Muscat Grapes and Muscat Wine
I know we’re in the middle of a recession, but if I have one culinary extravagance, it’s fruit. I’d rather spend $2 on a pear that’s perfect, than $1 on a pear that’s hard as rock or mushy as meal and have to throw it away. Isn’t that devastating?! I even have a fruit dealer at my local market who can pick the perfect pear or pomegranate or plum or pomelo every time (he also, coincidentally, knocks some of the price off for me–thanks!).
Three years ago, my “dealer” introduced me to my latest addiction. I was at the market picking up my daily bread and cheese, and I wanted something to go with it. He smiled a grim little grin, like he knew he was letting me in for it. He plucked a perfect, plump grape, a lighter shade of pale green blushing Victorian rose. I popped it in my mouth, and my knees felt weak. Love at first bite. I knew at that moment that it was no apple in the Garden of Eden; there is only one fruit worth falling for, and it is the Muscat grape. The only catch? They were over $10 per pound. I actually saved up for grapes.
Now, April doesn’t mean rain showers. It doesn’t mean daffodils. It means that tiny window of Muscat grape eating is here again, and I’ve been eating them at a rate of about a bunch per day for the last week. Why? Because it seems that even Muscat grape stock is down! They’re selling at Whole Foods for just $2.99 per pound; only 50 cents more than regular unreliable sweet-tart green table grapes.
They taste of sweet flowers and what I imagine ambrosia must have tasted like. Sweet and fresh and fragrant. And you can wash them down with a glass of muscat dessert wine (made in France!).
The Musketeers were all for one, and one for all. I’m all for one thing too: Muscat! A Muscateer pour toujours!
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Posted by Kerry |
Digging for lemons in the Covered Market, Oxford
The BBC Radio Oxford website is up! It is in its skeletal form, but eventually, all the recipes, pictures, and links will be posted HERE.
Every time I use it, people gape, mouth askew, and demand, “What is that?”
Pomegranate Molasses Cookies
Actually, I have many secret ingredients, and now I have another new series at Serious Eats to showcase them. I love to shop, from Prada to parsley, and I hardly make it out of a gourmet shop without some little bottle of some dashing elixir tucked away for further use. Most of the time, they sound so appealing in the shop, but then they just sit there, alone and neglected in my pantry, and I have buyer’s remorse, just like when a dress goes unworn in my closet.
Pomegranate Molasses BBQ Ribs
So, I’ve taken to experimenting: uncovering esoteric ingredients, and telling you what they are, where they come, and what to do with them, recipes included. March’s Secret Ingredient is one of my all-time favorites: Pomegranate Molasses, cheap and chic (and sweet/tart!). And in this month’s installment, I show you how to make Pomegranate Molasses and Pine Nut Cookies, and Pomegranate Molasses Barbecue Sauce for Pomegranate Molasses BBQ Pork Ribs.
Now, I’m sharing this secret with you. But shh! Don’t you tell on me…
Pomegranate Molasses and Pine Nut Cookies
There is a little something you should know about me: I love to shop. And while my closet can attest to that fact, so can my pantry. When I travel I am always sure to devote at least half a day to culinary pursuits—wandering through markets like the Boqueria in Barcelona, or visiting little gourmet shops in Paris. Inevitably, I return laden with corked perfumiers’ bottles of French rose extract, painters’ tubes of Moroccan harissa, and tiny ominous packets of Venetian squid ink. And when I’m grounded back home in the States, I still find excuses to dally around any corner gourmet shop, combing the aisles like a pirate who stands on the X on his map and expects, rightly so, to uncover unprecedented treasure.
I get a secret thrill when I bring out of these little bottles or jars, and guinea pig them on my friends and family. Inevitably, eyes widen in delight and speculation, and a general chorus echoes down the table: “Mmm! What is that?” I love revealing the answer: “Orange flower water!” “No!” “Yes.” All of a sudden everyone at the table feels like they are sharing in a gourmet adventure, whisked away to some corner of a forgotten world where everyone sits around snacking on orange flower water and Raz-el-Hanout. What they don’t know is that I paid less than three dollars for a bottle of the stuff just across town at Fairway.
Crispy Salmon with Mustard Crème Fraîche
I didn’t know this about myself before, but I’m cheap. At least, these days it’s quite a la mode to be a recessionista. I went to the store to do this week’s French in a Flash for Serious Eats, and realized I was making dinner for 5 for about $12. I became totally ecstatic, like I’d just gotten away with the hugest deal of the century, and I wanted to run out of Publix before anyone caught on. Stingy never felt, or tasted, so good!
I made this dish for my father, because according to Brillat-Savarin (the French genius behind the statement “you are what you eat”), my father is a salmon disguised as a New York lawyer. He eats it every night, and he also can’t boil water. I wanted to show him that he could eat his favorite healthy food, and still make it himself. Voila! Crispy Salmon with Lentils du Puy and Two-Mustard Crème Fraîche.
Salmon and lentils are Fred and Ginger to the French; the perfect pas de deux partners. And nothing could be healthier, or easier, or more impressive. Bon app!
Salmon, Lemon, Carrot, Shallot, Thyme, and Lentils
Crispy Salmon with Lentils du Puy and Two-Mustard Crème Fraîche
- 1 small carrot, diced as finely as possible
- 2 small shallots, diced as finely as possible
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
- Leaves of 2 stems fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper
- 1 1/4 cups lentils du Puy
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 3 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 1/4 pounds salmon fillet, skin on, cut into 4 portions
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Fresh thyme, lemon slices, and mixed olives for garnish
- Begin by making the lentils. Over medium-low heat, sauté the carrots and shallot in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season them with the thyme leaves, salt, and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, until they are just sweating and soft and fragrant.
- Add in the lentils, and season again with salt and pepper.
- Increase the heat to high, and pour in the white wine. Stir, and cook until the wine is absorbed. Add the stock or water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, reduce the heat to low, keep covered, and cook for around 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender, but still have a good bite to them, and hold their shape. Drain out any excess liquid, and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and the parsley. Adjust seasonings as needed.
- For the salmon, season the fillets with salt and pepper on both sides, and paint the soft butter on the skin side of the salmon. Use all of it, even if it looks excessive. This is what makes the skin so crispy and perfect.
- Heat a large sauté pan on medium heat, and add the 2 tablespoons olive oil. When it shimmers, carefully add the salmon, skin side down. It will splatter a bit, so drop the salmon into the pot slowly, and away from you. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn over, and cook for 3 minutes, or until you've achieved desired doneness.
- While the salmon cooks, prepare the mustard crème fraîche. Stir together the crème fraîche, 2 mustards, and lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper.
- To serve this dish, spoon a mound of the lentils on a plate, and perch the salmon on top. Spoon the crème fraîche over the hot fish, and let it melt into the filet and into the lentils. Serve more sauce alongside. Garnish with a few lemon slices, some fresh twigs of thyme, and a few mixed olives.
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