Food and Love and Oysters on the Half Shell

CU- oysters on the half shellFood and Love:  The two seem to have always been connected in an intimate dance of the senses.  Do you ever think about it and wonder why the two are so intertwined?  For many of us, the most memorable (and sensuous) times of our lives have often been around food and wine.  Friends, lovers and the dining table are all folded in together like some great soufflé.

For all of recorded history, claims have been made that certain foods increase sexual potency and desire.  I’ve never found a complete listing of these, but there must be hundreds.  The Chinese tout shark fin and birds nest (real ones) soups.  The Scottish swear by haggis, a mixture of minced sheep innards mixed with oatmeal and spices and then stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled for 4 hours (Scots obviously have a different sense of sensuality!).  The Aztecs include cocoa and chocolate (which interestingly were forbidden to their women), The Greeks revered pine nuts according to Ovid, Pliny mentioned hippopotamus snout and hyena eyes and every culture seems to have used oysters.  Additionally, caviar, snails and the eggs, glands and genitals of all kinds of birds, animals and fish are said to provide special powers.  Even prunes were so highly regarded as an aphrodisiac in Elizabethan times that they were freely served in brothels. Wine of course has always been included in the mix.

In the garden, apples, asparagus, figs, bananas, cucumbers, leeks, peppers, tomatoes, avocadoes have all been attributed with special sexual potentials at one time or another.  The obvious connection being that many of them resemble human genitalia.  Herbs and edible flowers including roses, lavender, catnip, passion flower, saffron, savory and ginseng root have been celebrated for their special powers.

Anthropologist Peter Farb observed that the association between food and sex has existed since man started walking upright.  Eating brings couples into close proximity in a situation that does not call for defensive tactics.  When you think about it, eating can bind a couple more effectively than sex simply because people eat more often and predictably than they have sexual relations.

M.F.K. Fisher notes in her wonderful little book An Alphabet for Gourmets that gastronomy has always been connected with its sister art of love.  Passion and sex is the “come-and-go, the preening and the prancing, the final triumph or defeat, of two people who know enough, subconsciously or not, to woo with food as well as flattery”.

Here is a recipe for one of the most famous aphrodisiacs– oysters!  Enjoy them with someone special.  For Valentine’s Day, or any other romantic occasion.

Oysters on the Half Shell

Oysters can be little intimidating to open an oyster but there are all kinds of videos on the web to make the task easy. Classically oysters are served raw on the half shell with a little mignonette sauce which refers in French to “black pepper”. I’ve also included below a delicious alternative concocted by the folks at Hog Island Oyster Company on Tomales Bay in Northern California, my favorite source for oysters. Place the oysters on a bed of coarse salt or crushed ice to keep them from tipping and losing their delicious liquor. This is delicious with 2011 Sonoma Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay.

Classic French Mignonette
2/3 cup good quality champagne or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons peeled and finely diced shallot
2 teaspoons or more fresh cracked black pepper

Combine ingredients in a glass or stainless bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

Hog Wash
(Adapted from Hog Island Oyster Company)

1/2 cup natural rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon peeled and finely diced shallot
2 teaspoons seeded and finely diced Jalapeno pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

Stir first 5 ingredients together until sugar dissolves. Stir in cilantro just before serving.

 

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Korean Fried Chicken Wings

Korean Chicken Wings- Chef John Ash- Culinary Birds

Try this twist on an American Classic for the Super Bowl, or for any other party!

According to the National Chicken Council, Americans will consume 1.25 billion chicken wings during this year’s Super Bowl! Chicken wings became a staple in America in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. The story goes that a group of friends arrived at the bar late one evening and the only food the owner, Teresa Bellissimo, could find were the chicken wings, which were usually used to makes stock. She grabbed them, deep fried them, and whipped up a spicy sauce to coat them, and a legend was born.

What are they? They are unbreaded wings deep fried until the skin is crispy, then tossed with a simple sauce of butter or margarine, hot pepper sauce, and vinegar. Sometimes a little garlic powder, celery salt, and other spices are added. According to Buffalo residents, they are always served with carrot and celery stikcs, a blue cheese dressing, and, of course, a cold beer to cool the hot sauce and chase it all down.

Here is a recipe for a fun twist on this American classic. Korean Fried Chicken Wings use gojujang, a chili paste that is indispensable in the Korean kitchen. It is made by combining red chili peppers, glutinous rice powder, and soybean paste. Note that in this recipe, I fry the wings twice for a nice, crispy texture. This recipe is also published in my latest cookbook, Culinary Birds.

