Monday, September 22, 2014

You Say Tomato, ...
What’s cooking? Roasted Tomato-Bacon-Goat-Cheese Galette and Spicy Tomato Chutney

Last week was my swan song for the season in New Jersey, and as I packed for the return to Texas, I mentally prepared for the change in cultures. A few points of difference came to mind:

In New Jersey, you bag your own groceries but someone else pumps your gas. Texas is where you pump your own gas but someone bags your groceries for you.

In New Jersey, Coca-Cola, 7-Up, and Barq’s Root Beer are called “sodas”; in Texas, they’re all called “Coke.”

That place where the ocean meets the land? In NJ, it’s “the shore”; in Texas, it’s “the beach.”

In New Jersey, we get better pizza and bagels; in Texas, better barbecue and Tex-Mex.

In spite of one state being very blue and the other mostly red, the politics of both states verge on the ridiculous, including the behavior of their governors.

And in both places, when I tell people we spend part of the year in New Jersey and part of the year in Texas, I get the same response:

In New Jersey, they give me a funny look and ask, “Why Texas?”
In Texas, I get the same funny look as they ask, “Why New Jersey?”

Regardless of my allegiances, it was a great summer for tomatoes in New Jersey – just the right amount of rain and sun. And I expanded my palate this year to include heirloom tomatoes, which I hadn’t liked the one time I tried them long ago. I know, amazing that the Kitchen Goddess wouldn’t like heirloom tomatoes. Must have been a bad batch. In any case, I’ve now discovered what a wonderful texture they have – smoother, almost transparent flesh that’s less grainy than the cultivated beefsteak tomatoes. Now, I’ve been devouring New Jersey beefsteak tomatoes all summer, and they beat anything I’ve ever bought in a grocery store. But we were in Nantucket recently, and  my friend Laurie served me heirloom tomatoes she’d grown there this summer. OMG. And wow.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Midnight Madness
What’s cooking? Roasted Salmon with Tangy Blueberry Sauce

Greetings from Nantucket! Yes, the Kitchen Goddess has flown the coop for a few days, but not before staying up most of the night managing what looked like (as the hours wore on) a really overwhelming collection of peaches and tomatoes from the farmers’ market. And then, of course, there were the sheets to iron.

Yes, I freely admit to this one obsession: I love sleeping on ironed sheets. (It’s not my only obsession, just one of the few I admit to.) I believe it is not in the style manual for Kitchen Goddesses to change sheets, so this particular need – for ironing the sheets – gives rise to any number of late-night encounters with the ironing board so that the sheets will be ready for the cleaning crew, who do change them. Which is why I was ironing at 4 a.m. instead of heading for bed.

In the meantime, I came up with what I hope is a clever solution for enjoying my mountain of luscious New Jersey peaches even after the season has passed. Because when you are dealing with NINE (yes, 9) pounds of peaches and insufficient time or sugar to make ice cream or some preserved condiment, it’s important to have a plan.

First, I made one more batch of yummy Roasted Tomato-Peach Spread, because I was also dealing with 4 pounds of tomatoes. While that was in the oven, I peeled and cut up 4 pounds of peaches and freezer-bagged them – without sugar, in two 2-pound batches – to make jam or chutney at some later date. I cooked two more batches, weighing 1½ pounds each, with ½ cup of water per batch, for 10 minutes, then stirred ¾ cup of sugar into each and freezer-bagged them as well. Those two bags will do for ice cream. Then all four bags went into the freezer, where they take up much less space than on my counter. Now, when I’m in this kitchen at Christmastime, I hope I’ll be able to serve peach ice cream to my family.

Why start these activities at 10 p.m., you ask? Why not earlier in the day? I get your point. But earlier in the day, I was packing and working on what to do with the salmon I had planned for dinner.

I’ve been staring at the two bottles of blueberry syrup in my fridge for soooo long. It was actually part of a batch I made late last summer, but still tastes great, so – good news! – the time frame for storage can now be extended to a year. It occurred to me that fruit goes with salmon, so maybe I could make a sort of glaze with that syrup.

