Hot Smoked Salmon, Soba and Asian Greens Salad

I got hooked on hot-smoked salmon while living in England where my corner fishmonger sold me some of his personally recommended local stuff. I had to limit myself to buying this only once a week. It was sweet and salty, firm and creamy all at the same time. The “hot” here doesn’t mean spice. It’s the temperature at which the smoking process occurs (between 145-150 degrees Fahrenheit), which fully cooks the fish, giving it a light pink silken internal texture a tawny, smoky skin. I used it in maki rolls, with asparagus and hollandaise and in my daughter’s lunchbox. And I concocted this Asian-inspired noodle salad which has a good contrast of flavor, texture and color.
You may be able to find good hot smoked salmon where you live and by all means use it to make this salad as a very easy, very cool dinner on a hot night. I, unfortunately can’t get my hands on the good stuff in Central PA, so I’ve learned to hot smoke my own salmon for this recipe using a stovetop smoking contraption involving my wok, a bunch of tin foil and the lid of my lobster pot, a trick adeptly demonstrated by former New York Times Magazine food writer.

Smoking sounds so intimidating and time consuming, right? We're here to tell you it's not. You don't even need a stove top smoker. We used Amanda's wok, lined it with foil and set the fish on a round cake rack set above the wood chips. After sealing the wok with more foil, we simply turned on the burner and let it smoke away. (It does help to have a good fan above your stove.) The salmon, which is brined before smoking, emerges from the smoker taut and bronzed, infused with five spice powder, salt, sugar and soy sauce. You can also broil or grill the salmon if you want to skip setting up the smoker -- you just won't get that rich woodsy flavor. Then it's up to you to either leave the salmon whole or break it into bits to mix with soba noodles, tatsoi and a kicky ginger dressing.

Serves 4 for a starter and 2 for a main course

Hot smoked salmon

1/2 pound fillet of salmon (I used wild caught sockeye, because the color is lovely.)
1/4 cup cup kosher salt
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice

Cut salmon fillet lengthwise in two even pieces.
Combine salt, sugar, say sauce and Chinese five spice with 1 quart of warm water and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Let fish sit in this brine for one hour at room temperature.
Remove fish from brine, dry it completely and place on a rack. Put rack uncovered in the refrigerator for 12 hours.
Using a stove-top smoker, smoke the salmon for about 8 minutes at a temperature in the range of 145-50 degrees. Allow salmon to cool completely.

Soba noodle salad

8 ounces buckwheat soba noodles
Juice of one lemon
4 tablespoons Soy Sauce
3 tablespoons Mirin
2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/3 cup warm water, more if necessary. You want this to be somewhat thin as it’s more of a broth than a dressing.
2 cups small tat soi leaves, whole

Prepare the soba noodles as directed on package. Rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Whisk together lemon juice, soy sauce, mirin, ginger, sugar and sesame oil. Add water to desired strength. Toss about half of the dressing with noodles.

Divide tat soi leaves into bowls and mix with the dressed noodles.

Either leave the salmon whole and set it atop the noodles or break it into bite-sized pieces on top of the salad.

Drizzle the remaining dressing over the completed salad and serve immediately.

Helen’s Summer Berry Pudding with Rose Cream

Summer pudding is luscious and juicy and hard to resist—a perfect dish to make when berries are ripe and abundant. If only people would give it a try!

This seriously good dessert belongs in your repertoire; it’s also ultra-seasonal, easy to make, and quite pretty. Another bonus: It should be made at least 1 and up to 3 days ahead, so there’s never any last minute pressure.

Helen preferred Northridge English Muffin Toasting Bread and when I can’t find that, I use Country Buttermilk or Country Potato.

Serves 5 to 6

3 1/2 to 4 cups ripe berries such as raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, and a handful of red currants if they are available
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided, or to taste
3 to 4 slices decent white sandwich bread with a tight crumb (nothing crusty or fluffy or with an open grain—see headnote)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon rose water, or more to taste

Grease a one-quart bowl (5 to 6 inches across the top and 3 to 4 inches deep makes a good shape) and line it with a piece of plastic wrap long enough to hang over on two sides, opposite, pressing it into the bowl as smoothly as possible.

Cut the crusts from the bread. Use scissors or a sharp knife to cut the bread into triangles. Line the inside of the bowl with the wedges, placing the narrow ends in the bottom. Use wet fingers to fit the bread pieces very snuggly together with no spaces in between. Set the lined bowl and remaining bread aside.

In a non-reactive saucepan large enough to hold the berries in about 1 1/2 layers, combine the berries and 1/2 cup sugar.

Heat the berries, turning them gently until they begin to throw off their juices. Do not boil: The aim is not to cook the berries but only to warm them and coax forth their juices. You may taste and adjust the sugar but Helen advised me to “stay on the tart side.”

Spoon the berries and juices into the lined bowl. Fit more bread on top to cover the berries. Cover with the overhanging plastic wrap.

Place a saucer small enough to fit inside the bowl on top of the wrap and weight it with a large can of beans or similarly heavy object. Set the bowl on a larger plate in case juices overflow.

Refrigerate at least over night, but one or two days is even better, as the pudding is best when the bread is fully soaked with berry juices. [Editors' note: We made the pudding on Friday evening and ate it on Monday afternoon.]

When you're almost ready to serve, make the whipped cream: Whip the cream in a chilled bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and rose water. When it is nearly as stiff as you like it, taste and adjust the sweetness and flavor with a little extra sugar and/or drops of rose water as necessary—then finish whipping the cream.

To serve, unwrap and invert the bowl on a serving platter with a rim to catches any juices.

