"Cucumber, Anjou pear, green apple"

This dish was visually inspired by a photo I saw on Instagram by the ever-talented Karlo Evaristo, where he pairs cucumber and green apple with lobster, celery, and an avocado puree. I wanted to do a riff on the dish focusing on the fresh components rather than rich ingredients such as lobster. The result, although taking visual inspiration, is one of the first dishes that I feel I've had a significant hand in designing the recipe for. Elegant cucumber ribbons are combined with pears and super-tart pickled green apple in a light, fresh cucumber broth. It's a great appetizer or first course.

Pickling the green apple was a total experiment, and a successful one. The pickling super-amplifies their tartness, and on their own they're borderline overpowering. However, when taken with the other components of the dish, you'd be shocked how much they mellow out and complement the other flavors.

I used a celery root (celeriac) puree mostly because I had some leftover from making my pork chop with celeriac puree dish earlier in the week. It does not add a huge amount of flavor on its own to the dish, and is almost as much a textural and visual element. You could experiment with a wide range of purees here; an avocado puree like the one from ChefSteps might work brilliantly.

Finally, I found that a pinch of fresh coarsely-ground black pepper really brought this dish alive, but the black can be a bit off-putting with the rest of the dish. If I had white pepper, I would have used it and I recommend it here.

Ingredients

1 cucumber

1 Anjou pear

Dill fronds, for garnish

Finishing salt such as Maldon

Freshly-ground white or black pepper

For the pickled green apple:

1 Granny Smith apple

1 cup water

3/4 cup champagne vinegar

1 1/2 tsp sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

For the celeriac puree:

1 celery root

1/2 white onion

1 1/4 cup water

1 cup milk

2 tsp lemon juice

For the cucumber broth:

1 cucumber

1 tsp lime juice

Cilantro for 2 tsp minced

For the citrus oil:

1 satsuma orange

1/4 cup canola oil

Directions

  1. Dice the pear into small dice, and set aside.
  2. Prepare the cucumber ribbons: Remove the skin from the cucumber with a vegetable peeler. Then make ribbons by running the peeler down the length of the cucumber, stopping when you get to the inner seeds. Transfer the ribbons to a plate, season with a pinch of salt, and set aside.
  3. Prepare the pickled green apple: Core and dice the apple into small dice. Prepare the pickling liquid by bringing the water, champagne vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil, then pour over the apple chunks and refrigerate at least 1 hour or ideally overnight.
  4. Prepare the celeriac puree: peel the hard outer layer of the celery root and dice into 1-inch cubes. Dice the onion into very rough quarters. Place both in a small pot on medium heat, add the water and milk, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the celery root is tender. Keep an eye on the milk to make sure it doesn't boil over.
  5. When the celery root is tender, transfer contents of the pot to a blender, add the lemon juice, and blend very thoroughly until smooth. Optionally strain for even smoother puree, then transfer to a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until needed.
  6. Prepare the citrus oil: Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the satsuma, carefully avoiding the pith, and finely mince it for maximum zest yield. Simmer the zest with the oil on low heat in a small pot for 10-15 minutes, then strain and transfer to a small squeeze bottle; set aside.
  7. Prepare the cucumber broth: Peel the cucumber, then cut it in half and use a spoon to remove and discard the inner seeds. Dice the cucumber, mince the cilantro leaves, and transfer to a blender with the lime juice and a pinch of salt. Blend thoroughly until smooth, then strain through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
  8. To plate: Roll 3-4 cucumber ribbons into coils and arrange in a small bowl. Add pieces of the pear and the pickled green apple around the coils (this is much easier with tweezers). Pipe a few dots of celeriac puree around the bowl and in between the chunks. Add a few spoonfuls of the cucumber broth, then finish the broth with a few beads of the citrus oil. Garnish with a small pinch of the finishing salt, the freshly-ground pepper and a few sprigs of dill. Serve immediately.

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