Transmuting Exhaustion into Inspired Cuisine

– or –
A Bunch of Radishes, a Fistful of Cilantro, a Cup of Yogurt, and Candied Bacon

As the old adage goes, the recipe for culinary creativity starts with an exhausting, non-food-related workday commencing with a 6 a.m. conference call followed by a roller-coaster ride of back-to-back meetings and client work.

Okay, I lied.  There is no adage that goes like that.  But Tuesday began as such, and proceeded forward, winding down into the evening with all likelihood of me passing out on the couch with our Boxer while my wife went to her evening class.  Instead, despite my exhaustion, or possibly because of a slight delirium caused by it, inspiration unexpectedly struck.

I had been winding down, perusing recipes in the Edible Seattle cookbook for a potential dish to make over the weekend, and then moving on to an article in Bon Appétit’s March issue about René Redzepi, chef of Noma in Copenhagen, when the seeds of two dishes – one side and one desert – grabbed a hold of my imagination and my taste buds and refused to let go.

With creativity imparting a new round of energy, I was roused off the couch into the kitchen, where I began to clean up the mess we’d left from lunch – the spattered remains of a homemade red sauce that was the basis for chilaquiles (of which the recipe, incidentally, was in the March Bon Appétit) all over the counter and stove.  And as I cleaned, the seeds of ideas blossomed into full-fledged recipes.

I had a handful of radishes and several limes leftover from lunch, as well as a bunch of cilantro – why not use these as a basis for radish ceviche?  A healthy side dish that would be great on a warm (hell, any) day, packed with vitamin C and other nutrients.

Better yet, what about the possibilities of frozen yogurt?  Would not, I posited to myself, rosemary honey frozen yogurt be a good thing?  After all, rosemary was growing on my balcony, I had a container of plain Greek yogurt in the refrigerator, and a jar of fireweed honey in the cupboard.  It just needed a topping, something sweet and savory and spicy and salty wrapped in one, a decadent, heart-clogging topping, like, oh, say, spicy candied bacon!

So, while Nory lazed in the early evening stillness to a soundtrack of crows and rustling leaves, I pulled out an assortment of produce purchased recently from the Phinney Farmer’s Market and Pike’s Place Market, as well as some other locally sourced items, a few not-so-local ingredients, and began creating two original recipes in my own test kitchen.


Radish Ceviche

1 bunch red radishes, cleaned and trimmed
2 spring onions
½ tsp. salt
1 fistful of cilantro
2 limes

Halve radishes lengthwise, then cut into thin slices.  Place into a medium bowl.  Trim roots and tops of spring onions, then slice green and white stem and bulb thinly.  Place into bowl.  Add salt and stir, then set aside.  Remove cilantro stems from leaves and discard.  Finely chop leaves, add to bowl, and mix.  Cut limes in half, juicing, and add juice to mixture, stirring until everything is coated in lime juice.  Refrigerate for several hours to allow flavors to develop, radishes to mellow, and rich red color to develop.


Rosemary Honey Frozen Yogurt w/ Spicy Candied Bacon

For the yogurt:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 sprig rosemary
2 tsp. fireweed honey (or your favorite honey)

For the bacon:
3 slices thick-cut bacon
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Make the frozen yogurt first.  Remove rosemary leaves from stem and discard stem.  Finely chop rosemary and, in a bowl or freezer-proof container, add to yogurt, along with honey.  Stir until mixed, cover with foil, parchment paper, or other lid, and place in freezer.  Allow to fully freeze (several hours), making sure to periodically stir the yogurt as it freezes.

Then make the candied bacon.  Preheat oven (or toaster oven) to 350 degrees.  Mix bacon, sugar, and cayenne pepper in a bowl to coat bacon.  Lay bacon strips out on a wire rack over a baking sheet.  Pat excess spiced sugar onto top of bacon.  Cook for about 20 minutes and then remove from oven.  Change oven setting to broil, flip bacon over on tray, and return to oven.  Broil for about 5 minutes until bacon is crispy and sugar is caramelized.  Remove from over and set aside to cool.

For additional heart-clogging candy goodness, remove the rack and back to another baking sheet and scrape up the warm bacon-caramel candy droppings from the original sheet.  Place these onto a plate to cool.

Once yogurt is ready, scoop into serving bowls and place diced candied bacon on top, along with bacon-caramel bits and serve.

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