Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Broiled Salmon with Heirloom Tomatoes & Fresh Basil

I originally found this recipe in Leslie Grover Pendleton’s fabulous book Simply Shrimp, Salmon and Fish Steaks. Leslie calls it sautéed salmon smothered in summer and it is definitely a summer dish to be made when the tomatoes are at their peak and the basil is fresh. It is healthy, easy to prepare and can be served warm or at room temperature. It truly is summer at its finest.

I’ve adapted Leslie’s recipe to our taste by broiling the salmon, which is our favorite method of cooking salmon and one we learned from Pierre Franey in The 60 Minute Gourmet. For the tomatoes I’ve used heirloom ones from our own garden. Cherokee Purples, Mortgage Lifters, Mr. Stripey and Brandywine are my favorites. Serve with asparagus or green beans with lemon and butter, as we have here.

Broiled Salmon with Heirloom Tomatoes & Fresh Basil
Adapted from Simply Shrimp, Salmon, and Fish Steaks by Leslie Grover Pendleton and The 60 Minute Gourmet by Pierre Franey

1 large vine-ripe tomato, preferably an heirloom
½ cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 boneless salmon fillet, about 1 ½ lbs
Canola or peanut oil
Coarse kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Dice the tomato, season with salt and pepper and transfer it, along with all of its juices, to a bowl. Add the basil, lemon and 1 tablespoon olive oil and combine well. Let the sauce sit while preparing the salmon.

Preheat the broiler. Arrange the pieces of salmon in one layer on an unheated broiler tray or sheet pan, drizzle with a little oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (I usually line the pan with heavy duty foil for easy clean-up). Place the salmon under the broiler about six to seven inches away from the source of heat. Broil about 7 to 8 minutes or just until the pieces are cooked through. It is not necessary to turn the salmon. If it starts to burn, change from broil to bake and bake at 400 degrees until the salmon is done but still a little pink on the inside.

Slide the salmon onto a platter (with the skin side down) and smother, as Leslie calls it, with the tomato and basil mixture. Let it stand for at least 10 minutes to absorb some of the juices before serving. The salmon can stand at room temperature for up to 45 minutes or it can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Serves 4.

Kreativ Blog Award

I wish to thank Helene of La Cuisine d’Helene for the Kreativ Blog Award. I am deeply honored. She shares my passion for good food, is an incredible photographer and has some fabulous food on her blog. If you love good French bread which I do, check out Helene’s baguette or her post on Julia Child’s Mousseline au Chocolate.

The rules that accompany the award are:

1- Thank the person who awarded you
2- Copy the logo and paste it on your blog
3- Link to the person who nominated you for the award
4- Name (up to 7) things about yourself that people might find interesting
5- Nominate (up to 7) other Kreativ Bloggers
6- Post links to the blogs you nominate
7- Leave a comment on each of the blogs to let them know they’ve been nominated

I am passing the Kreativ Blog Award to some of my newest friends that I think you will enjoy as much as I do. Be sure to drop by and say hello.

- Laura’s Paris Cooking Notebook. Laura’s home base is Paris and she has incredible posts of her journeys and great food along the way. She grew up in Uruguay with a French grandmother. Don't miss her meal in the Loire Valley of France.

- Beauty Does Matter. Bella believes that surrounding yourself with beauty makes a difference in life, which I totally agree with. Her post of Loving Lavender is a perfect example along with the beautiful pink hydrangeas that greet you at the top of her blog.

- La Bella Cook, enjoying one recipe at a time. She is currently featuring Coquilles Saint-Jacques Provencale, one of my French favorites, but you’ll also enjoy the Spinach and Blood Orange salad with raspberry vinaigrette.

- Mystery Lovers Kitchen where six mystery writers, Avery, Julie, Jenn, Riley, Cleo and Krista share the blog and cook up crime…..and recipes too. They feature a weekly contest where they award $25 gift certificate to Williams Sonoma. If that’s not reason enough to click over, then their post Death by Chocolate -what a way to go, should get your attention.

