Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ottolenghi's Fish and Caper Patties with Burnt Eggplant & Lemon Pickle

I loves me some fishcakes! I typically toss some together whenever I have a little extra fish lying around, so I was immediately attracted to these Ottolenghi Fish and Caper Kebabs with Burnt Eggplant & Lemon Pickle from Jerusalem. Lemon, capers and dill are my favorite fish parings and they give these patties plenty of flavor. I was also happy to see the Quick Pickled Lemons as a condiment in the recipe as preserved lemons are our optional community recipe for May at I Heart Cooking Clubs and of course I didn't plan and have time to wait the 4 weeks needed for classic preserved lemons. Anything that pickles in 24 hours, works for me!

Jerusalem notes: "The combination of the kebabs with the eggplant and pickled lemon makes a wonderfully rich main course: serve it with plain rice or bulgur. The lemon and eggplant condiments, however, are not necessary. You can easily serve the kabobs as a starter with just a squeeze of lemon and a small green salad."

Fish and Caper Patties with Burnt Eggplant & Lemon Pickle
Adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
(Serves 3-4 as Starter / Makes 12 Patties) (I made 9 Patties)

2 medium eggplant (about 1 2/3 lb / 750 g total)
2 Tbsp Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
about 2 Tbsp oil for frying
2 tsp Quick Pickled Lemons (recipe below)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

14 oz / 400g white fish fillets, skin & bones removed (I used local mahi)
1/2 cup / 30 g fresh bread crumbs
1/2 large egg, beaten
2 1/2 Tbsp / 20 g capers, chopped (I didn't chop them)
2/3 oz / 20 g dill, chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp ground pepper (or to taste)

Start with the eggplant. Burn peel and drain the eggplant flesh. (Either char over a gas range, roating sides for 15-18 minutes or broil in the oven for one hour--turning to get all sides. Allow to cool, scoop out flesh and drain flesh in a colander for at least 1 hour.) Once well drained, coarsely chop the flesh and combine in a bowl with the yogurt, garlic parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For kebabs, cut the fish into very thin slices, about 1/16-inch / 2 mm thick. Cut slices into a tiny dice and put into a medium mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Dampen hands and shape the mixture into patties or fingers about 1 1/2 oz / 45 g each. (Note: I didn't weigh mine, but I got nine patties out of the mixture that were probably about 3 1/2-inches in diameter). Arrange patties on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Pour enough oil into a frying pan to form a thin film on the bottom and place over medium-high heat. Cook the kebabs in batches for 4-6 minutes for each batch, turning until colored on all sides and cooked through. 

Serve while still hot, three per portion, alongside the burnt eggplant and a small amount of pickled lemon (careful the lemons tend to dominate).

Quick Pickled Lemons
(Makes about 1.5 quarts)

1/2 red chile, chopped
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 small-medium unwaxed lemons, halved lengthwise and sliced widthwise as thinly as possibly
3 Tbsp superfine sugar
1 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric

Use a mortar and pestle to smash the chile with 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice; you want to get a rough looking paste. Transfer to a large bowl along with all the other ingredients. Use your hands to mix everything together well so that all the flavors get massaged into the lemons. Leave in a covered bowl overnight, then transfer to sterilized sealed jar the next day.  The lemons will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Notes/Results: The little fishcakes were tasty with the lemon, dill and capers. I used a local, mild Mahi, which worked great. My cakes cooked about 7 minutes total and were still moist and tender. I found I enjoyed the quick pickled lemons--sweet, sour and somewhat pungent--but they are pretty strong so I would put less on the plate than I did for the pictures. I still want to make a batch of the preserved lemon, but these are a fun and easy way to get some of those flavors. My favorite thing on the plate was the burnt eggplant sauce/dip. The eggplant had a lovely roasted flavor and a creamy texture--very pleasing. I did realize that I used the ingredient amounts for one eggplant (there was only one decent one when I went to the store), so I would probably double them for 2 eggplants--to get that saucy texture from the yogurt and the extra flavor from the garlic. I also might add mint the next time just for fun. ;-) With the prep needed for the lemons and the eggplant, this isn't a quick throw-together-at-the-last-minute meal but it goes together quickly once you have everything prepped. I enjoyed this as a starter plate and with the cakes reheated the next day, served with rice and sauteed spinach. I would make it again. 

