Misoyaki Wild Salmon

Me so hungry for miso salmon.

Me so hungry for miso salmon.

This is a version of that ubiquitous sushi joint staple, misoyaki black cod, popularized with a vengeance at Matsuhisa restaurant here in LA (and at over thirty other affiliated restaurants internationally) by famed Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa. It’s Nobu’s signature dish, and the impact of his influence is felt in nearly every sushi bar in American, where some version of miso-marinated broiled fish is on virtually every menu. And for good reason as it’s damn good — sweet, salty, tender, and rich. It can feel fancy or it can be served very simply, almost rustically. It makes a great lunchtime or dinnertime main course, or it can go alongside other Asian dishes for a larger spread.

I love to make it with black cod, of course, or butterfish or ling cod or Chilean seabass or pretty much any other fish that is either delicate or has a decent fat content. I was initially going to make this with black cod, but I found some beautiful and very fresh wild salmon and decided to go with that instead.

I deviate from Nobu’s original recipe by adding a bit more flavoring to the marinade; if you know me you know that I can’t resist tinkering with classics in the hopes of finding greater complexity and depth of flavor — hence the addition of ginger and garlic and salt and pepper. I recommend marinating the fish for at least six hours, so make the marinade in the morning and drop the fish in. By dinnertime you’ll be good to go. If you really want to plan ahead you could marinate the salmon overnight, although I wouldn’t go for two days as the sodium in the marinade could dry out the fish and make the miso flavor too assertive.

Serve this with steamed white rice and maybe some stir-fried bok choy or other Asian greens. I also recommend having on the side a little soy sauce and something spicy like sambal oelek or sriracha.

What you need:

  • 1 pound wild salmon filet, skinned with pin-bones removed
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup shiro miso paste (very pale yellow “white” miso)
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2/3 cups of chopped scallions (as a garnish)

What you gotta do:

First cut the salmon filets into four evenly-sized pieces. Place the filets in a flat plastic container with a lid or a glass pan that you can cover with plastic wrap; use anything except a metal container that could be potentially reactive (i.e. aluminum). Also, choose your container wisely; you want the fish to be snug in whatever container you choose so that the fish is nestled in and covered fully by the marinade. Refrigerate fish while you make the marinade.

In a small pot mix the mirin, sake, and water. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling and add the sugar, whisking until it dissolves. Turn off the heat and whisk in the miso, ginger, garlic, salt, and white pepper. Transfer the marinade to a bowl and allow it come to room temperature. Pour marinade over the fish and turn pieces to fully coat with the miso. Cover and refrigerate.

Now wait patiently a few hours. To cook turn on your broiler and set the oven rack about six inches away from the heating element, be it flame or electric coil. Remove the fish from the marinade and place on a sheet pain that been very slightly oiled. Any excess marinade you can pour into a small pot and bring quickly to a boil. Turn off heat. Now you can use the marinade to baste the fish.

Put pan with salmon into the oven and broil for about three minutes. Remove fish from oven and, using a pastry brush, baste fish with more marinade. Return the fish to the oven and broil for another two or three minutes, approximately. You want the edges slightly charred, so when that occurs remove the salmon and prod it to check for doneness. I like it cooked through but very tender and a bit rare. Touch it with your finger — the flesh should have some softness to it. If you suspect it’s not cooked enough to your taste, turn the oven off and return the fish to oven. Allow it to cook with the oven’s residual heat until it’s firmer and more to your liking.

Transfer fish to a platter and serve dinner!

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Super-succulent salmon served for supper. Say that five times fast!

Dungeness Crab & Avocado Omelet

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A decadent and lush omelet.

Sunday was Regina’s second Mother’s Day as a bona fide mom (and not just as a super-duper-stepmom). Naturally Bennet and I treated her to a day of yummy-delicious foods that would help make her feel special and loved. Breakfast was headlined by a dungeness crab & avocado omelet with a hollandaise sauce made with a pinch of cayenne and celery salt. Also on the plate was a toasted English muffin (from Bay’s, our favorite muffin maker) with a dab of Irish butter, a slice of crispy applewood-smoked bacon (from Applegate), and a fruit salad of diced pineapple, watermelon, and Hami melon (sort of an elongated Asian cantaloupe). A glass of freshly squeezed tangerine juice completed this perfect brekkie.

After the eggs are mostly set, add the warm crab and avocado on the half closest to you.

After the eggs are mostly set, add the warm crab and avocado on the half closest to you.

