Posts tagged ‘cookbook challenge’

Pan-Roasted Mussels in Miso Broth


I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I was not always the omnivore I am today. There was a time when only hamburgers and rice were allowed to pass through these lips, and anything collected from the ocean was categorically forbidden. In a stunning example of mind over matter, however, at 20 years old I determined that fish were good for my health and thus I WOULD LIKE THEM. Beginning with steak-y fish like swordfish, tuna, and salmon, I gradually incorporated the entire classification. From there, mollusks made their debut — mussels leading the charge.

The appeal of mussels for me was really their connection to European culture (moules frites…mmm…), the obligatory slice of buttered and toasted bread served alongside, and the endless variety of delicious broths they swam in. My first experience was a tomato based broth laced with white wine, fennel, and plenty of garlic. To this day, it is my favorite preparation. Purists may prefer the simple white wine, garlic, shallots, and creme fraiche version, aka moules marinières. More adventurous souls have probably seen mussels served with curry or, as demonstrated below, miso. These Asian preparations are a wonderful diversion and can truly impress at a dinner party.

While you have to buy and cook your mussels the same day, you can make the base of your broth early, and your dinner party will come together in an astonishing 5 minutes — faster than it takes to toast your baguette! Also, this is a mussels prep that few people have tasted before: Bonus!

A note on mussels: don’t freak out or anything, but it is important to note that mussels can die between their moment of harvesting and when you are ready to cook. Nothing ruins the memory of a good dinner party like a bad shellfish, trust me! To eliminate these evil-doers, throw out any mussels in the bag that have broken or cracked shells. Mussels that are open and do not close tightly when rapped against the side of the sink or a countertop should also be tossed. After cooking, if you have a mussel that still hasn’t opened up in the heat of the pan, chuck it. WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT! Prevent mussels from dying on your watch by keeping them in a mesh bag on a bed of ice in your fridge. Do not suffocate them in a plastic bag, or you’ll end up tossing a ton of them.

Pan-Roasted Bouchot Mussels with Os, from the Momofuku Cookbook
(serves 4)

1/3 cup denjang, or shiro (white) miso
2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
2 Tbs. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 Tbs. sliced scallions (greens and whites)
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4-5 lbs. mussels
1/4 c. grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 c. dry sake (use dry vermouth if you can’t find sake)

Clean the mussels: Put them in a large bowl of cold water and let them sit for a few minutes to purge any grit, then scrub their shells clean of any debris, and rip off the ‘beards’ — the little fuzzy strands sticking out of the side of the shells. Smash together the denjang, sherry vinegar, ginger, sliced scallions, and garlic cloves in a small bowl. Set aside.

Pour the oil into a deep wide pot with a lid that will later comfortable accommodate all the mussels, and set over high heat. After a minute or so, when the oil is hot but not smoking, add the mussels. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the sake. Cover the pot and steam the mussels until they’ve all opened, about 4 minutes.

Remove the lid from the pot, scoot all the mussels to one side, and add the denjang mixture to the liquid in the bottom of the pot. Stir to incorporate it, which should happen rather quickly, then toss the mussels to coat them with the sauce and pan juices.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to four deep bowls. Discard any mussels that did not open. Pour the broth-sauce from the pot over the mussels, and garnish each portion with a heavy dose of black pepper and some of the julienned scallions. Serve at once.

June 9, 2010 at 3:13 pm 3 comments

Back with a Vengeance: Momofuku-style

Hellloooooo, everyone.  I can barely contain myself, I am so happy to be back.  After a year of having my nose in a book, I can finally pull it out and put it to a better purpose: smelling the delicious aromas of caramelized meats, yeasty doughs, and rosy wines.  For my comeback tour, I am resuming the cookbook challenge, and am starting with a fabulous one: The Momofuku Cookbook.

