Salmon and Mediterranean Potato Mash

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Food photography has always been my thing. Not in a professional way, obviously, but over the years I often documented meals when we traveled. Then I would get home post-vacation and wonder why in the world I was keeping photos of meals I’d enjoyed, and get rid of them, especially in the pre-digital era.

What I’ve missed out on are not beautiful photos of pretty or unique meals, but the inspiration that these meals can offer. And memories as well.

Case in point, in 2012 my husband and I landed in Edinborough before beginning a magical 3-week trip around Scotland. That first night, in Edinborough, we chose a restaurant after I’d perused many menus, and this was my dinner.

It was grilled salmon over an lovely mash of potatoes served over pesto. It was exquisite. Somehow, even though this photo is terrible, I kept it.

If you haven’t been to Scotland, it’s everything and more than you expect. The scenery, the people, the history, the food. The seafood!

So there’s nothing especially unique about this meal, but it’s fabulous!

Salmon with Mediterranean-Inspired Potato Mash and Pesto Sauce
Serves 2

2 medium peeled starchy potatoes
4 ounces butter, cut into four pieces
1/4 cup heavy cream, or more if necessary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt
Pepper
1 1/2 ounces chopped Kalamata olives, or to taste
1 ounce chopped sun-dried tomatoes, or to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 uniform filets of salmon
Salt
Garlic pepper or pepper
2 ounces pesto
2 ounces milk

Cut each potato into somewhat uniform pieces and place in boiling salted water to cook. When tender, drain in a colander, then immediately place in a large bowl. Add the butter and let melt. Then stir in the cream, garlic, salt and pepper, and mash the potato mixture. Add more cream if the mixture is stiff. Cover and set aside. (I used a very good garlic and herb butter.)

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the 2 filets and cook until some good browning occurs. Turn the filets over and reduce the heat to allow cooking on the other side. Cover the skillet with a lid to ensure that the salmon cooks though. Remove the skin from the filets while they’re in the skillet so you can season both sides with salt and pepper and brown under the skin. Keep warm.

To prepare the sauce simply mix the pesto with milk until the sauce is smooth.

To serve, divide the sauce on each of 2 plates. Using a ring mold, form 2 cylinders of potato mash and place each on the sauce.

Place the salmon filets to the side.

If desired, top with fresh chopped parsley and/or basil.

The combination is just wonderful!

You can place an amount of pesto on the plate and warm it, instead of the creamy pesto sauce. It’s whatever you prefer.

Raclette Quick Bread

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For those of you who don’t know what a quick bread is, well, it’s just that – a quick bread! As opposed to slow bread, you could say, or a yeasted bread, which can take hours to prepare and bake.

A quick bread utilizes baking powder as leavening that lightens the bread as it bakes, as opposed to yeasted breads that utilize yeast.

Besides being quick, quick breads are extremely easy. You mix up ingredients much like you would muffins or pancakes, whether sweet or savory. You just have to respect the ratio of wet to dry ingredients. Think about it. A cookie dough is different from a cake batter for a reason.

Today I decided to make a savory quick bread using some leftover raclette that I had frozen after Christmas, and a few other goodies I gathered together. If you decide to make this bread, you can completely change up the ingredients to make this bread your own.

This kind of bread is also referred to in France as a cake salé, a savory “cake” made in a loaf pan.

Raclette Quick Bread

2 ounces jarred sun-dried tomatoes in oil, slightly drained and chopped
6 ounces pancetta, diced
2 tablespoons butter
16 ounces milk
2 eggs
8 ounces plain Greek yogurt or ricotta
1 teaspoon salt
Leftover pancetta and fat
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
10 ounces grated raclette or other semi-firm cheese
4 ounces of chopped olives

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pancetta and butter together in a skillet over medium heat. A little browning is good. Let everything cool, and remember to save the fat in the skillet to use in the recipe. I actually discovered diced pancetta at my grocery store!

To a large mixing bowl, add the milk, eggs, yogurt and salt and whisk until smooth.

Add the pancetta and its fat, and the herbs. Stir until smooth. I used fresh parsley, rosemary, and oregano.

Using a spoon, gradually add the flour and baking powder and stir until the flour is almost combine with the wet ingredients.

Add the grated cheese and olives and fold them into the batter gently; do not over stir. And another discovery – pitted Castelvetrano olives! Thank you Amazon.

Divide the batter in between two greased 8 x 4″ loaf pans. Place the pans in the oven for 45 minutes.

