Saturday, May 30, 2009

Eat Fresh

Pasta and salmon

This week's focus on Weekend Cook and Tell at Serious Eats is seasonal pasta.

My plan was to make a dish that is simple, light, and to learn something new.

Since we shopped working off memory and a number of items were unavailable, I had to reassess our meal once we got home from grocery shopping.

We didn't find any fresh artichokes at the markets we visited. I would have loved to have learned to cook artichokes to make a salad with artichokes, cucumbers, tomatoes, bocconcini, and pine nuts.

We forgot to get pine nuts.

Bocconcini must have been a popular item for the weekend, since we didn't find any, so we opted for the next best thing, mozzarella.

Portobello mushrooms were sold out.

Corn was pitiful. The batches we went through had kernels that did not form.

No fresh beans.

Bug was not in the mood for kalamata olives nor radishes.

Tomato Mozzarella Salad
We have bought numerous bottles of infused oils and given them as gifts through the years, but we have never infused our own oil. Infusing basil with olive oil felt like an appropriate combination to attempt.

1/2 c fresh basil
1/4 c olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
chili pepper flakes
black pepper
1 tomato, sliced
8 oz bocconcini or mozzarella, sliced

Infused basil olive oil:
1. Puree basil with olive oil.
2. Simmer basil and oil for 1 minute.
3. Strain, then set aside to cool for 1-2 hours.

Sediment from the basil infused olive oil

Basil oil

Basil vinaigrette:
1. Mix oil, vinegar, pinch of black pepper and chili pepper flakes until well blended.
2. Refrigerate.

Basil vinaigrette

1. Alternate tomato and mozzarella slices on a platter.
2. Drizzle vinaigrette over the slices.

Sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, with basil vinaigrette

Steamed Salmon Filet and Pasta
We are in the midst of Copper River salmon season. As a result of its distinct flavor, color, and texture from its farm-raised cousins, I decided to steam the salmon without any added seasoning.

Raw salmon filet

I deliberated over with what to top the pasta. Should we do a pesto, tomato sauce, or no sauce? Oops, no pine nuts.

1/2 lb Copper River salmon filet

1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 c mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c capers
2/3 c olives, sliced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 c basil, chopped
1 c baby spinach
olive oil
ground black pepper
sea salt

1. Prepare rotini and steam salmon.
2. In a skillet with olive oil, fry garlic, red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, and capers for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Turn off heat, add basil and spinach. Mix until basil and spinach are wilted.

Vegetables after turning off the heat and adding basil and spinach

Kiwi with sorbet
I can't take credit for dessert other than purchasing everything, slicing the kiwi, and scooping two Archer Farms sorbet pints into cups.

Kiwi and sorbet

This was arranged with a slice of kiwi at the bottom, a scoop of pomegranate blood orange sorbet, then a scoop of blueberry lavender sorbet, a slice of kiwi, and so forth. Despite most of these fruits not being in season, it was a pleasant end to a meal.

The entire meal prepared above would serve 3 people well, or 4 people adequately.

The experience was interesting...

The infused oil was easy to make. The vinaigrette was crisp and spring-like. Not wanting to compromise flavor, I didn't make more oil fearing we would run out of basil for the pasta. We had more than enough vinaigrette. I'll definitely make this again.

I must come clean and confess that I saved the pureed basil that was strained to make the infused oil, and cooked it with the vegetables.

Having used sun dried tomatoes as is in the past, I had never minced them. I learned that I could not mince them in a food processor. They just ended up getting the crap kicked out of 'em with nothing to show for it but abrasions. Being a little oily and meaty didn't help matters, so I ended up chopping them instead of mincing.

Chopped sun dried tomatoes

I wanted to use orecchiette, because they reminded me of cute little Ferengi ears but Bug preferred the way rotini chews. [I refuse to use that word that begins with mouth and ends in feel.] As it turned out, we needed a fairly hefty pasta. The poor little orecchiette would have drowned...or more appropriately, would have been muffled.

The big oops - I miscalculated the timing, so I neglected the salmon, which resulted in a rubbery and dry fish, by first overcooking it and then letting it sit for 20 minutes while I finished preparing everything else. Hey, but I made sure the rotini was al dente.

Sad salmon

Bug enjoyed the meal, even the rubbery salmon. He loved the vegetables. His suggestion for the next time was to cook thin slices of beef with the vegetables as the meal lacked a hearty meatiness.

- Cassaendra

0 deep thoughts:

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