One of the core tenets of creativity is drawing on a range of influences for wholly new results. This is especially true when it comes to cooking. Creating new flavors comes from combining elements across cuisines. Like No Other — presented by noosa yoghurt — celebrates creative chefs who find inspiration around the world and bring it to life in their food.
At Chef Ryan Pollnow's Basque-inspired San Francisco restaurant Aatxe, you won't hear soft Spanish guitar music gently emanating from the speakers. Instead, Pollnow bumps late '90s hip-hop crowd favorites, and his music choice is a telling signal of the way he approaches food.
"We always say, the music is a little too loud and the lights are a little too low for the quality of the food that's coming out of the kitchen," Pollnow said with a smile. His restaurant is known for its considered yet laid-back take on Basque country fare. "It's a very intriguing juxtaposition, to have that casual atmosphere along with such attention to detail with the final product on the plate," he said.
After a stint working in restaurants in Spain's Basque Country — at the height of Spain's dominance in haute cuisine — Pollnow returned to San Francisco to find that no restaurant captured the spirit of the straightforward yet elegant Basque food he had grown to love. "While living there on a strict budget, I was pretty much limited to pinchos bars and tapas on my day off," Pollnow said.
Pollnow simultaneously draws on Basque influence while making use of California's bounty of spectacular ingredients for this king salmon crudo with pickled grapes, cucumber, and yoghurt ajo blanco. While it might appear to be a dish for only expert chefs, Pollnow says it's easy to replicate. "Traditionally, ajo blanco is a garlic soup that's thickened with bread and olive oil then balanced out with sherry vinegar," he said. "This is the same idea, but we're using the coconut noosa yoghurt as the base for texture."
Ajo Blanco Soup
4 Garlic cloves per person
1 Ounce toasted bread, baguette or country loaf
1/2 Teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/2 Cup cucumber water (reserved liquid from chopped & salted cucumbers stained through a fine sieve)
1/2 Cup almond milk
1/2 Cup coconut noosa yoghurt
4 Tablespoons Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Start by blanching the garlic cloves in four changes of water, starting from cold and bringing to a brief simmer. Chill to room temperature.
Place the blanched garlic, toasted bread, sherry vinegar, cucumber water, almond milk and yoghurt in a blender and puree on high until well incorporated and smooth. Then, with the blender running on a low variable speed, emulsify in the olive oil and season to taste with salt.
Pickled Green Grapes
4 Ounces white wine vinegar
4 Ounces water
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Teaspoons salt
2 Ounces Fino Sherry
Bring the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to a boil. Let the mixture cool, then place it in the refrigerator and let it rest until fully cooled. When the mixture is cool to the touch, add the Fino Sherry and halved grapes. Let rest.
Preparing the King Salmon Crudo and Serving
1 Raw King Salmon filet, cut in quarter inch thick slices
1/2 lemon per serving
Fino Sherry pickled green grapes
Cucumbers, cut in three-quarter inch obliques
Bread crisps (1/8 inch thick sliced baguette brushed with olive oil and toasted in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven)
Scallions, finely sliced on a bias
In the base of appetizer-sized dinner bowl, arrange three to four slices of salmon along one third of the bowl in a half moon shape. Season generously with a squeeze of lemon juice and salt. Next, plate cucumber obliques, pickled grapes, and scallions around the salmon. Then season cucumbers with salt and garnish with bread crisps. Finally, pour two ounces of the chilled ajo blanco soup in the open space of each bowl, and you're ready to eat. Bon appetit — or in Basque, on egin!