Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thai Seafood Noodle Salad

Bill cooked this up for dinner last night, inspired by the cover recipe on this month's Food and Wine: "a delicious tangle of chewy rice noodles, shrimp, squid and cashews." Fiery hot and satisfyingly full of all the exciting sweet-salty-tangy-herbaceous flavors we crave in Thai food. Mr. Toles was very pleased with himself -- and even more so today -- after the leftovers turned into spicy summer rolls for lunch.
(Photo by Dana Gallagher)

6 ounces rice vermicelli
2 red Thai chiles, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 pound bay scallops
1/2 pound small squid, bodies cut into 1/2-inch rings and tentacles halved
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup mint leaves
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup salted roasted cashews
6 lettuce leaves, for serving
Cilantro leaves, for garnish


1. In a medium bowl, cover the vermicelli in cold water and soak for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a mortar, pound the red Thai chiles and garlic cloves to a paste with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, boiling water and the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and pound until the sugar is dissolved. Let the dressing stand for 30 minutes.
3. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Add the shrimp to the boiling water and cook until white throughout and curled, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to the ice water. Add the scallops to the boiling water and cook until white and firm, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the scallops to the ice water. Add the squid to the boiling water and cook just until firm, about 45 seconds. Transfer the squid to the ice water. Drain all of the seafood and pat dry.
4. Bring a fresh saucepan of water to a boil and refill the bowl with ice water. Drain the vermicelli, add to the boiling water and cook just until al dente, about 1 minute. Drain and transfer to the ice water. Drain again and pat dry. Cut the vermicelli into 3-inch lengths.
5. In a large bowl, toss the seafood with the vermicelli, tomatoes, bean sprouts, mint, red onion, cashews and chile dressing. Line a platter with the lettuce leaves and top with the seafood salad. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

MAKE AHEAD All of the components can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated separately. Toss the salad just before serving.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Roasted Salmon with Sweet and Hot Mustard Dill Sauce

This recipe came courtesy of Robin Miller, whose plan-ahead methods for feeding a family are, in my opinion, pure genius. The hot mustard is necessary here, not to be left out. I served this with Nigella's roasted potatoes last night, minus the goose fat...

Cooking spray
1 lb salmon fillets, skin on and pin bones removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon hot mustard powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat a shallow baking dish with cooking spray. Season both sides of salmon with salt and pepper. Place salmon in prepared baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the Dijon, honey, water, lemon juice, mustard powder, and garlic powder. Remove 1/2 cup of the mustard sauce and set aside. Pour the remaining sauce over the salmon fillets in the pan. Roast the salmon, uncovered, until fork tender, about 10 - 12 minutes.

Stir the dill into the reserved mustard sauce. Serve 1/3 of the roasted salmon (4 fillets, each about 4 ounces after cooking) with the dill-spiked mustard sauce spooned over the top. Refrigerate the remaining salmon up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months; thaw it completely in the refrigerator or microwave for 3 to 5 minutes on LOW before using.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Coffee Creme Brulee

Begin preparing this a day before you plan to serve it.

4 cups whipping cream
1 cup plus 8 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons coarsely ground espresso coffee beans
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder or coffee powder
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

6 large egg yolks
1 large egg
Place eight 3/4-cup custard cups in large roasting pan. Combine cream, 1 cup sugar, ground espresso beans, instant espresso powder and cinnamon stick in heavy large saucepan. Using small sharp knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into mixture; add bean. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar and espresso powder dissolve. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand 30 minutes. Strain through fine sieve.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Whisk egg yolks and egg in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in cream mixture. Divide among custard cups in pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of custard cups. Bake custards until center moves only slightly when cups are gently shaken, about 55 minutes. Remove custards from pan. Cool; refrigerate uncovered overnight.

Preheat broiler or set up propane torch.. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over each custard. Place custard cups on baking sheet. Broil or torch until sugar is brown and caramelized, rotating baking sheet to broil evenly and watching closely to avoid burning, 1 to 2 minutes. Chill custards 1 hour. Serve.
Yield: 8 servings

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Chicken Piccata

After a monster day I called Bill from the office and asked whether maybe he could hit the blog and turn out this quick chicken piccata for dinner, since I was running late. By the time I got home an hour or so later, he was in a state of giddy near hysteria, with raw chicken spread out all over the table and a maniacal gleam in his eye as he pounded cutlets, danced around the kitchen and yelled into the phone to Cherrie about how there was no way this was a real recipe. This was obviously an impossible obstacle course I had set up to teach him a lesson about how much I go through to cook dinner every night...
(Luckily, Cherrie had my back. Thanks Cherrie!)
It really is an easy recipe...and scrumptious...

