to simmer until the strawberries have broken down into a smooth mush consistency. 
Whisking vigorously, add the egg.
Cook over medium-low heat until the curd thickens.
Whisk in the butter.
Chill until use; press plastic wrap right onto the surface of the curd to store.

for the tomato spheres:
1/2 cup of tomato juice, freshly pressed out of a few tomatoes
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon agar
2 cups canola oil, chilled in the freezer for at least an hour
Stir the salt, sugar, juice, and agar together in a microwaveable, large container.  
Microwave on HIGH for 30 second bursts, until the mixture boils.
After the first burst that it boils, microwave it twice more, for a total of 1 minute 30 ish seconds of boiling in the microwave.
Remove the oil from the freezer (put it in a wide, large bowl).
Using a syringe, drop the liquid tomato gel into the oil.  It will congeal into little spheres.
Remove from the cold oil by straining the spheres out (the oil is reusable), then rinse in cool water and use.

for the basil seeds:
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
10 basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
1 tablespoon basil seeds
Bring the water, sugar, and basil leaves to a simmer just to dissolve the sugar.
Strain out the leaves.
The syrup should be a loose consistency.  
If it is not, simply add more water 1/2 a teaspoon at a time.
Sprinkle the basil seeds over the syrup and mix gently.
Allow to sit and become mucilaginous.  
To use, strain the syrup with a sieve.

for the basil ice cream:
adapted from Jeni’s
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons half and half
1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon mascarpone
10-15 basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
1 vanilla bean, scraped
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon light corn syrup
pinch kosher salt
pinch gelatin (scant 1/8 teaspoon)
Bring the vanilla bean, the vanilla seeds, the half and half, the sugar, the salt, the corn syrup, and the basil leaves to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer and whisk cornstarch in very well.

Place mascarpone in a bowl; strain the hot ice cream base over the mascarpone; discard basil leaves and vanilla pod; whisk well to dissolve mascarpone.
Sprinkle gelatin over the top of the mixture and whisk to combine.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then spin in your ice cream maker until smooth and creamy.
Store in a plastic container in the freezer.

for the balsamic reduction:
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Bring to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan.  
Allow to boil for 15-20 seconds, then remove from heat.
The reduction should be only slightly looser than a syrup.

to assemble:
micro basil leaves
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
Smear a tablespoon or so of strawberry curd in a curve around your plate.
Place a large mound of whipped cream on the base of your plate; create a small well in the center with the back of a spoon.
Slice the very tips of the strawberries very thinly; place a few around the plate.
Spoon 1/4 teaspoon piles of basil seeds around the plate.
Garnish with micro basil leaves.
Splatter balsamic reduction across the side of the plate.
Place 1-2 tablespoons of tomato spheres in the well of your whipped cream.
Quenelle a scoop of basil ice cream and balance it on top of the spheres.
Serve immediately.


This was not supposed to be a Christmas themed dessert.
I swear.
It was meant to be a beautifully vibrant expression of three of my all-time favorite flavors:
 pistache, framboise, et rose.
Pistachio, raspberry, rose.
I had dreams about the beautiful red spheres of raspberry that I could make; I drooled over the thought of a pistachio pain de gênes; I practically fainted when I pictured candied rose petals, topping the whole shebang off.
This dessert was the very first baking I did when I got home from my vacation.
Let’s just say that I was just a little *ahem* antsy to get back in the kitchen.
I had been planning this dessert out for ages, diligently typing out recipes on my phone on the plane ride to the islands.
It makes sense, then, that this was an especially ambitious dessert.  
Highly involved, many components, and many, many opportunities for human error to enter into the system.
I wasn’t entirely happy, as it became very clear very quickly, with the color scheme of this dessert.
The raspberry was so vibrant that it looked garish next to the muted greens of the pistachios.
The white meringues were too much of a contrast with the rest of the plate, and the rose petals which I had candied were pink, not red, and looked like sliced red onions on the plate. 
So, lesson learned: ease back into my work, lest in the throes of relaxation my creativity has silently slipped into a less tasteful realm.
Also, pink rose petals look like onions.
Pistache et Framboise
vanilla goat cheese panna cotta
raspberry gelée
raspberry curd
rosewater meringues
raspberry and rose cubes
pistachio pain des gênes
raspberry spheres
chopped pistachios
(candied rose petals)
I currently don’t have my WISE journal (it’s being evaluated… eep!), and I didn’t make a dessert this weekend, so I guess I’m “behind” a week in terms of desserts.  
I’ll probably make one during the week, to catch up, and I’ll be back to regularly scheduled posts soon.
I think.
Pistache et Framboise

Raspberry Rose Cubes
80 g raspberry purée, strained twice through a sieve
1 teaspoon rosewater
5 g sugar
1.2 g agar
Bring juice and sugar to a simmer, add the agar and mix with an immersion blender. Strain and pour into a rectangular pan, then put into fridge to set. Once set, cut into cubes.

