Vegetables

By Linda Avery | JUNE 08, 2014 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s Note: Linda Avery returned from vacation to a pile of books on her doorstep (we could all be so lucky). She’s gone through them and selected four that she thinks are worth a second look. Here’s what she had to say about each one.

BooksOfSummer

Returning from una dolce vacanza nel Italia, I found so many creative books screaming SUMMER IS HERE! I couldn’t choose just one and I’m certain there’ll be at least one calling to you.

Kombucha-Revolution-bookcover

Kombucha Revolution by Stephen Lee with Ken Koopman
10 Speed Press
Hardcover $12.01 Kindle $9.99
75 recipes

Do you kneel at the altar of Kombucha? If you aren’t in with the in-crowd, kombucha is a slightly fizzy, fermented drink with a tea base. It has been said to be the “elixir of life.” It’s a detox drink, it aids digestion, and some say it reverses the symptoms of cancer.

Stephen Lee co-founded Tazo Tea and Stash Tea so he knows what he’s doing. He explains the process, the essential equipment, a SCOBY (an acronym for Symbiotic Colon of Bacteria & Yeast) and then gets to the recipes. There are infusions, juices, spirited cocktails (I think Kombucha Peach Daiquiri got me interested), dressings, sweets and ices (like Strawberry Citrus Basil Sorbet). If you are, as he says “weekend warriors ready to care for their very own SCOBY”, this is the book for you.

Marinades

Marinades by Lucy Vaserfirer
Harvard Common Press
Paperback $12.02
Almost a recipe per page in the 300-page book

One doesn’t have to think about firing up the grill to reach for a recipe for marinade but for many, it’s a requirement. Lucy Vaserfirer’s book covers it all. Mentally put the word “marinade” after each of these words: dairy, coffee, soda, beer, wine, spirit, southwestern, Mexican, South American, European, Chinese… you get the idea. There are also dessert marinades. If you aren’t a creative person (or even if you are), this is quite the compendium of marinades.

I like the fact that in addition to her index of recipes, there is an index of suggested uses i.e. a listing by specific meat, cut of meat, fish, vegetable and fruit.

Meringue-Girls-bookcover

Meringue Girls by Alex Hoffler and Stacey O’Gorman
Chronicle Books
Hard Cover $15.45Kindle $9.99
60+ recipes

Has the popularity of French meringues intimidated you? This colorful, crazy (good crazy) book will put you at ease. From the beginning with tips and techniques to flavorings and how to make striped kisses, you’ll love it.

Is there a little girl in your life (or maybe just for you) who would love a Barbie cake with a multicolored meringue kiss skirt? There are recipes for a Meringue Tower, Surprise Kisses (with an M&M inside), Summery Eton Mess, Grilled Peaches with Crushed Amaretti Cookies and Maple Meringues – YUM – meringue compote jars and more.

And these smart gals have a chapter on Using Your Yolks for Vanilla Custard, Lemon Curd with Lemongrass, and Passion Fruit Curd.

Best of all, it’s naturally gluten-free!

Asian-Pickles-bookcover

Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon
10 Speed Press
Hardcover $12.64 Kindle $9.99
75 recipes

Karen Solomon created Jam it, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects and Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It. Her newest book, Asian Pickles, begins with the Japanese Tsukemono (traditional Japanese pickles). You’ll find items like Pickled Plums and “Thousand Slices” Turnips.

She proceeds from Japan to cover all of Asia: Korea has Mushrooms in Soy Sauce and numerous Kimchi recipes.  China is represented by over a dozen pickles like Five-Spice Pickled Carrots; India has pickles plus eight chutneys and the balance of Southeast Asia includes recipes from Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Malysia.

Some recipes take minutes to hours (Onion and Cilantro Chutney, Hot Pickled Pineapple and Peanuts), some days up to a week (Pickled Shallots Kimchi, Apples in Mustard with Mint) and then those that require patience like Preserved Steamed Lemons which requires at least 6 months. Pucker up!

By Linda Avery | APRIL 22, 2014 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s note: Linda Avery returns with a review of a new pastry book, The Art of French Pastry, which is up for a James Beard Award. Read on to see why. 

The-Art-of-French-Pastry

The Art of French Pastry

by Jacquy Pfeiffer with Martha Rose Shulman
Photographs © Paul Strabbing

Facts: Alfred A. Knopf, 432 pages, $40.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $25.30, Kindle $21.99)
Photos: About 99 not including diagrams and drawings
Recipes: Too many to count

In 1995 Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer and Chef Sébastien Canonne, M.O.F., opened The French Pastry School in Chicago. It was the only school of its kind in the United States. Having taken classes at The French Pastry School, I will say that everyone I have met on their staff  is competent, genuinely nice, helpful and interested in a student’s success.

(Aside: In 2009, the DVD Kings of Pastry hit the market. The documentary follows Chef Pfeiffer’s return to France on a quest for the prestigious status of Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (M.O.F.). If you are not aware of what transpires during this competition, i.e., the pressure, the long hours and the high emotions, it’s a must see. The story is fascinating.)

Back to the book: Chef Pfeiffer’s talents have been recognized worldwide and now The Art of French Pastry is a finalist for a James Beard award in the category of Baking and Dessert.

He opens the book with his life growing up in Alsace and his rigorous training. After working as executive pastry chef in France, he hit the road and became the trainer, moving to Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Hong Kong and Palo Alto before landing in Chicago in 1991.

He then tells you how to use the book, scale ingredients, and provides an essentials chapter where he gives an opinion of which tool is best (digital candy thermometer, wooden rolling pin, ramekins, etc) and gives source information. Essential Ingredients follow (sourcing included).

Chapter 1 is devoted to fundamentals or “little pastry master classes” – the foundation – and he warns “you will not be able to execute the classic recipes… without mastering the fundamentals.” Think puff pastry dough.

Chapters on French Pastry Classics, Tarts, Cookies, Cake & Ice Cream follow. The final chapter is a nod to his home: Sweet and Savory Alsatian Specialties.

Diagrams and drawings are precise; the visuals solidify the reader’s understanding of what the recipe states. Time-lapse photos of creating meringue and whipped cream are the perfect guide for the novice who is baffled by the difference between soft peak, semi-stiff peak, stiff peak and very stiff peaks. He shows broken meringue and how he “repaired” it.

