Showing posts with label chives. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chives. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mahi Mahi and Semi-Dried Pickled Root Vegetables with Herb Salt

There are plenty of challenges for a restaurant to source all of its food locally in a place like Austin where we have 80 degree December days when the farmers’ markets are bursting with great produce. So, imagine what it must be like to rely on local ingredients at a restaurant in Sweden where winter is long and dark and summer is brief. And yet, that challenge is just what makes Faviken Magasinet, a mountain estate and restaurant in northern Sweden, so interesting. In the new book Faviken, Magnus Nilsson describes how he transformed the menu to take advantage of the best of locally produced food and make the remote restaurant a destination. I recently received a review copy of the book. The restaurant’s menu changes throughout the year and even from day to day depending on what’s available. Gardens just outside the kitchen supply freshly-picked vegetables and herbs in the summer, and that produce is then carefully stored, dried, pickled, fermented, or otherwise preserved for winter use. For meats, Nilsson has sought out specific breeds of animals, raised ethically to the ages he prefers, from nearby farms. For instance, his preference for beef is that from dairy cows that are five to ten years old. The chicken, which happens to be Brahmas, are raised to an age of about eight months, and along with ducks, geese, and quails, they’re raised for the restaurant at a local farm. Game is hunted, wild herbs and berries are foraged, and fish is brought from the closest shore.

It was fascinating to read about dinner service at Faviken and how precisely everything is timed. The dining room seats sixteen, and everyone is seated and served at the same time. The carefully chosen, dried, cut, and precisely cooked meats are placed on warmed plates which are hurried to the dining room. There’s a practiced choreography of cooking, plating, and delivery. In the summer, vegetables are picked in the garden moments before they land on plates. Kale is described as “steamed so briefly that it is dying on the plate.” I’d love to see this kitchen in action, and I’d love to taste the food. The recipes in the book are presented exactly as they are prepared in the restaurant. That means some ingredients and techniques seem very particular like “one lavender petal from last summer” and “vinegar matured in the burned-out trunk of a spruce tree.” But, I took the recipes as inspiration to think seasonally about what’s available here and now. I was intrigued by a dish in the book that included a pork chop and semi-dried pickled root vegetables. I replaced the pork with a simply seared piece of fish, and focused on the pickled vegetables. I stopped by the farmers’ market and found two kinds of carrots, Chioggia beets, red radishes, and daikon radish. I made a brine with apple cider vinegar, sugar, and salt and added fennel seeds, black peppercorns, and dried red chiles. The chopped root vegetables became quick, refrigerator pickles which I chilled for a few days. Then, I followed the instructions for the semi-dried pickled vegetables in the book. The vegetables were sliced and left on a parchment-lined baking sheet to dry for a couple of days. Then, they were sliced into skinny sticks. I also made the herb salt from the book which is one way fresh herbs are preserved for the winter at the restaurant. I gathered oregano and chives from my herb garden, chopped them in a food processor, mixed them with sea salt, and pushed the mix through a sieve. Nilsson explains that as the herb salt slowly dulls over the winter months, he finds the change in flavor interesting. To keep the herb salt bright green, it can be stored in the freezer.

The semi-dried pickled vegetables were chewy and maintained good puckery flavor. They were a great match to a simple piece of fish, and the herb salt added a fresh savoriness. I didn’t attempt to create a full progression of dishes as would be served at the restaurant, but I enjoyed taking bits and pieces from the book for a simple meal. There’s a lot to be inspired by in the book and applied to what’s available wherever you’re cooking.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Mustard-Glazed Turbot with Roasted Potatoes and Chive Puree

You know when you’re flipping through your stack of to-try recipes and there’s one that you know will be good but you keep putting it back in the pile and thinking you’ll try that one next time? It’s like you think you already know how that one is going to turn out and you think it’ll be good but you don’t foresee any surprises with it and so you keep putting it back in the stack. I do that a lot. So it was with this fish dish, and I was wrong about it. This is from the October 2010 issue of Food and Wine, and it combines a simply cooked piece of fish coated with Dijon mustard with a chive puree and crispy olives and some potatoes on the side. I thought I knew how the fish would taste after being cooked with a layer of mustard on top, and I thought I knew what the chive puree and olives would be like with it. The flavors were even better. The mustard was mellowed as it seared into the fish, and the bright, fresh, herb puree and salty hit of the oil-cooked olives exceeded expectations.

