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I was eager to see what the Brothers Ouattara would do with Italian cuisine at Kora, so the wife and I jumped into the ol’ global warming machine on a recent Sunday to try the brunch at this new Crystal City outpost, located in the old Bebo Trattoria space.
Brunch is never my preferred way to sample a chef”s cooking, but I have to say, as far as brunches go, this is a dandy one. It’s three courses for $20, and as for the fare…I’d call it Italian by way of Morou and Amadou Ouattara‘s fertile imaginations.
Or maybe by way of Wolfgang Puck, if you’re talking about Kora’s take on Spago’s famous smoked salmon pizza. The Ouattaras’ version is less glam, as you would expect from a place so far removed from El Lay. It’s not as dense with slices of salmon, it features no caviar, and its crust isn’t as sweet as the honey-drizzled dough Wolfie prefers. Yet all in all, it’s a solid pie, though I do think the Kora pizzamaker could stand to leave the rounds in the oven a few seconds longer.
But the dish that really blew me away was something even further removed from Italian cooking. It was the eggplant gazpacho with “tomato pearls,” a holdover from Morou Ouattara’s previous restaurant, Farrah Olivia. This Spanish import is, in a word, spectacular. I could taste fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, and eggplant, I guess, if I thought about it really hard. But I could taste about a 1,000 other ingredients, too, which made me curious about the recipe.
So I called Morou Ouattara, who graciously agreed to share the recipe for Y&H readers, who can enjoy it at home before summer comes to a close. The tomato pearls may be tricky to make, if only because you have to purchase agar, but I suspect you won’t miss that garnish much if you can’t find the ingredient. This soup packs plenty of flavor by itself.
The recipe follows the jump.
Kora’s Eggplant Gazpacho
6 to 8 People
For the Gazpacho
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 sticks lemongrass
2 lime leaves
2 eggplants, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 gallon water
1/2 sourdough bread, cut and soaked in water
6 tomatoes, chopped
1 medium English cucumbers, peeled and roughly chopped
1 green pepper, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 sticks lemongrass
3 lime leaves
4 tablespoons chopped basil
4 drops of Tabasco or more if desired
salt to taste
sugar to taste
Heat oil in a large saucepan. Saute onion until translucent. Add eggplant and garlic, sauté for 5 minutes. Add lemongrass, lime leaves, curry powder, and water and cook until eggplant is soft. Remove from heat and let chill. When cold, puree eggplant mixture, soaked bread, chopped cucumber, onion, garlic, peppers, lemongrass, lime leaves, basil and vinegar, a small batch at the time. With motor running, slowly add oil in slow steady stream, then blend until fully incorporated and very smooth. Strain through medium-mesh sieve, pressing on solids to extract all liquid. Discard solids. Season to taste with the salt, Tabasco and sugar. Transfer gazpacho to airtight container and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
For the Tomato Caviar
2 cups of cold oil
1 cup tomato juice
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
salt and sugar to taste
1 teaspoon agar
***1 teaspoons agar per cup of mixture
Mix the rosemary, garlic and tomato juice and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain chinois. Take ¼ cup of solution and set aside. Whisk agar in the remaining 3/4 cups of solution. Let sit for 10 minutes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer to a squeeze bottle and drop in cold oil.