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Whole Roast Fish for Two with Mushroom-Truffle Pesto and Crispy Roasted Wild Mushrooms for Two

RECIPE: Whole Roast Fish for Two with Mushroom-Truffle Pesto and Crispy Roasted Wild Mushrooms

Whole Roasted Bream with Mushroom PestoMy husband and I have a favorite restaurant in London that absolutely no one knows about.  Except the locals and regulars we see when we are there.  But our ‘set’, so to speak, has never heard of it.  We ferry over very special ones when we feel like sharing.

Why do we love it?  Its completely unpretentious location?  Well, frankly, I wouldn’t mind if that improved.  The otherworldly amaretto sours (yes, I said amaretto sours) made with the fresh juice of an entire lemon?  That’s definitely part of it.  But actually, it is what I already mentioned: sharing.

The menu changes daily, and there’s only about three or four appetizers, mains, and desserts to choose from—all seasonal and fabulous—on the printed paper menu.  But the secret is to look up to the chalkboard on the wall.  I never let us arrive after 8, or we risk the dreaded chalk line through one of the specials—the menu equivalent of the chalk outline of a murder.  You can see what was there, but now it’s gone.  Shudder.

The thing that makes it so special is, all the chalkboard items are made to share.

Sea Bream with Roasted MushroomsOur favorite is the slow-cooked lamb shoulder for five, which comes in a cast iron pot, still bubbling, and a second cast-iron tray full of Boulangère potatoes.  There are two big spoons, and that’s it.  You serve yourself.  Firsts, seconds, more often than not thirds and fourths, friends trading pieces of lamb, and scraping at the corner of the potato dish.  There’s the sea bass acqua pazza or steak-frites for two to the three with Béarnaise. I know it seems conflicting, to want to go out so that you can eat the way you do at home, but I just love it.  It feels more convivial than any other meal I’ve ever had.

And that was the inspiration behind this fish.  Even stranger to make a meal to imitate a restaurant that imitates the home, but there you have it.  A bream or a bass, big enough for two, stuffed with a simple mushroom-truffle pesto and topped with crispy broiled wild mushrooms.  The great thing about cooking a whole fish is that you can’t serve it in anything other than the pan in which it was cooked.  So, it has that feel of our secret place.  Bring it to the table, and Mr. English and I just paw at it with our forks, taking pieces, and losing track of how many servings it’s been, insisting the other take more.  And I love the curious juxtaposition of fish with such an earthy ingredient as a mushroom.  It makes for a terrific contrast of texture and flavor.  There’s something cementing about a meal that is made for two and made to be shared.  I like the directive.  Eat and be together now.

I’m just doing what the fish tells me to do.

Bream with Mushroom Pesto

Just a note to say you can also make the mushroom-truffle pesto and serve it on toasts, or toss it with warm fresh fettuccine.  Yum.

Mushroom Pesto

Whole Roast Fish for Two with Mushroom-Truffle Pesto and Crispy Roasted Wild Mushrooms
serves 2 to 3

Whole Roasted Bream with Mushroom PestoINGREDIENTS

  • 14 ounces chestnut or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 jarred black truffles
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil, plus extra for drizzling, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1/2 cup basil
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, plus more for garnish
  • 1 whole 2-pound sea bass or sea bream, gills, guts, scales, and fins removed
  • 7 ounces mixed wild mushrooms

METHOD

In a wide sauté pan, melt the butter over high heat and add the mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms have released all of their liquid and the pan has just gone dry.  Add the garlic, and sauté another minute until fragrant.  Set aside to cool completely.

In a food processor, add the cooled mushroom and garlic mixture, the truffles, the oil, the basil, the parsley, and the pine nuts.  Blitz until almost smooth—you want it delicate, but still with a bit of texture.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Season the fish inside and out with salt and pepper.  Using a very sharp knife, cut three or four slits at angle through the flesh on each side of the fish to the bone.  Stuff these slits with the mushroom pesto, and then spoon the rest into cavity.  Rub the outside with just a drizzle of oil.  Place in a parchment-lined baking dish, and cook until the fish is just done, about 35 minutes.

