I am really, really crazy about salmon. I eat embarrassing amounts of it sashimi style, make it once a week for my family, and until recently I would order it whenever we went to Francesca’s, craving the fabulous crispy sear that eluded me at home. But guess what? I have discovered the salmon searing trick and now I’m sharing it with you. When you try it (and you really should) you’ll fall in love and wonder how you ever did it any other way.I’ve prepared salmon this way several times now, and paired it with everything from spiced lentils to noodles in a coconut curry broth. You just can’t go wrong. This time I came up with a creamy, lemony leek and mushroom sauce and spooned it over soft polenta, but mashed potatoes or pasta would be pretty fantastic, too.
Seared Salmon with Creamy Leeks and Mushrooms
- 1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, chopped, and broth reserved
- 3 leeks, sliced in half lengthwise then cut into 1/4 inch segments and sloshed around in cold water to remove grit
- 1 pound fresh baby portabello mushrooms, sliced (though any variety of fresh mushroom would work)
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Sauv Blanc)
- 1/2 cup reserved mushroom broth
- 3/4 cup half-and-half
- 2 lemons, zested and juiced
- 6 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skin on
-For the Creamy Leeks and Mushrooms:
- Rehydrate dried shiitakes: place dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour one cup boiling water over the mushrooms. Let steep for half an hour. Remove from the bowl and squeeze excess moisture from the mushrooms back into the bowl. Set mushrooms on cutting board and strain mushroom liquid through a fine mesh sieve lined with paper towel to remove grit. Reserve liquid and chop rehydrated mushrooms.
- Heat butter and olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add washed and chopped leeks to the pan and cook for 10 minutes or until leeks have softened, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in fresh mushrooms, chopped shiitakes, tarragon, wine, 1/2 cup reserved mushroom broth, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until almost all of the liquid is gone, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce heat to low, stir in half-and-half and lemon zest, and simmer until sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup lemon juice and remove from heat.
-For the Seared Salmon (learned from this recipe):
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Pat dry salmon fillets. Rub fillets with olive oil and season tops generously with salt and pepper.
- Heat a dry, heavy oven-proof skillet (I used cast iron) over high heat for four minutes. Add salmon fillets flesh side down and cook for two minutes without moving fish.
- Flip salmon fillets over, place pan in oven and cook for 4-5 minutes. Do not overcook!
To finish the dish, place salmon on a generous helping of polenta, mashed potatoes or pasta and top with creamy leeks and mushrooms.
recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know how passionate I am about food and that I derive a great deal of joy from cooking for friends and family. The intention varies from simple nourishment to celebration, but preparing meals is most often an act of love. When my mother died, several friends took turns bringing dinner to my family anticipating I would be too paralyzed to do anything, and it was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. Whether purchased or prepared, the meals that came through the door (and the comforting hugs and words that came with them) made us feel taken care of.
Truthfully, I was cooking a lot during that time. The immediacy of tasks like chopping, baking, and kneading kept my mind occupied while allowing me to feel connected to my mother and the times we had shared in the kitchen. In essence, I needed to return to my experiences with her in a way that only food could fulfill. I can’t prepare a roast chicken and baked potatoes without being transported to my childhood kitchen table with my sister, mother and grandmother surrounding me or have mussels in white wine and not mentally flip back to Le Bouchon in Chicago where my now husband and I used to go on special occasions when he was in law school. Isn’t it astonishing how scent and taste can take you back in ways nothing else can?
Easter was a little rough and emotional. It was my first holiday without her and one we had often prepared for together. Part of me did not want to celebrate this favorite holiday of mine but I needed to do it, to cook for those I love and to have them near me. My daughter Hannah and I spent three days preparing the food, decorations, and Easter eggs for 24 guests, and we made my mother’s famous carrot cake. When she took her first bite, Hannah said the cake felt comforting like home, and in that moment I knew she was with us, smiling down on her family’s bittersweet celebration of life.
