Soy sauce, honey are tried and true with salmon

Salmon fishing usually doesn’t come to my mind in high summer.

Perhaps it’s because I spent my formative fishing years in bays and estuaries during the actual seasons that lend their names to Oregon’s chinook runs. So it was something of a surprise when a friend offered up salmon just plucked from the Umpqua River for grilling a couple of weeks ago.

With fish this fresh, I tend to be a purist. Just a little salt, pepper and butter or oil are all I need to appreciate salmon’s distinctive flavor.

My husband tends to lean toward marinades and sauces of any and all varieties and invariably asks me what we should put on the fish. Judging from his reaction, my answer must lack inspiration.

So we tend to fall back on that tried-and-true combination of soy sauce and honey, one that gives my dad’s smoked salmon its savor and sweetness. Garlic and ginger also are no-brainers. Bringing still more flavor, along with texture, to the fish is this recipe’s crust of sesame seeds that I also would try on scallops and calamari steaks.

Tribune News Service photo

Sesame-Crusted Salmon

4 tablespoons unhulled sesame seeds

4 skin-on salmon fillets (4 to 6 ounces each)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/4 cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons honey

1 medium garlic clove, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated, fresh ginger

1 pound baby bok choy, rinsed and quartered lengthwise

1/2 Holland or cayenne whole chili, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 200 F. Place the sesame seeds on baking sheet. Season the salmon with the salt and pepper and press both sides into sesame seeds to coat evenly.

In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Place salmon skin side down and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Turn fish over and cook for 3 to 5 minutes more. Remove from heat; transfer salmon to plates and keep warm in oven. Wipe skillet clean.

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, lime juice and honey. Set aside. Heat the garlic and ginger in remaining oil in skillet. Add the bok choy and chili, if using, and toss to coat. Add 1 tablespoon soy-sauce mixture and cover pan with lid. Steam until tender, for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Pour remaining soy mixture into skillet. Increase heat and boil until slightly reduced, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve salmon and bok choy with sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

— Recipe from Organic Life magazine, courtesy of Tribune News Service

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Baking with yogurt sauce keeps egg whites tender

Recent news reports of a nationwide egg shortage have renewed my household’s long-standing debate over backyard chickens.

As everyone with a few square feet of space behind their tract homes seemed to be raising chickens, my husband, Will, held firm in his stance that a flock is not in our future. Forget that our home sits in a semirural setting on a half-acre. Forget that our kindly neighbor (Will’s mom) would gladly install the coop and all its infrastructure on her property.

Forget, more recently, that our 2-year-old son likely would delight in helping to feed the hens and collect the contents of their nests, thereby supporting his one-a-day-organic-egg habit. None of those factors have dissuaded Will from the belief that chickens are noisy, messy and easy pickings for predators.

Predictably, it took the testimonial of one of Will’s firefighter friends to soften his stance. Mark’s measured enthusiasm, also predictably, came with a play-by-play of converting a prefabricated metal shed into a coop, adding automatic feeding and watering systems and safeguarding the run with a fence of landscaping cloth.

Will’s uniquely unpredictable response? “Let’s make chickens next year’s project” (!)

Until then, I’m crossing my fingers that grocery-store rationing of eggs doesn’t come to pass. If so, there’s always local Craigslist sources for farm-fresh eggs, even at premium prices.

Worst case scenario, we can limit our consumption to dishes that show eggs at their best, with tender whites and runny yolks intact. This recipe for baked eggs (also called shirred eggs) gets a flavor boost from an onion-y yogurt sauce and a liberal dusting of sumac.

The latter is one of my favorite spices for accenting white foods or light-colored foods, such as feta cheese, sour cream and, indispensably, hummus. A friend’s trip to the Middle East provided me with a generous supply of this ground fruit, which has a bright, tangy flavor.

Paired with buttered toast, this dish isn’t just for breakfast. Add a green salad for a simple, rustic brunch or dinner.

Tribune News Service photo

Baked Eggs With Spinach, Yogurt and Sumac

2 tablespoons salted butter, melted

Big handful baby spinach leaves

8 large eggs

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon grated sweet onion

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 slices good bread, for toasting

Ground sumac, for garnish

Arrange rack in center of oven preheated to 375 F. Set a large kettle of water to boil.

