Better than salt money

Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation

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Working without a net


I have sprouts roasting in the oven, tossed in hazelnut oil, and hickory salt.

Main course will be salmon en papillote.  Salmon is skin on, a dusting of dill and and applewood smoked salt, salted caperbuds in the crease of the envelope, and a dab of dijon (with toasted cumin); over some frizzled shallots and under a pile of minced kalamata.

Appetizer will be the skirt of the filet, seared to a crunchy sort of, “salmon candy”.

I’ll toss the sprouts with a vinaigrette and make a leaf salad to go on the side.

Start to finish, about fifty minutes.  Less if you use powdered cumin and skip the frizzling.



I was working without a net because I had no way to taste the food before I served it.  Since I don’t like sprouts I had to guess at the end result.

The sprouts were well received, I forgot that I wanted to try one until they were all gone.  The bits I did taste weren’t bad.  The salt and the nut combined to give it a really nice base note, and the time in the open bowl (I cooked in visionware), let it caramelise.  The fish was perfectly textured, and that I had the elements in dollops meant the flavors of the main course were changing as one ate.

MBF had a Belgian Brown, and Our Other Partner and I had some Tokaji Sec (a white).  The salmon was a S. American Coho, which is a bit more like Atlantic Salmon than Alaskan Coho, though it has more fat, and would be great for making a crispy salmon skin.  I also chose to use the Smoking Gun and some cherry wood to smoke it.  So it was, after a fashion, “smoke three ways”.


The difference

Is one of attitude.

My mother was fond of repeating a, somewhat trite, platitude, which she both believed, and tried to follow:  The difference between American parents, and European parents is American parents say, “Eat this, it’s good for you,” and European parents say, “Eat this, it’s good”.

I somehow manage to be attracted to people who have allergies.  I like to cook for people.  As a result I have gotten pretty good at finding ways to cope with restricted food sources.  My Beloved Fiancée (MBF) has a relatively short list of allergies, which have an inordinate effect on what I can do.

Raw Onions

This means I have learned to do a lot of “Pre-Columbian, Old World Cooking”.  As one might imagine, restaurants are a real problem (exacerbated by her keeping kosher).  Mostly they treat her as a child, and offer her plain food, with no spicing.

Which is offensive.  Not just because she is treated dismissively (as if her allergies are just a plea for attention), but because I know (from personal experience) that it’s a failure imagination on the part of the chef.

Yes, I have more time to ponder the issues.  Yes, it means one is cooking a la minute, and the sauces one is used to are all off the table (because garlic, fruits, and nightshades: fruit means no wine). But if one is demanding $60 a plate, one ought to be interested in the challenge.


One of the things which is hardest is the loss of the “hot” elements one gets used to.  I try to do things with mustard, and I use a lot of vinegar, but she didn’t have an awareness of all these allergies until recently (and some may have been late onset).  So she is familiar with things like curry.  She likes them.

Tonight’s supper, salmon over salad with “curried” cous-cous.

Take 2qts water.  Bring to a boil with 10-12 curry leaves (I used 10), ¾ Tbls garam masala, 2/3 tsp turmeric.  Boil furiously for 30 mins.

In a shallow skillet braise an onion in oil and garam masala.

Make cous-cous in the “curry tea”.  Drain, toss with the braised onions, and oil.

For the salad, quarter ¾ cup cornichon, longitudinally.  Dice ½ can beets.  Grill (in a pan) a quantity of bite-sized asparagus (let the tips of the buds char, just a bit).

Pan fry salmon: cook it almost all the way through from the flesh side.  A hard, deep, sear is the idea.  Finish on the skin; rest it.

Toss with mixed greens, place a mound of the cous-cous mix, and top with the salmon, after the skin has been peeled.

I dressed it with a horseradish mustard and rice vinegar vinagrette; to which I’d added a bit of powdered lemongrass.  (I’d made it the night before).

The best part was the cous-cous.  It had some curry bite.  If I’d added some mustard oil, it might have even been, “hot”.

There are pictures (though I need to work on color balance when editing them on my phone).

From Above

Lower Angle

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Tonight’s Quick Fire Challenge

We went and saw Peter Jackson’s film today.  It was good, but I’m looking forward to the day someone films The Hobbit.  Afterwards we tried to go to dinner.  Because one of my partners has a significant of allergies, it’s hard to get restaurants which are willing to really feed her.  Tonight was worse than most: after they pointed her at the bland foods, they forgot she had ordered (I wish this were a singular event).

