Nut-laced butters and sauces and crispy tortilla strips are just a few of the texture and flavor enhancements chefs use at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
“Incorporating different textures creates a well-rounded dish,” says Joseph Burdi, executive chef of nuCuisine, the Sodexo foodservice program on campus.
One common technique is basting fish with melted butter, ground almonds and fresh rosemary as it sautés in the pan. “When the fish is plated, it has a sauce and a toasted nut crust,” says Burdi.
Another way to add a pleasing mouthfeel and flavor is with pesto sauces made with nuts. Burdi suggests mixing a pesto of chunky almonds, fresh ginger, cilantro and sesame oil to lend contrasting crunch and bright flavor to Asian noodles.
Tortillas become crispy, tasty salad garnishes when they are brushed with cardamom-flavored butter or extra virgin olive oil infused with oregano and garlic, cut into strips and baked.
As an alternative to the standard three-step breading for fish (flour, eggwash and bread crumbs), Burdi suggest a topping of flavored compound butter. Mix softened butter with chopped almonds and spices, roll it out in thin sheets that match the size of the fish fillet and freeze it. Just before serving a piece of cooked fish, top it with a frozen butter portion and flash-melt it under the salamander. “You end up with a fantastic crust and flavor,” Burdi says.
Menu Sampler: Northwestern University Dining
- Cuban Black Beans simmered with onion, garlic, green pepper and cumin
- Farro Salad with Garden Vegetables: crunchy heirloom farro wheat with crisp carrots, red peppers, tomatoes and fresh basil with red wine vinaigrette
- Peruvian Beef & Potato Stew with jalapeno peppers, tomatoes and cilantro