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Just finished reading The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novelby Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Fish, on November 21st, 2017.

honey_mustard_salmon_panko_pecan_crust

Looking for a new way to fix an easy baked salmon dinner? Here it is!

It may have been my daughter Sara who told me about a recipe she’d found on Jenn Segal’s website, Once Upon a Chef. Jenn is a full time mom and wife now (now blogger and cookbook writer) but at one time she was a classically trained chef, so she brings a certain amount of perfection to her recipes. She also uses tons of photos for every post. You’ll never have any guesswork about what the different steps look like!

Her recipe for this easy baked salmon was just the ticket for me one night recently. I quickly defrosted a nice piece of salmon and this dinner came together so easily and quickly. First you make up a honey mustard mixture (my honey was quite thick, so I heated it in the microwave briefly) with butter, Dijon, salt and pepper. Since I was making this recipe just for myself, I guess-timated at the amounts, and I ended up with more than I needed. I certainly didn’t want to waste the rest of it (after I’d spread some on the top of the salmon), so, I added a bit of water to it and used it as a deglazing for a pan full of sliced Brussels sprouts. You can see them in the background behind the salmon in the photo.

Salmon Temps:

Current advice says farm-raised should cook to 125°F. Wild salmon is done at 120°F. Reason: wild salmon contains less fat and goes from raw to cooked (or overcooked) more quickly.

Then you make a little mixture of pecans (chopped) and panko. I forgot the parsley, so added it on the top when I served it. You can add it in with this mixture (per the recipe) and just garnish with some additional sprigs. The pan is popped into a hot oven and baked very briefly – 7-10 minutes only, until the thickest part of the salmon has reached 125°F.

There’s been recent discussion about the inherent differences between farm-raised and wild salmon, and to what temperature it needs to be cooked. Chefs (many, not all, I’d suppose) say that wild salmon (which has less fat in its tissue) is done at 120°. But farm-raised, with higher fat, needs to go to 125°F. The FDA says to cook salmon to 145°F. I never cook it that far because it’s dry. In this dish, with a thinner piece of salmon, it was done at 6 minutes, but you’ll want to test it with an instant read thermometer to make sure you don’t overcook it.

brussels_sprouts_honey_mustardThe BRUSSELS SPROUTS: I didn’t use a recipe for this one – I just made it up as I went along! The leftover honey mustard was the inspiration! As the fish was baking, I prepared the Brussels sprouts, and added the remaining honey mustard mixture, (to which I added a little bit of water so the sprouts would steam a little bit) at the very end and tasted it for seasoning. TJ’s sells a package of Brussels sprouts already sliced up – that’s what I used. I greased a large frying pan with a little bit of canola oil, tossed the Brussels sprouts many times, covered it briefly so it would steam-cook a little bit, then when it was nearly done, I added in the thinned-out honey mustard mixture and stirred and tossed. Done. Dinner was finished in a matter of about 25 minutes including the time needed to preheat the oven!

What’s GOOD: how quickly this dinner came together. I truly liked the honey mustard on both salmon and sprouts. You might think the same seasoning on both would be too much – it wasn’t. Perhaps because the Brussels sprouts are savory and almost bitter (although I don’t think Brussels are a bitter green), if you know what I mean. There’s not enough honey or mustard added to the Brussels sprouts to make a lot of difference, but I definitely knew they’d had something added. Loved the salmon – the honey mustard added a lovely sweetness, and I liked the crunch of the panko and pecans. An EASY dish to make. I’ll be making both of these again.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. This is a great combo – both are keepers for sure.

SALMON: printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

BRUSSELS SPROUTS: printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe

* Exported from MasterCook *

Baked Salmon with Honey Mustard and Pecan Panko Crust

Recipe By: Once Upon a Chef (blog) 2017
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt — divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets — cut into 4 even pieces
1/4 cup panko
1/4 cup pecans — finely chopped
2 teaspoons parsley — finely chopped (optional for color)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 whole lemon — for serving (optional)

NOTES: If you’re going to use some of the honey mustard mixture in a side vegetable (as I did with shaved Brussels sprouts), increase the mustard, butter, honey, salt and pepper mixture by half, then set aside about 1/4 to 1/3 of it to use on the vegetable.
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleanup, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, melted butter, honey, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
3. In another small bowl, mix together the panko, pecans, parsley (if using), and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.
4. Spoon the honey-mustard mixture evenly over the salmon fillets. (Don’t worry if it drips down the sides a little.) Sprinkle the panko-pecan mixture over the glaze, pressing it lightly so it adheres.
5. Bake for 7-10 minutes per inch of thickness, depending on how well done you like your salmon. (If you find that the topping is browning more than you’d like before the fish is cooked through, loosely cover the salmon with foil.) Serve hot or at room temperature. (Note that if your salmon has skin, it may stick to the foil; to remove the fish from the pan, slide a thin spatula between the skin and the flesh, leaving the skin behind.) Garnish with additional parsley, if desired, and add lemon wedges for serving.
6. Make Ahead: The salmon can be glazed, coated with the panko-pecan mixture, and refrigerated up to 3 hours ahead of time.
Per Serving: 332 Calories; 17g Fat (45.0% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 104mg Cholesterol; 620mg Sodium.

