| Joe Yonan |
WASHINGTON (WP-BLOOM) — Marcus Samuelsson has a global mind-set, for good reason: Born in Ethiopia, he was adopted in Sweden, trained to cook in Switzerland and Austria, and landed in New York, where he made a splash at the Swedish restaurant Aquavit and ultimately opened Red Rooster, his ode to the roots of American cuisine.
He hasn’t stopped at restaurants, taking his star quality to such shows as “Top Chef Masters” (which he won) and “Chopped” (which he judges), telling his life story in “Yes, Chef” and demystifying the recipes of Scandinavia, Africa and America in cookbooks.
His latest is “Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home,” a celebration of the influences on the kitchen he keeps with his Ethiopian wife, Maya.
I talked with him for a programme at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in the District.
Edited excerpts of that conversation are as follows:
Q: How has your search for identity played into your career and your approach to food?
A: When I was growing up and becoming a chef, the only food that you were told that mattered was French. Pretty quickly you realise, “Well that’s a lie.”
I was committed to great, delicious food, but I also had questions and had nobody to talk to, basically. When I went to Singapore and I ate the street food, where you pay like US$3 for lunch, I’m like, “This food tastes better than the expensive restaurant over there.” But it’s not even recognised.
Then I started to study food. Guess what? Most food that is associated as coming from France came from Africa.
Q: Why did you want to write about your home cooking now?
A: America in 10 years will be more Latin flavored and more Asian-American than ever. This book is a bridge into that.
We’ve been ordering out that food, we’ve been going to restaurants with that food, but we have not started to cook that food, because we don’t have a vocabulary for it.
But it’s delicious, and it’s accessible, and you can order online and you can go to a deli to get those ingredients.
Using miso doesn’t mean you have to cook a Japanese meal, it could actually mean that you rub it on a fish and you grill it and serve it with grits. And it’s delicious.
Only in this country can you do that, and that’s fantastic.
Q: What are the keys to getting people to cook more?
A: I always ask, how many people have high-speed Internet? How many have a newer car than 1985? The majority of people here, right? That means we have more time.
But we don’t value the time to cook, we value it to do other stuff.
So it’s a value proposition to say, “This matters to us.”
If you ask me what show is cool on TV now, I don’t know because my value proposition is food, right?
So if you value watching football for six hours, I can’t argue with that, but maybe watch 45 minutes less and you could cook a little bit.
Recipe for Garam Masala Pumpkin Tart (12 servings) – makes one 10-inch tart
A state dinner for the prime minister of India inspired this tart.
Samuelsson has since updated the recipe, adding a touch of garam masala to the pie crust dough and turning the bits of extra baked dough into a delicious crumble topping.
You’ll need a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
Adapted from “Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home,” with Roy Finamore (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).
For the crust:
One-and-a-half cups flour, plus more as needed
Half teaspoon kosher salt
Half teaspoon garam masala, toasted (see *Note)
Finely grated zest of one lemon
Eight tablespoons (one stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into half-inch pieces
Two to three tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
Four large eggs
Fifteen ounces canned pure pumpkin puree
One cup packed light brown sugar
Two teaspoons garam masala, toasted (see *Note)
Half teaspoon kosher salt
Two tablespoons maple syrup, plus more for optional drizzling
Finely grated zest of two lemons, plus the juice of 1 lemon
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
One teaspoon vanilla extract
One cup half-and-half
One-quarter cup confectioners’ sugar
One-quarter teaspoon garam masala
Sorbet or ice cream (optional)
For the crust: Combine the flour, salt, garam masala and lemon zest in a food processor; pulse once or twice to blend. Add the butter and pulse just until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add two tablespoons of the ice water; pulse just until the dough comes together in a ball. Add some or all the remaining ice water as needed, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Lightly flour a work surface. Turn the dough out onto it; knead it for 15 seconds or so. If the dough seems sticky, work in a little flour. Shape the dough into a smooth disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes and up to three days.
Roll out the dough on the floured surface (re-flour as needed) into a 12.5-inch round, moving the dough as you work to make sure it doesn’t stick.
Transfer it to the tart pan, draping the dough over the edges.
Do not trim; you’ll be baking and using those extra bits of dough to make crumbles. Gently press the dough into the pan and around the sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the unbaked tart shell with aluminum foil (shiny side down) and fill it with pie weights or dried beans/rice. Bake for 18 minutes or until lightly browned, then transfer to the stove top (off the heat). Remove the foil and weight material.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl, then whisk in the pumpkin puree. Gradually add the light brown sugar, then the garam masala, salt, maple syrup, lemon zest, ginger and vanilla extract. Whisk in the half-and-half until thoroughly incorporated.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Place the parbaked tart shell on a baking sheet. Pour the filling into the shell. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the filling is almost set; it should still jiggle just a bit at the center. Transfer the tart (in its pan) to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes before removing the outer ring.
Meanwhile, knock off the excess baked bits of dough and gather them in a bowl. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and garam masala in a separate small bowl. Stir some of the spiced sugar into the bits of dough; use a fork or spatula to create crumbles.
Sift the remaining spiced sugar on top of the tart. To serve, top each slice with some crumbles, and sorbet or ice cream and a drizzle of maple syrup, if desired.
*Note: Toast the garam masala in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for about 30 seconds, or just until fragrant. Cool completely before using.