Tomato Water Spheres with Basil Oil

The big ‘voila!’ moment when working with molecular technique, comes in 2 parts…

1. Wow, I pulled it off ! (Meaning, the science worked)


2.  It tastes good! 

Without both of these end results, molecular gastronomy techniques are useless.

Last night I decided to tackle spherification, again. The first time around I made balsamic caviar, not realizing that with the use of agar, (a tougher jelling agent) actually continued to solidify the longer it sat.  Agar did not give me the consistency of a fluid center like I had hoped, it rendered small jellied beads of balsamic vinegar.  After experimenting with agar, I now know that it could be better used to make noodles, fruit beads, or other solidified gels,  but necessarily the best product for liquid spherification.

To achieve fluid centers, there are 2 ways to do this, one that will hold as a liquid for a few hours before the calcium turns it into a complete gel and the other way, using reverse spherification, which will allow the spheres to hold fluid in the center for a longer period of time (up to a week). I will explain both.

Helpful tools to gather before starting: 

  • Blender or Vita Mix
  • Chinois
  • Cheese cloth
  • Small slotted spoon
  • Syringe
  • Calcium alginate
  • Calcium lactate
  • Gram scale

The Modernist Cuisine Recipe and Method:

Tomato Water: 250 grams

  • 1kg of Tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • Salt to taste
  1. Blend in a vita mix until tomatoes are pulverized.
  2. Strain through cheesecloth in a chinois, repeat if necessary, pulp-free tomato water should result.  Reserve to the side or refrigerate until use.

Tomato Spheres with Basil Oil:

  • 250 g Tomato water
  • 2 g Sodium Alginate
  • 200 g Grapeseed oil
  • 100 g Basil
  • 500 g Water
  • 2.5 g Calcium lactate
  1. In a vitamix blend pour in 250g of tomato water and start power, slowly tap in 2 g of sodium alginate, mix well for about 4 minutes on med-high speed. Press through a chinois or fine sieve, and refrigerate.  After this process, bubbles will be present in the mixture, to remove these let this sit overnight in the fridge or if you have a commercial vacuum sealer, vacuum pack it to quickly remove air for immediate use.
  2. To make the Basil oil, blanch and shock the basil. Combine with 200g of grapeseed oil in a vitamix, blend until homogenized. Press through a sieve, decant basil oil, and reserve in a syringe.
  3. To make the calcium lactate water bath, combine 500g of water and 2.5g of calcium lactate.  Pour water into the vitamix, turn on, then sprinkle calcium lactate into the water a few pinches at a time, blend until completely homogenized.  **Sprinkling in the powders into the liquids will prevent clumping and gelling.
  4. Set up 4 water baths: fill one with calcium lactate solution and fill the three others with cold water.
  • Fill tablespoon with reserved tomato water solution.
  • Tip spoon into calcium lactate bath to gently release contents.
  • Set in bath until membrane has fully formed around tomato sphere, about 30 seconds.
  • Inject approx .1 oz of basil oil into the submerged sphere.
  • Remove sphere from bath with perforated spoon.
  • Repeat procedures with remaining tomato water solution and basil oil.
  • Rinse spheres in each of the three cold water baths.
  • Refrigerate.

Reverse Spherification:

Using reverse spherification will allow you to hold on to the spheres in the refrigerator for a longer period of time, usually up to a week, but no later.
Follow the above instructions but switch Sodium alginate for calcium lactate in instruction line #1,  reserve in the fridge overnight.  For the water bath mixture, sodium alginate will be used instead of calcium lactate. The two molecular altering products are switched.  This allows the same molecular interaction to be achieved, but their hold times are both different.  In the first method, the spheres, if left overnight would solidify completely.  Using the reverse method allows for the spheres to remain liquid up to a few days.

The science behind it:

Spherification relies on a simple gelling reaction between calcium and alginate, a gumlike substance extracted from brown seaweed. The calcium chloride ions cause the long-chain alginate polymers to become cross-linked, forming a gel. Because the sodium alginate/tomato water mixture enters the calcium lactate in the shape of a droplet, the gel forms a bead. The size of the bead can vary dramatically, making it possible to create jelly-shelled equivalents of everything from caviar to gnocchi and ravioli.