Korean Fried Chicken Wings
Canola or other vegetable oil for frying
3 tablespoons pressed, fresh garlic
2 ½ -inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
5 tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons gojujang
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons toasted sesame oil
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/3 cup rice flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
16 chicken wings, tips removed and saved for stock (about 1 ¾ pounds)
¼ cup green onions, sliced on the bias

Heat 2 inches of canola oil in a 5-quart pot over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 360 degrees.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, make a gojujang sauce. Combine the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, gojujang, vinegar, sesame oil, honey and lime juice. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and adjust the seasonings to taste. Keep warm.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours and cornstarch. Add 1 cup of water and stir to combine. Add the chicken and turn several times to coat thoroughly. Working in batches, fry the chicken in the hot oil until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Return the oil to 350 degrees. Fry the chicken until extra crisp, 6 to 8 minutes more. Drain again. Toss the chicken in with the sauce, top with green onions, and serve hot.

 

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CHUTNEY RECIPES

 

Chutney is a condiment we often associate with Indian cuisine. But this condiment has now gone global and offers a punch of flavor that pairs so well with roasted and smoked meats, adds a new dimension to a cheese and charcuterie platter, and sweeter versions can be spread onto a bagel or French toast.

Here are some of my favorite chutney recipes. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

BLUEBERRY RED WINE CHUTNEY
Makes about 1-1/2 cups

This interesting chutney is great with roasted pork, lamb and game meats such as venison. It’s also delicious on French toast, waffles and as an accompaniment to cheeses such as aged cheddars and a topper for good cream cheese on a toasted bagel! If possible try to find wild blueberries or huckleberries. They are much smaller, have a better texture and lots more flavor. In my market I find a great IQF wild blueberry from Jasper Wyman & Son in Maine, www.wymans.com.

2 ½ cups hearty red wine

2/3 cup sugar

1 whole cinnamon stick, broken into 3 or 4 pieces

2 one x two-inch strips of orange zest

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

2 teaspoons dried lavender flowers

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 ounces wild blueberries, fresh or frozen (3 cups)

Add the first 7 ingredients to a deep saucepan, bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer partially covered for 15 minutes. Strain and discard spices, return to pan along with blueberries and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes or so being careful to preserve the whole berry shape.

Strain and place blueberries in an attractive jar with a lid. Return juices to pan and over high heat reduce liquid to about 3/4 cup (12 minutes or so). Pour reduced syrup over blueberries, cool and cover. Store in refrigerator for up to 8 weeks.

 

FIG LIME CHUTNEY
Makes about 2 cups

This is a simple chutney with amazing flavor. It’s wonderful as an accompaniment to cheeses and I often use it to stuff a pork loin roast. Try adding some toasted chopped walnuts or hazelnuts too. I also use the same approach to make a smooth jam to make the best fig newtons you’ve ever had (and also to spread on toast or bagels, etc.). Just leave out the ginger, shallots and chile and puree it instead of leaving it chunky.

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped, peeled ginger

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots

Big pinch red chile flakes

3/4 pound dried calmyrna figs, cut in large dice

3/4 cup white wine

1/3 cup sugar, or to taste

3/4 cup port or sweet marsala wine

1/3 cup fresh lime juice (from 3 large limes)

In a sauce pan heat the oil over moderate heat and sauté the ginger, shallots and chile until soft but not brown. Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to cook and gently stir until mixture is thick but figs still retain their shape, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Store covered in refrigerator for up to a month or for long term storage can using the water-bath process.

 

FRESH CRANBERRY RELISH WITH TANGERINE AND MINT
Makes about 3 cups

This fresh, uncooked relish is excellent with roast turkey and also ham, pork, and game. Try it with smoked meats and sausages too!

12 ounces (3 heaping cups) fresh or frozen cranberries

2 unpeeled mandarins or tangerines, scrubbed

1/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves

1-1/4 cups sugar, or to taste

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 – 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

1/2 cup chopped, lightly toasted walnuts (optional)

Wash and pick over the cranberries. Cut the tangerines into eighths, peel and all, and remove and discard any seeds. Place all of the ingredients (except walnuts) in a food processor and chop relatively finely in short bursts. Be careful not to over process, you still want some texture. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if desired. Stir in walnuts just before serving, if using. Store covered in refrigerator for up to 5 days. Can also be frozen.

 

FRESH GREEN CHUTNEY
Makes 3/4 cup

Great with grilled lamb and chicken and as a topping for rice crackers or crispy Indian pappadam.

