Lob-stah salad

During my (all too brief!) second stint on the East Coast, J and I took advantage of my proximity to Maine to take a short detour there after visiting some friends in Boston.  He regaled me with tales of his college/medical school travels, while I sat back and enjoyed the drive through New England’s lushly green roads.  We ended up grabbing a lobster lunch at Chauncey Creek, and it was wonderful!  Fresh, sweet lobster, a walk on the beach, the warm mugginess of summer – what a great memory of New England summer days from college.

I made this refreshing and light salad the other night for dinner after finding some lobster tails on sale at the grocer’s – my fishmonger is quite good, and I couldn’t resist them after wandering by after work.  American lobster, specifically Californian or Maine lobsters, are a great sustainable seafood choice.  It is also a great source of lean protein with a good dose of zinc and selenium.

IMG_3588

Lobster, Avocado, and Grapefruit Salad (serves 2, adapted from here)

Ingredients

  • 3 lobster tails
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 -2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pink or ruby-red grapefruit
  • 1 firm-ripe California avocado
  • 1 oz baby arugula (2 cups)
  • Coarse sea salt to taste (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Plunge lobster tails 8-quart pot of boiling salted water . Cook, covered, over high heat for about 6-7 minutes from time it enters water. Transfer with tongs into an ice bath.  When lobster is cool enough to handle, remove meat from tail, keeping meat intact. Chill lobster, covered, until cold.
  2. While lobster chills, stir together shallot, lemon juice, and table salt in a small bowl and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Add oil in a stream, whisking.
  3. Cut peel, including all white pith, from grapefruit with a sharp knife. Cut segments free from membranes and transfer segments to paper towels to drain.
  4. Halve avocado lengthwise, discarding pit. (Save 1 half, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for another use.) Halve remaining avocado half lengthwise and peel, then cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices.
  5. Cut lobster tail meat crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Divide avocado and all of lobster meat between 2 salad plates and arrange grapefruit around them. Top with arugula and drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt (if using) and serve immediately.
Advertisements

Eating the rainbow

a little earlier this month meant eating swiss chard in multiple ways, since I was a little overzealous at the farmer’s market and it was so beautiful and vibrant that I couldn’t resist.

Swiss chard is a nutritional powerhouse — an excellent source of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, and fiber.  It’s also quite colorful and pretty, so it’s as pleasing to the palate as it is to see on the plate!

So what did I do with all the rainbow swiss chard bursting from my fridge?  I made  Crispy Za’atar Salmon with Sauteed Swiss Chard, Grilled Chard with Fava Bean Salad (it’s all about the stems in this particular dish!), and Swiss Chard Cakes.

IMG_3506 IMG_3507

Crispy Za’atar Salmon with Sautéed Swiss Chard (recipe adapted from here).

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Four 6-ounce salmon fillets, preferably skin on (about 3/4-inch thick)
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 teaspoons za’atar seasoning
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound Swiss chard, stems cut into 1/2-inch slices, leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 tbl lemon juice, or to taste
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat, add onions and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften and begin to caramelize, about 8 minutes.
  2. While onions are caramelizing, drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over both sides of fish fillets and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Rub each side of each fillet with 1 teaspoon za’atar.
  3. Add chard stems to the onions in the nonstick skillet and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in chard leaves, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice.  Cover and cook until chard leaves are wilted, 2 to 3 minutes more.  Adjust seasoning.  Divide among four plates and wipe pan.
  4. Re-heat non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, and add 1 tablespoon oil. Once the oil is hot, add fish to skillet, skin-side down, and sear until skin is golden brown and crispy, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip fish and cook until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork, 1 to 2 minutes more.
  5. Serve fish atop the sauteed chard and onions, crispy-skin side up.

**for a more substantial dish, you can stir in cooked israeli couscous or orzo with the chard.

Grilled Rainbow Swiss Chard with Fava Beans (recipe here)

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds rainbow Swiss chard stems and center ribs cut out (reserve leaves for another use)
  • 1 cup shelled fresh fava beans (1 1/4 pounds in pods) or shelled fresh or frozen edamame (soybeans; 3/4 pound in pods)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • chopped parsley (optional, for garnish)

Instructions:

  1. Halve chard stems crosswise and cook in a large pot of boiling salted water until just barely tender, 3 to 5 minutes (depends on thickness). Cool in an ice bath, reserving cooking water, then transfer to a plate.
  2. Return salted water to a boil and cook beans in boiling water 3 minutes, then drain and transfer to ice bath. Gently peel off skins (if using edamame, don’t peel).
  3. Toss chard stems with 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Oil grill rack, then grill chard stems, covered only if using a gas grill, turning occasionally, until tender and lightly charred, about 7 minutes. Cut into 1-inch lengths.
  4. Cook garlic in remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring, until just pale golden. Add oregano, beans, and chard and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Transfer to a serving dish and stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with parsley.