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* Exported from MasterCook *

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with a Honey Mustard Slurry

Recipe By: My concoction, inspired by some leftover honey mustard made for baked salmon.
Serving Size: 3

1 tablespoon canola oil — or EVOO
3 tablespoons yellow onion — chopped finely
1 garlic clove — smashed, chopped
12 ounces Brussels sprouts — shaved (sliced thinly)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter — melted
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons water — or more if needed

1. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat; add oil and allow it to heat until the oil begins to shimmer.
2. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and stir very briefly (no more than 45 seconds or so) then add the Brussels sprouts and stir well, continuing to turn and stir until all the vegetables have been coated with a little bit of the oil. Turn heat down to medium and continue cooking for 3-5 minutes until the sprouts are cooked just barely tender.
3. Meanwhile, combine the mustard, melted butter and honey in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper. Add water and stir to make a slurry. During last minute of cooking the sprouts, add the slurry and continue cooking, stirring to make sure all the sprouts are coated. Allow sprouts to simmer and steam until most of the liquid has evaporated. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 172 Calories; 13g Fat (62.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 21mg Cholesterol; 167mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, on July 20th, 2017.

chile_spice_rubbed_roasted_salmon

This recipe really needs to be titled “Citrus Marinated Roasted Salmon with Chili Powder and Other Spices.” But whew. Can’t call it that!

Originally this recipe was titled “Barbecue Roasted Salmon.” It’s an old recipe from Cooking Light (2001) but they totally misnamed this one. It’s not barbecued, nor does it contains typical “barbecue” spices. So I dubbed it Chili-Rubbed Roasted Salmon instead. You’ll see why shortly. And don’t let the Cooking Light source make you think this is  not all that good! It’s fabulous.

IMHO, the pineapple juice/lemon juice marinade is the secret to this recipe. It makes it SO very juicy and tender. It doesn’t need to be marinated all that long, either. Periodically I buy a 6-pack of pineapple juice in little baby cans. Sometimes they don’t last (the cans bulge and you know the juice has gone bad). I threw away 2 cans before I found one that was still okay. My recollection is that I can’t buy just one of those tiny cans of pineapple juice. I don’t drink it ever – it’s only used for cooking. But I certainly didn’t want to have to go grocery shopping in order to make this. Fortunately I had everything on hand.

Am sure I’ve mentioned it here before .. . . even though I’m a family of one now, I buy the big slabs of farm-raised salmon at Costco, cut them up into fillets and pack two to a bag and vacuum seal them for freezing. It takes less than an hour to defrost one of those bags and it gives me two meals.

salmon_foil_ready2bakeSo first, the salmon fillets went into a ziploc bag with the juices. Into the refrigerator they went for about an hour. It’s very possible that left in the marinade any longer the fish would have begun to disintegrate. Pineapple juice is a powerful marinade in that it contains enzymes that break down food. Which is why it’s often used in a meat marinade, to give it tenderness. This one, though, is really meant just for flavoring, I’m guessing, since salmon doesn’t need tenderizing! Pat it dry, then you put the brown sugar and spices (chili powder, lemon zest, ground cumin, salt and a pinch of ground cinnamon and salt) on the fish. I made a foil “tray” for the fish and roasted it in my toaster oven for only about 10-11 minutes (the fillets weren’t all that thick) and they were plu-perfect! Ideal cooked internal temperature of a salmon fillet is 135°F. I garnished with a lemon slice or two, more lemon zest and a sprinkling of mint, and onto my plate it went. In the background of the photo at top you can see the watermelon/feta/mint salad and some roasted vegetables I’d made a few days before. Wonderful dinner. And then I had the second fillet to re-heat a few nights later. It was still wonderful, although reheating it dried it out just a tad.

What’s GOOD: so very tender and juicy salmon – loved the spice combo on it. Very easy to make too. A winner of a recipe. I’ll be making this again. The calorie count for one serving is 235. Yea! And that assumes you’ve consumed (drunk) the pineapple and lemon juices, so it’s actually less than 235! This could easily be a company meal (it’s certainly fancy enough) but can also be an easy weeknight dinner too. Don’t marinate the fish more than an hour, though.

What’s NOT: Do use thicker salmon if you can – it will roast better with no tendency to dry out. No down side to this recipe at all.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chili-Rubbed Roasted Salmon

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Cooking Light, May 2001
Serving Size: 4

1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets — (6-ounce each)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Lemon slices (optional)
Chopped mint for garnish
Grated lemon zest for garnish

1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a zip-top plastic bag; seal and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning occasionally. (Don’t marinate longer or it will begin to break down the fish.)
2. Preheat oven to 400°.
3. Remove fish from bag; discard marinade. Pat dry the fish with paper towels. Combine sugar and next 5 ingredients (chili powder through cinnamon) in a bowl. Rub over fish; place in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lined with foil. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork (done internal temp should be 135°F). Serve immediately with lemon slices, and a sprinkling of fresh, chopped mint and lemon zest.
Per Serving: 235 Calories; 6g Fat (24.8% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 408mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Grilling, on July 4th, 2017.

Trust me on this one – it’s a winner.

Years ago, it must have been in the late 80s, my DH and I took a cruise on the inland passage to Alaska. That was our first one (we did it 3 times). We were with a group of friends. The ship left out of Vancouver, for a week, and we just loved it all. Since I get seasick, this trip was one of the few I could do as there was only one 12-14 hour stretch when these routes are in open ocean (and all 3 times we did this trip, I was down sick in the stateroom for the duration of open-ocean cruising feeling very quesy).

