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Posts from the ‘Sauces & Condiments’ Category

cedar plank salmon with spearmint sauce

Have you wondered if all we ever eat around here is salad and vegetables and the occasional dessert? no, no, not so! During salmon season (I’m almost embarrassed to say) it’s on our table maybe as much as once a week. Our local newspaper’s food section had a wonderful-sounding salmon recipe last week that I was itching to try. We had a pot brimming with spearmint begging to be crushed and its aromas set free. It was fated.

This dish was so beautiful, so incredibly aromatic that (and now I truly am embarrassed) I was far too impatient to take photos of it. There was going to be no stage-setting. No turning it this way and that and getting the light just so. There was going to be no waiting. I mean none! So here you have it folks. Just as it came off the grill and its fragrant sauce was ladled on. Just before we gobbled it all up, smacking our lips and planning when we’d eat it again next…

This dish was, to my mind, absolutely perfect as it was. No changes were made to the original recipe, other than to halve it since we weren’t feeding a crowd. Therefore, we owe a debt of thanks to chef David Padberg of Portland’s Park Kitchen for the recipe. I’d hug him if he’d have it!

Salmon fillets steeped in the aromas of  cedar smoke and steam, then ladled with a variation on salsa verde, made with fresh spearmint leaves. An incredibly delicious flavor combination.

(I hope you won’t be off-put by the addition of chopped anchovies to the sauce. Those and the capers add the perfect bit of salt & fish to complement the salmon…and their flavors were not at all over-bearing.  The garlic and hot chili seeds added the perfect hint of heat. The lemon zest – oh you know! Let’s get on with it…

(I’ve halved the recipe for you below as most won’t be feeding 10 to 12. The above-pictured salmon fillet was 1 pound and we had sauce left over. It fed 2 generously  –  Guinea Pig loves his salmon – with enough left over for lunch the next day.)

Cedar Plank Salmon with Spearmint Sauce

(5 to 6 servings)

Sauce:

  • 3 anchovies, finely chopped (if using salted anchovies, rinse them thoroughly first)
  • ½ cup tightly packed fresh spearmint, finely minced
  • ½ cup tightly packed fresh parsley, finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, finely minced
  • ¼ cup finely minced shallots
  • Grated zest of about 1½ lemons
  • 2 smallish cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin  olive oil
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

the Salmon:

  • 1 untreated cedar plank
  • 2 pound whole salmon fillet
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ teaspoons firmly packed brown sugar

To make the sauce: In a medium bowl, mix together the anchovies, herbs, capers, shallots, lemon zest, garlic red pepper flakes and olive oil. Chef Padberg says to then add lemon juice to taste and allow sauce to sit for at least 1 hour for flavors to meld before serving. I let the sauce sit for quite some time before adding the juice. I waited to add the lemon juice until the salmon went on the grill as I didn’t want the vibrant green to change. Makes nearly 1 cup of sauce. 

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just another ‘ordinary’ breakfast in India

Last fall I introduced you to my friend Amit who grew up in Delhi, India. (See a wonderful rice and beans dish of his mother’s, Rajmah, that I posted at the time.) Amit, a man who loves all things associated with the kitchen, has inspired me in my own. Now borrowed from him are chai, rice and bean dishes, chutney, a couple salads and several curries that he brought to the US when he immigrated here. This is Amit’s father’s birthday month and in honor of that, I was asked if I could share a favorite dish of his Dad’s too. I told my good friend I’d be happy to.

Have you ever heard the expression that a person grows into the name he or she was given? It appears to be the case with Amit’s father, a gregarious man with a smile that lights up his entire face, and possibly the entire room. His name: Prakash Chandra Jain. Prakash means light, and Chandra – moon! Can you imagine being given such a name?! And then, having the privilege of growing into it?

Seen here with wife Anjana, at the wedding of their son Moni to his new bride, Richa.

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Sri Prakash Chandra, since retired, had his career as an experimental physicist.  He’s always been an exacting man – both in his lab and in the kitchen where he loved to cook for his family. His interest in the culinary world was already well-evidenced by the time he was a young man in college where he took the lead in his dorm’s dining hall — purchasing the food, planning the recipes for the cooking staff and in general, managing the kitchen. Experimentation wasn’t restricted to his physics lab either – he’s been known to work and work on a recipe until he’s perfected it. And one of his favorite dishes is one that Amit and his family grew up eating on a typical (ever-delicious) Delhi morning.

Paranthas stuffed with cauliflower & spices

served with cumin raita and an out-of-this-world green chutney

Sounds complicated, no? Well, it’s not a bowl of instant oatmeal or a cereal bar grabbed on the way out the door (but who writes of that?)  It’s sit-down food, meant for moments to savor.

