Taste Testing Cold Soup

Several weeks ago I received an email from Epicurious, the gist of which was a number of recipes for cold soups. As it is the middle of summer, I am always on the lookout for cold entrees. The recipes came from various sources; Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and Epicurious. I picked five recipes that sounded intriguing and decide to make one a week. We have been taste tasting cold soup recipes, both new and our old favorites for the last several weeks. I’ve made two of the five new recipes I selected and so far they have been winners. The five recipes being tested selected for trial runs are:

  • Cold Pea Soup with Herbed Oil Swirl
  • Chilled Yellow Squash and Leek Soup with Coriander and Lemon Creme Fraiche
  • Chilled and Dilled Avgolemono Soup
  • Chilled Watercress Spinach Soup
  • Chilled Beet Soup with Buttermilk, Cucumbers, and Dill

All of these recipes are meatless tho some contain chicken broth. Since they are vegetable based vegetarian broth or water could be substituted with additional seasoning.

Over the last two weeks I have made the Cold Pea Soup with Herbed Oil Swirl and the Chilled Yellow Squash and Leek Soup with Coriander and Lemon Creme Fraiche. Both can be made in under an hour. I made them in the morning so they would have plenty of time to chill before dinner

Let’s start with the Cold Pea Soup adapted from a recipe from Epicurious. The soup itself is super easy with only 5 readily available ingredients. Important note – Pay attention to the weight of the frozen peas you purchase. My bags were only 15 ounces. Thankfully I always have frozen peas in the freezer so I could make up the difference.

COLD PEA SOUP WITH HERBED OIL SWIRL

  • 3 Tbl. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, more to taste
  • 32 oz frozen peas (6 cups if you don’t have a scale)
  • 1 cup of full fat plain Greek yogurt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Herbed Oil to taste (recipe[e follows)

Melt the butter in a heavy pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 6 to 8 minutes. Do not let the onions brown. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and 2 cups of water. Stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Add the frozen peas and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender. About 4 minutes at altitude – 2 minutes closer to sea level. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the yogurt.

If you are going to put the soup in a blender, let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes to avoid scalding yourself with the contents of an exploding blender. Alternately, you can use an immersion blender but I like the silkiness the true blender delivers. Puree the soup, adding water if it appears too thick, until it is smooth. Season with salt and pepper and allow it to cool to room temperature. Pour into a resealable container and chill for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

While the soup is chilling, make the Herbed Oil.

HERBED OIL

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh Italian Parsley Leaves, packed
  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 tbl. finely grated lemon zest
  • scant 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Pulse parsley, mint, and lemon zest in food processor until coarsely chopped. Add the oil and salt and pulse again until well combined. Place in a covered container. Note: I find the oil separates so you will need to combine either with a whisk or vigorous shaking before serving.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with a herbed oil swirl. Here’s my result:

Cold Pea Soup with Herbed Oil

I added some home made parmesan cheese bread to round out the meal. George loved it. It’s gone into my recipe notebook.

Stay tuned for an update on the other tastings!

Posted in appliances, Blender, Cooking, Entree, Food, Food Processor, Soups, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Love/Hate Relationship with Charlie Trotter’s Recipes

I have a Love/Hate relationship with Charlie Trotter’s recipes. For those of you who don’t know, Charlie Trotter was a renowned chef in Chicago, Illinois. His flagship restaurant, Charlie Trotter’s, was know for it’s innovative tasting menus and impeccable service. His dishes highlighted in season, and as often as possible, local ingredients. He had a TV show and authored at least ten cookbooks. I own six of them. George and I were lucky enough to dine at his restaurant and even snag a kitchen tour at the end of the evening. It is the only time my husband has ever seen me completely star struck!

