Monthly Archives: July 2014

Miso-Glazed Salmon

This savory one-pan supper is weeknight-friendly because you can marinate the salmon before work or for as little as 30 minutes before you broil it (or grill it as we did.)

finished.plate.of.food

Here is the entire recipe, Miso-Glazed Salmon with Sesame Asparagus, as shown in the June/July 2014 issue of Fine Cooking. However, we grilled the salmon instead and had grilled corn on the cob with miso butter, and stir-fried bok choy as our sides of choice instead of the asparagus.

seeds.oil.salt marinating.salmon miso.butter.raw.corn

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white miso
  • 1/4 cup dry sake or dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1-1/2- to 2-lb. skin-on wild salmon fillet
  • 1-1/2 lb. medium-thick asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil; more as needed
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. Asian sesame oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 handful cherry tomatoes (optional)

grilling.salmon

stirfrying.bokchoy

Directions

  1. In a baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet large enough to accommodate the salmon, whisk the miso, sake, mirin, honey, soy sauce, and ginger until combined. Turn the salmon in the mixture to coat and leave flesh side down. Marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
  2. Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler on high. In a large bowl, toss the asparagus with the vegetable oil. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly brush with oil. Leaving a light coating of the marinade on the salmon, transfer it skin side down to one side of the sheet. Arrange the asparagus on the other side of the sheet. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp. salt over the fish and asparagus.
  3. Broil until the salmon is browned around the edges, 2 to 4 minutes. Toss the asparagus and continue to broil until the asparagus is tender and the salmon is cooked to your liking, 3 to 5 minutes more for medium rare and 5 to 7 minutes more for medium. 1 to 2 minutes before the salmon is done, add the cherry tomatoes (if using) to the baking sheet. Use a paring knife to check for doneness; medium-rare salmon will be slightly translucent in the center, and medium salmon will be opaque but juicy.
  4. Transfer the salmon and asparagus to a serving platter. Drizzle the sesame oil over the asparagus, sprinkle the sesame seeds over both, and serve.

At the time of purchase, wild salmon was outrageously expensive so we bought farm-raised salmon instead.

If you can’t cook fresh salmon right away, loosely wrap it in plastic and keep it in the coldest part of the refrigerator for no more than two days, or wrap well in plastic and heavy-duty aluminum foil and freeze for up to three months.

Grilled Corn with Miso Butter
August 2014, Bon Appétit

  1. Mix 4 Tbsp. room temperature unsalted butter and 1 Tbsp. miso (red or white) in a small bowl.
  2. Rub 4 husked ears of corn with 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil; season with salt.
  3. Grill over medium-high heat, turning often, until lightly charred and tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Spread corn with miso butter and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Yummy, yummy, to my tummy!

 

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Dining Along the Delaware

This casual, comfortable restaurant, Charcoal, along the Delaware River in Yardley, PA, used to be known to the locals as “Dirty Bills.” Don’t ask me why, but I lived in Yardley for 27 years and no one could ever tell me the reason behind the odd name. Before the flood in 2006, Charcoal Steaks-N-Things as it was originally called, was a homey luncheonette in a no frills room with unadorned formica tables, on street level.

russ.perusing.menu

lynn.with.wine

But after suffering through three floods in a row—2004, 2005 and 2006—the owner Anton (Tony) Plescha spent two years rebuilding, and it is now elevated 10 feet above ground. From the moment you walk up the stairs (there is also an elevator) and into the dining room, prepare to be impressed. From the near perfect view of the Delaware River to the thoughtful seasonal menu, this 70-seat BYOB does not disappoint. In 2009, Charcoal was redeveloped from the much beloved diner into an avant-garde dining experience by Tony’s sons, Mark and Eric Plescha, the innovative chef-brother team. While Papa Plescha still runs breakfast and lunch, the two sons preside over the state-of-the-art dinner menu.