At one of the ports of call on the Alaska mainland, we took a day trip up into a deep lush valley and enjoyed a salmon lunch cooked over open coals, huddled under some plastic tarps to protect us from the rain. It wasn’t anything fancy – the salmon, some cole slaw, as I recall, and potatoes, or a potato salad. But what I remember was the salmon. OMGosh was it good. I asked the chef, who was gently tending the salmon, worrying that the rain was going to damp out the coals, what was in the glaze he was brushing on the huge slabs of salmon. He said, butter, brown sugar and white wine – and I think he said equal quantities of each. Pretty easy. I tucked that bit of info into the back of my brain and never pursued trying to find a recipe for it.

taku_grilled_salmon_bastingThen I was reading something some years back, and the memories of that salmon came flooding back into my brain. We didn’t go to Taku Lodge back then (it’s a 15-minute flight in a small plane from Juneau), but it brought back all those wonderful mouth-watering memories of our first salmon bake in the wilderness. This link has the recipe, and also this one from Sunset Magazine’s version from 2003. It’s taken me this long to make it. What a waste of years – not to have made this until now.

salmon_fresh_off_grillSunset’s recipe is the one I used. Both recipes are a little bit different – same ingredients, but different quantities. One has you marinate the salmon (I didn’t), and I didn’t grill it on the open grill – I did the salmon slab on heavy-duty foil, in a kind of a foil-sling/pan with the edges of the foil rolled inward so the glaze wouldn’t drip out. I had my son-in-law man the gas grill, putting the “pan” on the heat for about 4 minutes, then moving it off-heat until it was fully cooked – maybe 10 minutes. You know it’s done when the collagen starts leaking up through the flakes. We moved the foil slab onto a serving platter and guests just cut what they wanted with a long spatula. You can scoot the salmon off the foil pan onto a heated serving platter – looks prettier that way.

As it turned out, even with 8 people eating, we didn’t quite finish 2 slabs, and I was so happy about that because I crumbled half of it into a green salad for lunch one day and the remainder I ate as dinner a few nights later briefly reheated in the microwave. There was a little bit of the glaze in the refrigerator container I had it in, and I almost wanted to drink it (I didn’t).

What’s GOOD: the glaze gives the salmon a lovely sweet caramely kind of taste. It’s not overly sweet, but I suppose you could cut down on the sugar if you are concerned about that. The butter keeps it moist. It’s just wonderful. Do try it.

What’s not: nothing that I can think of – this is a quick, easy dinner. Do use two layers of the foil so there aren’t any chances of a leaking accident in the grill. That would not be good!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Salmon a la Taku Lodge

Recipe By: adapted from Taku Glacier Lodge in Juneau
Serving Size: 12

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 1/2 pounds salmon
1/3 cup parsley — finely minced

NOTE: I buy the whole farm-raised salmon slabs at Costco and they vary in size and thickness.
1. In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Add lemon juice and wine. Stir and heat through, about 5 minutes.
2. Prepare foil “pan,” by placing 2 pieces of heavy-duty foil together, spray foil with nonstick spray, then place salmon on top, curling the thin, tapered end under so the salmon slab is about an even thickness. Carefully crinkle/roll the foil edges inward so it kind of surrounds the fish, like a boat. Baste the salmon with the glaze (don’t use it all). Set aside until the grill is ready.
3. Preheat grill to high. Leave one part of the grill off, or bank coals to one side.
4. Turn down the grill heat to medium. Place salmon “pan” on heat for about 4 minutes, then move the “pan” to the unheated side and continue cooking (lid closed). Baste the salmon several times with the glaze. It’s done when the collagen begins to leak through to the top of the salmon, about 4-8 minutes, depending on the thickness. The fish should flake when tested with a fork.
5. If desired, open the short end of the foil pan and using a spatula, gently scoot the whole salmon off onto a heated platter. Pour any remaining glaze over the top. Garnish with minced parsley.
Per Serving: 226 Calories; 11g Fat (44.1% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 70mg Cholesterol; 147mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Grilling, on May 25th, 2017.

grilled_shrimp_garlic_butter_sauce

Oh my, the most luscious garlicky buttered shrimp ever.

Having watched another America’s Test Kitchen or maybe it was Cook’s Country show on TV, and seeing them make this, I vowed I was going to make it forthwith! These are SO good. So full of garlic butter, so flavorful. Doing shrimp on a grill is a bit of an iffy situation anyway – to get all the shrimp done at the same time. If any are smaller they get over done. Larger, they’re not cooked through. So I was glad to use these giant shrimp, all uniform size to make this.

garlic_butter_foil_panFirst off, you need a medium sized aluminum pan – big enough to hold all the shrimp you’re going to grill. Into that pan goes the to-be-made garlic butter (butter, lemon juice, copious finely chopped garlic, a few red chili flakes and salt). I got that done ahead of time and set aside. Then, the shrimp is skewered (using double skewers assures they won’t flip over or around during turning)  and they’re oiled, salted and peppered. AND on one side only, you sprinkle just a tad of sugar.

Standing in front of your preheated grill, you put the aluminum pan over the heat. While you stand there (do not leave your station!) stir it as the butter melts and begins to bubble. The butter should NOT brown – just bubble and melt completely, with the garlic in it. Once that’s done, the aluminum pan is scooted over to a non-heated area of the grill – to a place where it stays warm, but doesn’t cook. shrimp_oiled_SP_sugared

Then, the shrimp is placed sugar-side-down on the hot grill. It cooks for only a few minutes, maybe 4-5, depending on the size. You want the shrimp to reach a finished temp of 120°. Turn the shrimp skewers over and cook for another 1-2 minutes until they’re just cooked through, and at that magic number of 120°. I used my trusty instant-read thermometer (Thermapen). When the shrimp is cooked, using a big fork, slide the shrimp off the skewers and into the pan of garlic butter. Have a spoon at the ready and toss and turn the shrimp so all the sides get coated with the garlic butter while they’re piping hot. Let it cook, sizzle a little and get soaked in that garlic butter. Whisk the pan to the kitchen, sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve them IMMEDIATELY. To raves. I promise.

