Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just for the Halibut!

Alaskan Halibut season officially opened on March 12! High quality fresh Halibut is now starting to fill the pipeline and catch volumes have been normal despite the weather. That's good news for northwest Halibut lovers. 

I love the clean, meaty flavor of Halibut and one of my favorite ways to enjoy it is with a touch of Spicy Tomato Chutney. Good Tomato Chutney can be difficult to find on the shelves of your local market. Fortunately, it's easy to make and can be stored in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.  It's also really tasty on eggs, with curries, on roasted chicken or lamb and with panisse (chickpea fries) or polenta cakes.

If you live in the Seattle area, stop by the Seattle Fish Company
Thursday, March 31, 2011
5pm and 7pm
to sample my Pan-Seared Halibut with Spicy Tomato Chutney! 
If not, here's the recipe so you can try it at home.

Pan-Seared Halibut with Spicy Tomato Chutney

4 tbsp of sunflower oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 dried red chiles, whole
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
2 lbs Roma tomatoes
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 whole cloves
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 6 to 8 ounces halibut fillets
1 tbsp sunflower oil

Core and seed the tomatoes.

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Next, add all of the seeds, the chiles, chili powder and coriander to the oil. Cook one or two minutes until the seeds start to pop.

Add the vinegar and sugar stirring until dissolved. Stir in the tomatoes, the remaining spices, ginger and garlic, reduce heat and simmer for an hour.

After an hour, the tomato skins should be separating from the tomatoes and floating freely in the chutney. Use a pair of tongs to pull out the skins. Continue cooking until the is thick and syrupy but still chunky, approximately 1/2 hour. Remove the 2 whole chiles and discard. Salt to taste.

Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the fish. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the halibut and cook over moderately high heat until browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Flip the fillets and cook about 2 minutes longer. Transfer the halibut to plates, spoon the tomato chutney on top and serve.

Note: The chutney can be made several days ahead of time and warmed just before service. Leftover chutney can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Smoke Signals - Pimentón-It's Not Your Mama's Paprika

Also available on SheSpeaks

When I was growing up we used paprika in one of two ways: as a garnish on potato salad or deviled eggs, and in Chicken Paprikash (because of my Hungarian ancestry). Beyond that, paprika simply sat in the spice rack. I suppose that’s the way most of you think of paprika too. It's kind of just for color. Well, no more!

When I was in culinary school I had an epiphany. I was studying Spanish food and discovered smoked paprika, called pimentón. What an exciting discovery. It changed the way I think about paprika forever.

Spanish pimenton comes in three styles: dulce (literally meaning sweet, but more accurately mild), agrodulce (bittersweet or slightly spicy) and picante (spicy hot). The flavor is amazing. There's a depth to it - layers of smoky, dusty, peppery flavors - and depending on the style, heat and spice.

The best pimentón comes from an area called La Vera valley in Spain. It’s not so much the growing of the peppers in La Vera but what they do at harvest that makes it the best. In the fall, pepper varieties are hand-picked and smoked in small smokehouses near the fields. The smokehouses are simple structures with concrete floors. Wooden grates are suspended several feet above the floors over smoldering oaks fires. The peppers are dried over the smoke for 10 to 15 days. The smoking process imparts a deep, rich, smoky aroma that you don’t get from typical grocery-store brand paprika.

Pimentón is a staple of Spanish cooking. It's used in sausages, papas bravas (spicy, fried potatoes), garlic shrimp and other tapas dishes, as well as stews, Paella, and sauces.

I've been experimenting with it lately. My preference is pimentón picante because I like the kick, and used sparingly I don't think you'll find it bites you. I've mixed it into guacamole. Tossed it with mixed nuts. Stirred it into lentil soup. Rubbed in on roasts and barbequed ribs. Coated fish fillets for frying. And, (my grandmother will roll over in her grave) I've used it in place of Hungarian paprika in Chicken Paprikash!

You can find pimentón at specialty grocers or online. Try to purchase pimentón de la Vera to ensure you're getting good quality and flavor. Go ahead give it a try. You'll never think of paprika the same way again.

Have you ever tried pimentón? How do you use it? Do you have any recommendations?