menu

Today, Charcoal is an outstanding example of seasonal ingredients being morphed into absolute lusciousness through innovative technique. Inspired by the products grown at local farms near the restaurant, the menu changes regularly. And we had some excellent choices on our most recent visit (one of many celebrating my birthday) so it took a while to zero in on the perfect choices.

lobster.chow.chow

beet.tartare

For starters, from the “Small Plates” menu Lynn ordered Warm Lobster and Grilled Corn Chow Chow with lovage and lobster butter. Simply Heaven! Russ chose the Deviled Beet Tartare with lychee pickled shallots, arugula, on grilled bread. An unusual combination, is was so satisfyingly delicious, we could have ordered it as a main entree.

black.rigatoni

pork.portethouse

Continuing in my seafood frame of mind, I ordered the Shrimp Scampi with blackened rigatoni from the “Pasta” section of the menu. The black rigatonis arrived al dente with a healthy portion of shrimp and garnished with micro-greens.

From the “Large Plates” segment the Pork Porterhouse with “XO” roasted chanterelles, and sweet corn seemed to be calling Russ’ name. Lucky for me, he graciously cut me a small portion to taste. If I had three hands, I’d have rated it “Three Thumbs Up!”

“People come in and dine for two hours now, when before it was 40 minutes,” said Tony Plescha. “Instead of $10 dinners, we’re doing $13 to $30, and no one has complained yet.”

Breakfast and lunch is still mainly Dad’s domain. But in the evening, the music changes, candles are set out on the tables, and many diners show up with some of their favorite bottles of wine. As noted on their website, Charcoal is still a family restaurant, with a bit of a modern twist.

http://www.charcoalbyob.com

A Reunion of Sorts

One of my first Accounting for Taste blog’s last January was about a group of coworkers meeting for a holiday dinner at Padrino’s Bistro & Italian Steakhouse, authentic Southern and Coastal Italian cuisine, on Kuser Road in Hamilton Township, NJ. Well this time around, it was with another group of MCCC staff members—the College Advancement team, some of whom have retired and/or moved on to other pursuits. One thing you can always count on at Padrino’s is a large, varied menu with huge portions! And we weren’t disappointed…

Because we couldn’t stop gabbing, our friendly waitress had to come back several times before we finally put in our order. And with their long list of specials, there were numerous requests for a repeat description. Most entrees come with a choice of soup or salad and while we waited for these to arrive, we enjoyed tastings of various red wines provided by some of the group (it is a BYO.)

Native Italian food is a part of Chef Leonardo Coppola who was born and raised in Monte di Procida, Napoli Italia. He spent his very early years in his Nonna’s kitchen, sitting on the counter watching and “helping.”That’s how it started. In that country kitchen filled with fresh tomatoes, basil, and olive oil picked from the families land, she taught him how to prepare the family’s homemade secrets. He learned you can’t rush a good sauce and fresh herbs and good olive oil make all the difference. The most important lesson Nonna taught: cook from the heart and the soul is rewarded.

edytas.capri
Edyta’s Capri – Chicken breast grilled and layered with pesto and fresh mozzarella, then broiled and topped with bruschetta served with broccoli rabe and fried cheese ravioli in a sundried tomato cream sauce. “YUM, YUM, YUM!”

lynns.ischia
Lynn’s entree was Ischia – Jumbo lump crabmeat, shrimp and clams (although, not liking clams I asked for extra shrimp), in fra diablo sauce over bucatini pasta. “Very large succulent shrimp, perfectly cooked!”

rosannes.ravioli
Rosanne ordered Parma – Veal layered with prosciutto, eggplant & mozzarella cheese served in a marinara sauce served with cheese ravioli & spinach. “…it was delicious twice, since I had the leftover again yesterday.  I liked that it was not over the top huge.”

saverias.salmon
Saveria dined on Luca – Salmon topped with an artichoke salad with pesto risotto and asparagus. “Very good, but they went overboard on the huge pile of risotto!”

wendys.toscano
And Wendy ‘s meal was Toscano – Chicken breasts in a sherry wine sauce served with artichokes, grilled asparagus, sun dried tomatoes and topped with portobello and fontina cheese over cappellini (although Wendy requested whole wheat penne instead.) “It was delicious and HUGE. I still haven’t eaten all the leftovers!”

