Salt of the Earth
Want to try your hand at a little molecular gastronomy? Here's your chance — a gel made from dashi, a type of stock used in Japanese cooking, adorns the salad's perimeter. Use your favorite types of tomatoes — green, sungold, and red cherry tomatoes, or whatever you wish. This dish is a popular starter at Salt of the Earth, located in Pittsburgh.
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**Note: Ultratex 3 is a type of thickener made from tapioca starch and can be purchased most easily online.
Combine 4 1/4 cups dashi with the agar-agar and sugar in a pot and blend over high heat. Bring to a boil. Pour into a baking dish and let cool in the refrigerator until firm, for 2-3 hours. Once set, blend the gel in a blender with some of the remaining dashi, adding liquid until the texture is similar to ketchup.
Heat a small nonstick pan over medium-high heat, and coat lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle the cheese in an even layer over the bottom of the pan and reduce the heat slightly. Once melted and lightly browned, flip with a rubber spatula and toast briefly, about 10 seconds. Remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool and crisp. Store in an airtight container.
In a pot, gently warm the milk without boiling. While still warm, pour into a blender on low speed and add the Parmesan. Once the Parmesan is incorporated, add the Ultratex. Increase the speed to maximum for a minute or so, until the Ultratex is incorporated. The liquid will seem thin when warm, but when it cools, it will take on a thicker consistency.
Blend the soy sauce, yuzu juice, sweet soy sauce, xanthan gum, and rice vinegar in a blender on high speed. Slowly add the oil while the blender is running. Set aside.
In a bowl, toss the tomatoes with the soy vinaigrette and transfer to a plate. Garnish with the herb flowers, and spoon the dashi gel and Parmesan pudding around the salad. Arrange the Parmesan crisps in between the tomatoes. Serve immediately.