When I started cooking long, long ago the culinary landscape was very different. There was no food network, Julia was the only celebrity chef, grocery stores sold only four kinds of cheese, and pizza was still “ethnic food”. Around the same time the idea of “Fusion Cooking” started showing up on the pages of the NY Times and “Gourmet “ magazine, and chefs at restaurants I couldn’t afford started experimenting with mixing ingredients and techniques from around the world. Sadly early results were mixed at best… Reindeer Goat Cheese Pizza… Spam Sushi??? I have seen many menu train wrecks in the never ending quest to push the culinary envelope. Truthfully, I’ve been responsible for a few over the years. In my time at The Blue Star we cooked chicken more than 200 different ways… they weren’t all good. Even when fusion did work it was rarely accepted by the critics and to this day it’s a bit of a dirty word in most cooking circles. Often when I hear a foodie use the word in a conversation it gets air quotes around it. And that’s a shame… because it’s never been easier or more fun to fuse your food.
In 1991 the entire Asian food section of The Andover (CT) market consisted of soy sauce and canned water chestnut… that’s it. No one in the 06232 zip code had even heard of cilantro or tomatillos. If I wanted to experiment with authentic Asian or Latin ingredients I was going out of town, maybe out of state. Now when I’m in the mood for Thai Tacos I shop in aisle seven AND aisle nine at the local whole foods. CRAZY…I know… seven and nine… it will never work…it can’t be done… or can it???
Thai Fish Tacos with Cilantro Pesto … that’s right I’m throwing in some Italian technique just to up the “FUSION FACTOR”. Sounds difficult to make at home and any restaurant that would put it on the menu would charge you twenty bucks for tacos. Nothing could be further from the truth… This is a complete and healthy meal made from scratch in less than 30 minutes with ingredients you could probably even find near Andover. Don’t like fish just substitute chicken anywhere the word fish appears.
The idea started last night at one of my interactive cooking parties, I made traditional Italian basil pesto: basil, evoo, garlic, parmesan, and (thanks to Warren) pine nuts…truly one of the great flavors of the world. Someone asked what else they could do with it besides pasta or bruschetta, just brainstorming I suggested spreading a bit of pesto on a warm four tortilla, filling it with grilled garlic chicken, shredded romaine, fresh mozzarella, diced tomatoes, drizzle of balsamic reduction… one sexy chicken taco di Caprese.
Skip forward to tonight… after a very entertaining visit to a huge Asian market http://www.99ranch.com/ over the holiday weekend I am on an Asian kick at home (more on that field trip soon). Pesto technique mixed with Thai inspired flavors stuffed into a taco presentation… dinner is served and fantastic. For the pesto I put cilantro, garlic, ginger and peanuts into the food processor , pureed with just enough coconut milk to make a smooth “pesto” a shot of thai hot sauce, a squeeze of lime, shot of fish sauce (soy works too.) That took about 3 minutes… broiled some swordfish . I had some left over roasted eggplant in the fridge, warmed that up. Warm flower tortilla, fish, eggplant, spoon full of “pesto”, shredded cabbage, chopped peanuts, green onions, a little fresh basil… serve with lime wedges and more hot sauce . Absolutely fantastic. Next time sautéed onions and peppers instead of cabbage= Thai fajitas. Just don’t call it fusion.
Thanks to my sister in law Rebecca Bell Wilson for the fantastic food pictures. http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Rebecca-Bell-Wilson-Photography-and-Social-Media/275837500799 for the fantastic food pictures. This one is completely unrelated to the topic but I just can’t help myself… he’s so damn cute.