With no room for dessert, and doggie bags for most, we ended the evening with lots of reminiscing and laughter. But a storm warning had been issued and prompted us to get started on our separate journeys home.

5.ladies
Seated from left: Wendy, Edyta, Saveria, Lynn and Rosanne.
Brenda and Candace had cancelled…

Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp

After dining out three nights in a row leading up to my birthday, Russ made me this wonderful dish from the latest issue of Fine Cooking magazine. The Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp is inspired by the garlic shrimp served from food trucks along Oahu’s North Shore — and it was a perfect summer birthday dinner to be enjoyed at home!

2plated.shrimp

Ingredients

  • 3-1/2 oz. (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. extra-jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per lb.), peeled, deveined, and patted dry
  • 3 Tbs. grapeseed or canola oil
  • 8 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup sake or dry white wine
  • 1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
dredging.shrimp
floured.shrimp.platter
garlic.browning
Directions
  1. In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, paprika, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt. Lightly dredge the shrimp in the mixture, shaking off the excess; set aside.
  2. Heat a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Add the oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove and reserve the garlic, leaving the oil in the pan.
  3. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the shrimp in a single layer. Cook undisturbed for 2 minutes, then flip and cook until nearly opaque in the center, 1 to 2 minutes more. Add the sake and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, flipping the shrimp once, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the butter and the reserved garlic, and cook, swirling the pan, until the sauce is emulsified. Remove from the heat, add the cilantro and lemon juice, and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and serve.

skillet.shrimp

browned.skillet.shrimp

With the jumbo shrimp on sale for half the price of the extra-jumbo (or colossal) shrimp, we bought the slightly smaller crustaceans. Because there were more like 32 pieces, as opposed to the 16-20 count called for in the recipe, we had to cook in two batches as they didn’t all fit in the skillet at one time. And being smaller, we shortened the cooking time. In hind sight, we wished we had also increased the amount of sake (or wine) thus producing more sauce at the end. But there is no doubt we will be making this again and will be prepared to make the adjustments.

NOTE: Sauvignon Blanc makes a perfect pairing with this recipe.

Citrus-Cilantro Wet Spice Rub

We’ve had eight, nine(?) beautiful Summer weekends in a row! But after this past Winter, with its polar vortex temps, I think we deserve it…  Don’t you? So this past Sunday evening, we tried out a new recipe for a wet spice rub from Cook’s Illustrated. The first of our Brandywine Pink Heirloom tomatoes were perfectly ripe, so a caprese salad with garden-fresh purple and green basil, would pair nicely with the grilled chicken and some newly-picked green beans.
caprese.salad
green.beans
This rub was developed by grilling experts John Willoughby and Chris Schlesinger. It is especially suitable for chicken. Our twist to the ingredients? We used chipotle powder instead of chili powder, and pimenton in place of paprika. For extra spiciness, add up to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
raw.chicken.with.rub

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice from 1 orange
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice from 1 lime
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced very fine
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine all ingredients in small bowl. Use immediately.

APPLYING THE RUB

Carefully lift up the skin over the breast and massage the spice rub directly onto the meat. Smooth the remaining rub over the outside of the bird. The magazine called for massaging some of the rub on the inside of the cavity, but it made only a scant few tablespoons. I suggest doubling up on the ingredients if you intend to include spicing up the inside too.

 carving.bid

Our 4 lb. chicken took about 70 minutes in the middle of the grill, where it wouldn’t burn but would receive ample heat. Fire up all burners on the grill until super hot, then turn off all but one. Oil up the grate and lay the bird breast-side down over an off-burner for 35 minutes. Turn it over and cook another 35 minutes. Remove the chicken onto a cutting board with routed edges and tent with foil. As Russ said “This puts the ‘suck’ back into succulent,” and he meant that in a good way… It was one juicy bird!