We got home (having stopped to do some shopping) and I made her something to eat.  She’d had an omelette earlier, so that; as a just throw it together meal, wasn’t really an option.


Chiffonade of basil, small dice of cucumber, medley of chopped olives, toasted almonds.

Chopped hearts of romaine tips.

Peppered, and smoked, makerel; shredded.

Leaves of Romaine.

Place shredded romaine in the leaves, add mackerel, cover with the mixture of cukes, olives almonds.

As I was making it I realised I was working the sort of thing Top Chef tosses at people, “make a salad; suitable for appetizer or meal, without dressing; in fifteen minutes.”

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Well that didn’t go as planned

I made some changes to supper.  No dill, I decided to make a variation on sauce bearnaise.

So, two egg yolks, some rice vinegar (the good stuff, not the kikkoman), and the change, for the oil I used pistachio.  OMG.  Seriously, this is so good.  It’s spendy (pistachio oil is not cheap, and I ran out before I was done., so the cost of making it up all the way is probably about $15US).  I was also a little shy of the right amount of tarragon (too much and what you have is a greasy licorice flavor).  So it didn’t, quite, stand up against the steelhead trout (which was a little under seared; hard but not really hard).

I powdered some applewood smoked salt to balance it out.  With an all pistachio oil sauce, and enough tarragon, this would make great mousse.  If you took a little of it as a binder you could make killer salmon cakes (with the bearnaise as a dressing for the finished cakes).  I really want to make a chateaubriand, or tournedos (Mon Grenier, of blessed memory did a pair of tournedos, one in bearnaise, and the other in a wine reduction… that could be done too… which raises the price again, but one could keep it, slightly more in reason, with a peppercorn sauce; keeping the burgundy for drinking.

But what do I call this sauce?

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More food

In the interest of 1: getting back in the habit of more regular blogging,  and 2: because I like to cook/talk about cooking, I am going to talk about tonight’s dinner, and tomorrow’s dinner plan.

I was tired tonight (and my wrist is acting up, a lot).  There was some “pepper steak” in the fridge, so I picked up some onions and mushrooms from the market.

I did a poach of finely diced onions in olive oil.  While it was cooking (I moved the temperature up and down from “hot” to mild boil), I minced the stems, and then the caps of a pint of crimini.  Those got tossed in, and the temp was dropped to a bit below, “hot”.

That simmered for about 30 minutes, to make a duxelles.  I pulled the excess oil off,  and used that to cook the steak, in two batches, with a deglazing in between.  The reduced deglaze put over the meat as it rested.  Some campanelle pasta on the boil, and a bunch of pan-fried (no oil, just hot iron).  Tossed the meat in the duxelles, and the pasta in truffle oil.  Served the meat/duxelles, over the pasta.

Tomorrow I’ll be hard searing a salmon, and letting it cool.  I’ll flake it, and toss it with a dill mayonnaise.  I’m going to making some massed root vegetables.  One of my partners can’t eat nightshades, nor parsnips (because they have inulin), so I’m going to play with carrots and a little of something else (at least a little of which is going to be more oil-poached onions).  The salmon flakes will be put into a chopped leaf salad.

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More cookery

I am playing with food tonight.

I had thought there was zucchini in the fridge, and I’d planned a ratatouille sort of dish (I have someone who is allergic to nightshades, so I can’t make the classic).  There being none, I instead aimed for a sort of braised celery.

I took a pinch of fennel seed, and ground it, then I bruised a dash of caraway.  I added that, and a healthy handful more of caraway to some chopped onions, and set that to simmer in olive oil, at a slow boil/fast simmer.  I chopped a bunch of celery, down to the bottom; leaves and all, salted it, and left it to rest.   Haricots were chopped to small bites, and covered with rice vinegar.

In the meanwhile I took some pistachio oil and simmered a lot of dill in it.

When the onions were done I drained the oil into a deep cast iron pot, and mixed i the onions/herbs with the celery, and then added the beans, vinegar and all.  This was put into a 350F oven.

The oil from the onions is poaching chicken breasts.  I’ve got a couple box-ends of pasta on the boil now, and will toss strain the dilled oil over it.