I spent this past weekend in the Catskills with Beth, who has now been my dear friend for more than half our lives. (Not really sure how that happened.) We rented a lovely creekside cabin between Woodstock and Phoenicia and spent our days brunching, checking out small towns, and posing for the occasional swimming hole glamour shot.
Owing to the dark and winding roads (and an absence of taxis), Beth and I opted to spend our nights at home. Fortunately, our landlord had been kind enough to lay in a full bag of charcoal.
Cocktail hour started early on Friday, allowing me to get the flank steak off of the grill just as the last gasps of sunlight disappeared.
Saturday was another story. It was pitch black by the time I even thought to light the coals. Despite the dark, a persistent rain, and several watermelon cocktails, the salmon came out beautifully. Dinner was served right around the stroke of midnight.
I ate well this past weekend. I did not, however, make it through last week’s CSA share. I came home from a busy Monday determined to polish off a full head of Farmer Fred’s beautiful bok choy. Mission accomplished.
Miso Hake with Charred Bok Choy & Shiitakes
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon red miso paste
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- pinch sugar
- 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 8 ounces hake
- 1.5 tablespoons safflower or other vegetable oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 small knob ginger
- 2 scallions
- 1 large bunch bok choy
- Pre-heat the over to 400 with a small skillet inside.
- Add the butter, miso, vinegar, sugar and 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce to a very small pot and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the miso. Remove from heat.
- Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over the shiitakes and let stand while they rehydrate.
- Remove the hot skillet. Swirl 1/2 tablespoon of oil in the bottom, add the fish, drizzle with the miso sauce, and pop it back in the oven. After about four minutes, pull the pan out and use a spoon to scoop up the sauce in the pan and drizzle it over the fish. Return to oven and cook another four minutes or so.
- Bring 1 tablespoon of oil up to medium-high heat. Rinse and roughly chop the bok choy. Mince the garlic and ginger. Slice the scallions. Add the aromatics to the hot skillet and cook, stirring continuously for a minute or so until they are toasted but not burnt. Add the bok choy in batches, starting with the white stems. Remove the shiitakes, retaining the water, and cut into thin slices. Add these to the pan and crank the heat up to high. Add the mushroom broth and the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the greens are wilted and charred in places.
You could serve this over a pile of steamed rice. I opted to take my carbs in the form of a Sixpoint Sweet Action, which is pretty much my all-time favorite beer. Oona digs it too.
On Sunday I hosted a potluck dinner for some of the amazing women I met/got to know a whole lot better during last summer’s two-week Paris study trip.
As expected, the menu was eclectic, seasonal and delicious. We had deviled eggs, cucumber salad, carrots and radicchio roasted with raisins and balsamic vinegar, a soba noodle salad, roasted fennel, and an array of not-kosher-for-Passover bread products. Camille, who came straight from her job at Threes Brewing, contributed to the chametz situation with a nice growler of IPA.
I’m still working my way through the potatoes from my winter CSA share, so I whipped up a batch of caramelized leek and cheddar potato skins. And, despite my indulgence in all manners of leavened grains, I felt compelled to make up for not having attended a seder this year by making matzo ball soup–albeit a vegetarian and Asian-inspired version.
Miso-Spinach Matzo Balls
- 1 large bunch spinach
- 6 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons red miso paste
- 6 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups matzo meal
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 leek, minced
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons salt
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and quickly blanch the spinach. Strain into a sieve, pressing hard with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. (Squeezing the spinach into a tight ball with your fist is also an effective strategy.) Chop finely.
- Melt the coconut oil and miso in a small pan, stirring with a fork to combine.
- Whisk the eggs in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in the matzo meal, water, miso oil, leek, parsley, a couple of teaspoons of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of water plus 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil. Wet your hands and form the matzo mixture into smooth balls about the size of a large gumball, dropping them into the water as you go. You’ll need to rinse your hands every so often when they get too gummy.This recipe should yield around 40 matzo balls. If you’re a patient person, you might do these in two batches. Alternately, you could just cram them in like I did. Maintain a vigorous simmer for 25 minutes or so, during which time the matzo balls will twirl and plump.
- OK, that was shockingly easy. Now one last step, courtesy of my mom, who swears by this technique. Scoop the matzo balls into a container, cover with the salted water, and store overnight in the fridge.
I worried that the soak would lead to a container of starchy mush. But these matzo balls hold beautifully, requiring nothing but a quick simmer in the broth of your choosing the next day. I went with a hot and sour tom yum-style vegetable broth with lots of fresh ginger and lemongrass, garnished with shiitake mushrooms and cilantro. The resulting dish was complex in flavor yet familiar enough in texture to evoke memories of the Maxwell House Haggadah and Manischewitz. Fortunately, Sari brought better wine.
Every once in a while, generally in the dead of winter, I get an unbearable craving for salmon. Today was one of those days. Despite working late, I was determined to cook myself a nice piece of fish. Were it not for the brown rice that accompanied it, this meal could have been ready in about 30 minutes.
Blood Orange & Miso-Glazed Salmon
- 1 blood orange, zest and juice
- 1 tablespoon red miso
- 1 large marble-sized knob of ginger, grated
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha
- black pepper
- 1 12-ounce salmon filet (or two smaller pieces)
Preheat the over to 325. Combine the first six ingredients in a small bowl. Lay a piece of parchment paper in a baking dish,being sure to trim the sides if the piece is too big. (Trust me on this one; my dinner nearly went up in flames!) Rinse the salmon, pat dry and place skin side down on the parchment paper. Drizzle with half the glaze, letting it ooze over the sides, and pop it in the oven. After 10 minutes (less if it’s a thin filet), remove the pan, layer the salmon with the remaining glaze and pop it under the broiler. (Hint: you’ll know a few minutes in whether you did a good job of trimming the parchment.) Broil for 4-5 minutes until the glaze starts to caramelize but the fish is still very tender.
This pairs beautifully with sautéed shiitake mushrooms, purple kale and swiss chard. Add sliced garlic, slivered ginger and chopped scallions for the last few minutes of cooking and then drizzle with soy sauce and sesame oil just before serving.