Last week I spied some Monkfish at Whole Foods. It’s been years since we had monkfish. It used to be really cheap until people saw it featured in a few cooking shows. Around the same time it became impossible to find and I finally gave up on the fish. So seeing it at Whole Foods was somewhat like finding the Holy Grail. I bought a pound of the fish, brought it home and began searching for recipes. Here’s where Charlie Trotter comes in, specifically his Seafood cookbook. He had a recipe for Monkfish Wrapped in Prosciutto and Mustard Greens with Shitake Mushrooms and Red Wine Emulsion. I was excited about this recipe because I could obtain most, if not all ingredients locally. That’s the Love part. I’ve made recipes from his cookbooks before so I knew what to expect and wasn’t disappointed. Here comes the Hate part. His recipes NEVER involve cooking one thing. You have to spend hours making the ingredients before you can start on the main dish. The first ingredient in this dish is a Red Wine reduction. The reduction recipe was located in the Appendix of the cook book. The ingredients include a coarsely chopped Spanish onion, a coarsely chopped carrot, one coarsely chopped celery stalk, a coarsely chopped Granny Smith apple, 2 garlic cloves, grapeseed oil, one bottle of Burgundy, two cups of Port and one cup of chicken stock. The result will be one half cup red wine reduction. Three other ingredients in the dish required advance preparation; Roasted Mushrooms, Mushroom Stock and Garlic Chive Oil. The recipes for these three ingredients were also located in the Appendix of the cookbook. And by the way, often these “ingredients” require an overnight rest so it’s always wise to read his recipes days ahead of your planned meal.

And often his recipes have conflicting instructions. For instance, the recipe for the Roasted mushrooms instructs you to roast the mushrooms and let them cool in their cooking juices. The Monkfish recipe instructs you to place the hot roasted mushrooms in the center of the plate and top with the cooked monkfish. How does that work? You can’t do both so I omitted the cooling phase and went right from the roasting pan to the plate.

I have to admit that once I had all of the ingredient dishes completed the balance of the dish was a piece of cake to prepare. It doesn’t take alot of skill to debone the monkfish tail (OK, that took a little work because I had the small part of the tail) give the monkfish pieces a quick sear, coat it in Dijon mustard, wrap it in blanched mustard greens and then in prosciutto. After five minutes in a 375 degree oven the fish was ready to plate.

The dish tasted wonderful. My monkfish pieces were a bit smaller than those pictured in the cookbook but they still looked amazing wrapped in mustard greens and prosciutto. Would I make it again, probably. Today I bought some more monkfish at Whole Foods. Love you Charlie but think I’ll try something different next week.

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Something New

While you don’t mess with traditional holiday foods; sometimes you want something new. That’s how it was this Easter. I had planned the traditional ham and sweet potatoes but wanted a bright flavor to round out the meal. Fortunately I found a great salad recipe on a sous vide web site, the last place I expected to find a salad. And any time I get to use my sous vide machine you can count me in!

The salad includes beets, arugula salad greens, feta cheese and orange segments. The dressing is a mix of sherry vinegar, olive oil, fresh chives and salt to taste.

Best of all the beets, and salad dressing should be made ahead of time and assembled with the balance of ingredients just before dinner.

Beet Salad Serves 4

  • 1 lb beets peeled and cut into large dice ( about 3/4 inch)
  • 4 cups of arugula or other fresh greens
  • 2 ounces of Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 medium orange peeled and cut into segments

Vinagrette

  • 2 tbl. sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbl minced fresh chives
  • 1 tbl extra virgin olive oil

If you’re making this using a sous vide machine heat the water to 182 degrees F. Place the peeled and diced beets into a Food Saver ( or other food preservation bag) and vacuum seal the bag. Or, place the beats in a gallon freezer bag and slowly lower the bag into the water bath, and seal up just before the water reaches the top of the bag. Cook the beets for at least one hour.

While the beets are cooking, prepare the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, salt, and chives. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes. Then whisk the olive oil into the vinegar mixture and set aside.

Remove the beets from the water and place in an ice bath to retard the cooking and cool the beets. When the beets are cool, remove form the cooking bag and toss with the vinaigrette. Place the vinaigrette coated beets into the refrigerator and chill for at least 10 minutes up to several hours. The longer the beets sit in the vinaigrette the better the flavor of the finished salad.

Just before serving, peel the oranges taking care to remove as much of the pith as possible.

To serve mound greens onto individual salad plates. Divide the beets and oranges among the plates and top each salad with Feta crumbles.

The salad was a great counterpoint to the inherent sweetness of the ham and sweet potatoes.

The original recipe did not specify any particular color of beet. George requested yellow beets so they went into the dish. Next time I will use red beets for the color variation and visual interest they will provide.

Note to people who don’t have a sous vide machine. This salad could be made by cutting the tops and roots off the beets, wrapping them in aluminum foil and baking in a 350 degree F. oven until the beets are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove the beets from the oven and let cool until they can be handled comfortably. Peel the beets and dice into 3/4 inch pieces. Proceed with the recipe to complete the dish.