What’s GOOD: well, the shrimp I used were really big, which makes (for me anyway) a much more enjoyable shrimp-eating occasion. I don’t like little shrimp – I like them to have some real chewiness and heft. So, do try to buy big ones when you make this – you’ll be rewarded with ooohs and aaaahs. The garlic butter was perfect – garlicky enough, smoothed with melted butter and just slightly heated with chili flakes. This was a very EASY entrée to make. Truly it was. My darling Dave would have been manning the grill, but I managed. The first time I made this my friend Bud (Cherrie’s husband) cooked them; the 2nd time I made them and it’s really simple to do. Do all the prep work ahead and you’ll be rewarded with an easy dish to serve. Truly delicious with garlic butter. Do notice the low calorie count on this one, too.

What’s NOT: can’t think of any thing that wasn’t wonderful.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Shrimp (Scampi)

Recipe By: Cook’s Illustrated
Serving Size: 4

1 1/2 pounds shrimp, large, R-T-C — peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon sugar salt and pepper
1 teaspoon oil Spicy Lemon-Garlic Sauce (below)
Three 14 inch metal skewers
SPICY LEMON GARLIC SAUCE: (enough for 1 ½ lbs. shrimp)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
3 garlic cloves — finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt a disposable aluminum pan
1/3 cup chopped parsley — for garnish

1. Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. Thread shrimp onto skewers, alternating direction of heads and tails so that they are closely pushed together. Brush each side with oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle one side of the shrimp with sugar.
2. Light large charcoal chimney with about 6 qts. of charcoal and allow to burn until fully ignited and covered with a thin layer of ash. Empty into grill, placing all the coals on one side and leaving the other side empty. Place the disposable pan with the sauce over the hot side and cook as directed, then move to cooler side. (Alternately, use a gas grill; heat to medium high and leave one section off.)
3. Place skewers with shrimp on hot side, sugared side down, and be sure the shrimp are closely pushed together. Cook for 4-5 minutes and then flip, cooking other side 1-2 minutes. Using an oven mitt, pick up each skewer and using tongs, slide the shrimp off the skewer and into the pan containing the sauce. Toss and cook until fully cooked, about 30 seconds.
4. Remove from grill, add parsley,toss and serve. DO drizzle any remaining sauce over the shrimp.
5. SAUCE: Put butter, juice, red pepper and garlic in the pan and place on the hot side of the grill, cooking until butter is melted and bubbly. Move to cooler side. When shrimp are grilled, place in the hot sauce and continue to cook for about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from grill, add parsley, toss, remove from sauce and serve.
Per Serving: 253 Calories; 14g Fat (50.1% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 293mg Cholesterol; 371mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Miscellaneous, on May 17th, 2017.

What a wonderful way to use left over shrimp. Ever had remoulade? You’re in for a treat.

Here in Orange County, California, we had a restaurant called Nieuport 17 (it’s now closed, sad to say) that was a place I visited frequently to take customers for a business lunch. Clubby kind of ambiance; great service. And, delicious food. And of the dozens and dozens of times I had lunch there, about 95% of the time I ordered their Open-Faced Shrimp and Avocado Sandwich with Remoulade. It looked much like my recreation above. It was served on dark rye bread (untoasted), slathered with the delicious Remoulade sauce, topped with a few thin slices of ripe avocado, then shrimp cut nicely in half laid on top. Often I asked for a bit more sauce so I could put more on top. Before it closed, they’d taken this item off the menu – in fact they weren’t open for lunch anymore. The last several times I asked (at dinner time) if they could make it, they said no. Not that the Remoulade is all that hard to make, but they didn’t want to make it from scratch for just one customer.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Remoulade: it is a condiment invented in France that is usually aioli- or mayonnaise-based. Although similar to tartar sauce, it is often more yellowish (or reddish in Louisiana), sometimes flavored with curry, and sometimes contains chopped pickles or piccalilli. It can also contain horseradish, paprika, anchovies, capers and a host of other items. While its original purpose was possibly for serving with meats, it is now more often used as an accompaniment to seafood dishes, especially pan-fried breaded fish fillets (primarily sole and plaice) and seafood cakes (such as crab or salmon cakes).

rye_toast_remoulde_slatheredI had some left over colossal shrimp (recipe coming soon) that had been grilled. I researched online for various Remoulade recipes, and took some items from one and other ingredients from others. I made it the way I think Nieuport 17 used to make it. Whether I’m right or not may never be determined. It was good enough for me!

In this case, the Remoulade is a mayo-based sauce with a bunch of add-ins. Lime juice. Creole mustard. Horseradish, cayenne, Sriracha, garlic, chopped parsley, and some paprika too. And I added in some capers because I think they used capers in theirs. I tasted it and knew I had a winner. It was absolutely wonderful.

remoulade_sauce_glass_dish

The sauce has this lovely golden-red color because there’s some paprika added and some Sriracha. Does it resemble what I used to have? Yes. It might be the very thing. I had enough leftover shrimp to make this twice. Yummy.

What’s GOOD: everything about the sauce is delicious. You could use it as a dipping sauce for lots of things, including shrimp, if you happened to serve them as an appetizer. Forever, though, Remoulade will be associated with this shrimp sandwich for me!

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. It’s very easy to make as long as you have all the ingredients that go into it! Don’t forget the capers.

