Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pan-seared Salmon with Sour Cream and Dill Sauce

I've had this recipe for cooking salmon since sometime in the 90s and I'm not sure where I got it. It is a good, basic recipe, simple and tasty. However, the recipe was annoyingly vague in ingredient amounts. I have included more precise measurements.


Pan Seared Salmon with Sour Cream and Dill Sauce

Serves 4

4 salmon fillets 4-6 oz. each
2 T vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:

1 c sour cream
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped (2 T minced)
juice of 1 lemon (3 T lemon juice; fresh is best, but bottled will do in a pinch)
1 small shallot, minced (or  1-2 T finely chopped scallion or chives)
small pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl whisk together sour cream, dill, lemon juice, shallot, red pepper. Season with salt and pepper, roughly 1/4 teas each. Set in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Remove the pin bones from the salmon (see these instructions). Coat a large skillet with 2 T oil and place over medium heat. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. When hot, add the fillets to the pan flesh side down. Cook for 4-6 minutes until the surface is browned. Turn the fish over and cook for 2-5 minutes on the other side, depending on how thick the fillets are. You can use a knife to check that the fish is flaky and mostly opaque. Most experts recommending that salmon be a bit under cooked with a little rare meat in the center. But it is a matter of taste. Remove from pan and let rest for around 5 minutes.


This sauce makes more than I can use with 4 servings of salmon; you may want to halve it since it doesn't really store well. Or you can plan on enjoying what is leftover as a vegetable dip or thin it with milk and use it as a creamy salad dressing.

I've substituted dill seed for fresh dill but I haven't done it for a long time, so I can only recommend that you use a half teaspoon and taste the result. Add more if you want more dill flavor. It will be a bit crunchier but will still taste of dill.

Check out these two sites for help (although when pan searing you may not want to brine):



Friday, May 20, 2016

Rhubarb Fool with Whipped Ginger Mascarpone Cream

I've been happy to have some rhubarb growing in my garden this year. This is another way to use the "vegetable" before you can't find it any more, although I'm sure you could use frozen rhubarb.


Rhubarb Fool with Whipped Ginger Mascarpone Cream

Source:  Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories  by Susie Middleton
Serves 6

Rhubarb can vary in its tartness levels. You may want to taste the compote and adjust the sugar in the whipped cream mixture. The last time I made this, it was plenty sweet for me.

For the Rhubarb Compote:

12 oz rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut into 1/2-in pieces, about 3 c
2/3 c sugar
3 T orange juice

Combine the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, reducing heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the mixture has reduced and thickened. Don't allow the rhubarb to completely break down. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate to cool.

For the Whipped Ginger Mascarpone Cream:

3/4 c heavy cream
1/2 c (4-oz) mascarpone cheese
1/3 c sugar
1 teas vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 teas grated fresh ginger, to taste (a rasp-style grater is best for grating ginger)

Combine the cream, mascarpone, and sugar in a chilled mixing bowl. Using a standing mixer or a hand mixer or a very strong arm, whip on medium speed until the mixture is thick and stiff. Add the vanilla and ginger and whisk again until combined. This can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 8 hours. (This cream can be used with other fruits for a quick parfait.)

For the garnish:

1/2 c crumbled gingersnap cookies or use them whole
mint sprigs, optional

Place both the mascarpone cream mixture and the compote into a mixing bowl. Gently fold one into the other until partially mixed and somewhat streaked. Scoop mixture into serving bowls. Serve as is or use gingersnap crumbles or whole cookies as a garnish. You can also make individual trifles layering the fool with the crumbled cookies. Refrigerate these before serving.


I've found the quality of mascarpone cheese can vary quite a bit. My advice is to avoid Galbani brand. If you can't find anything else, I'd suggest substituting with cream cheese. It will be a bit more tart but the texture will be better.

It's also been a year or so since I purchased Nabisco Gingersnaps and I'm pretty disappointed in them. They've changed the recipe; they are too sweet and too hard. I'm going to be searching for something I like better. I like a British biscuit called "ginger nut" but I don't have a good source for them

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sultan's Delight

I recently finished a course of classes in Turkish cookery taught by a couple of lovely young Turkish women at The Raindrop Foundation, a Turkish cultural center in Albuquerque. The first class featured this dish which, according to legend, was the favorite of a sultan in the Ottoman Empire.