Goat Cheese Panna Cotta
1 ounce goat cheese
1/4 teaspoon gelatin
1/4 cup cream
1 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream
Bloom gelatin in 1 tablespoon cold water. Being cream, scrapings from the vanilla bean, and sugar to a simmer, then blend in goat cheese until melted.  Add gelatin and blend with immersion blender, then add in the sour cream.  Pour into shallow bowls and chill until set.

Pain de Gênes à la Pistache
56 grams pistachios
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch salt
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
4 tablespoons butter, softened and cut into chunks
21 grams flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 6-inch cake pan.
Pulse pistachios, salt, and sugar into a finely ground meal in a food processor.  Add eggs and butter and pulse until thoroughly combined. Add the flour and baking powder and pulse until combined.
Spread batter into pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Raspberry Spheres
100 g raspberry purée
25 g sugar
2.4 g calcium lactate gluconate
500 g low calcium water
2.5 g sodium alginate
25 g sugar
Prepare the alginate bath: heat water just to dissolve sugar, then add in sodium alginate and blend until completely dissolved. Allow to settle and  cool overnight.
Blend the puree, sugar, and calcium lactate gluconate until homogeneous. Spoon into hemispherical silicon molds and freeze until solid.
To make the spheres, drop the frozen purée into the bath and leave for 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and rinse in clean water.

Raspberry Curd:
adapted from Luscious Berry Desserts by Lori Longbotham
3 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
5 ounces raspberries
2 egg yolks
Pinch salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Bring raspberries and sugar to a boil, then press through a fine mesh sieve.  Whisk in the egg yolks and salt, then bring to a simmer over low heat, whisking constantly.
Once the curd comes to a simmer, remove from heat and whisk in butter until curd is smooth and silky.

Raspberry Gelée
1 teaspoon gelatin
1.1 ounces water
4 ounces frozen raspberries, thawed
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Bloom gelatin in water.
Boil raspberries and sugar together, then press through a fine mesh sieve.
Stir in lemon juice and gelatin mixture, then use immediately and place in refrigerator to set.

Rosewater Meringues
60 g egg whites (should be two-ish, feel free to just use 2)
75 g sugar
Pinch cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon rosewater
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.  Line a sheet pan with parchment.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the eggs until foamy.  Add in the cream of tartar and continue to whisk.
Slowly start adding the sugar, as the egg whites whip.
Continue to whip until the meringue is very stiff.
Beat in the rosewater.
Form large mounds using two spoons.
Bake for 11/2 hours, rotating midway through.
Turn off the oven, crack it open a bit, and allow the meringues to finish drying (the oven should be completely cool when you pull them out).

Candied Rose Petals
From Alice Waters
Unsprayed rose petals
1 egg white
1 cup superfine sugar
Brush the petals on both sides with the egg white, then lightly dip the petal in the sugar.  Lay them out on a wire rack and allow them to dry at least a few hours to overnight.


Le soleil se reveille.
Les villes sont illuminées; le petit matin scintille avec des rayons de soleil.
On apprécie toujours les couleurs vives.  
Le jaune clair se transforme et devient le jaune doré.  
Le soleil s’étire et ainsi, le jour est réalisé.
The sun rises.
Cities are illuminated; the dawn sparkles with sunbeams.
The bold colors are always appreciated.
Pale yellow morphs and becomes gold.
The sun stretches and thus, the day is realized.

