Five Things I Cooked This Week

photo 3The weather over here just can't quite sort itself out!  One minute I'm soaking up sun in the back garden, the next moment a brutal wind is hurling rain at me sideways. All of this lends itself to schizophrenic cheffing - craving the warmth of hearty soups but by the time they're ready feeling more inclined to pull together a fresh salad.  Much of what I played with this week was inspired by little blurbs I picked up on in newspapers, particularly Ottolenghi's fantastic weekly column in The Guardian.  His recipes featured sorrel, that delicate, fleeting, sour green.  I thought I'd be able to easily find it on my Sunday excursion to the Queen's Park Farmers' Market. Alas, they were sold out by the time I arrived (noon), hence my pout in the photo.  Panzers in St. John's Wood came to the rescue! I called up and they said they'd pick up a bunch for me at the market and have it waiting the next day.  It pays to know your local green grocer.  Anyway, let's get on with it!Don't know if you saw my picture on Facebook with all of my lovely vegetables and complete with their greens still intact. Most places do away with these lovely, luscious greens, but my favorite grocer, Clifton Greens does right by all of us vegetable lovers. My beets were aching to be used but I wanted to do something special and so I started flipping through my mental recipe rolodex and this is what I came up with. Beets are nature's candy when prepared properly (but I even loved the canned pickled beet slices my Grandma Mary used to serve). Combine that with flaky puff pastry and a bit of goat's cheese and this is a decadent treat.  I made miniature ones of these up at the shooting estate but they didn't quite work like I hoped because in trying to make individual portions, the sweet beet juice didn't caramelize properly. This time I also added a layer of flavor and texture by sprinkling the sauteed (almost crispy) beet greens on top and then just a very little bit of crumbled sharp goat's cheese. Autumnal cuisine?  Perhaps, but serve this with a lovely green salad and a glass of rose out in the garden, and you have a lovely light summer's lunch.  Looks like a lot of work....but it's not and so very impressive!The Whole Beet Tarte Tatinphoto 1makes four generous slices4 or 5 beets with their tops on, cut into wedges (I got about 8 wedges per beet out of mine)2 tablespoons butter1 tablespoon canola oil2 tablespoons cider vinegar2 tablespoons light brown sugarsalt and pepper1/2 pound all-butter ready-made puff pastry1/4 cup of your favorite stinky goat's cheesePreheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Now roll out your puff pastry to the same size as the skillet you're using to cook your beets in - mine was a 10 inch skilled and worked well for this amount of beets.  Wrap your pastry in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until needed later.Melt the butter and heat the oil in your skillet (needs to be ovenproof!). Add your vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper and allow the sugar to dissolve.  Now add your beets and coat them in the mixture.  Arrange the beets in a single layer and cover tightly with foil. Put in your oven for about 30-35 minutes, until they're easy to pierce with the tip of a knife.  Remove the skillet from the oven when they're ready and turn the beets over again so they are evenly coated in the yummy juices.  Place your puff pastry over the top and tuck it in around the beets.  Place this back in the oven for about 30 more minutes, until the pastry is puffed up and quite brown - let it go longer than you think necessary as puff pastry MUST be cooked all the way through.While the tarte is cooking sautee your beet greens (clean them well and chop them roughly) in a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Set them aside.  Now I also made a sharp vinaigrette to drizzle over the top - simply: a clove of garlic, minced, a teaspoon of dijon, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, 4 tablespoons olive oil, a pinch of sugar.When you take the tarte out of the oven allow it to rest without touching it for 15 minutes. Then, turn it out onto a serving plate and make sure to pour all of the juices on top of the tarte.  Arrange the beet greens on top and sprinkle with the crumbled goat's cheese. Serve with the vinaigrette on the side. photo 3Every family has its folklore, and one of ours is the Christmas Sally ate shrimp. Too excited to join the grownups at dinner on Christmas Eve when I was just three, I stayed out by the Christmas tree and shook the presents addressed to me and apparently decided that the huge platter of shrimp cocktail shouldn't go to waste and so I ate the entire thing.  Now we have a lovely shrimp cocktail platter every Christmas Eve...but the obsession didn't stop there. I used to beg for trips to Red Lobster so I could gorge on their kid's menu fried shrimp and then as I got older have become a fan of shrimp dumplings, shrimp linguini, shrimp anything.  As a small concession to my waistline, I've tried to limit my intake of fried shrimp, but I just couldn't resist Ottolenghi's recipe in last week's Guardian.  