Generously brush 4 (6-ounce) ramekins with some of the melted butter. Line bottom of each dish with 1/4 of the baby spinach. Crack 2 of the eggs into each dish.

In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt, onion and salt with a tablespoon of water to make a sauce similar in consistency to heavy cream.

Spoon a couple tablespoons of sauce over egg whites in each dish, avoiding yolks so they will stay a lovely bright yellow. Season each egg with a pinch of salt.

Place ramekins on a 2-inch-deep baking dish and place dish in preheated oven on center rack. Fill pan with boiling water to reach halfway up sides of egg dishes, taking care not to get any water in eggs. Bake eggs for about 15 to 17 minutes, or until whites are cooked and yolks are still bright yellow and jiggle when shaken. Toward end of baking time, toast and butter the bread.

Remove baking dish from oven and carefully remove each ramekin from hot water, drying off ramekins. Drizzle eggs with more melted butter and dust with the sumac. Serve immediately, placing each hot ramekin on a plate with buttered toast.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “Rose Water & Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from My Lebanese Kitchen” by Maureen Abood (Running Press, April 2015, $30)

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Use oven-safe skillet for no-stick, no-flip frittata

If cooking with what you have is the goal, frittata is a fitting strategy.

Local author Tod Davies recommends the Italian egg dish, along with omelets, tortilla Espanola and eggs baked in a toaster oven within the pages of “Jam Today Too,” discussed in this blog’s previous post. Inexpensive, quick-cooking and infinitely adaptable, eggs are yet another food that confirm Davies as a culinary kindred spirit.

And it’s appropriate, given my unfailing love of eggs, that a 2010 ode to frittata is this blog’s most popular entry to date. Internet search engines apparently home in on the phrase, “no-stick,” but in hindsight, I also should have touted my method for frittata, gleaned from several sources, as no-flip.

Davies tackles the tricky business of flipping a frittata, when she didn’t have oven-safe skillets, by turning it out of a smaller pan into a larger one. Better for all concerned are cooking vessels that go from stove to oven to table. If you have one, expand your egg repertoire with kuku, a slightly spongy, frittata-like dish incorporating mashed potato, instead of sliced spuds in the Spanish tradition.

Take Davies’ advice and always bake more potatoes than needed for a single meal, stretching others into dishes like this Persian recipe from Tribune News Service.

Tribune News Service photo

Fresh Herb Kuku

6 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh chives or scallions

1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1/3 cup fresh chopped dill or 2 tablespoons ground dill

1 large potato, peeled, cooked and mashed, or 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons oil or melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Break the eggs into a large bowl. Add the baking powder, salt and pepper. Beat with a fork. Add the garlic, chives, parsley, cilantro, dill and mashed potato or flour, and mix together thoroughly.

Place the butter or oil in an 8-inch, ovenproof baking dish or skillet and put dish in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Pour in egg mixture and bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until a light golden-brown. Serve from baking dish or a platter. Cut into small pieces and serve hot or cold.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “New Food of Life; Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies” by Najmieh Batmanglij.

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Local author to read from food memoir in J’ville

Cookbooks I have but rarely use, a confession already divulged in this blog.

And food memoirs I’ve read but so rarely relish, whether they be Judith Jones’, Ruth Reichl’s, Julie Powell’s or — gasp! — Julia Child’s. I apparently lack the requisite curiosity about such well-known figures because I didn’t grow up watching “The French Chef,” come of age reading The New York Times or begin blogging until the medium had long since been pioneered.

Or maybe I just need something more home-grown, something that more closely resembles my own life. Enter Tod Davies, author of two books about how to cook and eat. Her second, “Jam Today Too,” headlines a Thursday evening event at South Stage Cellars in Jacksonville.

Davies is a fellow Rogue Valley resident who frequents many of the same sources for locally produced and organic foods that I do. But my affinity for Davies’ writing comes neither from its regional origins nor the likelihood that she and I have crossed paths, despite decades of experience separating us (She was a Mail Tribune employee when I was in grade school).