While the fish is resting, turn the oven up to 475 degrees F.  Toss the wild mushrooms with 1 tablespoon of oil, salt, and pepper.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and roast until crisp, about 5 minutes.  Spoon the roasted mushrooms and a few extra pine nuts over the fish, and serve.  Drizzle with truffle oil if you’re feeling decadent.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes
 

Lavender, Lemon, and Honey Spatchcocked Roast Chicken for Valentine’s Night In

RECIPE: Provençal Sweet-and-Sour Lavender, Lemon, and Honey Spatchcocked Roast Chicken

Lavender Lemon Spatchcocked Roast Chicken HalfI think there is something superlatively romantic about a roast chicken.  It may not have the sex appeal of an oyster, but it has romance.  How many a wife has put a roast chicken down in front of her husband (or vice versa) at the end of a cold day?  And I always remember that scene at the end of The Great Gatsby when Daisy and Tom sit plotting over a plate of cold chicken—that’s when I knew she loved him.  There is a domestic edge to roast chicken love, that I prefer to haute cuisine.  The halcyon comfort of marriage rather than the coquettish strategies of a first date.

Mr. English and I always spent the 14th in—the 13th or 15th are when we go out.  Valentine’s Day itself is often spent in pajamas, under blankets, eating something indulgent and watching reruns.  I like this romantic roast chicken for this year—for one, it feels right to make something whole that two people can share.  Whether that’s a chicken, a whole fish, a Chateaubriand—I just think it’s about taking down boundaries and eating together.  Then, of course, this chicken is roasted in flowers—very Valentine’s.  It’s a kind of Provençal sweet and sour.  The chicken is slathered in a butter studded with lavender blossoms and thyme leaves, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, and light sweet honey.  Because I cut the backbone out, the chicken is crisp and juicy in one pan in 45 minutes, but the skin is this complex mess of Provencal flavors.

The chicken makes its own pan juices, but I roast lemon wedges alongside.  I serve it on toasted rustic brown pain au levain slices to soak up the gravy.  A glass of rosé, maybe some green salad, and voila.  True love.

 P.S. I have to say that I think the most romantic thing about this meal is the fact that all you have to do is cut the backbone out of a chicken and slather some butter on it with your fingers.  And I line the pan with foil and parchment.  What I’m trying to say, in true married women spirit, is that there is basically no cooking and no cleaning, so there are no chores to squabble over.
NB: I wrote this for Valentine’s but it ran a bit late.  Check out the story on Serious Eats.  You’ll have it for next year!
Provençal Sweet-and-Sour Lavender, Lemon, and Honey Spatchcocked Roast Chicken
serves 2 to 4

Lavender Lemon Spatchcocked Roast Chicken HalfINGREDIENTS

  • 1 3- to 4-lb chicken
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried edible lavender
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon thyme honey, lavender honey, or acacia honey
  • 1 tablespoons butter, left out of the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes so that it’s cold, but not rock solid

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with the rack in the center.  Cut the backbone out of the chicken with kitchen shears.  Lay the the chicken breast-side-up in an enameled baking dish.  Press down on the breast bone to break, so that the chicken lies flat.  Season generously, front and back, with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, mix together the zest of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (about half a lemon; reserve the other half lemon for later in the recipe), the lavender, the thyme, and the olive oil.  Stir to combine.  Add the butter, and using either a fork or an immersion blender to mash the mixture together, smash until the mixture is for the most part homogenous.

Slather the lemon, lavender, and honey butter all over the top of the chicken, and any extra, spread lightly on the under side.  Roast for 45 minutes, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F and the skin is golden and scorched.  10 to 15 minutes before the chicken is done, add the wedges from the remaining half lemon into the pan.

Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes on a board, and then cut it in half.  Serve it with warm toasted slices of pain au levain, with the pan juices poured on top and the roasted lemon wedges scattered around the plate.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipes, Series
 

Winter Food for a Summer Body

RECIPE: Fresh Whole Wheat Tagliatelle with Turkey Bolognese-Ragout

Turkey Bolognese with WritingThe weather is the dinner dictator in my life.  My body reacts to the temperatures, and I cook what my body wants.  Lately, London has been fickle.  After weeks, maybe months, it seemed like years, of rain, the sun is starting a coy flirtation.  But it’s still cold, and I’m in this kind of purgatory—craving winter foods but knowing spring and the requirement for something lighter is coming.  So I took a winter favorite, spaghetti bolognese, and gave it a spring-summer makeover.

I am lucky—the local supermarket in London sells fresh whole wheat tagliatelle.  I say, get whatever fresh whole wheat pasta shape is available to you.  It takes three minutes to cook, and is a no brainer.  The nutty texture is such a welcome counterpoint to the rich sauce—it’s worth seeking out.

Whole Wheat Tagliatelle with Turkey BologneseFor the ragout, I start with ground dark meat turkey and a barrel of vegetables: carrots, onions, and garlic.  Mr. English has wisely educated me that he will not eat turkey simply because it is healthy; he will eat it only if I remember to put flavor into it.  Noted.  That’s what the vegetables, along with the thyme and bay, are for.  He has assured me that in this instance, I have succeeded.

Once these are softened and cooked together, I add tomato paste and cherry tomatoes, along with vegetable broth.  Then I just let it cook down for as long as I have, between one and two hours.  Yes, it’s a long time.  It’s my Italian grandmother meal, and I make it on Sunday.  It freezes well.  But it is so worth it.  The sauce is not a wet Bolognese, but almost a turkey and tomato stew, full of the sweetness of the carrots and onions and garlic, cooked down to almost a paste, and the savoriness of the herbs.  You can eat chunks of turkey in that stewy way, perched above the tangle of noodles.  And on top, a flurry of shredded sharp Pecorino, because it needs that hit of salt.

Peas SaladI have already made it twice in the last couple of weeks.  First, for Sunday night dinner when our friend Mary came over from around the corner for our weekly gossip.  And again, when maman was in town and I invited over my in-laws.  Both times I served it with a salad that is more a shopping list than a recipe: pea shoots, blanched peas, lemon zest, lemon juice, toasted pine nuts, fresh torn mint leaves, ricotta, pecorino shavings, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  It’s just a triumph.  I feel like I stumbled onto something that might be valuable.  Gosh, I wish I had some in the freezer!

Fresh Whole Wheat Tagliatelle with Turkey Bolognese-Ragout
serves 3 to 4

Whole Wheat Tagliatelle with Turkey BologneseINGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 yellow onion, finely diced

3 small or 2 large carrots, cut into thin half moons

Salt and pepper

4 medium cloves garlic, sliced

1 pound ground dark meat turkey

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoons chopped thyme

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 cups cherry tomatoes

2 cups vegetable stock

1 pound fresh whole wheat tagliatelle, or other pasta

METHOD

Head the oil in a wide sauté pan.  Add the onion and carrots, season with salt and pepper, and sweat for ten minutes.  You don’t want the vegetables to take on any color.  Add the garlic, and sweat another 2 minutes, or just until fragrant.

Push the vegetables to the outer edges of the pan, and add the turkey to the center.  Season with salt and pepper.  Use a wooden spatula to break up the meat, stirring often, until all the meat has changed color, about five minutes.  Add the tomato paste, and stir into the meat and vegetables, cooking out for 30 seconds.  Add the thyme and parsley, cherry tomatoes, and stock.  Cover, and simmer for around 90 minutes, until the pan is mostly dry and the sauce is very thick.

To serve, boil the pasta until just cooked in salted water.  Drain.  Toss with the turkey ragout, drizzle with olive oil, and top with freshly chopped parsley and shredded Pecorino cheese.

