Eating foie gras is an absolutely absurdity. Not because presumably it’s not the duck’s preferred practice, but rather, the unadulterated luxury involved. Foie gras is, frankly, entirely unaffordable; selling it seared atop a burger comprised of a proprietary blend of aged, ground meats, is, especially now, pretty wrong.
But it is what it is. Even wronger is the Martha Stewart approach: do-it-yourself projects that require impossible amounts of time, as well as proximity to some pretty well-stocked craft stores. And even if you find the time to try out those pinecones-turned-wedding-invitations, or self-baked wedding cakes, they’re gonna look like crap without the true time factor: hours upon hours of practice.
Mark Bittman and Alfred Portale have captured the most honest, least condescending philosophy for crafting the good out of the not much: limit the number of ingredients and tools involved, while offering ways to boost the dish should you possess increased resources of time, energy, and money.
But here I think we’ve gone a step further: creative uses of the stuff you’d usually dump in the garbage. Like orange rinds. Wine makers use grape skins, but they also have fields in Sonoma and picnic tables lit just so by the fading sun. Anything best eaten canned (save, perhaps, for a tiny seasonal window), seems a logical starting point. Hence the tomato.
Tomatoes are strange, like an inverse grapefruit: we like the pulp and not the juice. For our tomato sauce, we shake off a bit of the liquid, and when we use fresh tomatoes, we usually give them a little squeeze. Often, recipes call for pre-salting over a colander to drain off the clear juice. Tomato water can be labeled a frequently discarded, or at the very least, disrespected, feature of the fruit (vegetable?).
But tomato water has the pleasant color of a mildly red sunset (back to the vineyard), and is redolent of, well, a fresh tomato. The issue is what to do, and to my mind, when encountered with general throwaways, you enter the land of the cocktail, where everything is masked anyhow. In the case of tomato water, it’s mild enough to stand as your drink’s primary ingredient.
Orange rinds are a different story. They’re nice in a dish, savory and sweet, as carefully-applied zest, but a giant piece of rind? Usually it’s candied, but back to the cocktail. Here I recalled faintly Jean-Georges recipe for orange dust-candied, dried, oven blackened, and powdered rind. It’s fragrant, and a nice counterbalance to the subtle tomato water.
It sounds obnoxious to talk about tomato water and orange dust, but these recipes require zero skill, and only a few ingredients. The only lengthy part is waiting for the tomato water to turn slushy in the freezer. Far easier than turning out lopsided cakes or invitations covered in spilt glue.
(NOTE: Not being a mixologist, I left the alcohol amounts to taste. As for the orange dust, those things turn black pretty quick. I mean super quick, so keep an eye out. However, even if they’re a bit dark, the stuff is still useful.)
Tomato Water Cocktail w/ Orange Dust
Makes enough water for a lot of drinks
3 large tomatoes
1 tablespoon salt
Orange Dust (see below)
- Core the tomatoes, quarter, and puree with the salt in a blender or food processor. Pour into a large measuring cup.
- Cut a large double-thickness of cheesecloth, about 18-inches square. Lay on a board or table and pour into the center. You’ll probably need to do this in two batches.
- Tie the ends together tightly around a wooden spoon and set over a deep bowl or pot to drain for at least 6 hours, making sure the bottom doesn’t rest in the liquid.
- Strain the tomato water through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and place in freezer until slushy texture, scraping with a fork occasionally.
- When ready to serve, remove water and whisk until pourable. Measure out desired amount and stir in vodka to taste, about ¼ cup per drink. Roll rims of glasses to coat lightly in the dust, pour in drink and serve.
Orange Dust (from J.G. Vongerichten)
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon canola oil
- Peel oranges, scraping away pith. Preheat oven to 350.
- Place peels in small pot with 1 cup water and the sugar. Boil until syrupy, about 15 minutes. Drain.
- Line a tray with foil, spread oil over it, scatter peels so they don’t touch.
- Bake until dry but not brown, let cool at room temperature. (see NOTE).
- Grind to a powder in a coffee grinder.