Wednesday, July 12, 2017

An Unexpected Celebrity Couple

  • Ronzoni's Garden Delight Veggie Tricolor Penne Rigate, cooked al dente with a little sea salt in the water
  • Chipotle black bean burger
  • Sautéed:
    • Kale
    • Swiss chard
    • Tomatoes
    • Olive oil
    • Sea salt
    • Garlic
  • Garnish:
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Bronze fennel leaves
The pumpkin seeds and bronze fennel leaves were the unexpected celebrity couple in this dish. I added the fennel to compliment the spice of the black bean burger. I find that the warmth of the fennel calms my palette. I added the pumpkin seeds because I thought their crunch would hit it off with the pasta. I first had nuts in pasta in a pesto pasta dish, in which the chef added slivered almonds. I didn't know I had been waiting for a crunch with my pasta until it was right in front of me. Even though the pumpkin seeds got along well with the pasta, and the fennel liked the burger, it was the pumpkin seeds and the fennel that sent sparks flying. Their flavors blended as if they were the same ingredient. The more neutral pumpkin seeds were brought to life by the fennel leaves, as if finishing the sentence that the pumpkin seeds started. A match made in heaven.

What was it about the flavor profiles of these two ingredients that made them pair so well together? I did some research. In an in-depth explanation of staple kitchen spices and their uses, a website called "Adventures in Spice" explains that fennel is used in curry powder, which supports my instinct to pair it with the spicy black bean burger. It also combines well with garlic and tomatoes, further connecting it with other ingredients in my dish. What about pumpkin though? Interestingly, although fennel isn't linked with pumpkin, anise is. "Adventures in Spice" writes that fennel is "reminiscent of anise but sweeter and less pungent." Anise and fennel both taste like licorice and have a warm flavor. It makes sense to me, then, that fennel would also pair well with pumpkin. The more you know! 

Overall, this was a really tasty meal. Each bite was different, thus avoiding what people at work describe as "palette fatigue." It's difficult to figure out how to feature all the flavors individually and together. I've found that if I layer the ingredients in the dish instead of mixing them, I can mix and match them with each bite. This provides me with a more varied eating experience. Yum!