Color my palate- Color my plate!

The Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge preserves colors that are said to be only one of a kind on the planet. Colors like ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow, tyrian purple, dragon’s blood even sound vibrant! To think of it, preserving colors in the age of the computers sounds just strange to me. We can print out a sheet of this color any minute, but yet, we chose to preserve it in a jar, shelved in a guarded museum.

What is interesting to me is why we have not chosen to preserve colors in foods. It is a known fact that the brighter the color, more variant it is, the more appetizing the food is. While we give a lot of attention to techniques and flavors, we give very little attention to methods of preserving colors of ingredients and spices while cooking it. Cooking is a lot about visuals, while we say don’t overcook a piece of meat, we give reference to the pink-ness of the meat inside, or we blanche vegetables to make them look brighter.

Experimenting with colors, I realized I loved to process my own pigments and have been using the same in various desserts, cakes and other dishes. They are mostly red (beets, so wonderful!), but its always fun to play with betalin, carotene and chlorophyll!

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Inspired by water colors, I tried create a similar effect using red pigments extracted from beets and slowly infusing them into orange sugar syrup made with rock candy. Plated on this painting is gulab juman. The one on the top of the pyramid is laced with desiccated coconut and edged with fragrant rose petals. This dessert is.. relaxing! The aromas!

For the recipe, I have beet ravioli with egg yolk in the centre, finished with sage and garlic butter. This is the perfect palette to prove my point!

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Drawing my inspiration from this image I clicked while on my morning jog, I think the canvas- the plate in my case- reflects the same amount of warmth and sunshine.

Here is the recipe: (serves 2)

For the pasta dough:

  • 1/3 cup AP flour
  • 1/3 cup semolina
  • 1 egg yolk
  • a pinch of salt
  • a few drops of beet juice (grate, squeeze and pass through a sieve)

Combine the dry ingredients on a board or on your counter and form a well in the centre to place the egg yolk and the few drops of beet juice. Start combining. The dough will come together slowly, and you can add a few drops of water or beet juice (for a deeper colour)to bring it all together. Wrap with cling film and let sit for a couple of hours.

Once ready, get your pot of salted water on the stove.

Unwrap the dough and form balls the size of tiny limes. Roll out each one, dip your finger in water and run it along the perimeter, place the egg yolk in the centre, and cover it gently, GENTLY, with another round piece of rolled dough. Use a fork to seal the ravioli by pressing along the perimeter, GENTLY. Slowly slide it into the boiling pot of water and wait till it floats up- should take about 3-4 mins, not more, else you would end up over cooking the egg.

For the sage-garlic butter:

  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • a few sage leaves
  • 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic
  • pepper and salt
  • ~2 teaspoons of the water you cooked the ravioli in

Start heating the butter in a pan and wait for it bubble and slightly brown. Once it gets the nutty smell, add the garlic and sage. Keep stirring till the sage is crispy and do not let the garlic turn brown. Take it off the heat and pepper, salt and the pasta water.

To serve, plate the ravioli and drizzle the sauce on the top. You could even toss the ravioli in the sauce for more flavour. Garnish with a crispy sage, parmesan optional.

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