Friday, February 27, 2015

Slow Roasted Salmon with Fennel and Citrus



I vowed to eat fewer cookies, cakes, etc. after the holidays, but something always interferes -- the inevitable weakness when a dessert menu is placed in front of me at the end of restaurant meals, the dinners at friends' homes or my own sabotage when I decide to bake something sweet (which is more often than I should).
In an effort to counter the effects of those temptations, I'm trying to find dinner entrees that pack lots of flavor and not so many calories. Even though this dish requires a fair amount of olive oil for the poaching, when spread among two pounds of fish for four to six people, there's no cause for complaint. And two pounds of salmon is plenty for four to six people, especially if a salad or other foods are being served.
Don't fret if the last of the blood oranges are gone from the markets. You can still use regular oranges and it will be just as delicious. Make sure to slice the fennel very thinly or it won't cook through in the allotted time. Another option, which I did the second time I made this, is to parboil the fennel a couple of minutes, drain it, then assemble the rest of the ingredients. The jalapeno gives the dish a subtle kick, so don't omit that either.
Place the fish atop the fennel, oranges and lemon, scatter some dill throughout, season with salt and pepper, and pour the olive oil on top.
Roast it in the oven uncovered at a very low temperature (275 degrees) for 30 to 40 minutes. Don't worry if the fish isn't totally immersed in the olive oil. The abundant oils already present in the salmon will be enough to keep it moist. Break the fish into large pieces and pour some of the oil on top when serving. Have some lemon handy to squeeze on top, too. Try it with other seafood if salmon isn't to your liking. Cod, halibut or similar thick-fleshed fish would be great too.

Slow Roasted Salmon with Fennel and Citrus 

Ingredients

SERVINGS: 6 
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 blood or navel orange, very thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 1 Meyer or regular lemon, very thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 1 red Fresno chile or jalapeño, with seeds, thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs dill, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 2-lb. skinless salmon fillet, preferably center-cut
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 275°. Toss fennel, orange slices, lemon slices, chile, and 4 dill sprigs in a shallow 3-qt. baking dish; season with kosher salt and pepper. Season salmon with kosher salt and place on top of fennel mixture. Pour oil over.
  • Roast until salmon is just cooked through (the tip of a knife will slide through easily and flesh will be slightly opaque), 30–40 minutes for medium-rare.
  • Transfer salmon to a platter, breaking it into large pieces as you go. Spoon fennel mixture and oil from baking dish over; discard dill sprigs. Season with sea salt and pepper and top with fresh dill sprigs. Have extra lemon on hand to squeeze on top.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, February 23, 2015

Chewy Chocolate Meringue Cookies


I know I shouldn't be baking again (after making this pizzelle recipe two days ago) but it's such a comforting thing to do when the snow is falling and you feel like warming the kitchen (and your stomach). Bathing suit season is still a few months away and these cookies are so rich tasting, one or two are enough to satisfy a sugar craving. Besides, I had lots of egg whites reserved in the freezer looking for a new home and I shared some of the cookies with a neighbor and other friends. So take that you extra calories! I hereby declare that making these was an altruistic deed. (That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.)
The recipe is from Cathy's blog, "Wives With Knives" and it's a keeper - easy to make, delicious and a crowd pleaser for any chocolate lover.
The batter contains no flour whatsoever, so they're also perfect for those who are gluten intolerant. It's an extremely thick and sticky batter as you can see from the spoon standing straight up in the bowl. 
 Use a couple of teaspoons to drop a bit onto a baking sheet. Leave some space between each of the "drops."
Don't try to remove them from a hot baking sheet or they'll stick. Have another baking sheet ready to go into the oven when the first one comes out. Then wait a few minutes until the first ones are cooled a bit and they're much easier to remove.
 Now pour yourself a glass of milk (or a bowl of vanilla ice cream) and sit back and enjoy these chewy, intensely chocolate-y cookies. And don't worry about trying on that bathing suit just yet. You've still got a couple of months to shed those extra pounds.