You will be pleased to know that the Kitchen Goddess was successful. I added balsamic vinegar for tartness, salt to temper the sweetness, and some Asian sesame oil for that nice toasted flavor and a little bit of heat. What emerged was a sweet-tart, almost plummy flavor with a jammy texture that played off the strong flavor of the fish very well. I had to stop myself from licking the plate. My darling husband even asked for more. And now it’s yours to make as well.

I’ve started by reproducing the recipe for the Blueberry Syrup – from my July 5, 2011 post – so that you don’t have to go searching for it, and because it’s fast and easy to make. What I like most about it – aside from the truly pure blueberry flavor – is that it’s not as sweet as most syrups. It’s great on pancakes or a morning waffle, over ice cream, mixed with yogurt, or even as a glaze over roast chicken. Here is some drizzled over frozen peach yogurt.

If you’re not inclined to make your own blueberry syrup, you might still try the Tangy Blueberry Sauce recipe – which comes after the syrup recipe – with a store-bought version of blueberry syrup. In a quick internet hunt, I found several, including Smuckers, Maple Grove Farms, Dickinson’s, and Stonewall Kitchen. Just a warning: The commercial versions may be slightly sweeter than the recipe below.

Blueberry Syrup

Adapted from Food & Wine magazine

Makes about 6 cups.

1½ pounds blueberries (5 cups)
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
6 strips of lemon zest (use a vegetable peeler to get strips about ½ inch wide and 1-2 inches long)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1½ lemons)

In a large saucepan, combine the blueberries with 1 cup of the water over medium heat. With a potato masher or a large fork, crush the berries to release the juices, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Using a fine-mesh strainer or a food mill, strain the juice, pressing hard on the solids. Discard the solids and set aside the juice.

Rinse the saucepan, and combine the sugar, lemon zest, and the remaining 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, stirring only until the sugar is dissolved. Boil this simple syrup over moderate heat until it registers 225° on a candy thermometer (about 20 minutes). Add the blueberry juice and lemon juice and raise the heat to high, allowing the mixture to boil at high heat for 1 minute. Let the syrup cool, then discard the lemon zest. (Or let it dry and snack on it – delicious!) Pour the syrup into clean bottles. Seal and refrigerate for up to a year (!), or process as for preserves.

Once you have a supply of blueberry syrup, you’re ready to take it to the next level.

Roasted Salmon with Tangy Blueberry Sauce

Serves 4-5.

For the sauce:
1 cup Blueberry Syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
10-12 grinds of black pepper, or to taste

For the salmon:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2-pound salmon fillet, preferably with skin on
Garnish: chopped Italian parsley

All that was left after dinner. But note the consistency.
Make the sauce: In a small saucepan, heat the Blueberry Syrup with the salt and balsamic vinegar over medium-low heat. Bring to a low boil and allow to cook down until it gets to a thick, syrupy consistency, about 5-10 minutes. [Kitchen Goddess notes: 1. Now you are saying to yourself, “But we already started with syrup – isn’t that thick enough?” No. It’s not. Blueberry Syrup isn’t actually very thick at all, as you can see from the photo below. So we need to reduce it to a sauce. 2. Sesame oil will turn bitter if it gets too hot, which is why we add it at the end and only warm it.]

Blueberry Syrup on the left; Tangy Blueberry Sauce on the right.

When the sauce has reached a consistency you like, turn the heat to low and add the sesame oil and black pepper. Stir to combine well and cook 1 minute. Turn off the heat and cover the saucepan until you are ready to serve.

Prepare the salmon: Preheat the oven to 475º. Add the butter to a rimmed baking pan or roasting pan, and put the pan in the oven for 4-5 minutes, until the butter foam subsides.

In the meantime, salt and pepper the fish. When the butter no longer foams, lay the fish – skin side up – in the pan. Put the pan into the oven and roast 5 minutes. Remove the pan and flip the fish over. Spoon some of the butter on top of the salmon. Turn the oven to broil and put the fish back into the oven (4-5 inches from the heat). Broil the fish another 5-6 minutes, or until it tests done. (To check for doneness, use a thin-bladed knife to peek into the flesh along one of the seams.)

To serve: Spoon the sauce over the salmon and sprinkle chopped parsley on top. Serve extra sauce in a small pitcher.