Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mozaic in Sarasota: Creative French-Moroccan Cuisine

Tucked into a jazzy two-story space on Sarasota's Main Street, Mozaic features chef Dylan Elhajoui's unique vision, a mix of classical French techniques married with the lush bounty of western Mediterranean produce with the sly exoticism of Moroccan spicing, and stands as one of the more luxurious dinner options in downtown Sarasota. Chef Dylan Elhajoui learned how to cook in his native Fes, Morocco surrounded by a family of chefs and restaurant owners, flavourful foods and fragrances, and bustling markets brimming with fresh produce. He infuses the recipes of his youth with abundant herbs and spices, organic meats, and fresh fish, depending on what can be found in that week's farmers' markets and fishermen's nets. He also dips into cuisines on the other side of the Med, with Provençal flavours, Italian ingredients and techniques that mesh seamlessly with the African foundation. Ever since opening Mozaic a few years ago, Chef Dylan Elhajoui has earned rave reviews from foodies and celebrities alike, including Maria Sharapova who calls his couscous, 'the best'. 

A view from the second floor to the main floor

One of the paintings by local painters on display at Moziac

The results are fragrant, flavourful and fabulous, with dishes such as the Mussels in a Moroccan Chermoula-Scented Lobster Broth, Garbanzo Beans and Garlic Ciabatta, Diver Scallops with rice-lentil medley and lobster lemongrass vinaigrette, Shrimp Risotto with leeks and Meyer lemon oil, and Jasmine Tea Dusted Duck Breast with sour cherry bread pudding and port sauce. Chef Elhajoui and his team also craft delicacies such as Sautéed Escargots and Mushrooms in boursin gougère, with dry Riesling and shallots, Estofado of Boneless Short Ribs and Cannelini beans with anise sausage and dark chocolate, and Wild Mushroom Ravioli with asparagus in a light garlic sherry cream sauce. Guests can conclude meals with one of the house's eclectic desserts, such as the Tangier, a flourless pear-and-walnut cake topped with a dollop of vanilla-bean crème anglaise and toasted-coconut ice cream, but every meal ends with a plate of chilled chocolate truffles, handmade each evening. The interior is vibrant and full of colour with original works of art on the walls available for purchase. Since opening in 2008, Mozaic has consistently earned rave reviews — a place of great distinction, which it maintains to this day.

Our waiter presenting our red wine which we selected for the evening

A glass of full bodied Pinot Noir

Baby Arugula Salad with Chestnut-Cider Vinaigrette withConfit Quince and Tasted Pine Nuts

Roasted Heirloom Yellow Tomato Soup with Boursin Crostini and Chile Oil

Fricassée of Escargot & Mushrooms with White Wine, Fresh Chives and Creme Fraiche

Organic Mesclun Lettuces with Yellow Beets and Candied Walnuts and Roasted Shallot-Tomato Vinaigrette

Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage-Infused Cider sauce with Aged Parmesan and Hazelnuts

Duo of Grilled Prawns and Lightly Smoked Red Trout with Andalouse Sauce and Petit Arugula Salad

Vegetarian Smokey Cabbage Soup with Mushrooms and Navy Beans

Sautéed Mediterranean Bronzino with Butternut Squash Ravioli and Basquaise Piperade

Duck Leg Confit and Pheasant Sausage with Cardamom Stewed Quince and Cherry Bread Pudding

Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Light Porcini Cream, Parmesan, Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

Grilled Atlantic Salmon with Kalamata Red Wine Sauce and Toasted israeli Couscous Pilaf

Roasted Pork Chop and Stewed Prunes with Cannellini Bean Ragout and Apple Cider Brandy Sauce

A side dish of Grilled Merguez Sausage with Harissa

Housemade Truffles as the final sweet touch

Pan-Roasted Chilean Sea Bass and Homemade Tagliatelle Pasta with Tomato Anchoyade Beurre Blanc
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy Chef Dylan Elhajoui

Herb Tagliatelle Pasta
Serves up to 30 people — save extra for future

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cup finely ground semolina
1 tsp salt
1 egg
7 egg yolks
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup mixed herbs roughly chopped: parsley, chives, chervil & lemon balm

Sift the flour, semolina, and salt together onto a work surface into a mound and make a hollow in the middle. In a bowl, mix the eggs, oil and herbs lightly just to break the yolks. Pour the liquid into the hollow. With a fork, mix the flour into the egg mixture gradually from the centre towards the edge until thick pasta begins to form. Using both hands, heap the remaining flour into the paste. If the paste doesn’t absorb all the flour and if it is hard to work the ingredients, add a little cold water. Work the dough with both thumbs and press it into a ball and work in the rest of the flour. Begin kneading by pushing the dough with the heels of your hands and form into a ball again. 

Repeat this kneading process until the dough has a firm but elastic consistency and no longer changes shape when you remove your hands. Wrap the dough in a layer of plastic wrap and let rest for at least 45 minutes. Cut the dough into about 2-ounce pieces and cover with a towel to prevent drying. Working with one piece at a time and flatten the dough to fit between the rollers of a pasta machine set at the widest setting. Roll the strips of dough through the rollers of the machine several times, narrowing the setting each time until a thickness of about 1/16 inch is achieved. Trim the pasta strips if desired into 3-inch-by-6-inch ribbons. Lay the strips on a floured surface or hang on a rack to dry for about 1 hour — dry longer if not used the same day. 

Just before serving, put the pasta sheets into lightly salted boiling water and cook for a few minutes just until the dough is tender to the bite; drain, and roll into some of the beurre blanc — see recipe below — and top with the grilled sea bass.

Anchoyade Beurre Blanc
Serves 6

4 shallots, thinly sliced
3 anchovy fillets smashed into paste
2 ripe tomatoes roasted in a 275°F oven until very soft, about 45 minutes
10 parsley stems
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups dry white wine
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
8 peppercorns
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 lb butter cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste

Put all ingredients, except the cream, butter, salt and pepper, into a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat until almost dry. Strain into another saucepan, pushing the ingredients with a ladle through the strainer/sieve to extract the tomato and anchovy paste. Add the heavy cream and bing to boil. Using a whisk, add butter a couple pieces at a time while whisking continually until all the butter has been blended. Season with salt and cayenne pepper. Keep in a warm place until serving.

Chilean Sea Bass
Serves 4

1 tbsp clarified butter
4 thick pieces of Chilean sea bass, about 9 oz each
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat the clarified butter over high heat in a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the bass. Season the sea bass with salt then sear in the clarified butter until very nicely golden brown on one side, about three to five minutes. Turn the filets over and place the pan into the oven on a lower rack, and roast until fish is done, about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Mozaic serves this dish with asparagus, braised fennel and roasted tomatoes.