Sunday, April 22, 2012

Farmers Market: Stockton Edition

Sometimes I forget that I can see the Delaware River from my front porch - set up on a little hill on River Road, flanked by the canal, the river lies right behind, with Pennsylvania vaguely off in the distance.  While I rarely sit admiring the river - though I should start - one aspect of living along the river is that I truly love and appreciate, is driving up River Road; the river and canal on the left winding along with me, the forest on the right, spotted with old buildings in older towns.  I love a warm day with the windows down, breathing in nature - the water, trees, soil, wild flowers - driving on the narrow winding road to Lambertville or French Town, or venturing across the river to New Hope or Tinicum.  However, I adore rainy - no - down-pouring, thunderstorm days.  Oxymoronic as it is, the overcast, grayness of the air makes the greens more vibrant, and everything is suddenly crisp, edges are clean lines, like the lens has been turned and the world brought into focus.  Days like these make for the perfect drives - rain splashing on the windshield, puddles exploding beneath the tires, waterfalls trickling off the rocks into the road, the river churning and bubbling.  This morning - a dark and cold morning that caused me to sleep in far too late - I donned an over-sized ribbed brown sweater and a pair of old wellies, and went for a drive.
Thirteen miles north along the Delaware River lies Stockton, home to one of my favorite indoor farmer's markets.  The Stockton Market features goods from local farms, dairies, bakeries, coffee roasters, chocolatiers, fish mongers, not to mention basket weavers, textile printers, soap makers, pot pie bakers, cheesecake makers, and one vendor dedicated entirely to mushrooms.  The bakers and mongers and roasters and farmers feel like old friends.  They want to help, make you happy, and you talk like you've known each other for years.  They make you nostalgic for the times of the local butcher, who knows the perfect cut for the dinner you have in mind, his favorite way to cook it, what flavors pairs well with, and who even throws in a few ounces extra or a different piece of meat he wants you to try out and let him know how you like it.  There's even a little bit of your grandmother in there - feeding you sample after sample, especially their latest not taking no for an answer, not that you say no to free chocolates or baked custard or cheese or garlic and duck fat bread.  You don't get this personality with the tiled floors and fluorescent lights of the never-changing super markets.
The moment I walked in the door, still dripping wet from the walk from the car, I was hit by a warmth, an energy that only comes from a Sunday morning at the farmer's market.  You don't get this at the super market where the patrons are stressed and rushed.  Here you get the relaxed shopper, sipping coffee bought at The Coffee Scoop, right inside the entrance (I suggest the Ethiopian Yergacheffe blend).  These shoppers meander, taking their time and reveling in every moment of browsing and tasting.  It makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable.
The first stop was The Painted Truffle - not to say that we didn't sample at some other vendors along the way.  This small chocolatier, based completely out of the Stockton Market, makes beautiful small-batch, all natural and organic, handcrafted and decorated truffles.  They are stunning and the perfect treat to start out your market experience.  After being given a sample of their Mayan Bar (dark chocolate, cayan pepper and cinnamon) and their dark sipping chocolate, and few stunned moments in front of a very large display case, I finally forced myself to make a decision.  I settled on La Vie en Rose (raspberries and rose, garnished with a candied rose petal) and Honey I'm Home (dark chocolate, hazelnut praline, orange blossom honey, garnished with a candied violet petal).  When I asked the vendor if she minded if I took a picture of the plastic-bagged chocolates on the counter, she balked and then plated a few on a clean white plate, and then encouraged me to take some snaps of the case and the macaroons...and then gave me more chocolates to sample.
After chocolates and a hot cup of coffee the real shopping began.  I rarely go into the farm market with a set grocery list.  I see what looks good, and then create a dish around what's fresh and in season.  I took a very quick spin around to see what I had to work with, and then dove into the stands to really get a feel for the ingredients and develop an idea.  The first stand I hit was Milk House Farm's.  The first thing that caught my eye were these perfectly misshapen fingerling potatoes, both sweet and white.  They were full of character: some twisted, some straight, some no bigger than my thumb, some as big as my palm.  The rustic look sparked in my eyes, creating an image, a feel, a taste, that I wanted to create: a wooden table, crusty bread, salt and pepper, wine served out of a jug, countryside, family style plating, warmth and comfort.  I wasn't quite sure how that translated to dinner, but I knew that these potatoes needed to be a part of it.  And fish - a small chicken or game hen would have fit my mental image better, but a white fish would have to do.  Looking around Milk House's table, a basket of large green leeks jumped out at me.  I've never cooked leeks before, and only ever eaten them in potato leek soup.  Being completely unfamiliar with them, I sought the help of the farmers running the stand.  I asked if leeks would pair well with fish, and while she didn't cook fish often, the vendor told me that if we liked onions with fish, then leeks should work well.  She explained that the white bottom could be chopped up and sauteed, and that the green tops are really only used in stocks.  So white fish over sauteed leeks with fingerling potatoes.  Now I was getting somewhere.
Heading for the fish monger, I got distracted by Mushrooms Etc., a simple table with large wooden bowls full of mushrooms.  I noticed that one of the bowls was full of Maitake, or Hen of the Woods mushrooms.  My only reference for them was seeing Jamie Oliver use them on television, but I had never run across them in real life.  I took this as a sign - leeks and potatoes and mushrooms.  The vendor assured me that they would work well with the meal I had in mind, as long as I didn't use salmon, since it might overpower their flavor.  She also told me how to prepare them (butter and oil, don't over-crowd the pan), cleaned them for me, and even threw in a couple more ounces free of charge.  She also told me that if I didn't like them, to come back next week and she'd give me something else to try.  Who knew the mushroom lady could remind me so much of the local butcher?
The Metro Seafood proved to be just as helpful and accommodating as the rest of the vendors.  The only white fish they had was hake, another alien ingredient.  However, when I described the meal I was planning, he said hake would work well, and that it was very close to cod in flavor and preparation.  He cleaned and de-boned the fish for me, and when I couldn't decide whether or not one filet would be enough, he threw in a second for no cost.  