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Categories: Cheap, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipes
 

Maille Honey Double Mustard Salmon

RECIPE: Maille Honey Mustard Double Salmon en Papillote

Maille Honey Mustard Salmon

I am stuck in the dreary February doldrums.  In London, everyday it rains.  Sometimes in great smacking sheets, sometimes in impertinent little drops, but all the times our cup runneth so over that the sight of it is making my mind prune.  The rivers run wild, the ground is officially drunk, and it often seems like the sun will never come out tomorrow.

It’s times like this when being inside of hyperimportance.  I was charmed to be invited to the London outpost of Maille mustard.  They could never have recruited a more fervent disciple.  My stepfather sits down to every lunch with a jar of Maille mustard and a jar of Maille cornichons (usually that we’ve wrapped in bubble wrap and spirited away from France) and states wholeheartedly the jingle “il n’y a que Maille qui m’aille.”  I have been buying their cassis Dijon for years as a base for vinaigrette.  I was already a convert.

The store is a mix of elegance and French country.  The pale rustic wood shelves are neatly lined with flavor after flavor of Dijon or whole grain mustards.  Great taps pull some of the fancier and more basic flavors from what I can only assume is a mustard keg.  Upstairs in an airy, bright mustard tasting bar, enlivened by antique moutardiers.  The mind boggles at the applications for some of the more exotic mustards.  Coconut and Colombo Spices.  Apricots and Curry.  Gingerbread and Chestnut Honey.  But I found they were used in sauces, dressings—even cocktails.

I gravitated more to simple and heritage flavors.  For saffron and crème fraîche I envisioned a mustard bouillabaisse.  For the Provençale, a mustard-based aïoli.  For the walnut, a thick, true vinaigrette using the walnut oil so often used on salads in France—that’s good!  And the black olive I bought and have been using straight out of the jar as a dip for multigrain pretzels.  I also loved the Sundried Tomato and Piment d’Esplette.

My favorite two, aside from classic Dijon and wholegrain that I always, always have (you can buy beautiful mustard pots at Maille, and they refill these with these two basic necessities from the upstairs tap), I was taken with the honey Dijon and the Honey Balsamic.  The Honey Dijon a creamy smooth tan, and the Honey Balsamic nearly black—stunning, unusual, and frankly breathtaking.

Balsamic Mustard

There is something cozy about stormy weather when you’re stuck inside somewhere warm and beautiful, but it’s another thing entirely when you arrive home work with your hair plastered against your cheek, pruned toes, and a chill in your bones.  I’m less inclined to cook, to make something complicated, because I’m just worn out.  But at the same time, I’m craving something hearty.  I was so happy, the other night, to pull out my Maille mustards and get to work on some mood-lifting, stomach-filling alchemy.

In a little bowl, I mixed together crème fraîche with some Maille Honey Dijon and Maille wholegrain mustard.  One for the sweet heat, the other for the texture and slightly winier flavor.  Into a little papillote it goes with salmon.  In the oven, the juices from the salmon loosen the thick mustard mixture and it runs into a sauce.  Honey mustard salmon, hot and steaming, served with some good pain au levain and some butter greens (I had beautiful English purple greens—purple sprouting broccoli and flower sprouts).  I made it just for the two of us, me and Mr. English, and we sat happily, wetly, coldly down only fifteen minutes later to a perfect dinner.  It was devoured.

Maille Collage

Visit Maille in London.  Thank you, Maille, for the wonderful experience.  More Maille to come, both on this blog and in the US.

Maille Honey Mustard Double Salmon en Papillote
serves 4

Maille Honey Mustard SalmonINGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 2 tablespoons Maille honey Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Maille wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 6-ounce fillets of boneless salmon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Freshly snipped chives

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  In a bowl, mix together the crème fraîche, two mustards, and olive oil.  Set aside.