The recipe called for brining the bird for one hour for tender, juicy meat. Since we were running late, we skipped the brining step, and the end result seemed no less juicy to us!

chicken.and.tomatoes

Rick’s in Lambertville

In the small river town of Lambertville, NJ on South Main Street, a 50-seat, 1886 row house restaurant named Rick’s is inconspicuously nestled among other residential and commercial buildings. This BYOB neighborhood place is old-style homey with its knotty-pine-paneled decor, and red and white checked tablecloths. There is no hostess there to take your name, you simply jot it down, along with the number of people in your party, on the sign-up sheet fastened to a clipboard on the wall.

It was Saturday night of July 4 weekend and the weather was summer simplicity at its best. In previous visits, we had experienced long waits for a table, where, in a narrow hallway, there is but a small bench to sit on or a boxed radiator to lean against. But as luck would have it, most people seemed to be out of town or enjoying gatherings elsewhere, so we were seated at a spacious front window table within minutes.

Alex Cormier first became Executive Chef in 2000, and what started out as a temporary position turned into a three-year tenure, after which he bought the place in October 2003. Alex enjoys showcasing a spectacular array of fine European and Asian influenced cuisines for specials—added to the chalkboard list daily—while maintaining the integrity of the base Italian menu that has made Rick’s a must-visit destination for over a decade.

bread.and.bean.dip

While the main menu is retro, the blackboard specials are well made, particularly flavorful and elevate the place to something more than a spaghetti house. While reading the menu, our friendly waitress brought us a basket of bread with a side of very tasty white bean dip (although the bread was nothing to write home about, in my opinion.)

anitpasto.platter

As an appetizer we chose the Antipasto Platter for Two, which is hands down, the best antipasto I have ever had (although the picture was taken after we ravaged the platter and doesn’t look nearly as appetizing as it tasted.) Nicely presented on a large platter, it had a generous serving of roasted peppers, briny olives, pepperocini, stand-out portobellos, red onion slices, grape tomatoes, a creamy goat cheese, and succulent slices of beef on a bed of lettuce greens.

gnocchi.fra.diavolo

brasciole1

One of the chalkboard specials caught my eye immediately, the Gnocchi Fra Diavolo with Scallops and Sugar Snap Peas with plump, perfectly cooked scallops and tender gnocchi (something I usually never order!) An odd combination to be sure, but I am a sucker for fra diavolo sauce and I adore scallops. Russ also settled on a special, the Brasciole—stuffed with Italian bread crumbs and cheese—Fra Diavolo over Linguine with Roasted Peppers, and he loved it.

Both feeling full half-way through our dinners, we opted to take home doggie bags, which actually was enough for two more dinners a few days later. Not having room for dessert, I have heard others suggest picking the moist and not-too-sweet chocolate chip banana cake or the house-made ice cream, sorbet or tiramisu, which is made with mascarpone and raw eggs.

For a tiny café, Rick’s covers a lot of terrain. They deliver on the promise of Italian and much more!

A Cool Meal for a Hot Day

Nicoise Salade

Some days it is just too damn hot and humid to cook or grill, so what do you do? An ample, cool salad comes to mind… So on a recent sweltering 95 degree day, I made my version of the classic Salade Nicoise (in the style of Nice, France), typically composed of tomatoes, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, olives and anchovies, dressed with a vinaigrette. It is served variously on a plate, platter, or in a bowl, with or without a bed of lettuce, and the tuna may be cooked or canned.

salad.platter2

In a few short days we were leaving for a week’s vacation so part of my plan was to use up as much fresh produce as I could; this included mixed greens, carrots, grape tomatoes, and green beans. Our household inventory also included some left over green olives (usually black nicoise olives are used), canned white albacore tuna packed in water, small red skinned potatoes, and eggs. The night prior, I hard-boiled four eggs, trimmed and blanched the green beans, and boiled the baby red potatoes, eliminating any need to use a heat source the next day.

