Monday, August 18, 2014

Sesame Seared Ahi with Beurre Blanc Sauce

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Sesame Seared Ahi with Beurre Blanc Sauce 
Serves: 4
Difficulty Level: Easy
Sesame Seared Ahi with Beurre Blanc Sauce 

There is nothing quite like fresh fish. And when it’s fresh, the simplest preparation will often suffice. Yellowfin tuna, also known as ahi, demonstrates this principle perfectly. With just the barest cooking time, the flavor of a fresh piece of ahi is heavenly. Its ubiquity and popularity in sushi restaurants is a testament to how good ahi can taste served rare. In other words, less is more. However if you are a bit squeamish about partially cooked fish, you can adjust the time in the oven accordingly – or if you want it seared only, skip the oven step altogether. One could also substitute Ahi with Mahi Mahi, Shark or center cut Halibut.
Perfect Ahi....
Beurre blanc, literally translated to White Butter, is a classic Brittany preparation that is especially good over mild flaky fish of any kind. There are many variations on the preparation but most entail a reduction of white vinegar and/or white wine and shallots into which cold, whole butter is blended off the heat to prevent separation and keep the emulsion from breaking. Good wines for the reduction include Chablis or Chardonnay, but any drinkable dry white wine will do. For a delicious luxurious beurre blanc, try making it with leftover Champagne! I cannot tell you how many people claim they don’t usually like fish but love it when I serve it. I’m dying to tell them it’s just the sauce, but that’ll be our secret.
  • 4 – 6 oz. fresh sashimi grade Ahi Yellowfin Tuna
  • Sesame Seeds to coat
  • Sesame Oil
  • 1-2 shallots, chopped fine
  • 8 oz. white wine
  • 2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tb heavy cream
  • 12 Tb cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

To make beurre blanc:
Combine shallots, white wine and lemon juice in a non-reactive saucepan over high heat and reduce to 2 Tb. Add the cream to the reduction. Once the liquid bubbles, reduce the heat to low. Add the butter, once cube at a time, whisking first on the heat and then off the heat. Continue whisking butter into the reduction until the mixture is fully emulsified and has reached a rich sauce consistency. Season with salt and white pepper. Traditionally the shallots would be strained out before serving, but that is optional. 
Beurre blanc sauce is now ready
To hold the sauce, store the beurre blanc in a thermos or set the pan in a larger pan of lukewarm water until ready to serve. If the sauce separates, transfer a spoonful of the sauce to a cold mixing bowl and gradually whisk the rest of the sauce in by the spoonful.  The sauce can be reheated by gradually whisking 2-3 Tb of hot liquid, i.e. water, cream or stock.

To prepare Ahi:
Allow the ahi tuna steaks to rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before you start to cook to let the natural moisture of the fish work its way through the meat. Heat the oven, if using, to 350 degree F. Season the ahi tuna lightly with salt and heavily coat the tuna on both sides with sesame seeds
Ahi sprinkled with the sesame seeds
Heat a heavy cast-iron or stainless steel ovenproof pan over med-high heat until a few drops of water sprinkled in the pan evaporate within 3 seconds. Then, after the pan is sufficiently hot, coat the bottom of the pan with about 2 tsp sesame oil. As with cooking meat, this step is important for a great sear. Follow the rule of “hot pan, cold oil = no stick”. Why? The metal of the pan is full of pores that expand when heated and allows the oil to settle in those pores. If you add oil to a cold pan the surface tension of the oil is so great that is will “pool” and rest on top of those pores, when you add fish, its weight will push the food product into the grain which is not lubricated and your food will stick.

The sesame oil will heat quickly in the hot pan. Look for it to shimmer. Now add your sesame coated ahi steaks. Do not move the steaks. Let it create a sear. Regardless of thickness of the tuna, it should sear for 2 minutes on each side. It is ready to serve at this point if you prefer a warm but raw center. We prefer a bit more cooking and then put the pan immediately into a warmed oven for 3-4 minutes. You can adjust the time to your preference. Pull from oven and out of pan; serve immediately with Beurre blanc sauce. It’s simply amazing. We loved serving it with the Thai cucumber salad with peanuts. (recipe to follow....look for it next week!!) I think you will too!


Monday, August 11, 2014

Fried Egg with Squash and Tomatillo--updated with new pics!