As many of you may have heard, David Chang is the lauded proprietor and chef behind the Momofuku empire of the East Village.  A trip to visit my brother in New York last year included a dinner at Momofuku Ssam, followed by a return to the attached “Milk Bar” for this cake.  The dinner, though, was the highlight.  Ssam is known for several specialities, but none more famous than the pork buns.  From the first bite, we were soulmates.  Wrapped in an airy, tender bun is a slab of slow-roasted pork belly, slathered in salty-sweet hoisin sauce and punctuated with lightly-pickled cucumber slices.  I truly could have eaten 15.  RJ, too, was enamored.  I think his comment was, “you better take notes.”  Unfortunately, I had no clue where to start with making the white, spongy, slightly sticky buns.  I had never attempted anything like them.  But when the Momofuku cookbook came out, I no longer had any excuse.  I rolled up my sleeves and started kneading.

The results?  Incredible.  The buns tasted just as good as those from the restaurant.  Yes, the recipe is labor-intensive.  And, if you’re going for the full experience, you’re going to want to make up some of Ssam’s awesome condiments too.  I pickled some fennel and shiitake mushrooms.  Damn, they make for a good bun.

Momofuku’s Famous Pork Buns

FOR PORK
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 lb skinless boneless pork belly

FOR BUNS
1 1/2 c. warm water at room temp
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. active dry yeast
4 1/2 c. bread flour
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons nonfat dried milk
1 Tbs. kosher salt
Rounded 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 c. rendered pork fat or vegetable shortening at room temp.

For the Pork:
Stir together kosher salt and sugar, and rub all over the pork. Discard excess. Nestle in a shallow dish that fits the meat snugly and cover with plastic wrap. Let brine, chilled, at least 6 hours but no longer than 24.

Heat oven to 450 F. Discard any liquid that accumulated. Put the belly in the oven, fat side up, and cook for 1 hour, basting it with the rendered fat at the halfway point, until it’s an appetizing golden brown. Then turn oven temp down to 250F and cook for another hour until belly is tender (not falling apart but it should feel like a down pillow when firmly poked).
OR: Pour in 1/2 cup broth and 1/2 cup water. Cover tightly with foil and roast until pork is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours at 300 F. Remove foil and increase oven temperature to 450°F, then roast until fat is golden, about 20 minutes more.

Remove pan from oven and transfer belly to a plate. Decant fat and meat juices from the pan and reserve (fat can be used for cooking later, and juices can be used to flavor a sauce). Cool 30 minutes, then chill, wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil, until cold and firm, at least 1 hour.

For the Buns:
Stir together warm water with yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with the dough hook. Add the flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and fat and mix on the lowest speed possible for 8-10 min. The dough should gather together into a neat, not-too-tacky ball on the hook. When it does, lightly oil a medium mixing bowl, put the dough in it, and cover the bowl with a dry kitchen towel. Put it in a warmish place and let rise until the dough doubles in bulk, about 1 hour and 15 min.

Punch down dough, then transfer to a very lightly floured surface and flatten slightly into a disk. Divide the dough in half, then divide each half into 5 equal pieces. Gently roll the pieces into logs, then cut each log into 5 pieces, making 50 pieces total. They should each be the size of a Ping-Pong ball and weigh about 25 grams or just under an ounce. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover the 50 dough balls with a draping of plastic wrap and allow them to rest and rise for 30 min.

Meanwhile, cut out fifty 4x4inch squares of parchment paper. Coat a chopstick with whatever fat you’re using.

Flatten out 1 piece of dough into a 6- by 3-inch oval, lightly dusting surface, your hands, and rolling pin with flour. Pat oval between your palms to remove excess flour, then fold in half crosswise over the greased chopstick (do not pinch). Withdraw the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and put the bun on a square of parchment paper. Stick it back under the plastic wrap (or a dry kitchen towel) and form the rest of the buns. Make more buns with remaining dough, then let stand, loosely covered, until slightly risen, about 30-45 minutes.

Set a large steamer rack inside skillet (or wok) and add enough water to reach within 1/2 inch of bottom of rack, then bring to a boil. Carefully place 5 to 7 buns (still on parchment paper) in steamer rack (do not let buns touch). Cover tightly and steam over high heat until buns are puffed and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer buns to a plate with tongs, then discard wax paper and wrap buns in kitchen towels (not terry cloth) to keep warm. Steam remaining buns in batches, adding boiling-hot water to skillet as needed. Use buns immediately (reheat in steamer for a minute or so if necessary) or allow to cool completely, then seal in plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to a few months. Reheat frozen buns in a stovetop steamer for 2-3 minutes, until puffy, soft, and warmed all the way through.