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Remoulade Sauce

Recipe By: My own combination
Serving Size: 6

1/2 cup mayonnaise — (I always use Best Foods/Hellman’s)
1 tablespoon Creole mustard — * see note in directions
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 small garlic clove — minced
1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce — (or Tabasco – use less probably)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 pinches cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons capers — drained, chopped
Salt if needed

*Note: if you don’t have Creole mustard, use Dijon and add more hot sauce and/ or cayenne to taste. The sauce isn’t supposed to be “hot,” just spicy warm.
1. Combine all of the remoulade ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well.
2. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes or more to allow the flavors to meld. Use within a couple of days.
4. SANDWICH: For each serving, place a slice of soft dark (or light) rye bread on the plate. Slather with some of the Remoulade, a few thin slices of ripe avocado, then cut 2-4 shrimp in half lengthwise and lay flat on the top. Slather a bit more remoulade on top and garnish with a parsley sprig. This recipe will probably be enough for 3-4 open faced sandwiches, using about 2-3 tablespoons for each sandwich.
Per Serving: 134 Calories; 16g Fat (97.6% calories from fat); trace Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 6mg Cholesterol; 129mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, on December 7th, 2016.

pancetta_salmon_browned_butter_pistachios

Don’t let the long title steer you away from trying this. It’s really very easy – all of it is, even browning the butter!

This salmon dish was just SO delicious. Do I over-use that word “delicious?” I hope not. Take the word seriously – this salmon dish is very easy (and company-worthy) and could be a weeknight dinner. Wrapping the salmon fillet in a thin-thin piece of pancetta takes all of about 10 seconds, maybe 20 at the most. But first you need to heat the oven to hot – 425°F and on convection if you have that option. Or convection bake. While the oven heats, put a baking sheet in the oven so it gets piping hot too. Let the salmon sit out at room temp for a little bit – 10-15 minutes or so. Gather together the ingredients to make the nut sauce –  white wine vinegar, cold butter (actually keep it cold and in the refrigerator until needed) and some chopped Italian parsley. (See, I said there wasn’t much to it). If you haven’t done so, toast the nuts and chop them.

Once the oven (and the pan in it) is hot, remove the pan and place the pancetta-wrapped salmon on the pan – you’ll hear it sizzle already. Put the pan in the oven and set the timer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan and turn the salmon over and put it back in the oven, turn the oven temp to 325°F and set your timer for about 8 minutes (it might take 10 depending on how thick the salmon is). Cook the salmon to 145°F to be perfection.

Meanwhile, the last couple of minutes you make the sauce – heat the butter and continue to cook until it gets a nutty, golden to dark brown. JUST before you’re ready to serve, reheat the butter if you’ve done it ahead, then add the toasted pistachios and vinegar. Be careful – it will bubble up and spit. Then add the cold butter in small cubes and allow the butter to melt. Add the parsley. It should thicken the sauce a little bit. Check the salmon – is it done? Put it out onto a heated plate/platter and pour the sauce on top or on the side. Garnish with more Italian parsley if desired. Done. The recipe came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter but the recipe came from a cookbook I don’t own (oh, I’m sorely tempted – I could buy it used for not much money but I need another cookbook like I need a hole in my head!). The cookbook: The New Wine Country Cookbook: Recipes from California’s Central Coast.

What’s GOOD: I rate this salmon dish sensational. It was so very good. If you buy wild-caught salmon it will be even more delicious. The sauce is easy to make. Altogether a beautiful presentation too. Not difficult to make; just gather everything together at the beginning (except the chilled butter – keep it refrigerated) and it comes together very quickly.

What’s NOT: nary a thing. A must try recipe.

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Pancetta-Wrapped Salmon with Pistachio-Brown Butter Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking class, Sept 2016
Serving Size: 6

30 ounces salmon fillets — wild caught, skinless, center-cut (about 5 ounces each)
Fresly ground black pepper
6 slices pancetta — or prosciutto (thin slices)
NUT SAUCE:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup pistachio nuts — toasted, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons butter — COLD, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon Italian parsley — finely chopped and more for garnish if desired

1. Season salmon with pepper and wrap each piece with a slice of pancetta. (This can be done up to 6 hours ahead of time.)
2. Place a baking sheet on the center rack of the oven and preheat to 425°F on convection bake.
3. Let salmon sit at room temp for about 10 minutes if it’s just been removed from the refrigerator.
4. Meanwhile, preheat a baking sheet in the hot oven and once hot, transfer salmon to the sheet and roast for 5 minutes.
5. Turn the salmon over and continue baking for about 8-9 more minutes or until tender. It should measure 145°F on an instant read thermometer.
6. SAUCE: Heat unsalted butter in a pan until it turns brown (but not burned). As soon as it has turned a dark, nutty brown, remove from heat, stand back and add pistachios and vinegar (it will boil up and splatter). Now add the COLD butter and parsley; swirl the pan until butter melts and thickens slightly. Spoon alongside the salmon or over the salmon. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 455 Calories; 32g Fat (62.4% calories from fat); 38g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 135mg Cholesterol; 817mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Salads, on November 14th, 2016.

shrimp_orzo_salad_feta

A stunning combination. Shrimp, orzo pasta, a light lemon juice dressing, sugar snap peas, green onions, some red onion and nice big chunks of Feta cheese. Absolutely yummy.

I made this some weeks ago, when it was still very much summer. My friend Cherrie was in NoCal visiting family and Bud, her husband, was alone.

Often when Cherrie is away I’ll invite Bud over for dinner. This time he came to help me figure out a mechanical problem with my pool. Mechanical engineering isn’t my strength, and I have to rely on others to help me me unravel house problems of that nature. Suffice to say, the problem was that I have too much water pressure to my house (and outside landscaping, etc.). I had no idea there was such a thing as a pressure regulator that should be installed on a home’s incoming water supply. Hence, the automatic pool fillers I have were over filling. These things hang on the edge of both the pool and spa and when the water goes below a certain level, it signals to open the valve to add water and then shut off (supposedly) when it reaches an acceptable level. Well, they weren’t shutting off when they should and my pools were over filling. Badly. To the point of overflowing both pool and spa. Who knew it could be such a simple thing as too much pressure. Hence the tiny mechanical thing that says it’s time to shut off the water couldn’t react fast enough.