Cook the salmon en papillote, or in a parcel.  Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to comfortable envelope the salmon, and line it with a sheet of parchment just smaller than the foil itself.  Place one piece of salmon on the parchment on the foil, and season with salt and pepper.  Pour one quarter of the honey mustard mixture on fish.  Fold the parchment around the fish, and then fold the side edges of the foil in, then fold the top and bottom edges over each other to make a sealed packed.  Repeat with the remaining salmon and honey mustard sauce.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes.  Open the parcels, and scatter in a sprinkling of chives.  Serve with buttered greens.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses
 

Cacio e Pepe Toasted Barley with Charred Fillet and Peppery Dark Greens Pesto

RECIPE: Cacio e Pepe Toasted Barley with Charred Fillet and Peppery Dark Greens Pesto

Barley Cacio e Pepe with Charred Steak and Dark Greens PestoMy last January recipe was very virtuous.  Over the years, I have come to understand that there are two kinds of virtue when it comes to food.  Caloric virtue, like this week’s black rice salad and miso-charred mushrooms that is low in calories.  Or nutrient virtue, like this steak with barley cacao e pepe, that, while it may have some typically no-no ingredients, is high in nutrients.  As a woman who has been vegetarian, lactose-free, FODMAP-friendly, and pescatarian at one time or another, I have come to understand that for me, giving things up completely actually can be more detrimental than eating healthy, whole food.  I find that eating a huge variety of whole foods means that when it comes to the vitamin and mineral front, I very rarely am leaving anything out, or overdosing, for that matter.  To do that, lately I have been trying to make some clever substitutions, like barley in this cacio e pepe, rather than white pasta.  As my friend and nutritionist Jessie Katz calls them–”smart swaps.”  Honestly, I love the barley so much in this dish, I feel like I went out collecting mushrooms and came home with a giant honest to goodness gorgeous black truffle.

The barley absolutely stole my heart, and I prefer this to the traditional pasta dish— I love this recipe.  I serve it with roasted kale.  Or caramelized fennel.  And charred artichoke hearts.  I eat it on its own.  I serve it with grilled fish.  It’s addictive.  When I asked Jessie why barley is a “smart swap,” I got an earful.  Barley is a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, heart-healthy because it helps us regulate cholesterol.  It keeps us full and satiated by slowing the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, helping us maintain stable blood sugar and energy levels.  Insoluble fiber keeps the digestive tract on track, and may help prevent colon cancer.  Fiber also provides food for the friendly gut bacteria that are so important to cultivate for good digestion and immunity.  Barley has a low glycemic index.  It’s cholesterol-free and low in fat.  It’s a source of niacin, thiamine, selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, and copper.  AND it contains the phytochemicals and antioxidants that fight the free radicals that cause disease and aging.  It kind of almost doesn’t matter that it tastes better than white pasta–chewy, al dente, nutty, fabulous–but it does.  Jess says that if you can get hulled barley, that’s the kind to use, with the most health benefits.

I start with leftover cooked barley–or just cook some up on the night.  It put it into a skillet with a little bit of olive oil, instead of butter, and a lot of black pepper (the pepe) to toast. The barley starts to tan slightly in the heat of the pan, and the pepper starts to release its oils and gets even hotter and more peppery.  Then, a light sprinkling of Pecorino Romano cheese (the cacio) to finish it off with salty, nutty shower that melts into the barley.  You don’t need a ton, just a hint.  And between the heat of the black pepper and the saltiness of the Pecorino, you have this perfectly seasoned, hearty, chewy, nutty barley.  It’s fantastic.

I top it with simply grilled, sliced steak, which offers zinc, iron, and vitamin B12.  I start with a good filet mignon–Jessie recommends grass-fed beef because it’s lower in saturated fat but higher in unsaturated Omega-3s that fight inflammation and antioxidants–and rub it with just enough olive oil to coat it, and crust it with salt and pepper.  Then on the grill to char.

And on top of that, to accentuate the pepperiness in the barley, a simple pesto made from bitter greens (watercress, baby spinach, and arugula) and olive oil.  Jessie calls a pesto made from dark greens a “superfood” pesto because it’s full of vitamins A, C, and K, along with folate, iron, calcium, and magnesium.  Those nutrients, plus the antioxidants and phytochemicals found in dark greens “keep us healthy and strong, looking gorgeous, while helping to ward of disease, boost immunity, maintain bone strength, keep our energy levels up…and fight aging.”  Basil just got a hard act to follow.  Plus, the walnuts and garlic have their own health benefits, including selenium, omega-3s, polyphenols (which help fight memory loss) and vitamin E (an antioxidant that is great for skin).

