Thursday, June 24, 2010
Seasonal farmers’ markets are something of a novelty for me. I’ve been to permanent markets in Montreal, where farmers sell some of their produce, but they just aren’t the same as the lovely little Redmond Saturday Market that I can walk to from my apartment. Redmond’s farmers’ market runs every Saturday from May through October, and seems to be different each week. There are some constants: the quiet farmer right at the entrance whose produce is all organic, though he no longer carries the USDA organic certification, because he “doesn’t need to pay the government to tell (him) something (he) already knows,” the various food vendors, like the crepe stand, the tamale stand, and the Hawaiian ice stand, the eggs and dairy stand where you can get chicken eggs that were gathered that very morning, and the farmer with long hair that runs all the way down his back, who always tells you what he’ll be selling the following week. What changes, though, is the produce on sale because, of course, as the season progresses, the crops that are ready for harvesting change. I try to go to the market without a plan in mind in terms of what I’ll buy: I purchase whatever inspires me and then I work with that.
The salad in question is a beet salad, made with some kind of green, or often a combination of a few varieties, tossed with a vinaigrette, usually balsamic, and dotted with roasted beets, chèvre, and often some kind of nut, usually walnuts or hazelnuts.
This time, I made mine with farmers’ market spinach, and green beans that I blanched and shocked (dropped into boiling water for about 45 seconds, then immediately plunged into ice water to stop the cooking process), unfortunately not from the market …
Next, I dotted the salad with some of that amazing chèvre, and drizzled it all one more time with the vinaigrette.
I won’t give a proper recipe, because you should definitely try making a version of your own. Try different greens, different vinaigrettes, and different vegetables. Go to your local farmers’ market, and see what inspires you!
Sunday, June 13, 2010
It’s Copper River salmon season! OK, if you’re not in or from the Pacific Northwest, that statement probably means nothing to you. If you had said it to me two years ago, I would have had no idea what you were talking about. I have now been living in Seattle since September of ’09, and I have learned, as everyone who lives here does, I believe, what Copper River salmon is and why it is such a big deal.
This is the salmon of—you guessed it—the Copper River in Alaska. The fish that swim in this river must battle a long, cold, and rough journey through it, resulting in salmon that is rich and more flavorful than any other salmon. Another reason for the craze for C.R. salmon is its brief season: it is only available from mid-May to mid-June, so there is always a scramble to get some while it lasts.
chipotle rub I like to make and use on salmon, sear it or grill it, and then serve it up with a dollop of chipotle crema. I also like salmon smeared with pesto, and then baked. To add a little variety to my salmon creations, and to make it last a little longer, I decided to use my last few pounds to make gravlax.
gravlax, allow me to be the first to introduce you to this delicious creation. It is salt-cured salmon that concentrates all the good flavor of salmon without cooking it and changing it from its beautiful raw state. As long as you use fresh salmon and follow the directions carefully, there is almost no risk of food borne illness, though, I must warn you, that risk always remains. It makes for a visually stunning and delicious appetizer.
Though it takes 48 hours to make gravlax, it is a very simple process, and requires little work on the part of the cook (can I say cook when there is actually no cooking involved?). The process basically consists of covering one fillet of salmon with dill, then a cure mix of salt, sugar, and cracked black pepper.
After twelve hours, the salmon gets turned, and then it goes away again. The process is repeated until 48 hours has gone by when it is finally ready to eat. To serve, slice it thinly off the skin.
gravlax pretty much any way you would use smoked salmon. It is delicious on bagels and cream cheese, or as an hors d’oeuvre, served on a toast round with crème fraiche. You can mix it up a little, and replace the toast round with a mini potato latke like I did here, or with a potato chip. You could use gravlax on a pizza covered with cream cheese, or in sushi.
Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, p. 59
2 fresh salmon fillets (about 3 pounds), center cut and skin on
1 large bunch fresh dill
¼ cup coarse kosher salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons crushed black peppercorns
Pat the salmon dry and remove any small bones. Place one fillet, skin side down, in a deep, flat-bottomed glass baking dish.
Spread the dill evenly over the fish. Combine the salt, sugar, and pepper, and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the dill. Cover with the other salmon fillet, skin side up, so that the two flesh sides face each other.
Place a piece of plastic wrap over the salmon, then put a dish over the salmon and weigh it down with heavy cans of food, or bricks, making sure the weight is evenly distributed. Refrigerate for 48 hours, turning the salmon over every 12 hours and basting with the marinade that accumulates, letting it flow between the fillets.
When the gravlax is finished, remove the fillets from the dish, separate the halves, and scrape off the dill and seasonings. Pat dry with paper towels. Refrigerate until served. To serve, place the fillets skin side down on a cutting board and thinly slice on the diagonal and off the skin.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
I use the second person in the story above in the hopes that you, reader, can empathize with me since this is exactly what happened to me the first few times I tried to make gnocchi. After a few failed attempts, though, I started to realize what was causing me problems, and I have figured out a few tricks to make gnocchi that is, I daresay, enjoyable and straightforward to create.
1 ¼ lbs. russet potatoes, washed and dried
¾ cup flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 F. Poke a few holes in the potatoes to allow the steam to escape. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes. While potatoes are still warm, peel, then mash them, or pass them through a food mill or ricer.
Mix in ½ cup of the flour, eggs, salt, and pepper (this is best done while potatoes are still warm) until dough is formed. The dough should be wet, but not too sticky or gooey. Add more flour if necessary.
Roll the dough into two rolls, about 1 inch thick on a lightly floured surface; cut them into ¾ inch pieces. Place the pieces on a sheet pan, lightly dusted with flour.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi. As soon as they rise to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon to a bowl on the side. Serve immediately with sauce.