So, it took Bud awhile to diagnose the problem (with help from my friend Lynn in Colorado who suggested testing the water pressure – Lynn did some diagnosing of my problem when they were visiting a couple of months ago). Anyway, I am hoping it’s fixed now. I must wait until evaporation takes the water level low enough to fill again. Meanwhile, my plumber has come to install the regulator, to the tune of several hundred dollars.

Okay, now, back to food. I’m sure you were all so interested in hearing my house problems. My DH always took care of these kinds of things, so I’ve had to learn about them.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about my project of clearing out my old recipes so I can dispose of a basket file cabinet thing. In the process I re-found a lot of recipes I’m anxious to try. One I will post soon. This one wasn’t from that mass of recipes, but from a luncheon I attended a few months ago and all of us were asked to bring a salad. Two people brought shrimp and orzo salads. What a kick! And yet, both of them were different. My friend Joan made this one, a recipe from Ina Garten. The recipe is on her website, but I have to say, some of the ingredients are hidden in the directions and not listed in the ingredients, so I’d suggest you use the recipe below which has it complete.

Big, huge shrimp are a favorite of mine. Love them! But I don’t eat them all that often as I have to be careful not to consume too many purines (of which shrimp and shellfish contain them in spades). If I have them, I like the big ones – I ate 3 of them in this salad. Vegetables were chopped (cucumber, sugar snaps, green onions, red onion, Italian parsley, dill) and Feta cheese is cubed to add in later. Orzo pasta is cooked just al dente (10 minutes), then it’s tossed with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing, then all the other stuff is tossed in, including the shrimp. Ina has you roast the shrimp – I didn’t want to heat the oven, so I just cooked them on the cooktop – took about 5-6 minutes total. The shrimp are added in and then the Feta, stirred and served. Ina suggests letting the salad sit for an hour (or overnight, even) to help meld the flavors – I didn’t do that and it was still sensational. If time permits, do that.

What’s GOOD: everything about this salad is good. The combo of shrimp and Feta is a good one. The addition of dill is inspired. Ina is a master of bringing good flavors together and this recipe is a real winner. I’m so happy I have some leftovers!

What’s NOT: can’t think of a thing!

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Roasted Shrimp & Orzo with Feta

Recipe By: Barefoot Contessa
Serving Size: 6

3/4 pound orzo
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup EVOO
2 teaspoons salt freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds shrimp — (16 to 18 count) peeled and deveined
1 cup minced scallions — white and green parts
1 cup fresh dill — chopped
1 cup Italian parsley — chopped
1 hothouse cucumber — unpeeled, seeded, and diced
1/2 cup red onion — minced
3/4 pound Feta cheese — large-diced

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and a splash of oil, and bring the water to a boil. Add the orzo and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well.
3. Meanwhile, place the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread out in a single layer. Roast for 5 to 6 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. Don’t overcook! [I pan sauteed the shrimp with olive oil and they were cooked through in 5-6 minutes.)
4. Add the shrimp to the orzo and then add the scallions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, more salt and pepper. Toss well. Add the feta and stir carefully. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, taste again for seasonings and bring back to room temperature before serving.
Per Serving: 706 Calories; 34g Fat (43.2% calories from fat); 47g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 281mg Cholesterol; 1582mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Salads, on August 16th, 2016.

clementines_tuna_pasta_salad

Tuna, pasta, some pickle action, radishes, celery and ample pepper. Oh yes, mayo. A nice salad for a warm summer’s day.

Lately it seems like I’ve allowed my palate, my wants, to rule what I fix in my kitchen. This day, I was craving tuna and I nearly made my favorite tuna salad, posted here on my blog ages ago, Sicilian Tuna Salad. BUT, I thought I might try something different. I used Eat Your Books to help me find something from my own cookbook collection, and sure enough, it located a tuna and pasta salad from Amanda Hesser’s cookbook, The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century. I did have to substitute a few things – I thought I had cornichons, but couldn’t locate them in my refrigerator, so I added some dill pickles instead. I also didn’t have chow chow and Tennessee chow chow to boot – that’s not something I ever stock since I really don’t eat it. It sounds like something my grandmother used to can every summer. Can you still buy chow chow? Anyway, peppadew pepperswhat I did have were peppadew peppers (sweet – see photo at left), so I added those instead (see them, some of the little red pieces in the photo). I also added radishes – just because I love them. Those weren’t in the recipe at all. Amanda used little elbow macaroni – I didn’t have any of that, either, so I used penne rigate.

You could say that this is a totally different salad – I used less mayo too. It took no time at all to mix this up – waiting for the pasta to cook, drain and cool took the longest. And since it made a bunch, I’ll have it for lunch several more times. I’ll likely be very tired of it before I eat it all. I should have cut it in half . . . the recipe indicated it served 1-2, but gosh no, it made a lot; enough for 3-4 lunch sized portions. Maybe more.

What’s GOOD: what can you say about a tuna pasta salad? It was good. Not exactly sensational – truthfully, my other tuna salad, the Sicilian one I linked above – is better, but this one was very good nevertheless. I’ll enjoy eating it, but when/if I get a craving again, I’ll go back to my favorite one (it doesn’t use mayo). This one is liberally slathered with it – if you don’t like mayo, you definitely wouldn’t like this salad.

What’s NOT: really nothing. Perhaps if I’d had chow chow (Tennessee chow chow, excuse me) and cornichons, that might have made the salad a bit different. I’m not sure.