Chewy Chocolate Meringue Cookies
Ingredients
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • optional ingredients: dried cranberries, dried cherries, toffee bits, or walnuts


Instructions

  1. Position 2 racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or use a Silpat silicone mat.
  2. Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in a bowl. Stir in chocolate chips. Add egg whites and vanilla; mix with a fork or electric mixer on medium until batter is just moistened. (Do not overbeat or batter will stiffen.)
  3. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets in evenly spaced mounds. Bake cookies until tops are lightly cracked and glossy, about 15 minutes. Cool briefly, then carefully remove from parchment paper with a spatula. Cookies may be soft and fragile so proceed carefully to lift cookies and place them on racks to cool. The cookies were difficult to remove from the cookie sheet right out of the oven, so let them cool and they'll be easier to remove. Repeat with remaining batter. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lamb Tagine


Here in the Northeast U.S., we're in the throes of an arctic chill. The kind that makes you wish you were lounging somewhere in the Caribbean until April. 
A girl can dream, can't she?.
In the event that's not in the cards for you either, here's the next best thing - a rich tagine made with lamb, figs, olives and preserved lemons.
Tagine is a North African stew-type dish named for the conical, earthenware container in which it's typically cooked. It can be made with lamb, chicken, beef, or with vegetables only. And since I had half a lamb sitting in my freezer that I bought from someone I met at a dinner party a couple of months ago, lamb tagine was in the cards. 
Don't fret if you don't have a tagine pot - any kind of heavy, covered pot, like a Dutch oven will work. 
But make sure NOT to skip the preserved lemons if they're not available at your local supermarket. You can buy them online or in stores that sell Middle Eastern groceries, but you can make them yourself too. These were a homemade gift from Kay, one of my book club members, and I finally got around to using them recently. Kay used a recipe from Simply Recipes that you can find here.
The first time I made this, I served it with fregola, a grain commonly eaten in Sardinia. It's similar to Israeli couscous, but nuttier tasting because it's toasted. According to Wikipedia, Genovese immigrants who lived in Tunisia first imported the grain to Italy. 
The next time I made it with potatoes boiled and tossed with a little butter and parsley. It tastes great with any kind of starch, so choose your favorite or whatever you have on hand. Polenta, noodles or rice would all be delicious and would make this the perfect comfort food for a cold night's meal.


Moroccan Lamb Stew/ Lamb Tagine
(Inspired by recipe from Gastronomersguide.com)

2-1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/4 cup minced parsley or cilantro
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (I used tomatoes from my garden that I had frozen whole. If you don't have these, buy some canned tomatoes and just use a few.)
2 cups chicken stock
pinch of saffron
6 dried figs, cut into quarters (or 12 prunes)
about a dozen olives (I used Kalamata)
1 preserved lemon (4 quarters), rinsed, pulp discarded, thinly sliced
four or five carrots, cut into chunks and steamed
steamed couscous (or potatoes) for serving

parsley or cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Add lamb to a large resealable plastic bag. Combine spices and pour over lamb, seal bag, and shake until lamb is coated in mixture. Let marinate in refrigerator overnight or for at least 1 hour. Let lamb rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the bouquet garni by combining cilantro and parsley sprigs on a square piece of cheesecloth. Bring corners together and tie securely with kitchen twine.

Heat a seasoned 13-inch tagine, with a heat diffuser, over medium heat. Drizzle a thin layer of olive oil in the bottom. Season the marinated lamb chunks with salt and pepper. Sear in batches until brown all over. Refresh oil as needed. Remove to a plate.