I felt like I knew Davies personally after reading the first few pages of “Jam Today Too.” It isn’t just her unpretentious, slightly irreverent voice. It’s her way of giving voice to my own inner conflict around cooking (after urging so many people to do it, I, too, was at risk of throwing in the towel).

More than identifying with Davies, however, I appreciate her approach to cooking and eating. Although I don’t live in such a rural setting as she does, I also ascribe to the philosophy of “cooking with what you’ve got,” as opposed to always schlepping to the grocery store. Mastering that art (and Davies is one such master) frees a cook from the tyranny of recipes.

On that topic, I love that Davies’ book is devoid of recipes per se, but instead offers lists, ratios and “algorithms.” Like me, she couches cooking in loose, conversational terms, rather than scientific formulas devised for precise replication. Outside of a professional restaurant setting, what’s the point of faithfully reproducing a dish? If cooking is a passionate pursuit, where’s the fun in cranking out carbon copies?

Enjoying good food isn’t an exercise in snobbery or absolutes, though, attests Davies. It’s perfectly acceptable to use a store-bought pie crust (“they’re pretty good”) for an otherwise homemade quiche, or to cook farm-fresh green beans until mushy. Davies endorses frozen spinach and peas but decries boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which have “no taste, no taste at all. You might as well be eating protein powder.”

Yet Davies’ laid-back approach to healthy eating (eat what makes you feel good, be it full and satisfied or light and energized) is refreshing. So is her way of effortlessly and joyfully bringing vegetarians and carnivores to the same table.

Sounds like the stuff of sympathetic dinner-table conversation to me. Find out if Davies’ food sensibilities speak to your own as she reads from “Jam Today Too,” from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 18, at South Stage Cellars, 125 S. Third St. Books will be for sale at the event.

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Smoked fish, eggs play up potatoes’ potential

Side-dish status aside, potato salad makes for a filling course all on its own, with the addition of meat, cheese or some other protein.

Hard-boiled eggs are an essential ingredient in my standard potato-salad recipe. When I recently topped some leftovers with home-smoked salmon for a quick lunch, my husband wondered why he’d never before encountered that particular dish.

It’s no secret that the convergence of eggs, potatoes and smoked fish is eminently satisfying. Throw a bagel into the mix, and you’ve got a brunch spread that’s hard to beat.

Take the concept a few steps farther with this salad, whether for brunch, lunch or a light dinner. Find more potato-salad tips in the current A la Carte.

Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey

Smoked Trout, Egg and Potato Salad

2 or 3 Granny Smith apples

Juice of 1/2 lemon

About 1 pound baby potatoes, such as fingerlings or small, whole “gold” potatoes

Sea salt, as needed

8 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced

4 large eggs, preferably free-range

2 large handfuls watercress

14 ounces smoked trout fillet, skinned and flaked

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1 handful fresh mint leaves (optional)

Make the Cider Mayonnaise according to recipe below. Cut the apples (to taste) in half; core them and cut into thin slices, tossing them into a bowl with the lemon juice so they don’t turn brown.

Place potatoes in a large, wide saute pan of salted water; bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium; cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, until potatoes are easily pierced with a sharp knife. Drain and cool.

Place the radish slices in a bowl of ice-cold water. Let them sit for 10 minutes, then drain and pat dry on paper towels.

Fill a separate bowl with ice-cold water. Place the eggs in empty saucepan and cover with water; bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Transfer eggs to ice water to cool.

Cut cooled potatoes into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Peel cooled eggs and cut each in half lengthwise.

Drain apples; combine in a serving bowl with sliced potatoes, radishes, egg, the watercress and smoked trout. Add half of cider mayonnaise, tossing lightly to coat. Taste and season with salt and/or black pepper as needed. Add more cider mayo as needed.

Drizzle with the olive oil; garnish with the mint, if desired. Serve right away.

Makes 4 servings.