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Clementine’s Tuna Pasta Salad

Recipe By: Adapted significantly from Amanda Hesser’s New York Times Cookbook
Serving Size: 5

Salt
1/2 pound macaroni (I used penne rigate)
1/2 cup celery — minced
1/2 cup cheddar cheese — diced
4 whole green onions — minced
4 whole cornichons — finely sliced, or dill pickle finely diced
3 tablespoons chow chow — or peppadew peppers, chopped
2/3 cup radishes — sliced
2/3 cup mayonnaise
12 ounces canned tuna — drained, flaked
Black pepper to taste

1. Simmer pasta in salted, boiling water for 10-12 minutes, according to package instructions. Do not over cook. Drain and set aside to cool.
2. In a medium-sized bowl combine the celery, cheddar, green onions, radishes, chow chow, cornichons, mayonnaise, tuna and pepper. Do add more pepper than you might think it needs.
3. Add cooled pasta and stir to combine. If using penne pasta, it takes a bit of stirring to get the salad to mix thoroughly without clumps of the tuna/mayo mixture. Chill and serve. You might garnish it with a sprinkling of minced Italian parsley.
Per Serving: 530 Calories; 30g Fat (50.4% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 637mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, on August 4th, 2016.

mustard_salmon_cannellini_ragu

This recipe got lost in my files where I keep recipes I’ve prepared, the ones I’m going to post about. It’s a good one and worth making. It’s healthy and filling.

Do you ever crave beans? I crave lentils now and then, and I do love-me-a-bowl-of-beans or chili about once a year or so, but like bread, mashed potatoes and rice, I try to give them a pass. I was craving beans the day I made this, and in looking at my to-try file, this recipe seemed to be the one to make. I had some escarole; yes, I had a can of cannellini beans; and I always have those lovely salmon fillets in the freezer. As I recall, since I made this a couple of months ago, that plate was all I ate for dinner. I thought it was a rounded-out menu since the escarole (vegetable) was in the ragu.

If you’re good at multi-tasking, by all means do both things at once (the bean ragu and the salmon). Neither part takes all that long. If you’re substituting spinach or arugula for the escarole, then don’t add that into the beans until you’re nearly ready to eat as it’s best when it’s just barely cooked. Depending on the thickness of the salmon, you may need to cook it longer – it’s broiled first, to get it brown (see photo), then if it’s not quite done, turn oven to 400° and bake for 3-4 minutes. That’s what I had to do as the salmon was thicker than some.

As you make the ragu, do taste it periodically, and at the end add more salt, pepper and lemon juice if it needs it. I think the beans need acid to give it some perk, so I did add more lemon juice at the end. Next time I’ll add more lemon zest to sprinkle on top of the beans. If you’re making this for guests, I would make the bean mixture an hour ahead, just so you can get it done. It would be fine at room temp for that long. Prep the salmon, the pan for it, then when you’re ready to eat, just cook the salmon and reheat the beans and add the greens. Done.

What’s GOOD: for me, I liked the textural contrast between the salmon and the just slightly chew to the beans. Loved the flavor in the beans – it has a whole bunch of stuff in it to make it taste good. I like salmon, so it was a cinch that I’d like the whole dish. It’s a one-plate meal, though you do use 2 pans to cook everything.

What’s NOT: really nothing that I can think of. It was a tasty dish.

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Mustard Salmon with Cannellini Bean Ragù

Recipe By: Adapted some from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe
Serving Size: 4

RAGU:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot — minced
2 garlic cloves — minced
2 tomatoes — chopped (or a 15 ounce can, drained)
2 teaspoons thyme — finely chopped (or less if using dried)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
30 ounces canned cannellini beans — rinsed and drained
3/4 cup chicken stock — or more if needed
3/4 pound escarole — dark green leaves discarded and remaining leaves torn (or substitute baby spinach or arugula)
2 ounces prosciutto — chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
SALMON:
extra-virgin olive oil
24 ounces salmon fillets salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons dry white wine — (or red if that’s all you have)
2 garlic cloves — minced
1 teaspoon thyme — finely chopped (or Italian parsley)
1 teaspoon lemon juice — or more if needed
1/4 cup Italian parsley — chopped, for garnish

1. RAGU: In a deep skillet, add the oil, shallot and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, thyme and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes start to break down, 4 minutes. Add the beans and stock and simmer until the beans are hot, 2 minutes. Add the escarole, prosciutto and lemon zest and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the escarole is just wilted, 4 minutes; if the bean ragù is too thick, add a little water. It’s nice to have a bit of the broth on the plate, so do add water or more broth as needed. Add lemon juice and taste for seasonings. Add more lemon juice to give it ample zip, if needed. IF you substitute spinach or arugula for the escarole, don’t add it until just before serving, as it’s best when it’s barely cooked through. The escarole can handle a bit longer cooking.
2. SALMON: Preheat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and brush it with oil. Season the fish with salt and pepper and set on the baking sheet. In a bowl, whisk both mustards with the wine, 2 teaspoons of oil, the garlic, thyme and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Broil the salmon fillets 6 inches from the heat for 2 minutes, until the top just starts to brown. Spoon the mustard on the salmon and broil for 5 minutes, until the fish is nearly cooked through and the top is browned. Test to see if the fish is cooked through – if not, turn oven temp to 400° and continue to bake for 3-4 minutes. Spoon the bean ragù into bowls or a dinner plate with somewhat sloped sides, top with the fish and serve, sprinkled with chopped parsley.
Per Serving: 529 Calories; 19g Fat (32.1% calories from fat); 49g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 12g Dietary Fiber; 98mg Cholesterol; 1439mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Salads, on May 24th, 2016.

salad_nicoise

Is there much of anything more French cuisine than a Niçoise salad? I think not.

