Are you ready to channel your inner molecular gastronomist? If you’re like me, you’re always fascinated when Wylie Dufresne makes an appearance on a cooking reality show and encourages the contestants to use things like liquid nitrogen and syringes to prepare their dishes. I was delighted when the folks at Uncommon Goods offered to send me Cuisine R-Evolution’s molecular gastronomy kit so I could try techniques like gelification and spherification myself. Sadly, no canister of liquid nitrogen was included.
I decided to start with something simple – making pearls of balsamic vinegar to use in place of salad dressing. Since I had just posted a recipe for Roasted Squash and Pomegranate Seed Salad, it occurred to me that you could replace the seeds with “caviar” made from pomegranate balsamic vinegar and skip the dressing altogether. These pearls give a burst of flavor and a nice pop when you bite into them and are the perfect topping for a salad if you are trying to reduce the amount of oil and fat in your life.
I’ll be trying out some of the other molecular gastronomy techniques in the future, most likely when my nephews or my son-in-law (who is a chemical engineer) are visiting. Stay tuned.
If you are looking for a Christmas gift for a budding scientist or chef, this kit makes a great one. Everyone loves playing with their food! Check out other gift options at Uncommon Goods. I love supporting this company because of the way they champion artists and designers. Half of what they sell is made by hand and about a third is created from recycled materials. If you aren’t familiar with Uncommon Goods, they have some great personalized gifts as well.
Here are a few more notes specifically about the molecular gastronomy kit:
- The kits contains packets of agar agar, calcium lactate, sodium alginate, soy lecithin and xanthan gum plus a box of tools. The tools include a syringe, tubing and pipettes. The kit also features an instruction booklet and a DVD containing 50 video recipes. Here’s the video recipe for the balsamic vinegar pearls. (I just realized they use the syringe in the video, but say to use the pipette in the recipe booklet. No wonder my pearls were smaller than theirs!)
- I like that nutritional information for all of the ingredients was included.
- One negative for this particular technique is that you’re left with a giant glass of used olive oil to dispose of. I strained it and put it back in the freezer to use the next time I make the pearls. We’ll see how that works out.
- For your pearls to be perfectly round, the oil needs to be cold and you need to use a tall glass. The gelification process occurs while the drops move from the top of the glass to the bottom, so the more distance you have, the faster the pearls will cool.
I’m already looking forward to playing with my food some more!
Disclaimer: I received a free Molecular Gastronomy kit from Uncommon Goods. All opinions are my own.
Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar Pearls
Adapted from Cuisine R-Evolution Recipe Booklet
1 sachet (2g) agar agar powder
3/4 cup pomegranate balsamic vinegar (or any other type of balsamic)
Fill a tall glass with olive oil and place into freezer for 30 minutes.
In a small saucepan, combine agar agar and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Pour mixture into small bowl.
Remove glass of olive oil from freezer. Fill a second glass of similar size with water.
Fill a pipette with the vinegar mixture and slowly drip the mixture into the cold olive oil. Stir to separate pearls. Use a slotted spoon to move the pearls from the oil to the glass of water. Stir to rinse. Remove from water, drain and use on desired dish.
Makes 4 servings
Per serving: 27 calories, 1g fat (0g sat), 0mg cholesterol, 1mg sodium, 7g carb, 0g fiber, 6g sugar, 0g protein