A Taste of Inspiration

I am hosting a contest at work in which co-workers have one Powerpoint slide to respond to the question ‘What Inspires You?’  As I have been pondering my own answer and a way to articulate how FOOD actually inspires me, I came across a picture I took from my New Zealand trip last Fall that certainly screams inspiration to me.  I have next to zero photography skills, let alone food photography skills but despite my lack of an artistic eye the picture of my meal below stands out nonetheless.  The meal was SO well composed that a rookie photographer couldn’t spoil it.

Pan fried squid salad with garlic confit, red pepper, chorizo, preserved lemon, spinach, rocket and salash cured ham
Pan fried squid salad with garlic confit, red pepper, chorizo, preserved lemon, spinach, rocket and salash cured ham

This meal was partaken at The Foodstore in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour, a lovely area on the waterfront with a trendy restaurant scene.  Honestly this area of Auckland is a foodies’ paradise.  This might have been my best meal in all of New Zealand so let me tell you a little about it.  The Foodstore is by American standards a ‘farm to table’ or rather a ‘sea to table’ restaurant.  If it’s not in season it will not be on the menu, hence why the dish above is not on the menu today.

When we returned home I looked everywhere for a recipe that resembled the dish above.  For starters I had no idea how to prepare garlic confit, preserved lemon or what the heck rocket and salash cured ham were.  If you are wondering the same things let me break it down…

Confit is the slow, low temperature cooking of an item in oil.  Placing the garlic in oil brings out the sweetness in garlic and lowers the punch or spiciness of the garlic.  The garlic confit is stored in the fridge and can be used as an ingredient to add a lot of flavor or even as a condiment.  If you want clear instructions with a picture tutorial visit Not Quite Nigella.

Preserved lemon – oh how I love lemons!  This might be the star ingredient of the dish, next to the chorizo.  You can buy a jar of preserved lemons in most specialty markets or simply make your own!  There are so many dishes you can make with preserved lemons and they make great gifts for the holidays.

Rocket, also known as arugula, is a leafy green in the cabbage family.  I had no idea that ‘greens’ had different names across the globe.  Rocket definitely has a spicy flavor, if it’s too pungent for you mix it with other greens such as spinach or mesclun to calm down the powerful flavor.

Salash cured ham– without going into long detail is a dried, cured ham.

This dish inspired me on so many levels, the combination of flavors and the experience was truly amazing.  As I reminisce about the meal I am inspired to….

– Create food experiences for others that they can reminisce about
– Learn new cooking techniques; to make garlic confit and preserved lemons
– Cook with new ingredients like squid and salash cured ham
– Look to other cultures for ideas on how to combine ingredients in meaningful ways
– Not go out to eat for the sake of going out to eat.  Rather support local, independent restaurants that are committed to using organic and locally sourced ingredients.

Finally, I’m inspired to make this meal for guests this week.  They have not yet been invited but they are in for a real treat!

2 thoughts on “A Taste of Inspiration

  1. I love this! I just made a confit for the first time (cherry tomato) for my “bruschetta bar.” It was delicious! I learned about rocket the hard way when I was trying to make a salmon dill pasta recipe and couldn’t find “rocket” anywhere. I just left it out, and then later someone told me it was arugula. Oops! 🙂

    1. Too funny Katie… When I returned home I kept putting ‘what is rocket’ into Google and all I was getting was actual information about space rockets. Finally I changed my search terms a bit and it pulled up arugula. Salmon dill pasta sounds tasty!

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