Monday, May 31, 2010

Celery Root Slaw

I really like celery root, it is one of those things that I really get excited about when I see it on the table at my CSA. If you don't know what a CSA is, or how to find one, take a look here.
Being a part of a CSA has really challenged me in the kitchen, it forces me to let the ingredients on hand drive my recipes rather than shopping for specific meals. It has been refreshing change for me for the the past few years. Add that to the general level of goodness provided by a CSA and it is a no-brainer in my world.

I am a Food Network junkie; they have a lot of dead weight shows but I am always picking up new recipes and techniques that make me a better cook. While watching Spice and Easy I realized I really don't like the host, she creeps me out when she whispers things at the camera. Instead of whispering "I love wasabi" I keep expecting her to whisper something like "I love to eat the souls of children." Don't tell me secrets, lady; just make with the food. However, the recipe for Celery Root Slaw called to me. I tend to like vinegar-style slaw rather than sweet and creamy slaw but the combination in here was too tempting to resist.

The end result was on the "meh" side. It tasted very much like plain jane coleslaw. I added much more wasabi than it called for and, while I got a bit of heat at the end, it was just OK. I even added some celery seeds to try to bring out the celery root flavor but it was far too muted. the one thing that did bring it to life was smashing up some wasabi-coated peanuts and sprinkling them on top, the crunch and the heat was nice but didn't really come together with coleslaw.
I won't write it off as a recipe but it definitely needs some work to bring past regular old coleslaw.

I I Love Love Double Double Salmon Sliders.

So I have been itching to make these fantastic Scandinavian double salmon and dill cakes from one of my favorite cookbooks: A Flash in the Pan: Fast, Fabulous Recipes in a Single Skillet. I have made them before and really enjoyed them. I took a look through the book today and I have made 6 dishes from this book and they have all been delicious. I definitely recommend it.

The original recipe calls for:
6 slices of rye bread torn into small pieces
12 ounces skinless salmon fillet cut into 1- inch chunks
2 ounces smoked salmon, cut into one inch pieces
2 1/2 Tbsp Dijon
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp butter
4 thin slices red onion
4 thin slices tomato

Run the bread through your food processor to make fresh breadcrumbs, set them aside. Run the salmon through your food processor and mix with all the other ingredients but the butter, onion and tomato.

Add the bread crumbs to the salmon mixture and process again, then form into patties and fry in the butter. Serve on the remaining rye bread with onions and tomatoes.

They are great.

I decided to make a variation of these and turn them into sliders to serve for lunch for visiting family.

Honestly, I'm not huge on the whole slider craze that seems to be happening. I like cute little food as much as the next guy, which is to say, not very much. I'm never going to eat just one slider, I'm going to have two, maybe 3 if they are great. So I wind up eating just as much.

Regardless, I tweaked the recipe a bit and skipped the rye bread. I planned to serve them on whole wheat rolls so I wanted to eliminate that element. I added some lemon juice, ginger powder and panko bread crumbs along with black pepper. I skipped salt because the smoked salmon should have plenty. Follow the recipe above with these substitutions and you will have sliders ready for grilling.

I made a couple of mayo blends to go along with them so I could bring some novel flavor elements to the sliders. Three kinds of heat:

Preheat the grill, then turn down to medium or medium low. I laid some foil down on the grill with some non stick spray and cooked them on foil. 5-7 minutes was really all it took for them to firm up. They were delicious. The dill still jumped out at you as did the smoked salmon but both worked very well with the heat from the different mayos. Kerrie put some lemon slices on the table for drinks and they wound up being a very tasty addition to the sliders. I did not serve the tomato or onion either, though they would have been a nice add on they were not missing, and we had a tossed green salad on the side.

Something on the order of a Gewurztraminer would have been a winner with these as it stands up to spice very well.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Date Night

Kerrie and I had a rare adult night out and took the time to head out to dinner. After a long discussion of where to go and trying to find something that beats out our usual date night dinner of sushi, we finally agreed on going to The Mission
I had been to the Mission for lunch a few times but never for dinner, and Kerrie had never been at all.
After looking over the menu online we were sold.

They make their own chips and salsa and both were delicious, the salsa doesn't have much in the way of heat but it is big on fresh flavor with a lot of cilantro.
Then we split the Flauta de Congrejo which is a "Lightly battered and fried soft-shelled crab rolled inside a flour tortilla with avocado, jicama slaw and a chipotle remoulade." They also drizzled some chipotle- infused oil on the plate which I took advantage of.  The jicama slaw was really delicious, it had an almost pickled flavor which I really enjoyed.
As good as it was I really have to go back for the ceviche some time.