For a visual experience and better understanding of spherification, follow along with Ferran Adria, Jose Andres, and Mark Bittman in the following video:


Harvard to host Ferran Adrià and José Andrés again!

El Bulli proprietor Ferran Adrià in his kitchen. Photograph: Samuel Aranda/Getty Images

Until now, I never grew up really idolizing anyone.

Of all the types of cooking and cuisine in the world, the style of cooking that excites me most and sends shock waves of serotonin roller-coasting around in my brain is that of molecular gastronomy, or to some Modern Cuisine. It is magical, whimsical, exciting and mysterious. To me, there is the art of cooking, and the cooking of art.  Ferran Adria, pictured above, is a founding father of this culinary art form and he prefers to call himself a ‘deconstructivist‘.  In every sense of the word, that is, what he is.  A man of humble beginnings, Ferran is one of the most respected chef’s in the world.

As an 18-year-old trying to save up enough money to vacation with his friends on the island of Ibiza, Spain, he took a job as a dishwasher.  It was here where Ferran was introduced to and trained in French technique and cuisine.  In 1983 at the age of 22,  he applied for a stage at El Bulli in Roses, Catalonia, Spain.  18 months later he was the head chef.

In the later part of the 80’s Ferran began experimenting with new techniques.  In search for something unique and avant garde (afterall, it was the 80’s!), Ferran started playing around with foams, both sweet an savory foams.  Naturally when we think of foams, meringue, mousse, or whipped cream might come to mind.  Ferran took this a step further with natural flavors (such as fruit juices, infusions of aromatic herbs, etc) and mixed with them with neutrally-flavored gelling or stabilizing agent such as agar or lecithin.  Whipping with an  immersion blender or extruded through a whipped cream canister equipped with N2O cartridges, foams can be formed without significant substance, and thus allow cooks to integrate new flavors without changing the physical composition of a dish. Some famous food-foams are foamed espresso, foamed mushroom, foam foie gras, foamed beet and foamed coconut. A thermo whip is commonly used to make these foams through the making of a stock, creating a gel and extruding through the N2O canister.  Pretty cool. 

El Bulli Margarita

A dish called 'Thaw 2005' includes frozen green pine cone powder, wild pine nut milk sorbet and toasted wild pine nut savory praline that has been frozen with liquid nitrogen.

Ferran Adria, is an innovator, a teacher, a perfectionist, and above all, seriously passionate about exploration in the deconstructivist ideal of food.  A chef with such finesse, flavor accuracy, and technique might keep the secrets to his success to himself, but in fact he is the exact opposite.  He wants to teach people and share his experiments.

Ferran’s techniques have been adopted by some of the most renowned chef’s currently in the business.  One of those, Jose Andres, formerly worked for Ferran at El Bulli, is a James Beard award winning chef, and is the owner and innovator of  the restaurants within the Think Food Group.    I have the pleasure to see both Ferran and Jose, in action, together, this Sunday night at the Harvard Science and Cooking Lecture series finale.  For the second year in a row these two will talk about food innovation, ‘deconstructivist’ technique and what is to become of El Bulli,  a new culinary think tank?     I could not be more excited for this event, this is my ringside seat to the culinary Emmy’s. I’ll be sure to share my experience next week!

View Last year’s lecture here: Science and Cooking: A Dialogue | Lecture 1 (2010)

Want to channel your inner Ferran? Try out this ‘on the easy side’ recipe  Slow Cooked Salmon with Roasted Garlic green oil & lemon “air”


  • 4 salmon fillets (about 2 oz. each)
  • 4 oz. roasted garlic green oil
  • 4 tsp. lemon “air”
  • chives, finely chopped, for garnish.

Roasted Garlic Green Oil

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 oz. roasted garlic
  • 6 oz. spinach
  • Salt to taste

Blanch spinach in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then plunge into iced water, squeezing the water completely from the leaves.