This book is a comprehensive tool for anyone who aspires to a career in pastry or just enjoys serious baking. Do yourself a favor and go to Amazon. Use the Look Inside feature to see how comprehensive this book is. It is indeed award-winning material.

By Linda Avery | MARCH 24, 2014 | APPETIZERS

Editor’s Note: Linda Avery returns with a look at two new books dedicated to cheese. Want to learn more about cheese? You might lean toward Cowgirl Creamery Cooks. Looking for inspired recipes built around cheese? Both books are inspirational, but The Cheesemonger’s Seasons adds a seasonal twist.

CheeseBooks

Cowgirl Creamery Cooks

by Sue Conley & Peggy Smith
Photographs © Hirsheimer & Hamilton

Facts: Chronicle Books, 256 pages, $35.00, Digital: $24.99 (or Amazon Hardcover $25.07, Kindle $9.50)
Photos: about 72
Recipes: 71 including techniques

The induction of new members to the Guilde des Fromagers Confrérie de Saint-Uguzon took place last November during a conference of Les Dames d’Escoffier International in Austin, Texas. The Guilde, founded in France, honors “dairy professionals” or cheese producers; the Confrérie is for educators, writers, chefs, i.e., those who share the knowledge. I was expecting a rather solemn ceremony when I saw the robes, insignia and medallions worn by the members, but they were having great fun, obviously based in their common love of cheese.

That doesn’t diminish their serious attitude about cheese-making and who they induct. The Guilde has more than 5,600 members world wide and includes Sue Conley & Peggy Smith, the “cowgirls” of Cowgirl Creamery, founded in 1994. Since then they have received numerous awards for their flavorful cheeses.

Their recently released Cowgirl Creamery Cooks underscores their cheesemaker ability and educates. It answers questions. Can I drink tea instead of wine with cheese? Should I eat the rind? What do I need to consider for a cheese course? What should I serve with the cheese? What is a vertical flight of cheese vs. a horizontal flight? (Personally, I was rather surprised that it had nothing to do with whether one is standing at a bar or lying on a sofa).

The recipes are divided by fresh cheeses (Crème Fraîche Scones, Ricotta-Asparagus Soufflé), soft, young-aged cheeses (Gougères), aged cheeses (Raclette with Boiled Potatoes and Quick Pickles), grating cheeses (Cheese Fricos, Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Paillard), blue cheeses (Sweet Smokey Blue and Bacon Soufflé) and (almost as important) the end bits (Classic Mac and Cheese).

Consider the techniques and summary section, combine those with the photography of Hirsheimer & Hamilton (our friends from The Canal House), and the result is an informative, thought-provoking and mouth-watering book.

The Cheesemonger’s Seasons

by Chester Hastings
Photographs © Joseph De Leo and Chester Hastings

Facts: Chronicle Books, 192 pages, $35.00; Digital: $27.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $25.37, Kindle $15.39)
Photos: 37
Recipes: 90

Chester Hastings is a chef and cheesemonger. His 25 years of experience and the training under Carlo Middone at Vivande Porta Via in San Francisco sharpened his palate.

This man creates enticing combinations. I could almost taste the dishes from the names of his recipes in The Cheesemonger’s Seasons: Roasted Broccoli Romanesco with Scamorza − Lemon Olive Oil, and Toasted Sesame Seed − Roasted Beets and Fresh Strawberries with Orange Syrup and Goat Cheese − Savory Pumpkin Tarts with Bûcheron – Cannellini Beans with Sage and Parmigiano-Reggiano. YUM – you know how those recipes are going to taste!

As implied by the title, the book is divided by season. Of the 90 recipes, 30 are summertime recipes. My guess is that is the result of the availability of so many fresh fruits and veggies. There is no pantry, nor glossary. No techniques section, nor where to shop. Just intriguing recipes with great headnotes which are the bridge between us and Chef Chester Hastings.

Pea-Shoots-with-Burrata

Pea Shoots with Burrata, Lemon Olive Oil, and Toasted Sesame Seeds

photo © Joseph De Leo

Serves 4

When I was visiting Princess Marina Colonna many years ago in Rome, she was in the process of developing a line of citrus-infused olive oils, and tasked my mentor, Carlo, and me with developing a few recipes featuring these exotic creations.

“Infused” is not really the right word here, however, as these oils are made by crushing whole citrus fruits (peels, seed, and all) with the olives at the time of pressing to create a blend of oil so deeply permeated with fruit it will blow your mind. Agrumato, in Abruzzo, is another producer who uses the same technique to create a variety of oils that are outstanding for drizzling raw over grilled vegetables, fish, chicken, and salad greens.

If you can’t get your hands on a lemon olive oil for this recipe, use a good fruit extra-virgin olive oil and add freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste. There should be a nice balance of acidity to fat.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 cups/115 g fresh pea shoots
1 pound/455 g fresh Burrata cheese
4 tablespoons/60 ml/ lemon-infused olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Method:
1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small, dry skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute, until just barely turning golden, taking care not to burn them. Remove from the heat and immediately pour the seeds into a small bowl. Let cool completely.

2. Trim any tough lower leaves from the pea shoots, then rise and dry well.

3. Cut the Burrata into four equal pieces and lay them, cut sides up, on a serving platter or four individual plate.

4. Divide the pea shoots evenly around the Burrata pieces. Drizzle the olive oil over the pea shoots and Burrata and scatter the sesame seeds over the top. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

By Linda Avery | FEBRUARY 03, 2014 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s Note: Linda Avery returns with a review of book to help you with that panini press you got for Christmas, and if you didn’t get one, she tells you how to fake it.

panini-press-bookcover

The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook

by Kathy Strahs
Photographs © Kathy Lipscomb Strahs

Facts: Harvard Press, 355 pages, $19.99 (or Amazon Paperback $13.48, Kindle $9.99)
Photos: about 93
Recipes: 225

Snowbound? Just bored? Feeling guilty about the New Year diet you’ve already put behind you? Maybe a panini is just what you need to snap out of it and get those creative juices flowing.