Return buns (still wrapped in towels) to steamer rack in skillet and keep warm (off heat), covered.

TO SERVE:
Slice pork thickly against the grain. Reheat in 350 degree oven or in skillet until warmed all the way through and tender/jiggly (about 20 min in oven or 5 min in skillet). If you have any pork juices, warm them in the same container.

Brush bottom half of each warmed bun with hoisin sauce, then sandwich with 1 or 2 pork slices and some accoutrements: fresh scallions, sriracha, or the below:

Pickled Fennel
Cut a fennel bulb or two in half from root to stalk. Cut out the core, and cut the halves in half (along the same axis as before). Slice the fennel into thin strips, less than 1/8 in thick. Combine 1 cup of piping hot tap water, 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, 6 Tbs. sugar, and 2 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, stir to dissolve sugar. Place the fennel in a quart size container, and pour the liquid mixture over the fennel. Cover and refrigerate. Tastes best after a couple of days, but can be used immediately.

Soy Sauce Pickled Shiitakes
Steep 4 loosely packed cups of dried shiitake mushrooms (about 1/3 oz) in boiling water until softened, about 15 min. Lift the shiitakes from the steeping water, trip off and discard any stems, and cut caps int 1/8 in. thick slices. Reserve 2 cups of the steeping liquid and pass it through a fine-mesh strainer to remove grit and debris.
Combine the reserved steeping liquid, 1 c. sugar, 1 c. light soy sauce, 1 c. sherry vinegar, two 3-inch knobs of peeled fresh ginger and sliced shiitakes in a saucepan. Turn the heat to medium, bring to a very gentle simmer and stir occasionally for 30 min. Let cool.
Discard the ginger and pack the shiitakes (and as much of the liquid as necessary to cover them) into a quart container. These pickles are ready to eat immediately and will keep, refrigerated, for at least 1 month.

May 26, 2010 at 1:01 pm Leave a comment

Duck Lasagna Strapazatta

Duck Lasagna

The final recipe I tested for my Cookbook Challenge review of the Sweet Basil Cookbook was Duck Lasagna Strapazatta.  I picture many readers saying to themselves: “Duck – check.  Lasagna – check.  Strapa-wha?”  In general, I try not to go into long, pedantic descriptions of certain foods, as both the well-informed and the uninterested among us might yawn at a recounting of the conflicts over the definitive elements of cassoulet or the supposed aphrodisiacal properties of oysters. Yet strapazatta is not a term you come across frequently, and even my Google searches neglected to produce a consensus on the definition.

From what I gather, strapazatta literally translates to “bungled” in Italian and is used in cooking to refer to ‘free-form’ dishes.  I am copying the spelling directly from the cookbook, though online another recipe title often pops up: uova strapazzate, or scrambled eggs.  It seems likely that strapazatta is an Americanization of the word strapazzate and that the general concept is a stirred-up, rustic preparation — here, of lasagna (also known as lasagne: further proof of my theory).

So much for avoiding long-winded explanations…  To keep the rest brief: I liked this, I didn’t love it.  I think the best translation based on what I put on the table was the first: “bungled”.  The port made the sauce quite sweet, and it neglected the strong savory component (oregano? more fontina?) to counter it.  In addition, the noodles refused to cooperate — the short lasagna pieces didn’t separate well and I ended up having to place them in the dish in rows, much as I would have with whole lasagna noodles.  The texture was phenomenal, however, with the pleasing contrast of rough shredded duck, sheets of smooth pasta, and crusty cheese topping.  If I hadn’t been following the recipe so closely, for the purposes of a proper review of the cookbook, I might have thinned out the sauce with some beef stock and added a couple of savory herbs to finish.  All told, however, the ragu had real merit as a concept — it just needed a few tweaks and a different pasta to top.