I have two close friends traveling to Paris this month and I am wild with envy. We’ve discussed what to pack and have concluded that nothing beats neutral, modern-classic wardrobe staples (and yes, I consider leopard a neutral) for a trip to the most stylish city in the world. After all, they will blend seamlessly with the extraordinary treasures waiting to be discovered and worn immediately or stashed in the suitcase for a stateside unveiling. Travel safe and pack light, my dear friends!
Life lesson: When a man who has sailed trans-Atlantic several times subtly suggests that you reschedule your deep sea fishing trip due to weather conditions, you should probably listen.
“There are 5 to 7 foot waves out there, and 25 knot winds…sounds a little pukey,” said my father.
“We’ll be fine! Hannah and I never get sea sick!” I replied with a smile.
So the three of us set out for our afternoon adventure on the Atlantic. Hannah told the guides she wanted to catch something big and something for dinner. We succeeded on both counts, though felt admittedly “a little off” for about half the trip. (My father, of course, was completely fine.)
As you can see in the photo above, our “something big” turned out to be really big – we caught a brown shark. What a thrill!
Our “something for dinner” was this beautiful little Wahoo.
Our pelican greeting committee, below:
Hannah filled their hungry beaks with our leftover bait fish. It was pure comedy.
Tell me he does not remind you of Billy Idol.
We devoured the wahoo (one of the best tasting fish we’ve ever had), then fell into bed exhausted with the boat’s rocking motion still lingering in our minds.
A huge thank you to our guides Tripp and Eric for giving us everything we asked for and making it so fun.
all photos via the aesthete and the dilettante
Today marks the first day of spring, but here in the arctic tundra (also known as Chicago) we are waking up to temperatures in the low teens with wind chills hovering around zero. Whether you are anxiously waiting for your destination vacation or hunkering down at home for a stay-cation, I’ve created a warm citrusy coffeecake to distract you from the misery. Think of it as a little ray of sunshine on your plate.
Orange Almond Coffee Cake
makes one 10-inch cake
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 1/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, divided
- 2 navel oranges
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 1/4 cups almond meal
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour or gluten-free all purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum only if using gluten-free flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Butter a 10-inch cast iron skillet.*
- Cut one orange into thin rounds. Peel the other orange with a vegetable peeler into long strips from top to bottom, avoiding the pith. Cut peeled strips into long, 1/8th-inch wide strips with a knife.
- Make a syrup by heating 3/4 cup of the sugar, 1/4 cup water, and 1/2 cup of the orange juice in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil, add orange rounds, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add orange zest strips and continue to simmer until syrup has reduced by half and strips have softened, about 15 minutes more.
- While syrup is simmering, place sliced almonds on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 5-7 minutes or until light golden, stirring once halfway through toasting.
- Remove orange rounds and strips from syrup with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl. Carefully pour 1/2 cup of the syrup into a pyrex measuring cup. Discard any extra (or save for a cocktail).
- Add the 1/2 cup of syrup back to the sauce pan with the heat on medium-low and add two tablespoons butter, stirring until melted. Stir in the almond extract and the Grand Marnier or Cointreau and remove pan from heat.
- In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, almond meal, regular or gluten-free all purpose flour, xanthan gum (if using gluten-free flour), baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, and the cooled syrup mixture until combined.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.
- Add one cooked orange round (you can discard the extra rounds or save for another use) to the center of your prepared skillet or cake pan and scatter the zest strips and toasted almonds over the the bottom of the pan. Spoon cake batter (it will be thick) into pan and spread into an even layer.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. If cake begins to brown early (this happened at about 25 minutes for me) loosely cover with aluminum foil.
- While cake is baking, make a thin glaze by whisking the remaining 1/4 cup orange juice with 1 cup powdered sugar in a medium bowl until smooth.
- Let cake cool in pan for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Remove cake from pan (it will still be warm) by placing a wire rack over top of cake and flipping over. Set rack on a baking sheet.
- Poke holes in cake all over with a toothpick. Spoon glaze over warm cake, rubbing in gently with back of spoon, until top is covered and glaze has drizzled down the sides.