For dinner I had the Cordero, "a pumpkinseed and garlic crusted, roasted rack of lamb finished with a green chile vinaigrette. Served with a quinoa, hearts of palm salad and vegetable del dia." I ordered it medium rare to rare and it was a touch overdone for my tastes but otherwise it was really delicious. Most of the pumpkin seed crust fell off but the meat had a nice crust to it regardless. The quinoa and hearts of palm salad was loaded with mint and went very well with the lamb. The first bite was a bit of a shock as it was served cold, I really should have expected it, they called it a salad after all, but the rack of lamb was laying on top if it and my brain just expected warm quinoa.  Oh and the vegetable was green beans, they were fine, they worked well as a tool to sweep up the pumpkin seeds and vinaigrette on the plate.
If you have never had quinoa you should, it has a very unique texture and presents a nice alternative to rice or couscous as a side.

Kerrie had the enchiladas with Pollo Mole, I have had them for lunch before and really enjoyed them. Kerrie did as well; particularly with a side of The Mission's fresh and buttery guacamole. The corn tortillas were filled with quite a bit of shredded cooked chicken and the mole sauce and was topped with queso, and it went very well with the accompanying black beans. I have this fascination with mole sauce. Those of you who know me probably know that I don't like chocolate, I don't even like the smell of chocolate. So  I think the fact that mole contains chocolate as in ingredient, and I love it, is part of my desire to make a classic mole poblano.
Depending on who you ask Mole poblano can contain 30 plus ingredients and takes a couple hours to make. It's right up there with making my own demi glace in the "things I want to do at home" list.

/end tangent

The black beans that came with Kerrie's dish had a spinkling of Cotija, an aged, crumbly
Mexican cheese, very much like a feta, very tasty.

The mission has a great beer selection including lots of local favorites, I went with a Negra Modelo anyway, it is always a favorite especially a nice night with some South American/Mexican flavors.

I would be remiss if I didn't tell you about the after dinner beer I had at J Ryans.
It was the Oaked Aged Unearthly Imperial Pale Ale. Southern Tier almost always makes me a happy beer drinker and this was no exception, the oak really mellows out some of the hop heavy flavor and the result is a really smooth, almost too easy to drink beer.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A long long time ago

OK so really just a few days ago. Another hot night, another nice salad.

If you like a good piece of meat with your vegetables then you are in luck.
My wife marinated two sirloin steaks in Merlot Sauce, think steak sauce with a richer flavor. But you could really marinate the steaks with anything that suits your fancy.

Grill the steaks, let them rest before cutting and lay the slices over the top of your salad. To me a steak salad needs some blue cheese or one of its cousins. We went with Gorgonzola which works wonderfully. The steak melts the cheese a bit and that really makes it for me.

Avocado is another nice ingredient for the salad, it adds another creamy texture to the salad and a forkful with some crisp romaine, avocado, Gorgonzola and steak is just about perfect.

As good as the salad was, the star of that meal was the grilled artichokes (Kerrie will not agree). I love artichokes in any way you want to serve them. There is something about scraping your teeth down the length of an artichoke leaf and getting the buttery sweet taste that they deliver that just makes me happy. Of course artichoke hearts are the part that everyone loves.
Two problems with fresh artichokes that keep them off of most peoples tables and relegates them to nothing but a canned or jarred product:

One, they are a pain to prep. And yes they are at first, though once you do it a few times they are pretty easy. I found a video that is very close to the way I do it. It is worth a watch if you have never trimmed an artichoke before.
If you purchase the more conical shaped artichokes then you can trim off the top 1/2 inch or so then lay them  down on your board and your slide your knife down the side from the large end to the small end and cut of the tips of each leaf. Do this on each side and you should be all set without losing too much of each leaf.

Two, they are a lot of work to eat for very little artichoke on each leaf. This is not actually a problem in my book because I like the experience of eating them that way, it kind of forces you to slow down and pay attention to your food. If you really don't like it and want to just eat the heart, stem and the tender inner leaves, just put your bigger leaves on my plate and I can forgive you. If you know up front that you won't eat the leaves then you can actually trim away most of them during prep and not worry.

Assuming you decide to proceed you will need
Two whole artichokes, you can certainly use as many more as you like, figure half an artichoke per person, unless one of those people is me, or my mother, and then figure on a whole artichoke per person
One lemon
4 cloves of garlic chopped
3/4 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of mustard, I used yellow, you can use whatever you like

If you are serving more people then use more of each ingredient, simple I know but the last thing you want is to not have enough sauce for dipping.

Before you start trimming your artichokes Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Cut your lemon in half, squeeze the juice of one half into a bowl of water for use as you cut your artichokes, as you cut them dip the exposed surfaces in your lemon water (like in the video you should have watched) Trim up your artichokes

After you have trimmed the artichokes cut them in half lengthwise, the stem can bit a be fragile so be careful. The cooked stem is one of my favorite parts to eat so I try to keep as much as I can.