I of course had to stop by Gravity Hill Farm stand, since it's two minutes from my house and my favorite farm in the area.  I picked up arugula for a salad - not only is it in season, but I thought the peppery bite of the green would prove to be a nice change to our standard mixed spring greens.  I also bought two tomato plants (Black Cherry and Cherokee) to kick-start my veggie garden I'm going to attempt to start this spring, despite the deer's strong front to use said garden as their personal snack source.

The last stop was to the Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse stand for the final piece to my dinner puzzle - a loaf of their crusty rustic wheat bread.  With all the fixings for dinner collected, and a belly full of chocolates, I headed home to bring the meal created in my mind's eye to fruition.
A few notes: 
+ The potatoes smelt like earth and summer while I peeled them.
+ Sauteed leeks taste like combination of onion and apples, and add a wonderfully sweet component to the dish.

+ While I've never had them before, the Hen of the Woods mushrooms taste ridiculously familiar.  I could not place it, but the whole meal I kept tasting something laying in the background of those mushrooms.  And no, that familiar taste isn't "mushroom", as my family so kindly suggested.
+ I cooked the hake over the leek greens so as not to waste them, and to infuse their flavor into the fish as it cooked.
+ This entire meal (save for the seasonings, oil, wine, and butter) was fresh, local, seasonal, and all bought at the Stockton Market.

A Rustic Farm Market: Hake over Leeks with Hen of the Woods and Fingerling Potatoes

1½ lbs hake
3 large leeks, green and white parts separated, whites sliced thinly
1 small bunch scallions, sliced thinly
1 large bunch Hen of the Woods mushrooms
1 lb mix of sweet and white fingerling potatoes
½ cup coconut milk
1 cup dry white wine
5 tbs butter
1 tbs herbs de provence
olive oil
salt and pepper

+ Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  
+ Peel the sweet potatoes.  Halve the larger of the potatoes, then place all potatoes in a large baking dish.  Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and herbs de provence.  Mix with hands making sure that all the potatoes are well coated.  Bake for an hour, or until fork tender and just beginning to brown.
+ Once the potatoes are finished, remove from oven and cover with tin foil.  Raise oven heat to 350 degrees.  
+ Wash the green tops of the leeks, making sure all grit and dirt is removed.  Lay the greens on the bottom of another baking dish - if they are too wide, cut in half.  Pour ½ cup of wine over the leeks.
+ Drizzle hake with olive oil and then season with salt and pepper.  Rub the oil and seasoning into the fish, making sure its completely coated.  Flip over and do the same to the other side.
+ Place the hake on top of the leeks, then bake for about a half an hour.
+ While the fish is baking, heat a splash of oil and 1 tbs of butter in a large sauce pan.  Add scallions and leeks.  Saute for a minute or two, then cover and let sweat.  Once soft, lower heat and add ½ cup white wine. and re-cover, cooking until most of the wine has cooked off.  Then add the coconut milk, stir, and cover.  Cook for about five minutes, or until liquid has thickened.  Take off heat and set aside.
+ In another sauce pan, heat 1 tbs and splash of olive oil on high.  Add mushrooms, making sure not to crowd the pan.  Cook for about two minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 2 tbs of butter, then continue to cook until mushrooms are crispy and brown.
+ Serve hake over sauteed leeks, topped with mushrooms and surrounded with roasted potatoes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

D.C. Travel Log and General Food Related Ramblings

Remember when I made empanadas a few weeks ago?  I talked about how the first time I had empanadas was at this little place in Washington, D.C. called Julia's.  Well, that post sparked a conversation in my family about how we might be due for a trip down to D.C. - if only for empanadas and a stop at our favorite cafe Tryst.  So, last Thursday night, my family and I packed our bags and the car, and drove down to D.C. for the weekend.
We arrived late Thursday night at our hotel near Dupont Circle, which was right outside of Adams Morgan.  I promptly passed out in the clean white bed with the sheets tucked in so tight I felt like I was in a straight jacket (which was actually quite pleasant...maybe lunatics aren't crazy, maybe they just like to be cozy.   Straight jackets and padded cells suddenly don't seem so bad).

Now let me interject here and tell you about how the Confoys vacation.  We begin our trips weeks before with lots and lots of research.  If we're good at one thing, it's research - partially due to father's degree in Library Sciences (yeah, I didn't know that existed either).  We do our homework when it comes to vacationing, and we usually have a whole packet full of print-outs and lists and itineraries.  One of my dad's favorite parts of a trip is running out to the AAA to pick up the latest maps of the areas we're visiting.  That being said, we normally have a massive list of things to do and then our vacation ends up being less sitting-on-the-beach-with-a-fruity-cocktail and more running-around-trying-to-hit-that-last-museum-before-it-closes.  Which, don't get me wrong, I love.  I love taking full advantage of the places I'm in and cramming everything into one weekend.  However, I think on this vacation, we all needed a little breather.  So, while research was conducted and folder jammed with print-outs and map bought, we picked out a couple things that we wanted to do and then just kind of wandered around for a day and a half.  Things we didn't get to, we didn't worry about, and if something else serendipitous popped up along the way, we did it.  We actually got a lot done for not having tried, and the room for spontaneity gave this trip a completely different feel from the ones in our past.

Since Friday was our only full day in town, we woke up early and hit the hotel buffet for breakfast.  Now I am not a fan of buffets.  I actually avoid them like the plague, or swine flu or yellow fever or whatever other pleasant things live on most buffet's spit-shields.  However, this "buffet" was more of a made-to-order breakfast station with serve-yourself fresh pastries and fruit.  Basically, it wasn't that awful.  Actually, I did find something there that I am going to steal and pass off as my own and probably write a blog posting about in the near future - fruit shooters.  They were shot glasses filled with juiced strawberries, mango, peach, and even a cantaloupe mint combo that was fantastic.  My breakfast consisted of about five of those.  And then two giant glasses of orange juice.  I have a little bit of a fruit juice addiction if it wasn't apparent.
Breakfast was followed by an afternoon of walking the Mall - the Washington Monument, Vietnam War Memorial, WWII Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.  I tell ya, they never get old.  And neither do the people.  The Mall is the most amazing place to people watch.  Don't people understand that over-sized Hawaiian shirts, fanny packs, khakis, and socks with sandals is a cliche, that they are mocking themselves?  Apparently not.