*Baking in cast iron creates a wonderful, crunchy cake exterior while allowing the inside to stay incredibly moist and tender. I didn’t try this in a traditional cake pan, but if I did, I would butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan and follow all of the steps as written, running a knife around the edge of cake before inverting it onto a cooling rack.
recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante
Nothing makes me happier than having time during the weekend to experiment in the kitchen. These lemon buttermilk pancakes take longer to put together than your basic buttermilk pancakes, but they are definitely worth the effort. They are light-as-air, cakelike confections that soak up the warm homemade compote or maple syrup for those who don’t like blueberry. (Not to throw unnamed family members under the bus, but who doesn’t love blueberries? How can you NOT love warm, syrupy blueberries?! Somebody please explain this to me.)
Lemon Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberry Lemon Compote
makes 16 small pancakes, serving four
- 2/3 cup all purpose flour or gluten-free all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup almond meal (you can skip the almond meal if you do not have it and substitute with 1/3 cup all purpose flour or gf all purpose flour, bringing your flour total to 1 cup)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 eggs, whites and yolks separated
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest of one lemon
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon canola oil or melted coconut oil
- Whisk all dry ingredients together in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, buttermilk, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and oil together.
- Pour wet ingredients in to dry and stir until combined.
- Beat egg whites in a stand mixer or with hand beaters until soft peaks form.
- Fold egg whites into pancake mixture until incorporated.
- Heat your griddle or nonstick pan on medium heat and add enough coconut oil or canola oil to thinly coat.
- Pour 1/4 cups of batter onto your hot pan and cook until edges are set and tops have bubbles. Flip and cook until done.
- Keep finished pancakes warm in a low oven and make compote (recipe below).
Blueberry Lemon Compote
- 1 six ounce container fresh blueberries or 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- zest of a lemon
- Cook all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat until blueberries have cooked down and sauce has thickened (about 10-12 minutes), stirring occasionally.
- Serve warm over pancakes or ice cream.
pancake recipe adapted from Sprouted Kitchen, compote recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante
I spent a fair amount of time thinking about food during my juice cleanse, including what I wanted to make when it was finally over. A Thai inspired meal was at the top of my list as crunchy, bright, full-flavored ingredients were what I craved most while abstaining from “real” food. (To be honest I was also craving a burger like mad, but didn’t want to ruin my good behavior in one fell swoop.)
Summer rolls are one of those snacks I always pick up at the market (and eat in the car on the way home) but never take the time to make from scratch. They are wonderfully versatile – just fill with what you love or have on hand. I used shrimp, red bell pepper, scallions, cucumber, carrots, and thinly sliced jalapenos. Avocado, bibb lettuce and lightly blanched asparagus would be great additions as well. Just don’t leave out the mint and cilantro – they are the ingredients that will elevate your rolls above the ones from your corner grocer.
Thai Summer Rolls with Ginger Peanut Dipping Sauce
- 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 4 inch matchsticks. If you’ve never cut veggies into matchsticks, watch this quick tutorial on how to julienne here (a julienne cut is a smidge thinner than a matchstick cut but it really doesn’t matter).
- 1 large or 2 small cucumbers, peeled and cut into 4 inch matchsticks
- 2 red bell peppers, cut into 4 inch matchsticks
- 4 scallions (white and light green parts only), quartered lengthwise
- 2 jalapenos, seeds and white membranes removed, cut into very thin slices
- 1 bunch mint, leaves removed from stems
- half bunch cilantro, leaves removed from stems
- 16 rice-paper wrappers (available in the Asian food section of most stores)
- Ginger Peanut Dipping Sauce (recipe below)
- Add shrimp to a pot of boiling water and cook until opaque, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
- Drain shrimp in colander and run under cold water to stop cooking and to cool completely. Dry with a paper towel, then carefully slice each in half lengthwise with a paring knife (you can do this on the cutting board if you prefer, but I find they wiggle around too much).
- Fill a large bowl with hot tap water and spread a clean damp dish towel out next to the bowl.
