Seared Scallops – Corn, Tomato & Avocado Salad – Miso-Lemon Dressing

I think my mind is still in California, or at least my palate.  Maybe it’s this warm sunny weather we have been having.  The theme of this meal is Japanese-meets-Mexican-in-California.  In any case, this was a fantastic dinner for a warm night.

First make the corn mixture: Cut the kernels off a couple ears of fresh sweet corn.  Sauté them up in some olive oil with some chopped onions, bell peppers and/or chili peppers.  Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Let cool.  Or do this in advance and have it ready in the fridge.

Miso-Lemon Dressing: Whisk together 1 teaspoon of light miso, 1/2 teaspoon of honey, juice of one lemon, and about 1.5-2 teaspoons of olive oil.  Season to taste.

Corn, Tomato & Avocado Salad: Mix together some of the cooled corn mixture with some chopped up cherry/plum tomatoes, half of an avocado cut into chunks, some scallion, and a handful of cilantro (fresh coriander).  Add some of the miso-lemon dressing and mix.

Scallops: Choose “dry” diver scallops, which means that they have not been soaked in a phosphate solution that bulks them up.  Also, they are kinder on our oceans than scallops that are caught with chains dragged across the ocean floor.

Rinse the scallops, and dry thoroughly with paper towels.  Season and sear on both sides until medium-rare.

Assembly: Put some of the salad mixture on a plate.  Top with some seared scallops.  Put some of the remaining dressing on top of the scallops.  That’s it!

Variation on a theme: Corn, Plum Tomato and Gruyère Omelette

Take some of the corn mixture, add some cherry/plum tomato slices, green onion and gruyère cheese.  Toss it all in an omelette.  The corn mixture also works great by itself as a side dish.

Confit of cod with summer vegetables

Here is another another California meets South of France dish I came up with in Tahoe last week.  I used Pacific cod, which approved as an ocean-friendly choice by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.  They recommend against Atlantic cod though.  If you are on the East Coast and concerned about carbon miles, then use another firm-fleshed white fish instead of cod.  For example, Atlantic silver, red or offshore hake (but not white) gets the Seafood Watch OK.

I apologize to purists for my liberal usage of the term confit, but this dish basically involves in a ton of olive oil and juices that come out of the vegetables.  Like the traditional notion of a confit, the fish is immersed and slowly cooked in a bunch of fat, but unlike a duck confit, this dish is meant to be eaten fresh, and not preserved for later consumption.  This cooking style helps to keep the fish moist and tender.  It manages to be both luxuriously rich and still light and summery at the same time.

Ingredients:

  • ~12 ounces of Pacific cod filets, about half an inch thick, rinsed with cold water and dried with paper towels
  • Lots of olive oil
  • 2 handfuls of new potatoes, cut into quarter-inch slices
  • 1 bottle of dry rosé wine (you only need about a half cup for cooking, the rest is for drinking)
  • 1 handful of smashed and peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 handfuls of cherry/plum tomatoes
  • 2 medium zuchini, cut into thin half-moons
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 handful of mixed olives
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to about 350 degrees F.  Poach the potato slices in 1.5-2 cups of olive oil on medium-low.  The point is to soften the potatoes, which take longer to cook than the rest of the ingredients, but not to brown them or to make them crunchy.  When the potatoes are softened after about 8-12 minutes, removed them with a slotted spoon and spread them on the bottom of a 9 x 9 inch baking pan.

Season the cod filets with plenty of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides and layer on top of the potatoes.

In the same olive oil used to cook the potatoes, add the garlic cloves and shallot and cook over medium-low heat until the shallots are translucent.  Add the zucchini, tomatoes and bell pepper.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add a splash or two of rosé wine.  Cook until the tomatoes start to release their juices and soften.  Add the green onions, thyme and olives.  Stir over the stove for a minute or two longer, then pour the whole mixture on top of the potatoes and cod in baking dish.

Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the cod is just cooked through.  Plate and serve.  Soak up all sauce with plenty of crusty French bread and wash it down with a cold dry rosé.

Salmon with riesling dill sauce and braised red swiss chard

I’m on a real roll with the food blogging right now.  I just want to make sure I am caught up with my documentation before grad school classes start next week.  I have been encouraged by friends and family to document my recipes, since I never really measure anything or cook from recipes.  Everything just lives up in my head, but I want to start documenting things in order to help myself remember and to share with others.

This is a dish I came up with in Tahoe last week.  I think of it as French food done California casual style. If you want to replicate it, find an off-dry riesling, with a good acidity and not too sweet, but still nice and fruity.  You only need a little bit of the wine for cooking, the rest is for drinking with your meal!  The sauce is my bastardization of the classic French beurre blanc, but I’m not that classy, so I’m not going to claim to call it that. This recipe will generously serve 2 people, with leftovers.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of wild pacific salmon filets, washed and dried with paper towels
  • 1 bottle of off-dry riesling
  • LOTS of butter
  • 1 bunch of red swiss chard, cut into ribbons
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced (or a handful of chives)
  • 1 handful of dill, chopped
  • 1 handful of flat-leafed parsley, chopped

Instructions:

In a small sauce pan, pour in about 1 cup of riesling and add 1 minced shallot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and reduce until about 1/3 of the original volume.

In the meantime, melt about 2 tablespoons of butter in another pan and sauteé the swiss chard ribbons with the garlic and the rest of the shallot.  Add a splash of the riesling, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Reduce heat and braise until tender.