Add onion and a pinch of salt and saute, scraping up any brown bits, until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes with their juice and bouquet garni. Add back seared lamb. Cover with stock. Crumble in saffron and season with salt and pepper. Slowly bring liquid to a simmer. Cover with lid and place in oven for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.  Half way through cooking time, check to make sure lamb is still covered by liquid. Additional stock can be added. Add cooked carrots, figs (or prunes), olives 
and preserved lemon slices 20 minutes toward end of cooking time. If too much liquid, leave the lid off so evaporation can occur. Check seasoning. Serve over couscous (or with potatoes) and top with toasted almonds and cilantro. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies


I don't care if you're married, single, in a relationship or not. Unless you live as a hermit, there's always someone (co-worker, mailman, teacher) whose Valentine's Day can be brightened by a gift of delicious and pretty heart-shaped cookies. Deliver a random act of kindness to someone with a batch of these rich and buttery cookies. What goes around, comes around, as the saying goes. 
They're even good just plain after they've cooled a bit.
But if you dip them in dark chocolate, they're even more delicious. Sprinkle a little more of the finely chopped hazelnuts on top. 
By the way, if you overwork the food processor trying to get the hazelnuts chopped very fine, they might clump together, so add a little flour to the bowl and "pulse" it rather than leave it on continuously.
For a really special someone, top with a bit of gold leaf. I bought mine online here.
Pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee and share the goodness with a neighbor. 
Spread the love on Valentine's Day - or on an ordinary Tuesday.

Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies

printable recipe here

1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (I used already peeled hazelnuts that I toasted lightly in the oven, but you can used hazelnuts with the skins if you want dark flecks in your cookies)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter, plus 1 T.
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
10 ounces dark chocolate

Place the hazelnuts, sugar, flour and cornstarch in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the butter, vanilla and egg yolk and pulse until the mixture starts to bind together, scraping bowl at leaf once. Take the dough out of the food processor and knead it on a board a few times until it forms a mass. Chill it one or two hours, then let it rest for 10 minutes after taking it out of the refrigerator.
Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface and cut out the heart shapes with a cookie cutter.
Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake about 12-14 minutes until edges turn a pale golden color. Cool on a rack before decorating.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat and dip half of each cookie into the chocolate. Place on parchment paper then sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts (optional). For a special occasion: top with a small piece of gold leaf.
Bookmark and Share

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Writing Retreat on Lake Como


Have you ever wanted to write down that memory of your mom making jam from backyard berries, or the time you went deep sea fishing with dad? Maybe it's not a food memory, but a travel adventure, or a life-changing event that you've been thinking about getting down on paper. Now, how about doing just that in beautiful Varenna, Italy this fall, with expert guidance from a talented writing coach and author (Kathryn Abajian) and afternoon excursions by none other than me, Ciao Chow Linda?
Sound tempting? Then come join us this September 20-26 in Varenna,  a picturesque town on Lake Como, surrounded by the foothills of the Alps. 
Its narrow streets will beckon you to meander and explore. Maybe you'll get inspiration from its picturesque charm and come up with ideas you hadn't thought of before.
You can stroll down to the water and enjoy a drink or a meal at one of many restaurants and cafés overlooking the lake, while waiting for the muse to strike.
We'll be staying right in town, at the Villa Monastero, a noteworthy attraction in its own right,  that dates back to before the 12th century when it was founded as a nunnery. It later fell into private hands and today is the setting for international scientific conferences -- and this year, our conference -- "Italy, In Other Words."
Some of the rooms are open to public viewing, and visitors walk among the spectacular botanic gardens that you will have all to yourself after hours.
As a participant in our writing workshop, you'll feel like lady or lord of the manor, overlooking the lake and mountains in the distance.
Inspiration is bound to strike you in this unforgettable setting.
The writing and instruction workshop is held for five mornings, and also includes two personal consultations, all conducted by Kathryn, a retired college professor.  She has given writing workshops in California and in Abruzzo, Italy, and is also the author of a book entitled "First Sight of the Desert."
Bedroom furnishings vary, from modern to rooms furnished with antiques. Those who sign up first will be offered priority. Most rooms have a view of the lake.
Afternoons are free for writing or exploring. For those interested, I'll take you to a few places of interest, including the ruins of this 12th century castle nearby.
The area is known for its taleggio and gorgonzola cheese, so we'll most likely take a short trip to visit someplace where it's made, or aged (and sample some, of course.)
You might want to join me for a boat trip across the lake to Bellagio, a scenic village oozing with charm, and a great place for some shopping.
You'll find lots of restaurants tucked into the little streets and staircases in the town.
  For those interested in watercolor or cooking lessons, they're optional, but can be arranged too.
We can't talk about Italy without mentioning its food, and the food in Varenna is top notch. Here are a few samples from my visit last year - eggplant parmigiana: 
 Fresh trout from the lake:
 And torta della nonna (recipe here on Ciao Chow Linda)
Want more information? Go to www.Italyinotherwords.com or contact Kathryn at kabajian@gmail.com for more details. Hope to see you in September.