Tastes like summer – bright yet smokey

J says he dislikes May in California, because it seems so dreary compared to back East, where May is gloriously welcomed with sunshine, al fresco dining, skirts and open-toed shoes, and lighter fare.  We have had some beautiful days along the coast, though, so I think I may beg to differ.

Perhaps it is the tantalizing nearness of summer that led me to make a refreshing zucchini salad for dinner the other day.  Topped with smoky seafood spiced with paprika and garlic, it was a collision of the bright and bold flavors of summer.

IMG_3487

Corn and Zucchini Salad with Smoked Paprika Seafood (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 2 ears of corn, husked
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 small zucchini (about 3/4 pound), thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandoline
  • 2 tbl coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbl coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2.5 tbl  olive oil
  • 2 tbl Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup seafood blend from Trader Joe’s, defrosted and patted dry
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 tbl olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Instructions:

  1. Cook corn in a large pot of boiling salted water until bright yellow and tender, about 3 minutes; transfer to a plate and let cool.
  2. Cut kernels from cobs and place in a large bowl.
  3. Add zucchini, basil, parsley, 2.5 tbl oil, lemon juice and red pepper flakes and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes to marinate.  Divide between two plates and set aside.
  4. In a small skillet heat remaining 1/2 tbl olive oil over medium heat.
  5. Add garlic cloves and cook until just fragrant.  Add paprika and stir to combine.
  6. Increase to medium-high heat, stir in seafood and cook just until opaque and slightly caramelized at the edges.  Do not overcook.
  7. Top zucchini salad with seafood and serve immediately.

Loving leeks! A fish confit…

Apparently, the word confit comes from the French verb confire (to prepare), which in turn comes from the Latin word (conficere), meaning “to do, to produce, to make, to prepare”. The French verb was first applied in medieval times to fruits cooked and preserved in sugar.   These days, confit generally indicates food that is cooked in fat, oil or sugar water/syrup at a lower temperature than deep frying.

When cooked en confit, leeks become luscious, sweet, and oh-so-tender.  Paired w/ fresh halibut, cooked just until flaky and moist, it becomes a wonderful weekday meal that barely requires any supervision before it is ready for the table.

IMG_3463
Halibut Confit with Leeks, Coriander, and Lemon

Halibut Confit with Leeks, Coriander, and Lemon (original recipe from here) – makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tbl coriander seeds, plus more very coarsely chopped for serving
  • 2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 2″ pieces
  • 4 sprigs cilantro, cut into 2″ pieces, plus leaves for serving
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • Kosher salt
  • 1.5 pound skinless halibut fillet, halved lengthwise

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coarsely grind 1 tablespoon coriander seeds in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle. (Alternatively, you can coarsely chop with a knife.)
  2. Toss leeks, cilantro sprigs, oil, half of lemon slices, and 2 teaspoons ground coriander in a large roasting pan; season with salt. Roast, tossing occasionally, until leeks are tender and starting to brown, 15-20 minutes.
  3. Remove roasting pan from oven and carefully pour infused oil into a large heatproof measuring cup.
  4. Reduce oven temperature to 275°F. Season halibut with salt and arrange over leeks in roasting pan. Top with remaining lemon slices and ground coriander and pour infused oil over fish. Roast until halibut is just cooked through and starting to flake, 30-35 minutes.
  5. Cut halibut into large pieces and serve with leeks and lemon topped with chopped coriander seeds and cilantro leaves.****Prep notes: Halibut can be roasted 1 hour ahead. Let cool and cover.

Saffron: worth its weight in gold

Or more, if you attach to it the immense thoughtfulness that my friend Erika had in bringing back a good quantity of it for me from her travels in Turkey, Morocco, and Greece.  I couldn’t join her on her travels, but she helped me get a taste of her adventures by bringing back this cherished spice and inspiring me to experiment with it in the kitchen.

Saffron, with its sweet and grassy notes, is truly a labor-intensive spice to collect.  It is derived from the stigmas of Crocus sativus.   Each plant bears up to four flowers, which each only have 3 stigmas.   It takes 150,000 to 170,000 flowers to glean just 1 kg of the precious saffron threads, and requires the equivalent of 40 hrs of labor.  It is widely used in the cooking of many cuisines, including the paella of Spain, the Milanese risotto of Italy, the bouillabaisse of France, and the biryani of South Asia.  Its vibrant beautiful color adds brightness to all of these dishes, as well as a unique flavor.

J and I have used it lately to make paella (recipe to come later!) but tonight I used it very simply to poach cod, with delightful results.  I paired the poached cod and saffron broth with a refreshing shaved asparagus salad.  It was a quick and healthy weeknight meal, full of bright and interesting flavors!

Gently simmering the cod in the broth is key to achieving buttery, flaky cod (and avoiding rubbery fish).