Recently, a good friend, Joanne (who used to be an employee of mine, way long ago), invited me to come visit her at her home in Rancho Palos Verdes. Those of you not familiar with the Los Angeles region might not have heard of it – it’s a 20+ mile long coastline south of L.A. that’s right on the Pacific Ocean – and about 90 minutes or so from my home further south. The area is big and encompasses several miles inland and is a world apart from the bustling city of L.A. It had been years since I’d been there. Wayfarer’s Chapel is there – a place that’s entertained many weddings. Once upon a time I attended a wedding there – so beautiful. See photo below.

But I was just there to visit with Joanne and her husband Larry this time. It was a beautiful Southern California spring day – warm in the sunshine, but still almost cold without a light jacket. When you drive to Palos Verdes, it’s all city for the approach to the crest of the hills, and then you arrive at the top and it’s suddenly all residential, meandering, curving streets, even some open land, which is hard to come by in our part of the state of California. They live on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It’s ever so peaceful there – no city noises, and no city to view, either. Just the ocean.

When Joanne came to work for the ad agency I owned with my business partner, she was a brand new bride. This was back in the 1980’s. They’d moved from Brooklyn to California where Larry had taken a new position. They’d moved into a small home and she was so happy to set up housekeeping, and to decorate her house. Joanne says that I was her inspiration to learn to cook (she says she didn’t know a thing about cooking when she got married), and indeed, I recall we used to talk a lot about recipes, restaurants, cooking techniques, etc. And probably where to source some ingredients now and then. I‘m sure I shared recipes with her. Her husband is Lebanese by heritage, and he grew up with his mother making lots of ethnic dishes. Joanne brought one joanne_hparticular salad to some of our potluck lunches we had – her recipe is already here on my blog, a Syrian Pita Bread Salad that I posted way back in 2008. I haven’t made that salad in awhile – it’s SO good – very lemony, and delicious with the crunch of toasted pita chips.

Joanne prepared a gorgeous lunch – this salad (recipe below), a fougasse (a yeasted savory bread) and an apple cake. You’ll have the other two recipes within the next week or so. At right is Joanne in her lovely kitchen. Joanne and her family spent many years living abroad – first in Amsterdam, then for several years in Paris, and most recently they lived for 4-5 years outside of Geneva. Their 3 children grew up attending private schools, and learned French for sure. Their twin boys have just graduated from college here in the U.S., and their daughter is attending a university here in California. Larry is retired (gosh, does that make me feel OLD since they were young newlyweds when I first met them!) and enjoying it. Since their children were born Joanne has been a stay-at-home mom.

As Joanne put together the lunch salad, the Niçoise (that’s pronounced nee-SWAZZ), we talked. She mentioned that here in the U.S. sometimes restaurants will serve a Niçoise with seared ahi. Well, that is absolutely a no-no to the French purist, from whence this comes. It’s canned tuna. Period. The components of the salad must be prepared ahead – the green beans must be cooked al dente, the salad leaves cleaned and dried, the dressing prepared and allowed to sit for just a little while, the tomatoes chopped, the potatoes (a waxy type only) cooked and cut, eggs hard boiled, peeled and cut, all artfully arranged either on a large platter for everyone to help themselves, or on individual plates as Joanne did this day. She lightly dressed the lettuce with a bit of the dressing, and passed a pitcher of the dressing at the table. Ideally you’ll have Niçoise olives – they’re a black somewhat bitter olive, but so traditional in this salad. Capers are usually added too, just sprinkled on top. The salad is so satisfying – all good-for-you things. The dressing is piquant and so-very-French (it’s a French shallot vinaigrette) that will keep for a few days.

The recipe came from one of Joanne’s favorite cookbooks, Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. Joanne has prepared many of the recipes in that cookbook and had raves for each and every one. I own the cookbook too – I don’t remember if I’ve shared any of the recipes from it or not. It’s a beautiful cookbook – almost worthy of a coffee table book, but it’s a practical and entertaining guide to many homespun recipes, the kind the French would eat any normal day, not necessarily for entertaining. I love to read Dorie’s headnotes – the stories she writes about the origin of the recipe or about the ingredients.

What’s GOOD: all the mix of ingredients are sublime – the potatoes even, the tuna mixes with everything, and the dressing just brings it all together. It’s a keeper of a recipe for sure. (Thank you, Joanne.)

What’s NOT: the only thing is the time it takes to prepare some of the ingredients – cooking the potatoes, the eggs and the beans and giving them time to chill. The dressing is easy enough, though. Try to prep the potatoes, eggs and beans the day before.

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Salade Niçoise

Recipe By: Around My French Table, Dorie Greenspan
Serving Size: 4

12 small potatoes — scrubbed
2 cups haricot verts — green beans
4 hard-boiled eggs
8 ounces canned tuna — packed in oil, drained
5 cups salad greens
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes — or regular tomatoes cut into chunks
1/2 cup Nicoise olives
1/4 cup capers — drained and patted dry
8 small anchovy fillets — rinsed and patted dry
DRESSING:
2 tablespoons wine vinegar — red, white or sherry
1 shallot — finely minced
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
a few pinches sea salt
fresh black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil

1. Boil the potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Cook until they are tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife, 10 – 20 minutes. Scoop them out of the pot and put them in a bowl to cool.
2. Blanch the green beans in the potato water until they are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain the beans and put them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain, then pat dry.
3. Make the vinaigrette: Add vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt, and pepper to a small glass measuring cup or jar and let sit 10 – 15 minutes to mellow the shallot. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking constantly.
4. Assemble the salad, on one large platter, or individual plates: salad greens, halved potatoes, green beans, halved eggs, tuna, tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies and drizzle with the shallot vinaigrette.
Per Serving: 629 Calories; 22g Fat (31.7% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 76g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 236mg Cholesterol; 813mg Sodium.

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