Kathy Strahs’  The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook covers the subject from Aioli to Zucchini. You may be familiar with her blog PaniniHappy.com which has been inspiring panini fans since 2008 and encouraging readers to think outside the box. You don’t have a Panini press? Use a grill, a George Foreman grill or any countertop appliance.

Truth be told, I’ve used a cast iron skillet with a weight on the Panini as you would a spatchcock chicken. Wrap whatever your weight (traditionally a brick) in aluminum foil, cook one side and at the appropriate time, flip the panini over and place the weight on again. It won’t have grill marks but it’s just as tasty. After all, didn’t someone say necessity is the mother of invention?

Strahs is passionate about variety. As toothsome as baguettes are, she suggests using corn bread, tortillas, even pound cake as alternatives. In the “A Little Something Sweet” chapter she includes a recipe for Brie, Nutella and Basil Panini on brioche!

Chapters are by main ingredient, i.e., poultry, meats, seafood, fruit/vegetable, cheeses and also panini for breakfast and brunch. Most of her combos are interestingly simple: Cheddar, Apple, And Whole Grain Mustard Panini; Gruyère and Red Onion Confit Panini; Speck, Taleggio, and Grill-Roasted Garlic Panini; and even the Spicy Elvis Panini (peanut butter, bananas, and bacon with sriracha).

Strahs says the panini recipe below is one that conjures up fall and anticipation of Thanksgiving, but to me it’s timeless. Fig preserves are one of my favorites!

 turkey-panini002

Turkey-Apple Panini with Fig and Gruyère 

photo © Kathy Lipscomb Strahs

Yield: 4 panini

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
8 slices rustic whole-grain bread, sliced from a dense bakery loaf
1/2 cup fig preserves
8 ounces carved or deli-sliced roast turkey
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
8 ounces Gruyère cheese, thinly sliced

Method:
1. Heat the panini press to medium-high heat.

2. For each sandwich: Spread butter on two slices of bread to flavor the outside of the sandwich. Flip over both slices and spread 1 tablespoon fig preserves on the other side of each. Top one slice with turkey, apples, and cheese. Close the sandwich with the other slice of bread, buttered side up.

3. Grill two panini at a time, with the lid closed, until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted, 4 to 5 minutes.

 

 

 

By Linda Avery | JANUARY 05, 2014 | APPETIZERS

Editor’s note: Got Amazon.com gift cards? Linda Avery returns with a look at Jeff Koehler’s Spain: Recipes and Traditions from the Verdant Hills of the Basque Country to the Costal Waters of Andalucía. Read her review to see if it’s a book for your collection. 

Spain-bookcover

by Jeff Koehler
Photographs by Jeff Koehler

Facts: Chronicle Books, 352 pages, $40.00 (or at Amazon Hardcover: $27.79; Kindle: $16.19)
Photos: over 200
Recipes: 172

Spain: Recipes and Traditions from the Verdant Hills of the Basque Country to the Coastal Waters of Andalucía

Let me begin by saying that I’m totally jealous of Jeff Koehler. It began when I read and made recipes from his book Morocco. Now I’m pouring over recipes from the Basque Country to Andalucía and the image of my passport is mentally stamped on each page.

Koehler met his wife in London and moved to Spain shortly before marrying. He has an intimate knowledge of the country which comes through loud and clear in the book. He begins with a regional culinary tour and provides a map of the regions for those of us who don’t know Castilla is in the center of Spain with La Rioja and Navarra to the north (it’s quite helpful). The book has 15 chapters. Soups, fish, rice, meat and other mundane foodstuffs are slotted between pulses, shellfish, game and snails, innards and extremities. Did you just go to google to find pulses?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention salt cod or bacalao (the Catalan word happens to be the same word as Italian bacallà, in the Basque country it’s bakailoo). “Some of the most classic, even celebrated, dishes in Spain are made with bacalao.” Koehler presents nine salt cod recipes and in the glossary you’ll find how to desalt salt cod along with using saffron, preparing fresh snails for cooking, cleaning squid, cuttlefish, mussels and sundry other techniques.

Each chapter is led by interesting information whether it’s the history of tapas, or how and why consumption of certain food has changed or just an entertaining story. He quotes a funny line in the introduction to Innards and Extremities reflecting how a Spaniard feels about eating a whole animal. It essentially translates to “taking advantage of everything except the way that a pig walks.”

Wrapping up the book are desserts including Galician Crepes with Fresh Whipped Cream and Honey, Flatbread with Pine Nuts, Sugar and Anise; plus drinks like Slushy Lemon Granita and sangrias; and then conserves such as Dried Apricots Macerated in Sweet Wine and Creamy Quince Paste.

I predict that Jeff Koehler has a well-deserved award in his future for this book.

The following recipe has no season – It’s a hit for lunch, dinner or cut in smaller servings, an appetizer.

 Spain-Tortilla

Potato and Onions Egg Tortilla
Tortilla de Patatas y Cebolla

photo © Jeff Koehler

One of the most classic and popular of all Spanish dishes, the egg and potato tortilla is, simply, iconic. It was, fittingly, the first dish I learned to make when I moved to Spain in 1996, in a lesson given to me by my future brother-in-law, Robert. Preparing a tortilla with potato alone is fine, but using an equal amount of onions produces a sweeter, moister, and, in my mind, superior result. While the key to a good tortilla is keeping it moist in the center, the real trick, he showed me, comes in flipping it. Or rather, flipping the tortilla without the bottom sticking.

Makes one 10-inch/25-cm tortilla
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

1 1 ⁄4 pounds/570 g medium white potatoes
1 1 ⁄4 pounds/570 g medium onions
1 quart/1 l mild olive oil or sunflower oil
10 eggs
Salt

Method:
1. Peel the potatoes, halve lengthwise, and thinly slice crosswise. Peel the onions, halve lengthwise, and thinly slice crosswise.

2. In a large sauté pan or deep skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat until shimmering. Carefully add the potatoes and onions and cook over medium-high heat, stirring from time to time, until they soften and just begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes and onions to a colander to thoroughly drain. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the oil.

