We tried steaming cod, grouper and halibut to see which one worked best. Halibut was the clear winner. If wild celery is not available, make a pesto following the same recipe with either wild leeks or dandelion greens.
Our local asparagus is finally here, and there’s no better way to celebrate than to pair it with two asparagus-loving ingredients: scallops and lemons. Thicker stalks of asparagus have more taste and texture than thinner ones and are the perfect foil for the sweetness of the scallops. The largest scallops, about eight to 10 to a pound, are best for this dish. Just make sure not to overcook them; otherwise, they’ll be tough. I use Meyer lemons for the pesto because they have a sweeter, less acidic taste than ordinary lemons and a thinner skin. I picked Meyer lemons from trees when I was in Palm Springs recently, but they have limited availability here. If you can’t find them, substitute a whole tangerine or mandarin and a squeeze of lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon). The pesto will keep for a week.
When I was staying in Palm Springs recently, I developed a craving for food with lots of personality and spice to counteract the many standard-issue steaks, hamburgers and pizzas I was consuming. Rather than go out and look for it, I kept to my own kitchen and made exciting dishes such as this salmon in Thai curry. It’s very easy to make and you can find the ingredients just about anywhere. With drop-dead gorgeous flavour, it can be the centrepiece of a buffet (the recipe doubles well) or served at brunch or lunch with my crunchy iceberg lettuce salad that gives texture to the meal. The coconut sauce (here mixed together with some of the marinade) has a myriad of uses, including as the base of a great salmon- or tuna-salad sandwich.
In her excellent book Around My French Table, Dorie Greenspan has a recipe for cured salmon that my daughter Emma successfully adapted to fit our seder table as an alternative to gefilte fish. This keeps for a week.
Ready time: Ready in: two days, including marinating time
Servings: 6 to 8
2 1/2 tbsp kosher salt or other coarse salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 one-pound salmon fillet, cut from the thickest portion of the fish, skinned
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves, halved
8 thyme sprigs
1 large carrot, trimmed, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
Olive oil to cover salmon
2 tsp grated lemon zest
3 tbsp lemon juice
Lemon or lime wedges, for serving
At least one day before serving: Stir the salt and sugar together in a bowl. Slice the salmon into 12 equal pieces (about two-inch pieces) and toss the pieces into the bowl, gently turning the salmon around to coat it evenly. (It’s easiest to use your hands for this.) Massage the salt and sugar in.
Layer the salmon snugly in a bowl or terrine, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, or up to 24. You can also use 1/2 litre canning jars.
Remove salmon and rinse under cold water discarding any brine. Pat dry.
Repack the salmon into the bowl or terrine layering it with coriander seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, carrot, onion, lemon zest and juice. Pour in enough of the olive oil to cover the ingredients and seal the bowl or cover the terrine tightly. Chill for at least six hours, or for up to a week.
Slice the salmon thinly and plate with some spicy lettuce or frisée and a little juice from the jar. Alternately, you can serve directly from the jars with lemon or lime wedges.
I had this dish at a stall at the Tokyo fish market during a recent visit. It featured fresh shrimp with the heads still on, but we made do with extra-large shrimp here. This is my take on the recipe, as the people at the stall spoke no English. You can use chicken or pork in this recipe, which is a great way to use up leftover vegetables. Bottled yakisoba stir fry sauce is available in stores, but my version comes very close to what I had and is easy to pull off.
½ cup light soy
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce, such as sambal oelek
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
Noodles and vegetables:
8 ounces (250 grams) Japanese dried noodles (called chuka soba)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped ginger root
1 teaspoon finely chopped chili or 1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce
8 ounces (250 grams) extra-large shrimp, peeled
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots cut in matchstick pieces
3 cups sliced Napa cabbage
4 green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons slivered pickled ginger
Combine all sauce ingredients and set aside. Place noodles in a large pot of boiling water and cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until al dente. Drain. Toss with 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Set aside.
Heat vegetable oil and remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic, ginger, chili and shrimp and cook for 1 minute or until shrimp are beginning to turn pink. Add onions and carrots and cook for 2 minutes or until softened. Add cabbage and stir fry until wilted. Add noodles to skillet and stir fry together with vegetables and shrimp for 1 minute. Add sauce and bring to a boil. Stir in green onions and toss everything together. Reheat until very hot. Garnish with pickled ginger. Serves 4.
Top this soup with a few shrimp and, optionally, a crispy parsnip chip (see recipe for chip below). The potatoes give the soup a thicker texture, but you could replace them altogether with parsnips.
2 tablespoons of butter
2 cups parsnips, peeled and diced
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup peeled and diced Yukon Gold potatoes
4 cups stock
1 tablespoon wasabi paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 large shrimp, cut into 3 pieces each
Heat butter in soup pot over medium heat. Add parsnips, onions and potatoes and sauté for approximately 4 minutes (until they are shiny).
Add stock, wasabi paste and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 12 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Pour soup into a blender or use a hand blender and purée until smooth. Return to pot and add cream. Bring to a simmer and add shrimp. Poach shrimp until pink (approximately 2 to 3 minutes) and remove.
When ready to serve, add shrimp to each serving and top, if you wish, with a parsnip chip. Serves 6.
These crispy vegetable chips add crunch to soups and purées.
1 large parsnip, peeled
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Use a mandoline or a vegetable peeler to make long strips of parsnip about 1-millimetre thick. Brush the strips lightly with vegetable oil and place them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Top with another piece of parchment paper and another baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes or until chips are lightly brown and cooked through. Cool on baking sheet and season with salt to taste. Use as a garnish for soup.
Sambal oelek is pure chili sauce, which gives the halibut a real lift. Serve with rice.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Ready time: 15 minutes
Hot and spicy sauce:
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon Sambal oelek
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup baby spinach, packed
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons chopped mint
4, 6 to 8 ounce (175 to 250 grams) halibut fillets, on the skin
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine garlic, chili sauce and sugar in a food processor. Add spinach, lime juice, rice vinegar and fish sauce. Process until blended. Stir in mint. Reserve.
Preheat grill to high.
Brush halibut with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place halibut skin-side down on grill. Close lid and grill for 10 minutes or until halibut is cooked but still moist in centre.
Place on serving plates and drizzle sauce over it. Serve rest of sauce separately.