A couple of weeks ago I was at home by myself and got bored since I was not cooking dinner for anybody. I had some tomatoes from my garden that I needed to use up before they went bad so I had an idea. If you are a regular reader of this site then you know that recently I have been interested in molecular gastronomy and different ways to play around with food.
When we were in Dallas back in April we went the newly opened Central Market in Grapevine. This store is like a foodie lover’s paradise. I think I have spent more money on food at grocery stores in Dallas than I would have on anything else. This particular store actually has a salt bar where you can pick different kinds and quantities of a vast variety of salt. While I was browsing the aisles I came across agar agar. It is a form of gelatin and I had seen the name thrown around on different blogs that referenced molecular gastronomy.
On this particular night I decided I would make a tomato gelatin or gelee as some would say. I pureed all the tomatoes with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Once pureed I passed the tomatoes through a fine strainer almost to the consistency of tomato water, I then incorporated this with the agar agar and followed the directions on the back of the box. I placed in the fridge overnight to set.
At this point I really had no idea how I was going to incorporate this into a dish. I started thinking of different flavor combinations that go well with tomato and I finally settled on a classic – Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella. I then started thinking of ways to twist the other components and “shape” them to the idea of the tomato gelee’.
For the basil I settled on making a very intense basil oil. I used a whole package of basil bought at the store (about 12oz) since the basil in my garden is purple and just would not work with this dish. I pureed the basil with regular olive oil and let it steep for a day or so then strained the oil to give it a cleaner look.
For the mozzarella I was sort of at a crossroads till I thought of freezing it. I sliced fresh mozzarella into about ¼ inch slices and froze them. Once frozen I chopped them up in a food processor (be warned this is extremely LOUD), after this I added them to a coffee grinder and ground them up to the consistency of crumbs. I placed these spread on a plate and put them back in the freezer till use.
To plate all I did was “try” to cut the tomato gelee into equal size squares about the size of a large marshmallow ( which btw is my next food experiment). I placed three on a plate and topped each off with the frozen mozzarella crumbles and drizzled the basil oil around each.
My wife, Ann, loved them although she was a little hesitant at first. I knew she would , as soon as I pick tomatoes from the garden she immediately starts snacking on them. The only thing I will probably do different next time is dry out some tomato slices and put them through the coffee grinder so I can sprinkle just a tad bit more tomato flavor over the dish. You could also substitute the mozzarella with Feta and the basil oil with a reduced good quality balsamic vinegar.