We grabbed a snack at the National Gallery of Art's outdoor cafe and sat in the sculpture garden to rest our weary legs.  The next stop was going to be the Shakespeare Library, but on the way we stumbled upon the Botanical Gardens.  I had never been, but was sold on the place as soon as I walked in; I asked the woman at the help desk where the bathrooms were and her reply was "just walk straight through the jungle".   There was a special orchid display which I took far too many pictures of.  We never made it to the Shakespeare Library, but I have to say, no one really minded - well, maybe my dad did a little, but if he did, he didn't let it show.

Then family nap-time at the hotel commenced.  It was lovely.  However, family nap time coincided with family-picking-dinner-restaurant time which was a little less lovely.  While it didn't reach the point of blows, it was semi-frustrating and anxiety inducing.  Long story short, we ended up driving around D.C. for over an hour before ending up at joint two blocks from our hotel.  And let me tell you driving in D.C. is the most ridiculous thing in the whole world.  If it's not the stop lights every ten feet, it's the streets that suddenly become one ways, but only between 7:23 AM and 10:48 PM on days with an odd number of letters.

The restaurant we ended up at was The Cajun Experience, a New Orleans style cozy little place with live music and very large portions.  The first sign that we were in the right place was the presence of  Pimm's Cup on the drink menu.  For those who don't know, Pimm's is a gin based English liquor that's spicy and citrusy and when served with ginger ale, a slice of cucumber and banana, its the epitome of summer.  Literally, it's summer in a glass - okay, figuratively summer in a glass, but seriously, it's amazing.  The second sign was the presence of crawdads on the menu.  Everywhere on the menu.  They are one of my favorite seafoods and I rarely find them in restaurants.  The third sign was the presence of alligator in the appetizer section.  Well, that was more for my brother than for anyone else, but it definitely sealed the deal for him.  So we got fried green tomatoes, oysters, and alligator bites to start our Cajun experience.  And of course I had to try the gator.  I mean, it's alligator for god's sake!  When are you going to have another chance to try alligator?  And you know what, it tastes exactly like how you'd think it would taste: a mix between seafood and poultry, which let's be real, is what an alligator is, right?

I got the crawfish etoufee which was ridiculously good.  The crawdads were cooked perfectly, not chewy or tough.  And the gravy had just the right amount of kick - spicy without blowing out my taste buds and losing the other flavors.  It was a warm, filling, hearty dinner that I needed after a long day of walking.

The next morning we headed out early in search of another favorite Confoy D.C. spot - Tryst.  We stumbled upon Tryst eight years ago when we stayed in Adams Morgan.  Tryst is everything you'd ever want in a cafe and then some.  It's a big warehouse-esque space full of miss-matched couches and overstuffed chairs, old coffee tables and lamps from your grandmother's house.  The best part?  They serve animal crackers with their coffees.  Yes, animal crackers.  Right on the saucer of your flawless cappuccino.  It's almost too much.  Well, not until you add granola with steamed milk and fruit and another cappuccino and a black currant vanilla scone.  Then it's too much.

Besides coffee and typical cafe breakfast pastry fair, Tryst offers full breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cocktails at night.  After seeing a drink called the 6th Borough (Bulleit rye, Carpano Antica, chocolate bitters, and sea salt), I wished that we had another night to spend in D.C.  But a couple hours lackadaisically sipping coffee, eating treats and reading a good book made up for it.

