Archive for April, 2009

Salmon with Lentils and Mustard Herb Butter for Babies, Moms and Dads

Friday, April 24th, 2009

saumon2fix

I’m on the hunt for recipes that work for both my husband and I and for our almost 9-month-old baby boy. We’re in danger of (or more accurately, firmly entrenched in) an oatmeal and sweet potato rut. Recently he’s gotten very interested in picking up tiny pieces of food and aiming them torward his mouth (he ate a whole pile of steamed zucchini the other day!) Yesterday, another mom at playgroup mentioned that her daughter loves lentils, which sounded like a perfect finger food, so I decided to look for something made with lentils that was simple and not spicy that would also appeal to grownup palates. I found this Gourmet recipe which fits the bill perfectly, with a few minor tweaks. I prepared and served it in two stages: first the lentils and the compound butter, made without salt, with the leeks finely chopped, and with the addition of some carrot for the little man, which he ate up happily, then adding salt, a splash of wine, and preparing the fish for me and dad. Dad is a little iffy on salmon, and he even liked it! I haven’t fed the baby fish yet, but he’ll have a few flakes of the leftover salmon with his lunch today.

Saumon Aux Lentils
Adapted from Shelly Wiseman, Gourmet March 2008

For mustard-herb butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

For lentils
1 cup French green lentils
4 cups water
2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
2 medium carrots, peeled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tbsp white wine
1/2 to 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

For salmon
4 (6-ounce) pieces skinless salmon fillet
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Make mustard-herb butter:
Stir together all ingredients. When you’re ready to cook the salmon, add 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper.

Cook lentils:
Bring lentils, and water to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid, then drain lentils.

While lentils cook, halve leeks, wash thoroughly to remove any sand, then chop fine. Finely dice carrots. Cook leeks and carrots in butter in a heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add lentils with reserved cooking liquid to leeks along with 3 tablespoons mustard-herb butter and cook, stirring, until lentils are heated through and butter is melted. Remove from heat. At this point, baby’s dinner is ready! I served him about 3 tbsp of lentils along with 3 defrosted mashed sweet potato cubes and 1 tbsp of yogurt.

When the baby is asleep, gently reheat the lentils and add lemon juice, wine and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and keep warm, covered.

Sauté salmon:
Pat salmon dry and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (total).

Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sauté salmon, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes total.

Serve salmon, topped with remaining mustard-herb butter, over lentils.

Bao

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

bao-001

This morning I got a wild craving for char siu bao, which are Chinese buns filled with barbecued roast pork and either steamed or baked. The baby and I headed into Chinatown, (where all the bakery ladies were very nice and made him smile), and we bought everything we could possibly want, including a scallion roll (no idea what’s in there), two baked char siu bao and one steamed, plus steamed Chinese sausage and combination bao. We’ll have them for dinner with some bok choi sauteed with ginger, and maybe some bad beers or vinho verde. I can’t wait!

Lemon Tarragon Potato Salad

Monday, April 20th, 2009

lemonypotatosalad1Every spring, there comes a moment, usually near or on the first really warm day, when my potato cravings reorient themselves.  During the colder days, almost dessert-like concoctions of roasted and then mashed sweet potatoes flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, and butter are like cozy turtleneck sweaters you can burrow into.  More elegant preparations of thinly sliced russets layered with cream and Gruyere are the cashmere  cardigans that dress up a simple roast, and creamy purees of Yukon Golds blended with parsnip or celery root are the… hm — silk long underwear? — that make savory braises and stews that much more comforting. 

But just as we’re relieved to put aside our warmer layers and wiggle our toes in the grass, I’m always excited when the thought of waxy, creamy potatoes bathed in a light, tangy, herbal dressing pops suddenly into my head.  

I make many variations of this — it’s good with peeled or unpeeled potatoes, chives, shallot or red onion in place of the scallion, chervil, dill, parsley or basil instead of tarragon, and additions of chopped hard boiled eggs, blanched peas or asparagus or little slices of cornichon.  You can even add mayonnaise or sour cream or a mixture of the two if you want your potato salad to be creamy.  There are two critical things to get right though — one is making sure the potatoes are cooked to precisely the right texture, and the other is adding a  note of acidity to balance out the starch and sweetness of the potatoes.   Here, I’m using mild rice vinegar and lemon juice, along with some grated lemon zest for extra sunshine.

Potatoes can vary widely in size, shape, and texture, and as a result cooking times can be all over the map.  The size and shape variables can be mitigated by either carefully sorting through the bin and choosing potatoes that are as close in size and shape as possible, or by cutting the potatoes in halves, quarters, eighths, etc depending on their size so that all the pieces are approximately the same size, or into slices of the same width.  I don’t like to leave the potatoes whole, however, because I find that the exterior will usually be waterlogged by the time the inside is cooked through, and because the cut surfaces seem to absorb the flavors of the dressing more effectively.   The next step in achieving potato perfection is to carefully babysit your potatoes as they cook, judiciously poking and tasting, and draining them the second the crunch disappears.  At this point, a fork will encounter a small amount of resistance, and the potatoes should hold their shape well. 

