I have, in my grubby little hands, a copy of the just-published Vesta Dipping Grill cookbook, 151 pages of recipes (including chef Matt Selby's fifty dipping sauces), hot food porn, biographies of Selby and owners Josh and Jen Wolkon (who also run Steuben's) and a section on the "Vesta Vibe," which includes lines like, "When staff members and purveyors walk through Vesta's flaming back door and into the kitchen, they are often greeted with an uproarious cheer that can't help but elicit a smile. It takes an even more joyous greeting on Fridays, when the kitchen staff is in its Jimmy Buffet attire."
Self-published by Selby and Wolkon, the cookbook took a year and a half from inception to completion, an experience that Selby says was full of highs -- and a few lows. "It was great to reminisce with Josh about our opening days, while being able to see how far we've come with both Vesta and Steuben's, and it was great to have an outlet that celebrates our staff and gives recognition to our owners and managers," notes Selby.
But the food photo shoot, which took place over a mere two days, and was a collaboration between Selby and former executive chef Wade Kirwan, wasn't easy. "Wade and I did every single food picture in the book, and it was very demanding work that, quite frankly, two experienced cooks just weren't ready for, although when I look at the pictures now, it makes me much more proud of the book."
Selby's favorite recipe in the cookbook is the Korean barbecue-cured foie gras with nori caramel, coconut rice fritters, green papaya salad and Korean pear dressing. "That dish really speaks to my signature style -- and the Vesta style," says Selby, adding that it's "worldly, eclectic and grounded in technique." And if the recipes looks difficult in print, Selby insists that they're much simpler than they sound. But if you want to a dish that's a bit more accessible, Selby recommends the shrimp and scallop ceviche, which we've reprinted on the following page. "It's cut-and-dry and super, super easy," promises Selby.
The cookbook, which retails for $29.95, is available at the Tattered Cover LoDo, The Perfect Petal, Decade, The Truffle, Cook Street School of Fine Cooking, Boulder Bookstore and Peppercorn, also in Boulder, and, of course, Vesta and Steuben's. You can also purchase it online at www.vestagrill.com.
"Of all the authentic dishes I've enjoyed in Mexico, this is the one I crave the most," says Selby. "I like the addition of a red cocktail-type sauce to this otherwise classic ceviche. Throw in fresh lime juice and avocado, and the only thing missing is the beach."
The recipe calls for fresh-fried tortilla chips, but if you're in a pinch, high-quality packaged tortilla chips will do.
Shrimp and Bay Scallop Ceviche with fresh avocado and tortilla chips
How to Make the Tortilla Chips
1. Buy a bag of fresh corn tortillas, and cut them into one-eighth portions. 2. Heat about 3 quarts of vegetable oil in a large saucepan until it reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer. 3. In small batches, drop tortilla pieces into the oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Use tongs to separate the chips as they fry. 4. Fry chips for about 2 minutes, and place the chips in a bowl lined with paper towels. 5. Sprinkle chips with salt and toss. 6. Repeat the process until all of the chips have been fried.
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1/4 pound 71-90 size shrimp, peeled and deveined 1/4 pound small bay scallops 11 limes 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon sugar 1/2 cup ketchup Juice of 1 orange 1 tablespoon diced white onion 2 teaspoons freshly grated horseradish 1 1/2 teaspoons minced cilantro 1 1/2 teaspoons minced parsley 1 1/2 teaspoons Mexican hot sauce 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 3 slices fresh avocado, chopped Tortilla chips, for serving
1. Place the shrimp and scallops in separate bowls. Juice 10 of the limes and divide the juice between the bowls; toss to mix. Add 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar to each bowl and stir. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 2. Juice the remaining lime and add the juice to a large bowl. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoons salt and and the remaining ingredients and whisk. 3. Strain the shrimp and scallops and discard the liquid. Toss the shrimp and scallops with the sauce. 4. Arrange avocado over the ceviche and serve with tortilla chips.