This elegant vegetarian appetizer was inspired by a more elaborate version we enjoyed at Alma** in Lisbon. The combination of flavors and textures is very nice. The sweetness of the carrots goes well with the tartness of the goat cheese and the nuttiness of the pistachios. The creamy goat cheese is a nice contrast to the different bites of the bulgur, pistachios, carrots, and crispy carrot tops. Sous vide retains the flavor and texture of the carrots better than blanching.
8 baby carrots (reserve carrot tops for garnish)
110 grams (1/2 cup) bulgur
250 ml (1 cup) homemade vegetable stock (or water)
20 grams (2 Tbsp) shelled pistachios
150 grams (5 oz) goat cheese, preferably French and unpasteurized
high quality extra virgin olive oil
oil for deep frying
Allow the goat cheese to come to room temperature.
Pick 8 nice baby carrots and peel them. Leave about 1 centimeter (1/2 inch) of the green on top and discard the rest. Reserve 4 nice-looking sprigs to deep fry for garnish.
Season the carrots with salt and vacuum seal them. Cook sous vide for 90 minutes at 85C/185F.
Toast the pistachios for 8 minutes in the oven preheated to 180C/350F to make them more crunchy and bring out their flavor. Allow them to cool.
The flavor of the bulgur can be enhanced by soaking them in homemade vegetable stock instead of water. You can use the peels of the carrots for that, in addition to chopped onion and celery. Allow the vegetables to simmer for half an hour in water and then sieve the stock, pressing down on the solids with a spoon to get out as much liquid as possible.
To prepare the bulgur, bring the stock (or water) to the boil. Then turn off the heat, add bulgur, and some salt. Cover and allow to soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
Check after 10 minutes whether the bulgur is cooked and whether all the liquid has been absorbed (if not, drain using a sieve).
Add some of your best extra virgin olive oil to the bulgur and season to taste with salt if needed. The bulgur will be served lukewarm.
Heat about half a litre (2 cups) of frying oil to 180C/350F in a wok.
Deep fry nice looking carrot tops until they are crispy. Allow them to drain on paper towels and season with salt.
Arrange the bulgur, carrots, pistachios, goat cheese, and carrot tops on plates, and serve. If you like you could drizzle with some more extra virgin olive oil.
The goat cheese is the defining component in this dish to pair with the wine. A wonderful combination is with Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé, or another elegant (not too fruity) Sauvignon Blanc. A more hefty Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand would overpower the elegant flavors of this dish.
Another example of a great looking and delicious appetizer with only a few ingredients and short preparation is sea scallops with parsnip puree.