To make sure they are cooked through, use a cake tester or long toothpick to check them. No doughy substance should be sticking to the tester. If there is, the breads need to be cooked for maybe five minutes longer. An alternative is to lower your oven to 325 degrees to help the breads cook in the middle. Sometimes it works to turn off the oven and let them sit for 10-15 minutes.

There should be a little rise along the middle of the bread, and it should also be firm to the touch.

Let the breads rest in the pans for about 30 minutes, and then remove them to cool completely.

Serve these breads as part of a buffet, or for an hors d’oeuvres platter.

They’re best warm or at room temperature. When the bread is warm it’s luscious and cheesy and flavorful.

Can you imagine serving this bread with a bowl of tomato soup?!

This bread would be great with smoked cheese, bits of chorizo, and chopped cilantro. Or, roasted red bell peppers, Gorgonzola, and basil. Get creative!

For a similar bread, click on Olive Cake for another delicious cake salé, pictured below.

Savory Biscotti

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The cookbook by Martha Stewart, called Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook, was published in 1999, pretty soon after I started catering.

It’s a beautiful book, even if you’re not a Martha Stewart fan. Her ideas for hors d’oeuvres are, not surprisingly, creative and unique. Sometimes they’re on the crazy end of the spectrum – completely impractical and unreasonable.

One thing always got my attention – savory biscotti. She served them like fun crackers, but they could be used for canapés.

When I think of biscotti, I always think sweet, like my Christmas biscotti. But these are savory varieties, and include ingredients like nuts, seeds, cheese, olives, and other goodies. I imagined them to be really good served alongside cheese, with prosecco or rosé.

I decided it was time to make a variety of savory biscotti for a fun get-together, to have something unique on hand!

The following recipe is the base recipe. What I actually used in my savory biscotti is below.

Savory Biscotti
by Martha Stewart
printable recipe below

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk

Place the flour, pepper, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Combine on low speed.

Add the butter and beat until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the eggs, and milk. Gradually pour the milk mixture into the dough and mix just until combined.

This is the base dough for savory biscotti. Before chilling the dough and proceeding with baking, add various combinations of savory items and make sure they’re well distributed.

I kneaded the dough a bit before folding in my add-ins, which are listed below, along with Martha’s suggestions.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with the remaining olive oil and set aside.

Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. (I halved the dough to make 2 logs.)

Roll each piece into a log measuring 1 1/2″ thick and about 7″ long. (I formed a log about 12″ long, then flattened it to about 1/2″ thick. (I am pretty sure MS meant 1 1/2″ wide, not thick.)

Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Brush each log with an egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt). I didn’t do this. I did make sure there was a bit of grated cheese on the top of the biscotti, however.

Bake until the logs are light brown and feel firm to the touch, about 30-40 minutes. Reduce the oven to 250 degrees F.

Using a serrated knife, slice the logs crosswise on a long diagonal into 1/4″ thick slices that are 3-4″ long. Arrange the slices cut-side down on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and bake, turning the biscotti halfway through cooking time for even browning, until crisp, about 40 minutes.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

These biscotti really are fabulous, and perfect on a cheese platter. Charcuterie would be a fabulous addition.

Today I simply paired them with Cambazola, but they’d be crazy good with a soft goat cheese or any spreadable herbed cheese.

You can really go crazy with all of the ingredient choices. Martha Stewart’s orange zest suggestion was really tempting but I didn’t have any oranges on this day.

Instead of all olive oil, you could use a flavored or infused oil, or even a little truffle oil.

I’ll definitely be making these again, and will enjoy switching up the ingredients.

Ingredients I used in addition to the above recipe:
Dried parsley
Garlic powder
White pepper
About 3 ounces coarsely chopped walnuts
About 3 ounces pitted Kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise
Grated Grana Padana, about 1 1/2 ounces

Martha Stewart’s savory biscotti suggestions:
Lemon zest, capers, parsley, and browned butter instead of olive oil
Orange zest, pistachios, and black olives
Parmesan, fennel seeds, and golden raisins

Tomato Basil Soup

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There was a little bistro here in my town – a sandwich, soup, and salad kind of place. It was successful, but the owners eventually retired and moved to Texas to be closer to their extended family.

The one thing I always ordered was their tomato basil soup. It was rich, tomatoey, and perfumed with sweet basil. And I don’t typically order soup at restaurants.

This is my attempt to recreate something hopefully similar, and definitely good, based on the following criteria.