Duck Lasagna Strapazatta, from the Sweet Basil Cookbook [Printable Recipe]
(serves 4 to 6)

4 duck confit legs

mirepoix2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1 Spanish onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbs.)
10 white mushrooms, quartered (about 2 cups)
2 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed and sliced into 1/2 inch wide strips
1 Tbs. dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups port wine
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. chopped fresh sage
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup red sauce (use your favorite marinara sauce or follow the recipe below)

Fresh pasta sheets, cut into 3-inch wide strips
2 cups grated fontina cheese

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the carrot, onion and celery. Saute the mixture for 5 to 10 minutes, until the ingredients begin to brown. Add the garlic and the white and portobello mushrooms. Continue sauteing for 5 more minutes, until the ingredients begin to caramelize. Add the dried porcini mushrooms, port, bay leaf, and sage. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then add the Worcestershire sauce and the red sauce. Decrease the heat and allow the sauce to stew for 8 to 10 minutes, until all of the flavors have had a chance to get acquainted. Stir the duck in with the sauce and remove from the heat.

Duck_RaguMeanwhile, in a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and the pasta, stirring it to keep from sticking. Cook for 1 minute, or until al dente [I used no-boil lasagna noodles and 2 minutes of boiling softened them up, though I would recommend serving this over penne rigate or rigatoni or even pappardelle — adjust cook time accodingly]. Drain thoroughly.

Duck_pastaStir the cooked pasta in with the sauce. Transfer the pasta and sauce to a large casserole dish, sprinkle with the fontina, and bake in the oven [at 350 degrees] until the cheese is bubbling. Serve garnished with parsley.

P.S. — the cookbook also suggests that subbing in sliced eggplant for the duck would make a lovely vegetarian version.

duck lasagna

July 16, 2009 at 10:58 pm 2 comments

Panzanella Salad

panzanella

When I wrote my recent post about my “Hearty and Refreshing” Arugula Salad, I definitely struggled over the title.  Are “hearty” and “refreshing” oxymoronic?  And if so, how better to describe a salad which is at once light, zesty and supremely satisfying?  And now, I give you another data point to consider: a hearty salad with a cornucopia of flavors, all harmonizing beautifully, which both sates and invigorates.

Panzanella is a wonderful concept — using day-old or even stale bread to make a fantastic and substantial salad — and can be endlessly varied.  A former classmate of mine from Needham (another Sweet Basil adherent, perhaps?) offers both a traditional recipe and some ideas for variants on her blog, Two Blue Lemons.  As for me, I don’t see much need for tweaking with this recipe, which combines savory roasted garlic, tangy marinated onions, sweet mozzarella and lots of fresh herbs.  While both the garlic and the onions take their own time and instructions to make, I recommend making the full batches outlined below and saving any extras for future creations.

Panzanella, from The Sweet Basil Cookbook – [Printable Recipe]
(serves 4-6)

1 recipe balsamic vinaigrette


6 generous handfuls mixed greens
1 cup roasted garlic

2 (8 oz) balls fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
1 Tbs. marinated onions

2 vine-ripened tomatoes, wedged [I used cherry tomatoes]
2 roasted red peppers, sliced in 1/4 inch strips
1 c. kalamata olives, pitted
1 c. croutons

Fresh basil, chiffonade, for garnish
Fresh parsley, chiffonade, for garnish
Shaved cheese (such as Asiago or Parmesan) for garnish

Follow the instructions to prepare the balsamic vinaigrette. In a large bowl, toss the greens with one-half of the balsamic vinaigrette. Then, in a separate bowl, toss the remaining vinaigrette with the roasted garlic, mozzarella, marinated onions, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, olives and croutons. Add this mixture to the mixed greens, tossing to combine.

Evenly distribute the dressed greens among serving plates, and then garnish with the basil, parsley, and cheese. Serve immediately.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
In a mixing bowl, whisk together 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard and 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar. Once they are well combined, slowly whisk in 2/3 c. olive oil until it is incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roasted GarlicRoasted Garlic
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place 4 garlic bulbs [each bulb yields approximately 1/2 cup roasted garlic] with their tops trimmed off by 1/2 inch, cut-side-up, in a casserole dish just big enough to hold the bulbs comfortably. Cover the garlic with 4 cups olive oil, cover the dish with aluminum foil, and then roast in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the garlic is soft. Remove the dish from the oven and allow the garlic to cool for 20 minutes. Remove the garlic from the oil, and then squeeze the garlic cloves out of the skin, reserving the oil for cooking.