CIDER MAYONNAISE: In a food processor, combine 2 large egg yolks, 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt; puree for 1 minute, then, with motor running, gradually add 1/3 to 1/2 cup canola oil until mixture becomes thickened and glossy (you might not have to use maximum amount). Add 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard, 1/4 cup dry cider and 2 teaspoons apple-cider vinegar. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground white pepper; puree just to combine. Makes about 1 cup; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Recipe adapted by The Washington Post from “What Katie Ate on the Weekend …” by Katie Quinn Davies (Viking Studio, 2015).

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Grilled or smoked spuds start some stellar salads

Plenty of cooks settle for the old, standby methods of steaming or boiling spuds for potato salad.

Grilling potatoes, however, achieves a toothsome texture and sweet savor in the de rigueur summer picnic dish.

A superb side dish unto itself, the recipe posted in this blog’s previous entry also is a starting point for all manner of potato salads. Because lemon-herb-garlic aioli is the preferred accompaniment to my family’s favorite pellet-smoked spuds, the following dish would be just as well-received.

Simply double the recipe for Grilled Fingerling Potatoes and substitute them for the boiled new potatoes here. If starting with grilled or smoked potatoes, this recipe also would benefit from giving chilies the same treatment. Find more potato-salad tips in this week’s A la Carte.

Washington Post photo

Lemon, Garlic and Chili Potato Salad

2 1/4 pounds small new (unpeeled) potatoes, preferably of similar size

Sea salt, as needed

4 to 6 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at a warm room temperature

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

2 teaspoons seeded, minced green chili pepper, such as Anaheim, serrano or jalapeno

1 small handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

About 20 chive stems, coarsely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Thoroughly rinse the potatoes, then place them in a pot. Cover with several inches of water and a good pinch of salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are easily pierced with a sharp knife.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the butter (to taste), garlic, lemon juice and chili pepper.

Drain potatoes; carefully but quickly cut them into quarters, transferring them to a mixing bowl as you work.

Immediately add butter mixture to bowl; gently toss potatoes until they are evenly coated. Let cool.

Sprinkle the lemon zest, parsley and chives evenly over coated potatoes. Season lightly with salt and pepper; toss gently to distribute.

Serve at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe adapted by the Washington Post from “Flavors of Summer: Simply Delicious Food to Enjoy on Warm Days,” edited by Kate Eddison (Ryland, Peters and Small, 2015).

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Pellet-smoker spuds a foolproof summer side

Just in time for the hottest day of the year — and most justifiable occasion for outdoor cooking — our new pellet smoker went on the fritz. Our lunchtime panini had to crisp up in the conventional, indoor oven.

“Could overuse be the culprit?” I asked my husband, who has prepared multiple meals each week in the Rec-Tec since purchasing it in February. Ribs have cooked alongside a pot of beans. Hearts of Romaine have caramelized next to Taylor’s sausage. And macaroni and cheese has cozied up to turkey meatloaf.

But our favorite food from the smoker, mentioned in a previous post, thus far has hands-down got to be potatoes. We used to shy away from preparing oven fries from raw potatoes, which took longer than we typically planned and never came out as crispy as we liked.

The smoker has remedied those deficiencies and turned out the most deliciously browned, perfectly moist, slightly smoky spuds, whether we use Yukon Golds, sweet potatoes or fingerlings.

Of course, this technique isn’t lost on plenty of grillmeisters, including acclaimed Brooklyn restaurateur Joe Carroll, whose new book with Nick Fauchald features this recipe.  And a pellet smoker is but one method to accomplish this feat, also attainable with a plain, old charcoal fire or gas grill.

Described as foolproof, and as rewarding, as a summer side dish gets, these potatoes pair beautifully with robust meats, such as steak. Skip the garlic butter, and use them in potato salad. A vegetable-grilling basket nicely corrals the potatoes for cooking.

Washington Post photo

Grilled Fingerling Potatoes

1 pound fingerling potatoes, scrubbed

Kosher salt, as needed

Extra-virgin olive oil, enough to coat potatoes, about 1/4 cup or less

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley

Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and add water to cover by 2 inches. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt; bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook until potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool slightly, then cut lengthwise in half. Dry potatoes with a paper towel, then toss them in a bowl with the oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt until evenly coated.