1. I believe in using good quality canned tomatoes. Summer fresh tomatoes are lovely, but can lack in sweetness, or worse yet – can be tart.

2. I’m adding a carrot to provide a sweet boost, something I learned from making an Italian tomato tart.

3. I’m including a few sun-dried tomatoes for sweetness; they also help thicken.

4. Dried basil goes into this soup. I know that it seems unsophisticated, but I feel both fresh and dried herbs have their places in cooking.

Tomato Basil Soup
printable recipe below

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, halved
2 – 28 ounce cans San Marzano whole tomatoes, or other high quality brand
6 sun-dried tomato halves, jarred in oil
1 tablespoon (or more) dried sweet basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces heavy cream

Melt the butter in a large enameled pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic halves and stir for about 30 seconds, then pour in the canned tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes.

Simmer the tomato mixture for at least 30 minutes, uncovered. Cook longer if there’s still too much liquid; you’ll be adding cream later.

Stir in the sweet basil and salt, and season to taste.

Let the soup cool. Then pour the soup into a large blender jar, along with the cream.

Return the puréed soup to the pot and heat through before serving.

Even with the cream, the soup remains tomato-red, and definitely rich in flavor.

If more richness and creaminess are desired, you can always add a little sour cream or crème fraiche.

Alternatively, crumble a little goat cheese on top.

This soup is fairly quick and definitely easy. If you don’t have sun-dried tomatoes, just use a good quality tomato paste instead, about 3 tablespoons. I like tubular tomato paste for a small job.


Add more dried basil if the soup isn’t basil-y enough. You should definitely taste the tomato-basil combination!

 

 

Tomato Mushroom Risotto

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Risotto is one of those dishes that I love to make because I never make it the same way. It’s what I love to do as a cook – improvise!

Typically I use butter, aromatics, wine, broth, and finish with cream and/or cheese.

But the add-in options are practically endless. I’ve used chopped tomatoes, grated zucchini, pesto, canned pumpkin, and carrot juice. It all works. I’ve even made risotto with Thai flavors. Who says risotto must only have Italian flavors? Well, some people might, but I’m 63% Italian, so I stand my ground.

There are two reasons that this risotto is unique. One reason is that I’m using tomato powder.

I posted a while back on the book Spice Companion, where I learned to make tomato powder simply from oven-dried tomatoes.

The other special ingredient is mushroom powder, which is a seasoned mixture of ground dried mushrooms. I found the recipe on Tandy Sinclair’s blog called Lavender and Lime.

I didn’t follow her recipe exactly, shown below, only because Tandy included rosemary and thyme and I wanted the mushroom powder more generic in flavor.

My version had garlic pepper, black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne pepper plus salt in a variety of wild dried mushrooms that I ground using a dry blender jar.

So here’s how I made this risotto.

Tomato Mushroom Risotto

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely diced
1 1/4 cup Arborio rice
Big splash of Riesling or Pinot Gris or Graves
Chicken broth, mildly flavored, approx. 2 1/2 cups
1 heaping tablespoon tomato powder
1 tablespoon mushroom powder
Salt, to taste
Grated Parmesan, optional

Heat butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallots and sauté slowly; don’t allow much browning.

Add the rice and stir well for a minute. All of the grains should be coated with butter.

Add some wine and stir in well.

Then begin adding the broth, a little at a time and stir well after each addition. Stirring is an important part to the resulting creaminess of the risotto.

As you’re continuing to add broth and stir the rice, find that special position on the stove where the liquid isn’t cooking off too fast, but the fire isn’t so low that cooking stops.

When the rice has absorbed just about all of the liquid it can, add the tomato and mushroom powders and stir well.


Continue adding broth, water, or even some cream, until the rice is fully cooked. Taste for salt.

I personally love white pepper in risottos, but I didn’t want it to overpower the tomato and mushroom flavors.

To serve, I added a bit of grated Parmesan. Feta cheese would be good as well.

Plus I sprinkled on a few parsley leaves just for color.

The tomato and mushroom flavors in this risotto really sing. Grilled steak or chicken could be added, or maybe some braised short ribs. But I will always have tomato powder and mushroom powder in my seasoning arsenal.

Tomato Basil Pinwheels

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My first experiences in the kitchen were of the baking kind. I’d get up early and make some kind of sweet coffee cake or cinnamon buns on Sunday morning to make my family happy. All I remember was that I was about ten when I started the ritual.

Baking became addictive for me, although I’ve since changed from sweet baked goods to preferring everything savory.