Following rule number 4 of the award, here are a few things about me: I grew up in a small town in southeast Arkansas and graduated from college with a Bachelor of Business Administration, which during the sixties was considered a man’s degree. I was the only woman in all of my college business classes and, as far as I know, the first to graduate from the Monticello campus of the University of Arkansas with this degree. Obviously skipping a class was out of the question as my absence would have certainly been noticed. My first career was in management for what I call big league retailers, such as Federated Department Stores, Saks Fifth Avenue as well as Estee Lauder, where I had an opportunity to travel. Like many couples, we moved a lot with our careers and lived in many different places over the years.

Later I joined my husband in his business and we owned an industrial supply company where I was able to put my purchasing and marketing skills to good use. It was quite a change from face creams and lipsticks to pipe wrenches and screwdrivers. We retired early when my husband was fifty-three and followed our dream of living on a tiny tropical island in the Bahamas for ten years. There we had the time of our lives, but sooner or later one has to move back to reality and we now live, as you know, in the beautiful cool mountains of western North Carolina. I love anything French, adore Provence and collect early American antique furniture. I listen to classical music and Jimmy Buffet tunes. I am an avid reader, watch golf and tennis. I became a Nascar fan when we lived in the islands and some of the drivers and car owners brought their yachts and sportfish boats to a marina near us in the summer (little Dale is my man). .

Here’s an old publicity photo taken for the Houston newspapers when I worked for Estee Lauder in the mid seventies.

That’s me on the left with the short blonde curly hair standing next to then Houston Mayor Fred Hofheinz, whose father Roy Hofheinz (who also was a Mayor of Houston), built the Astrodome and created the Houston Astros. Standing between my two Lauder colleagues is New York City Mayor Abe Beam. New York City’s Tourism Directors had just chosen “The Big Apple” as their new advertising campaign and Mrs. Lauder created a fall line of apple colors to promote the new city logo and we’re showing it off to the mayors.

Monday, August 17, 2009

No Cooking Today

There will be no cooking for me today because it’s my birthday. It’s also the day my husband Meakin proposed to me forty years ago at this beautiful fountain in Houston, Texas. This photo was taken by my husband the day he proposed and it’s faded somewhat and stuck in an old album, thus it isn’t as sharp as it once was.

The fountain, known as one of the Mecom Fountains, is at the middle of the five way intersection of Main, Montrose and Herman Drive in Houston, Texas, near Rice University and the Medical complex. It was beautifully lit at night but our photo of the lit fountain has seen the effects of what heat does to plastic album covers and is not worthy of showing. It is across from what was then the stately Warwick Hotel. The fountain is named after John Mecom, Jr., a wealthy and successful Houston oil and cattleman who, at the time, owned the Warwick Hotel in the background. Mr. Mecom also founded the New Orleans Saints NFL team in 1966 and was well known in the Indy car racing world with his Mecom Racing Team. Successful drivers such as A.J. Foyt, Roger Penske and Jackie Stewart drove for his team.
Since then the Mecom Fountains have experienced some bad times. In the fall of 2006 someone stole the 264 bronze canisters that lit the fountain. After staying in the dark for months, it got some help with floodlights from high atop the nearby Hotel ZaZa and is beautiful once again. Fortunately for us our marriage seems to have had a better fate through the years than the fountain.
I met my husband on a blind date. My roommate had a friend in the Army and he and my future husband, who was also in the Army at the time, came to Houston for a visit. He tells everyone he found me in the bargain basement at Foleys Department Store, which is true. I had been recruited off campus at the University of Arkansas to be in Foleys Executive Management Program and was an Assistant Buyer in Women’s Sportswear at the time. We lived in Houston during the early years of our marriage and, as a coincidence, later belonged to the fancy private club that had an outside glass elevator that took you to the penthouse club of John Mecom’s Warwick Hotel that overlooked the fountain where I said yes and we’ve lived happily together ever after.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Trout with Lemon Sage Butter Sauce and Provencal Potato Salad

Trout fillets are one of the easiest and quickest fish to prepare. I liked to saute them in a non-stick skillet with the least amount of oil I can get by with. Pair them with a colorful potato salad and perfectly cooked green beans and you can have dinner on the table in well under an hour with a minimum amount of work. I’ve used fresh sage from my herb garden.