After cutting everything down to bite-size pieces and arranging on a large platter, I lightly sprinkled on fresh-cut chives from our herb garden. When Russ got home he made a mediterranean vinaigrette dressing (recipe follows) which we drizzled over our self-served plates. Satisfying and light, this was a perfect compliment for dining on a hot summer’s day.

There was plenty left over for both of us to lunch on the next day, being careful to store the additional vinaigrette in separate small travel containers. Feel free to experiment and use whatever veggies and/or herbs you have on hand.

plate.of.salad

Vinaigrette Dressing:

  • 2 anchovy filets, drained
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2-1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs. capers, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Put the anchovies, lemon juice and dijon mustard in a small container using an immersion blender (or mini-blender), puree until smooth. Slowly drizzle in olive oil until completely blended. Finally, by hand, mix in capers and salt and pepper and pour into serving container.

July 4 Party

table.decor

Sometimes an impromptu party works best. The Sunday prior to July 4, while visiting Barb Walsh and Brad Collins, realizing neither couple had made any plans for the upcoming July 4 holiday, we offered to host a BBQ at our house. Several days later when talking with good friend Rosanne Zarrilli who also had no plans for that day, I invited her and husband Gary to join us.

4.guests.on.chairs

As fate would have it, the first hurricane of the season was roaring up the East Coast, a “never before” happening for that date. But Lady Luck was on our side because by about 4:00 the sun was starting to peak out. And while substantial winds played havoc with the patio umbrella and tablecloth, we were determined to hold the picnic outdoors.

For starters we all enjoyed Lynn’s version of a “Tie-Me-Up, Tie-Me-Down” cocktail. The weekend before I infused some vodka with fresh rosemary from the herb garden and the peel from a whole lemon. Then the morning of the party, I strained the vodka, added simple syrup and the juice from about 8 lemons. Voila, a tasty concoction to kick off the holiday!

appetizers

Appetizers from Rosanne consisted of a beautifully plated, and extremely tasty take on shrimp cocktail, ala the Barefoot Contessa, and a platter of lovely little caprese salad skewers. Our pre-dinner conversations were often interrupted by the ear-splitting fireworks from the backyard neighbor’s teenage party but didn’t deter us from enjoying our own raucous laughter!

pregrilled.meat

chef.russ

Soon it was time for Chef Russ to fire up the grill for the Marinated London Broil. The very thick, 2/12 lb. steak had been marinating for over 24 hours and actually looked done before it ever met the grill grates! Soon enough the “meat magic” was complete and we all gathered for an al fresco picnic which included contributions from Barb of perfectly composed deviled eggs and a delicious pasta salad; and Rosanne’s broccoli dish.

sliced.meat.cutting.board side.sishes

As darkness fell, some enjoyed a choice of several varieties of cheesecake and a scoop of Russ’ homemade strawberry ice cream. Alas, all good things must come to an end, but friendships remain, and I’m sure there are more impromptu parties in our future…

rosanne.gary

Grilled Marintaed London Broil via FoodNetwork.com

Ingredients

  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds London broil ( top round)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Directions

  1. Combine the shallots, thyme, brown sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and oil in a freezer-type zip-top plastic bag. Add the steaks. Squeeze out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Place the bag in a medium bowl in the refrigerator to marinate overnight, turning bag several times for even coating.
  2. Heat a grill.
  3. Drain the steaks, reserving the marinade. There will not be much. Pour the marinade into a small saucepan. Rinse the bag with 1/4 cup water and add to marinade. Simmer 4 to 5 minutes and stir in the butter.
  4. Grill steaks to medium-rare, about 2 minutes each side.
  5. Let stand 4 to 5 minutes before slicing. Thinly slice at an angle across the grain, which runs up and down the short side of the steak. Bring the marinade-butter mixture back to a boil, pour over the meat, and serve immediately.

NOTE – Since our steak was very thick, Russ had to grill it much longer than the directions called for, so he inserted a meat thermometer to gauge when to remove it from the heat. We also doubled the marinade.