The heart and soul of a restaurant are the chefs in the kitchen and the dishes they have carefully crafted. Each recipe has their own unique story and is therefore selected for a reason. Chef Joe and his team use classic cooking techniques but often use international ingredients to infuse a global flair. Each semester, different items on the menu originate from different places across the globe. Some of these locations include Italy, France, Africa, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Thailand etc. Dishes featured in our new cookbook such as the Soba Noodle with Sesame Vinaigrette, Greek Meatballs with Tzatziki, and African Peanut Soup create enticing flavors and food combinations that allow conversation to be created and enjoyed communally. Often the side dishes bring interesting global flavors and textures as well, such as the green peppercorn chutney, black forbidden rice, golden farro pilaf etc. When combined with traditional fine-dining items such as duck breast, salmon or filet mignon, it opens a door for a new and eye-opening tasting experience for our guests.
Other Vita Nova recipes featured in our cookbook include regional American recipes as well, such as the Maryland Style Crab cakes and the Vermont Maple Bread Pudding. A mix of classic and global is what Vita Nova is known for and we continue to research and find interesting ingredients and recipes to delight our guests.
Vita Nova Signature Salad
This salad has been a signature staple on the Vita Nova Menu since Vita Nova opened in 1996. The founding chair or the department, Paul Wise, wanted something “exotic” for a house salad. Originally the salad was made with Passion Fruit Vinaigrette. Passion fruit was too hard to come by and the puree proved to be extremely expensive. We compromised with Mandarin Oranges and Tangerine Vinaigrette. To this day it is one of the most popular items on the menu.
The delicious combination of dried coconut, jicama (a root vegetable), mandarin oranges, Asiago Cheese and caramelized walnuts is a wonderful burst of flavors and perfectly complement the tangerine vinaigrette.
The tangerine vinaigrette is made by first combining red wine vinegar, tangerine juice, Dijon mustard, finely diced onion and chopped fresh parsley and basil in a food processor, then slowly add canola and walnut oil to the mixture.
Pecan crusted Chilean Seabass
The Pecan crusted Chilean Seabass was one of our best sellers in the late 90’ies, where the Sea Bass was a favorite among restaurant chefs. The natural high fat content gives this flaky white cold water fish a rich, moist and tender flavor profile. After some years of not being on the sustainable seafood watch due to overfishing, the Chilean Seabass population is now back stronger than ever. Vita Nova select all our fish based on recommendation from the Marine Stewardship Council and groups like them to make sure we serve food that is sustainable.
We start by combining raw pecans, flour, salt and pepper in a food processor and make sure not to over process so the final dish has a nice crunch and texture. Then, we coat the Sea bass filets in the mixture, brown the filets on high heat for about 2 ½ minutes on each side and bake it in the oven on 375 F for about 10-12 minutes.
The beurre blanc sauce is made a la minute and is made by heating white wine, minced shallots and lemon juice to a simmer, then taking it off the heat and adding cold cubes of butter two at the time until it has been incorporated. Finally we seasoned with fresh parsley, salt and pepper before serving.
Vita Nova has served crème brûlée since we opened in 1996. One year we tried to remove it but that was NOT well received among our customers let alone students…So, we brought it back and it is now a staple on the weekly lunch buffet. It is rich with silky vanilla flavors, a thin crunchy coating of caramelized sugar on top, all while still somehow remaining gluten free.
The first crème brûlée recipe is in a cookbook from 1691 and dates back to Trinity College in Cambridge, England. It was referred to as “burnt cream” where the sugar was melted on top with a branding iron whereas we use a torch in modern days.
Crustless Pear and Almond Tart
The popular crustless pear and almond tart was first served at Vita Nova in 2004. This delicious moist, cake-like tart is easy to make, and always a crowd pleaser.
We start by pulsing almonds and sugar until coarsely chopped. Then, we add flour, ground spices and salt to the almond mixture and stir to combine. In a separate bowl we mix the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and melted butter. We then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and pour the mixture into a non-stick baking pan. The final step is to fan thin slices of pears over the batter and press lightly before sprinkling remaining sugar and butter pieces on top. The crustless pear tart is baked for about 40 minutes until puffy and browned at 300 ‘F.
Our pastry instructor, Debbie Ellingsworth began using the crustless pear almond tart recipe in the Food Principles lab, which is the first lab that introduces students to the Vita Nova kitchen. She chose it because it is an almost mistake proof recipe that looks great and tastes great as well. One interesting thing about the recipe is that its main ingredient is almonds, not flour like most cakes. Also, unlike most cakes, it contains no baking powder or baking soda. To make the cake, the batter is poured into a pan, the pears are placed on top, and after 40 minutes in the oven, it has evolved into a cake.
The students of the Hospitality in Business program at the University of Delaware share their experiences at Vita Nova