Before I even got to the dishes Anita Lo shares in her first book Cooking Without Borders (Stewart Tabori & Chang, October 3, 2011), a quote and a reflexion shared in her introduction had me sold on her approach to food.
It takes an honest chef to quote 'everything exquisitely delicious is on the verge of putrefaction' aphorism in her press materials.
She does not like waste and writes in her introduction:
'There are times when I visit a greenmarket and overhear a shopper buying a bunch of turnips or beets ask the farmers to discard the tops...All i can think is, what a shame, that was an entire separate meal's worth of vegetables. that's a free side dish with purchase, and it leaves no carbon footprint.'
After that 'Kansha' like observation, Anita Lo also notes that for her 'food isn't really about aspiration; it's about eating, and sharing time with others at the table'.
Here's a slice of 'Cooking Without Borders' a Frenchman could not resist sharing.
Escargots in Potato Cups with Black Truffles and Toasted Pistachios Recipe
Snails are prized as food around the world. All over Europe, from Greek kholi to Spanish caracoles to the well-known French escargots, they are an ordinary protein source. In Africa, some of the largest edible snails are grown. The ancient Romans considered them food fit for the upper classes, and snail shells have even been found on archaeological digs in Texas, proof that the consumption of snails dates to prehistoric times. So how did the diminutive gastropod become so widely shunned in the United States? The majority of our ancestors come from snail-eating countries, and those people grew up just like we did, finding the slimy creatures in gardens. The excuse that Americans are too used to packaged, processed foods won’t wash either—snails come in cans.
Regardless of the provenance of this cultural prejudice, snails are delicious. Mild tasting and earthy, they pick up the flavors of whatever they are cooked with. The spiral-shelled creatures are best known for being doused in butter, garlic, and herbs—à la French brasserie fare. This is not the only way to appreciate them; if anything, that preparation seems like a form of overkill that can easily overpower the feature ingredient. Here, to showcase the snails themselves, I’ve paired them with a chorus of other earthy flavors—heady black truffles full of umami, sweet and toasty pistachios, nutty potatoes, and green herbs. These make fine canapés as well as appetizers. Just don’t tell the fearful what they are. I’m sure they’ll like them if they don’t know.
For the truffle sauce (optional):
⅓ cup Madeira wine
4 cups veal stock (page 232), or 2 cups demi-glace (see Note)
1 black truffle, chopped, plus any juices it comes with
1 tablespoon black-truffle butter
Salt and black pepper
For the garlic chive sauce :
½ cup blanched, shocked, and squeezed dry garlic chive stems,
woody ends removed, or a mixture of 2 parts chives, 2 parts parsley, and 1 part tarragon and thyme leaves
About ½ cup neutral-flavored vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
A few grinds of black pepper
To serve :
20 escargots, rinsed, blanched for 1 minute in boiling salted water
20 baby potatoes such as German butterball, about 1 inch in diameter,
Two ends sliced off, one end hollowed out to form a cup,
blanched in boiling, heavily salted
water until tender
¼ cup black-truffle butter, softened
To serve (CONT’D):
Scant ¼ cup toasted shelled,pistachios, finely chopped
20 garlic chive stems, blanched and shocked, or raw fresh chives, cut into 1-inch lengths
Make the truffle sauce, if desired: Put the wine in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until it is reduced to a syrupy consistency.
Add the stock, lower the heat to medium, and simmer, skimming occasionally, until slightly thickened and well flavored. Add the truffle and its juices and simmer for 5 minutes. Whisk in the truffle butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Make the garlic chive sauce: Put the garlic chives in a blender with just enough oil to cover them and blend until smooth. Pour through a finemesh sieve and add the salt and pepper.
To serve: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place an escargot into each potato cup and pack the remaining space with the truffle butter. Put on a baking sheet and bake until hot and bubbling, about 10 minutes. Top with the pistachios. Decorate warmed serving plates, then top with the escargot filled potatoes. Garnish each with a garlic chive. Serve.
Fusion cooking is not a dirty word.
(* Recipe from Cooking without Borders by Anita Lo in collaboration with Charlotte Druckman, published by Stewart Tabori & Chang on October 3, 2011, photography by Lucy Schaeffer, reprinted with permission, all rights reserved)