Prepare a grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 F). If using a charcoal grill, light charcoal or wood briquettes; when briquettes are ready, distribute them under cooking area for direct heat. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat grate or a vegetable grilling basket with oil, and place it on grill.

Working in batches if needed, grill potatoes for 2 or 3 minutes, uncovered and cut sides down, until charred. Turn potatoes over and grill until skin is a little crisp, for 2 or 3 minutes. Potatoes can be prepared earlier in the day, covered and served at room temperature.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the garlic; cook for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times, until garlic has softened. Remove from heat; skim and discard any foam on surface. Strain and discard garlic, if desired.

Transfer potatoes to a bowl and toss with garlic butter. Season lightly with salt, sprinkle with the parsley and toss again. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by the Washington Post from “Feeding the Fire: Recipes and Strategies for Better Barbecue & Grilling,” by Joe Carroll and Nick Fauchald (Artisan, 2015).

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Simple or complex, dressings are best homemade

Dinner guests who are privy to some of the meal prep often ask how I make salad dressing. Vinegar, sugar, salt and oil is the basic reply. From there, the sky’s the limit.

Tamarind concentrate, fish sauce, lemongrass paste, cinnamon, cloves and allspice imparted notes of Vietnamese cuisine to my sesame-soy dressing for this week’s green salad with snow peas. Dressings both simple and complex in flavor keep salads interesting when garden greens need to be consumed daily or bolt into bitterness.

I’ve blogged many times over the years about how easy, inexpensive and health-conscious it is to make salad dressings, rather than purchase them. Dairy-free dressings were the subject of a summertime post last year, and I recounted in a 2011 post my own development on the dressing front that began with a packet of Good Seasons Italian vinaigrette.

I’m pretty sure an envelope still resides in my spice cabinet for posterity. But with so many other flavors in the pantry, why settle for someone else’s idea of salad dressing?

Every now and then, I swoon over something that I couldn’t have conceived without another cook’s suggestion. This pepper-jelly vinaigrette would intrigue my husband, who has been much less enthusiastic about homemade ranch. Once we have a bounty of basil, however, the second recipe ventured by Tribune News Service is likely to make the menu.

Tribune News Service photo


Pepper-Jelly Vinaigrette

1/4 cup rice-wine vinegar

1/4 cup pepper jelly

1 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon grated onion

1 teaspoon table salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup vegetable oil

In a bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients. Gradually add the oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until blended. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

— Recipe from “Southern Living Ultimate Book of BBQ” with Pitmaster Christopher Prieto (Oxmoor, April 2015, $24.95).

 

Basil Buttermilk Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons full-fat yogurt or sour cream

2 teaspoons apple-cider vinegar

2 tablespoons minced shallot

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh basil

1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

1 tablespoon honey

Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

In a bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, shallot and basil. Stir in most of the buttermilk and all of the honey. Check for consistency and add more buttermilk if needed. Taste, then season with the salt, pepper and paprika. Cover and refrigerate for an hour before using to allow flavors to blend and develop. Store any leftover dressing in fridge and use within a couple of days.

Makes a generous 2 cups.

— Recipe from “Seven Spoons: My Favor Recipes for Any and Every Day” by Tara O’Brady (Ten Speed, April 2015, $27.50).

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Raise your glass to rhubarb before it’s toast

A month may seem like plenty of time to focus on the cultivation, cooking and consumption of rhubarb.

One local chef and I agree, however, that the season is “too short-lived,” as Sandy Dowling observed on my Facebook profile. Recent heat is rhubarb’s enemy, but I expect to pick it from a shaded spot in my garden for another few weeks. Rest assured, Sandy, that my rhubarb won’t go by the wayside before I have the chance to sip it in cocktails.

Saving the month’s best for last, I already planned to share this beverage before Sandy posted her method for rhubarb syrup. The chef and owner of The Willows Cooking School says she likes to add it to lemonade and iced tea, but also vodka and orange juice.

Some of the same suggestions accompanied this recipe from Tribune News Service, along with flavoring granita and glazing chicken.