Marinated onionsMarinated Onions
Combine 1 red onion, as thinly sliced as possible, 1 clove of garlic, minced (about 1 Tbs.), 1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs. fresh basil chiffonade, 1 Tbs. fresh parsley chiffonade, kosher salt and pepper in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to an airtight container.

Croutons
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Arrange 1 pound bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, on a baking sheet, drizzle with some olive oil, and then top with a few pinches of butter and a couple sprinkles of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the bread is brown and crispy, flipping periodically to avoid burning.panz-bread
If serving the croutons immediately, sprinkle them with a bit of grated parmesan cheese; if saving the croutons for later, transfer them to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 week.

Panzanella Salad

July 8, 2009 at 8:47 am 1 comment

Best Ever Chicken Scallopine

Scallopine

It seems I am not the only one lax in my blogging duties.  Some of my favorite sites are on indefinite breaks.  Granted, I don’t have a truly good excuse, as I am not in the middle of opening my own restaurant, mourning the loss of my pet, or recovering from a difficult break-up.  I’m more in the same league with Katie of Chaos in the Kitchen, who just wants to hang out with her kids, since my reason is that I’m pouty about not having my own kitchen.  This, however, is all about to change!  Starting July 6th, my table — of “From My Table to Yours” fame — will be relocated to Beacon Hill in Boston, MA.  From those heights overlooking the historic city, the dirty river Charles, and the ivory towers of Cambridge, I hope to bring my cooking to a whole new level.  Think: exotic cheeses from Formaggio Kitchen, game meats from Savenor’s, and guess what — a Whole Foods only a couple blocks from my front door!  If I can just manage to keep my graduate student homework to a minimum, I can really get something accomplished here!

So, unlike my compatriots listed above I am not on a break from posting, I simply need another week to gather myself together and get back into the swing of things.  To tide you over, I have a great recipe to share though I do need to make a confession.  While my Cookbook Challenge was conceived with the absolute best intentions, I always suspected it might come back to bite me in the arse.  The mission was to work my way through the massive collection of cookbooks I own so that I could at least say that I had tried several recipes from each one (and thus justify their purchase).  Yet deep down I knew that I had a dark secret — I buy books faster than I can cook from them.  Since the start of the challenge at the end of April, I have added five cookbooks to my collection, or seven if you count Ratio and The Flavor Bible in the count!  No matter — I won’t let my own weakness for shiny hardcovers and glossy photographs lessen my dedication to (or enjoyment of) the Sisyphean task of the Cookbook Challenge!

Next up: Sweet Basil by David Becker.  This book is particularly close to my heart since the restaurant Sweet Basil is located in my hometown of Needham, MA and is a favorite of mine.  Inside the small establishment, corrugated tin walls flank an open kitchen from which steam clouds billow and giant white bowls of pasta emerge.  Outside, crowds gather to await their tables, each couple sharing the burden of a mysterious brown paper bag.  Those in the know, of course, are aware that the bags contain wine and beer, since part of the charm of Sweet Basil is their BYOB policy.  And as Dave Becker confesses in the book, he’s seen wine harvested during the Reagan administration sitting on one table, with Schlitz in a can holding court at the adjacent one.  It’s just that kind of place.

What I loved most about this first recipe is that it came out tasting just like it does at the restaurant.  The characteristic flavors of bright lemon juice, pungent garlic and, yes, sweet basil, were all present and accounted for.  Each bite came alive in my mouth – and each tastebud was singing in chorus: salt! sweet! sour! umami!  (it’s true – it’s from the parmesan cheese).  I would not call this recipe the “Best” unless it really was extremely good and the best I’ve tasted.  Please make this.  Go.  Now.  Cook!  Or if you don’t cook, get yourself over to Sweet Basil on Great Plain Ave in Needham.

