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May, 2010

Guest Chef Matthew Silverman

By Dennis Linden

Here’s a great appetizer for a Cinco de Mayo celebration that could easily be the star of the entire menu
.

Chef Matthew Silverman

Created by Chef Matthew Silverman, chef-owner of Vintner Grill in Las Vegas, this easy to prepare finger food will definitely receive eye-widening approval from your guests with the very first taste. However, judging from my own serving experience, the recipe’s measurements may make 12 mini tostadas to serve three each to a party of four, but it will also leave your guests clamoring for more! Since my own taste test was presented on a large platter, I simply doubled the recipe and then made sure that a main course was ready to serve just as the last mini tostada disappeared quickly off the hors d'oeuvre tray. Otherwise, I think my guests would have been content to graze on these delectable little morsels the whole evening!

One important tip that is specifically mentioned by Chef Matthew in his instructions should not be overlooked; that is, definitely check the heat content of the chiles being used for this recipe before preparation. Factors influencing the heat of a fresh chile include the time of year, growing temperature, hours of sunlight, as well as moisture and soil chemistry during the growing process. By these criteria, the Serrano chiles that I used in my first batch of the tuna mixture must have been grown during the sunless winter months in Alaska as there was really no heat to them at all! This appetizer really depends upon some spiciness to play off the sweetness of the mango vinaigrette. I tried the dish again using a new delivery of fresh chiles from my local grocer that did have some heat to them and it really made a world of difference to the overall taste experience. Lesson learned – always taste test chiles before using.

Considering the very short list of simple ingredients that make up the two components of the recipe – the mango vinaigrette and the tuna mixture – the diversity of flavors contained on these small, crispy rounds are quite extraordinary. The tuna and beans offer a unique texture that I would never have thought to pair, yet the combination works perfectly in a comfort food sort of way. The hint of chipotle that blends with the mango dressing was yet another very pleasant flavor surprise. Interestingly, all my guests commented that the taste of each ingredient was discernable while, at the same time, each mini tostada had a singular flavor cohesiveness that was unique and simply delicious. A nice unexpected residual ingredient that came out of this recipe was the leftover mango vinaigrette. Do not hesitate to double or even triple Chef Matthew’s recipe for this dressing to incorporate into other dishes. I used the vinaigrette on a cold baby spinach salad the next day and also drizzled some of this tasty dressing over seared sea scallops later in the same week. Stored in an airtight container and refrigerated, the dressing held up well for a week and did not separate. It may last longer, but not in my kitchen! Thank you, chef, for the vinaigrette that just kept on giving!

Matthew Silverman’s career is as diverse as it is interesting, especially considering that he is only 31 years old. Prior to becoming a chef, Matthew was a musical prodigy. At the age of 17, he graduated from high school in Southern California where he had studied music and already performed several times with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. At 18, Matthew followed his passion for food and moved to Las Vegas to enroll in the Community College of Southern Nevada’s culinary program. He actually began his career working as a dishwasher in one of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants. His culinary talents were soon discovered and Matthew quickly moved up the ranks in the restaurant. In fact, Chef Matthew was the youngest chef ever to be named Executive Chef within the Wolfgang Puck organization. During his tenure, he presided over the opening and managing of nine different restaurants across the country. When he tired of traveling, Chef Matthew landed a position as Executive Chef for the Las Vegas based Road Runner Restaurants group. He played an integral role in launching the company’s next two restaurant concepts, Agave Comida y Tequila and Vintner Grill. These eateries quickly made their mark in the very competitive Las Vegas culinary scene for both cuisine and cutting edge décor.

Always looking for new culinary opportunities, in 2009 Chef Matthew formed a partnership with restaurant specialist Thomas Bensel called Verve Hospitality Group. As part of the high-end shopping complex in Danville, California, the company took on and recently opened a three-restaurant project -- an upscale wine lounge specializing in small plates, a contemporary Mexican restaurant, and a casually elegant Southern European bistro. With future restaurants already in the works and frequent travel between Las Vegas and the San Francisco Bay Area, Chef Matthew Silverman remains committed to providing great food in settings designed to support a total dining experience.

Spicy Tuna Mini Tostada
Spicy Tuna Mini Tostada
Yield: 12 mini tostadas, serves 4 (3 each)

Ingredients
Mango Vinaigrette
:
½ cup Fresh Organic Mango (Puréed)
1 oz. Water
1 oz. Rice Wine Vinegar
1 oz. Lime Juice
1/3 cup Olive Oil Kosher salt (to taste)
Granulated sugar (to taste)

Tuna Mixture
6 oz. Fresh Ahi Tuna, diced into small cubes
2 oz. Black Beans (cooked)
1 Tbsp. Serrano chile (chopped)
1 tsp. Chipotle chile (chopped)
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 oz. Lime Juice Salt (to taste)
Black Pepper (to taste)
1 oz. Cilantro (fine chopped)
12 Crispy Tortilla chips (round cut)

Preparation
Mango Vinaigrette:

In a bowl combine mango purée, water, rice vinegar. Slowly whisk in the oil until all is combined. Season with salt and sugar. Tuna Mixture: Make sure that you taste the chiles to determine how spicy they are and adjust the amount based on heat content that can vary with field factors. Do not mix the ingredients until ready to serve, as lime juice will start to cook the fish immediately. Combine all ingredients, except cilantro, and mix thoroughly.

Plating
Place tuna mixture on top of each chip, mix a little vinaigrette in cilantro, top tuna mixture with cilantro and drizzle a little of the remaining vinaigrette over finished chip. Serve three per person on a small rectangular plate.