This week's IHCC theme is Pattycake, Pattycake... You can check out the fritters, pancakes, patties, etc. that everyone made by following the post links.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Deli-Style Chickpea Salad Sandwich on Marbled Rye for Food 'N Flix May: Delicatessen

May's pick for the monthly blogging event Food 'n Flix is an odd little movie. Delicatessen is a French film--a mixture of dark comedy and French farce. Yes, there is food--just not much that you would want to eat. The movie is set in post-apocalyptic France, in a dingy, rundown apartment building filled with very quirky tenants and run by Clapet, a butcher who has a unique way of getting meat to sell to his customers. Food is scarce, grain is used for currency, and Clapet keeps a steady stream of meat and income coming in by advertising for building handymen who he then murders and butchers, selling the meat. Former circus clown Louison, answers the ad and although he is an excellent and entertaining worker, popular with the tenants and Clapet's daughter Julie, he is next on the list to kill. Julie falls in love with Louison and would rather he come to dinner than be dinner, so she contacts a group of sewer-dwelling Troglodistes or troglodytes (vegetarian French rebels), to save him and of course, much mayhem ensues.

I had heard of the film, (directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet--who also directed of one of my favorite foreign films Amélie) but had never watched it, and was I intrigued when our host (Elizabeth of The Law Student's Cookbook) selected it. The film is in French with subtitles, which I find a bit challenging to focus on at home. Sadly, I tend to rarely just sit and watch a movie without multi-tasking by reading, reviewing cookbooks, sorting through magazines, folding laundry or other like tasks. This meant that I probably missed a good chunk of detail out of the middle of the film but what I saw I liked. It's both silly and dark (we are talking cannibalism here although most of the "gore" is not really shown) and overall, a fun pick. 
So, what dish to make inspired by this wacky film?  I knew I wanted to do something vegan to honor the passionate yet bumbling troglodytes. The word delicatessen in English means "delicacies" or "fine foods" and it became a place where these foods were sold. Delicatessen took me to it's shortened American form of delis, and I started thinking about my favorite delis and deli-style sandwiches. Back when I lived in Oregon (and in my meat-eating days), there was deli in N.W. Portland (can't remember the name and it's closed now), that was one of my favorites. They had both excellent corned beef and chicken salad and, most importantly, you could order a sandwich with two protein choice and so I would get a chicken salad/corned beef combo. It came not a half of each kind, but a massive sandwich all layered together. It might sound weird but it was delicious--don't knock it until you try it. ;-)  

I decided to forgo a vegan corned beef attempt and to make a mock deli-style chicken salad sandwich using chickpeas. The wonder of the Internet is that when I typed in "deli-style chickpea salad sandwich" to get some ideas, a recipe from Vegetarian Times popped right up and after reading through it, I knew this was the sandwich I wanted to make. The recipe comes from Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats by Allyson Kramer
Deli-Style Chickpea Salad Sandwich
adapted from Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats by Allyson Kramer via Vegetarian Times Magazine: Dec. 2012
(Makes about 4 cups of salad)

3 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas*
1 Tbsp rubbed sage
1½ teaspoons chicken-flavored vegetable seasoning powder

1/4 teaspoon salt
3 stalks of thinly sliced celery (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 Tbsp agave nectar

1/4  tsp celery salt
1/2 cup sliced, toasted almonds
1 cup halved seedless grapes

*Deb's Note: I cooked my chickpeas in water, flavored with "no-chicken" soup base, then drained and cooled before mixing up salad. I think it gave them just enough chicken-ish flavor

Pulse cooked chickpeas, sage,  chicken-flavored vegetable seasoning (if using) and salt in a food processor until just crumbly. (Note: The size of the chickpea chunks will determine the texture of the salad--for a smoother salad, pulse longer)

I pulsed mine enough to break apart the beans but still be chunky

Transfer to a bowl and stir in celery, lemon juice, vegan mayo, brown mustard, agave and celery salt until combined. Fold in almonds and grapes and season to taste with salt and black pepper if desired.

Serve with (gluten-free if desired) bread for a sandwich, or on top of lettuce. (I used a nice bakery marbled rye bread for a deli feel.)