Posted in American Food, appliances, Cooking, Easter, Food, Holidays, Salad, SanSaire Immersion Circulator, sides, vegetables | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Hot Dog Bun Success

Recently I blogged about my attempt to make my own hotdog buns. I use the Chicago Style Hot Dog Bun recipe from King Arthur Baking. My first attempt tasted fine but the size and shape were all over the place. I attributed this to two factors; no pan to contain the dough and general inexperience in shaping the buns. I reasoned that if the correct pan could result in the massive improvement with my hamburger buns then it stands to reason that I might achieve the same level of success with a proper hot dog bun pan. I was bemoaning the fact that I was having a hard time finding a hot dog pan designed for Chicago Style (side slit) hot dog buns. Most of the metal pans were designed for East Coast (Lobster Roll) style buns. I didn’t wnat to purchase a pan that would result in soft sided buns.

I did manage to find a Chicago Style bun pan but it was silicone based. Let’s say I was skeptical. After reading a few reviews I bit the bullet and purchased a silicone based “pan” and am I happy I did!

I ordered it online and it arrived on Friday afternoon, just in time as I planned on making hot dogs for dinner on Saturday.

I was astounded when I went to the mail box on Friday and discovered a package with this inside:

Silicone Hot Dog Bun “pan” package

This came packed inside a shipping envelope. The pen is placed on the box to provide some reference to the size. I opened the box and pulled out the “pan.” This is what it unfolded into:

Silicone Hot Dog “pan”

So far so good. The length and width of the form appeared to be the perfect size for hot dog buns. A review I had read said the form made a perfect bun for Hebrew National hot dogs. As that is our preferred brand, I got a dog out of the fridge and compared it to the form. Yep, perfect size. So far so good.

Following the recipe I divided the dough into portions each weighing 71 grams. I had enough for 11 buns at the desired weight and one that was a bit smaller. While not a pro by any means, I was a little more adept at shaping the dough into 6 inch rolls as you can see by this picture:

Hot dog buns ready for the oven

Because the silicone form as no real support, it must be used with a sheet pan. The form fits perfectly on my 13×18 sheet pan. In the picture above, the dough has risen in the form and I had already brushed it with egg white and added the poppy seed. The bun on the bottom right was noticeably smaller than the 11 other buns. This is the one that weighed less than the 71 grams.

I put the buns in the oven and 20 minutes later was rewarded with this.

Baked Hot Dog Buns

For the most part the buns are uniform in shape and size. I call this a success! We ate two last night. I have discovered you can freeze these buns with out any real problem. Wrap them in pairs in Glad Sealing wrap and freeze. When they are frozen, place a serving portion (one bun each for George and I,) in a Fresh Meal bag and seal it up. Return it to the freezer. The Fresh Seal bag prevents the buns from forming ice crystals and drying out. I’ll have enough buns for four more meals of dogs, brats or Italian Sausage.

And here’s the best part. I really don’t need to find a place to store another big metal pan. After I washed and air dried the form, I rolled it up and returned it to the box it came from! It goes into the cupboard with my silpat baking sheets.

KIng Arthur Baking, you need to offer these for sale from you site!

Posted in American Food, Baking, Cooking, Food, Hebrew National hot dogs, hot dog buns, hot dogs, meat | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Day in the Kitchen

Two weeks ago I decided to spend a day in the kitchen prepping meals and making bread for the upcoming days. Notice I did not say week; the meal prep only covered two dishes though they did provide us with four days of meals. And since I was low on bread I threw in a bread making session as well.

This style of batch cooking is not new to me. I worked in corporate America for many years as my kids were growing up so it was not unusual for me to complete a lot of dinner prep on Sunday in anticipation of the week ahead. This was especially true when I was travelling and would leave on Sunday night and not return until the following Friday. Since I’ve left corporate America and became an Innkeeper I rarely cook meals ahead of time. Last week was a busy week and two of the dishes were baked in one dish, I decided to pre prepare meals for multiple days. The meals being prepared were Chicken Enchiladas and Shepards Pie.

I started by preparing the chicken for the enchiladas. I rubbed the thighs with dried chipotle pepper and put them in a bag to go into the sous vide machine.

Chipotle chile rubbed chicken thighs

While the chicken was cooking away in my sous vide bath, I assembled my bread dough.