Chicken Scallopini with Lemon, Capers, and Tomatoes, from Sweet Basil the Cookbook [Printable Recipe]
(Serves 4)

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
All-purpose flour
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
8 cloves garlic, minced (about 1/2 cup – don’t skimp too much!)
1/2 c. white wine
Juice of 2 lemons
2 c. chicken stock
2 plum tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
2 Tbs. salted capers, rinsed (I used the capers in brine)
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
1/2 c. grated Parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Cooked angel hair pasta for serving

scallopine-chickenPlace the chicken breasts, two at a time, between 2 sheets of plastic wrap [or in a gallon-size Ziploc bag]. Use the smooth side of a meat mallet [or a rolling pin] to pound them to about 1/2 inch thickness. Arrange the flour in a shallow bowl. Season the chicken with a pinch each of salt and pepper, and then dredge generously with flour, coating both sides. Shake off the excess and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbs. of the butter. When the butter melts, place the chicken in the skillet. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. Turn over and cook for 2 more minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate (it is not cooked through at this point).

chicken scallopini sauceAdd the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the white wine and the lemon juice. Simmer, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan for a few minutes until almost all the liquid is gone. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and capers. Increase the heat to high, and bring the liquid to a boil. Simmer for 6 minutes, or until the liquid is decreased by about one-third.

Stir in the remaining 2 Tbs. of butter. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer for 2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly and the chicken is cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with the herbs [and cheese] and serve immediately.

July 2, 2009 at 7:08 pm Leave a comment

Simple Roast Salmon

Unfortunately I had little success with my third recipe from Nina Simonds’ cookbook Spices of Life.  I wanted all three recipes to showcase the strengths of the cookbook – Kung Pao Chicken gives an easy method for making a favorite Chinese takeout dish at home and Doctored-up Ramen demonstrates a healthy, inexpensive and fun version of a nostalgic noodle – but I also intend for my Cookbook Challenge to be representative.  In the week I dedicated to the cookbook, I had two great successes (already mentioned) and a bunch of not-so-good results.  First, the cardamom asparagus which were not spectacular:

Cardamom AsparagusThen a strawberry-rhubarb crumble that had the weakest, least flavorful topping I’ve ever tasted (what a waste!):

rhubarb-crumble

and finally, a Pad Thai that truly disappointed.  Though I really LOVE pad thai, this make-at-home version was horrific.  I would ascribe the off flavor to the ketchup (!) in the recipe — no amount of fresh lime juice or peanuts could save it.  But the pictures came out well:

pad-thai-3

The above recipes really aren’t worth repeating here, so I won’t!  The below recipe is pretty simple, and while I wasn’t totally blown away by it, I think part of the problem might have been human error.  I overcooked the salmon slightly (by following the times in the directions, I might add) and I am unsure how (given the balsamic and soy sauce in the marinade) anyone could achieve the light pink result pictured in the book:

Simonds Salmon

As for the snap peas, I thought they tasted very light and refreshing — perfect for a hot summer lunch, picnic or potluck.  I am not convinced that the cold minty snap peas are a good pairing with the salty warm salmon.  In fact, I really didn’t like the two of them together.  I feel like I gave the cookbook ample opportunity to give me a winner third recipe, but instead I give you two recipes that were decent on their own, and very simple to make, but which do not have my wholehearted endorsement.

Pan-Roasted Salmon Served with Minty Snap Peas, from Nina Simonds’ Spices of Life

(Serves 6)

“The ginger–soy–balsamic marinade gives the seared salmon a lovely flavor and color and the simple mint dressing is a light and refreshing complement to snap peas. Nina likes to serve this dish hot, or at room temperature with rice pilaf for a festive buffet.” [she says to serve this dish hot, meaning (I suppose) the salmon, since the snap peas are ‘refreshed in cold water’ before being added to the mint dressing]

salmon-marinade6 pieces salmon fillets with skin on, each weighing about 6 ounces

For salmon marinade
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1½ pounds snap peas

For mint dressing
3 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
4 to 5 tablespoons chopped mint
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

Make the marinade: Mix the ginger, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Put the salmon in a deep dish. Pour in the marinade and toss lightly to coat. Let the salmon sit at room temperature while cooking the snap peas.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a saucepan and add the snap peas. Cook for 2 minutes, or until they are crisp tender. Drain in a colander and refresh in cold water. Drain again and blot dry on paper towels.