To Serve Deli-Style: Much like *needing* ginger ale on airplanes, I *must* drink cream soda at a deli. The Henry Weinhard's Vanilla Cream shown in the background is perfect--sweet and delicious. (Who knew that man knew more than beer?!

So ticking off my perfect deli-sammie serving checklist: 
  • cold bottle of cream soda
  • fresh marbled rye bread
  • thick-cut potato chips (salt & pepper-yum!), 
  • crisp Kosher dill pickle spears.
Got it all! I was even loud, abrupt and kinda rude to myself while I was serving it--it was like I was transported right into a typical deli, but without all the saturated fat and cholesterol! ;-)

Notes/Results: This sandwich is pretty amazing. It may not look exactly like a chicken salad sandwich but, served on rye with lettuce, the taste and texture are fairly spot-on. In fact, if I were to lock you in a dark room, tell you it was a chicken-salad sandwich and feed it to you--I think you would believe me. (Please don't be alarmed, I have no intention of locking you in a dark room and feeding you this sandwich--that would be plain old creepy. Although it does kind of fit with the movie.) 

Anyway... this chickpea salad is easy to make and tastes good whether between two slices of bread, topping a salad or just scooped out of the container. I have a feeling I will be making it again and again. I think the troglodytes would approve!

Thanks to Elizabeth for picking a movie that I might not have gotten around to watching on my own. The deadline for this edition of Food 'n Flix is tomorrow, May 29th and Elizabeth will be rounding up the entries at The Law Student's Cookbook shortly after. If you missed this round and are a fan of food, film and foodie films, consider joining in for June. We will be watching the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi hosted at Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Red Lentil Soup with Fried Tofu and Chilli Oil for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Once again, I was seduced into making a soup by the toppings. In this case it was the chunks of fried tofu and drizzle of chilli oil on top of Yotam Ottolenghi's red lentil soup. The man is a master at layering flavors and textures, and the chunks of firm tofu dredged in cornmeal and fried crispy on the outside may just be a new favorite thing!

Red Lentil Soup with Fried Tofu and Chilli Oil
From Yotam Ottolenghi via The Guardian
(Serves 4)

About 250ml (about 1 cup total) sunflower or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
20g (1.5 Tbsp) chopped fresh ginger

3/4 tsp each ground cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and coriander
400ml (1 can) coconut milk
250g (one heaping cup) red lentils

shaved skin of ½ lemon, plus 80ml (1/3 cup) lemon juice
salt and white pepper
1 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 tsp pul biber (Turkish chilli flakes), or normal chilli flakes + pinch sweet paprika
50g (1.75 oz) corn flour
220 g (about 8 oz) firm tofu, cut into 3cm (about 1.25-inch) dice
3 tbsp freshly chopped coriander

Heat two tablespoons of sunflower oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and on medium-low heat sweat for eight minutes until soft. Add the garlic, ginger and ground spices, and cook, stirring, for eight minutes. 

Add 900ml (about 4 cups) water, the coconut milk, lentils and lemon skin (not the juice). Bring to a boil, then simmer until the lentils are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the lemon skin, add one and a quarter teaspoons of salt and some white pepper, and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt, if you like.

Pour another two tablespoons of oil into a small saucepan and heat. Add the cumin seeds and chilli flakes, and cook on low heat for a minute. Tip out into a heatproof bowl.

Wipe clean the saucepan and pour in enough oil to come 2cm (3/4-inch) up the sides. While the oil is heating up, mix the corn flour with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and some white pepper. Toss the tofu in the corn flour, shake off any excess and fry in batches until golden, about five minutes (the oil must be just hot enough gently to fry the tofu). Drain on kitchen towel and set aside somewhere warm.

To serve, heat up the soup, stir in the lemon juice and divide between four bowls. Top each with some fried tofu and a drizzle of the cumin and chilli oil, and finish with a sprinkling of coriander.

Notes/Results: Ottolenghi does it again. This is one of those recipes that goes from a good base red lentil soup with it's mix of spices, to pretty spectacular, with the addition of the chilli oil and the fried tofu chunks. The protein from both the tofu and lentils makes this vegan soup satisfy. The lemon juice adds the brightness earthy lentils need and the chilli oil adds a nice little kick at the end. Recipe instructions called for pureeing the soup until smooth but I just ran my immersion blender through it a few times and left it more chunky. I did press my tofu for about an hour before frying it up which I think makes the texture of the tofu chunks perfect--crispy on the outside and very creamy within. Make plenty of tofu chunks--it is hard to resist the warm bites while cooking it in batches. ;-) I would definitely make this again. 