1 (1-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger
3 scallions (white and green parts), cut into large pieces
1 cup packed fresh mint (leaves and some stems)
1 cup packed fresh cilantro (leaves and some stems)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 jalapeno, stemmed (ribs and seeds removed if you don’t want it too hot)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 to 2 tablespoons water, optional

With the machine running, drop ginger into the bowl of a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then add scallions, mint, cilantro, yogurt, jalapeno, lime juice, and salt. Process to a textured paste similar in consistency to pesto, adding water to adjust the consistency, if desired.

 

FRESH PEACH CHUTNEY
Makes a generous 2 cups

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar

1/2 cup sweet red pepper, seeded, diced 1/4 inch

1/2 white onion, peeled and diced, about 1/2 cup

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

1/3 cup golden raisins

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 pounds firm, fresh peaches, blanched to remove the skin, pit removed, and cut into 1/2 inch dice
Put the vinegar and sugar into a non-reactive pot, place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the red pepper, onion, red pepper flakes, raisins, garlic, ginger, salt and simmer for 6 minutes or so. Add the peaches and simmer an additional 5 minutes or until softened but not mushy. Drain peaches, set aside and return liquid to the pan. Reduce over high heat until syrupy, 3 – 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat, add peaches back in and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pot. Serve at room temperature. Transfer any remaining to a clean container and refrigerate, covered, for up to one week.

 

MANGO PICKLES
Makes 1 quart

This is a delicious condiment for grilled meats and fishes or as an accompaniment to rice and curry dishes. Try a little mango pickle with a smoked cheddar cheese, it’s delicious! The same approach works well with other fruits such as firm ripe peaches, plums or fuyu persimmons.

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup white wine vinegar

3/4 cup water

1/4 pound peeled, whole shallots (cut in half lengthwise if large)

2 small red serrano or jalapeno chilies, cut in half and seeded

8 quarter size slices of fresh peeled ginger

1 teaspoon whole coriander seed

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large firm ripe mangoes (2 pounds)

In a small non-reactive saucepan, dissolve the sugar, vinegar and water over moderate heat. Add the shallots, chilies, ginger, coriander seed and salt and simmer partially covered for 7-8 minutes or until shallots are just tender.

Meanwhile, peel and cut mangoes into large 1 inch cubes, discarding the seed. Place fruit in a clean, sterilized 1 quart jar and pour the vinegar mixture over.

Cover and refrigerate up to 1 month.

 

MISO WALNUT CHUTNEY
Makes about 1 cup

This is a simple little condiment that I first had in Japan. It was served it a fresh cucumber “boat” with chilled sake. Delicious!

1/2 cup miso (white if you like it milder, red if you like it stronger)

1/4 cup mirin

2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons sake

2/3 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped

Hot pepper sesame oil

In a small saucepan combine the miso, mirin, sugar and sake and cook over low heat for 3 – 4 minutes stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar and drive the alcohol off the mirin and sake. Remove from heat and stir in the walnuts and drops of hot pepper sesame oil to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon or so).

To serve with cucumber: Split an English or Armenian cucumber in half and scoop out the seeds with the point of a teaspoon. Cut into 2 inch sections and spoon a little of the chutney into each. Top with a walnut piece or half, if desired.

 

OLIVE CHUTNEY
Makes about 1-1/2 cups

This brings together 3 of the basic flavors: salt, sweet and sour in an interesting way. We don’t usually thing of olives in a sweet environment but like any other black fruit they can be interesting. I’m using oil cured olives here which can vary widely in terms of their saltiness. You’ll want to taste and decide how salty you might like the end product. In the recipe below I’m doing a preliminary blanch of the olives to help remove salt. You may need to do it twice or even three times if the olives are especially salty. One of my favorite accompaniments for the cheese plate.

3/4 pound oil cured olives (generous 2 cups)

1 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (use a microplane)

2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary

Lemon juice to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

With the flat side of a cook’s knife gently smash the olives and remove and discard pits. Cut olive in half and add to a small sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil then drain. Return olives to pan along with brown sugar, wine and honey and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook over moderate heat until mixture thickens. Stir in zest, rosemary, drops of lemon juice and black pepper to taste. Cool, cover and stored refrigerated for up to one month.

 

PINEAPPLE ALMOND CHUTNEY
Makes about 1 quart

This is my favorite chutney to serve with baked ham. Like most other chutneys it needs to sit for a few days for the flavors to blend and mellow. It will keep in the refrigerator up to 6 months or can be water bath canned (10 minutes) and stored at room temperature for up to a year.