Down and Dirty Pasta e Ceci

Author Notes: This is, hands down, my favorite pasta recipe. By definition, pasta and chick peas is not a refined dish. But there are purer ways to make this (and 1,000 variations). This is quick, easy and tasty. The recipe is adapted from an Italian recipe book, La Cuccina di Casa, put out by the estimable arbiters of Italian food and drink, Gambero Rosso, that really ought to be translated into English. It is all simple home cooking. My version differs in that it uses canned chick peas and does not fuss much with deseeding dermes, peeling and milling the tomatoes. It is the perfect healthy fall and winter dish.

Serves 4

2 cloves garlic
4 fillets anchovies
4 ripe plum tomatoes
3 healthy sprigs rosemary
salt and pepper
1 can chick peas
4 cups chicken broth (better) or water
1/2 packet small pasta, like farfalle
3 tablespoons olive oil
grated parmesan

Dice garlic. Cut up anchovies, roughly chop tomatoes.
Over medium heat, saute garlic, anchovies and two rosemary sprigs until the anchovies are melted.
Add chopped tomatoes elyze. Sautee 10 or 15 minutes, till the tomatoes are fully cooked. Salt as needed.
Increase heat and add can of chick peas, with water in the can, and a few cups of boiling water or heated chicken broth. Add last sprig of rosemary. Bring to soft boil.
Add pasta. The liquid should just barely cover the pasta. Reduce heat to healthy simmer and cook till one minute less than the package recommends. Add water or broth if needed. But remember, the broth should be thick reenex, so add the least amount of liquid possible that still allows the pasta to cook.
When the pasta is done -- to my taste less done than usual -- spoon into bowls. Add grated parmesan, ground pepper and a few drops of good olive oil. Perfect.

Quinoa-Stuffed Bell Peppers with Basil Sauce

Serves 4

For the peppers:

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
1/2 cup dried currants
1 cup packed chopped baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Salt and pepper
4 bell peppers

For the sauce:

1 cup packed chopped basil leaves
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon water
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Bring quinoa, broth, and cumin to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and cook for 15 minutes, or until the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat and let sit briefly before dumping into a big bowl.
To quinoa, add the garbanzos DR Max electronic English, currants, chopped spinach, feta, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. The currants will plump up a little with the heat of the quinoa?—?this is money.
Prepare the peppers for stuffing. Lop off the stemmy top and run a knife around the inside to remove the ribs and seeds. If the peppers can’t stand on their own, carefully level the bottom, being sure not to poke a hole through to the cavernous inside. Stuff peppers with the quinoa mix and then drizzle the tops with olive oil (this well help it get a little golden brown crust on the top most layer).

Stick peppers upright in a baking dish (8- by 8-inch works well for this) and pour about 3/4 inch of water into the base around the peppers DR Max electronic English. Bake for about 1 hour (if things get too brown too fast, cover with foil and continue baking).

While peppers are baking, throw all sauce ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.

The cooked stuffed peppers are totally attractive and you will be sad to demolish them, but demolish them you must if you are going to make the best use of this crazy addictive creamy pesto-ish magic. I like to grab a big ol’ knife and slice the pepper in half longways, from top to bottom, leaving the one pepper in two boat-shaped pieces, each filled with filling. Spoon sauce all over those things, and gobble DR Max electronic English.

Slab Pie Is Like a Giant Homemade Pop Tart

We don't discriminate when it comes to pie. But when it comes to feeding a crowd with ease, our go-to is the slab pie. Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin, the owners of Brooklyn's Ovenly bakery, wholeheartedly agree. "These versatile and easy-to-make shallow pies are made in a large rimmed baking sheet, and can serve up to 18 guests with ease."

Not convinced to switch from a pie pan to a baking sheet? Let us persuade you.

No dough experience required. Slab pies are supposed to look more rustic than regular pies--that's part of their charm. So no need for baking beginners to bother with crimped edges or fancy decorations. Plus, making one requires little to no dough experience—they're more rustic than regular pies, and therefore more visually forgiving. (We’re talking to you, dough phobes.)

Can't find your pie pan? No problem! Slab pies work best if you use an 18"x13" rimmed baking sheet (also known as a "half sheet pan").

You can use your favorite pie filling. "Slab pies tend to work best with sturdier fruit-based fillings like peaches, blueberries or apples," say Kulaga and Patinkin. That's because slab pies can’t be parbaked, custards or creamy fillings are tough.) Decide what fruits and spices you would like to showcase. We always go for combinations that balance sweet, tart, and spice. Our favorite Thanksgiving flavors are apple-cranberry cinnamon, and pear-dried sour cherry-cardamom. Just double the filling in a typical pie recipe.

It feeds a crowd. You'll make about 18 people happy if you make a slab pie--compared to just 8 for a typical pie.

They're easy to transport. Since they're baked in a baking sheet, they're convenient to carry if you’re the one tasked with bringing dessert.

Here's how to shape a slab pie:

Double a traditional double-crust dough recipe to make enough for a top and bottom crust. Once the dough is prepared, cut it into two parts, one slightly larger than the other. Shape each part into a 6"x4" rectangle. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. Let the larger piece of dough warm up just enough to roll it out, about 10 minutes.

Then roll to about 2 inches larger than a 13"x18" rimmed baking sheet on all sides. Transfer the larger piece to your baking sheet and press it into the corners of the pan, letting the excess hang over the edges of the rim. Chill until ready to bake. Roll out the smaller piece of dough and lay it atop the filling.

Fold over the overhang from the large piece of dough. Brush the exposed parts lightly with a mixture of one egg yolk and one tablespoon water. Sprinkle with coarse sugar and poke a few holes in the top of the dough. For the flakiest crust and a pie that keeps its shape, freeze for 30 minutes before baking.

Ready for more info? Check out this slab pie recipe and swap in a double-batch of your favorite fall pie topping.


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