Mediterranean Flavors: Garde Manger
This is the last post from this class. I’d like to go over the last station I worked on: garde manger. And also, I have some final comments.
Garde manger is the cold station in the kitchen. In other words, the station that produces the cold salads, cold appetizers (like dips or cold sandwiches), and sometimes also desserts.
In this class, there are a few dishes that come from several stations, like the falafel and the olive trio. The grilled bread comes from the grill station (obviously), and the falafel and the fried olives come from the frying station. For most other dishes, only the grilled bread is from the grill station, and all the other elements come directly from garde manger.
This is the vegetable escabeche. Escabeche is traditionally a pickled meat dish, but here we have a vegetarian/vegan version. We pickle the vegetables, which are generally vegetables that are in season, and also mostly root vegetables because they pickle well. Here we have turnip, carrot, fennel, and some mushroom. I also got to pickle fiddleheads once – which makes this a very Vermont-y dish!
Vegetables with romanesco sauce. Romesco sauce is a tomato-based sauce (served cold) with nuts, vinegar, and some spice element. The vegetables are a selection of whatever we have in the cooler: eggplant, red pepper, carrot, radicchio, scallion, summer squash, zucchini, sometimes tomato, and so on. Also a vegetarian/vegan option.
This one is pretty simple, but simply delicious! Goat cheese stuffed dates, and specially ordered almonds called Marcona almonds.
This is one of my favorites: the ham plate. We have Spain and Italy represented on this plate. The Spanish part is a slice of serrano ham with manchego cheese to go with it, and the Italian part is prosciutto with parmigiano. In the middle, a piece of grilled bead with a tomato-garlic spread. Yum!
Yeah, this is a good one. A trio of spreads, with a beautiful bread basket. Grilled focaccia, pita bread, and crunchy lavash sprinkled with sumac and sesame seed. Plus, hummus, zaalouk, and tapanade. Zaalouk is a tomato and eggplant based sauce from Morocco. Tapenade is made of olives, capers, anchovies, and olive oil. Hummus, as you surely know, is pureed chickpea, sometimes with roasted garlic and tahini (sesame seed puree) and other flavorings added.
In all, a beautiful menu, and one that I enjoyed making. The sauces are delicious, especially when eaten with the various breads. We also had a gluten-free option of papadum, which is a flat crisp made of lentil flour that is toasted. This is also very yummy, and I promptly bought some for my own personal use, and made my own hummus at home – so delicious, and so much better than the store-bought version!
Some other specials made by the other students in my class:
The specials were all from different regions that we researched, and tasted good. One thing I really like about Mediterranean food is that is contains lots of different spice mixtures, which gives dishes a warm, deep, complex flavor. Plus, many dishes are naturally vegetarian or vegan, and usually very fresh.
I learned so much in this class, not only about Mediterranean food and cooking styles and techniques, but also about the importance of attention to detail, hard work, proper cleaning and maintenance of equipment, and importance of properly handling and storing food (so that it doesn’t go bad as quickly). This class was the toughest so far at NECI, and I definitely struggled with fatigue throughout the three weeks. It’s hard getting home late (11pm) and then getting up in the morning, only to return to class at 12:30pm. There wasn’t a lot of time for me to relax, or do my homework. Being in class from 12:30pm to 10pm is exhausting.
However, I am glad for the experience. I experienced the hot line for about seven days, and learned about deep-frying and grilling in news ways. I am certainly inspired to deep-fry some foods on a small scale, like making fingerling potato chips or tempura vegetables, maybe even calamari at some point. Or those delicious chickpea fries.
Next class: Catering and Banquets!