Saturday, January 28, 2017

Abundance AND Longevity!

Continuing my Chinese New Year Menu, I made "Seared Salmon with Shiitake and Snow Pea Lo Mein." Traditionally, fish (usually steamed whole) is served to represent abundance, and noodles to represent longevity. I couldn't locate any Chinese egg noodles for this recipe, so I used fresh fettuccine. I love the crisp crust on the salmon, and the shiitakes and snow peas are a match made in heaven!


Seared Salmon with Shiitake and Snow Pea Lo Mein

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the salmon
4, 4-6 ounce salmon fillets, skinless and deboned
1/4 cup canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the noodles
6 ounces snow peas
1 bunch scallions, sliced on the diagonal
7 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed (don't eat shiitake stems - they are too fibrous), and sliced
9 ounces fresh Chinese egg noodles, or fresh pasta, like linguine or fettuccine (recommended: Buitoni)
2 tablespoons canola oil

For the sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, optional

Directions:

For the sauce
Mix all the ingredients and reserve until ready to use.

For the lo mein
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions.


Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium-high heat. When shimmery, add the mushrooms and saute for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the snow peas and scallions and continue to saute for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the sauce and noodles. Toss well to coat.


For the salmon
In yet another large heavy skillet, heat the canola oil over high heat. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Sear the salmon on one side until a golden crust forms, 4-5 minutes. Turn the fish and continue to cook until medium-rare, about 2 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

To serve
Divide the lo mein evenly between 4 large, shallow bowls. Top each with a salmon fillet and serve. (I topped mine with a single cilantro leaf that I had on hand for the dumplings.) Abundance and longevity never tasted so good!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Oh My Darling, Clementine

The holidays are over and my decorations are put away. Sigh. All I'm left with is a plethora of clementines. Clementines are a variety of mandarin orange, specifically a hybrid of the Mediterranean Citrus xdeliciosa and a sweet orange. They are typically seedless, easy to peel, and in season from mid-November to late-January. French born Brother Clement Rodier is credited with creating the variety by cross-pollination in the garden of an Algerian orphanage in 1902. In Latin, the name Clementine (the female form of Clement) means clemency or merciful. It is also the name of the lost love in the American folk song "Oh My Darling, Clementine," the daughter of a miner in the 1849 California Gold Rush. The song credits her tragic demise to a splinter in her toe that causes her to fall and drown. At the end of the song, Clementine's lover quickly forgets her after kissing her little sister. Poor Clementine.

In desperation to use up my ample supply of clementines, I found this exciting recipe for "Winter Salad with Clementine Dressing and Vanilla Bean Candied Walnuts" from rachelcooks.com. While Rachel raves about the vanilla bean candied walnuts, I was not immediately excited about the results on their own. That is, however, until I added them to the salad! Fantastic! My family and I love this salad so much that I have been making it over and over to the point that I had to run out and buy more clementines! In addition, the vanilla bean candied walnuts makes enough for three salads, making them well worth the effort. This bright, citrusy recipe is just what you need to get over the post-holiday doldrums. Thanks Rachel!


Winter Salad with Clementine Dressing and Vanilla Bean Candied Walnuts

Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the Dressing
1/4 cup clementine juice (about 2 clementines)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Salad
1 head of red leaf lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces (I have been using 1 head of Romaine with great results)
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley (I have been using 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (I have been using 1/4 cup)
3 clementines, peeled, segments separated and cut in half (I have been using 2 clementines)
1/2 cup vanilla bean candied walnuts (recipe follows)
Dressing to taste (there may be extra)

Directions:
For the Dressing
Mix all ingredients together in a jar (shake shake shake!) or a small bowl (whisk whisk whisk!)

For the Salad
Add all ingredients to a large bowl. Add dressing and toss immediately before serving.