This soup goes to Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs.

We have soups and salads waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's take a look.

Janet of The Taste Space shares this colorful bowl of Mediterranean Artichoke, Chickpea and Spinach Soup--supported  by a pantry clean out and says, "The plan for now: use up the less-loved ingredients. The ones I can part with for a bit of time. Now I can strike these from my pantry: artichokes and olives. What could have been a boring vegetable stew was helped with said pantry items. Olives add the salty punch to this spring-like tomato stew with red pepper, mushrooms, artichokes and spinach.

Joanne of Eats Well With Others says, "This Sweet Pea Goat Cheese Gazpacho was another casualty of the Eats Well With Others fridge breakdown of 2013. I thought it was fine until I put it in a container to have at lunch for work...and when i went to eat it, it had bubbled up in the manner of a bread dough set out to rise. Not good.Luckily, I got to enjoy it a few times last week, certainly enough to tell you that it tastes like a breath of fresh air with a swirl of goat cheese. And how could that not be an awesome thing?"

Chef Mireille of Chef Mireille's Global Creations offers up a Roasted Cauliflower Grape Salad and says, "With summer approaching, comes the re-appearance of salad in every possible combination of ingredients. As I continue to discover Yotam Otollenghi with the I Heart Cooking Clubs, this cauliflower salad with grapes and cheese piqued my interest. ... I only made a few minor adjustments based on what I had on hand - exchanging pine nuts for hazelnuts, red wine vinegar for sherry vinegar and cilantro for parsley."

Brittany of Brittany Cooks shares this season-perfect  Avocado and Strawberry Salad with Honey Dressing and says, "Summer is a time for salad. Fresh beautiful produce is everywhere, and it's too enticing to pass up. ...  I forgot how sweet and juicy fresh strawberries are when they are in season. They are like candy, and I adore them. Speaking of candy, I added some candied pecans, which took it to a whole other level. With a sweet and sour dressing, this is probably one of my new favorite salads! Plus, look how pretty it is!!"

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes made this healthy Chicken Quinoa Salad and says, "Yes, it’s getting to be that time of year, where salads are becoming more and more frequent on the sidewalk shoes dinner table.  I had some leftover chicken, from my spatchcocking, and wanted to use it for dinner.  I thought about pasta, but then decided that after my birthday, Mr. Sidewalk Shoes birthday, and teacher appreciation week, a salad would help offset the 7.5 pounds that I gained!!! So guess what? I made one up.  AND it was good!  I know.  I was as shocked as you are.  It’s so easy, there really isn’t even a recipe – and would you expect anything more from me?

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the sidebar for all of the details.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend and Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Raspberry-Almond Oat Bars: A Sweet Café Treat for Cook the Books: The Color of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe

Grace Miller is an English expat who moves with her Australian husband to the tiny island of Macau in China. Grace is trying to find herself while escaping her broken dreams and past secrets, and she longs to  do something bold and unexpected. A passion for baking leads her to open Lillian's, a café named for her mother, where she serves coffee, tea and pretty jeweled-colored macarons. Starting life over in a foreign setting, Grace begins to gain strength, build community and create the life she wants. 

The Color of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe is the April/May selection for Cook the Books, the bi-monthly virtual foodie book club hosted by Rachel, Heather, Simona and me. As the host for this round, I picked this novel because although Grace's life is not where she would like it to be with a rocky marriage and the sad news of her infertility, I envy and admire the way she takes action--fulfilling the dream of opening her own café. Many of the food bloggers and foodies I know, myself included, have the fantasy of their own cafe or food-related business. Mine is a little hang-out-style place with great atmosphere, serving breakfast and lunch, phenomenal espresso and coffee drinks and a tea and "elixir" bar where healthy and delicious juice and herbal concoctions are made to order. The food is (mostly) healthy, probably veg-friendly, and there's a daily soup special of course. ;-) There's a selection of used books--cookbooks and food-related fiction and non-fiction, and a schedule of afternoon and evening classes each month on healthy cooking, nutrition and other similar subjects. Oh, and there are some shelves of cool cooking gadgets and gifts, handmaid jewelry and bath products, and other things I love tucked in. (OK I have a few too many different ideas and concepts in there but since it is my fantasy café/emporium, I get to call the shots!