1 large pineapple (4-1/2 pounds or so)

1/3 cup candied ginger, coarsely chopped

3/4 cup cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 large bay leaf

1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick

2 teaspoons mustard seeds, preferably black

2 teaspoons coriander seed

1/2 teaspoon each whole allspice and cumin seed

1 teaspoon each fennel seed and whole black peppercorns

1/3 cup raisins

1 – ¼ cups blanched slivered almonds

2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest

Peel, core and cut the pineapple into 1/2-inch cubes. Mix the pineapple, ginger, vinegar, sugar, salt, red pepper, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and mustard seeds together in a large non-aluminum saucepan. With a small piece of well-rinsed cheesecloth, tie the coriander, allspice, cumin, fennel, and black peppercorns together and add to the rest of the ingredients.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring often, for 25 – 30 minutes until fruit has softened but still retains its shape. Stir in the raisins and almonds and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so. Off heat, stir in zest. Cool, remove and discard the spice bag, bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Cover and refrigerate for up to a month. Return to room temperature when serving.

 

WINTER FRUIT CHUTNEY
Makes about 1 quart

This chutney is a delicious accompaniment to smoked and roasted meats and poultry dishes and as an accompaniment to cheese.

1- 750ml bottle of dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay

3/4 cup sugar

3 whole star anise

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon coriander seed, slightly crushed

1 tablespoon black peppercorns, slightly crushed

1 cup raisins (preferably golden, unbleached)

3/4 pound assorted dried fruits such as apricots, cherries, mangoes and/or figs coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons minced candied ginger

1 large tart fresh apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch chunks

3 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice

Add wine, sugar and spices to a non-aluminum pan and simmer uncovered over moderate heat for 10 minutes. Off heat and let it cool. Strain discarding spices. You should have about 2-1/2 cups strained liquid. Return liquid to pan and add raisins, dried fruits and candied ginger and simmer covered for 5 minutes. Add the fresh apples and simmer gently until they are just tender, about 3 minutes. Off heat and cool. Stir in lime juice.

Store covered in the refrigerator for several weeks. Serve at room temperature for best flavor.

John Ash © 2013

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My Latest Cookbook: Culinary Birds

CulinaryBirds- cover 2-11-13It’s here! My latest cookbook project has been released just in time for the holidays!

For more than 7,000 years, poultry has been a mainstay of the human diet. It is the most consumed animal protein around the world and there are endless, delicious ways to prepare poultry. Culinary Birds explores a number of traditions including staples of the American table such as the many variations of roast turkey, and just about everyone’s favorite-fried chicken!

Even other countries have their delicious versions of fried chicken. Below I have included a recipe from Culinary Birds that offers a Japanese twist on this beloved dish.  Culinary Birds is available on Amazon.com and at bookstores throughout the country. I hope you’ll pick up a copy and ask me to sign it at one of the many events I have planned in the next few months. I’d love to meet you!

JAPANESE FRIED CHICKEN
Serves 4

Known as Kara-age this is a classic nibble sold all over Japan and especially at Izakayas, the Japanese bars that dot Tokyo’s nighttime foodscape. Instead of the thick flour based batters that have come from America, this chicken is traditionally marinated, dusted with potato starch and then beautifully and crisply fried. Its got everything you’d want in a bar snack: crispy, juicy, and salty.

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoon mirin

1 tablespoon sake (optional)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed through garlic press
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Vegetable oil for frying
3/4 cup potato or corn starch
Kosher or sea salt
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Cut the chicken into 2-inch pieces. Combine the soy sauce, mirin, sake, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl, add the chicken and gently stir to coat the chicken. Marinate refrigerated for 30 minutes or so.

Add vegetable oil to a heavy, deep skillet to a depth of 1 inch or so. Heat to 360 degrees. Remove chicken from the marinade and dredge them in the potato starch, shaking to remove excess. Add chicken pieces in batches if necessary to the hot oil and cook turning occasionally until brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain chicken pieces on paper towels and season immediately with salt. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over.

 

 

 

 

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Beef Tagliata- A Recipe to Remember

Beef Tagliata- a recipe to remember!  Ed Aiona/Chef John Ash

Beef Tagliata- a recipe to remember! Photo Credit: Ed Aiona/Chef John Ash

One of my favorite things about food and cooking is the way it forms a connection with all of us. The communal enjoyment of tastes and flavors while sharing it with friends can be a lasting memory.

Case in point, a few years ago while participating in a cooking demo and chef discussion at Epcot Center in Orlando, I met Bill Orben, who was a writer for the Orlando Business Journal at the time. The recipe I made that day was a Grilled Beef Tagliata, and Bill says it has become a family favorite in his house.