To make one omelet you’ll need:

  • 2 eggs
  • good unsalted butter, about two or three tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup freshly picked and cooked Dungeness crab
  • 2 or 3 slices of ripe avocado
  • salt & pepper
  • hollandaise sauce, recipes follows
  • cilantro leaves for garnish
  • a non-stick 9-inch omelet pan with a lid
  • a heat-resistant silicon spatula

Now do this:

First, make the hollandaise sauce and set it aside according to the directions below.

With a fork whisk the eggs in a bowl until very uniform in color and consistency. In a small pan (not the omelet pan) melt about a tablespoon of the butter over low heat. When the butter is completely melted add the crab. Warm the crab gently and thoroughly and then turn off the heat.

Now heat the omelet pan over medium-high heat and add about a tablespoon of butter. When the butter has melted tilt the pan in all directions to make sure the butter coats the bottom surface of the pan completely. Pour in the eggs and using your spatula gently push the eggs toward the middle. Again, tilt the pan in a circular fashion to spread out the whipped eggs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover with the lid. Cook the eggs (maybe 30 to 60 seconds) covered until just about set, but still slightly moist-looking.

Add the warmed crab to the eggs, spreading it out on half of the omelet surface, preferably the half closest to you. Top crab with avocado. Season with a bit more salt and pepper. Using your spatula gently flop the other half of the cooked eggs over the crab and avocado. Turn off heat and allow the omelet to warm through in the warm pan for about a minute.

Now gently slide the omelet out of the pan onto a plate. Top with about a quarter cup of warmed hollandaise sauce and a clutch of cilantro. Serve warm and eat immediately!

Hollandaise Sauce for Crab Omelets

  • 3 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • pinch of white pepper
  • room temperature water

Set up a double-boiler. That’s going to be a medium-sized pot with a stainless steel bowl that fits in the top comfortably. Use a deep enough pot so that the bowl has at least four inches of clearance below it. Fill the pot with 2 inches of water in the bottom. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Put the egg yolks and cream into the bowl. Whisk gently together. Placed bowl over the simmering water and whisk consistently (but not too vigorously) until the eggs have thickened slightly. If the eggs get a little clumpy you can add a teaspoon or so of water to thin it out, whisking until smooth.

Now add butter, a few chunks at a time, until it melts. You need to whisk constantly after each addition in order for the butter and eggs to emulsify (combine smoothly). When you’ve whisked in all the butter (which should take about six to eight minutes) add the lemon juice and whisk it in until smooth. Add spices. Now check your consistency. Your hollandaise should be smooth, not too thick, and it should flow. If it seems dense, whisk in a little water.

Now, set aside the bowl of hollandaise (off the double boiler) until you’re ready to top your eggs. Keep your pot of water at the ready. You can replace the bowl over the water, turn the simmer back on, and reheat your hollandaise just before you’re ready to assemble. Again, when you reheat the sauce, if it thickens too much, whisk in a bit of water to thin and smooth it out.

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Yummy brekkie!

Tapas Partay!

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A little blurry, but oh, what a spread!

Last week Regina and I had a couple of great friends over for an early dinner. Well, all dinners are early when you have an infant, but luckily our friends are obliging and understanding. Of course when I put out a spread like this of course they are obliging! Mitch supplied the wine and Stef made a excellent blueberry pie to finish the meal with.

Starting from the bottom left and travelling a meandering path up the table in a vaguely clockwise direction the dishes are as follows: garlic aioli with a touch of saffron, garlicky sautéed mushrooms, paprika-dusted fried chicken wings, roasted purple cauliflower with shallots and a hit of sherry vinegar, marcona almonds, pickled peppadew peppers (say that five times fast!), lightly sweetened olive oil crackers (in the wax paper), assorted olives, patatas bravas (crispy fried potatoes), grilled lamb riblets, grilled ribeye with roasted garlic, lobster with saffron sofrito, grilled bread for pan con tomate, membrillo (Spanish quince paste), assorted cheese platter including cabrales, idiazabal, some kind of hard Basque cheese that I’ve forgotten the name of, and some nice Spanish chorizo (not to be confused with the Mexican stuff), clams with garlic and white wine and diced chorizo, and finally at the bottom right a plate of hand-shaved slices of one of the world’s great cured meats — Jamon Iberico “pata negra” — a dry-cured ham made from these cute little black pigs that feast on acorns.

Eating like this — with a wide assortment of small plates with complementing and contrasting flavors and textures and colors — is so enjoyable and delicious and fun and communal that I wish we could feast like this every night! I’d be 300 pounds, but I’d be happy as a clam cooked with white wine and chorizo.

Grilled Salmon Chop

Yummy salmon!!