3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly with a hand whisk until frothy. Season with salt. Pour the drained potatoes and onions into the egg. Gently push down to cover with egg. Let sit and absorb for 10 minutes.

4. In a 10-inch/25-cm nonstick skillet, heat the reserved 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat. Pour in the egg mixture. Immediately turn the heat to low and swirl the pan in a circular motion for a few seconds to keep the egg from sticking. Cook until the bottom is golden and the tortilla set, about 6 minutes.

5. Wearing an oven mitt, place a flat, tight-fitting plate over the tortilla. Firmly pressing the plate against the pan, carefully and quickly turn the tortilla over onto the plate, and then slide the tortilla off the plate and back into the pan. Swirl the pan in a circular motion to settle the tortilla and keep it from sticking. Tuck any edges down with a spatula. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until firm but still moist in the center.

6. Flip the tortilla onto a clean plate. Dab off any excess oil with a paper towel. Let cool before slicing it into fat wedges to serve.

By Gwen Ashley Walters | DECEMBER 15, 2013 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Specialty-Food-Magazines

Everyone has one — a fanatic, food-loving friend (some of us have boatloads of them). You know the type. She (or he) already has subscriptions to Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and Cook’s Illustrated. She devours cookbooks like page-turning novels, and her idea of the perfect evening is curling up with a glass of wine and the latest issue of Saveur.

So what do you buy for someone who already has those magazines? Get them a highly focused, specialty publication — a food journal.

Here are five I recommend and why. The good news is this gift fits any budget because you can buy a single issue or, if you’re feeling generous, a full year’s subscription.

SweetPaul-lg

Paul Lowe is a highly respected and sought after food stylist based in New York City. A quick glance through his thick, quarterly magazine, Sweet Paul, and you’ll see why. Dreamy is the first word that comes to mind, followed by inspirational and then aspirational.

The tagline is “chasing the sweet things in life” and although much of the magazine is devoted to food, it also includes decorating and crafting ideas. Pictures are in soft focus and inviting. Recipes are gourmet but approachable.

Raised in Norway, Paul might be the Norwegian version of Martha Stewart, only I find his style far more appealing and chic. Sweet Paul might kindle your own inner homemaking, or at the very least, provide a blissful way to pass an afternoon, turning page after gorgeous page, dreaming of domestic shangri-la. (Single issue $18; 1 year subscription (4 issues) $60.)

CherryBombe-LG

CHERRYBOMBE is a bomb… at nearly 200 pages and weighing just under two pounds, it’s a hefty work of art. It’s also new, and prints only twice a year (issue 2 was just release). CHERRYBOMBE is a celebration of women in food, written by women, about women. I suppose guys can appreciate the high-quality writing and great storytelling, but I’m guessing the readership is largely women.

Each issue has a couple dozen contributors, including some professional chefs. In issue 2, Manhattan Chef Anita Lo (Anissa) interviews Brooklyn Chef Sohui Kim (The Good Fork) in a handwritten, playful banter. Multiple contributors make for a diverse collection of voices, and each story feels fresh and different from the last. Recipes are included if they fit the story.

As with Sweet Paul, imagery is important and the pictures are beautiful and compelling, but it’s the stories that make CHERRYBOMBE da bomb (sorry, couldn’t resist). (Single issue $18; 1 year subscription (2 issues) $40.)

LPlg

If CHERRYBOMBE is slanted toward the female persuasion, Lucky Peach is the male counterpart. To be fair, Lucky Peach has women contributors and not all stories revolve around the Y chromosome toque, especially in the more recent issues, but this is largely a guy-written (and edited) magazine.

The brain-child of David Chang (Momofuku), writer Peter Meehan and Chris Ying (co-publisher of indie house McSweeny’s) the quarterly’s first issue, Summer 2011, was dedicated to ramen (speeding up the momentum of the ramen craze currently sweeping the nation). The trio has since covered American food, Chinatown, and the before-and-after of an imaginary Apocalypse (weird but it worked). Their “Gender” issue (slightly less than half for the ladies, slightly more than half for the dudes) generated quite a buzz.

Contributors have included Anthony Bourdain, L.A. food critic Jonathan Gold and food scientist Harold McGee. Irreverent in design, Lucky Peach is the ultimate foodie-hipster’s literary manual — and thoroughly enjoyable even if you’re not tragically hip. (Single issue $9 to $12; 1 year subscription (4 issues) $28.)

 

Art-of-Eating---LG

What began as an eight-page newsletter, The Art of Eating has fully matured into a 48-page literary journal of food and wine. Published quarterly by Edward Behr, one of the leading voices in food and wine writing in America, The Art of Eating offers a multi-course dinner of articles not covered by other print publications.

Behr and his contributors focus on “sense of place,” digging deep, down to the roots of a story. In-depth articles cover current — and timeless — topics you won’t find in other publications: moving stories about shepherd cheesemaking in the Tsakonia region of Greece; Chinese cooking techniques of velveting, deep-frying and stir-frying; recipes suited to Chablis; contemporary restaurants in Montreal; and book reviews of books you’ve might or might not have ever heard of, but suddenly want to read.

The Art of Eating is less about imagery (although there are many high quality photographs in each issue) and more about the words. In today’s world of sound bites and blurbs, it’s stimulating to soak in a good story and learn something new. (Single issue $13.50; 1 year subscription (4 issues) $52.)

 

Gastronomica---LG

Gastronomica is a serious, academic food journal. Published since 2001 by the University of California Press, it is the leading intellectual literary journal on food and culture. Stories are born out of the intersection of food and culture, often looking at one through the eyes of the other.

Long-form food journalism is celebrated in several of these specialty publications, but it is the crux of Gastronomica. Heavy-hitter contributors cover stories on American food policies, global food issues, and other social and economic issues related to food. Lest you think this is dry reading, it’s not — and not every article is wrapped in weighty reverence. While there is never a single piece of fluff, some stories touch on lighter topics, such as an interview with a current renowned chef, or a personal essay explaining the unlikely joy of angel food cake.

The writers may have academic backgrounds, but they are storytellers at heart. Gastronomica will quench the thirst of the thinking food lover. (Single issue $12.99; 1 year (4 issues) subscription $53.)