“With some tweaks of my own, (I left out the capers because my family is not a really big fan), it is one of those dishes we likely will fix at least once a month.

My son, who was 22 at the time, attended the event at Epcot with me, and it has become a favorite in his household as well. Although he calls me each time he prepares it, asking me how long he should leave the balsamic vinegar on the stove to reduce.

The dish, served with a simple side of roasted new potatoes, is enjoyed by anyone I serve it to. I’ve cooked it at my home in Kissimmee, Fla., at my sister-in-law’s in Chattanooga, Tenn., with friends in Austin, Texas, and at a beach condo in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

I have thought about the experience of cooking with you and recently came across your card and the original recipe and thought I would send you a note to let you know how much your dish is appreciated. When me and my son get together and jointly prepare the dish, we both think back to those memories of cooking with you.”

I was really touched by this thoughtful letter, and really happy to know that recipe has become a staple for Bill Orben and his family. It is one I love too. Here is a copy of the recipe, in case you’d like to try it for your family.

GRILLED BEEF TAGLIATA WITH ROSEMARY, CAPERS AND LEMONS
Serves 6

This is one of those very simple dishes that epitomizes the best of Italian cooking to my mind – - perfectly grilled meat, spicy greens all bathed in a fragrant flavorful oil. Like all Italian recipes there are infinite variations. Tagliata comes from the Italian tagliare, which means “carved” or “cut”. It’s a technique in which the meat is cut into thin slices which produces a lot more surface area to drizzle on seasoned oils or condiments. The cheese is an important component in the overall flavor and texture of the dish.

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons fragrant extra virgin olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
1 ½ pounds New York strip steak or sirloin, about 2 inches thick, excess fat removed
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
6 cups lightly packed tender young arugula
Reduced Balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons Fried capers
Lemon wedges

Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas or stovetop grill. In a small saucepan over low heat, cook 2/3 cup of the olive oil and the garlic until the garlic is lightly browned and beginning to crisp. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the rosemary and cracked pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

Rub the steak liberally with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season liberally with the salt and pepper. Grill the steak over high heat until rare to medium rare. (If you do this on a stovetop with a ridged grill pan, you’ll need plenty of ventilation!). Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes or so. This allows the juices to “retreat” back into the meat and redistribute themselves.

Spread the arugula on a serving platter. Slice the steak thinly across the grain. Arrange the meat on top of the arugula and pour the warm seasoned oil over the meat. Drizzle with Reduced Balsamic Vinegar and scatter Fried Capers over all. Serve with lemon wedges.

Reduced Balsamic Vinegar
Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for and a useful restaurant trick well worth knowing. Boil some balsamic vinegar, uncovered, over high heat, until it is reduced by a little more than half—say 60 percent. As it cools, it will thicken into a syrup that can be drizzled over all manner of things. Its advantage over straight-out-of-the-bottle balsamic is that in this state, it “stays put.” It can be stored at room temperature almost indefinitely.

Fried Capers
When capers are fried, they take on a different flavor and texture that I really like. Drain the capers well, pat dry with paper towels, and then fry them in small batches in about ¼ inch of hot olive oil until the buds begin to open and are lightly browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Can be done a few hours in advance.

 

 

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Sustainable Seafood Choice- Arctic Char

I’ve just returned from this year’s Cooking for Solutions  event at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I have been on the board of this event since its inception because I believe it is important we all educate ourselves in making sustainable seafood choices and help preserve our oceans.

This year, my recipes at the event focused on Arctic Char, a fish that resembles salmon in taste, but also has some of the same flavors as trout. Arctic char is also known as Alpine Char, or you may find it on a sushi menu labeled as Iwana. Arctic char is both a fresh and saltwater fish that is available wild only for a few months in the fall. Farmed arctic char is available year-round, and since the farms are land-based, closed-circle farming systems that treat their wastewater, Seafood Watch ranks this fish as a “Best Choice”.

char_arctic

Here is a recipe I made at this year’s Cooking for Solutions event. Give Arctic Char a try- and let me know what you think!

PROSCIUTTO WRAPPED ARCTIC CHAR WITH KALE PESTO

Serves 4

The kale pesto is more than you’ll need for this recipe. It keeps very well so try it the next day withpasta!IMG_0960

8 thin slices prosciutto
Four 5 ounce arctic char fillets, about 3/4 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Kale pesto (recipe follows)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 cup each dry white wine and fish or chicken stock
2 tablespoons soft butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay two slices of prosciutto side by side on a flat surface. Put one piece of arctic char crosswise on the prosciutto and season lightly with salt and pepper. Generously coat the top side of the fish with the pesto and wrap the prosciutto securely around the fish. Repeat with remaining fish.
.
Add olive oil to a skillet large enough to hold fish in one layer and heat over medium high heat. Lightly brown the wrapped fish on both sides. Place pan into the preheated oven and cook another 4 minutes or until the fish is just done. Remove the fish to warm plates.