I made this delightful grilled salmon “chop” a couple of days ago. It was really very simple.

First I took a salmon steak (you know, the U-shaped cut with a bone down the center that’s essentially a cross-section of the fish) and with a very sharp chef knife cut that right down the middle, severing it into two “chops”. I seasoned the salmon with Konriko Greek Seasoning and a bunch of cracked peppercorn and then I rubbed it with a generous amount of olive oil.

It was a cool evening so I used a stove-top grill-pan for my grilling. I pre-heated the oven to 350°F and heated the grill-pan over high until it was smoking-hot. I placed the salmon down in the pan and grilled the first side for about five minutes (or until nicely charred) and then flipped it. I grilled the other side for about three minutes and then popped the whole pan into the oven for six minutes.

I removed the pan from the oven and allowed it to sit on the stove-top for a few more minutes, just to cool down a tiny bit.

I served the fish with a scoop of steamed Japanese rice and a veggie saute of fresh corn, petite peas, and diced zucchini. Instead of a lemon wedge I added a slice of ripe tangerine.

It was a perfect dinner! The salmon was lush, buttery, custardy, and oh-so tasty. The skin was crisp and chewy and unctuous. The fish was rich and delish. You could almost feel the Omega-6 fatty acids coursing through your veins. So good!

 

Santa Barbara Prawn Scampi

Santa Barbara prawns are sweet and oh-so tender.

Despite their name Santa Barbara spot prawns (Pandalus platyceros) are not really prawns, per se. They are a type of shrimp. I generally understand the word prawn to mean a crustacean that’s larger than the average shrimp, with a slightly different shell structure and a more delicate flesh; I tend to think of spiny langostinos from the Mediterranean when I hear the word prawn. However, many people use the words prawn and shrimp interchangeably to mean any of these edible shrimp-like critters. I suppose peculiarities in name usage come from locality or availability. A jumbo shrimp cocktail, for instance, is referred to as a prawn cocktail in San Francisco, which is utterly indistinguishable from the chilled shrimp appetizer you’ll find from New York to San Diego. Why the regional variations in definition? I dunno, do your own deeper research if you like.

Regardless of what you call them, Santa Barbara spot prawns (or just prawns, no spot) are incredibly sweet and tender. They are usually the freshest shrimp you’ll find on the West Coast; most shrimp have their heads removed and are flash-frozen close to the harvesting site (or at the farm, for farmed shrimp) as an enzyme in the head will cause rapid decay after they die. But SB prawns are sold live, which means they are super-fresh. It also means that to cook them you have to kill them, so if that gives you pause you may wish to cook something less visibly twitchy.

For this recipe I sautéed a few of these über-fresh shrimp in a pan with some peeled and seeded tomatoes, some garlic, a handful of chopped herbs, and a touch of white wine. I ate it over some fragrant basmati rice and it was perfect. It’s a delicious preparation, but I also love them very simply grilled, head-on, split in half. Be sure to also check out this earlier post about SB Prawns from about eighteen months ago. Sorry if the pics aren’t my finest.

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Truly fresh seafood glistens.

When you grill prawns it’s best to leave the head on and cut right down the length of the entire body with a sharp knife, while they’re still alive. I mean, that’s damn fresh! But if the idea of the legs and feelers frantically waving all over the place while you’re cutting them in half freaks you out (and it’s pretty freaky, I’ll admit), you can put them in the freezer for fifteen minutes, which will kill them in a slightly gentler fashion. You’ll get less shrimp flailing when you break them down for cooking, whether you split them or clean them for sauté.

Since I wasn’t using the heads for this preparation I twisted them off and discarded them. I peeled off the tail shell mostly, leaving just the ends on. I deveined the prawns and kept them chilled until I was ready to cook ’em up.

This recipe calls for tomato concasse, which is diced peeled and seeded tomatoes. I used a lovely mixture of yellow and red heirlooms, which resulted in a fantastic orangey hue for the dish. To prepare tomatoes like this incise with a sharp knife an “X” on the bottom of each tomato (the top being the stem-end, btw) and dropping the tomatoes whole into boiling salted water for about ten seconds. Using a slotted spoon remove the tomatoes and place into a ice bath. The skin should curl back at the “X” and be easy to peel off. After you peel the tomato you can trim out the woody stem area, cut the tomatoes into segments, and gently scrape out the seeds. Chop into a medium dice for this recipe.