Bookmark and Share

Monday, February 2, 2015

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake


Snow and freezing rain are in the forecast here in New Jersey for today -- not exactly the warm beaches of the Caribbean or the shores of the Mediterranean. But if you buy a bunch of these blood oranges while they're still in season, you can bring a little bit of Florida or Sicily into your home with this beautiful and delicious upside down cake. Just looking at these jewel-like slices brings a smile to my face. 
The recipe comes from Coffee and Crumpets, but I first saw this cake posted on my friend Stacey's blog and I knew right away it had to be in my future. I made it in a cast iron skillet, but the recipe calls for a traditional cake tin. Use whichever you like. The brown sugar and butter go in first, then the slices. Overlap them a bit, since they tend to shrink somewhat. Make sure you spread a little butter along the sides of the pan too.
Then spread the thick batter evenly over the slices.
Bake it in the oven for the allotted time. 
Then flip it over and stare at your beautiful plate of sunshine.
But not for too long. Dig in (with a serrated knife so you can cut through the caramelized orange slices) and enjoy. My favorite way to eat it is while it's still warm from the oven. It may not be Capri or even Miami, but it will be a welcome treat from shoveling snow.


Blood Orange Upside Down Cake
The Cake Part
1½ cups/225g all purpose/plain flour
¾ cup/110g cornmeal, organic
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup/200g cane sugar
1½ sticks/170g butter, softened
¼ cup/60ml oil, neutral flavor
½ cup/120ml blood orange juice
3 eggs, large and organic
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. The "Upside Down" Part
  2. 1 or 2 blood oranges, scrubbed and dried, sliced thinly with peel (I used three)
  3. ⅓ cup/70g brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup brown sugar)
  4. 4 tablespoons butter
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C
  2. In a 10" round cake tin preferably, place the butter and sugar.
  3. Place in the oven to allow the butter to melt, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and arrange the sliced oranges into the melted butter and sugar.
  5. The orange slices will shrink so you can slightly overlap them to get better coverage on top of the cake. I only used one orange so mine are spaced out quite a bit.
  6. Keep aside and make the cake batter.
  7. Mix the flour, corn meal, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and keep aside.
  8. In a mixer bowl or with a hand mixer, beat the butter, oil and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  9. Add the orange zest and vanilla.
  10. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
  11. Add half the flour mixture and mix gently.
  12. Add the blood orange juice.
  13. Add the remaining flour and mix until well incorporated.
  14. Spread the batter into the cake pan, carefully.
  15. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean and the cake is golden and puffy.
  16. Check the cake at 45 minutes and leave a bit longer if still wet in the centre.
  17. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  18. Run a knife around the sides of the cake if necessary.
  19. Unmold the cake while still warm onto a cake plate and allow to cool completely.
  20. Serve as is, or with a dollop of sweetened cream.
Notes
  1. Make sure to cut the orange slices quite thinly without tearing the insides. The thin slices candy nicely and become soft and sweet and accompany the cake perfectly.
  2. Bookmark and Share