Add the shallots to the pan and cook until softened but not brown, about 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the liquid until it becomes syrupy and then whisk in the butter. Season to taste, pour over the fish and serve immediately.

Kale pesto
Makes 2 cups

4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 quart chopped kale (Lacinato preferred), any tough center ribs discarded
2/3 cup freshly shredded parmesan
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts, blanched almonds or walnuts
1 cup or so extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the garlic and allow it to simmer for a minute. Add kale, bring the water back to the boil, stirring it a few times until kale softens, about 2 minutes.

Drain the kale and garlic and immediately plunge into cold water to stop the cooking and preserve the kale’s green color. Drain again when cool. Remove garlic, peel and set aside. Squeeze the kale with your hands to remove as much of the water as possible.

Add the garlic, kale and remainder of ingredients to a food processor. Process until mixture is pureed to your liking. It should have a little texture. You may want to add more olive oil to reach desired consistency.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 7 days. Can be frozen for up to 3 months.

 

 

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Sustainable Black Cod in a Spicy Coconut Broth

Cooking for Solutions at the Monterey Bay Aquarium  is back! I have been involved with this event since it 

cfs2013_300x25-

began, and I’m passionate about its mission: to help consumers, chefs and businesses choose seafood that is caught or farmed in ways that contribute to healthy oceans.

Cooking for Solutions takes place this year May 17-19, and there are still tickets available for several events. Cooking for Solutions supports the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s respected Seafood Watch program, recognized as the leader in creating science-based recommendations for choosing sustainable seafood. The event includes three days of tastings with celebrity chefs, including Carla Hall  from The Chew . You’ll find food from more than 80 restaurants, and nearly 60 wineries will pour their latest selections. I am part of a Food & Wine Adventure on Saturday, May 18, in the Carmel Highlands, and look forward to these intimate classes each year.

One of my favorite sustainable seafood choices is Black Cod, also known as Sablefish or Butterfish. It has a delicious flavor and one of its best attributes is that even if you overcook it a bit, the fish is still moist and firm.

Sablefish, courtesy Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sablefish, courtesy Monterey Bay Aquarium

This recipe for Black Cod in a Spicy Coconut Broth uses a curry mixture called laksa   . It has its roots in Malaysia. And if you want to replace the spinach, you could use other Asian greens like steamed baby bok choy. I hope you enjoy the recipe- and let me know what you think of Black Cod!

 

BLACK COD IN A SPICY COCONUT BROTH

Serves 4

4 fillets of fresh black cod cut at least 3/4 inch thick (approximately 1-1/2 pounds total)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups lightly packed young spinach
1 cup chicken stock
1-1/2 cups coconut milk, well stirred
3/4 cup laksa paste or to taste (recipe follows)

Garnish: Daikon or other savory sprouts such as sunflower

Pat the cod dry, season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in an ovenproof sauté pan (preferably non-stick) over moderately high heat and quickly sauté fish on one side until nicely browned. Turn fish over and place pan in a preheated 450-degree oven for 4 – 5 minutes or until just cooked through.

While fish is cooking heat the stock and coconut milk in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Stir in laksa paste and keep warm.

To serve add remaining tablespoon of oil to a large skillet and heat over moderately high heat. Add spinach stir-fry until just beginning to wilt, about 1 minute. Place spinach in the center of shallow warm bowls and top with cod. Ladle broth around, top with sprouts and serve immediately.

Laksa Paste
Makes a little more than a cup

2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce (or to taste)*
1/3 cup chopped shallots
1/3 cup chopped and toasted macadamia nuts or blanched almonds
1/4 cup peeled and finely chopped ginger
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 tablespoons fish sauce (or to taste)
Juice and zest from 2 large limes
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup or so coconut milk

Add all ingredients except coconut milk to a blender and process for a minute or two or until very smooth. Add mixture to a small saucepan and cook over moderate heat for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Should be very fragrant. Stir in coconut milk and cook for 2 – 3 minutes more. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

*Chili garlic sauce is available in the Asian markets and the Asian section of some supermarkets. Lee Kum Kee from Hong Kong is a widely distributed brand.

 

 

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ORANGE GLAZED HAM

Photo from sk8geek

Photo from sk8geek

For many of us, the Easter ham is a tradition that goes back generations! This is a recipe for one my favorite versions. I hope you enjoy!