Vanilla Bean Candied Walnuts

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves and/or pieces
The seeds scraped from one whole vanilla bean

Directions:
Toast walnuts in a dry frying an over medium heat stirring frequently, about 3-5 minutes or until fragrant. Pour onto plate to cool. Also prepare a large rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Cook on medium until sugar melts and starts to turn the color of amber. (Once the sugar starts to melt, I began stirring with a metal tea spoon to help prevent burning.) 
The sugar/vanilla bean mixture is done when it looks like this!
Remove from heat, add walnuts and stir to coat. Work quickly.

Pour the walnuts out onto prepared lined baking sheet and separate walnuts with two forks, working quickly. If you don't get them all separated, it's no biggie, you can cut or crack them apart once they cool.

Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. If you don't eat them all first.

*Note: If you've never dealt with melting sugar, soaking the pot and any used utensils makes cleanup a breeze! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Magic Bean

In France, January 6 is "La Fete Des Rois," which translates to "Festival of Kings," also known as Twelfth Night and the Epiphany, when the biblical three kings came to pay homage to the newborn Jesus. It is celebrated by sharing a "Galette des Rois," or "Kings' Cake," with family and friends throughout the month of January. Just like the song The Twelve Days of Christmas! Galette de Rois is a delicious, flaky pastry made with buttery puff pastry and filled with frangipane (almond cream paste), and includes a hidden "la feve" (originally a dry bean, or "magic bean"), and is sold with a silver or gold paper crown to perch on top. The person who gets the feve in their slice is declared the King or Queen and is allowed wear the paper crown! It is also customary that the youngest child at the table go hide (e.g., under the table) where they can't see the cake. The oldest person then cuts the cake into slices, the child comes back and chooses who will get each slice, just to keep things fair!

Galette des Rois is also known as a Pithivier, named after the town Pithiviers in northern France, where it apparently was created. The distinction between the two is the feve or magic bean. This recipe from Laura Calder, who seldom lets me down, was surprisingly easy and turned out beautiful! Just remember to keep everything as cold as possible. My only comment is that I thought it could be a little sweeter, so next time I will try using store-bought almond paste (sold in cans) instead of the ground almonds. I used the traditional dry bean and I saved a paper crown from our Christmas Crackers. My kids loved their Galette des Rois  (they each ate two slices!), and my youngest got a kick out of hiding under the table, in addition to finding the magic bean and getting to wear the crown! It truly is a tradition worth trying!


Galette des Rois (Kings' Cake)

Serves 8

Ingredients:
For the tart
2 sheets puff pastry, about 1/4" thick, chilled
1 egg, lightly beaten for sealing the pastry
Sifted icing sugar, for dusting (or a few spoonfuls of apricot jam, heated until runny) (I used apricot jam!)

For the almond cream
1/3 cup/70 g butter, softened
1/2 cup/70 g icing sugar
1/2 cup/70 g ground almonds (or almond paste)
1 egg
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 magic bean

Directions:
For the almond cream
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the almonds, then the egg, rum, and vanilla extract. Beat smooth with a fork. Cover and chill until firm, for at least an hour.

For the tart
Lay an 8" round plate on one sheet of cold puff pastry and go around it with a knife.


Do the same for the top round, but then roll this one a little with a rolling pin to make it slightly larger than the bottom round. (I found 8 1/2 " to be about right!)


Lay the smaller round of chilled pastry on a baking sheet. (I lined mine with parchment paper and highly recommend it.) Spread the chilled cream over, leaving a good 1" margin all around the edge. Hide a bean somewhere in the cream. Brush the border with egg wash (one egg white mixed with a smidgen of water).


Lay on the top round of chilled pastry and lightly press the edges to seal. Score the edge all around with the blunt side of a knife to seal.


Make a cross in the center for steam to escape and draw spirals out to the edges for decoration.


Brush with egg wash all over the top, avoiding the edges, so that they'll puff up easily. Chill in the freezer until very firm, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees/230 degrees C. Bake the cake until puffed up high and dark golden in color, about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle with a thin coating of icing sugar and blast under the broiler or melt with a blowtorch. You can also brush with melted apricot jam for a glaze.