Since my place isn't likely to come to fruition anytime soon, I have to live vicariously through others (real and fictional) like Grace. I loved the colorful descriptions of food (especially those creative and mouthwatering macarons), expat life, the culture and customs of Asia and Macau, and the variety of supporting characters in the novel. This was a book that took me away from the day-to-day for a bit--what I look for lately in my reading. Although I couldn't completely relate to all of Grace's issues, and in the beginning I wasn't sure how much I even liked her, I found myself caught up in her growth and rooting for her success. Whoever we are and at whatever place we are at in our lives, I think most of us are looking for common things--family and community, personal growth, work we are passionate about, and just a place to belong in the world. It was a pleasure to travel with Grace on her journey. 

Author Notes: Hannah Tunnicliffe was born in New Zealand but has traveled the world and lived in Australia, England, and Macau and now lives in Canada. Leaving a career in Human Resources (that sounds familiar!), she decided to explore her passion for writing and The Color of Tea is her first novel. Hannah also graciously accepted (in the midst of moving back to New Zealand in fact), to be the judge for this round of Cook the Books and will choosing her favorite dish and post from the entries. 

For my novel-inspired dish, of course I had many thoughts about making macarons--with the book's macaron-named chapter titles and descriptions like Le Dragon Rouge--Red Dragon (Dragon Fruit Filled with Lemongrass-Spiked Buttercream), Une Vie Tranquille--A Quiet Life (Pineapple with Butterscotch Ganache), and Brise d'Ete--Summer Breeze (Yuzu with Dark Cherry Filling). How could I not? I was even tempted to buy an on-sale macaron cookbook at Barnes & Noble. But then I remembered who I am, that I am in no way a baker, and that detailed aka "fussy" baking makes me insane, and so I looked for my inspiration in a different way. 

Working from home most of the time, there are certain tasks that don't work so well for me--such as project work editing pages-and-pages of training material. At home I can find far too many distractions to stop my work--laundry, Max crying to come in the unopened back screen door instead of the wide-open one six-feet away that he just went out of (darn cat!), the stack of cookbooks sitting next to me offering up delectable food porn, etc. So, at least once or twice a week, I take myself and laptop to one of several local coffee shops (I like to spread my love), and hang out there working for a few hours. Sure, people-watching can be a distraction too, but at least I sit still at my table and the distractions are fast, then I get back to it. One of my  "offices" even carries a selection of locally-baked macarons--of which the salted caramel is my favorite. They also carried one of the best raspberry oat bars I have ever had. I say carried because sadly, the owner's wife stopped baking them and the baker they hired got stingy with the jam and bar size and way too generous with the baking time, leaving them too browned for my taste. With a soy latte or a cup of hot tea, a good raspberry oat bar is my café treat of choice and would definitely be on the menu in my fantasy café. An added benefit is that they are quick and easy to make for those of us who don't like to fuss. 

Normally I would go for a healthier oat bar but I really wanted the kind of decadent bar that would tempt me if I were looking in a pastry case--a splurge-worthy, indulgent treat. When I looked up fruit/jam oat bars online, an Apricot Oat Bars recipe from Giada De Laurentiis came up. I knew the bar would be rich and delicious and that I would adapt it from a apricot/walnut combination to raspberry jam and almond. I also made it vegan--it just took replacing the butter and egg with vegan ingredients. In my fantasy café, we will have vegan food options because I like to have that choice and I like to show others that vegan food and baked goods can be just as decadent! ;-) I did reduce the (non-dairy) butter and the sugar because when I tasted the sweet Oregon raspberry jam, it seemed plenty sweet and two sticks of butter seemed like a lot.  

Raspberry-Almond Oat Bars
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis via Food Network
(Makes about 24 Bars)
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 (13-oz) jar raspberry jam or preserves (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 packed cup light brown sugar (I used 3/4 cup)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon + extra for topping
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup (4-oz) sliced almonds + extra for topping
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted (I used 1 1/2 sticks Earth Balance)
1 egg, at room temperature, beaten (I used egg replacement)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 by 13 by 2-inch metal baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with vegetable oil cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Stir in the oats and almonds. Add the butter, egg and vanilla and stir until incorporated.

