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Friday, May 27, 2011

Country Paté with Pistachios and Portobello


Making paté is inexpensive and it's a good way to make use of organs like liver and to use up scraps of meat. Serve it as an appetizer or atop a salad for a main course.

The method is not difficult, but it does take some time before it's ready to eat, as you must allow it to rest in the fridge before baking and again afterward, before you serve it. It will keep in the fridge for a week or more, so it's a great thing to make in advance for dinner parties, pack for lunch, or have on hand for a quick and easy snack or meal.

This paté de campagne, or country paté, is full of traditional ingredients like shallot and cognac, but my method is not traditional. I made mine grain-free by eliminating the panade, a mixture of starch (often white bread) and liquid commonly used to bind everything together. A couple of eggs did the job just fine.

Also, terrines are usually lined with plastic wrap to facilitate an easy removal, but I want to avoid cooking in plastic to prevent dangerous chemicals from migrating into my food. So instead I greased my mold with butter before I baked the paté, and used a warm water bath to loosen it before unmolding.

Like the paté I made last spring, this version contains pasture-raised chicken livers. But unlike last year's paté, it also contains ground pork and cream instead of butter, and I've added some internal garnishes. Tucked inside and revealed in cross section, portobelllo and pistachios add flavor, color and texture.

I made this paté with my food processor but you could use a meat grinder instead. If you do, the texture of your paté will be more coarse, which is very much in the style of paté de campagne, and it will be equally delicious.

  • 1 medium portobello mushroom cap
  • Extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground peppercorn
  • 2/3 pound livers from pastured-raised chickens
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (1 small)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 2 large eggs from pasture-raised chickens
  • 1/4 cream from pasture-raised cows
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground peppercorn
  • 1 teaspoon Five Herb Seasoning or ground dried rosemary or thyme
  • Pinch allspice
  • 2/3 pound ground pasture-raised pork
  • 1/4 cup raw pistachios

Step One:  Preparing and Chilling
Before you mix the paté, all ingredients must be chilled, so start by broiling the portobello and cooking the chicken livers. Also place your food processor bowl, metal blade, and cover in the freezer to chill.
  • For the portobello:
  1. Preheat the broiler. 
  2. Wipe clean the portobello mushroom cap and place it gill-side up in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle it with olive oil and season it with salt and pepper. Broil it until crispy on top, about 5 to 7 minutes. 
  3. Set it aside to cool, then transfer it to the fridge.

  • For the livers:
  1. Rinse and dry the livers. Trim away any connective tissue and season them with salt and pepper. 
  2. Warm a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once it melts, add the chicken livers and allow them only to brown, not to cook through. Once browned on both sides, about 5 minutes total, transfer them to a bowl to cool. Do not overcook. 
  3. Add the shallots and a bit more butter, if needed, to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until the shallots start to brown. Add the garlic and stir until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the cognac and stir to incorporate any brown bits on the bottom of the pan into the sauce. Cook until thickened and reduced by half, just a few minutes more. Pour the sauce over the chicken livers. Once cool, transfer them to the fridge to chill.
Step Two:  Mixing and Curing
  1. Butter the inside of a 3-cup (0.8 liter) terrine or loaf pan. 
  2. Once the chicken livers and broiled portobello are thoroughly chilled, cut 4 or 5 long slices from the center of the portobello and set them aside for an internal garnish. Roughly chop the rest of the mushroom and reserve any juices.
  3. Remove the food processor parts from the freezer and assemble them. 
  4. Add the chopped portobello and any reserved juices along with the eggs, cream, peppercorn, Five Herb Seasoning, chicken livers with shallots and cognac, and 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Purée the mixture until smooth. Add the (raw) ground pork to the food processor, breaking it up as you drop it in. Cover and pulse until the meat is well-combined with the other ingredients and the mixture is sticky.
  5. Warm a small amount of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add a spoonful of the paté mixture, flatten it, and cook it through. Taste it for seasoning and adjust the uncooked mixture as needed. Cook and taste again if necessary.
  6. Once you are satisfied with the seasoning, press 1/3 of the paté mixture into the bottom of the buttered terrine. Arrange the pistachios in a single layer on top. Add another 1/3 of the paté mixture, making another layer over the pistachios. Press down firmly to fill in any air pockets. Arrange the portobello slices in a single layer. Cover the sliced portobello with the remaining paté mixture. Again, press down firmly, and level the top. 
  7. Cover the terrine and transfer it to the fridge. Allow it to cure for 48 to 72 hours.

Step Three:  Baking
  1. Preheat the oven to 325F and prepare a kettle of boiling water. 
  2. Make a hot water bath for the paté-filled terrine by placing it inside a larger baking dish and pouring boiling water in the gap between the two. Take great care to not pour any water into the paté-filled terrine. Transfer it to the hot oven and bake until a thermometer inserted into the center reads 160F, about an hour and a half. Do not overcook.
  3. Remove the terrine from the oven, cover the paté with a weight (1 to 2 pounds), and allow it to cool. The weight should cover as much of the paté as possible yet be small enough to sink down inside the terrine as the paté cools and shrinks. Once it has cooled to room temperature, cover the terrine and transfer it (with the weight) to the fridge. Allow it to sit overnight before serving.