The pesto melts into the hot steak, and a little bit of it mixes into the peppery barley.  The whole thing, altogether, makes me very happy.

Thanks to Jessie Katz for her nutritional insight on these January dishes.  Santé, everyone.

Get a taste of this recipe on Serious Eats.

Cacio e Pepe Toasted Barley with Charred Fillet and Peppery Dark Greens Pesto
serves 2

Barley Cacio e Pepe with Charred Steak and Dark Greens PestoINGREDIENTS

  • 2/3 cup barley, rinsed
  • Sea salt
  • 12 ounces beef tenderloin
  • 1 packed cup mixed bitter greens, such as watercress, spinach, and arugula
  • 1/2 clove to 1 clove garlic
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 3 teaspoons, divided
  • 1 tablespoon grated Pecorino Romano, plus 2 tablespoons
  • Freshly ground black pepper, plus 2 teaspoons

METHOD

I like to make the barley ahead of time, although that isn’t necessary.  The night before, I put the barley and a good pinch of salt in a stockpot and cover with two to three inches of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until tender, about 35 to 45 minutes.  Drain, rinse under cold water, put into a plastic bag or bowl, and refrigerate until ready to use.

When you are ready to eat, take the beef and barley out of the refrigerator, and let them rest on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes.  Preheat a cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat.

While the meat is resting, make the pesto.  Place the greens, garlic, walnuts, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of Pecorino Romano, along with salt and a good amount of pepper, in the food processor and whiz until smooth.  Set aside.

Salt and pepper all sides of the beef generously, and rub with 1 teaspoon of olive oil—this will help ensure the meat doesn’t still to the grill pan.  Char on the hot grill pan, turning four times so that all sides are charred, until desired doneness is reached.  For medium, cook 5 to 6 minutes on each of the four sides, until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 135 to 140 degrees F.  Set the meat aside on a board to rest.

While the meat is resting, make the cacio e pepe barley.  Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a wide nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  Add the barley and 2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper, to toast.  Make sure to spread the barley out in the pan.  Stir intermittently for about 7 minutes.  Turn off the heat and scatter 2 tablespoons of Pecorino over the top.  Stir into the barley, allowing the residual heat to melt it.

To serve, divide the barley into two shallow bowls.  After the meat has rested for 10 minutes, cut into 1/2-inch slices, or thicker medallions—however you prefer.  Place on top of the barley.  Spoon one or two spoonfuls of the pesto over the meat, and top with some extra freshly cracked black pepper and / or torn arugula or watercress leaves for garnish.  Eat up!

NOTES

A great resource for the greens is actually the bagged salad aisle.  At my supermarket, they offer a bagged watercress, baby spinach, and baby arugula salad blend.  I just buy that and use it for my pesto.  The extra, I use for salad the next day, or I wilt it into wholegrain pasta.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Sides, Starches
 

Miso-Charred Mushrooms with Black Rice Salad

RECIPE: Ginger and Miso-Charred Portobello Mushrooms and Black Rice Salad with Green Vegetables and Sesame-Soy Dressing

Miso Charred Mushroom and Black Rice Salad

I can’t help it.  I am addicted to self-improvement. At least in January, I can get away with it more easily when the rest of the world joins in. New year, new us.

I specialize in French recipes, as you know, and sometimes, those can be pretty not self-improving. I do, quite happily, fall prey to a beckoning potato gratin every now and again. But what I love about food is that not only can you take pleasure in eating, but you can also take care by eating. You can eat yourself well. I like that idea–in fact, at times, I cling to it. Those who read my posts will know that my maman taught me most of what I know about those gratins; but she also, in times of sickness, taught me about raw vegetable juices, herbal infusions, complete proteins and complex carbohydrates. In my posts this January, I will share a bit of my other obsession, food that is delicious, but devilishly healthy. I get a real smirking kick out of make something good, good for me. It feels like beating the system. To help me I’ve asked my good friend the fantastic New York nutritionist Jessica Katz to weigh in on some ingredients.