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Fried Egg with Squash and Tomatillo
Serves: 4
Fried Egg with Squash and Tomatillo
Tomatillos are also called "tomate verde" in Mexico (which means green tomato) and are considered a staple in Mexican cooking. Tomatillo is a member of the nightshade family, related to tomatoes. It now grows everywhere in the Western Hemisphere. An inedible paper-like husk formed from the calyx surrounds the tomatillo fruit. As the fruit matures, it fills the husk and can split it open by harvest. The freshness and greenness of the husk are key criteria for quality. Fruit should be firm and bright green, as the green color and tart flavor are the main culinary contributions of the fruit. To prepare, peel the husk by hand and wash them thoroughly in cold water to remove sticky residue from the surface. Fresh tomatillos can be used raw and cooked in recipes.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lamb Stew with Golden Raisins

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Lamb Stew with Raisins
Ragout d’agneau aux Raisins
Serves: 4
Difficulty level: Easy

Lamb Stew with Golden Raisins

Ragout d’agneau aux Raisins, a dish served at a Benichon Feast (equivalent to Thanksgiving) in Fribourg, Switzerland, is a hearty and easy to make savory lamb stew that will have your guest swooning over the touch of sweetness from the scattering of golden raisins over tender lamb. The stew smells so good – wine aromas, fruity and meaty all at once – that it will make your mouth water.  After a single bite of tender lamb braised in red wine with garlic and golden raisins, you will be committed to add this to your weekend repertoire. Since it’s easy to make and serves a crowd, it is a favorite dinner-party dish.  I love serving it with mashed potatoes.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Nectarine Galette

Summer Nectarine Galette
Serves: 8
Difficulty level: Easy
Summer Nectarine Galette
As long as there are still peaches, plums, apricots, berries and nectarines to be had, I’m buying them up and making pies and galettes. Today it is galette. A galette is a free-form pie, more rustic than a tart.  It’s probably one of the few desserts that actually embraces imperfections! Any and all stone fruit will work with this recipe – feel free to toss in berries to fill in the holes. How pretty would that be! 
Stone fruits are a natural match for this type of open, single crust tart — they bake up gorgeously, don’t lose so much liquid that you end up flooding the crust (or your oven floor) and oh, they’re all so flawless right now that even nectarines, which unfairly play second fiddle to peaches, deserve their own day in the spotlight. Plus, it’s ridiculously easy to make. A single pie crust, a brush of melted butter, a sprinkling of sugar and big wedges of peak-season fruit, in this case, arranged on a bed of ground almonds, baked until the edges are browned and the fruit is starting to caramelize. You do not need a tart pan or pie plate; you do not need streusel toppings or intimidating slabs of dough rolled out to uber-specific measurements.  You don’t even need a proper excuse to make this: “its 4 p.m. and I really ought to do something with those nectarines” was enough for me.

Crust – makes 20 ounces - more than enough for one galette, leftover pastry can be frozen or turned into cookies
  • 2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 12 Tb unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½-inch sized pieces (1½ sticks) (divided)
  • 7 Tb ice water

Filling – for one open galette
  • 1 Tb ground almonds
  • 1 Tb flour
  • ¼  C plus 3 Tb sugar (divided)
  • 1 Tb amaretti cookies pulverized – or – 1 extra Tb ground almonds + 1 extra tsp sugar
  • 10 ounces galette dough, rolled into a 14-inch circle and chilled
  • 1½ lbs ripe nectarines (about 4 large, freestone will be easier!)
  • 1 Tb-unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ C sliced almonds (optional)
  • Peach or nectarine jam (optional)

Make the crust: Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut 4 Tb butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives, mixing until the dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Cut in the remaining 8 Tb of butter with the pastry blender, just until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of large peas. Drizzle 7 Tb of ice water over the mixture in several stages, tossing and mixing between additions, until the dough just holds together. Toss the mixture with your hands, letting it fall through your fingers. Do not pinch or squeeze the dough together as you will overwork it, making it tough. Keep tossing until is pulls together. If it’s not coming together, add additional Tbs of ice water until it does. Using 1/2 or 3/4 of your dough, firmly press into a ball, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap, pressing down to flatten into a 4-inch disk. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or overnight, before rolling out. Any leftover dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
Rolling the dough
When you are ready to roll out the dough, take one disk from the refrigerator. Let it soften slightly so that it is malleable but still cold. Unwrap the dough and press the edges of the disk so that there are no cracks. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the disk into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Brush off excess flour from both sides with a dry pastry brush. Transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate at least an additional 30 minutes before using.

Make the galette: Preheat the oven to 400-degree F. Place a pizza stone, if you have one, on a lower rack. Toss the ground almonds, flour, 1 Tb sugar and pulverized amaretti (or mix of ground almonds and sugar) together.
Almonds, flour and sugar
Cut nectarines in half, removing pits, then each half into thirds (you’ll get six wedges per nectarine). Remove the pre-rolled dough from the refrigerator or freezer and sprinkle the almond mixture evenly over the pastry, leaving a 1½ to 2-inch border uncoated. Arrange the fruit, skin-side-down, in concentric circles on the dough, making a single layer of snugly touching pieces, leaving the border bare. Sprinkle ¼ C of sugar evenly over the fruit.
Sliced nectarines & almond mixture on the dough...sprinkled with sugar.
While rotating the galette, fold the border of exposed dough up and over itself at regular intervals, crimping and pushing it up against the outer circle of fruit, creating a containing rim. Pinch or trim off any excess dough. Make sure there are no breaks that will let juices leak. Brush the border with the melted butter, and sprinkle it with 2 Tb sugar.
Ready for the oven
Bake in the lower third of the oven (preferably on a pizza stone) for about 45-50 minutes, until the crust is well browned and its edges are slightly caramelized. Sprinkle with optional sliced almonds over the galette 15 minutes before the baking time ends, so they get toasty and crispy. As soon as the galette is out of the oven, use a large metal spatula to slide it off the baking sheet or parchment paper and onto a cooling rack, to keep it from steaming and getting soggy. Let cool 20 minutes.  
Cooling down....time to eat!!
If you want to glaze the tart, brush the fruit lightly with a little warmed peach or nectarine jam. Serve galette warm with ice cream or plain yogurt.  Delish….really. There is no better time of the year for stone fruit galettes.