Cauliflower stuffing

  • 1 medium cauliflower, shredded (using a coarse grater)
  • Grated ginger root (using fine grater) – a piece about 1 x 1-inch
  • Cilantro: 2 to 3 Tablespoons, chopped (Amit’s family uses leaves only)
  • 2 teaspoon Garam masala
  • 2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (optional, but we like) – minced

(NOTE: Amit has also made this stuffing with purple potatoes, cooked & chopped finely, then prepared as in the directions for this stuffing. How very pretty that would be.)

Heat oil in a pan. Add ginger and sauté until just slightly brown. Add the cauliflower and spices. Cook uncovered over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes (or until tender).

Should you have any left over, this stuffing is delicious to eat as a side.

Green Chutney

fresh ginger – 1 inch x ½ inch piece

1 Tablespoon cumin seeds

15 – 20 leaves of fresh mint

2 whole bunches of fresh cilantro

2 cloves garlic

1½ salt  (Amit likes 2)

juice of 2 limes

1 jalapeño – ribs and seeds removed

¼ to ½ water (more like 3/8)

1 to 2 Tablespoons plain yogurt  (optional – I wanted to preserve the brilliant green color so didn’t add)

3 Tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut

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preserved lemons

When winter hits, full force, my foodie mind turns to sunny foods. Bowls and platters of brilliant fruits (and vegetables) plucked straight from a Gauguin painting. Perfume-y spices from Morocco and India. And flowers, bright boisterous flowers dropping sunny pollen on the table.

Because that’s what my mind turns to, you’ll be seeing quite a few sun-drenched recipes here for the next couple months. Foods from Morocco, Spain, India, Provence, Italy, and  some island nations. I’m no authority on any of those cuisines – I simply know how I choose to cook, and how I love to eat, and I can’t resist the sharing when I stumble upon something wonderful.

A number of dishes will call for preserved lemon. For those of you unfamiliar, here’s what some chefs had to say about this well-loved and versatile condiment (also referred to as lemon confit):

 “…salt-preserved lemons have a strange and delectable flavor that utterly mystifies.”  [Nancy Harmon Jenkins, The Mediterranean Cookbook]

“…refreshing, tangy, essential to the cooking of tagines…well worth making your own….Be as liberal as you like, tossing them in salads and scattering them over your favorite tagines.” – [meat or vegetables stews] [that from Ghillie Basan, author of Tagine – Spicy stews from Morocco  and Flavors of Morocco]

Laura Calder, author of French Taste and delightful host of her own show on the Cooking Channel says:  “I don’t make tagines that often, so I have started flinging the lemons into other dishes… [Doesn’t that remind you a bit of Julia Child?] …Diced preserved lemon (and it’s actually the skin of the lemon you eat, not the flesh) is great with fish fried in butter or thrown in with nice fat chops to make a slightly exotic supper in a pan; it also perks up vegetable dishes.”

And here’s what Dorie Greenspan, author of the glorious cookbook, Around my French Table, has to say: “…soft…sharp…salty flavor…good with chicken and with meaty fish, like tuna and swordfish, they’re also wonderful with bitter greens and even beets.” 

Chef Eric Ripert of New York City’s famed Le Bernardin restaurant – “I add lemon confit to so many dishes—from broiled fish to pork and beans.”  He blends his lemon confit with butter to add a pleasantly pungent flavor to broiled fish. Before broiling, he’ll dot the fish with some of the lemon butter, then serve with more of it on the side.

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You can of course find jarred preserved lemons already made – in some better-stocked grocery stores, gourmet shops or in Moroccan food markets. It’s very simple to make your own though, and inexpensive. Plus it kind of satisfies some pioneering itch inside, keeping your eye on that jar of lemons as they soften and mellow and transform themselves for your table. If you’re making your own, it does take about a month for them to fully “mature” – but they’ll last for perhaps a year in your refrigerator once done.

Preserved Lemons – or Lemon Confit

NOTE on the lemons: Because it’s only the rind you’ll be eating, it’s important (I think) to start with organic lemons.

  • 10 organic, unwaxed lemons (I prefer the smaller, thin-skinned, juicy and sweet Meyer variety)
  • 10 Tablespoons sea salt
  • the juice of 3 to 4 lemons, though possibly more (this juice doesn’t get used until day 3 or 4)

 

  • OPTIONAL: I like to add to each jar 1 or 2 bay leaves, several allspice berries, and 5 or six pink (or several black) peppercorns.

Wash (and then dry) your lemons and sterilize a quart-sized jar and lid.

(You have options on how to cut the lemons. Cutting in half cross-wise, or making longitudinal cuts from the top to about ¾ of the way to the bottom. I now prefer the latter way, so I’ll give instructions accordingly, though the photo below doesn’t agree.)

Cut the stem end and tips off of each lemon, top and bottom, avoid cutting into the lemon’s flesh. Standing the lemon on its bottom edge, slice from the top  ¾ of the way down, as if you were going to cut into quarters, but leaving the base intact. Read more