Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Seasonal Beet Salads

Beets. The line is clearly marked. It's either "yes" or "no". There is no "maybe" with beets.
I am the only person at this web address who will eat beets. If you don't like beets, don't run away just yet. This same idea could be used substituting roasted carrots for the beets (see archives: 9/24/14). What follows is less a recipe but more of a way to approach beet salads throughout the season.
Stick with me, you will understand.
Most beet salads you find in restaurants combine the beets with cheese, usually goat or blue cheese since it complements and off-sets the sweetness of the beets, along with some greens, and nuts.  Recently while out with youngest daughter I had a beet salad composed in this manner but the result was cloyingly sweet, using a balsamic vinegar glaze and candied nuts. Sweet upon sweet upon sweet. It was sweeter than some desserts.
So dodging the incredulous looks of my family members, I have been making roasted beet salads. I added some strawberries since they were also in season. I crumbled some blue cheese (gorgonzola dolce) onto the plate, added a few toasted walnuts and some locally grown pea shoots. As the season changes, the strawberries can be replaced with another seasonal berry. You can change the cheese (Birchrun Farms blue? A nice local goat cheese? What about cheddar or a jalapeno jack cheese?), the nuts (hazelnuts? pecans?), and the greens.
You get the idea. Own it.

Instead of boiling, roasting has become the preferred cooking method for beets. Cooking times will wary depending on the size of the beets.
To roast beets:
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse the beets, trim the root ends and cut off the beet greens, if attached. (The beet greens can be sauteed as a replacement for spinach or another green.) Place the beets on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle the beets with olive oil, season with salt and black pepper. You could also add a few springs of fresh thyme, too. Wrap the beets, place the beets onto a baking tray and roast the beets for about 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of the beets. The beets are done when they are easily pierced with the point of a knife. Remove from the oven. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins (red beets can stain so you might choose to wear a pair of disposable food prep gloves), discard the skins, and store the beets in a covered container in the refrigerator until needed.

Before serving, dice the beets and toss them in a white balsamic vinaigrette (Follow the basic ratio of 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar mixed with 2 or 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil; season with salt, ground black pepper, and a bit of sugar. Mix well and store until needed.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pan Roasted Wild Salmon with Roasted Carrots and Carrot Risotto

We’ve been eating a lot of carrots recently, usually roasted and tossed together in a salad. The salad is a variation of a roasted carrot salad from last summer that you can find in the archives (9/24/14).
But with some leftover carrots hanging around I decided to roast them and serve them with some wild Sockeye salmon and a carrot risotto using carrot juice instead of a vegetable or chicken stock. Most stores have fresh carrot juice on hand.
Vegetarians can just make the risotto, chopping and folding the carrots into the risotto at the end.
You don’t even have to use salmon. It would work perfectly well with chicken or pork tenderloin.
For the carrots, I have found bunches of smaller-sized organic carrots (with tops attached) which work perfectly while we wait for locally grown carrots to appear at the farmer’s market. Use any carrot as long as they are cut to a uniform thickness to assure even cooking. I season the carrots with some ground coriander seed, which has a bright, lemony flavor. Ground cumin seed would work too.
The risotto technique may seem radical but it works perfectly and it cuts down on stirring. You still need to stir the rice occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan as well as to look to make sure the risotto is cooking at a gentle simmer. But in terms of standard risotto technique this is fairly low maintenance.
To strategize your cooking, roast the carrots first and set them aside. Prepare the risotto and set it aside unfinished. Cook the salmon. While the salmon is cooking, finish the risotto as directed. Warm the carrots in the oven when the salmon goes into the oven.
This makes for a very orange plate. Hail beta-carotene.

Pan Roasted Wild Salmon with Roasted Carrots and Carrot Risotto
For two servings

Two 4 to 6 ounce portions of salmon
Salt and ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon

Roasted Carrots
1 bunch of carrots (about 8 to 10 small-sized carrots or 4 or 5 regular-sized carrots.)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
salt and ground black pepper
2 to 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Clean the carrots under cold water and scrub them with a soft bristled brush; they don’t need to be peeled. If they have tops, remove tem and trim the bottom of the carrots. Slice the carrots in half lengthwise. If you are using larger carrots, halve them lengthwise. You might have to cut the carrot in half, crosswise.  If the top half of the carrot is thicker than the bottom half, slice the thicker part into quarters. You want to have 16 to 20 pieces of carrot when you are finished.
2. Place the carrots into a bowl. Drizzle them with olive oil and season with the ground coriander, sugar, salt, and ground black pepper. Toss the carrots together to distribute the seasonings. Lay the carrots in an even layer on a foil-lined baking tray. Place the carrots into the oven and roast for 16 minutes. Remove the carrots from the oven and carefully turn them over and return the carrots to the oven to roast for an additional 6- 8 minutes until the carrots are tender; a knife point should easily pierce the carrots. Using the aluminum foil on the tray, wrap the carrots and set aside.