Whether you are visiting friends in Idaho who have a trout stream in their back yard, such as our friends in Island Park do,

or you catch mountain trout from the banks of the many beautiful streams and rivers, such as the Cullasaja, here in the mountains of western North Carolina

or you buy your trout at the supermarket, it’s perfect for a simple dinner.

Trout with Lemon Sage Butter
Adapted from Gourmet magazine

Soak trout fillets in milk for about thirty minutes. Remove and pat dry. Season the trout with salt and freshly ground black pepper and dredge lightly in quick mixing flour, such as Wondra. Sauté the trout in a small amount of neutral tasting oil, such as canola, in a non-stick skillet, turning once until they are nicely browned and done, taking care not to overcook them. Remove the trout and set aside. Meanwhile melt some sweet, unsalted butter in a small sauce pan. When the butter is melted, remove it from the heat and toss in a little finely grated fresh lemon zest and a few chopped fresh sage leaves. Drizzle the trout with lemon butter sage sauce.

Provencal Potato Salad
Adapted from Gourmet magazine

12 oz. small red or white potatoes, peeled or not, your choice
Splash of white wine, vermouth or hot beef broth
5 – 6 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 of a sweet red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 scallions, chopped, including some of the green tops
1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved lengthwise
3 tablespoons drained and chopped oil packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley

Cut potatoes into halves or quarters, depending on their size, and cook in gently boiling salted water until done, about ten minutes. Drain and toss immediately with a splash of white wine, vermouth or hot beef broth. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Quickly whisk together the oil and vinegar and pour it over the warm potatoes. Toss to coat. Add the bell pepper, onion, scallions, garlic, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and parsley. Toss potatoes again and let stand about thirty minutes. Check for seasonings and serve at room temperature. Makes 2 servings.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Asparagus Salad Brazilian with Hearts of Palm, Grape Tomatoes and Red Onion Slivers

Asparagus with hearts of palm, grape tomatoes and slivers of red onion tossed in a lemony olive oil vinaigrette is one of our favorite salads. It’s easily put together in fifteen minutes or less and is very colorful on the plate.

Asparagus is one of the few vegetables where fat is better than thin.
Look for straight, fresh looking, bright green stalks with compact tips. Asparagus is usually sold in bundles. When choosing a bundle, I first look at the tips for freshness, avoiding those with tips that are open, and then I turn the bundle over and look at the bottom of the stalks. If the bottoms look old and dry like a stick, don’t buy that bundle. Asparagus continues to age and toughen after it’s been harvested, so the sooner you cook it the better.

Hearts of palm are vegetables harvested from the soft core of a palm tree and imported from Latin American countries such as Brazil and Puerto Rico and are sold in cans or jars in the vegetable aisle of the supermarket. They are ivory-colored with a firm texture. Their flavor is delicate and some say is similar to an artichoke.

To prepare the asparagus for cooking, snap off the tough ends as far down on the stems as they will snap off cleanly and discard. If stalks are thick, peel the lower portions with a potato peeler up to the tender part just below the tips.

Asparagus Salad Brazilian with Hearts of Palm, Grape Tomatoes and Red Onion Slivers
Serves 4

1 ½ pounds fresh asparagus, prepared for cooking as described above
Beef broth
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 finely chopped shallot
Dash Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Dried tarragon to taste
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 slices of hearts of palm, sliced into ¼” coins
½ pint of grape tomatoes, sliced in half
One small red onion, thinly sliced into slivers

Lay asparagus down in a skillet that can hold them without crowding. Add equal parts water and beef broth to cover the spears, season with salt, cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, remove lid and simmer on low about four minutes or cooked until the thick part of the stem can be pierced with a knife. Remove asparagus with a spatula onto a clean kitchen towel and roll gently to remove the water. Serve immediately or plunge the spears into an ice water bath to preserve their color.

For the vinaigrette, put the lemon juice, olive oil, chopped shallot, a dash of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce and a good pinch of dried tarragon in jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well until blended.

Slice the asparagus in half and put in a bowl. Add the hearts of palm coins, the tomatoes and onion slivers, and toss gently with just enough vinaigrette to moisten. You may have some vinaigrette left over, in which case it can be stored in the covered jar in the refrigerator for several days. Season the salad with salt and freshly ground black pepper and let it marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.