I’m dreaming of bright sun and warmth.  The winter is dragging its feet out the door, and I’m ready for the transition from gray to green.
I mean, really.
This tropical produce-inspired dessert didn’t help much.
I don’t know whether my desire for a beach inspired the dessert, or whether the dessert inspired the desire.
Dessert-inspired desire or desire-inspired dessert?
These mango spheres, which look like farm-fresh yolks, were just short of mind-blowing. 
You can actually handle them like egg yolks; they’re not overly delicate, but when they hit your tongue, they release a lovely mango purée, fragrant and sweet.
I was so enamored with them that I also whipped up a small batch of sticky coconut rice (black forbidden rice cooked in coconut milk with a pinch of glutinous rice flour, then topped with a reduced coconut milk and jaggery sauce) to serve underneath them as a pre-dessert; it was a textural play on sticky rice with mangoes, a popular dish where I live.
I wish the fennel purée had been a bit smoother, but the fibrous nature of fennel was working to my detriment.  I was content with the flavor (mild, gingery, and a creamy foil to the acidic lime and pineapple), but I wish it had been just a bit silkier.  
I know that root vegetables tend to make smoother purées, so in the future, I may stick to roots rather than bulbs like fennel.
I plated this dish to look like its namesake: a sunrise.  I played around with the look of a sunny-side up egg, also an indicator of morning.  
With a tropical flavor profile and nouveaux textures, this dessert wakes you right up.
Ginger-fennel purée
Brûléed pineapple
Lime pâte de fruit
Coconut flan
Mango spheres


For the coconut flan:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
Big pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degreees F.
Place 1/2 cup sugar in a heavy saucepan and heat until it caramelizes and turns a deep amber, about 7 minutes.
Immediately pour into a 9-inch cake pan, swirling to coat the bottom.  If it hardens before you coat the entire bottom, simply heat the cake pan up over low heat on a burner until the caramel becomes liquid again.
Put a kettle on to boil.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla, and second sugar measurement together briskly until lighter yellow colored and foamy.
In another saucepan, heat the salt and coconut milk until simmering.
Whisking constantly, slowly stream the hot milk into the eggs until all is incorporated. Pour into caramel coated pan.
Place the pan in a deep roasting pan and pour the boiling water in until the water is 3/4 of the way up the sides.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the flan is set around the edges but still slightly wiggly in the center.
Leave in water bath for 5 minutes, then remove from the bath and move to refrigerator for at least 12 hours.
To turn it out, place a plate with a slight rim on top of the cake tin, and quickly flip over.
To cut circles, use a circular cookie cutter.
For the mango spheres:
100 grams frozen or fresh mango
2 g calcium lactate gluconate
For the bath:
1400 g low-calcium water
65 g sugar
6 g sodium alginate
Purée the mango until very smooth; push through a sieve to remove any particulate matter; mix in the calcium lactate with an immersion blender.
Pour into a hemispherical mold and freeze completely.
For the bath:
Heat up the sugar and water until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes.
Add in the alginate and mix very well with an immersion blender.
Allow to sit for at least 6 hours to allow any air bubbles to escape.
Remove the purée from the mold and place frozen spheres directly into alginate bath.  Leave for 4 minutes; do not allow the spheres to touch each other.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place in clean water.  (Do not serve immediately because the cores will still be frozen; wait at least 1 hour.)
To store, either store in clean water or water mixed with mango juice in the fridge.  Can be stored for up to one week.
For the lime pâte de fruit:
Adapted from the October 2010 issue of O magazine
1/4 cup lime juice
Zest of one lime
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon powdered pectin
1 1/4 cup sugar
Lightly oil a 6″ pan.
Combine sugar, juice, zest, applesauce, and pectin in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, until mixture reached 225 degrees F.  Stir in some green food coloring, if desired.
Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle extra sugar on top.  Allow to cool completely, then cut out small cubes, toss in sugar, and allow to completely firm up overnight.
For the ginger-fennel purée:
Okay.  I’m going to be honest.  I roasted a fennel bulb, threw in some grated ginger, added some heavy cream, some white chocolate, salt, etc, until I was satisfied.  There wasn’t a… um… recipe per se.  I just winged it; I’m sure you can do the same.  Sorry!

For the brûléed pineapple:
Clean a pineapple, remove the core, and cut into desired shapes.  (I did a rectangular prism).  Sprinkle with sugar, brûlée, then flip onto the next side.  Repeat for at least three of the longer sides so that all visible sides

To assemble:
Schmear the purée on the base of the plate.  
Place 2 pieces of brûléed pineapple flush to the bottom of the plate.  
Arrange 3 lime pâtes de fruit organically around the plate.
Slide a flan above the pineapple; do not let it touch the purée.  
Finally, using a slotted spoon, transfer two mango spheres to the plate.