Citizens! I am currently ensconced in a rather unique hotel in the small city of Ludwigshafen am Rhein in mid-Southern Germany. I’m here because on Monday I will be giving an important presentation at BASF, the world’s largest chemical company!
The hotel I am staying at is actually OWNED by BASF – and if you’re visiting Ludwigshafen am Rhein, you’re assuredly visiting BASF. Much like Armonk, NY and IBM, this is a company town – no question about it! So, in honor of all this, I shall present my recipe for German ‘Liquid Olives’, which uses molecular gastronomy / chemistry to completely change the olive eating experience!
So, molecular gastronomy is a conflicted topic for the traditionalist who alone is TFD – I do love the unique dishes it produces, but they are science-based and extremely precise. Much like baking, which is also a tough one for me due to its precision and necessary adherence to instructions – I cook by ‘feel’, not science. However, we are on a mission today and shall persevere!
As eruditely noted on molecularrecipes.com:
Cocktails in ice spheres. Caviar made of olive oil. Disappearing transparent raviolis. Sound cool? Well these are all examples of Molecular Gastronomy. Molecular Gastronomy blends physics and chemistry to transform the tastes and textures of food. The result? New and innovative dining experiences.
The term Molecular Gastronomy is commonly used to describe a style of cuisine in which chefs explore culinary possibilities by borrowing tools from the science lab and ingredients from the food industry. Formally, the term molecular gastronomy refers to the scientific discipline that studies the physical and chemical processes that occur while cooking.
Molecular gastronomy seeks to investigate and explain the chemical reasons behind the transformation of ingredients, as well as the social, artistic and technical components of culinary and gastronomic phenomena.
This particular molecular gastronomy recipe is a legendary creation of super-chef Ferran Adria of the legendary and now sadly-closed ‘el bulli’ restaurant in Northern Spain. Created back in 2005, this may in fact be one of the OG (original gangsta for those in need of translation) molecular gastronomy recipes! It is also one of the easiest to make, as it doesn’t require crazy-expensive chemicals or equipment.
These spherical ‘olives’ are based on green olive juice, using a technique called ‘reverse spherification’ to make these deceptive amuse-bouche.
For those expecting Mediterranean flavors, they will be shocked not just at the burst of unexpected liquid in their mouths, but also at the equally unexpected Germanic flavors of dill, chervil, caraway and white peppercorns in my version of the recipe. Yes, this recipe is just one giant ‘psych-out’ – FYI, the recipe I based mine on is from molecularrecipes.com. These would be delicious and unique served with my similarly-flavored gravlax on an appetizer plate of renown!
To make this (as well as any other molecular gastronomy recipe), you’re going to need several items, one of which you should have regardless for use in ‘regular’ cooking. I speak of a super-accurate digital scale – measurements in molecular gastronomy need to be precise and are typically by weight for better accuracy. This is my preferred choice of scale.
Next, you’re going to need the proper chemicals – this kit will serve you well. Lastly, a ‘superbag’ will make straining a breeze in this recipe and any other – buy one here. A 5 ml (1 tsp.) round measuring spoon is needed to shape the olives – this is a good one.
BASF may be the chemical company whose science and chemistry prowess powers our modern world, but molecular gastronomy is just as much of a science, in its own way. I hope you enjoy these, Citizens – and wish me luck in my presentation!
Battle on – the Generalissimo