Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mixed Food Metaphors

Mixed metaphors drive me crazy. "She can't hold a torch to you." and "It's not rocket surgery" are two of my favorites. "She's not the brightest bulb in the shed." You get the idea.

The only thing that makes me crazier is mixed food metaphors, a.k.a. Fusion Cuisine. I'm talking Kimchi Weiner-schnitzel and Tex-Mex Curry and other culinary crimes committed against the American public.

While I applaud that our collective palate has grown adventurous enough to warrant this sort of experimentation on the part of some pretty talented chefs, most of the time it's more "miss" than "hit" when multiple cuisines are mixed, particulary at the hands of an amateur.

So color-me-skeptical at the idea of "edamame hummus."

Edamame is the staple of sushi bars, and is, in fact, the lowly the soy bean. Boiled in salted water, dusted with sea salt and eaten from the shell like peanuts (to which they are a close relative) at sushi bars all over the world. They are the essence of the flavor element "umame" and are healthy litttle green gems, loaded with protein. And they are darn tasty with a saketini. (Then again, isn't everything?)

Hummus is now so ubiquitous it's almost become an American food. Middle-Eastern in origin, hummus is traditionally made with chick peas. A luscious puree of chick peas, tahini (sesame paste), olive oil and lots of fresh lemon juice, hummus graces menus and kitchen tables all over America. And although many liberties are taken with the word "hummus", you can't just puree a bunch of beans and call it hummus. Hummus means chick peas. Anything else is just bean puree.

So I more than a little curious last evening when confronted with a bowl of green puree and a few pita chips as part of an appetizer we ordered at a local "Asian fusion" lounge owned by a prominent group of Chaldean (Catholic Iraqis) restaurateurs.

After scooping up some of this mystery puree on the chips, I eventually abandoned the chips and just went at it with my chopsticks. It was rich and creamy...I knew right away it was some sort of edamame puree. I passed it to my husband. "Edamame," he said. Yup. It was. It was also sublime.

"Oh my God," I said to the waitress, "this stuff is addictive!"

"Oh, I know! The edamame hummus, it's insane, isn't it??"

Ah, edamame hummus. But of course, it made perfect sense. A Japanese fusion restaurant owned by Chaldeans. Well, if anyone could pull that off, I guess they could!

"Does it have chick peas and edamame?" I asked. No, the waitress informed me, just edamame and olive oil and lemon. Hmmm. As I scooped up the last bits from the bowl with my chopsticks and momentarily contemplated licking the bowl, I decided not to argue the semantics of calling it "hummus".

Instead, I immediately googled some recipes and planned my dinner around some of that lovely green puree.

(Recipe to come.)

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Stop by, bring wine.

Preferably good wine. Food would be good, too.