This scampi-style dish takes almost no time to cook; just be sure to have everything ready to go when you sauté the prawns. And take care not to overcook the shrimp! Err on the side of undercooked, if you’re at all unclear. Always remember that things continue to cook off the heat, in the pan, in the sauce, on the plate. So especially for more delicate items like mild fish or these prawns remember to stop right before you think it’s totally cooked through.

These little prawns have almost a “lobstery” flavor.

SB Prawn Scampi

This recipe is just for one person, so simply multiply the amounts for however many people you plan to feed.

You will need:

  • nine medium Santa Barbara spot prawns — headed, peeled, and deveined
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon room temperature butter
  • salt & pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup tomato concasse, medium-to-large dice
  • 1 teaspoon minced basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • 1 tablespoon room temperature butter (yep, more butter!)

Now do this:

Heat a saute pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add olive oil and 1 teaspoon of butter. Add prawns and season with some salt and pepper (use your own judgement). Cook prawns about 1 minute on the first side and flip them over. Add the garlic and the white wine. When the wine cooks down and no longer smells like booze add the diced tomatoes and herbs. Stir to coat the crustaceans and cook for about one minute, or until the shrimp are cooked through and the tomatoes are warm. Add another tablespoon of butter and toss the pan to combine everything. Remove from the pan and eat over rice or with toasty, crusty bread.

The season is just about over. You have maybe two more weeks to get your hands on SB prawns. So go for it!

Feeding the Family

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A casual dinner by the Willamette River.

Regina, Bennet, Vivian, and I visited my father and step-mother in Portland, Oregon last week. Dad and Joan have an absolutely gorgeous place by on the east bank of the Willamette River. Their house is set on a bluff overlooking a wide expanse of perfect lawn that leads down to the river bank. My father is a dedicated plant man and he’s got stunning vegetable beds, fruit trees, and grape vines growing vigorously on their property. Kale and tomatoes, lettuces and potatoes, rosemary, lavender, fig, eucalyptus, red chard, bartlett pear, apples, and more. In the eight years they’ve been in Oregon they’ve managed to create and maintain a home that is inviting and charming and that’s a reflection of their progressive thoughts on nature, food, health, light, and community. And on a late summer afternoon there’s nothing better than sipping a glass of my Dad’s homemade white wine and watching rowing sculls flit across the river’s surface, competing occasionally with the wake-making antics of jet-skiers. Birds loop in the blue skies, adopted fuzzball cats get fresh with your legs, a breeze stirs the perfect green beans clinging from their trellis, the occasional passenger jet carves contrails impossibly high above us. It’s all so perfect. So perfect, in fact, that Regina and I got married on these fair premises last summer.

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Always superb salmon can be found in the Northwest.

When we visit I usually try to cook one good meal for my family; we only seem to have time for one as we always have so much on our plate — other friends and family to see, zoos to visit, and breweries to tour. We like to eat outside, watch the sunset, play board games as we nibble dessert, and perhaps sip a little cheap sherry (that would be only my father and me) as we yak about our lives, politics, and what-have-you. This past week talk of politics, the food industry, my much-missed absent sisters, and (naturally) The Olympics dominated. We try to make the most of what Dad and Joan’s garden has to offer, we take a casual pace, and we enjoy each other’s company.

Joan and Jeff (my bro) contributed some excellent Coho salmon — each filet about a pound, very lean, but very fresh. Full of pin bones, even though I yanked out most of them. I patted-dry the fish very well, cut the filets down to individual pieces, and seasoned them with sea salt, pepper, and a big pinch of some random Penzey’s spice mix (maybe like a poultry seasoning) that Joan had in her cooking arsenal. I cooked the filets by first searing the fish skin-side down in a very hot skillet with some olive oil. After the skin was crisped I then flipped the pieces and cooked the other side about a minute. I then transferred the par-cooked pieces to a baking dish. The baking dish I popped into the oven and finished the fish at 375º F for about five minutes.

The fish was just cooked through, moist and delicious.

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A simple salad — romaine, tomato, radish, etc.

Our salad was definitely a family affair. Jeff contributed a perfect large Persian cucumber from his yard-garden, Joan added a bulb of fennel and a head of fresh romaine from her lettuce bed, and just that morning I’d gotten a few excellent tomatoes, celery, and radishes from the small but very inviting Milwaukie Farmer’s Market. At the market I also picked up some great local and organic goat-milk feta cheese. I whipped up a simple cider vinaigrette with some garlic, shallot, and a bit of minced fennel frond (and S&P, of course).