In a blender, mix the vegetable oil, spinach and chopped roasted garlic. Puree until smooth. Strain the green oil through cheesecloth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

***If you’d like to take this one step further and introduce spherification into this dish,  puree 6oz of spinach, 1/4 cup of water, and 3 oz of roasted garlic.  Strain through cheese cloth and mix with .5 gram of agar agar power, bring to a quick boil and remove from heat.  Using a kitchen syringe, extract the green water mixture and droplet into a cold cup of olive oil. These little drops will solidify into tiny spheres. Rinse in water and garnish the dish.  For more information on spherification technique, click here

Lemon Air

  • 2 oz. lemon juice
  • 2 oz. water
  • 18 tsp. lecithin

Mix above ingredients in a mixing bowl, then blend with a hand blender until foam forms on the top. Scoop foam off with spoon.

Place salmon on a baking sheet and cook in a 175-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until cooked through (the fish should look opaque, but not white). Do not over cook the salmon.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt.

Place the salmon in the middle of the plate. Drizzle roasted garlic green oil around the salmon and top with lemon air and chives. Serve immediately.

I hope you have fun making this dish!

Thanks for reading,

xo!- G


I have never in my life been so excited to read a book!  If Mr. Booker from my 2nd, 3rd, AND 4th grade “special”  reading class could only see me now!   Last night was a version of Christmas morning and I channeled my inner 7-year-old self as I ripped through the many MANY layers and careful packaging that this beauty came in.   It sorta went something like this: 

Okay those kids are a little crazy… let’s just say I was excited.

Since I started following Ferran Adria and Heston Blumenthal, I began to learn about a book that was being created solely in the realm of modernist food.  To learn what Modernist food is, you have to know where food, since quite literally, the beginning of time, came from. Molecular Gastronomy is defined as : A style of cooking in which scientific methods and equipments are used. This type of cooking examines, and makes use of, the physical and chemical reactions that occur during cooking. The term was coined in part by French chemist Hervé This…Examples of molecular gastronomy include cooking sous vide, flash-freezing with liquid nitrogen, and making foams and froths with lecithin and a whipped-cream canister (source).

Hearing of this book instantly intrigued me!  However the price deflated my bubble rather quickly, almost $800 for the series!  Within days the first printing was sold out, probably a blessing in disguise at the time, as I was just starting school and developing my passion for the MG field. 6 months later it is finally here!!  I’ve got about 3000 pages to get through, and I have never been so excited to learn about something in my whole life! There will be A LOT of blogging along the way.  To get my feet wet, I’ve laid out a few things I plan to try this weekend:

On deck:

  • Tomato Caviar (spherification technique)  using agar agar.
  • Bacon Powder!  using Tapioca Maltodextrine
  • Loaded baked potato gnocchi, made with ricotta, bacon powder, sour cream, flour, potato and chive.  Thinking I might try to pair it with a peppery white wine cheddar sauce.  (No MG here- just the use of the Bacon Powder!)
  • Jellied celery root and parsnip puree cubes, could be weird, or delightfully tasty.
Hopefully I don’t run into too many problems trying to find these products, but just in case I have a bountiful cart filling up.  MG tests are sure to break the bank!

Ferran Adria is a f***king badass

Brash of me to use such a title, I know, but there is no better way to put it.   The guy is a genius,  an innovator, a master at his craft,  and at the top of his game.   Over the weekend I had the pleasure  of viewing of El Bulli: Cooking in Progress at the Museum of Fine Art.  I’ve been fascinated with the world of molecular gastronomy for some time now, and as I plan to embark on a few experiments of my own, this documentary came to Boston at the perfect time.

It was fascinating, inspiring, and helped me realize that my true passion is… food-like-this.




Few chefs are cooking like this, and those who are; Grant Achatz, Jose Andreas, Homaro Cantu (LCB Grad!), Wylie Dufresne, and Heston Blumenthal (just to name a few)  are offering foodies a magical experience, one that envelops all the senses;  sight, smell, taste, touch, and in some cases sound.


As I become more intrigued with MG, I am anxiously awaiting my copy of the Modernist Cuisine, set to arrive this Thursday.  It has been a long awaited collection and I cannot wait to spend hours reading, scanning, and bookmarking future ideas and projects.  I will first be dabbling in series of spherification techniques: tomato caviar with a deconstructed play on a classic wedge salad, and a strawberry caviar with a nod to strawberry shortcake.  Blogs to follow, so check back!

To learn more about Molecular Gastronomy, a great article can be found here:  The basics of Molecular Gastronomy