A Typical (and Atypical!) Culinary Taste Testing Week in Tree House Kitchen

Close-up of two glass measuring cups containing edible foams—a green one created with arugula, and a pink one created with watermelon.

Another week of recipe taste-testing in Tree House Kitchen explores full-flavoured appetizers.

Taste-testing foams created with arugula, watermelon and soy lecithin is an engaging full-senses experience! We paired these foams (photo above) with shellfish for a combination truly reminiscent of the churning sea.

We had a fun week at the office, taste-testing the final Tree House Kitchen menu for our Global Appetizers and Amuse Bouche, Tapas, and Small Tastes—Winter Style class!* We also suggested wine pairings for students’ at-home culinary taste-testing. (Our wine expert had his work cut out for him!) This demonstration-style class included some hands-on elements, but to not overwhelm students, we did most of the work and taught the recipes in concepts. We’ve included our class notes below so you can see how our brains work at Tree House Kitchen.

We applied the same technique and artistry to a Global Appetizers—Spring/Summer Style class. In it, we dove deep into foundational tastes when testing ideas. Our students developed a systematic understanding of what makes a good appetizer and how the unique elements of GREAT appetizers are pivotal to your at-home creations. We shared many great ideas just in time for winter and holiday entertaining while getting students thinking about next year’s summer patio parties.

Here is the menu for our Global Appetizers and Amuse-Bouche, Tapas, and Small Tastes—Winter Season Style class, broken down into flavour elements:

  • Herbed potato cake slice with basil, Italian parsley, parmesan, smoked gouda and prosciutto: Marinated lamb rack chop “pops” served with eggplant puree, carrot green pesto and a touch of a lamb demi-glace-based sauce.
  • Chicken and chocolate chilli appetizer: Full-flavoured, round and robust! Roasted sweetness of demi-glace onions, delicious bitterness from bittersweet chocolate and a bit of acidity from tomatoes. Gumbo-like!
  • Oysters: Served with a series of garnishes including preserved lemons, modernist fruit and leaf foams, mustard seed caviar with maple and slightly bitter notes with a touch of acidity from vinegar.
  • Arancini two ways: The decadence of risotto-based farm vegetable arancini with vegetable stock is nicely balanced with the saltiness of parmesan and the sweetness of vegetables. Fried in a neutral oil and served with naturally sweet beet and carrot puree. Grain cake balls—including wild black rice, black beans and red and black quinoa—offer earthy, natural sweetness with a touch of bitterness from the black quinoa. We fry these with coconut oil.

We are continually connecting to the earth in some way at Tree House Kitchen. We recently harvested fresh staghorn sumac from the backyard (protected escarpment conservation land). Then, we played with different methods of creating a bright red sumac tea and syrup. Sumac is refreshingly citrusy and, when boiled down, picks up really complex bitter notes that are mmmmm! (Think bracing citrus tea or antioxidants on steroids. Tannic elements of red wine or dark chocolate came to mind.) We may use elements of this to decorate plates, including herbed lamb meatballs with the addition of my Maple Balsamic Elixir or medium-rare lamb rib “pops” with herbed potato cake.

Culinary taste testing resulted in this appetizer, served on a white plate, of herbed potato cake with maple-balsamic lamb meatball and sauce made from lamb and beef demi-glace.

Pictured here is a riff on “meat and potatoes” in an appetizer: decadent herbed potato cake with a maple-balsamic lamb meatball and sauce made from rich lamb and beef demi-glace. For the class, we decided lamb rack pops were a better lesson, but we loved these meatballs!

Finally, here are a few different tests of rice balls (arancini), working with risotto and grains like black quinoa. We were trying to find the perfect stuffing and grains for a nourishing whole foods experience with a golden brown, crisp crust. Mmmmm!

Close-up of a tray of rice balls (arancini) made from risotto and black quinoa.

Ever wonder what inspires chefs? We are sharing tips and techniques triple-tested in Tree House Kitchen for success in your home kitchen. Taste-testing here is unique every week, and we look forward to sharing our fail-safe methods with you.

*Update: We’re so proud of our work in our hands-on teaching and dinner party classes, but we no longer offer classes. We hope you enjoy reading about our past classes, and our new direction as a food literacy company specializing in problem-solving skills and resources for busy families and community members—like you!

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