David Kinch: Strawberry Gazpacho

Manresa, 320 Village Lane (just off North Santa Cruz Avenue), Los Gatos, CA 95030
408.354.4330

No, I have no lost my mind and added diced bell pepper and cucumber to strawberry gelato. But I am mad enough about gazpacho to eat it in any form. And if there were ever a season for strawberries, now would be it. Until the real gazpacho season comes along, the strawberry version will do very well.

Two particularly generous friends treated my sister to a birthday dinner at Manresa in Los Gatos. Manresa is one of the relatively few restaurants in the United States to receive two Michelin stars — for what that’s worth. These diners reported that they had an excellent four-course dinner, among which were two amuse-bouches. The first was a soft-boiled egg yolk at the bottom of an empty egg shell, topped with sherry-vinegar whipped cream, chives, maple syrup, and salt. You can find a version of that recipe here. The strawberry gazpacho was the second amuse-bouche. Clearly, David Kinch, the chef, is a chemist. This recipe defies logic, I suppose, only if you don’t understand the chemical reactions of incompatible ingredients, which I certainly don’t. So, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

This recipe is dead simple:

1 pound, 4 ounces strawberries, hulled and lightly crushed

4 ounces white onions, thinly sliced

4 ounces red bell peppers, thinly sliced

5 ounces cucumber, peeled, seeded, thinly sliced

1 half clove garlic, crushed

1/4 cup tarragon leaves

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish:

Strawberries, hulled and finely diced

Chives, finely minced

Red bell pepper, finely diced

English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced

1-2 tablespoons almond oil

Chervil sprigs (if you can find them)

Put first 8 ingredients in a bowl; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, puree the ingredients in a blender and season with salt and pepper. Thin with water if too thick. Allow to chill thoroughly before serving.

To garnish, mix together all the minced vegetables and fruit with almond oil. Mound in the center of a soup plate; top with chervil sprigs.

Shadowcook: The only observation I would contribute to this recipe is that it is easy to overdo the garnish. The garnish only exists for crunch, although the almond oil is a nice touch. You’ll appreciate the silky smooth texture of the gazpacho if you remember that less is more.

Update: watch the salt.

Up-update: David Kinch’s recipe is posted online. He provided it to a TV show in which he appeared. Google it, if you feel the need to check me.

Los Gatos, CA: Dio Deka

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310 E. Main Street, CA,  http://www.diodeka.com/ (408) 354-7700

Greek food consists either of roasted meats or the baked dishes and stews that comprise home cooking. Fine dining and Greek food seem like a contradiction, because most people, I believe, associate the food of Ελλασ with comfort and casual eating — as well they should. The grilled fish and chops of the tavernas I’ve eaten in over the years stand out in my memory as some of the best food ever, but partly because of the geniality of the typical atmosphere in which Greek people prefer to eat.

When a friend of mine, Emily, and I drove down to Los Gatos recently to take an old friend and colleague to lunch, Greek food seemed a fitting choice for two Byzantinists and a step-child of Byzantine Studies (myself). I had my doubts about Dio Deka, to begin with. In the end, the convenience of a restaurant close to the assisted living center where George lives worked in our favor.

The restaurant is in a spa-hotel. Its dining room resembled most non-descript expensive hotel restaurants — light browns, dark wood beams, white walls. Nothing in its anodyne decor to indicate any national allegiance. None of the staff seemed to be Greek or speak Greek, although the three of us suspected that the servers had been given a crash course in Greek phonetics.

We each had a plate of soup and chose from a list of small plates (mezedhes). Astakos Avgolemono was a silky smooth egg yolk and lemon soup with a little shredded Maine lobster and very little orzo topped by a foam that the menu identified as a “egg-lemon fumet.” The briny flavor combined pleasantly with the lemon.

I ordered a small plate of Plevrakia, mesquite-grilled babyback pork riblets, infused with nutmeg and ouzo, accompanied by a finely diced pickled quince and pistachio relish. The meat was succulent and came off the bone easily.

The server placed in front of Emily a plate of Loukanika, a round lamb sausage patty with a distinct taste of orange peel lying on top a bed of white beans dressed with thyme-scented honey and sherry vinaigrette. All flavors, except the thyme-flavored honey, stood out.

George had a xoriatiki, a Greek salad, that was piled high in romaine lettuce leaves.

The food was good, not especially fussy, and noticeable for vivid flavorings. And no discernible pools of olive oil on the plate! Dio Deka does not serve food that is remotely traditional.  I noticed moussaka on the menu, but I would be willing to bet that it would be unrecognizable.

Now, if they only found a way to bring kokoretzi into our Slow Food world…