Lately my favorite bread is a pullman loaf recipe to which I add natural grains. Typically I bake this in my small pullman pan but this time I decided to use the pan but omit the top giving me a domed loaf as opposed to a square pullman style loaf.

Seeded bread dough
Seeded bread dough

As you can see, the dough has a fair amount of natural grains and seeds. We love the taste of this bread. Once the dough was rising I could turn my attention to shepherds pie.

The decision to make Shepherds Pie that day was in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, which fell on the next day. This tastes better when it sits for a day as the flavors really meld.

Shepherds Pie ready for the Oven

Chopping the vegetables is the most time consuming part of this dish. Onions and carrots get sautéed until tender. They are held while the meat is browned. Then everything goes back into the pan along with tomato paste, a bit of stock and herbs. This mixture is simmered until the sauce thickens and then the peas are added. At that point everything gets turned into a 1.5 quart baking dish and the whole thing is topped with mashed potatoes, crosshatched, covered and put in the refrigerator until its time to pop into the oven the next day.

By the time I had completed the Shepherd’s Pie the bread was ready for its second rise. I turned it out, formed it into a loaf and placed it in the pullman pan. This went back to a warm place in my kitchen to rise again.

Now onto the Chicken Enchiladas. The chicken thighs were cooked and ready to come out of the sous vide machine. I shredded the chicken and assembled the enchiladas. In New Mexico, most enchiladas are stacked as opposed to rolled. I prefer the rolled enchiladas so that’s how they are prepared in my kitchen. The enchiladas consisted of a flour tortilla spread with refried beans, chicken and cheese. A layer of red chile sauce goes in the bottom of the pan followed by the rolled enchiladas. These are topped with more red chile sauce and then cheese. The dish goes into a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes and comes out cheesy and bubbly. I usually serve it with sliced avocados.

Enchiladas ready for the oven

The bread had completed the second rise and was ready for the oven. About 45 minutes later it was out cooling on a rack. By now it was 5pm. We eat dinner around 7pm so I had about an hour until the enchiladas went into the oven.

George was home around 6 and the smell of fresh bread still hung in the air in the kitchen. He agreed that a sandwich for the next day should be constructed with slices of fresh bread.

Bread with Grains and Seeds

Ham and cheese tastes sooooo good on this bread!

My day of cooking was over. At least for now!

Posted in appliances, Baking, Beef, Chicken, Cooking, Entree, Food, Food Vacuum Sealer, Irish, meat, New Mexican, New Mexico, SanSaire Immersion Circulator, Southwestern States, Yeast breads | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Does Anyone Know?

After my success with making my own hamburger buns I decided to give hot dog buns a try. Coming from the Midwest, I like my hot dog buns sliced on the side. So I chose a recipe that was designed for Chicago style dogs. Chicago dogs need a bun that is substantial enough to stand up to a hot dog that snaps when you bite into it ( think Hebrew National or Vienna Beef) and one that can support a dog “dragged through the garden” in Chicago parlance. I found a great recipe, complete with authentic poppy seeds, but it requires you to “hand form” the buns and then bake them on a baking sheet. While they tasted great, their form was less than desirable.

I formed them exactly as the recipe recommended. I weighed each dough segment to ensure I had the correct amount for each roll. I rolled them into 3 inch logs folding and flattening the required number of times until I each bun was 6 inched in length – yes, I measured.

And this was the result. As you can see, some of them are wide and some are skinny. Some are perfect hot dog size and some are better off used as breadsticks. I suppose I could tell myself that practice makes perfect but I’m impatient. So I decided that if a hamburger bun pan made such an astounding difference in my hamburger buns, what would the right pan do for my hot dog buns! So I set off on my quest.

You think I was trying to find the Holy Grail!

I started my search at King Arthur Baking, since they are the company that developed the recipe. But they only have New England style hot dog bun pans. You know, the buns with the slit on the top and the soft sides. Those buns are great for Lobster Rolls but leave a lot to be desired when faced with a Chicago dog. Then I turned to the internet. Surely some baking hardware company would have what I was seeking. No such luck. I can find any number of New England bun pans but nothing for Chicago dogs. There has to be a pan somewhere!

I will keep searching. I do have an old baguette pan that can make three 2 inches wide by 10 inches long baguettes. It might do in a pinch but I am concerned the buns would be too narrow. So if any of you know where to score a Chicago Style Hot Dog Bun pan, PLEASE let me know. My husband and I will be forever in your debt!