Friday, March 11, 2011

What Luck! Potatoes Colcannon for St. Patrick's Day

St Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. Americans of all ethnicities embrace their inner leprechauns by wearing green and raising a pint to celebrate. Many partake in the ubiquitous Irish-American tradition of eating corned beef and cabbage, as well. But do we really like it? Good corned beef? Yes! But tasteless, cottony potatoes and wilted cabbage? Probably not. (Although, the starch might keep the ghoulies at bay after too much green beer.)

Admittedly, potatoes and cabbage have been sustenance foods in Ireland for ages. I’m not knocking that, but they don’t have to be bland and boring! I suggest you shake up your menu and try a flavorful, classic Irish side dish – Potatoes Colcannon.

Colcannon, Irish for “white-headed cabbage,” consists mainly of mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage though there are many variations. It’s commonly served on St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween but once you’ve tried it, you’ll want to serve it year-round. It’s terrific with grilled sausages, roasted pork and ham.

Potatoes Colcannon
Serves 8
2 lbs (about 6) russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup milk or cream
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cups coarsely chopped green cabbage or kale*
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Put the potatoes in a large pot, add water to cover the potatoes by 2 inches and generously salt the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes.

While potatoes are cooking melt 2 tbsp of the butter in a heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cabbage and toss until tender-crisp, about 8 minutes. (If you are substituting kale for the cabbage, cook it a little longer to ensure that it’s tender – about 15 minutes.) Sprinkle with nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

Drain the tender-cooked potatoes, return them to the pot and mash well. Add theremaining 6 tbsp of butter, allow to melt, and stir to combine. Slowly stir in milk. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the potatoes into the cabbage mixture and serve warm.

*You can substitute 1 bunch curly kale (about 3/4 lb), stemmed and coarsely chopped

An Irish Blessing: May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

What do you serve on St. Patrick’s Day? Are there any traditional dishes you’d like to share?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Baked Apple Pudding

I was in the mood for baked apples the other day but didn't have any walnuts and raisins to stuff the center with. Instead, I came up with this recipe for baked apple pudding based on a traditional Danish dessert and some ancient Quaker puddings from my great grandmother. 

Most of us only think of pudding from a box but this is a simple, old fashioned, baked fruit dessert. I've added arrowroot powder to thicken the pudding so it's gluten free and grain free.  It's a perfect mid-winter treat!
My husband can't get enough of it. Enjoy!

Baked Apple Pudding
Serves 6 to 8

4 granny smith apples
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp softened butter plus additional for pie plate
¼ c sugar
½ c ground almonds
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350F.

Generously butter a ceramic pie plate. Peel, core and dice apples. In a medium mixing bowl, combine diced apples, 2 tbsp sugar, arrowroot powder and cinnamon. Toss to coat the apples. Pour apples into prepared pie plate, cover with aluminum foil and bake 45 minutes.

While the apples are baking, cream together butter, ¼ c sugar and ground almonds. Beat egg, and stir into almond mixture until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Remove the baked apples from the oven. Remove foil and cover with almond mixture. Return to the oven and bake an additional 30 minutes until top is golden and set.

Serve warm or cold with ice cream or whipped cream.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The World is Your Oyster! Let's Make Stew

Also available on SheSpeaks

As this winter drags on, I don't know about you but I could use a little comfort. I take mine in the form of a soul-warming soup. There's nothing like a full belly to fortify me against another grey day. One of my favorites is Oyster Stew. It's quick, easy, and guaranteed to ward off a chill.

Oyster Stew
Serves 4 to 6

2 pints small to medium shucked oysters
8 strips of bacon
4 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 pint heavy cream
4 c milk
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried basil
pinch of thyme
sliced green onions (optional)

Heat a pot of salted water. Blanch oysters for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Using kitchen shears, snip bacon into small pieces. Cook bacon slowly in a large pot over medium low heat. When the bacon starts to crisp, add butter and melt. Increase heat to medium and add diced onion. Sauté until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Add oysters, heavy cream, milk, salt, pepper, basil and thyme. Stir until warm (do not boil). Garnish with green onions.

What is your favorite cold weather soup or stew?