Step Four:  Serving 
Once the paté has rested again overnight, it can be served from the terrine or unmolded onto a plate.
  • To unmold:
  1. Place the terrine in a shallow sauce pan filled with an inch of water and warm it over low heat for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the terrine from the water bath. Use a knife to loosen the sides. Use a rubber scraper to apply pressure to the sides of the paté and loosen the bottom. Turn the terrine over onto a plate and allow it to fall down onto the plate. This may take a few minutes. If does not fall down, return the terrine to the warm water bath and heat it a bit more before trying again. 
Once the paté has been unmolded, use a sharp knife to carefully cut individual slices.
Serve this rich paté with a crisp salad and a sharp vinaigrette. I made a simple one with red wine vinegar, grated garlic, Dijon mustard, extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground peppercorn. I tossed it with some greens (and purples) from the farmers' market and served it cornichons (small French pickles). If you don't have cornichons (find them at Trader Joe's) you can substitute any pickled vegetable. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Arugula Salad with Grilled Zucchini and Nectarines


This was the perfect late lunch on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
It has a little bit of everything: spicy arugula, savory grilled zucchini, sweet and juicy nectarine, tangy goat cheese and creamy walnuts. Tossed together with an orange champagne vinaigrette, it was light but satisfying.

I used goat cheese brie in the shape of a log because it's easy to slice. You could also use a creamy goat cheese and crumble it, or even blue cheese. If your nectarine isn't fully ripe, skip it or grill
it along with the zucchini.

2 small or 1 medium zucchini
Extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
Sea salt
1/4 cup orange champagne vinegar, or other vinegar
1 or 2 cloves garlic, grated or ground into a paste
2 tbsp Dijon mustard or 1 tbsp ground mustard seed
Ground peppercorn
6 cups fresh arugula
 1/2 cup raw walnuts
1 ripe nectarine, thinly sliced
2 oz goat cheese, sliced or crumbled

Trim the ends of the zucchini and cut them into slices. Warm a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet or grill pan. Add the zucchini in a single layer and sprinkle sea salt on top. Cook until browned, then flip the rounds over and brown the second side. Remove the zucchini from the hot surface and set them aside to cool.

In a clean glass jar with a lid, add the vinegar, garlic, mustard,
1/2 cup olive oil, a pinch of peppercorn and a pinch of sea salt if desired. Close it tightly and shake until well-combined. (Or whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl.) Taste the vinaigrette for seasoning and adjust it if necessary.

Add the arugula to a large mixing bowl. Roughly chop the warm zucchini and scatter it over the arugula. Add the walnuts, nectarine and goat cheese. Drizzle some vinaigrette over the top, enough to dress all of the ingredients but not so much that it weighs them down. Toss everything together and serve the salad immediately.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chocolate Stuffed Figs


I like this dessert because it's easy to whip up at the last minute using ingredients I usually have on hand.

Or I can improvise. The figs and cocoa powder are essential, but you can substitute other raw nuts for the almonds and walnuts, like pistachios, cashews or coconut. Or you can use raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

12 to 15 dried figs
1/4 cup raw sliced almonds
1/4 cup chopped raw walnuts
2 pitted dates
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch sea salt
1 to 2 tbsp honey
1 orange

Preheat oven to 300F.

If the figs have tough stem ends, trim them. Use a kitchen scissors to cut the top of each fig in half, leaving the bottom third of the fig intact.

Rotate it 90 degrees and cut again.

You should be able to separate the quarters enough to place some filling inside.

Set the prepared figs aside.

Finely chop the almonds, walnuts and dates in a food processor or by hand. Mix in the cocoa powder, cinnamon, sea salt and zest from the orange if it is organic (otherwise, skip it). Drizzle in the honey, enough to cause clumps to form, and use a rubber spatula to mix it thoroughly. Be patient, this is a sticky job.

Fill each fig with a spoonful of the chocolate mixture and stand it up in an oven-proof dish large enough to accommodate all of the figs but small enough to make them fit snugly.

Juice the orange and pour it over the figs. There should be about a centimeter of liquid in the baking dish. If not, add a little water.

Transfer the figs to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes, until the figs have warmed and the sauce has reduced.

Transfer the figs to a serving dish and pour the sauce over the top. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Smokey Peach Barbecue Sauce


I've been eating up my stored foods, like dried fruit, in anticipation of the fresh foods coming as spring stretches
into summer.

I still have some dried peaches in my pantry, so I used them in this sauce. It's a healthy alternative to bottled barbecue sauces that contain sugar, high fructose corn syrup, modified food starch, preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilizers, artificial flavors and colors.

My barbecue sauce is made from whole foods. The subtle sweetness of the peaches pairs well with the smokey flavors of the fire-roasted tomatoes, cumin and chipotle (a dried, smoked jalapeno pepper). The peaches also help thicken the sauce.