I’ve posted on three savory yeast breads on this blog – Chili Pecan Buns, Pesto Pinwheels, and Bread for Cheese. They’re just so much fun to create, and no recipe is required.

I happened to have a chunk of Comté, and decided to use it in a yeasted bread, along with sun-dried tomatoes, and make them in the style of cinnamon buns, much like the pesto pinwheels. Simple, yet delicious. By themselves, with a soup, stew, or just as a basic savory bread to serve with dinner.

So, I’m not writing down an exact recipe, because I like the idea of encouraging my readers who are novice cooks to come up with their own versions of recipes customized to their specific tastes. Don’t like sun-dried tomatoes? Use feta and olives instead! Or nuts!

But I’ll tell you what I did. And if you don’t make your own bread dough, you can make these rolls with purchased pizza dough.

Tomato Basil Pinwheels
Makes 10

Comté or Gruyère or Fontina, approximately 8 ounces
1 – 8.5 ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1 lb. bread dough or pizza dough, risen at least once
Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
Dried Basil, about 1 tablespoon
Cayenne pepper flakes, optional.
Approximately 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan

First grate the cheese you’re using.

Then place the sun-dried tomatoes in a colander to drain the oil. The product I used was julienned tomatoes packed in oil with Italian herbs.

My dough weighed exactly 16 ounces when it was ready to roll.

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Roll out the dough to a rectangle, approximately 16″ in length by 10″ in width. First add a drizzle of olive oil, and top with the cheese.

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Add the drained sun-dried tomatoes, and then the basil and cayenne pepper flakes, to taste.

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Roll up the dough lengthwise, keeping it tight. Snip off the ends if necessary.

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Slice down through the log, making even pieces, and place then spiral side up and down on a cookie sheet. Mine were about 2″ thick. The pinwheels don’t have to touch. Also, you could use a baking dish instead to contain them, or even muffin tins.
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Let the pinwheels rise for at least 45 minutes while the oven is preheating to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle them with the finely-grated Parmesan, and put the cookie sheet in the oven.

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Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes; they should be golden brown on the tops.

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Let cool slightly and serve.

My husband ate some for lunch. With nothing else! Oh, and he doesn’t like sun-dried tomatoes.

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I’m very happy that I made these pinwheels.

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Tapenade

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Tapenade is a condiment of sorts, made from olives mostly, plus capers. It originates from Southern France, specifically the Provence region, but I’ve seen recipes from nearby Italy that also include anchovies. So once again we have a dish that has many different variations.

I’ve seen tapenade more often made solely with black olives, and it’s really pretty. But today I decided to use up a jar of mixed olives I had leftover from the holidays. I decided also to switch things up a little and use up some sun-dried tomatoes looking very sad in a half-used jar in my refrigerator.

I think I was inspired by my own recipe I served to friends this summer, that I called tapeschetta – essentially a combination of tapenade and bruschetta. Tricky, huh?!!! The combination was just a last minute thing I did because I wasn’t expecting company and had to work quickly. (Which is why the photos on that post are pretty terrible!) But it turned out so good that I haven’t quit thinking about it. I’d love to make it again, but without fresh, good tomatoes, I can’t repeat the recipe until next summer.

So I put this mixture together and now present you with a non-traditional, yet still fabulous tapenade!

Tapenade with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I jar of mixed, herbed olives, dry weight 7 ounces, well drained
2 tablespoons small capers, well drained
3 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes, the kind jarred in oil
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Black pepper

Place the olives and capers in a jar of a food processor. These olives even come pitted!

tap (2)

If necessary, coarsely chop the sun-dried tomatoes and add them and the garlic to the jar.

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Add the thyme and black pepper. Then add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil; I used the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes.

tap1

Begin processing the olives and other ingredients. You will have to scrape down the sides and repeat with the processing until you get the texture you want.

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I like some texture, but I have seen tapenade that is almost smooth and pasty. It’s just a personal choice.

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I served this tapenade with toasted tortilla strips and a log of goat cheese at room temperature. The addition of sun-dried tomatoes was really nice, although the main flavors are the olives and the brininess from the olives and capers.

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Tapenade can be used on a cheese platter because it’s so good as is on great country-style bread. Just place the tapenade in a little bowl with a spreader.

But I can also see it stuffed under chicken skin, or rolled in veal scallops like rollatini, maybe with some Provolone included. It would also be good as a topping on soups and stews as well. So many options for tapenade!