This is good with roast chicken, fish, scallop chips, or anything grilled.

2 lbs buttercream, fingerling, or other waxy potatoes cut into either 1/4 inch slices or 3/4 inch-ish chunks
2 scallions, finely chopped
3 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
2 tbsp rice vinegar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt plus salt for cooking water
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Put potates in a medium pot and add cold water to cover plus 1 1/2 inches.   Add a hefty pinch of salt to the water.  Bring to a boil, and continue to boil “rather hard” as Julia says, until one of the largest pieces of potato breaks apart with a fork and loses its crunch when you bite into the center.  Immediately drain and transfer to a bowl.  Sprinkle with rice vinegar and 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.  Add scallions, tarragon, lemon juice and zest and stir to combine.  Drizzle with olive oil and stir again.  Best served slightly warm or at room temperature.

Scallop “Chips”

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

scallopchips

This addictive recipe comes from the Stonewall Kitchen Favorites cookbook.   The authors suggest them as an appetizer but they are great as a main course with lemony potato salad, cold blanched green beans, or as shown with a light salad of pea shoots, goat cheese, and pine nuts and a glass of chilled Torrontes. This is one of those things that you will be compelled to make again and again by peer pressure.

The inspiration for these crisp, savory “chips” came from an episode of the wildly entertaining show Iron Chef America on the TV Food Network. The “secret” ingredient was scallops, and Iron Chef Morimoto thinly sliced them and served them with a dipping sauce. That idea led us to remember how much we love an old New England favorite — deep fried scallops. These scallop chips are a combination of East meets West — very thinly sliced sea scallops are coated in panko breadcrumbs and fried so that they are crisp on the outside and tender inside –and they cook in about 2 minutes! We like making them in a wok because the oil sits at the bottom and none of it splatters.

Serve the scallops as an appetizer with Cocktail Sauce, Garlic Aioli, Asian Dipping Sauce, or lemon and lime wedges.

1 pound sea scallops, tabs removed
About 2 cups safflower or vegetable oil
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
About 2 cups Panko breadcrumbs, or fresh breadcrumbs
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Place the scallops in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes to make them much easier to slice.

In a wok or a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over high heat about 20 seconds. Add the ginger to the oil and let it heat up for about 2 minutes. The oil is hot enough when you drop a tiny bit of panko into it and it sizzles immediately.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the scallops horizontally. You should get 3 to 4 slices from each large scallop. Place the panko in a bowl and lightly coat each slice of scallop with panko on all sides. Place on a plate.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.

Remove the ginger from the oil with a slotted spoon. Cook the scallops in batches in the hot oil. Add enough scallops to fit in a single layer in the pan. Cook for 30 seconds; gently flip them over and cook for another 30 seconds. Drain on paper towels. (If you’re making a double batch and need to keep the scallops warm, place them on an ovenproof plate and place in the oven while you fry the remaining batches; otherwise. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8 [very polite people or 2 lucky bastards. -Ed.]

Bread Porn

Friday, April 17th, 2009

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Apparently, I completely missed the boat on the whole  no-knead bread thing starting back in 2006, in which Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery discovers the holy grail of making boulangerie-quality bread in a home oven and Mark Bittman tells the world about it. In between planning a wedding, buying an apartment, and having our first baby, things were a little zany, but I did have to sulk for a week or so after discovering how clueless I was about this fabulous foodie craze happening right under my very nose.  Fortunately, it didn’t take me too long to throw some bread, salt, and yeast in bowl and risk blowing the handle off my Le Creuset dutch oven, which I am now doing on a more-or-less weekly basis.  I’m still tweaking flour (so far 2 1/2 cups King Arthur bread flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat, dusting agent (what to dust the bread with before it goes into the oven) and cooking time, but I’ve been producing some beautiful and delicious loaves of bread.  I can also report that this bread makes the most brain-meltingly terrific grilled cheese sandwiches with some good cheddar and a nice gentle fry in a pan with some butter. I’m looking forward to Jim Lahey’s new book, My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method with giddy anticipation.

Mini-whisk

Friday, April 17th, 2009

I come from a family of cooks.  We spend a lot of time jawing on the phone about what we ate last night or last week, what we’re making tonight, and what’s the recipe for that German Apple Pancake again?  When one of us cooks in miniwhiskanother’s kitchen, there’s the inevitable rummage in the utensil drawer followed by the incredulous question: “don’t you have a _______?”  Personally, I can’t believe my own flesh and blood survived without tongs for so long, and most recently, my mom helped me up my game with the small-but-mighty mini whisk.  It’s the perfect tool for blending oil into vinegar, or butter into some reduced wine for a pan sauce.   I am not one to spring for random kitchen gizmos (although egg pants are hard to resist), but this is a tool I now use at least three or four times a week.  Thanks, Mom!