Season the salmon filets well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  In yet another pan, melt more butter and sear the salmon on both sides until just barely pink.  Remove from heat and set aside.

The sauce and the chard should be about ready by now.  Turn off the heat on both the chard and the reduced wine sauce.  Whisk in about a half stick of butter, a pat or two at a time, into the reduced wine mixture.  Add the dill, parsley and green onion/chives, and whisk again to combine.

Plate the salmon with the chard and top with the dill sauce.  Serve with the rest of the riesling and plenty of crusty French bread and lots of soft butter (if you dare).

What to do with the leftovers:

I had some leftover salmon and sauce, so I decided to make some pasta for lunch the next day.  Flake the salmon with a fork, removing any skin and bones.  Melt the leftover sauce with another splash of the wine and some more butter if necessary, throw in some chopped tomatoes and the salmon and just heat through.  Cook up a pack of fresh spinach fettucine, drain and toss with the sauce and top with more fresh herbs (dill, parsley and chives).

There you go, two meals in one.

Saturday Brunch: Scrambled Eggs Curry

Eggs and curry.  Two of my favorite things combined in one dish for a Saturday at home brunch treat.  This came out a bit soupier than regular scrambled eggs, with the eggs forming an über-rich curry-scented “sauce.”  Perfect for dipping bread into.  This recipe could easily feed two people, but I was hungry and had nobody to share with, so I ate the whole thing.

I was thinking of trying this again some other time and adding a couple handfuls of lump crab meat in at the very end to create a luxurious crab and egg curry that would absolutely be begging for some champagne to wash it all down.  This would go great with some anchovies or smoked mackerel thrown in too.  Well, enough speculation, here is the basic recipe.  If you get around to trying it with crab before me, let me know.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 really small onion or a shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon each of chopped red bell pepper and mild fresh chili pepper
  • Half teaspoon of curry powder (I make my own from whole spices that I mix, roast and grind, but store-bought should work just fine)
  • 1 handful of baby bok choy, chopped
  • 1 handful of plum/cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 eggs, beaten with juice of half a lemon
  • 1 handful of fresh cilantro, torn up for garnish

Instructions:

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Sauté the ginger, garlic, onion, peppers and curry powder until the onions are translucent.  Season with some salt.

Add the bok choy, tomatoes and green onions and sauté until softened.  Turn the heat down to low.  Add in the eggs and stir until partially set.  Just remember, this is more of an eggy curry sauce than firm curds of scrambled eggs.

And for dessert, a fruit plate:

This was my first time trying a donut peach, which is like a normal peach, but smaller and looks like a donut.  I noticed a slightly more intense peachiness in the flavor too.

Lunch at Chez Panisse

I had lunch at the culinary mecca Chez Panisse Cafe in Berkeley with Kris on August 22, 2008.   Just getting around to blogging about the experience now.

Eggplant and cherry tomato salad with walnuts and marjoram
Chez Panisse

We shared this salad as our starter.  A perfect opening to our summer luncheon.  All the produce was perfectly fresh worked together in harmony.  The eggplant was melt-in-your mouth tender, with its spongelike texture soaking up the olive oil in the vinaigrette.

Side order of anchovies
Chez Panisse

I LOVE oily fish.  We ordered these to munch on and to go with our bread and butter while we waited for our main courses.  Unlike your everyday canned anchovies, these babies were meaty and fresh-tasting, not just oily and salty.

Our server, Andrew informed us that there was a delay with our main courses (below) due to unspecified “fish issues,” so we just leisurely noshed on anchovies and bread and sipped our cava (nothing quite like bubbly in the afternoon, or any other time for that matter).

California white sea bass with green beans, saffron, tomato and aïoli
Chez Panisse

I guess in unpretentious California, “haricots verts” are just plain green beans.  But I’m glad they said “aïoli” and not “garlic mayonaise,” which I guess is literally what it is, but just doesn’t sound as tasty.  The aïoli was fantastic, I wish I could have a vat of that stuff to schmear on bread or to dunk french fries (“pommes frites” if you want to continue in the Francophone theme) in.  I would probaby would have licked the creamy, garlicky aïoli off the plate if I had not been in a restaurant.  Seriously, that good.

Wood oven-roasted squid and pimientos with rosemary and garlic
Chez Panisse

Our other main dish was also in the South of France meets California theme.  The little roasted pimientos were adorable and the squid perfectly tender.  At this point I was in heaven.  You really can’t go wrong with the holy trinity of fresh seafood, garlic and wine.  I’m drooling just thinking about this meal as I blog about it.

Andrew offered to give us a free dessert, so we went ahead and ordered two:

Plum tart with cardamom ice cream
Chez Panisse

Bittersweet chocolate pavé with hazelnut cream
Chez Panisse

The chocolate pavé is like a flour-less brownie, but much better than a brownie.  Chocolatey goodness.  The plum tart was amazing too.  Some of the best buttery tart crust I have ever tasted.

And just when you thought the food-porn another surprise freebie:

Mulberries and Pluot
Chez Panisse

The fruit was at the peak of freshness.  It was my first time trying mulberries and a pluot.  The mulberries reminded me of blackberries.  The plot is a hybrid of 3/4 plum and 1/4 apricot.  A perfect finish to a sublime meal.