ORANGE GLAZED HAM
Serves 10 to 12
1 10 to12-pound fully cooked, bone-in smoked ham (shank end), room temperature
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup bourbon
1/2 cup apple jelly, warmed
2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
3 whole allspice
3 whole cloves
Zest of 1 orange plus 2 oranges cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 2-inch long piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

Position a rack in the lower third of oven and preheat to 325°F.
Using a sharp knife, score the fat covering the ham in a 1-inch-wide diamond pattern (do not cut into the meat). Place the ham in a roasting pan and add 1 cup water. Roast the ham for 2 hours.

While the ham is roasting, prepare the glaze. In a heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, combine orange juice, brown sugar, and bourbon. Bring to a simmer and continue simmering for 10 minutes. Add the jelly, shallots, allspice, cloves and zest, bring to a boil and reduce until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the orange slices and ginger, and cook until the orange slices are tender, about 2 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, score the fat covering the ham in a 3/4-inch-wide diamond pattern (do not cut into the meat). Place the ham in a 10-by-14-inch roasting pan and add 1 cup water. Roast the ham for 2 hours.
Drape the glazed orange slices over the ham, securing them with toothpicks, and brush the ham and oranges with about 1/2 cup of glaze, reserving the remainder for serving. Continue roasting the ham until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 145°F, about 30 minutes.

To serve: Remove the toothpicks from the ham and arrange the orange slices on a platter. Slice the ham and arrange on top of the oranges. Warm the remaining glaze and serve alongside.

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Sexy Recipes to Woo Your Valentine

Food and Love have always had a special association. M.F.K. Fisher notes in her wonderful little book An Alphabet for Gourmets that gastronomy has always been connected with its sister art of love. “Passion and sex is the come-and-go, the preening and the prancing, the final triumph or defeat, of two people who know enough, subconsciously or not, to woo with food as well as flattery”. Here are 3 recipes to start the dance.

Photo from Jespahjoy

Photo from Jespahjoy

CHEESE FONDUE

Serves 6

With the unprecedented cheese renaissance in this country, this old war horse of the 60’s and 70’s is making a huge comeback. Time to unearth that old fondue pot and long forks or wooden skewers and treat your sweetie to something special.

Emmental and Gruyère are the most commonly used cheeses in a classic fondue, but Appenzeller, Comté, Beaufort, Tête de Moine — all relatively low in moisture — also work fine. The addition of cornstarch keeps the cheese and wine from separating.

As an additional treat, when you’re almost done eating the fondue, leave a thin coating of cheese on the bottom of the pot. Lower the flame and allow the coating to turn into a brown crust, then break it into pieces and share it with your guests. The crust is considered a delicacy in Switzerland.

1 garlic clove, halved crosswise
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons kirsch
1/2 pound Emmental cheese, coarsely grated (2 cups)
1/2 pound Gruyère , coarsely grated (2 cups)

Accompaniments: Cubes of French bread, apple wedges, cubes of smoked ham, boiled baby new potatoes or whatever else you’d like.

Rub inside of a 4-quart heavy pot with cut sides of garlic, and then discard garlic. Add wine to pot and bring just to a simmer over moderate heat.

Stir together cornstarch and kirsch in a cup.

Gradually add cheese to pot and cook, stirring constantly in a zigzag pattern (not a circular motion) to prevent cheese from balling up, until cheese is just melted and creamy (do not let boil). Stir cornstarch mixture again and stir into fondue. Bring fondue to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to fondue pot set over a flame and serve with bread and other accompaniments for dipping.

 

OYSTERS ROCKEFELLER

Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer

oysterShuckingInvented at Antoine’s in New Orleans in 1899, the dish was named after John D. Rockefeller , the richest American at the time, for the richness of the sauce. Antoine’s has kept the original recipe secret but all kinds of interpretations exist. Basically it includes a rich cream sauce with spinach and other greens and flavored with Pernod or anisette. This version omits the rich sauce but is still full of flavor.

24 small to medium oysters
2 cups gently packed young spinach leaves
1-1/2 cups gently packed watercress, large stems removed or more spinach
1/3 cup gently packed celery leaves
5 tablespoons butter
1 ounce Pernod or other licorice flavored liqueur
Salt to taste
Drops of lemon juice and your favorite hot sauce to taste
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Shuck the oysters discarding the flat top shells. Drain the oysters and strain their liquor and refrigerate both until ready to cook. Wash deep shell inside and out and set aside.