On our way out of town, we stopped at Julia's to grab some empanadas to enjoy for dinner when we got home - you didn't think this post would end without more empanadas, did you?  After that we hit up the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (no, I did not make that up), the country's largest Catholic church.  While we aren't a religious family, we are architecture geeks, so this was fun for the whole family.  Legitimately.  Before we got on the road after touring and sufficiently photo-documenting the basilica, we went in search of some place to grab a quick snack before getting on the road.  That place turned out to be Boundry Stone Public House, a small bar with an even smaller menu.  However, there were vegetarian and vegan options, and a selection of varying and constantly changing specials (the risotto special switched while we were ordering), and it was all astonishingly good.   We got an array of snacks, including a falafel sandwich, hummus, slow braised pork quesadillas, chile cilantro deviled eggs, and kalamata olive risotto balls.  While the plates were small and simple, the presentation was impeccable and tastes complex.
It was here that I also found my new favorite summer beer: Flying Dog's In-Heat Wheat.  My brother thinks it tastes like soy sauce, but I got more of a smoky BBQ, sitting-next-to-the-grill-flipping-burgers-drinking-beer flavor.  Now I just need to buy a case of that baby and plan a summer grilling dinner party...or just keep it all for myself.

This mini-vacation really reminded me why I love D.C.  I'm not a big city girl, I would much rather live in a small village in the countryside with a general store that acts as grocery, diner, video rental, and post office.  However, there is a certain level of culture (art, food, architecture) that only a city can provide.  What I love about D.C. is that it's the perfect mix of both - little neighborhoods like Adams Morgan with its old buildings, and tree-lined quiet streets, has such a small town feel you forget that the White House is less than three miles down the block.  The hamlet of Adams Morgan also has fantastic restaurants featuring food from around the world, antique stores, art galleries, specialty food stores, cozy cafes, and basically every other great thing about big cities without the big city part.

But you want to know what my favorite part of the weekend was?  Waking up in my own bed Sunday morning, stumbling out into the kitchen and seeing a giant plate of empanadas just waiting to be eaten for breakfast.  And let me tell you, the one's I made failed horribly, in a burning, melted, scarred car-wreck of a way compared to Julia's.  Guess that just means I'll have to keep trying until I get it right.
Pear and Almond, Peach and Guava, Apple, and Pineapple Coconut Empanadas

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Panko Crusted Cod with Two-Tone Potatoes

Eating dinner together at the table has always been incredibly important to my family.  For as long as I can remember, sitting down to dinner has always been a priority.  Even during middle school when my travel soccer stage overlapped with my brother's early career on stage, we were never a family that grabbed fast food to eat in the car.  It was always home-cooked, and at worst we ate in shifts.  Shopping and cooking was always balanced between my mom and dad.  And my dad isn't one of those microwave-dinner doesn't-know-how-to-boil-an-egg dad's either.  Not only can he cook, but he puts a lot of thought into what flavors  he wants or mood he wants to convey, and then creates meals inspired by them.  Since I've been home, I've kind of taken over the grocery shopping and dinner preparation (partly due to my intense need to have control over most aspects of my daily life).  I mean, it's not like I don't take their wants into consideration - I get their input and most of the time call from the grocery store for their advice and decision making skills, but the physical acts are usually done by me.
Dad's Notes on Dinner.
Except for days like today.  Today I drove up to my alma mater to visit an old friend in town for the week, and didn't get back until later this evening.  When I got home, my dad already had dinner in his head and in the works.  Tonight, I was merely a sous chef.  Chopping, sauteing, and following the direction and vision of the head chef.  This recipe is a brain child of my father, with my only culinary involvement being the addition of basil and lime.

Panko Crusted Cod with Two-Tone Potatoes

2 tbs olive oil
2 medium carrots, minced
1 medium sweet onion, minced
3 small celery stalks, minced
½ cup basil, chopped
2 large white potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 tbs garlic, minced
12 tbs butter
½ cup milk, slightly warmed
2 filets (or 1½ lbs) cod
1 lime, juice and zest
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven at 375 degrees.  
+ Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring the potatoes and water to a boil, cook until fork tender.
+ In a medium pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the carrots, onion, celery and basil.  Cook on high until the mirepoix becomes fragrant, stirring frequently to prevent the veggies from sticking.  Turn heat down to load and let cook, stirring occasionally.
+ While the mirepoix is cooking down, cover the bottom of a large baking dish with panko.  Melt 8 tbs of butter in a large bowl.  Dunk the filets of cod in the melted butter and then place them in the baking dish.  Cover the tops of the fish with panko.  Top with lime zest and juice.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.
+ Once the potatoes are soft, drain and separate the white and sweet potatoes into two large bowls.  Add 2 tbs butter and ¼ cup milk to each, adding the garlic to the white potatoes only.  Mash until smooth, adding milk if needed to obtain desired consistency.  
+ Line a small baking dish with parchment paper.  Place mash potatoes into zip-locked baggies, cutting one corner of each to make a piping bag of sorts.  Pipe small circles of potato onto the parchment, layering white and sweet potatoes on top of each other.  
+ In the last moments of the fish cooking, turn the oven to broil and put the potatoes on a rack above the fish.  Watch carefully, as you want the top of the potatoes to brown slightly.
+ Serve mirepoix over cod with potatoes garnished with a sprig of basil on the side.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Karmic Curries