Here’s to happy shopping (and reading) this holiday.  Cheers.

By Linda Avery | DECEMBER 01, 2013 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s note: Linda Avery returns with a look at award-winning Chef Suzanne Goin’s new book, The A. O. C. Cookbook, named after her second restaurant, plus Linda takes one of Chef Goin’s seasonally appropriate dessert recipes for a spin. 

AOC-bookcover
by Suzanne Goin
with wine notes by Caroline Styne
Photographs by Shimon and Tammar Rothstein

Facts: Alfred A. Knopf, 448 pages, $35.00 (or at Amazon Hardcover: $22.14; Kindle: $13.29)
Photos: over 125
Recipes: 98 not including sub-recipes

Suzanne Goin opens her new cookbook The A.O.C. Cookbook by telling us why it’s taken seven years from receiving a James Beard award for Sunday Suppers at Lucques to write a second cookbook.

She “opened two more restaurants, had three children, moved homes” and more! There’s no question about her ability to multitask. I always felt I liked this woman but the thought was solidified when she said that before having children, she never had anything in the freezer but ice cream and gin (my preference would have been vodka but hey, it’s the thought).

As her first book was named after Lucques, her first restaurant, A.O.C. is the name of her second restaurant. A.O.C. stands for Appellation d’Origine Controlee, the French government’s system for regulating and designating wine, cheese, and other artisanal products. The definition embodied what she wanted from the new restaurant i.e., “celebration of unique products and the joy of tasting and drinking them.”

The book: after the first two chapters, Cheese and Charcuterie, each chapter, from Salads through Dessert, has recipes categorized by season (as she did in Sunday Supper). This book also introduces Goin’s business partner and wine director, Caroline Styne, who has written insightful wine notes for each recipe.

Goin doesn’t disappoint my thirst for headnotes. Whether she’s defining soubise, explaining how she developed a recipe, why she swapped ingredients at the last minute, or telling the story of her six-year-old daughter’s salad dressing recipe, she’s bringing us closer to knowing her.

Here is a sampling of recipes included in the book: Young Goat Cheese with Dried Figs and Saba; Duck Sausage with Candied Kumquats; Roasted Kabocha Squash with Dates, Parmesan, and Pepitas; Grilled Orata with Cauliflower, Fregola, and Persimmon-Pomegranate Salsa; and Pork Cheeks with Polenta, Mustard Cream, and Horseradish Gremolata. There’s also a smattering of recipes from the wood-burning oven and sixteen desserts including S’mores with Caramel Popcorn and Chocolate Sorbet.

Following the recipes is a 50-plus page compendium of A.O.C. cheese which she describes as “a marathon opus collection of cheese information” and she’s not wrong. The list and descriptions are wonderfully informative. If you’re interested, go to this Amazon link and “Look Inside” – type in Page 355 to see some examples.

In the meantime, here is a wonderful, season-appropriate cake you might consider for the holidays.

persimmon-cakeAOC

Persimmon Cake with Crème Fraîche and Maple Pecans

Photo © 2013 Shimon and Tammar Rothstein

Crisp, crunchy varieties of persimmons, like Fuyus, are great eaten out hand, sliced into salads, and diced into salsas, but this cake is the perfect way to show off the softer Hachiya types, which need to be completely soft before they are eaten. My palate has strange textural issues—mostly that I like some oddball ones that other people generally don’t appreciate. Bring on the chewy, the stringy, the slimy, and even snotty textures! The strange gelatinous interior of a super-ripe persimmon reminds me of an aloe plant in a way, and I think it’s that very dense and wet texture that makes this cake so ethereal. This recipe was inspired by farmer James Birch of Flora Bella Farm, who is, shall we say, a little spacey, in the most charming and lovely way— meaning that sometimes he forgets to let anyone know what he’s growing and what he would like to sell. When he comes for lunch, for example, I’ll ask him, “Hey, James, how’s it going?” Then he’ll just happen to mention, “Well, I do have four cases of very ripe chocolate persimmons on my truck.” Thank goodness, Christina and the gang are used to this type of kooky farmer behavior, so she responded, “Great! Let’s bake a cake or two.” I love that these persimmons actually taste of fall and winter—as if they have been grown in fields of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. It’s very strange but so magical to have those flavors reinforced by the fruit itself. This is a great one for the Thanksgiving or Christmas buffet.

Makes one 10-inch cake

Ingredients:
For the cake
1 3/4 cups (approximately 3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus a little for the pan
About 3 ripe Hachiya persimmons (to yield 1 cup puréed flesh)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup crème fraîche

For the maple pecans
1 1/2 cups pecans
2 tablespoons maple sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup (see Note below)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Note: Maple sugar can be found at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, specialty stores, and, of course, online. Although you can substitute turbinado or even brown sugar, the maple sugar makes it extra maple-y and special.

Method:
Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2. Prepare a 10-inch round cake pan by lightly buttering the inside surfaces, lining the bottom with parchment paper, and buttering the parchment.

3. Cook 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick) in a small saucepan over high for a few minutes, swirling the pan, until the butter browns and smells nutty. Set aside to cool.

4. Scoop the ripe flesh from the persimmons, and puree in a blender until smooth. Measure out 1 cup puree.

5. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, the spices, and salt in a small bowl, and set aside.

6. In another bowl, combine the puree, 1/4 cup cream, vanilla, and cooled browned butter.

7. Paddle the remaining 1 1/2 cups butter and the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium-high for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each egg.

8. Decrease the paddle speed to low. Alternately add the flour mixture and persimmon-puree mixture to the bowl, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

9. Evenly spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour, until cake feels springy to the touch.

10. Whip the remaining 3/4 cup cream and the crème fraîche to soft peaks.

Make the maple nuts
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

3. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Spread evenly across the prepared baking sheet. Bake, stirring every few minutes, for about 10 minutes, or until nuts are toasted.

Cut six slices from the cake (the cake will yield ten to twelve servings), and place on six dessert plates. Dollop with whipped crème fraîche, and scatter the candied pecans over the cake and around the plate.