- Soak one rice-paper wrapper in the hot water until soft and pliable (about 15-20 seconds).
- Lay wrapper flat on the damp kitchen towel and place a few mint and cilantro leaves in a row across the middle of the wrapper, leaving an inch or so on each side.
- Lay three shrimp halves in a row on top of the cilantro and mint leaves.
- Lay three thin slices jalapenos in a row over shrimp, and add 1/16th of the the other vegetable matchsticks on top of jalapenos.
- Fold top half of wrapper over filling, then fold in the two sides. Fold bottom part of wrapper up snugly but gently to close, then pat to seal. Place pretty side up on a damp paper towel-lined platter and cover with another damp paper towel.
- Repeat steps 4-8 until all sixteen are complete, leaving room between each on platter so they do not stick.
- Make dipping sauce.
Ginger Peanut Dipping Sauce
- 1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 1/4 teaspoons chile garlic paste
- 4-6 tablespoons water
- Whisk together all ingredients except water in a bowl. Whisk in 4 tablespoons water one at a time and blend until smooth, adding more water until desired thinness/consistency is reached.
I was also really craving something creamy and sweet, so I made toasted coconut cashew sundaes with caramelized pineapple. They were INSANELY good, and not just because I was dairy and sugar deprived. See recipe below.
Cashew Coconut Sundaes with Caramelized Pineapple
- 1 ripe golden pineapple, peeled and cored (if the bottom smells like fragrant pineapple and you can easily pluck a leaf from the top, it is ripe)
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup cashews, chopped
- 1 cup coconut flakes (sweetened or unsweetened)
- vanilla ice cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spread chopped cashews and coconut in a sheet pan and bake for 6 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring a few times while baking, being careful not to burn.
- Remove cashews and coconut from oven and carefully move oven rack to top position.
- Turn oven to broil.
- Cut pineapple into 8 lengthwise spears, pat dry and place on a foil lined baking sheet.
- Pack each spear with 2 tablespoons brown sugar.
- Broil for 2-4 minutes, turning pineapple over and rotating tray at least once. Remove when most of the sugar has melted but before it burns. This happens quickly!
- Place 1 warm pineapple spear in each bowl (cut in half if necessary), reserving extra pineapple for another use. Scoop ice cream onto pineapple and sprinkle each with warm coconut cashew mixture, reserving extra for your morning yogurt or oatmeal.
P.S. I’m thinking a splash of rum on each sundae would be pretty fantastic. I wish it would have occurred to me then!
recipes and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante
Are you ready for spring break? Now is the time to hop online and order the suits you’ve been eyeing so you can try them on in the privacy (and more forgiving light) of your own home. With most companies offering free shipping and free returns, it’s worth it to order each suit not only in the size you think you wear but also one size up and one size down. If you are mailing one back, you might as well mail twenty back. I love all of the above, but my absolute favorites are the sweet, sophisticated bow embellished one-piece and the sexy, barely-there Basta Surf string bikini. Who says you have to stick to one poolside identity?
This is clearly not the lemon tart recipe I promised you last week. To be honest, I haven’t been taking great care of myself since my mom died four weeks ago. The boot camps, running, cycling and personal training that make up my weekly fitness routine have come to a screeching halt. The 80/20 balance I normally strive for in my diet (healthy/indulgent) has been looking more like 20/80 on the days I am eating at all. I see the results of this slipping everywhere – in my skin, on my body, under my eyes. Seriously awful.
Many women I know have done juice cleanses and say they feel incredible when it is all over. I’ve always thought the idea sounded terrible, mainly because I love to eat and also because I need coffee to survive. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
Do you think I could put this one in a pretty glass and pretend it’s a cab?
So here I sit, half-way through day one on my 5-day no-caffeine-all-juice-no-food-no-wine adventure, a little worried that I’m going to miss the act of chewing and a lot worried I may kill someone from the lack of caffeine. It’s gonna be tough sledding.
all photos via the aesthete and the dilettante