It's been two weeks and five days since I started working at Main Street, and I am loving every minute of it.  I know, I know, no one loves working, but I'm telling you, I love it.  Clearing dishes, making coffee, loading the dish washer, foaming milk, wrapping food, and especially waiting on customers.  While you get the occasional rude or overly needy patron, the majority are pleasant and fun to chat with.  We have a couple of every-day regulars who are ridiculously charming and make me smile every time I see them walk through the door.  And the people I work with make the slow dragging lulls go by so much faster.
Easter Baristas.
Okay, sorry, enough ranting about my love of being a barista.  The point of me bring up work was to segue into a narrative about how I decided on last night's dinner. And this segue is much more awkward than anticipated...

On our way home from work, my mother and I stopped at the grocery store to pick up eggs to dye for Easter, but neither of us could come up with anything we felt like having for dinner, so we decided on picking up sushi after the market.  We grabbed eggs and a few necessities and headed to the checkout.  My mom forgot her wallet in the car, so I held our place in line while she ran out to get it.  Of course, my gaze immediately went to the strategically placed magazines. While there were various celebrity dissolved marriages to pry into and best bikini bodies to glare at, a special Spring/Summer edition of Real Simple that was all "Easy, Delicious Home Cooking" caught my eye.  I was flipping through it, admiring the beautiful photos and mentally tagging recipes to look up later, when I saw it - what I wanted for dinner.  A vegetable and tofu curried soup.  The photo was what got me; it was warm and inviting, but with bright colors and a crispness that just screamed spring.

While I'd found what I wanted for dinner, not all the Confoy's are as keen on tofu as I am, so I needed to come up with something that the whole family would enjoy .  With a sigh, I resumed flipping pages, mentally tagging the tofu curry for another night.  But guess what was lying only a few pages away?  A recipe for curried shrimp and snow peas.  The best part?  The ingredients for both recipes were basically identical, the real difference being a very slight change in preparation methods.  I took that as a big karmic slap-in-the-face that tonight I must make curry. When I saw my mom heading down the registers I yelled, "I know what we have to make for dinner!  Go grab coconut milk and shrimp!"  We were quick and  efficient, and home eating curry faster than it would have taken to order and pick-up sushi.

I made a few changes to Real Simple's recipes, mainly due to missing or varying ingredients. Both recipes call for red curry paste, which isn't a pantry necessity, and which I didn't want to buy just for this one recipe.  I did however just buy a jar of  Ras El Hanout - a Moroccan spice blend - that I'd been meaning to give a try.  I also left out the green beans in tofu dish, because I thought with the peas they might be a little redundant.

Now, one ingredient that I normally leave out of my curries is coconut milk.  I'm not talking about the vegan milk-substitute made with coconuts (though I do use it along with the canned coconut milk in these recipes).  I'm talking about real coconut milk made from the meat of the coconut.  Why haven't I used it before?  Well, first off, it came in a can, and the idea of "milk in a can" just kind of turned me off.  And second, I didn't really think that it would make that much of a difference.  Oh, how wrong I was.  The coconut milk made these curries.  Seriously.  I've been plagued with curries that are too thin and soupy, or when I try to thicken them, become heavy and more of a gravy than a curry.  But the coconut milk is the perfect combination of liquid and creamy thickness that gives the curry the perfect consistency.  This week I am going to stock up on cans of coconut milk so I can make excellent curry whenever I want.
Thai Curry Vegetable and Tofu Soup
1½ cups vegetable broth
½ 14 oz can coconut milk
½ cup non-dairy coconut milk
2 tbs Ras El Hanout, or other curry powder
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 pint sized container of shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
1 cup snow peas
1 carrot, sliced into thin coins
14 oz extra-firm tofu, drained and cubed
2 tbs fresh lime juice
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, sliced
salt and lime zest to taste