Wine Note
This cake epitomizes winter with its weighty texture and dense fruitiness. I love how the crème fraîche brings a lightness of body and brightening flavor to the composition, and look for a wine to continue in that mode. Madeira is perfect for this, because, along with its overall nut-laden flavor, it brings a degree of texture and tart acidity to the palate. In this pairing, I opt for one that is in the mid-range of sweetness, made from the Bual or Verdelho grape varieties, which possesses back notes of stone fruits and caramel that will marry with the sweetness of the persimmons and pecans, while its tart acidity works in sync with the crème fraîche.

By Linda Avery | NOVEMBER 25, 2013 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s note: Linda Avery returns with a look at two new books, one vegetarian, one vegan, but she says meat eaters might be pleasantly surprised by the delicious depth of these recipes. Take a look and see what you think. If the two recipes she shares from these books are any indication, I would agree.

Feast_bookcover

Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for any Eater and Every Appetite

by Sarah Copeland
Photographs © 2013 Yunhee Kim

Facts: Chronicle Books, 288 pages, $35.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $22.14, Kindle $13.99)
Photos: about 71
Recipes: 121

Sarah Copeland dubs herself an unlikely vegetarian. Mom and Dad had been raised on farms where the protein of choice was meat and that continued through Sarah upbringing. Over the years she experienced a slow evolution in her diet to eating more salads, veggies, and cheeses, particularly at home.

Then, the man she married was a vegetarian and she found herself thinking that the foods that surrounded the meat were more exciting, and over time there was less and less interest in meat.

Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for any Eater and Every Appetite begins with Copeland’s explanation of the vegetarian larder—a discussion of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and spices, and allows for dairy and even fish (pescatarian) as well. In addition, she notes what is essential for an Asian larder and how to store certain items. Most importantly, there is a discussion on nutrition, i.e., sources for plant-based iron and Omega-3s,  plus seafood sources for Omega-3s.

The nine chapters are nicely varied beginning with recipes for Breakfast & Brunch and ending with Pickles, Sauces & Such (I asked myself “why didn’t she end with Sweets?” and then wondered where would the pickles go?). In the middle are chapters dubbed Little Meals, Meals in a Bowl and Platefuls, among others. And, she does a neat thing in each chapter: one recipe is presented with four seasonal swaps. Take Caprese for example: Spring = Pea Mash with Burrata and Mint; Summer = Heirloom Tomatoes with Burrata; Fall = Beets and Ricotta; Winter = Lentils and Mozzarella.

The final chapters Prep School, Essential Tools, and Sources round out the book nicely.

This polenta dish is perfect for a stick-to-your-ribs winter choice.

Feast_Polenta_with_Winter_Salad

Polenta With Winter Salad, Poached Egg, And Blue Cheese

Photo © 2013 Yunhee Kim

Serves 4

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups/840 ml water
1 cup/140 g polenta
Sea salt
1 1/4 cups/300 ml whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce/30 g cheddar or Dubliner cheese, grated
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 handful cherry tomatoes
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 small head radicchio, chopped into bite-size pieces
1/2 head frisée, torn into bite-size pieces
Dash white or regular balsamic vinegar
4 large eggs, poached
1 to 2 ounces/30 to 55 g Danish blue, Roquefort, Valdeon blue, or Gorgonzola cheese

Method:
1. Bring 3 cups/720 ml of the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Slowly add the polenta, stir with a wooden spoon, and add 1 teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the polenta is tender and fully cooked, about 20 minutes. Add the milk, 2 tablespoons of the butter, and the cheddar to the polenta and stir together over medium-low heat until just warmed through and soft enough to drop easily from a spoon, a few minutes more. Cover to keep warm.

2. Heat the olive oil in your largest skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are charred and have burst, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the radicchio and frisée and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, the remaining ½ cup/120 ml water, and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Reduce the heat to medium-low and toss together.

3. Spoon the polenta into bowls and top with the salad and poached eggs. Crumble the blue cheese over the top before serving.

 one.dish.vegan.cover

One-Dish Vegan

by Robin Robertson

Facts: Harvard Common Press, 208 pages, $35.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $16.95, Kindle $9.99)
Recipes: 152

Robin Robertson has over twenty cookbooks to her credit and, I must say, an absolutely lovely website. (I will admit to being affectionately dubbed a “webmistress,”  so I look with a critical eye at websites, and Robertson’s has a clean look with great images. The simplicity punctuates the one word message she wants to send – VEGAN!)

One-Dish Vegan is an update of One-Dish Vegetarian Meals released in 2007. The changes in this book include recipes that use less oil, many low-fat, more whole grain recipes and gluten-free/soy-free notations. If the recipe isn’t gluten-free, she notes how it can be made so.

A nice variety of recipes are grouped in eight chapters such as Soups That Make a Meal, Main Dish Salads, Stovetop Simmers and Stews, Sautés, Oven to Table…

Some that caught my eye are Lebanese Bread Salad with Chickpeas, Minestrone with Cannellini Beans and Rice, Beer Chaser Chili (there are 19 chili recipes), Tempeh and Eggplant Moussaka, and Southwestern Mac and Queso.

I love headnotes and Robertson uses them to hint at what’s to come – “fragrant Basmati rice lends an extra touch of sweetness”; – or to instruct – “Soba can be tricky to cook…  to solve this…” – or to teach, as you’ll read in this Vegetable Étouffée recipe.

Vegetable Étouffée

Serves 4

There are many variations on the classic Cajun stew called étouffée which translates from the French as “smothered” and is usually made with crawfish or shrimp. This brimming-with-vegetables version still has that great New Orleans taste because it’s based on a dark roux, the traditional butter-and-flour thickener (although olive oil stands in for butter here), and the famous Cajun “trinity” of onion, celery, and bell pepper. The ingredient list may seem long, but this stew cooks in only 30 minutes. Traditionally, this is a “serve over rice” dish.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 medium-size zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch slices
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups cooked dark red kidney beans or 1 (15.5-ounce) can dark red kidney
beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3 scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon filé powder
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
Hot pepper sauce (optional)
Cooked brown rice, for serving

Method
1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and stir constantly until it brown, 3 to 5 minutes; watch carefully so it does not burn. Transfer the flour to a small plate and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, zucchini, and garlic, cover, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the browned flour, stirring to coat the vegetables. Add the broth, beans, tomatoes, scallions, thyme, filé powder, bay leaf, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Add the parsley, then taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a splash of hot pepper sauce if desired. Serve hot over rice.