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Almost Vegetarian Posole

Posole is one of those quintessential New Mexican dishes. Everyone has their favorite. It can be served as an entrée or as a side. It can have the consistency of a hearty soup or a stew. It all depends on how you like it. It is usually made with meat, most commonly pork. And is almost always red.

I recently found a recipe for Winter Squash Posole from the Santa Fe School of Cooking. It was unique in that it is almost vegetarian ( no meat) and has a clear broth. I call it almost vegetarian posole because one of the ingredients is chicken broth. It would be easy enough to make it totally vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth.

This is my version of the Winter Squash Posole recipe adapted from the New Mexico School of Cooking.

Winter Squash Posole (a very generous 6 servings)

  • 3 cups of posole, soaked overnight in water
  • 2 cups roasted butternut squash, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp minced sage
  • 1 tbl. Mexican oregano
  • 8 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 roasted, peeled and seeded Hatch chiles, if in season or Anaheim Chile if Hatch is not available
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 6 cups of chicken stock
  • 2 tbl apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • Sour cream and green onions as garnish

The first step in the preparation of this dish is to prep the posole. Posole can be purchased dried or already hydrated in a can. This recipe calls for dried posole. You will need one and one half 12 oz packages of dried posole to equal three cups. Put the posole into a bowl and cover with 3″ of water as the posole will expand. Let this sit overnight. There are two schools of thought about the next step in posole preparation;, to cut the kernel or leave it as is. The posole has a small brown nib at the base of the kernel. Some people use the posole as is. I prefer to cut the nips off the kernels to encourage the posole to “bloom” like popcorn. It is personal preference and it also depends on you willingness to sit hunched over a cutting board cutting the nibs off approximately 1600 pieces of posole ( I counted when I last made this.) If you elect to go this route allow for about 90 minutes and I suggest you use a small paring knife to accomplish this delicate work.

Posole kernels separated from the nibs

Place the posole in a pot, cover with water and allow it to simmer until the kernels are tender and begin to open up – or bloom. This takes about 4 hours at my altitude but should go faster at lower altitudes.

While the posole is simmering, preheat the oven to 425 F. While it is preheating, peel the squash and remove the seeds. Cut into a 1/2 ” dice. Mix the squash with 2 tbl of vegetable oil until well coated. Season the squash with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven until tender and golden brown in spots – about 20 minutes or so. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Next you will need to roast the green chile. This can be done on top of a gas range, in the broiler or on a grill. I roast mine on top of the stove with a roasting griddle that is especially designed to roast vegetables. You can just as easily roast the chiles on top of the grate on a gas range. Take care to roast the chiles and not burn them. You want the chiles to blacken a bit on the outside.

Anaheim Chile on my Vegetable Roaster

Once the chiles have a nice char on them you need to remove them from the heat, place them in a bowl and cover with plastic to allow the skins to steam. Steaming for about 10 minutes makes it easier to remove the charred skin from the vegetable. The easiest way to remove the skin is by using a spoon to scrape the charred skin off the chiles leaving just the “meat.” Removing the seeds and membranes from the interior of the chiles reduces some of the “heat” from the chiles. If you like your chiles hotter, leave the seeds and membanes in the chiles. Chop the chiles into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.

In a large pot over medium heat, add 1/2 cup vegetable oil and warm until hot. Add the onion, Mexican oregano, the sage, and sauté, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent. This takes about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Cook until fragrant, you do not want the garlic to burn. Add the green chiles and white wine. Simmer until wine is almost completely reduced.

Drain the posole, reserving some of the liquid. Add the posole and the stock to the pot. Turn up the heat to medium high and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes to infuse the flavors. Add the roasted squash and apple cider vinegar to the pot. At this point you can determine if you prefer your posole as a stew or a soup. If you prefer it more soup like, add some of the posole cooking liquid and chicken stock until you get the consistency you are looking to achieve. Cook over medium heat until the stew is heated through.

Ladle the stew into warm bowls and garnish with sour cream and sliced green onions.

Finished Winter Squash Posole

This dish is a nice alternative to traditional pork based posole. I am not exaggerating when I say this recipe will result in six very generous servings. Invite a crowd!

Looking for posole and Mexican oregano? Try the Latin or Mexican food aisle in your grocery store. You can substitute Turkish Oregano but it will impart a different flavor to the dish.