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, about 6 ounces each
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon drained bottled capers, rinsed and chopped
1 cup of canned quartered artichoke hearts
Additional kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Thin slices lemon and chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Sprinkle a small amount of water on a large plastic sheet of plastic wrap. Place the breast halves on top of the plastic and sprinkle again with water. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap and pound with a rolling pin or meat pounder until about 1/4-inch thick.

Mix the flour with the salt and pepper in a shallow pie plate. Heat half of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Working in 2 batches, place the chicken in the flour mixture and turn to coat on all sides. Shake off the excess flour and add to the skillet. Cook until lightly browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate or platter and cover loosely with foil. Repeat with the remaining oil and chicken.

Pour off the fat from the skillet and return the skillet to the heat. Add the chicken stock and lemon juice. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring to pick up and browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 3 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet and simmer, turning often, until warmed through and the sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and the capers. Season with salt and pepper and heat just until the butter has melted. Serve on warmed plates with a spoonful of the skillet sauce, topped with lemon slices and parsley.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Steamed Halibut in Borscht with Warm Chive-Horseradish Sauce

My mom makes this all the time. Its incredibly simple (and elegant and satisfying.)
Florence Fabricant wrote the recipe up in the NY Times years ago, in an article on new dishes for the Seder table.

She wrote: "Though Le Bernardin, unlike some restaurants in New York, will not be serving a special Passover menu, Eric Ripert, the chef and one of the owners, has come up with an appropriate dish: steamed halibut in borscht with warm chive-horseradish sauce.
It is a delicious and visually stunning dish that hits the correct flavor notes for the holiday menu ... One could chill the sauce and, instead of the halibut, substitute ovals of gefilte fish ..."

I generally use prepared borscht, making this a 30 minute main dish.

Steamed Halibut in Borscht with Warm Chive-Horseradish Sauce
Adapted from Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin

Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil or corn oil
1 medium onion, julienned
1 cup julienned fennel
2 tablespoons sliced garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 cup chopped savoy cabbage, plus 3 of the darker outer leaves, finely julienned
1 quart well-seasoned chicken or vegetable stock
4 cups peeled and julienned fresh beets (about 1 1/2 bunches)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 cup creme fraiche, sour cream or mayonnaise
1/4 cup prepared white horseradish
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon minced chives
8 halibut steaks or fillets, each 4 to 6 ounces, or 8 portions chilled gefilte

1. Heat oil in a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Add onions and fennel and cook
slowly about 5 minutes, until softened. Tie garlic, thyme, parsley and
chopped cabbage in a double thickness of cheesecloth and add it to
saucepan along with stock and beets. Simmer 15 minutes. Season to
taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Discard cheesecloth and
its contents. To serve the dish chilled, refrigerate beet mixture at least 4
hours or overnight.

2. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add julienned
cabbage leaves, cook just until bright green, then drain. Set leaves aside,
covered, to keep warm; for a cold dish, refrigerate.

3. Mix creme fraiche, sour cream or mayonnaise with horseradish, sugar
and chives. If using mayonnaise, thin it beforehand with 2 tablespoons
water. This sauce can be gently warmed in a small saucepan or chilled to
serve cold.

4. To serve, steam halibut until fully cooked outside and just warm inside,
6 to 8 minutes. Keep warm. Reheat beet mixture, spoon into warmed
shallow soup plates, sprinkle with julienned cabbage and top with fish.
Or spoon chilled beet mixture into shallow soup plates, add cabbage,
and top with gefilte fish. Serve horseradish sauce, warm or chilled, on the

Yield: 8 servings.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Steak Salad

My mom is a huge steak salad fan...or she was, anyway, before she went 95 percent vegetarian. I bet the steak salad I whipped up tonight would still tempt her though. It was Bill's first steak salad. He gets it. The tastes of corn and tomatoes and basil and seared steak seem imperative right now, to gt us through this looooong cold early spring.

Steak and Marinade:
1 lb flank steak
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup sugar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced

Slice the steak into a few pieces. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Mix all marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Marinate the steak, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, and up to two days. Preheat the broiler and broil the steak until medium. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and then slice thinly across the bias. Serve warm, along with any accumulated juices, on top of the dressed salad. Pass extra vinaigrette at the table if anyone wants it.

grape tomatoes, halved
cucumbers, sliced into half moons
chopped scallions
fresh herbs: cilantro, chives, basil
canned corn, or corn cut from the cob
cooked garbanzos
diced fennel

Herb Vinaigrette:
balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
dijon mustard
minced garlic
salt and pepper
chopped basil
chopped cilantro
minced chives