He suggested serving it with a celeriac remoulade (the recipe for that was delicious too) but I'm not sure I'd do that again with the fried shrimp. To the panko breadcrumbs he suggests adding chopped hazelnuts and black sesame seeds - really, really delicious. I used frozen king shrimp that I keep on hand in the freezer - no need to fuss like he suggests. As a lovely canape at a party, these fried shrimp (or prawns, if you please) with a little dollop of his sorrel sauce. A new addition to my wouldn't be a Five Things if I didn't give you guys a soup recipe and this week was a particularly good one, if I do say so myself. I had cabbage that needed to be used, excess chicken stock, herbs.  All I did was sautee about 10 new potatoes (quartered with their skin left on) in a soup pot with a little bit of oil. Let the potatoes start to brown and get crispy on the outside and cover the pot for about 15 minutes just to ensure the potatoes start to soften. Now add a sliced yellow onion and 4 cloves of minced garlic - cook down for about five minutes. Add your stock to the pan - about 6 cups - a can of drained and rinsed canellini beans and let this come to a boil. Now add your ribbons of cabbage and warm it all through, seasoning with salt and pepper. A grating of parmesan on top to serve and you have a delicious, healthy soup.  As a side note, there's no picture of this dish (but there is the cabbage to the right) because my husband polished it off all of it while I was out one evening. I had thought I'd have a second chance to take a photo for you, but that will teach me to not get out my camera the first time around!Rachel Khoo is a supercute celebrity chef who climbed to fame by opening up the world's smallest restaurant in her studio apartment in Paris.  She'd moved across the Channel to attend the Cordon Bleu and stayed and has made a real name for herself - I loved her cooking series that was on a year ago, more for the French locales than her food, but, I digress. She now has a weekly column is The Evening Standard's Friday style magazine. Last week she offered us a recipe for Miso Salmon with Pickled Sugar Snaps and Sesame Soba Noodles.  I'm a sucker for pickling anything and am always trying to get more salmon in my diet, so this seemed a must try.  Both my dear husband and I thought the miso salmon was divine and I will be making that part of this dish often.  The pickles were nice but I think she should note that you need to let them sit for at least half an hour before serving.  Finally, I would definitely use some of your pickling liquid as a sauce on top of the entire dish. The noodles need a broth - something is necessary to pull the whole dish together. Definitely give it a shot as a healthy quick dinner - and the pickling technique is one you should tuck away for a rainy day when all of your vegetables are about to go bad but you hate to see them wasted!

Miso Salmon with Pickled Sugar Snaps and Sesame Soba Noodlesphoto 5
adapted from Rachel Khoo
serves 4
1/2 cup sweet white miso paste
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
4 salmon filets (remove the skin)
2/3 pound  soba noodles
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
for the pickled sugar snaps:
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 pound sugar snaps, trimmed
10 radishes, quartered
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. Mix miso with mustard and vinegar and put the salmon filets in the mix smearing it all over the flesh. Lay salmon skin side down on baking sheet and bake for 18 minutes.
Place the pickling vinegar and sugar in a small pan with 200ml water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and dissolve sugar. Pour the liquid over the sugar snaps and radishes and set aside.
Cook your soba noodles according to package directions. Drain and toss with sesame oil and seeds. Divide noodles in 4 bowls, top with picked veggies, some of the pickle juice and chunks of the salmon.
photo 2For years I've cut recipes out of various magazines and newspapers, websites and even written down ideas while watching TV.  However, sadly, most of them wallow in my files, never to see a splattering of oil or be singed around the edges from my careless cooking in the kitchen. What I love about writing this column for all of you, is that it forces me to use the recipes I discover.  No time like the present, right?  Instead of getting stuck in a rut (even for my clients) I get to cook the things that pique my interest. So thanks to all of you, my culinary horizons are being stretched, much to my delight.  Anyway, my final recipe this week is another fantastic salad from Mr. Ottolenghi. It's in the same article as the shrimp recipe, but is worth a mention as it's one of the more interesting salads I've made.  Here he uses the sorrel sauce that is delicious with the fried shrimp as a dressing for this fruity and mouth-puckering salad, packed with flavors and textures. My favorite take-away from the whole experiment is his use of red quinoa (sparingly), which bulks it up a little bit and also adds a delicious nutty flavor. The other wonderful part of this recipe is the use of RAW rhubarb.  Somehow, with the apple and celery and watercress it's just not as offensive as I thought it might be.  He, like Rachel Khoo also uses radishes which the English love and use with abandon - we Americans could benefit from more of these peppery powerhouses!  This may sound weird but I promise, you'll love it.