Posted in Cooking, Entree, Food, Meatless, Meatless Meals, New Mexican, Recipes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

If You Can’t Buy’em……

Awhile back I wrote a blog entry about hamburger buns. The gist of it was that, unable to find appropriately sized, decent quality hamburger buns I decided to make my own. The experiment turned out pretty well and I was happy enough with the outcome to continue making the buns myself.

I probably would have been content with my product if I hadn’t, while perusing the King Arthur Baking catalog, seen the perfect tool to take my buns to the next level – a hamburger bun pan!

Hamburger bun/small pie pan from King Arthur Baking

I had been free-forming my buns but they weren’t as uniform as I would like and they had a tendency to spread out rather rise up while baking. The pan was intended to be used with the hamburger bun recipe I had been using so I knew it would give me the height and circumference I wanted in my hamburger bun.

My mom gave me a gift card to King Arthur Baking for Christmas so I decided to indulge in another toy! Last week I got the opportunity to take my new toy for a test drive. It passed with flying colors. The buns rose higher than the free formed buns and for obvious reasons were more uniform in size. I decided to go all in and topped the buns with the King Arthur Baking Everything Bagel topping. They tasted as good as they looked. And they freeze beautifully. I am no longer at the whim of the grocery store bakery department!

To illustrate the difference the pan made I am including a picture of the buns baked freeform and the bans baked in the pan. You be the judge.

Hamburger Bund
Hamburger Buns made by free forming the risen dough
Hamburger Buns made in my new Hamburger Bun pan and topped with Everything Bagel topping.

And yes, they have a hot dog pan. The pan makes 10 New England style buns – think Lobster roll buns. That’s alot of buns and, for someone who grew up in the midwest, the top opening is something I would have to get used to!

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Leftover Ingredients Shine

Every Thursday I plan my menu for the upcoming week.  I always look for a way to let leftover ingredients shine in a different dish.  And the majority of the ingredients in our dinner last night did just that.

As I planned my menu, I identified these ingredients that I had in the refrigerator that needed to be consumed:

  • 6 sheets of Phyllo dough leftover from making the spinach pie
  • 1/4 of a bag of frozen spinach leftover from making the spinach pie
  • ricotta cheese leftover from making the spinach pie
  • Haricot Verts leftover from making the Salad Nicoise
  • 1/2 of a cucumber from making a Greek salad
  • Fresh Dill
  • French Potato Salad from the Salad Nicoise

Those ingredients could, with the addition of the right protein and some staples I always have on hand, make a pretty fine Friday night supper.  I decided on a Salmon filet topped with spinach, ricotta and Parmesan mixture and encased in Phyllo dough.  The french potato salad with it’s vinaigrette dressing would be a good counterpoint to the rich spinach and salmon entree.

I can’t provide you with accurate ingredient measurements because I was making this up as I went along.  But here’s my best guess.

 Salmon in Phyllo with Cucumber Dill Sauce serves two

  • 12 0z salmon filet
  • 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and wrung dry
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 6 sheets of phyllo dough
  • 3 tbl melted unsalted butter (more if the phyllo dough is a bit dry)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Chop the cucumber into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl with enough sour cream to make a sauce.  Add dill and white pepper to taste.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

In a large bowl, mix the spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, salt and white pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as required.

Using a boning knife, remove the skin from the salmon filet.  Cut the filet in half the long way.  Lay one piece of phyllo dough on the workspace.  Brush with melted butter.  Lay another piece of the dough on top of the first and brush with butter.  Form half the spinach mixture into a rectangle the size of the salmon filet and place it in the center of the phyllo sheets.  Place the salmon filet on top of the spinach mixture. Be sure to tuck the belly flap of the salmon under the thicker part of the filet.  This will ensure even cooking. Bring the sides of the phyllo dough over the salmon and spinach.  Place the final piece of phyllo dough over the encased salmon and tuck under to form a package.  Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Brush butter over the top and sides of the packet.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients for the second salmon packet.

Bake in the 425 degree F oven until the phyllo dough has turned brown and the salmon is done, about 12 minutes.  A small slit in the dough will allow you to check on the salmon.

I steamed the haricot verts and dressed them with a bit of butter.

And this is how it turned out.

Salmon and spinach in phyllo with French potato salad and Haricot Verts

Salmon and spinach in phyllo with French potato salad and Haricot Verts

I was pretty happy that I used up all my leftover ingredients without feeling like I was eating leftovers.  That’s always a win in my book!