The puree was made first by very briefly blanching chopped chives and a little spinach in boiling water and then draining and rinsing with cold water. They were squeezed dry before placing them in a blender with extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pureeing. I veered off the recipe path just a bit by roasting sliced potatoes rather than boiling and then slicing. Also, for the olives, rather than cooking in oil in the microwave, I sauteed the chopped olives in oil in a pan on the stove until they were crisp. I used turbot fillets rather than cod, and any white flakey fish with good oil content would work here. I basted them with Dijon mustard, seared them for a few minutes in a pan on top of the stove, then flipped them and placed the pan under the broiler for another couple of minutes. To serve, the fish was topped with the olives, and the sauce and potatoes were placed to the side.

Crisping the olives intensified them, and crispiness itself is always desirable anyway. The mustard protected the fish, preventing it from becoming dry while cooking, and after cooking, a mellow version of its flavor seeped into the fish flesh. So, intense, tasty olives and calm Dijon flavor on the fish got a jolt of herbiness from the chive puree, and what I had thought this was going to be like wasn’t even close. I suppose the moral of this story is that you can’t always trust your own instincts, and you shouldn’t put off trying recipes in your to-try stack.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Halibut Fish Sticks with Dill-Caper Tartar Sauce

I hadn’t eaten a fish stick in years. As a kid, I always preferred fish sticks to burgers. In fact, that was about the only school cafeteria lunch item I ever ate, but I never touched the tartar sauce. I don't even know if kids still like fish sticks these days. At some point they disappeared from my diet. I assume that disappearance happened right about the time I was old enough to realize a re-heated, frozen, breaded piece of white fish left something to be desired in flavor, and I have no idea when it was I changed my mind about tartar sauce. So, when I saw this grown-up version of fish sticks with fresh halibut and a pickly, herby, homemade tartar sauce in the June Bon Appetit, I had to try it. I’m pretty sure this version could convince any adult to see fish sticks in a new light. The sticks were pan sauteed rather than deep fried, so there’s no heavy, greasiness about them, and the panko coating made them as crispy as can be.

The tartar sauce came together with mayonnaise, chopped fresh dill, capers, chopped fresh chives, and finely chopped cornichons. Maybe I would have liked tartar sauce all along if it had always been made like this. For the fish sticks, fresh halibut was cut into short, narrow pieces and seasoned. Then, it was coated in egg and dredged in panko breadcrumbs. It cooked quickly in a nonstick skillet with just a tablespoon and a half of oil. It was a quick meal and a nostalgic one as well.

Unlike the ones that came out of a box, these fish sticks were light, crunchy, and fresh-tasting. The tartar sauce was rich and tangy and addictive. I can’t remember what side dish the school cafeteria used to serve with their fish sticks, but it might have been tater tots. We enjoyed these with salad instead, and they surpassed any memory I had of fish sticks. I think they've found their way back into my diet for the foreseeable future.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Creamed Corn and Asparagus Coins

I started to tell you about the book Ad Hoc at Home the other day. Since this is a book about family meals, it’s organized according to how planning meals at home supposedly happens. The chapters for main courses of meat and fish come first assuming those are chosen first, and they're followed by soups, salads, vegetables and side dishes, breads, and desserts which are picked to go with a main course. That makes sense. Although, I have been known to plan meals around a vegetable or salad I have in mind. This particular meal did involve barbecued chicken, but my real plan was to put together a menu that would include fresh, local corn. The creamed corn recipe in the book had stuck in my head, and I had to have it. Creamed corn may not ordinarily require a recipe, but in this case, it led me to adding cayenne and lime zest, and so I was happy to follow it. Then, the asparagus coins caught my eye. Rather than leaving the asparagus in spears, they were cut into nice, little rounds and cooked with chive oil and parsley water. Yes, it was just a tad fussy for a simple, home-cooked side dish, but the flavor was fantastic.

First, for creamed corn, Keller offers a handy tip for removing silks from the cut kernels. Move your hand through the kernels, round and round, and the silks will stick to your hand. Rinse your hand and repeat as needed. With kernels free of all silks, the corn was cooked in a large saute pan with melted butter, lime juice, and salt over low heat. Once the liquid evaporated, cream, cayenne, and lime zest were added. When the corn had absorbed most of the cream, chopped chives were added, and it was done.

To make the asparagus dish, chive oil and parsley water needed to be made in advance. To make chive oil, chopped chives were placed in a sieve under hot running tap water to remove any chlorophyll taste. The chives were drained and dried and pureed with canola oil. That mixture was refrigerated for 24 hours and then poured through cheesecloth to become perfectly smooth. Parsley water was made with leaves and tender stems that were wilted in a pan with a teaspoon of oil and a little honey. That mixture was then transferred to a bowl with ice cold water to stop the cooking. All of that was then pureed and strained. The reason for the parsley water is that it helps in retaining the flavor of asparagus. The chemical in asparagus that gives it its taste is water-soluble, so cooking in plain water causes some of that flavor to disappear. With those items prepped, it was time to address the asparagus. It was suggested that the spears be cut on a mandoline for perfectly equal-sized coins. I opted to quickly chop with a knife and accepted that mine were close enough to being equal in size. So, the almost perfect asparagus coins and tips were placed in a saute pan with chive oil and salt. As soon as the edges of the coins began to cook, parsley water was added, and it was left for a brief couple of minutes until just tender.