I (mostly) peeled, seeded, and chopped the cuke. I shaved the fennel and soaked it briefly in cold water to firm it up. I cut, soaked, and spun-dry the romaine. Cut the tomatoes, finely cut some celery, shaved some radishes, crumbled the sublime and creamy feta. I tossed everything together with some of the dressing. Basically a Greek-style salad with no olives or peppers, it was light and refreshing and complemented the fish perfectly.

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Potatoes fresh out of the ground are the best!

Dad dug up some potatoes from a mixed patch that yielded some good glossy reds, some Peruvian purples, and a few starchy Russet-style baker-types. After hosing them down, drying them off, and cutting the spuds down to similar sizes (think 3/4-inch thick cubes, about) I tossed them (in a big bowl) in melted butter and olive oil. Over the top I sprinkled generous amounts of kosher salt and cracked black pepper. I also threw in some minced herbs from Joan’s herb pots — fresh rosemary, a bit of fresh lavender, lemon thyme, marjoram, and parsley. A couple large cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped, completed the potato seasoning. I spread the taters in a roasting pan and cooked them at 400ºF for about 35 minutes, until the potatoes were browned and crisp on the edges but soft in the middle. I turned and tossed and moved the potatoes around a couple of times during the roasting to ensure even cooking.

Everyone loved the potatoes, and it’s a good thing I made a whole lot as we ended up eating them the next day as well! The dish wasn’t particularly hard to make or inventive. It’s  all about fresh potatoes. Fresh potatoes are heads above your typical grocery store spuds. They are moister, richer, earthier, and butterier. Just excellent. And according to Dad, pretty much toil-free as a home crop.

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Very simple sauteed green beans.

Earlier that day Joan had picked some green beans. I trimmed these and blanched them in boiling salted water for about four minutes until tender. I shocked them in a ice bath to stop the cooking and then then drained them very well. I cut the beans into two-to-three-inch lengths. About five minutes before dinner time I heat up a big sauté pan and lightly browned (over medium-high heat) some chopped onion and garlic in a combination of butter and olive oil. I threw in the beans and cooked them for another minute. I added a splash of white wine (New Zealand Sauv Blanc), stirred the beans, and served them.

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Excellent lemon-garlic fettucine with butter, parmesan, lemon zest, and fresh breadcrumbs.

At the Milwaukie Farmer’s Market I also picked up a pound of very good organic linguine infused with lemon and garlic. First step in making this dish was toasting some homemade fresh breadcrumbs. I cut the crust off of a chunk of stale baguette and then cut the interior of the bread into smaller pieces, about a half-inch in size. I put the bread into a food processor and pulsed it down into crumbs. I then sautéed the crumbs in butter and olive oil until nice-and-crunchy; I pulled the crumbs from the pan and held them until later.

I set up a pot of salted water to cook the pasta. I set up another big sauté pan and melted a generous plug of butter in a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Into the oils I added two cloves of coarsely garlic & once minced shallot. I cooked the garlic and shallot about a minute until softened and then turned off the gas. When the water boiled I cooked the noodles to al dente.

I drained the noodles but I retained a half-cup of the pasta-cooking liquid in a measuring cup. I put the hot drained linguine into the butter-olive oil mixture and tossed it well. I turned the heat up to high and added the cup of pasta-water. I threw in a handful of chopped red chard and about 5 basil leaves, which I tore up by hand. Over the noodles I added two tablespoons of lemon zest and the juice of one lemon. Using a pair of tongs I mixed the noodles to get everything together and then tested for seasoning. I added a bit of salt, a whole bunch of black pepper, and 1 cup of grated parmesan. I killed the heat, stirred the cheese in, and transferred the pasta to a big serving bowl. Finally, as a garnish, I topped the linguine with a big handful of toasted breadcrumbs. Voila! Garlic & lemon linguine with butter, chard, basil, parmesan & crisp breadcrumbs.

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Sitting down to a fine meal with fine people (clockwise from left): Jeff, Bennet, Regina, me, Vivian, Joan. (Missing from this photo: Dad, who took the pic, and my sister-in-law Kate, who had to work.)

Jeff brought some homemade beer (pretty yummy!) and we also drank lemonade and one of my personal faves — Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc (pretty decent and relatively cheap NZ white). For dessert we had this delicious crostata made from organic nectarines and a partially whole-wheat crust, which came out a tiny bit tough. I made a basic pate brisée but I think I screwed up the proportions of fat-to-flour. C’est la vie. Even the best of us screw up from time to time. Best of all, we topped off the crostata with vanilla ice cream from Graeter’s out of Cincinnati. Good, ole-fashioned iced cream.

Seriously, is there anything better than good food and family? Well, the view helped too. And the wine.

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Fresh nectarine crostata. Yummy!