Posted in American Food, Cooking, Entree, fish, Food, French Food, Meatless Meals, Recipes, Salmon, Seafood, vegetables, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Best Summer Salad

We are still in the throes of summer here so I am relying on the best summer salad ever to get us through dinner when the outside temperature ventures into the triple digits, Salade Nicoise. I made it for dinner last night and there was enough left over to have as lunch today.

Google Salade Nicoise and you’ll find plenty of recipes.  But I stick with my tried and true favorite – Salade Nicoise from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” Volume One.  This particular version of the recipe requires you incorporate multiple components, some of which have recipes of their own.  This is not a dish you can decide to make at 5:30 and have on the table by 6:00.  But it is so worth the time and effort that I find myself making it over and over during the summer months. And frankly, once the potato salad is made you’re 90% there. I also love this dish for it’s simplicity.  Most of the items in this recipe are staples in my kitchen.  Haricot Verts may be a bit harder to find but you can substitute regular green beans.  After that it’s tuna, tomato, potatoes, tarragon, anchovies, hard boiled eggs, Boston lettuce, Kalamata (or other Mediterranean) olives, dry white wine, prepared mustard, salt, pepper, olive oil, white wine vinegar and optionally shallots or green onions. When purchasing the tuna be sure to get a good quality tuna in olive oil.  And yes, there is a taste and mouthfeel difference between tuna in water and tuna in oil.. You definitely want the oil version.

When I originally made this recipe I followed the instruction to a “T.” I made the French Dressing for the salad and made  the separate dressing listed in the recipe for the French Potato Salad.  I could find no real difference in the taste of the two dressings so now I just make one double batch to serve achieve both ends.  I make my dressing in a jar with a lid.  I have  a whisk that acts as a beater and does a great job turning the ingredients into a dressing.  And, if the dressing separates it makes it easy to blend again  by shaking the covered jar.

I make the French Potato Salad in the morning so the flavors have a real chance to meld.  Then, just before dinner, I assemble the salad in individual bowls and bring it to the table with a freshly made baguette and a nice Pinot Noir.  Nothing better on a hot summer night!

Salad Nicoise   Serves 2

Adapted from Julia Child’s recipe

French Vinaigrette  Makes about one cup

  • 31/2 to 4  tbl white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard ( I use Coleman’s)
  • 12 tbl olive oil
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tbl chopped tarragon

Beat the vinegar, salt and mustard in a bowl or jar until combined.  Then add the oil, pepper and tarragon and either whisk or shake together until blended.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Refrigerate until needed.

French Potato Salad

  • 1 lb small red potatoes
  • 2 tb dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup French Vinaigrette
  • 1 tbl minced shallots
  • 1 tbl minced tarragon

Cut an X in the skin of the potato to facilitate peeling.  Steam the potatoes in a steamer until they are just tender when pierced with a paring knife. Remove the steamer basket from the heat and place under running cold water to slightly cool the potatoes.  They should be cool enough to handle but still have some residual heat.  Peel the potatoes and slice into 1/8 inch thick slices. Put them in a mixing bowl.  Add the white wine to the bowl and stir gently to combine.   Set aside until the potatoes have absorbed all of the wine.  Pour the French Vinaigrette over the potatoes.  Add the shallots and tarragon.  Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Salade Nicoise

  • 24 Haricot Verts, blanched and chilled
  • 2  tomatoes cut into eigths
  • 1/2 cup French Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 head Boston Leaf Lettuce, washed and dried
  • French Potato Salad
  • 2 cans (5oz) good quality tuna in oil, drained
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 cold hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
  • 8 anchovy filets, drained
  • 2 tbl minced tarragon

This dish should be visually appealing so it is composed rather that tossed. Begin by lining two bowls with the Boston Leaf lettuce.  Place a mound of potato salad in top of the lettuce in the center of the bowl. Place Haricot Verts radiating out from the potato salad at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 position in the bowl.  Quarter the eggs and place them with the pointy side touching the potato salad between the Haricot Verts.  Place two of the tomato slices between just below and on either side of the eggs.  Dived the tuna into the four areas of the bowl.  Cut the anchovies in half and place across the tuna in a decorative manner.  scatter the Kalamata olives around the bowl. Pour 1/4 cup of the dressing over the salad. Sprinkle with the tarragon and serve.

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