Sunday, April 26, 2015

Perfect Grilled Salmon

This recipe is simple, adds nice grill marks to salmon fillets and cooks the fish without drying it out.  It takes no longer than salmon roasted in the oven, about 6 minutes for a fillet under ¾ of an inch and about 10 minutes for a 2 ½ -3 inch salmon steak. 

You will need:
  • Salmon fillets or steaks
  • Olive oil
  • Soy Sauce
  • Juice of a lime
  • Tin foil
Start by brushing olive oil and soy sauce on one side of each piece of fish.  Place salmon on a medium hot grill, directly over the heat, olive oil side down.  Grill for three minutes, until grill marks
show and you can see a few millimeters of cooked salmon from the side view.   Use a spatula to gently move the fish without turning it to a layer of tin foil.  Cover the grill and let the fish finish cooking until done to your liking.  We like it a little underdone or satiny in the middle.  Figure three more minutes for a thinner fillet and up to ten minute for a really thick fillet or salmon steak.  Slide the tin foil onto a platter and squeeze some lime on top to serve.  Butter and black pepper, optional.

Friday, April 10, 2015

How to Peel an Orange

Part 1
I was never the child known for bringing an orange to school in my lunch bag.  I was barely the child who brought lunch to school. 

When I did convince my mother to pack a lunch for me in a TV sitcom-inspired tin lunch box with matching thermos, my enthusiasm waned at lunchtime.  The food looked unappealing.  Worse, at the end of the school day I could never recall where I had left my half empty thermos.  It was often found under the seat of an overheated car by a sibling who had been unlucky enough to open it up and get a whiff of old milk.   I can still remember the smell of the thing when it was handed back to me to clean.  And, the face of the person handing it back.  I'd promise myself this would be the last time I would try to bring lunch to school.

And then I’d sit near one of the children who brought oranges to school.  They peeled back the skin with deftness and dexterity and unleashed a scent that no perfume could ever match.  Even the 1960’s hit among the pre-teen set, Love’s Fresh Lemon fragrance, was no match for the smell of a freshly peeled orange. 

Inspired, I would bring just an orange to school.   It would lay forgotten at the bottom of a paper bag (lunch boxes were no longer invested in for me) until someone else was peeling back the pockmarked orb and spraying essential orange oil into the atmoshere of our classroom.  I should find that orange, I would think.  They are heavenly. 

Heavenly they may have smelled but my peeling technique was brutish.  Chips of pith embedded themselves under my strong thumbnails where I’d dug in too deep.  Juice squirted out and upwards into my hair, onto my peter pan collar and mostly onto notebook paper where it would pucker the paper and make the blue lines wavy.  A napkin was never at hand; I was a child after all.  It tasted wonderful but the sensory pleasure was mitigated by the sticky trail I left behind and around me.  After a time, it was more pleasurable to enjoy oranges vicariously. 

Part 2
I studied in England during my junior year.  Among the friends I made was a classmate from my college.  I had never met her before.  We’d spent two years on the same small New England campus without ever coming across one another.  And I would have known.  She was an orange eater.  During Spring break, while we rode trains across Europe, she taught me to peel an orange the way her grandmother had taught her.  

Her grandmother was born in Poland.   She and her son survived Auschwitz and that is the short and less painful version of how my friend came to be born in Chicagoland.  Earlier that year, my friend went to the Auschwitz-Berkenau camp that had only recently been opened to the public.  It was hard to talk about.  Instead, she showed me how to peel an orange. 

The key is to use a knife, the old-world, European way.  For my friend’s grandmother, eating fruit without utensils would have been ill mannered.  Fruit was eaten at the dinner table after a meal.  This elegant approach was adapted to train travel using a folding knife. 

The knife does not need to be a sharp one.  I frequently use a plastic knife.  The blade only needs to penetrate through the bright orange skin and sink into the bitter pith.  Carve a circle at the top and bottom of the orange, the poles of your orange planet.  Next, draw the knife down from pole to pole creating longitude lines.  You can create a line for each orange section but you only really need four or five cuts.

With your orange scored, each neatly cut quadrilateral of orange peel will come away with ease.   You will still smell the orange oil as you pull back on the skin and break through the zest to reveal uninjured orange segments.

Every time I peel an orange, I imagine my friend's grandmother,  a petite and iron-strong lady I would never meet.  I imagine her elegant, in furs and polished nails, peeling an orange with a skilled hand as she thinks about a time when peeling and eating an orange was child's play. 

This is how to peel an orange. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Leftovers Ham Salad

That enormous ham is going to make you even happier when the leftovers are transformed into ham salad made extra light with cooked egg.  The classic ham salad made by my mother's good friend, Tish, inspred me to create this recipe. We especially loved the dill pickle flavor with the salty ham in her version and paid homage to it here.

Ham salad attends formal events and Spring tea parties on toast points garnished with olives, pickled jalepeƱos, cocktail onions, capers or dill pickle slices.  Or take it to the office as a sandwich spread that will bring joy to your midday break.   At home it makes a natural side, served on baguette slices, to pea soup made from the ham bone.

No matter how much or how little ham salad you'd like to make, the master recipe will guide you.  You are not seeing double; the recipe calls for two mustards, prepared Dijon mustard and dry mustard powder.  The mustard powder provides a little extra kick.  If you do not have any, add extra prepared Dijon mustard. 

Master Recipe for Ham Salad
Ingredients for every 8 ounces of ham (about 2/3 cup cubed ham):
1 egg-- hard boiled or leftover scrambled
8-10 dill pickles chips
1 tablespoon mayonaise
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
generous pinch of ground black pepper (about 8 grind rotations)

  1. Roughly chop ham, cooked egg and pickles.  
  2. Place in a food processor with remaining ingredients. 
  3. Pulse 3-4 times and stop to check consistency. Use a small spatula or spoon to wipe down sides so that all the meat is evenly chopped, but not pureed.  
  4. Taste the mixture  and add more pickles or mustard to suit you taste. 
  5. Pulse a few more times until the mixture is uniform and finely minced. 
No food processor? Use a chef's knife and cutting board to mince the ingredients one by one.  Add to a bowl and mix in the the remaining ingredients.  Takes no time at all. 

Store in a covered container and use within 5 days. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Little Monties on Brioche French Toast

Turn a Monte Christo sandwich into an Easter or Spring brunch bite.  The classic, shown here, uses our large batch brioche French toast that can be made ahead and frozen.  Get the french toast recipe here.

Slather some rasberry or strawberry jam  onto warmed french toast.  Stack ham slices then swiss cheese on top.   Cut into bite-sized squares and place on a cookie sheet.  Broil to melt the cheese and serve with toothpicks skewered with a fresh raspberry. Serve with warm maple syrup.

Our classic Little Monites feature thinly sliced ham.  To make a vegetaian version, spread french toast with cream cheese, then the jam.  Skip the ham and keep the swiss cheese or try a smoked gouda to approximate the ham and cheese combo.  Served with maple syrup, this version will attract meat lovers too so set some aside for any vegetarians arriving a little late!