This dish is a fresh warm black rice salad, full of all things green, and topped with miso-charred meaty Portobello mushrooms. I first discovered black rice with Jessie about a decade ago when she took me to the Union Square restaurant republic, and I became obsessed with finding it. Thankfully, it’s more readily available now.  It’s nutty, both in flavor and texture, and is full of antioxidants. Whole grain black rice has more fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals than white rice. So the salad starts with a pretty good base.

A little secret to rice, which I picked up in France, is to boil it like pasta in a big pot of salted water. To that, I add edamame beans and strips of Savoy cabbage to quickly blanch them. The latter adds vitamin C and more antioxidants. Then, to the warm salad, I add cilantro, jalapeno, lime (even a little more vitamin C!), and scallions. All low-calorie ways to add texture and flavor.  The dressing is light and simple: soy sauce, a dash of sesame oil, and rice vinegar. I let it steep together so the warm rice soaks up the flavors of the rest of the salad while I put together the miso-charred mushrooms.

I was vegetarian for a long time, so I know that mushrooms are so healthful, because they are a vegetarian source of vitamin B. They also contain minerals, phytochemicals, and can be a great wintertime source of vitamin D if they were exposed to sunlight before or after harvest. Another dish to which Jessie also introduced me was miso black cod, my inspiration for these mushrooms. I smother the Portobello caps in a mixture of freshly grated ginger, sweet mirin, and white miso, which according to Jessie contains more vitamin B, minerals, protein, phytochemicals, fiber, and interestingly, as a fermented food, probiotics. I char the mushrooms under the broiler, and as the mushrooms wilt and become juicy, the sweet and spicy marinade caramelizes and bubbles up. It is so good.

Thickly slice the mushrooms, almost like steak, and perch them atop a pile of the warm black rice salad, studded with little flecks of green. The dish is light, but intensely savory, and fresh. It just makes you feel good, better—even, improved.

As we always toast in my house on New Year’s, santé!
Ginger and Miso-Charred Portobello Mushrooms and Black Rice Salad with Green Vegetables and Sesame-Soy Dressing
serves 2

Miso Charred Mushroom and Black Rice SaladINGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup forbidden black rice, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup white miso
  • 2 tablespoons mirin, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 4 Portobello mushroom caps, wiped clean
  • 1 scant tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 scant tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional: reduced sodium soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh edamame beans (option: frozen edamame beans)
  • 3 leaves Savoy cabbage, sliced into very thin strips
  • 2 scallions, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons toasted white or black sesame seeds

METHOD

Bring a medium-large pot of salted water to a boil.  Arrange the rack in the center of the oven, and pre-heat the broiler.

Add the rice to the boiling salted water, and cook without a lid until tender, about 35 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together the miso, 2 tablespoons mirin, and fresh ginger.  Slather the mushrooms, top and bottom, with the miso mixture.  Place on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, and broil in the center of the oven until tender and charred, turning once, about 20 to 25 minutes total.  Set aside.

While the rice is cooking, make the dressing by whisking together the rice vinegar, lime juice, soy sauce, remaining 1 teaspoon mirin, and sesame oil.  Set aside.

Once the rice has been cooking for 30 minutes, add the fresh edamame beans.  When the rice has only one minute left to cook (it’s been boiling for 34 minutes), add in the shredded cabbage.  If using frozen edamame beans, add with the cabbage at the 34 minutes mark.  Drain the rice, edamame, and cabbage all together in a fine-mesh colander.  Drain well, and decant into a large bowl.  Toss with the dressing, jalapeno, cilantro, and sesame seeds.

Serve the rice salad with the mushrooms, thickly sliced, perched on top.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Vegetarian, Vegetarian