Blanch the spinach, watercress and celery leaves in lightly salted, boiling water for 30 seconds until wilted. Strain and rinse thoroughly in cold water to stop the cooking and set the bright green color. Add the greens to a food processor along with the green onions and pulse to chop very finely (or can be done by hand).

Melt butter in a skillet over moderate heat and add chopped greens and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the strained liquor, Pernod and season to your taste with salt, drops of lemon juice and pepper sauce and cook until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet with 1/3 inch or so rock or coarse salt and press reserved oyster shells into the salt to keep them upright. Place an oyster in each and divide the green sauce among them. Top with parmesan and bake until sauce is bubbly and cheese is lightly browned, about 8 minutes.

 

ASPARAGUS RAVIOLI WITH BROWN BUTTER SAUCE

Makes 20,  serving 4

You could also use fresh pasta for this in place of the won tons. It will take a little longer to cook of course.

1/2 pound tender young asparagus, woody ends discarded, tips reserved
Sea salt
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup farmer or whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon anchovy paste or mashed anchovy fillets
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
40 wonton wrappers

For the sauce
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds or pine nuts, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly grated lemon zest
Parsley Sprigs for garnish, preferably fried

For the ravioli: Bring 4 cups salted water to a boil in a saucepan. Add asparagus tips and cook till tender but still bright green, 1 minute. Drain and shock in ice water drain again and set aside. Cut stalks into 1-inch lengths and cook as above. Dry stalks on a paper towels and chop very finely in a food processor or by hand. Place in a bowl.

Add cheeses and remaining ingredients except wontons and stir together. Taste and adjust seasoning. Place a scant tablespoon of filling on half of the wrappers. Using a pastry brush, paint water around edge of each square. Top each with one of the reserved wrappers and press edges firmly to seal. If you don’t cook ravioli right away, cover with a damp cloth.

Bring salted water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add ravioli and bring to a boil. As soon as ravioli rise to the top, about 1 minute, remove with a slotted spoon to warmed plates.

For the sauce: While waiting for water to boil, melt butter in a skillet over moderate heat and add almonds, shaking pan. Cook until butter turns a light brown color. Add reserved asparagus tips and drizzle over ravioli. Top with a grinding or two of pepper, some freshly grated parmesan and a little lemon zest. Garnish with parsley sprigs.

John Ash © 2013

 

 

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A Super Bowl Snack with a Spicy Twist

Grilled Shrimp Wrapped in Soppressata with Mango Hot Sauce

Grilled Shrimp Wrapped in Soppressata with Mango Hot Sauce

This is one of those combinations that sounds weird, but is a crowd-pleaser. This recipe for Grilled Shrimp Wrapped in Soppressata with Mango Hot Mustard Sauce was published in my John Ash Cooking One on One cookbook. Depending on the color of the soppressata you get, you can show your San Francisco 49er spirit with the red meat and the beautiful gold colored sauce.

You can serve it as an appetizer or as a main course, with steamed jasmine or basmati rice. If you serve it as an appetizer, I suggest you skewer each shrimp individually, which will result in less mess for the guest, and for you!

Soppressata is a cured Italian sausage similar to salami. It has a wonderful, peppery flavor and is generally available at good delicatessens. Ask for it very thinly sliced so it will stay wrapped around the shrimp better during grilling.

This recipe serves 4 as a main course, 8 as an appetizer. You can multiply it to fit your crowd.

Grilled Shrimp Wrapped in Soppressata with
Mango Hot Mustard Sauce

Ingredients:
16 small fresh basil leaves
16 large (16-20 size) shrimp, peeled, deveined, and brined if you like
16 thin slices of soppressata
Mango Hot Mustard Sauce (see recipe below)

Method:
Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas or stovetop grill. Place a basil leaf on the side of each shrimp and wrap the shrimp with a slice of the soppressata. Grill the shrimp until just cooked through. The center should be very slightly translucent- you can check with the point of a small knife. Serve immediately with the sauce spooned over or arranged for dipping.

Mango Hot Mustard Sauce
½ cup pureed ripe mango (from 1 medium mango) or canned
¼ cup fresh tangerine or orange juice
¾ teaspoon Chinese hot mustard powder, or to taste
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 tablespoon canola or other neutral flavored oil
Salt to taste

Method
Combine the mango, tangerine juice, mustard powder, lime juice, vinegar, and wine in a blender and pulse 3 or 4 times to pureé and combine. Add the canola oil and pulse 3 or 4 times more to make a smooth sauce. Season with salt. Set the sauce aside for at least 2 hours while the flavors marry and build. The sauce can be warmed gently, but do not simmer or boil. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Makes about 1 cup.

 

 

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