By Linda Avery | NOVEMBER 05, 2013 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s note: Linda Avery returns with a look at the weighty tome that is legendary Chef Daniel Boulud’s latest cookbook: Daniel: My French Cuisine. Is this book for you? Read on to see what Linda thought of the book. 

Daniel-bookcover

Daniel: My French Cuisine

by Daniel Boulud and Sylvie Bigar
Essays by Bill Buford
Photographs © 2013 Thomas Schauer

Facts: Grand Central Life & Style, 416 pages, $60.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $38.49);
Photos: Scads – oodles – zillions — at least one per recipe
Recipes: Think 416 pages worth
Give to: This is a holiday gift for any foodie

When I opened Daniel: My French Cuisine I immediately thought of Hubert Keller’s Souvenirs cookbook (my review here).

Old photos and new of family and colleagues at special occasions and in the kitchen, the same quality of the content, and the mention of Roger Vergé, the Troisgros brothers, and Paul Bocuse – those Lyonnais are a tight group.

Paul Bocuse was honored to write the preface and predicts that this book “is sure to become a reference for tomorrow’s chefs”.

It could easily be intimidating (a hefty tome at over five pounds) but Daniel Boulud isn’t one to shrink from a task. Wanting to give his readers comfort, he begins with “How to Use This Book:” the recipes are the same as in the restaurant but scaled down, “only slightly altered (for) home kitchens’ capacities,” and a list confirming what some would presume unless otherwise noted e.g., eggs: large, flour: all-purpose, milk: whole, olive-oil: always extra-virgin, etc., etc., etc., plus a tool guide, sources for tools and ingredients, glossary of culinary terms and basic recipes… it’s all there.

Daniel (the book) classifies recipes in three parts: Recipes from Restaurant Daniel, Iconic Sessions, and Daniel at Home. Of course the restaurant recipes are the most complex but the photography pulls you in and soon you’re thinking not that it will be profoundly difficult, but where can you source the ingredients.

In this section the Frog Leg Soupe en Croûte VGE caught my attention. VGE? Turns out, it is Boulud is paying homage to Paul Bocuse. In 1975, Bocuse was declared knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour by French president Valerie Giscard d’Estaing. For the occasion Bocuse created a soupe en croûte adding the initials of the president: Truffle Soup V.G.E. (Google “Bocuse soupe VGE” and click on images – the presentation is “ooh la la”).

Iconic Sessions is a unique section which holds “laborious, traditional” recipes from years gone by such as Turbot Soufflé, Jamon au Foin (literally “leg in hay” but it’s actually ham) and Canard à la Presse. Rather than presenting these as conventional recipes, Boulud challenged Bill Buford to write a narrative of the 18-day experience making over two dozen recipes which are pared to about half in the book.

There’s no ingredient list or method but the telling of producing these dishes by this witty author is almost better. It is a fresh, creative, entertaining approach. You don’t miss having the recipe(s) after reading the essays but you will be exhausted and it’s clear from the photos that each recipe in Iconic Sessions requires at least four cooks in the kitchen.

Daniel at Home allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief.  Three and four recipe menus from Alsace, Normandy, Provence, and Lyon are in this section. There’s nothing dumbed down about the recipes. These are what Boulud cooks for friends – he called them “soulful” menus.

I wish I could share all of the (insert descriptive here — mouthwatering is overused) photos. The book is lovely, and I feel like a better cook just having it. It will be on the top of many holiday gift lists. This recipe, from the “at home” section, is from Alsace. The menu also includes Wild Mushroom Tarte Flambée, Root Vegetable Baeckeoffe, and Kougelhopf.

 boulud.pork

Beer-Marinated Pork Rack with a Barley-Mustard Crust

Photo © by Thomas Schauer

Serves 6

For the Barley-Mustard Crust (makes extra)
1/4 cup pearl barley
1 cup Chicken Stock
Salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup fine white breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons mustard seeds, soaked in water overnight
1 tablespoon mustard powder
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
Freshly ground white pepper

For the Pork Rack
Salt
3/4 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds, soaked in water overnight
3/4 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
6 sprigs sage
8 sprigs thyme
4 bay leaves, torn
8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 (6-rib) pork rack (about 8 pounds), Frenched and tied
1 (12-ounce) bottle amber ale (such as Fischer’s Biere D’Alsace)
Freshly ground white pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons butter
8 large green cabbage leaves, remaining head reserved for the baeckeoffe
1/4 cup grated fresh horseradish

Method
Make the barley-mustard crust
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Rinse the barley with cold water until it runs clear. Place in a medium ovenproof saucepan with the stock and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

2. Bring to a simmer, cover, and bake for 35 minutes. Remove, rest for 10 minutes, and fluff with a fork. Transfer the barley to a tray, spread into a thin layer, and chill uncovered in the refrigerator.

3. In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the butter until creamy. Add the cooled barley, the breadcrumbs, mustard seeds, mustard powder, Dijon mustard, and grainy mustard and season with salt and pepper; mix just until combined.

4. Scrape the butter onto a sheet of parchment paper, set another paper on top, and roll into a 1/8-inch-thick sheet. Refrigerate until firm, or for up to 3 days.

Make the pork rack
1. In a large saucepan, simmer 2 1/4 cups water with 2 1/4 tablespoons salt and the brown sugar until dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the mustard seeds, cracked peppercorns, and half of the sage, thyme, bay leaves, and garlic; allow to cool. Place the pork in a 2-gallon resealable bag and pour in the water-spice mixture and the beer. Seal and marinate refrigerated for 48 hours, turning the pork 4 times.

2, Preheat the oven to 300°F. Remove the pork from the marinade, scrape off any herbs or spices stuck to the meat, and pat dry. Season on all sides with white pepper. If desired, wrap the bones with aluminum foil to prevent
browning.