If you don't have dried peaches, substitute 1/3 cup golden raisins or chopped dried apricots. If you can't find fire-roasted tomatoes, use regular crushed tomatoes.

Slather this sauce on grilled chicken, slow-roasted pork, grilled vegetables or tofu triangles.

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
1 cup chopped red onion
1 large orange
4 dried peach halves
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
1/2 cup crushed fire-roasted tomatoes 
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Sea salt
Ground peppercorn
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Pinch ground allspice
1 dried chipotle

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Sauté the onion until browned and caramelized. If it starts to stick, stir in some sea salt. (It will draw moisture out of the onion and prevent it from sticking, but it will also take longer to brown.) Take your time with this step and be sure that the onion is brown before you move onto the next step.

While the onion browns, juice the orange and set it aside. Thinly slice the dried peaches and set them aside as well.

Stir in the garlic and continue cooking until it becomes aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, vinegar and 1/2 cup of the orange juice. Sprinkle in some sea salt and grind in some peppercorn. Use kitchen shears to cut up the chipotle pepper and add the whole thing if you like your sauce spicy, or just some of it for a more mild sauce. Stir in the dried peaches.

Bring the mixture to a slow simmer, then cover it and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Simmer it for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow it to cool, covered, to room temperature. Don't rush this step because the residual heat will continue to soften the peaches, allowing them to become fully re-hydrated.

Purée the mixture until smooth, using an immersion blender, stand blender or a food processor. (The sauce fits perfectly in a pint-sized wide-mouth mason jar, and so does an immersion blender.)

Once it is smooth, taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve it immediately or store it in an air-tight container in the fridge for future use.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Scrambled Eggs with Ramps and Goat Cheese

Ramps are a spring delicacy. They are a wild member of the onion family, reminiscent of scallions but with broad, flat leaves and purple stems. Ramps taste like onions and also like garlic, and their unique flavor can complement all sorts of savory dishes.

As you would with scallions, trim away the roots and eat everything else: green, white and purple parts. Also like scallions, ramps can be eaten raw or cooked. Try adding them to:
Ramps are in season for only a short time, and the time is now. Find them at your local farmer's market. (I recently picked some up at the Union Square Greenmarket.) 

Scrambled Eggs with Ramps and Goat Cheese


1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
2 ramps, thinly sliced, greens separated from white and purple parts
4 eggs
2 tbsp organic whole milk or water
Sea salt
Ground peppercorn
1 tbsp chopped fresh leafy herbs like oregano, basil or parsley
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

Warm the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat.
Add the white and purple parts of the ramps to the skillet and cook until soft.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, milk or water, and a pinch each of sea salt and ground peppercorn.

Once the ramps are soft, sprinkle them with a small amount of sea salt. Add the green parts of the ramps and cook for 1 or 2 more minutes, until the white parts start to brown and the green parts wilt.

Pour in the egg mixture and continue cooking, stirring occasionally with a rubber scraper. Once the eggs are nearly scrambled, add most of the fresh herbs (reserving some for garnish) and continue cooking until done.

Stir in half of the crumbled goat cheese, then transfer the mixture to a serving dish and top with the remaining goat cheese and herbs. Serve immediately.

Serves 2.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hot and Sour Salmon


This dish is colorful, healthy, and easy to prepare. The bright red color and sweet-sour flavor comes from blood oranges, while the heat comes from ginger. You can give it an extra kick by adding a bit of cayenne if you wish, but it's good either way.

If you don't have blood oranges, use tangerines, tangelos or oranges, and add a splash of lemon juice at the end for a sour note. I cooked a wild salmon fillet on the stove top using a cast iron grill pan, but you could use an outdoor grill or a stove top skillet. Salmon steaks also work well.

1 lb wild salmon at room temperature
Sea salt
Ground peppercorn
3 blood oranges, enough for 1 cup juice
1 small organic lemon
1 tsp freshly grated ginger, or to taste
Pinch cayenne (optional)
Pinch sea salt
Ground peppercorn

If you haven't already, take the salmon out of the fridge to come to room temperature.

Zest the lemon and oranges, if they are organic, and juice the oranges. (If your citrus isn't organic, omit the zest.)

Add 1 cup of blood orange juice, 1 tablespoon of blood orange zest, all of the lemon zest (about 1 tablespoon), the ginger and cayenne to a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk the ingredients together and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until thickened and reduced by about half, whisking occasionally.

Once the sauce has reduced and thickened, whisk in a pinch of sea salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. If it's not sour enough, add some lemon juice. If it's too sour, add a bit of honey. Set the sauce aside while you prepare the salmon.

Preheat a grill pan over medium heat. Cut the salmon into individual portions and brush each one with olive oil, then sprinkle with sea salt and ground peppercorn.

Once the pan is hot, place the pieces of salmon on top and do not move them. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow them to cook until they release from the pan and grill marks appear, about 4 or 5 minutes. Flip them over and cook the other side for a few more minutes, until flaky and just cooked through. Do not overcook the salmon.

While the salmon cooks, re-heat the sauce over low heat until warm.

Once the salmon has finished cooking, serve it immediately with the hot and sour blood orange sauce.