Cheers!

Tribune News Service photo

Rhubarb Cocktail

3/4 cup sugar

2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and chopped

Ice cubes

8 ounces vodka (1/2 cup)

32 ounces seltzer (2 cups)

Lemon peel, pith removed, cut into strips

In a large pot over high heat, combine the sugar and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Add the rhubarb and stir to make sure sugar dissolves. Cover pot, lower heat just a little and boil until rhubarb softens, for about 5 minutes. Pull pan off heat and allow rhubarb to cool in a covered pot.

Mash rhubarb, then strain juice through a double layer of cheesecloth into a small saucepan. Bring juice to boil over medium-high heat, then reduce until juice is concentrated and syrupy and quantity is about 2 cups. Taste syrup and adjust sugar if necessary. Cool syrup in pan. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until well-chilled.

To make cocktails, pour a generous tablespoon chilled rhubarb syrup into each of 4 chilled glasses. Add ice cubes, divide the vodka among each glass and top with the seltzer to taste. Stir, then serve with a lemon strip in each glass. Refrigerate or freeze remaining rhubarb syrup.

Makes 4 servings.

— Recipe from “The Bettlebung Farm Cookbook” by Chris Fischer (Little, Brown; June 2015, $35).

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Scallions, scapes bring more savor to rhubarb

The salad recipe featured in this blog’s previous post drew some rave reviews from weekend guests.

The reception perhaps owed something to our friends’ status as home gardeners, although rhubarb is not a crop they cultivate. But I like to think it was the ideal intersection of velvety greens, earthy nuts, salty cheese and a sweet-tart vinaigrette that went a long way toward taming the rhubarb, still assertively sour when I pulled roasted slices from the oven. Voila: A new signature dish for my repertoire.

Of course, I couldn’t be expected to follow the recipe to the letter, not when I had plenty of acceptable — even preferable — substitutes on hand. Like so many dishes, this salad is really more about concept.

Romaine and butterhead lettuces, with a bit of mesclun, all from my own garden, replaced the watercress. I mixed up a balsamic vinaigrette rather than sherry vinegar. My favorite Israeli sheep-milk feta makes for a superior alternative here to goat cheese. And because I had candied pecans on hand, those were an obvious addition, rather than walnuts.

I toyed with the notion of adding garden-fresh scallions, rather than the recipe’s shallots, but didn’t want to upset the balance of key ingredients. Because of their proliferation around the garden, scallions manage to insinuate themselves into so many meals this time of year.

Knowing full well that I had the following recipe at my disposal, I decided to wait a few meals and give scallions their due. This chicken dish also would befit my garlic scapes, rather than the green garlic suggested in the recipe.

Tribune News Service writers are adamant that, despite the sauce’s greenish hue, this is another company-worthy dish.

Tribune News Service photo

Skillet Chicken With Rhubarb

5 1/2-pound whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 tablespoon, plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon black pepper, more as needed

5 fresh thyme sprigs, preferably lemon thyme

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch spring onions or scallions, white and light-green stalks thinly sliced (slice and reserve greens for garnish)

2 stalks green garlic, thinly sliced, or 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

3/4 pound fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch dice (3 cups)

1 tablespoon honey, or to taste

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Pat the chicken dry and season with 1 tablespoon of the salt and the pepper. Place in a bowl with the thyme sprigs and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Remove thyme from bowl with chicken, reserving thyme. Add chicken pieces to skillet and sear, turning occasionally, until golden-brown all over, for about 10 minutes. Transfer pieces to a platter.

Reduce heat to medium. Stir in the onion (white and light-green parts) and cook until softened, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and reserved thyme; cook 1 minute more. Stir in the wine and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits in bottom of pan. Add the rhubarb, honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Return chicken pieces to pot in a single layer. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, for 15 to 20 minutes for breasts and 20 to 25 minutes for legs and thighs, transferring chicken pieces to a platter as they finish cooking.

Whisk the butter into rhubarb sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Spoon sauce over chicken and garnish with sliced onion greens.

Makes 4 servings.

— Recipe from Melissa Clark, New York Times

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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