Smoked fish and potatoes are a big part of the Russian diet. This is a Niçoise-style salad using potatoes and smoked trout. The egg is a nod to the fertility rites of the spring pagan celebration of May Day. Served with the cheese bread, it makes a simple dinner or lavish lunch.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Ready in: 40 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 red-leaf lettuce, torn into pieces
250 grams (8 ounces) smoked trout, skinned
250 grams (8 ounces) mini red-skinned potatoes, boiled
6 asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces, blanched
1/2 cup finely sliced red onion
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
1 cup pitted black olives, halved
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Stir vinegar with Dijon and tarragon. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve. Toss lettuce with 1/4 cup dressing in a large bowl. Line a platter with dressed lettuce.
Break trout into large flakes. Arrange trout, potatoes, asparagus, onion, eggs and olives in rows over the lettuce. Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette (there may be a little extra). Season with black pepper.
This simple dish is full of flavour and makes a good match for Spicy Rice or Korean sweet potato noodles. Kimchi is available in Asian stores.
Snapper, striped bass or any flavourful not too thick fish with its skin works well. Brown butter has a nutty flavour that enhances fish. Be careful to adjust the heat so that the butter doesn’t burn.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Ready in: 15 minutes
¼ cup butter
Andy Ricker’s dish is a traditional take on steamed fish, an important part of Chinese New Year. You will need a large bamboo steamer basket. I used striped bass as I could not get fresh black bass.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Ready in: 25 minutes
Serves: 2 to 3
The San Francisco dining scene, ever dynamic, has a new raft of restaurants to savour. One of the edgiest, State Bird Provisions, has become a darling of both foodies and critics. In addition to a palate-challenging menu bursting with fresh, focused flavours, it has taken to sending interesting small dishes around the restaurant on dim sum trolleys. The concept has proven so popular that it is hard to get reservations, although the restaurant does not book the counter seats, which can be had on a first-come, first-served basis.
This sensual dish of rare tuna mixed with avocado and a scented dressing topped with nori chips is a highlight of State Bird’s menu. The chips are better than any potato chips you will ever have. Black garlic is fermented garlic that can be found in Asian grocery stores, particularly Korean ones. (Roasted garlic is the best substitute.) The tuna is cooked slowly in oil as if making a confit.
Prep time: 1 hour
Ready in: 3 hours, including cooling time
Everywhere in Paris, soup garnishes are arranged on the soup plate and the liquid is poured over at the table. It’s an easy, elegant way to serve this soup, inspired by the hearty food at Semilla, another modern bistro.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Ready in: 45 minutes
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
500 grams (1 pound) Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 3 cups)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup whipping cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper (preferably white pepper)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 jumbo scallops
Heat butter in a pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes or until softened. Add Jerusalem artichokes and sauté for 1 minute. Pour in stock and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until artichokes are very tender.
Purée soup using a hand-held blender or food processor until smooth. Return soup to pot, add cream and season with salt and pepper.
Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat. Add scallops and sear 3 minutes or until deep brown. Turn over and then slide skillet off the heat, leaving scallops in the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Scallops need another 2 minutes to finish cooking but will also hold for another 5 minutes, if soup is not yet ready. Pour soup over plated scallops.
A white Burgundy would make a fine Paris match. Slightly creamy and often with an earthy mineral tang, France’s finest chardonnays possess the texture and flavours to dance a pas de deux here. A simple and affordable Macon would be nice, though a higher-end Puligny-Montrachet or Meursault would give these dishes the regal touch. Non-French alternatives: Oregon or British Columbia pinot gris. If you prefer red, try an earthy red Burgundy (a.k.a. pinot noir), with its resonant root-vegetable beet note. - Beppi Crosariol
To prepare an oyster platter, get them shucked at the fishmonger the day of the party, put them on ice and serve them on a cold tray. Garnish with lemons and grated horseradish or mignonette sauce. This traditional French sauce for oysters gives them a piquant flavour.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Ready in: 3 hours including chilling time
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 teaspoons cracked peppercorns
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
Combine red wine, red wine vinegar, shallots, peppercorns and lemon rind and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Let sit for 2 hours to concentrate the flavours. Chill before serving with oysters. Makes about 1/2 cup.
A sake martini is a fine theme cocktail for this appetizer (two parts gin or vodka to one part good sake, stirred not shaken). Sparkling wine is versatile and festive – I’d suggest Spanish cava or trendy prosecco from Italy. Grassy Chilean sauvignon blanc is a flexible and affordable white-wine option, while zippy, slightly chilled Beaujolais, the French red, won’t be a total disaster with oysters. Beer-wise, I’d opt for a slightly bitter, refreshing Czech-style pilsner. - Beppi Crosariol
Shrimp and grits has become popular on menus at high-end restaurants of late, but it’s a dish that has been around for hundreds of years. Grits are so closely associated with the southern United States that the region is often called the Grits Belt. Made of ground dried corn, grits are similar to polenta, but coarser. A staple of workers’ diets in the past, they are now a trendy accompaniment. This recipe features traditional red-eye gravy, which is also good with ham steaks and pork chops. It’s made with coffee (use instant if you don’t have fresh). Warning to those who are sensitive to caffeine: Consider using decaf unless you want to find out firsthand how the gravy got its name.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Ready time: 75 minutes
The original recipe calls for sierra mackerel, but halibut is more readily available. Chilies and other Mexican ingredients are available at Latin American stores and online. Tomatillos look like green tomatoes with a papery skin that is removed before using. Leave the seeds in the jalapeno for a hotter taste.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 3 hours
250 grams (8 ounces) boned and skinned halibut or mackerel
1/3 cup lime juice
Sea salt to taste
150 grams (about 5 ounces) tomatillos, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped pitted green olives
1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 avocados, peeled and cut into small cubes
Cut fish into 1/2-inch pieces and place in bowl. Stir in lime juice and salt and mix well. Refrigerate for about 2 hours.
Stir in remaining ingredients except for avocado, adjust salt and marinate for about 30 minutes. Spoon into glasses (martini work well) and top with avocado.
You’d be better off with a citrusy, lean white, such as Rias Baixas or dry Sherry, both from Spain. Or try a frosty gin or vodka martini with lemon zest. - Beppi Crosariol