Sultan's Delight (Hunkar Begendi)

Serves 5-6

The teachers of my class presented this as a casserole with the eggplant mixture spread out in a baking dish, topped by a layer of the meat, but I like serving it individually with the eggplant layer used much like polenta--a layer on a plate, with a ladle full of the meat on top. The type of cheese Turks would use isn't available in United States so the recipe calls for Mozzarella since it can easily be found certified halal ("permissible" according to Muslim law) . I added some Asiago cheese for flavor but Parmesan could be added instead.

Meat Layer:

1 pd beef chuck or lamb stew (I used leg of lamb off the bone) cut into 1/2-3/4 inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 15-oz can tomatoes (or 2-3 tomatoes, peeled and diced)
1/2 teas thyme
1/2 teas oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne, if you like

Eggplant Bechamel:

2 pounds eggplants
4 T butter
3 T flour
2 c milk

salt and pepper to taste
1 teas fresh lemon juice
1/4 teas grated nutmeg
1/2 c shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 c shredded Asiago cheese

parsley, chopped for garnish

You may wish to cook your eggplants as you begin cooking the meat.

For the meat layer: 

Place the meat in a lightly oiled pan and cook over medium heat until browned. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and stir for 30-60 seconds Stir in tomatoes (if using whole, smash them up) and herbs, and season with salt and pepper and add cayenne, if using. Reduce heat to low and cook until the meat is tender (about 30 minutes) adding a little water if necessary (1-2 T). Fresh tomatoes may not cook down completely. If you are doing the casserole, the mixture shouldn't be as saucy. Remove the bay leaf.

For the eggplant bechamel:

Pierce the eggplants with a fork in several places and broil, turning occasionally, until they are softened. Last time I made this, my oven was already hot so I roasted the eggplants which worked fine, too. My teachers let them char, a technique I haven't quite mastered. (This makes for smoky flavored eggplant.) Let them cool, peel and mash them with a fork or finely chop them. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add flour; stir and cook until it has darkened slightly, at least a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens and becomes creamy. Season with salt. Add mashed eggplant to the sauce, blend and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the cheese. Mix well and remove from heat. Pour the bechamel into a casserole dish and cover with the meat. Place in 350F oven for 15-20 minutes until warmed through. Conversely, you can use the bechamel as a bottom layer on a dinner plate, topping with the meat and sauce.

Which ever way you do it, top with chopped parsley just before serving.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Diane's Mayonnaise Cole Slaw

My father-in-law grew up in North Carolina, and I always thought this recipe my mother-in-law makes was from his family. But instead, my father-in-law's mother used to make a vinegar-based cole slaw. From my two years in Chapel Hill, I should have remembered that North Carolinians prefer the vinegar style.

Instead, my mother-in-law adapted this delicious, mayonnaise-based slaw from a KFC copycat recipe years ago. It's a regular part of her table, and now mine.


Diane's Mayonnaise Cole Slaw

 2/3-3/4 head of cabbage, core removed
Half of a yellow onion
1 large carrot
1 c mayonnaise
equal parts cider vinegar and sugar, staring with 1/4 c
1 teas salt
1 teas celery seeds
heaping 1 T mustard

Shred cabbage using knife, a slicer, or a food processor. Peel and shred the carrot. Dice the onion. Mix vegetables together in large bowl.

Whisk mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, celery seeds, and mustard together. Taste and adjust for vinegar/sugar balance. If you prefer a thicker dressing, you can add 2 T mayonnaise.

Mix dressing into cabbage mixture a little at a time, to desired consistency: soupy or otherwise.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup

Do you love lasagna, but hate assembling the actual casserole? Lasagna is a favorite at my house, and though I don't mind making it when I have the time, this soup allows a make-ahead version. It's perfect for easy-going mornings before a busy evening. The ricotta cheese is central to the dish, so don't leave it out.


Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup

Source: The Hungry Family Slow Cooker Cookbook by Christina Dymock

1 lb ground mild Italian sausage
1 yellow onion
1 green bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
1/2 c tomato paste
3 teas Italian seasoning
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (petite diced are nice but not necessary)
2 14.5 oz cans chicken broth
6 lasagna noodles, broken up into bite-size pieces
ricotta cheese
shredded mozzarella
Parmesan cheese, for serving

Brown the sausage in a 12-inch skillet. Dice the onion and pepper, then mince the garlic. Place the sausage, vegetables, seasoning, and broth into a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. About 30 minutes before serving, add the lasagna noodles. Put the soup in bowls, then add a generous spoonful of ricotta. Top with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan.

Note: The recipe is flexible: I've made it with ground beef, ground pork, and red bell pepper instead of green. Though the sausage is more flavorful ground meat is sufficient in an pinch.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Quick Risotto Primavera

I always think of my friend Susie and her old neighborhood in Brooklyn when I eat risotto. On a visit years ago, she took me to the restaurant Noodle Pudding, which had a daily risotto special. Here is a quick, meatless version for the spring asparagus season.


Quick Risotto Primavera

Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook
Serves 4

1 1/2 c Arborio rice
5 c chicken broth (divided)
4 T unsalted butter (divided)
1 onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c vermouth
1/2 lb asparagus, no thicker than 1/2 inch at the bottom, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 c frozen peas, thawed
2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (1 c), plus extra for serving
salt and pepper

In covered bowl, microwave rice, 3 1/2 c broth, and 2 T butter until rice is softened and most of liquid is absorbed, 10-16 minutes.

Chop the onion. Melt 2 T butter in a medium or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook onion in butter until softened, 3-5 minutes. Turn down the heat a bit if the onion starts to burn. Add minced garlic and stir, then add wine and cook until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. While onions are cooking, trim the asparagus and cut it into 1-inch pieces. Also, trim the mushrooms and cut into 1/2-inch chunks.

Stir in rice mixture, remaining 1 1/2 c broth, asparagus, and mushrooms. Simmer, stirring constantly, until rice and vegetables are tender, 5-8 minutes. Add 1/2 c water if the vegetables aren't done at 5 minutes. Stir in peas and Parmesan, and cook for an additional minute while the peas heat. Season with salt and pepper and serve with extra Parmesan.

Note: This recipe seems quite flexible. The original called for vegetable broth instead of chicken, white wine instead of the vermouth, and yellow squash instead of the mushrooms. I used what I had on hand, and it turned out beautifully. Shredded rotisserie chicken would be a nice addition for meat lovers.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Lemon Posset

A recent issue of Cook's Illustrated Magazine published a recipe for "Lemon Posset", a British dessert I had never heard of nor tasted. Apparently possets were originally comforting hot drinks but as time passed the word posset came to refer to a creamy dessert. I'm a sucker for anything that features cream so I had to try this. The dessert fulfilled all my expectations and is silky, creamy, and bright. And best of all, it is quick and easy.


Lemon Posset with Berries 

Adapted from 
Serves 4-6, depending on your preference

2 c heavy cream
2/3 c sugar
1 T grated lemon zest
6 T lemon juice
1 c blueberries or 1 c raspberries or a combination
1/2 c raspberry sauce or coulis, optional

You'll be reducing the cream and sugar mixture to a specific amount which might require you to pour it into a measuring cup (possibly more than once), a messy, time consuming proposition. Instead, measure 2 c water and pour into the saucepan you will be using. Stand a clean ruler or a chopstick in the water and mark the water level. Remove the water and begin the recipe.  After reducing the cream mixture for the recommended time, place the marked implement right in the mixture to test whether you've reduced it sufficiently.

Place the cream, sugar, and lemon zest into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently so sugar dissolves. Continue boiling with frequent stirring until the mixture reduces to 2 cups. Do not leave the cream unattended or it may boil over. (If it does get close, remove the saucepan from the heat source.) It should take 8-12 minutes to reduce to 2 cups.

Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Allow to sit until the mixture has cooled slightly and a skin has begun to form on the top, about 20 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl or a large measuring cup. Discard the zest. Divide the mixture evenly among 4, 5, or 6 individual ramekins or dessert bowls. (I found dividing into 6 seemed somewhat skimpy but dividing into 4 seemed too large--but other diners liked added amount.)

Place the ramekins into the refrigerator and let sit for at least 3 hours.  Cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until 10 minutes before serving. Use within 2 days. Before serving top with berries and a tablespoon or two of sauce, if using.