Working Girl Dinners: Guest-Worthy Salmon with Asparagus and Mustard Sauce

RECIPE: Guest-Worthy Salmon with Asparagus and Mustard Sauce
Working Girl Mustard Salmon

Working Girl Mustard Salmon with Asparagus and Boiled Potatoes

Salmon is the real chicken of the sea.  Everyone loves it.  It’s healthy, and guiltless, relatively inexpensive, and elegant.  This meal is so easy, but it’s the kind of food you could serve to in-laws or bosses.  Or, just to yourself, because it tastes good, and you don’t need an occasion to eat good food!

I know, gone are the Mad Men days when a girl is expected to entertain her husband’s boss in the family dining room.  We have our own bosses to worry about, and a separate dining room seems a little far-fetched.  But at the same time, I don’t think we see each other enough during the week.  After work, we think the best way to recover from the day is delivery.  But imagine, having your friends over, or some family, for a couple of hours of laughing and chatting and eating.  What could be more invigorating?  I would make this meal when my dad comes over.  To know him is to know he eats salmon with unusual gusto at least three times a week.  It’s a treat to have him over for a homemade meal.  Now go call your parents, and tell them to come over for dinner tonight!

This is an unusually effortless meal, because the oven does all the heavy lifting.  Roast the salmon on a bed of herbs, to flavor it, and right alongside simultaneously roasts the asparagus.  Ta da!  Both come out of the oven crisp, and tender, and delicious–and at the same time.  It’s kitchen magic.  On the stove, stir together a little water, sour cream, and mustard until you have a sauce.  That’s it.  Elegant dinner, done.  And the best part is, if you are having company, just double the recipe.  It cooks in exactly the same amount of time with no extra exertion on your part.  And if it’s just you, then halve the recipe.  Again, it all works out the same.

Guest-Worthy Salmon with Asparagus and Mustard Sauce
serves 2

Working Girl Mustard SalmonINGREDIENTS

  • 2 6-ounce boneless, skinless center-cut salmon fillets
  • 1½ teaspoons olive oil
  • A handful of fresh thyme stems
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons water

PROCEDURE

Place the top rack of your oven in the second highest position (one down from the top).  Preheat the broiler.

Rub each salmon fillet with ½ teaspoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Place the salmon on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper (so it won’t stick).  Under each salmon fillet, tuck a small handful of fresh thyme stems, so you create a bed of thyme for the salmon.

Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the woody ends of each stalk.  Place the asparagus on the parchment-lined baking sheet with the salmon, and toss with the remaining ½ teaspoon of olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place on the rack you adjusted under the broiler for 12 to 15 minutes.  The top of the salmon with be golden-brown, and the asparagus will be crisp.

Meanwhile make the sauce.  In a small sauce pot, stir together the sour cream, Dijon mustard, and water over medium-low heat, just until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper.

I like to serve this with the sauce poured over the salmon, with the asparagus alongside, and maybe a few boiled potatoes.  Serve extra sauce on the side for the veggies.

FISH TIPS

Buying fish can be daunting.  You are looking for fish that is clear (not foggy), bright (not gray), and doesn’t smell like dead fish.  Readers have asked me for reputable fish stores.  From my experience, Whole Foods has good fish.  And in New York, I recommend Citarella, The Vinegar Factory, and Eli’s on the Upper East Side.  Don’t forget, you can ask the guy behind the fish counter to do almost anything.  So when I say boneless, skinless, center-cut salmon fillets, tell him those instructions, and he will do all the work for you.  And they won’t think you’re being difficult.

If you have guests, just double the recipe!

ON THE SIDE

The asparagus in this recipe are built in, which I love.  But if you want to add boiled potatoes, here’s how you do it:

Put small boiling potatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes, or fingerling potatoes in an empty saucepot.  Fill the pot two-thirds of the way up with cold water.  Put the pot over high heat, uncovered.  When the water boils, add salt.  Cook until the tip of a knife easily pierces the potato.  Depending on the size of your potato, that could take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.

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French in a Flash: Crunchy Roasted Salmon and Beets

RECIPE: Crunchy Roasted Salmon and Beets
Crunchy Roasted Salmon with Beets

Crunchy Roasted Salmon with Beets

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

This recipe is a combination of a fantastic salt-of-the-earth salad I had at Canton Arms in London and a recipe I saw in a French food magazine on an airplane.  A great reminder that just when you can’t imagine what’s for dinner, inspiration is all around us.

The salad I had at Canton Arms, a gastropub in Stockwell, was shaved raw candy cane beets and roasted red and golden beets, tossed with vinaigrette and fresh mint, and topped with cheese curd and rosemary-whole grain bread crumbs.  It was small, packed a punch, and seemed fresh out of some invisible London garden, replete with a cow who generously contributed the curd.  On the flight home, I thumbed through a French food magazine and saw salmon and beets, roasted together, red beets bleeding sweet dye on the rosy salmon.  It was all so welcoming, and wintry, but also light enough as we start to shed our cocoons near the imminent spring thaw.