+ In a large sauce pan, whisk the broth, coconut milk, non-dairy milk, curry, ginger, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to boil.
+ Add the mushrooms and carrots and simmer until the carrots are tender.  Then add the peas and tofu, and simmer until the peas become a bright green.
+ Stir in the lime juice, zest, and basil.  Serve hot over rice or on its own.
Curry Shrimp and Snow Peas
½ 14 oz can coconut milk
½ cup non-dairy coconut milk
2 tbs Ras El Hanout, or other curry powder
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tbs fresh lime juice
1 cup snow peas
½ cup bean sprouts
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, sliced
salt and lime zest to taste

+ In a large sauce pan, whisk coconut milk, non-dairy milk, curry, and salt.  Bring to a boil.

+ Add the shrimp, and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook until the shrimp is done, bright pink and curled.
+ While the shrimp is cooking, toss the peas, sprouts, basil and 1 tbs lime juice in a medium bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.
+ When the shrimp is done, stir in the remaining lime juice and zest.  Serve the shrimp curry over rice with the pea mixture on top.
Note: In both cases the liquid will begin to bubble up, so watch it it make sure it doesn't overflow.  Once the vegetable are added, the liquid will settle.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Salmon Salad

I love fusion in my cooking.  Whether it be a fusion of flavors, textures, or temperatures, I always have contrasts, no, conflicts in my dishes, challenging the diner's palate.  I have a strong background in film studies, and have always been drawn to those films that challenge a viewer's previously held ideals and beliefs about what film should be.  I think I've subconsciously carried that avant garde mentality into my cooking - though I haven't quite ventured into the realm of molecular gastronomy with its foie gras ice cream and grapefruit caviar.  That being said, I almost always marry the sweet and savory in my dinner meals.  There's something so beautiful about getting salty and sugary and spicy all in one bite.

One of my family's favorite dinners - and one such dish that combines the savory and sweet - is salmon salad (don't worry, this isn't like a tuna salad, its salmon over a bed salad).  The salad portion of this meal consists of: mixed greens because I liked the varied textures and bitterness of each kind; dried and fresh fruit for the sweet and chewy; roasted tomatoes because they are my current obsession and because they themselves possess both elements of the sweet savory; red onions for some crunch and bite; and avocado for the creaminess.  The marinade for the salmon varies with our mood and what's in the house, but the salad remains with little variation.  Tonight I decided to carry that sweet-savory theme onto the salmon with a marinade of soy sauce, spicy peanut dressing, and orange marmalade.
However, like with all of the recipes I post, you can take the idea and do whatever you want with it.  Take the general idea - salmon on top of salad - and make the dish that fits your tastes.  This dish is really a blank slate.  I'm just giving you a general outline and letting you color in the lines, or outside of them for that matter.

Salmon Salad
¼ soy sauce
¼ Trader Joe's Spicy Peanut Dressing
2 tbs orange marmalade
1½ lbs wild caught salmon 
5 oz container mixed salad greens
½ red onion, chopped
1 avocado, cubed
½ fresh strawberries, sliced
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ roasted tomatoes
Brianna's Blush Wine Vinaigrette

+ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the salmon in a deep baking dish, skin down.

+ In a medium bowl, whisk together soy, peanut dressing, and marmalade until combined.  Pour over salmon, making sure that the top of salmon is well covered.  Bake for about 40 minutes, or until salmon is flaky and light pink inside.
+ Toss greens, onion, avocado, berries, and roasted tomatoes in the vinaigrette.  Serve pieces of warm salmon over chilled salad, drizzling some of the caramelized marinade over the top.