Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saturday Night Throwdown

It may astonish you, Dear Reader, that Vindaloo occaisionally resorts to the use of convenience foods.  By "convenience foods," she refers to leftovers from a previous meal.  A product of post-Depression era parenting, she may have inherited her maternal grandmother's gift of transforming little bits of this and that into something greater than the sum of its parts.  Last night's dinner was a nod in that direction.  In and of itself, the meal was not stunningly creative, but each part worked together to produce a very pleasing and quite delicious outcome.  So, for your perusal and hopefully your future kitchen adventures, there are three recipes below. 

What, you might ask, did Vindaloo sip with her supper after luxuriating  like a cat in a deliciously sunny afternoon?  Why, she opened a bottle of Gruner Veltliner (or if you want to be trendy, ask your wine guys at Spec's for Gru-V): Hans Setzer Weinviertel 2008 (Austria).  GV is a lovely, lively white that is typicially acidic with some presence of minerality.  It's a white with enough cajones to stand up to foods with more intense flavors.  Not uncommonly, GV presents with aromas/flavors of lime, green apple, cantaloupe, grass, stone, white pepper, floral notes, etc.  The Weinviertel did not disappoint.  It was spicy with an initial hit of kaffir lime and plenty of acid to balance the richness of the meal.  Vindaloo has been drinking GV for years and thinks it goes well with quite a few things (here's a wine for those of you who really love Asian cuisine), and it was particularly lovely with last night's menu:  Cedar-Smoked Wild Salmon with Salted Honey and Szechuan Peppercorns, Orange-Basil Rice Pilaf, Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Garlic and Red Pepper. 

May your tastebuds dance.  Oh, and would one of you please help find a sexier, sleeker name for the salmon?

Cedar-Smoked Wild Salmon with Salted Honey and Szechuan Peppercorns

8 oz. wild salmon fillet
Sea salt to taste (you could also experiment with smoked salt as well),
       but be sure to use plenty
1 to 2 Tbs. honey, or to taste
¼ tsp. Szechuan peppercorns, crushed  (you can substitute regular
   peppercorns if you wish)

Cedar chips

1.     If you have cedar chips, prepare them by soaking them in some water while you get the fish and the grill ready.  You can also purchase a cedar plank and use it to cook the fish on.  But I’ve never used one, so you’re on your own in that department!
2.     Salt the top of the fish fillet and drizzle with honey.  The idea is to coat the top of the fish with the honey so you get a bit of a glaze.  Sprinkle with the crushed peppercorns.
3.     Drain excess water from cedar chips (if you’re using them).  Place them directly on the grill fire/coals under the grate. 
4.     Cook the salmon on the grill, covered, for approximately 7 to 8 minutes.  I started off at a medium-high setting and lowered it to medium-low when I saw the honey starting to burn at the edges too much.  Serves 2.

Orange-Basil Rice Pilaf

1 Tbs. EVOO
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. finely chopped shallot
½ tsp. dried basil
1 ½ cups leftover wild and brown rice pilaf
½ tsp. finely grated orange zest
¼ cup chopped fresh orange (I used leftover Clementine sections from breakfast)
1 to 2 Tbs. toasted slivered almonds or toasted chopped pecans (optional)

  1. In a small sauté pan, heat the EVOO and butter until shimmering.  Add shallot and sauté for about 1 minute.  Add basil.
  2. Add leftover rice pilaf.  If it’s a bit dry, add a little water.  Stir to incorporate flavors.  Cover and lower heat to steam and infuse.
  3. Just before serving, stir in orange zest, fresh orange and nuts if you’re using them.  Serves 2.

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Garlic and Red Pepper

2 crowns broccoli, trimmed and cut into large florets
2 to 4 Tbs. EVOO
1 tsp. dried minced garlic (I use Penzey’s)
1 tsp. crushed red pepper (if you like less heat, reduce this quantity)
Kosher salt to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees while you’re prepping the ingredients.
  2. Put the prepared broccoli in a large bowl and drizzle with EVOO.  Sprinkle the dried, minced garlic, crushed red pepper and a generous amount of kosher salt over the broccoli.  Mix well until broccoli florets are coated with seasonings.
  3. Distribute evenly on a sheet pan with sides and bake for about 20 minutes.*  The goal here is not emerald green broccoli, but rather toasted, caramelized broccoli, which will not be a very attractive shade of green.  It will, however, taste wonderfully nutty with a slight crunch.  Serves 2 with leftovers.

* Time is approximate.  Vindaloo had imbibed ein bischen Gru-V at this point and didn’t pay attention closely to the cooking time, so you’ll need to peek in the oven after 15 minutes or so.

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