This is my version.  Beets and salmon roasted together with olive oil and a bed of fresh thyme, topped with simply toasted rosemary panko.  Impressive and healthy and homey. Continue reading

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Franglais: Sweet Potato and Carrot Velouté with Quatre-Epices

RECIPE: Sweet Potato and Carrot Velouté with Quatre-Epices

Sweet Potato and Carrot Velouté

Get the whole story at The Huffington Post.

I love sweet potato fries.  Because they are salty.  And crispy.  And what’s not to love?  You could deep fry and salt anything and I’d put it in my mouth.  Deep-frying sweet potatoes took away their stigma: they weren’t good for me anymore.  But otherwise, I never liked sweet potatoes.   Dietetic versions of their better Idaho brother.  And let’s face it: I’d always loved the bad boy.  It wasn’t until very recently that I ever went for a potato, or a boy, that was good for me.

It wasn’t until college that I discovered how versatile a sweet potato could be, how much it could handle.  I was getting pizza late one night in the student center, and I saw a bunch of the guys working behind the counter digging into a slice of pie.

“Is that pumpkin pie!?” I cried, turning orange in envy.  I had been writing for hours, and wasn’t above demanding a slice of pumpkin rather than pizza pie.

“Sweet potato pie,” one of them grinned, pulled a bite off his fork with his lips.

I was confused.  “What’s that?”

All three of them turned to me.  “Where are you from?” they demanded in disbelief.

Now that I think of it, they were probably asking whether I was from Mars.  But they seemed southern, so I answered “Florida.”  I had grown up on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, so I trotted out the more convenient of the two.

“And you’ve never had sweet potato pie?” Continue reading

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Working Girl Dinners: So-Easy Shrimp Quesadillas Verde

RECIPE: So-Easy Shrimp Quesadillas Verde
Shrimp Quesadillas

Shrimp Quesadillas

Some nights (okay, many nights), I come home with this voracious need to devour.  This total and all-consuming drive to eat something overtly satisfying.  Not shy.  Not light.  Just hit-the-spot filling and delicious.

Could anything fit that description better than a quesadilla?  I think not.

Shrimp Quesadillas Zoom

These quesadillas are stuffed to the gills.  A crunchy flour tortilla is filled oozing melted Monterey Jack cheese, plump shrimp, and crunchy-delicious pablano pepper, green onions, and garlic.  The flavor comes from tangy-spicy salsa verde, which also doubles as an extra salsa.  And to serve it, I make the world’s easiest cheated guacamole.

I’ll tell you why these quesadillas are so easy: I take shortcuts, and use ingredients that I always have.  For instance, I absolutely always have tortillas and shrimp in my freezer.  I also love Pace’s Salsa Verde and usually have a jar of it in my fridge.  And instead of making guacamole from scratch, and buying extra salsa (one is time- and ingredient-consuming, the other sits in my fridge and takes up space), I make a short-cut guac from mashed avocados and store-bought fresh pico di gallo.  The whole thing adds up to a really easy, really filling, really delicious dinner.  And, it’s great for entertaining mid-week: just double the recipe to serve 4.

So-Easy Shrimp Quesadillas Verde
serves 2
recommended equipment: CuisinArt Griddler, George Foreman, or Panini Press

Shrimp QuesadillasINGREDIENTS

  • 1 Haas avocado
  • 1 cup (½ pound) Pico di Gallo (in the supermarket produce section)
  • 1 tablespoon oil, preferably canola
  • ¾ pound raw jumbo shrimp (11-15 count), peeled, and deveined
  • 4 scallions, sliced on an angle
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeds removed, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • ⅓ cup salsa verde (recommended: Pace Salsa Verde)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, torn (optional)
  • 2 extra-large (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Salt
  • Nonstick cooking spray

PROCEDURE

If using a Griddler, grill, or panini press, preheat the griddle to the highest heat (usually 425°F).

Make the avocado salsa.  Scoop out the flesh of the avocado and mash it in a bowl.  Stir in the Pico di Gallo, and season with salt.  Set aside.

Make sure you have all your ingredients prepped.  Make sure the shrimp have no tails, and use a small knife to slice the shrimp in half lengthwise.  Chop the scallions and the poblano pepper, and grate the garlic.   Then, heat oil in a wide sauté pan over medium heat.  Sauté the shrimp for 90 seconds, season with salt, and use a slotted spoon to place the shrimp in a bowl.  Add the scallions, pepper, and garlic to the same pan.  Sauté for 1 minute, stirring often, and season with salt.  Use the slotted spoon to remove the vegetables to the same bowl as the shrimp.  Toss the shrimp and vegetables with the salsa verde and cilantro.