Whisk the mint dressing ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Add the snap peas and toss lightly to coat. Taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat until very hot. Place the salmon steaks with their coating, skin side down, in the pan, partially cover, and fry about 5 to 6 minutes covered over high heat (depending on the thickness) until the skin is crisp and the salmon meat has started becoming opaque. Carefully flip over with a spatula and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until just cooked.

Arrange the salmon fillets on a serving platter and spoon the snap peas around and on top. Serve with steamed brown rice.

Calories: 370 ⁄ Protein: 34 g ⁄ Carbohydrate: 11 g ⁄ Fiber: 3 g⁄ Sodium: 570 mg
Saturated fat: 3 g ⁄ Polyunsaturated fat: 5 g ⁄ Monounsaturated fat: 11 g
Trans fat: 0 g ⁄ Cholesterol: 85 mg

salmon-final

May 24, 2009 at 11:25 am Leave a comment

Doctored-up Ramen

Ramen Noodles

A cookbook author and an editor/correspondent for Gourmet, Nina Simonds has shared her philosophy about Asian cooking and ingredients widely.  One of her methods for spreading the word is through her “Dinner Doctor” character, who goes around solving common challenges to making delicious, healthy dinners.  She can be seen on Oprah and her own website breaking down people’s extensive excuses – I am too tired at the end of the day, I don’t know how, it’s too expensive to buy groceries, I have to eat takeout to get to my fortune cookie, etc…

My second foray into Nina’s book, Spices of Life, is a healthful twist on doctored-up ramen.  Ramen noodles, the staple of college dorm rooms everywhere, answer almost all of the above excuses (you’ll still have to get your own fortune cookie – sorry – but Confucious says necessity is the mother of invention).  Ramen are super easy and low effort (add water and stir) and cost about 20 cents a package.  Granted, this dinner-doctored version is a bit more high maintenance, but it is also far FAR better tasting.  Toss out your “flavor pak” and check this recipe out:

Stir-Fried Ramen Noodles with Vegetables, from Nina Simonds’ Spices of Life

(serves 6)

ramen-mise3/4 lb. fine dried Japanese ramen, Chinese egg noodles or angel hair pasta
1/2 small head Chinese (Napa) cabbage (about 3/4 pound)
2 Tbs. virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. dried chile flakes, or to taste
2 medium red onions, peeled and cut into thin slices (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 carrots, peeled, ends trimmed and grated
2 Tbs. rice wine or sake

Noodle Sauce (mixed together):
5 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. mirin (or 2 Tbs. rice wine or sake plus 1 1/2 Tbs. sugar)
1 1/2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbs. soy sauce

2 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Drop the noodles into the water and stir to prevent them from sticking together. Bring the water again to a boil and cook 4 1/2 to 5 minutes, or until the noodles are just cooked. (Since the cooking time varies with the type of noodles, refer to the package for the recommended time.) Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse under warm running water. Drain again and set aside.

ramen-onions

Cut the cabbage leaves from the stem. Trim the leafy tip ends and discard. Rinse the leaves thoroughly and drain. Cut them into julienne strips about 1/4 inch wide, separating the stem sections from the leafy sections.

ramen-cabbage

Heat a wok or a heavy skillet, pour in the oil, and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the ginger, garlic, chile flakes, and onions, and stir-fry for about a minute. Cover and cook for several minutes, until the onions are soft. Add the cabbage stem shreds, carrots, and rice wine. Stir-fry lightly, cover, and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, until almost tender. Add the leafy cabbage shreds, toss, cover, and cook for a minute or two. Pour in the Noodle Sauce, bring to a boil, and add the noodles and the sesame seeds. Toss lightly to coat the noodles and vegetables and spoon onto a serving platter. Serve immediately.

Fancy Ramen Noodles

(As you can see from the pictures, I sauteed some shrimp to mix in, but as-is it is a vegetarian main course.)

May 20, 2009 at 8:06 pm 2 comments

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