IMG_3432Poached Cod with Saffron-Tomato Broth (adapted from here)

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ~1 cup (8 oz) of quartered grape tomatoes
  • ~2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • bay leaves
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • two 4-5-oz. skinless cod fillets

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes) and cook, stirring often, until fragrant (garlic should not take on any color), about 3 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, wine, bay leaf, saffron, and ~1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until flavors meld, 5–7 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low; season cod with salt and pepper and place in skillet. Cover and cook at a bare simmer until cod is opaque throughout and beginning to flake, 5–7 minutes (thicker pieces will take longer to cook).
  4. Gently transfer cod to shallow bowls and spoon poaching liquid over.

Shaved Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Parmesan Dressing (original recipe from Food and Wine)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound large asparagus
  • 1/4 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (3/4 ounces)
  • 3/4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon warm water
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1.  Using a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into long, thin strips and transfer to a large bowl.
  2.  In a small bowl, mix the Parmigiano-Reggiano with the lemon juice, water and olive oil. Add to the asparagus and toss to coat. Season the salad with salt and pepper and serve at once.

How do you like your crab cakes?

Apparently, I favor my crab cakes more crab-by with little filler, while J prefers his not quite as dense with crab.  I guess it’s too filling to have less filler, and he’d rather be able to eat more crab cakes!

We have both spent a good amount of time back East, and we both remember gathering with friends to devour bushels of Maryland blue crab smothered in the ubiquitous Old Bay seasoning.  I’m pretty sure the salt content in that rub would send more than several of my patients’ blood pressure through the roof, but in moderation it is very tasty indeed!   Learning to pry open crabs with my fingers, drenching humidity, and the addictive spices in Old Bay seasoning are some of my vivid associations with summers in D.C.

I used a recipe from Cooking Light to make crab cake sliders the other night for dinner, and they were perfect with the warm weather we are having.  After a run along the beach and soaking in the sunshine, these little sliders reminded us that spring break and summer fun are not that far away.  J enjoyed his with a cool, refreshing beer.  I enjoyed mine with extra dill sauce ;).

IMG_3356

Crab Cake Sliders with Yogurt Dill Sauce (recipe adapted from here)

Ingredients:

  • 8 whole-wheat slider buns
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (I used Meyer lemon)
  • 1/2 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion
  • 6 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt, divided
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, divided
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup whole-wheat panko
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat, drained and shell pieces removed
  • 4 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups baby arugula or mixed baby greens

Instructions:

1. Preheat broiler to high. Hollow out buns, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell. Arrange buns in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until lightly toasted. **

2. Place 1/4 cup vinegar and sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 45 seconds. Stir in red onion. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain.

3. Combine  1 tablespoon lemon juice, 3 tablespoons yogurt, and  1 tablespoon dill in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Combine remaining 3 tablespoons yogurt, 1 tablespoon dill, bell pepper, and next 5 ingredients (through yolk). Add panko and crab, stirring to combine. Working with damp hands, divide crab mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each into a 3/4-inch-thick patty.

5. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add crab cakes to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until golden and thoroughly heated.

6. Spread 1 teaspoon yogurt mixture on bottom half of each bun. Top with 1 patty. Divide onions and arugula among sliders. Top with top halves of buns.

**J wanted to use fluffier bread for the crab cakes, so we used a cookie cutter to cut rounds from garlic naan bread, which we then pan-toasted until lightly crispy on the outside to use in lieu of hamburger buns.  

Let it be, let it be…

Since I have no formal culinary training and learned to cook by reading cookbooks or by watching and talking to my mother and grandmother, I have had to painfully work my way through many mistakes.  And I’m still learning!  There always seems to be some new ingredient, technique, or flavor profile to learn and explore.  I love making the kitchen my lifelong science experiment.

That said, one of the earlier lessons I had to learn was how to ‘let it be’ and let a protein properly sear.  Less is more.  So here’s to less poking, prodding, and moving around, in order to allow for a proper maillard reaction and the tasty results that ensue!  The seared protein will release on its own from a well-heated pan once it’s ready to be flipped.

For a quick weeknight dinner the other night, I made Seared Scallops with Avocado and Watermelon Radishes, inspired by this gorgeous recipe from Epicurious.

IMG_3214

Seared Scallops with Avocado and Watermelon Radish

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 small watermelon radishes, very thinly sliced on a mandoline
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon yuzu juice
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 sea scallops (about 1 pound), side muscles removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 avocado, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated grapefruit zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grapefruit juice
  • a few sprigs of cilantro, as garnish

Instructions:

  1. Toss daikon, vinegar, and yuzu juice in a medium bowl; season with salt.  Set aside.
  2. Pat scallops dry and season scallops with salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat until almost smoking. Add scallops and cook until seared and golden brown but still raw in the center, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to a plate. Let cool slightly, then slice each scallop crosswise into 2 rounds.
  3. Divide avocado among plates; drizzle with lemon juice and season with salt.
  4. Set scallops on avocado and drizzle grapefruit juice and oil over.  Top with grapefruit zest and season with salt to taste. Arrange reserved and drained watermelon radishes over and among the scallops.  Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.