You know how on the Food TV show “Chopped,” several experienced chefs try to quickly prepare delicious, innovative dishes using surprise ingredients? I wanted to do something similar and find out what a top Boulder chef could do with a surprise batch of Ciolo products. So last week, I showed up at Pizzeria Basta with 5 items for owner/chef Kelly Whitaker to taste and create with.
Basta (it means “enough” in Italian) is much more than a Pizzeria and Kelly Whitaker is more than just a good, local cook He’s a smart, talented and highly creative, often praised chef who never ceases to surprise us with his blend of old-world, wood-fired cookery, and modernist cuisine techniques. The only cooking methods Kelly has at his restaurant are his wood fired oven, a hot plate to heat water for house-made mozzarella and a sous vide set up for his amazing, slow cooked/then browned meats.
On the day I arrived we had under 2 hours to prep and taste some creations using:
Green Olive Tapenade
Lemon Artichoke Tapenade
Jalapeno Pecan Pesto
Moroccan Delight (whose real name is Muhammara)
Truffled Ricotta Dip
Slices of squash ready for grilling & filling.
It’s hard to pick a favorite but I think the one that surprised & delighted me most was the preparation using the Truffled Ricotta. Kelly thinly sliced some summer squash lengthwise. He brushed the slices with olive oil, sprinkled with a little salt and put them in a hot grill pan to soften and add color. Then he spread each slice with a thin layer of Truffled Ricotta, topped that with a few basil leaves, rolled up the squash and plated them with a sprinkle of more chopped basil. Tasty, easy and very festive looking.
Kelly then used the Green Olive Tapenade, one of my favorites, in a grilled Romaine salad that could easily be served for lunch. The big surprise here is the addition of a 6 minute egg.
At 6 minutes, the egg white is fully set but the yolk is still soft. You can shell the eggs and place them in a warm water bath while you prep the rest of the dish, which couldn’t be easier. Kelly split a long head of Romaine and placed each piece face down in hot, grill pan (I’d just use my barbecue grill). He let them cook until slightly softened and nicely browned, then he dressed them with some lemon, olive oil and the green olive tapenade. After placing the slightly warm egg on the plate, he cut them in half so that the soft yolk mixed with the salad dressing. Kelly added a few croutons, a little more olive mixture, and voila. A beautiful luncheon salad or elegant first course at dinner. Something you can easily do at home.
His other dishes were Oysters baked with Lemon Artichoke Tapenade, Mussels served in a lemony broth, accompanied by Moroccan Delight-topped crostini, and a simple pizza with Jalapeno Pecan Pesto and goat cheese. We can do all of these at home using the same Ciolo products!