Carrot Risotto
Usually white wine is the first liquid added to a risotto before the addition of stock. I omitted that step for this recipe. You could certainly use white wine. Just alter the first addition of liquid to be read “1/4 cup white wine, followed by ¾ cup carrot juice.” The white wine isn’t really necessary in this risotto. Since this technique will work for any risotto, you might find yourself wishing to include the wine when making a different risotto.
If you have a timer handy, it will help with monitoring the cooking time.

For 2 servings
½ cup Arborio rice
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1 to 2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cups carrot juice
2 to 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 to 2 teaspoons minced chives
1. Place the carrot juice into a saucepan and warm it over medium high heat.  Place a second pan over medium-high heat. Swirl in the olive oil; add the shallots and sauté the shallots to soften, about a minute. Add the rice and stir the rice into the shallots and oil. Add 1 cup of the hot carrot juice to the rice and stir together. Season with some salt then cover the pot and lower the heat. The rice should simmer throughout cooking. Occasionally stir the rice to prevent it from sticking, looking to see that the risotto is cooking gently. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes until almost all of the carrot juice has been absorbed. (At this point the risotto can be put aside and finished later).
2. Taste the rice for tenderness: If there are any “crunchy bits” in the center of the rice, it needs to cook longer. To finish the risotto, place the pot over medium-high heat. Add more carrot juice, stir and continue cooking until the rice is cooked through but is still has a toothsome bite to it. When the rice is al dente, taste for seasoning, adding additional salt if needed, some ground black pepper, the cheese, and butter plus the chives.  You can add some more stock depending on whether you like your risotto creamy or “tight.” Stir everything together. Turn off the heat, cover and let the risotto stand for about 2 minutes before serving.

Pan Roasted Wild Salmon
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Season the salmon with some salt and ground black pepper. Heat a non-stick sauté pan over high heat. When hot, swirl in a little olive oil. Carefully place the salmon into the pan, skin side up. Cook the salmon for about 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish (a 1” thick fillet will take about 10 minutes total cooking time for well done, so adjust the cooking time to the thickness of your fish and your preferred degree of doneness). Turn the salmon and place it into the oven to finish cooking, about 3 to 4 minutes). Carefully remove the pan from the oven. Remove the salmon from the pan and place it skin-side up onto a paper towel lined plate. If the skin is on the fish and you wish to remove it, it will easily peel off the fillet.
To serve, divide the risotto between two plates. Top the risotto with some roasted carrots, then the salmon and the last of the carrots. Gloss the salmon with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Burrata with Morels

                                                                      (No. It's burrata...)

With the opening of our local farmer’s market, spring has truly arrived. While it’s early in our growing season, there’s asparagus, plenty of greens, rhubarb, and the long awaited strawberries (fantastic so far this year) and wild mushrooms.
I paired sautéed morels with lightly warmed burrata cheese. Before you think this is a recipe for something you cannot get, remember that this is a template and you can use any mushrooms. The earthy flavor of the warm mushrooms paired with the lushness of burrata make for a great first course (or small plate, in restaurant speak).
Burrata is the mad genius-fever dream of some cheese maker who thought (and I translate freely from Italian), “How can I make mozzarella even better? I know. I’ll fill it with leftover scraps of mozzarella and some cream.” Genius. But more to the point it was no doubt a case of not wanting to waste anything which is so often the inspiration behind great food and cooking.
Burrata is easier to find nowadays thanks in part to the explosion in our love for all things lactic and the ever- expanding cheese selections in stores. The brand I found had two burrata per container and that meant two servings over two different days making it a little less expensive.
My apologies to the lactose intolerant (sorry, sweetie) but this is delicious. And easy.

Burrata with Morels
1 ball burrata cheese
4 ounces morels (or any other mushroom)
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and ground black pepper
Baguette slices, brushed with olive oil and toasted
1. Heat oven to 250 degrees. Place the burrata into an oven-proof shallow dish and cut the burrata in the middle so the burrata opens. Season the burrata lightly with salt. Set aside.
2. Trim the bottoms off the mushrooms. Rinse them under cold water and slice the mushrooms in half lengthwise, depending on their size (this, of course, will vary depending on the mushrooms you use).
Place a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot add the butter and olive oil. After the butter has melted, add the shallots and sauté for a minute or two until the shallots have softened. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms to the pan, season with some salt and ground black pepper and cook the mushrooms until they are tender, about 5 minutes.
3. While the mushrooms are cooking, place the burrata into the oven to warm for a few minutes; watch so that the burrata doesn’t collapse (if it does, it will still be alright).
4. To serve, remove the burrata from the oven and spoon the cooked mushrooms and their liquid over the cheese. Add a little extra olive oil to the pan to rinse out any remaining shallots or garlic and pour this over the cheese; season with some additional ground black pepper. Serve the burrata/ mushroom mixture with the toasted baguette slices along with a knife and spoon. Make sure that nothing is left behind before calling it quits. Fondue never had it this good.

If you know me at all, there was no choice but to resort to the “Day the Earth Stood Still.”