I am busy developing recipes for an upcoming dinner party. (I hope the birthday girl isn’t reading this!) Because the theme ingredient is chocolate, I need to incorporate it in some form in every course.
The obvious cold appetizer is salad, featuring my garden produce. This salad dressing is based on a combination of miso and chocolate, which I saw one of the chefs use on an episode of Iron Chef America.
Don’t bother me, I’m watching Iron Chef America!
If you are unfamiliar with the show, here is a quick summary: One Iron Chef (there are five fabulous culinarians who represent the show) and two sous-chefs compete against a challenger and two sous-chefs to create five dishes in one hour’s time. There is a “secret” theme ingredient which is dramatically unveiled, and then the clock starts ticking. (In reality, they have 15 minutes to strategize before cooking begins, but that diminishes the drama of the competition, so it’s not shown.)
The whole thing is based on a popular Japanese television show, Iron Chef, which had a bit of a gothic feel to it. There is a steely, computerized voice counting down (“Five minutes remaining”), a lot of smoke, dramatic lighting, and Vikings-have-landed-and-are-stomping-this-way, bass-heavy music.
Three judges decide a winner based on taste, presentation, and originality. The dishes are supposed to showcase the featured ingredient, not just incorporate them in some random way.
Dishes have included everything from a gorgeous pink, green, and white makizushi (sushi roll), made by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, that was square and looked like a stained glass window, to laser-roasted (?) packing peanuts (the biodegradable ones are made from corn or other starch), and edible paper with a picture printed in food coloring, made by challenging chef Homaro Cantu. Secret theme ingredients have been asparagus, zucchini, and everything in between.
I drool at the few dishes that contain vegetarian components and furiously scribble notes for future inspiration. I whip off quick sketches of their fancy plating and rush online after the shows to research things I’ve never heard of before, like zaatar, argan oil, basteeya, and vadouvan spice.
Thank the gods I can’t gain weight from just watching TV, or I’d be 300 pounds by now!
But I digress…
The end result of my experimentation is a rich, complex dressing with bold flavors of miso and chocolate and an overall sweet-sour mix.
The calendula petals in the photo were there more for beauty than taste, since the dressing’s strong flavors covered their delicate spicy-ness. Visually, they were a perfect match.
2 TBS miso
2 TBS cocoa powder
2 TBS finely minced ginger
1 TBS roasted sesame oil
2 TBS rice vinegar
3 TBS sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water
Mix all ingredients together until well mixed.