3. Heat the oil in a roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add the pork and sear on all sides until golden brown, about 8 minutes total. While searing, baste often with the oil from the pan, especially in the areas around the bones. Reduce the heat to medium and add 2 tablespoons of the butter and the remaining sage, thyme, bay leaf, and garlic. Continue turning and basting for 3 minutes.

4. Transfer to the oven and roast until the internal temperature reaches 130°F, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and boil the cabbage leaves until tender, about 4 minutes. Strain off the water and add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Toss with the horseradish to heat through. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Remove the pork and increase the oven temperature to broil. Remove the barley crust from the refrigerator. Press the crust onto the meaty side of the pork and trim any over-hanging edges if needed. Broil the pork for about 5 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

7. Arrange the cabbage on a serving tray and set the roasted pork rack on top.

20
Oct

Cooking Slow

By Linda Avery | OCTOBER 20, 2013 | BOOK & PRODUCT REVIEWS

Editor’s Note: Linda Avery returns with a look at prolific cookbook author and cooking teacher  Andrew Schloss’s (Mastering the Grill; Almost From Scratch, + 18 others) latest book, Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More.

cooking.slow.bookcover

Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More

by Andrew Schloss
Text © 2013 Andrew Schloss
Photographs © 2013 Alan Benson

Facts: Chronicle Books, LLC, 224 pages, $30.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $23.91; Kindle $13.99);
Photos: 32
Recipes: 94

After releasing Art of the Slow Cooker in 2011, Andrew Schloss decided to flip it around. His new book, Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More, was release last week.

Immediately he addresses the difference: “The biggest difference between slow cooking in a slow cooker and any other piece of cooking equipment is water.” He points out that because a slow cooker is “sealed” the ingredients stay moist. The drawback, however, is that the constant moisture inhibits flavors from developing.

Concentrated flavors develop through the evaporation of water. Think about making a soup or a sauce or stew – the liquids are cooked down slowly to transform into rich, sometimes creamy, flavorful results.

In nine chapters, Schloss addresses each method of cooking in a slow fashion: slow roasting, slow baking, slow simmering AKA braising… (you get the idea – say slow before each of the following words – steaming, grilling, frying, cooker, sweets, and sous vide).

The time it takes you to cook your usual holiday turkey will look like a breeze when you see his recipe to slow roast a 15-pound turkey over 14 hours. That sure clears the afternoon to watch football. Most of his slow techniques require an oven temperature from 175°F/80°C to 200°F/95°C oven.

Schloss wisely makes note of food safety. Proteins are most vulnerable to the danger of harmful bacteria contamination so “when slow-cooking whole pieces of meat, fish and poultry, it is common practice to either salt the outside of the meat and refrigerate it for enough time to neutralize bacteria, or to brown the ingredient before slow-cooking it to kill surface bacteria.”

Many of his recipes begin with a high oven for 15 minutes before the slow stage begins. This will do essentially what browning does to kill harmful bacteria.

This salmon recipe is brimming with flavor and the leftovers are yummy too. I’m sure you can find lots to do in the 1-1/2 hours the salmon is cooking. Or, just relax.

salmon.lentils

Salmon with Spiced Red Lentils and Bacon

photo © 2013 Alan Benson

Fish is easily overcooked, which makes it a strong candidate for slow cooking and an easy night’s work for the cook—unless of course you complicate matters by throwing something tricky into the mix. I love a culinary dare. Rich fish like salmon and mackerel are delicious served with beans, but the two cook at such different rates, they typically can’t be cooked together. By using red lentils, which are the softest of dried beans, and a forgiving fatty fish, like farm-raised salmon, I found I could trim the difference to about 10 minutes. A brief simmering of the lentils on their own does it; then the salmon is added and everything slow-bakes together in a low oven.

This is a heady, aromatic, elegant one-pot meal. A rainbow of spices elevates this homey dish to a sure thing for a splash at a dinner party—and stirring them together may be the most labor-intensive part of the simple slow-cooking method.

Prep time: 30 minutes; Cooking time: about 1 1/2 hours
Store: for up to 1 day, covered in the refrigerator. Reheat gently in a low oven.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
For the spice rub
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 1/2 pounds/680g farm-raised salmon fillet, in 1 large piece about
1 1/2 inch/4 cm thick, skin removed
2 bacon strips
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup/180g red lentils
1/2 cup/120 ml canned diced tomatoes, with juice
2 cups/480 ml good-quality low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Method
1. To make the spice rub: In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients.

2. Rub 2 teaspoons of the mixture into the flesh of the salmon fillet; set aside for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200°F/95°C.

3. In a large cast-iron skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp and the bottom of the pan is coated with the rendered fat, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, then cut into small pieces.

4. Put the skillet over high heat. When the fat is hot, gently put the salmon in the pan, pinker-side down. (One side of a salmon fillet will be bright pink and the other side will have a strip of dark flesh running down the center. The bright pink side is the one you want to brown.) Sear until nicely browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Using two large spatulas, carefully transfer the salmon to a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, browned-side up.

5. Add the onion to the fat in the pan and sauté over medium-high heat until translucent, about two minutes. Add the garlic and the remaining spice blend and stir until aromatic, about 20 seconds. Stir in the lentils, tomatoes with their juice, and broth and simmer for 10 minutes.

6. Using the foil as a kind of large spatula, carefully slide the salmon onto the lentils. Cover the skillet with a lid or a clean sheet of heavy foil and bake until the thickest part of the fish flakes to gentle pressure and the lentils are tender, about 1 hour.

7. Garnish with the chopped cilantro and slip onto a large platter or serve directly from the pan.

Variation: In A Slow Cooker
Follow the directions in the recipe. Use a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil 2 feet/6o cm long for resting the browned salmon.
Scrape the lentil mixture into a 5- to 6-quart/4.5- to 5.7-liter oval-shaped slow cooker. Using the foil as a plate, set the salmon, still on the foil, on top of the lentils. Drape the long ends of the foil up the sides and over the edges of the slow-cooker crock, like handles.
Cover and cook on low for 2 hours. Lift the salmon on its foil sling. Mound the lentils on a serving platter and carefully slide the salmon from the foil onto the bed of lentils. Garnish with the chopped cilantro and serve.

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