I said the parsley water and chive oil were fussy, but they really weren’t difficult to prepare. In fact, I finished them both in about 20 minutes and that included washing dishes. I would need to do a side by side comparison with asparagus cooked in plain water to know if the parsley water were truly effective in preserving asparagus flavor. But, I can say that the taste was excellent and very much of asparagus with a mild side note of chives. And, the creamed corn was ridiculously good. Fresh corn and cream can do no wrong, but add a little lime and cayenne, and it becomes even better. These were simple, home-cooked side dishes that were taken to another level, and that’s the point of Ad Hoc at Home.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Chive, Mascarpone, and Pine Nut Dip

In the middle of a cookie baking frenzy, I needed to think of something in the appetizer category to take to a holiday party. I had some mascarpone in the refrigerator that I bought for another purpose and ended up not using, so my search started with that ingredient. I found this dip on Epicurious and was won over by the swirl of chive oil in it. I had high hopes that the bright green oil would make a festive-looking dip, and it sounded delicious. The chive oil was actually folded into what was a rather thick dip instead of simply being drizzled and swirled as I imagine. The marbled look I had in my mind's eye didn't really come to fruition, but I got over that as soon as I tasted the dip.

First, chopped chives were pureed in olive oil with a pinch of salt. That puree was left to sit in the refrigerator for an hour before it was poured through a sieve to remove the chive solids. Then, pine nuts were toasted in the oven while crostini crisped. The pine nuts were chopped once cool. Mascarpone and cream cheese were to be whisked together, but given the thickness of that mixture, I opted to use a hand mixer instead of a whisk. I changed the recipe by adding a minced shallot to boost the onion flavor, and that was incorporated into the mascarpone mixture. Next, the chopped pine nuts were added. Last the chive oil was poured over top and not too thoroughly folded into the dip so that splotches of green were visible.

This was well-liked at the party, even Kurt let me know that it was really good, but sadly, I only had a small taste of it. That's why I'm already planning on making it again just for us to enjoy at home. The flavor of the chive oil is lovely, but I was glad I added the shallot as well. I'll definitely repeat that addition when I whip up another bowl of it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

MangO Salmon Salad

The other day, I was contacted by Michelle of Bleeding Espresso about the O foods contest for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The goal is to spread awareness by posting a recipe with a food that starts or ends with the letter O. I thought this sounded like a great idea for a great cause and started pondering what I could possibly submit. At the same time, I was perusing the Williams Sonoma Fish book and noticed an incredibly simple dish of pan-roasted salmon fillets in mango juice. I imagined that mango salmon could be placed on a crisp, fresh salad, and I realized that mango ends in O.

I wasn’t kidding about how simple this is, and there really isn’t much to the recipe. You simply place some salmon fillets in a glass dish and pour mango juice over them. Let the salmon sit in the mango juice for 20 minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Then, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, remove the salmon from the mango bath and dry each piece, and place the salmon flesh-side down in the skillet. Turn the heat down to medium and sear the salmon for five minutes. Carefully turn the fillets and place the skillet in the hot oven for about three minutes. Pour the mango juice from the glass dish into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let the juice simmer for a few minutes to thicken slightly. Remove the skillet from the oven and pour the simmered juice over the salmon. Chopped garlic chives garnished the salmon, and since my garlic chive plants have flowers right now, I garnished with those as well.

For the salad, I made a lime shallot vinaigrette which was tossed with mixed baby lettuces. That formed a bed on each plate. While grocery shopping, I looked for something to sit in the center of the salad and found some delicate, little arugula micro greens that were locally grown at Bella Verdi Farms. Those were also tossed with some of the vinaigrette and were then placed in the center of the salad. Pieces of mango sauce-covered salmon were placed around the mound of micro greens. For contrast, flavor, and crunch, I sprinkled on thinly sliced red fresno chiles and green onions and some chopped cashews.


O Foods Contest for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and for the second year in a row, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are hosting the O Foods Contest to raise awareness of this important health issue.

There are TWO WAYS to take part in the O Foods Contest:

ONE: Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato); include this entire text box in the post; and send your post url along with a photo (100 x 100) to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.