Using a fork or clean fingers, lightly press half of the crust mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Using a spatula, spread the jam filling over the crust leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge of the pan. Cover the filling with the remaining crust mixture and gently press to flatten. (Note: I used about 2/3 of the mixture as the base and crumbled the remaining 1/3 over the top of the filling, patting lightly but letting some of the jam shine through, I then sprinkled the top with the extra sliced almonds and a bit more cinnamon. Bake until light golden, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool for (at least) 1 hour. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Notes/Results: These smelled heavenly while they were baking and the hardest part was waiting for them to cool and set up before slicing. I baked them in the morning, let them drive me crazy during a conference call, then got out of the house and away from their lure to run an errand before finally slicing them up, photographing them and sampling them a few hours later. A tasty mix of sweet and tart with the moist and tender cinnamony crust--they were perfect as an afternoon snack with a cup of berry-infused green tea. Even taking out a portion of the sugar and butter, they were pretty sweet and very soft, so personally I would be worried about using the full amounts and actually might cut them down even more. These are soft enough that a plate and fork is the best way to enjoy them and a small square satisfies. These bars filled a craving and now I need to dump the bulk of them off with friends so that they don't go directly to my hips. ;-) I would make these again with my changes and as mentioned, even cut down a bit more on the sugar and butter.

I will be rounding up the Cook the Books entries for this round (due by end of day Monday, May 27th), sometime next week.  If you didn't get a chance to enter in this round, please join us for June/July when we will be reading How to Cook a Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher, hosted by Simona at briciole

It's Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, the week we can make any recipe of the current chef, Yotam Ottolenghi, or any of the previous 8 IHCC chefs so I am linking these delicious bars adapted from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe there. You can check out the other dishes people made by going to the May Potluck post and following the links.

Happy Aloha Friday!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fettuccine with Lemon-Marinated Salmon & Capers: An Easy Spring Pasta Dinner

While deciding on this week's soup; Cannellini Bean and Fresh Tomato Broth from Off the Shelf by Donna Hay, I found myself repeatedly salivating over a picture of Lemon Marinated Salmon and Pasta. It must have been the capers. It's always the capers for me. Of course the salmon, lemon, Parmesan, and heap of noodles certainly didn't hurt. 

Now if you have raw(ish) fish issues, this dish may not be for you. The salmon does end up lightly "cooked" on the outside from the lemon juice, ceviche-style, making it tender and succulent, but isn't cooked within. Sushi, ceviche or poke fans, and the more adventurous will likely enjoy it. The lemony flavor, combined with the fried capers and cheese is excellent, and the dish ends up being satisfying without being heavy and is nice for a light spring dinner.

Fettuccine with Lemon-Marinated Salmon & Capers
From Off The Shelf by Donna Hay
(Serves 4)

600 g (20 oz) salmon fillet, skin removed
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil 
400 g (14 oz) spaghetti, linguine  or fettuccine
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp salted capers, rinsed
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
cracked black pepper

Cut the salmon into small dice and place in a bowl with the lemon juice and olive oil.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes, stirring once.

Place the pasta in a large saucepan of lightly salted boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil and capers and cook for 3 minutes or until crisp. Toss the pasta with half of the Parmesan and the capers and place on serving plates. Toss the salmon with the remaining Parmesan, the parsley and black pepper, spoon over the pasta and serve. 

Notes/Results: I really liked the combination of flavors and the cool salmon on top of the warm pasta and caper mix, with the Parmesan melting in just so. I made a half-batch, worried the salmon might suffer texture issues. But I have to say that the fish on my plate the next day for lunch was still surprisingly firm and good. (Note: The best way to enjoy this dish the next day is to store the fish and pasta separately in the fridge, heat the pasta slightly and then top with the fish.) The health coach in me would tell you to use a whole wheat or more fiber-friendly pasta however, the store had bags of fresh pasta on sale and sometimes you just *need* to splurge and savor it. ;-) This dish goes together quickly, after the salmon marinates and makes for an easy weeknight dinner. I will make this again.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cannellini Bean and Fresh (Roasted) Tomato Broth: Simple for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

The problem with owning too many cookbooks is that there never seems to be enough time to get around to cooking from all of them. For example my copy of Off the Shelf: Cooking From the Pantry by Donna Hay has been sitting there for ages but I have not yet posted a recipe from it. Looking for a low-effort soup this week, I pulled it out and found  Cannellini Bean and Fresh Tomato Broth and headed to the farmers market for fresh tomatoes and oregano. 