Enjoy!  I know we did.


Loosely adapted from Alice Water’s Apricot Tart

Monday, July 21, 2014

Peach & Corn Salad in Tamarind Vinaigrette (and Bonus Tomato Salad Recipe)

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Peach & Corn Salad in Tamarind Vinaigrette
Bonus: Garden Tomatoes drizzled with Soy Sauce
Serves: 4-6
Difficulty level: Easy
Peach & Corn Salad in Tamarind Vinaigrette
Bonus Recipe! Tomatoes drizzled with soy sauce (see below)

Are you tired of the same salad every night but looking for something you can throw together quickly for a mid-week meal or to impress guests? Try this one!  Corn and peaches are among my favorite summer flavors. I like combining them in both desserts and savory dishes. Roasting fruits and vegetables bring out their natural sugars, and that sweetness is perfectly complemented by the sweet and tart taste of tamarind. To achieve a smoky taste, grill the corn and peaches instead of roasting them. Nectarines, apricots and plums are all good stand-ins for the peaches. Currently my garden is full of ripened tomatoes. But, I was tired of the usual caprese salad variation. Simple is often better – especially with mid-summer vine-ripened tomatoes. Bonus blog today includes a super-simple and tasty way to serve fresh tomatoes – drizzled with soy!
Tamarind: The secret ingredient
An important ingredient in the featured salad is tamarind. The concentrate can be found in many grocers, Asian markets and Mexican markets. Tamarind comes from a tree native to tropical Africa. The tree produces edible pod-like fruit, which are used extensively in cuisines worldwide. It is best to buy the seed-free paste to avoid the hassles of soaking and seed removal. The good news, once found: tamarind can be stored at room temperature nearly indefinitely.
  • 3 sweet, ripe peaches
  • 3 large ears of corn (2-3 C kernels)
  • 3Tb grape seed or olive oil
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3Tb Thai tamarind paste, without seeds (if pulp or concentrate – see below*)
  • 1Tb white wine vinegar
  • Red leaf lettuce or butter lettuce, 2 small heads, torn

Preheat the oven to 425 degree F. Peel the peaches and cut the flesh into coarse chunks. Slice the kernels from the corncobs, and combine them with the peaches in a large bowl. Add 2 Tb of the oil, ½ tsp salt, and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper, and toss well. Spread the peaches and corn on a baking sheet, and bake, stirring every 10 minutes, for 20-30 minutes, until the corn begins to brown and peaches are very soft. Cool slightly.
Corn and peaches mixed together
While the peaches and corn roast, make the dressing. In a serving bowl, combine the shallot, tamarind, vinegar and the remaining 1Tb of oil. Season with 1 tsp salt, and marinate until corn and peaches are done, allowing the flavors to meld.
Making the dressing
When ready to serve, place lettuce in bowl, add dressing, followed by the warmed peaches and corn. Toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Give this unique and summer-y salad a try.  You will not be disappointed!

Tomato Wedges drizzled with Soy
Serves: 4-6

If your garden or farmers market are brimming with summer vine-ripened tomatoes, here is a quick slight modification guaranteed to please. I used brandywine tomatoes but any great slicing ripe tomato will work.
The ingredients of this sensational salad
  • 4-6 medium-sized tomatoes
  • Grape seed or extra-virgin olive oil
  • Quality soy sauce
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Several chives or thinly sliced scallions, garnish
  • 10 shiso leaves, cut into threads, garnish 

Right before serving your meal, core the tomatoes and slice into 6 thick wedges. Arrange 4-6 wedges on individual plates. Drizzle with a little oil, followed by soy sauce, and finish with a few drops of vinegar. This is a light dressing that just kisses the tomatoes and is not meant to drench them or overpower their innate tomato-ness. Sprinkle with garnish if desired: chopped chives, scallions and/or shiso threads. Shiso, which is also known as Japanese basil, is often found at farmer's market.  It is a member of the mint family with a citrus-y flavor. Serve tomatoes immediately.

Light, fresh and oh-so-good!


*Tamarind in the form of semidried pulp must be soaked in hot water, worked with your hands to separate flesh from seeds and fiber, and pushed through a sieve. Thai concentrate, a puree with a texture similar to applesauce, is made of tamarind and water; you can easily pass it through a sieve to remove bits of seed.

Now that you have your tamarind paste – check out Thai Chicken with Amazing Hot-Sour-Salty-Sweet Sauce, posted March 2013, which features use of tamarind.