When your artichokes are ready
Add them to the boiling water, and cook for about 15 minutes
If you are going to grill the artichokes right away skip the next step

If you aren't, and to me this is one of the beauties of this recipe, remove the artichokes from the water and drop them into a bowl of ice cubes and water to stop the cooking. Sprinkle them with some lemon juice and you can stick them in the fridge. You could do this the night before you want to use them. If you are doing more than a couple of artichokes I recommend doing so.

When you are ready to cook; heat your grill up to medium or medium high. If you are using a charcoal grill you should know what you are doing. You already have a hot grill for the steak anyway right?

Squeeze the juice from the other half of your lemon into your blender or food processor.  Add the mustard garlic a pinch of kosher salt and some pepper.

Turn your blender or food processor to low and slowly pour the olive in until it is all blended and you have a pretty yellow sauce. 

Transfer to a bowl and grab your basting brush

Brush the artichokes with a coating of the sauce, and place them on the preheated grill. 
Grill the artichokes for 5 to 10 minutes, basting with sauce and turning frequently, until the tips are a little charred. 
Serve them while they are hot and use the leftover basting sauce as a dip for the artichokes. 

A nice Sauvignon blanc or a Samuel Adams summer ale would go perfectly. Both have some grassy lemony  flavor to them that would work well with the artichokes and the salad

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Caving to peer pressure.

OK then, based on numerous requests (gosh that sounds arrogant) I am going to start posting recipes as I use them, tweak them etc.  Lets kick it off with last nights dinner. The idea was my wife's (hi Kerrie) and she did a lot of the work. I just bragged about it.

Cold brown rice noodle salad with baby spinach, avocado, cucumber and poached shrimp.

The start:
I used a modified version of court bouillon from Michael Symon's Cookbook
4 cups of water
4 Tbsp of lime juice
One medium onion roughly chopped
One carrot roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic smashed
2 celery ribs roughly chopped
About a one inch knob of ginger chopped
a handful of fresh cilantro stems and all
Kosher salt maybe 2 Tbsp
Black pepper

Put all the ingredients  into a sauce pot. Bring to boil and them simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and strain.
I can't resist eating the celery and carrots from the mix, but that's just me.

The resulting liquid is your poaching liquid for the shrimp, though it can be used for any Asian inspired fish dish you want to make. Next time I make it I think I am going to make a gallon or so and freeze some, no reason not to  have this tasty stuff around.

You can use it fresh from the stove, but the trick to poaching is not overheating the liquid so you should be sure it is not too hot (175 degrees is where you want to be)

Your best bet for cooking is an electric frying pan so you can set the temperature and not worry, if you don't have an electric frying pan then use a candy thermometer.

To Poach the shrimp 

Shell on Shrimp 12 or more

Add about 2 cups of your poaching liquid to your electric fry pan or large frying pan, once the temperature is right add your shrimp. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the part submerged in liquid is nice and pink, then flip and cook another 3-4 minutes.  Once the shrimp is cooked through remove from the liquid and put it in the fridge to cool.

Why Shell on shrimp? Well when cooking shrimp the shell acts as a tiny little cooking vessel, surrounding the shrimp and allowing it to cook more evenly and it keeps your season closer to the meat without falling off into your cooking liquid.

Cook the Noodles

Brown rice or Soba noodles
olive oil

We originally intended to use Soba Noodles for this and you can do the same. We wound up using brown rice noodles and they were delicious.
Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil add your noodles cook until tender and drain ( do I really need this step?) rinse the noodles with cold water to wash of some of the starch and stop the cooking. drizzle a little olive oil on the noodles and toss, then put them in the fridge to cool

Why Soba or brown Rice noodles? Well because they are better for you. Soba noodles ,which might also be called buckwheat noodles, and Brown rice noodles both fall under the umbrella of clean foods
I will never claim to eat a completely clean diet, nor is this something I can say we have been doing for years. It is however the inspiration for the recent daily meal preparation and planning that has been going on.

Make the Salad 


Your poached shrimp
A knob of fresh ginger 
1/2 Cucumber
1/2 Avocado
2cups baby spinach 
kosher salt
sesame oil
lime juice or fresh limes
Peel the shrimp and set aside
Transfer the noodles to a large bowl so you have room to toss. Drizzle with a couple teaspoons of sesame oil and grate on some fresh ginger.  Add several handfuls of chopped or roughly torn baby spinach and a pinch or two of kosher salt and toss it all together.

Chop up the cucumber and avocado and add those, along with the shrimp to the noodle and spinach mix.  Drizzle with a touch more sesame oil and sprinkle with some lime juice.

Serve and enjoy.
If I had some on hand I would have served this with a Dry or Semi dry Gewurztraminer.

I am not a food photographer and all I have is a blackberry camera