Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Amazing First Date with Bittman

Salmon with Cilantro-Basil Chutney, Golden Beet Salad with Fennel and Wild Rice with Curried Walnuts
What an exciting day it was, coming home to a box full of food books from Barnes & Noble. I cashed in on some credit card bonus points to order a bunch of titles from my wishlist. Two of those items are Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything, and How To Cook Everything Vegetarian.

My first impression was surprise at how thick they were - about 1,000 pages each! Holy crap this guy has lots of material. I was a slight bit disappointed to find that none of these pages wasted any space on photographs. And I can tell you after tonight, there could be some pretty friggin' sexy photos of these recipes.

Knowing I planned to make salmon for dinner, and probably some simple chard, or maybe fennel (no major projects), I checked both new books for recipes. I realized that they are less recipes, but more about simple techniques for different foods and a handful of suggested flavor variations. Kind of like my college textbook Better Homes Illustrated Cookbook, but much more in-depth.

So I ended up choosing to make four recipes from How To Cook Everything. Tonight. Four. What was I thinking? A whole lotta effort for one girl to eat and clean up alone. But no, it was sooo worth it, because I was on a date, a first date, with my new Bittman book. And let me tell you... it's love.

Wild Rice with Curried Walnuts
First, I started the Wild Rice with Curried Nuts. A little oil, a little curry powder, some chopped walnuts, toasted. Remove, add rice and vegetable stock, and a bit of salt. Cook. Add nuts. 1 hour, easy, done. Beautiful, flavorful, wild rice with crunchy nuts. Anyone would like this, even if they hate brown rice.

Golden Beet Salad with Fennel
As the rice cooked, I put together the Raw Beet Salad with Fennel. I grated some small, local, golden beets. Then there's shaved fennel, shallots, lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bittman's recipe calls for Taragon and Parsley, but I was in an Eastern mood, so I used cilantro and Thai basil. What a pretty yellow salad to balance out some thick rice and juicy salmon. The fennel stands out the most - you'd never know there were beets in there, unless you use red. I hate cooking with raw red beets because the juice always ends up on my ceiling somehow. Don't ask.

Cilantro-Thai Basil Chutney
I set the salad in the fridge to chill, the rice still cooking away. Any fat salmon fillet needs a condiment in my eyes, so I decided to try a variation of Bittman's Cilantro Chutney. Like I said, feeling East today, so I used Thai basil here too. I'm not real sure what qualifies this as a chutney. Maybe peppers? I didn't use peppers, just a few red pepper flakes since the raw garlic alone will have me taking Zantac later! It was a very flavorful topping for salmon - I've always been a fan of this Chimichurri sauce sort of concoction, although this one is chunkier. A little goes a long way.

Perfect Pan-Cooked Salmon Fillet
Finally, I followed Bittman's directions for Pan-Cooked Salmon. I avoid grilling, baking, broiling or frying salmon because the smell drives me insane for days. But he made it sound so simple and fast, I gave it a try. It was the best damn salmon I've ever cooked. Golden crust on top, flaking and cooked medium at the center. I may have acclimated to the smell for the night, but I have a feeling it reeks in here. Oh well! 
Salmon with Cilantro-Thai Basil Chutney
I am thoroughly impressed that I chose four recipes on a whim to try from this book and all were excellent. And they looked beautiful. And they were easy. Delicious. Worthy of serving guests. 2000 pages of new recipes... what will I try next?





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