I ended up with a mixture of local Roma and large yellow and red tomatoes and decided that I wanted to roast them to pull out their sweetness and flavor. Served with grilled locally-baked rosemary and olive oil bread, it was a tasty light and simple meal.

Cannellini Bean and Fresh (Roasted) Tomato Broth
Adapted from Off the Shelf by Donna Hay
(Serves 4)

6 large ripe tomatoes, quartered* (I roasted my tomatoes)
4 cups (1 3/4 pints) vegetable broth
1 (14 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (I used 2 cans)
sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
grilled bread to serve

(Note: I felt like roasting my tomatoes so I just placed them in a baking dish and roasted them for about 45 minutes at 425 degrees. But, you could certainly don't have to roast them if you want a faster soup.)

Place the tomatoes and half the stock in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture through the sieve and place in a saucepan with the remaining broth over medium heat. Allow the soup to come to a boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes, then add the cannellini beans, salt, pepper and oregano. Simmer for 2 minutes and serve in bowls with grilled bread that has been drizzled with a little olive oil.

*Donna notes: "Using really ripe tomatoes will give the soup a wonderful sweet flavor. If perfect tomatoes are not available, you may need to add a pinch of sugar to help boost the flavor.  

Notes/Results: This was just a simple, basic but flavorful soup--easy to make and full of comfort. The tomato broth is good with the flavor of the tomatoes and oregano really coming through. I wanted more beans so I added and extra can. With the mixture of homemade garlic broth and a little "no-chicken" soup base with water, no extra salt was needed and the tomatoes were ripe and sweet enough and along with the roasting, I didn't feel any need for added sugar. You could of course add to this soup--other veggies, pasta, etc., but I think it stands well on its own. I would would make it again.

A soup, a couple of salads and a sandwich await in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's take a look!

Sandra of Meadows Cooks shares this Simple Ramp and Asparagus Soup and says, "The soup has a real kick - just how my husband likes it. The cayenne really pops out of an otherwise mild melange. Potato is the mild filler with mild ramp and asparagus for flavor. I used white wine vinegar instead of white wine, and omitted the lemon juice, but think it probably is better as written. Spring brings us wonderful new produce as well as pollen. Here is my celebration of the positive side of new growth."  

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes made this pretty green side, Edamame and Mint Salad and says, "I’m always looking for ways to use my mint, so that I can keep it trimmed back and encourage spreading.  When I saw this salad in the April issue of Everyday Foods, it sounded so simple.  At first I thought the addition of butter was kind of weird, but it totally works.  The only thing is that, you really need to serve it at room temperature, because taken straight from the fridge, the butter solidifies a bit.   The flavors in this salad simply sing spring."

Topping her mango taco wraps with salad is Janet of The Taste Space with colorful Black Bean Tostadas with Tangy Cabbage Salad. Janet says, "It worked really well. While the beans crisped up in the oven, I made the beautiful cabbage slaw. It came together seamlessly. Call them tostadas with crispy flatbreads or roll them into tacos.  My mango wraps were crispy but if you let the beans sit on top of the wraps for a while, the wraps absorb some of the moistness and became pliable again. Because they were very thin, they were very delicate and made a big delicious mess. A beautiful delicious mess. I can’t remember the last time I bought red cabbage, but gosh, isn’t it gorgeous?"

Finally Spencer of Live2EatEattoLive Blog uses a homegrown tomato to make his BEST Sandwich and says, "So, I finally decided what to do with our little tomato. Mahalo plenty to all of you that suggested in the comments what to with our lone tomato, by the way. I decided to make a modified BLT sandwich, I call the BEST sandwich--Bacon, Egg, Shiso and Tomato. On toasted whole wheat bread. Pretty awesome (if I do say so myself). Hee hee!"

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week! If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the side bar for all of the details. 

Have a happy, healthy week!