PRIZES for recipe posts:


TWO: If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word and send your post url to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.

Awareness posts PRIZE:

  • One winner chosen at random will receive a Teal Toes tote bag filled with ovarian cancer awareness goodies that you can spread around amongst your friends and family.

From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:

  • Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.

  • The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose, but include bloating, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).

  • There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.

  • In spite of this, patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.

  • When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.

And remember, you can also always donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at our page through FirstGiving!

Please help spread the word about ovarian cancer.

Together we can make enough noise to kill this silent killer.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pesto di Limone and Pesto ai due Pomodori

A pesto recipe is like a scone recipe for me in that every time I see one, I have to try it. In defense of my sanity though, pesto is a very versatile sauce. It goes well with pasta, smeared on a sandwich, drizzled over vegetables, and could even be a dip. Not only are there many uses, there are also many ways it can be made. In the July/August issue of La Cucina Italiana, there was article about pestos with several recipes which I could not resist. A lemony pesto made with olives was used as a dressing for sea bass crudo on a bed of baby lettuces. I stole the pesto part of that dish and used it instead on a layered salad of raw zucchini and yellow squash slices with fresh mozzarella. Then, I also tried the pesto with two tomatoes which was used as a sauce for spaghetti. That recipe isn’t available online, so I’ll include it below.

To make the pesto di limone, two wide strips of lemon zest were pureed with the juice of a lemon and some olive oil. Then, I was supposed to have used Taggiasche or Gaeta olives, and had I found some green Taggiasche olives the pesto would have been nice and green. Since I used black Gaeta olives, mine was a darker color. The pitted Gaeta olives and two big cups of basil leaves were added to the blender and pureed with the first three ingredients. This resulted in an intentionally thin pesto with a fresh, lemony flavor. The pesto with two tomatoes was just as simple to prepare. First, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, and rinsed and drained salt-packed capers were pureed in the blender. Then, cherry tomatoes, and I found the prettiest dark red, almost purple cherry tomatoes, were added, and it was pureed together until smooth. That pesto was transferred to a large bowl, and grated parmigiano reggiano and chopped chives were added.

The tomato pesto required one half cup of olive oil, and I know I’ve used a lot more oil than that in similar quantities of pesto. Yet, the smooth texture gave it a richness that made it seem more decadent than it was. Of course, the flavor was nicely layered with fresh, juicy tomatoes and the depth of sun-dried tomatoes, and the chives lent just enough bite from the allium family. Both pestos are keepers, and I’m sure I’ll think of different ways to use them each time they’re made.

Pesto ai due Pomodori
from La Cucina Italiana July/August 2009
1 c drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
½ c extra-virgin olive oil
1 t salt-packed capers, rinsed, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes, then rinsed again and drained
2 c cherry tomatoes
3 T freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
1 T chopped fresh chives

-using a blender, puree sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, and capers; add cherry tomatoes and puree until smooth
-add one to two tablespoons water to help blend if needed
-transfer mixture to a bowl and add grated parmiginao reggiano and chives and stir to combine

*Note: This quantity of pesto was used to sauce one pound of spaghetti.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Salsa Verde Salmon

The other night, I really needed to think of something quick and simple to prepare for dinner. Luckily for me, I remembered The Fast 50 from the February/March issue of Donna Hay Magazine. That was 50 grilling recipes in a row that were simple, straightforward, and as usual for Donna Hay, looked amazing. The salsa verde salmon skewers were perfect for a main course, and I decided to add some vegetables to make each one a complete meal on a stick. The only thinking ahead that’s really required here is to get a thick cut of salmon so that it can be chopped into cubes that will work well on a skewer. I added chunks of zucchini and parboiled, small yukon gold potatoes.

The salmon and zucchini required the same amount of grilling time, and since the potatoes got a head start on the stove, everything achieved doneness at the same time. For the salsa verde, the recommended ingredients were a cup of mint, one third cup of flat-leaf parsley and one third cup of chives, a tablespoon of rinsed capers, a minced clove of garlic, and two tablespoons of olive oil. That sounded like a lot of mint to me, and since my basil plants have been growing so well, I decided to use a little mint and mostly basil. The herbs were chopped and combined with the other ingredients, and the finished salsa was drizzled over the grilled salmon, zucchini, and potatoes.

It was a quick, fresh, flavorful meal lifted by the combination of herbs and the briny note of the capers. Such a simple sauce, but it brightened up and accented the grilled-in flavor nicely. This was another meal from Donna Hay that did not disappoint. And, there are 49 other quick, simple, grilled meals in that one article.

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