Spray one side of each tortilla with nonstick cooking spray.  Then, flip the tortilla over, so the dry side is facing up.  On one half of the tortilla, sprinkle ¼ of the cheese.  Scatter half the shrimp and vegetable mixture over the cheese.  Top the shrimp and vegetables with another ¼ of the cheese, and fold the tortilla over, so you have a stuffed half-moon with cooking spray on the outside.  Repeat with the remaining ingredients on the second tortilla.

Place the quesadillas on the Griddler and cook until the tortilla is golden and crisp, and the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.  If you don’t use the Griddler, clean out the sauté pan you used earlier, and make sure it is very dry.  Place the pan over medium to medium-high heat.  Then place the tortillas in the pan, and cook until the tortillas are crisp and golden, and the cheese is melted, turning once.  Use a big knife to cut each tortilla into thirds, and serve with the avocado salsa, and some leftover salsa verde, if you have any.

TIPS

You can just as easily make this with chicken, or make it vegetarian using black beans.

If you want to use chicken, cut up a chicken breast into strips, and sauté it just like the shrimp.  It may need longer to cook: it is fully cooked when you cut into the middle of a strip of chicken, and the chicken is opaque and white.

If using black beans, drain and rinse a can of black beans and toss with the vegetables and salsa verde.

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The Secret Ingredient (Saffron) Part III: Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes

RECIPE: Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes
Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes

Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

When working with secret ingredients, I like to find perfect pairs. Jelly for peanut butter. Peas for carrots. The Juliet to their Romeo. Once you find their match, there are an unlimited number of iterations you can create using the dynamic duo.

Mussels pair perfectly with saffron. In cooking school, we made a creamy saffron-ed mussel soup. One of my favorite recipes is a creamy saffron and mussels pasta I created for French in a Flash. There is something about creamy saffron mussel anything that just works. I think there is an opposites-attract aspect to why the pair always comes off without a hitch. Saffron is very earthy to me, very pungent. And mussels are the opposite–extremely maritime and briny. I think the combination of cream and saffron prevents the mussels from tasting like they were just scraped off a dock. And I also love the irony of it: saffron, the most expensive spice on the market, and cream, always luxurious, with cheap, cheap mussels. It’s a great way to make an “expensive” dish of seafood and saffron with very little money.

This ten-minute, one-pot dish goes down like a house on fire. And anyone can make it. Sop up the soup with crusty baguette, or boil plain pearl couscous and put that at the bottom of your bowl to eat with the strands of saffron and just-burst sweet tomatoes.

Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes
serves 4

Mussels with Saffron and TomatoesINGREDIENTS

  • 4 pounds mussels
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large shallots, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock, dry white wine, or water
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream

PROCEDURE

Put the mussels in a large bowl full of water, a large handful of ice, and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.  Allow to mussels to sit in the liquid for 1 hour, to disgorge any sand.

In a wide braising pan with high sides, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the shallots, and sauté, stirring often, until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the stock, wine, or water, and the saffron.  Rinse off the mussels, and add them and the tomatoes to the pot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover the pot, raise the head to medium-high, and cook until all the mussels are wide open, 5 to 7 minutes.

Take the pot off the heat, and stir in the cream.  Serve with warm crusty baguette, or even over plain pearl couscous.

 

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Easy, Eat, Fish, For a Crowd, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

Franglais: Whole-Apple Pies

RECIPE: Whole-Apple Pies
Whole-Apple Pies

Whole-Apple Pies

Get the whole story at The Huffington Post.

There’s nothing as American as apple pie.  And nothing so French as apple tart.  And that’s what food is about: finding the common ground, and bringing people together.  Because we all have to eat.  And it’s so much more fun when there’s someone besides the television sitting across the table.

I love those strings that seem to run through the entire cloth of humanity.  Like when a word sounds the same in so many languages.  Or how the humble apple is the basis of so many comfort desserts.  We think of the apple as being so American.   But apple tarts are so iconically French.  I’ve never seen so much apple juice as when I was in Argentina.  And I first discovered the Pink Lady while in England.  Let’s face it.  The apple isn’t ours.  It’s everyone’s.  Because it’s great. Continue reading

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, Desserts, Easy, Eat, Franglais, Fruit, Pastry, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Moroccan Baked Scallops

RECIPE: Moroccan Baked Scallops
Moroccan Baked Scallops

Moroccan Baked Scallops

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

Is this weird?  I often think about how there’s not much left to be discovered.  I remember thinking in high school math class, how hard could it be to figure out that a squared plus b squared equals c squared?  If I were alive in 500 BC, would it have be called the Saretsky theorem?

So, I was really excited a few weeks ago when I discovered something that I didn’t know: how beautifully ras-el-hanout pairs with shellfish.  Okay, it may not be the Pythagorean theorem, but I was pretty excited.  My jar of ras-el-hanout says it goes great with chicken, lamb, rice, and veggies.  And my grandmother never uses it on seafood.  Was this a new thing?  Had I made a kitchen discovery? Continue reading

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