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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What To Do With... Salmon

Note: I just wanted to say "welcome" to Noble Pig readers - I received an honourable mention in the Superbowl recipe contest (over 1,000 submissions for the contest, so I am grateful for the mention. The recipe for the chili can be found here.)

I like fish a lot, I especially like it raw. In fact, sushi is one easily one of my favourite things. It’s the epitome of natural food: fresh, clean-tasting, and simple.

In this fine city, we have had an unfortunate proliferation of sushi restaurants which has lowered the quality of what passes for sushi around here. You can get sushi anywhere: at the grocery store and everyone and their brother has a sushi restaurant. But prepared in the traditional way,

sushi should be perfectly carved fish, delicately placed upon a petite mound of fresh moist sushi rice. By contrast, a fast food sushi restaurant or a sushi buffet seems like a contradiction. In Masaharu Morimoto's coffee table cookbook, The Art of Japanese Cooking, he discusses the long road to becoming a true sushi chef. Years of perfecting the art of making rice and honing knife skills before a sushi apprentice is allowed to even touch fish. This kind of patience and search for utter perfection is admirable, and is far from the fast food sushi that has become so prevasive. (I also wonder in this day of immediate gratification, how many people really embark on this long journey to sushi master.) This is one meal I never make at home because I really enjoy the pleasure of eating sushi prepared in a traditional way.

Since I don't make my own sushi I haven't presented sushi recipes for you, but here are three ways I like to eat salmon (both raw and cooked.) Enjoy!


1 side of salmon (the freshest possible) about 3 lbs, 1 bunch of dill, approximately 1/4c white sugar, 1/2c salt, 3 tbsp black pepper

1. Wash fish well. Pat dry
2. Mix sugar, salt, black pepper
3. Liberally apply to flesh of fish
4. Wash and chop dill. Spread on top of fish (again flesh side)
5. Wrap fish well (that means tightly) with Glad Wrap
6. Place in a shallow glass/ceramic baking dish. Place a plate and a weight (a brick, large can, etc.) on top
7. Refrigerate. Every 12 hours or so, flip the fish over and continue to weight it down. You’ll notice the fish exudes liquid. This is a good sign. This process should take about 3 days or so
8. Remove fish from fridge, gently scrap off dill and salt/sugar mixture. Do not rinse.
9. Thinly slice fish and serve
10. Keep wrapped in fresh Glad wrap if you’re not using it all at once. It should keep for another 3 days or so

I usually serve this with poached eggs and hollandaise or in a bagel with cream cheese. Or you anyway you would eat smoked salmon (tossed in pasta, canapes, etc.)

Salmon Tartare:

Serves 4 as appetizers

Finely dice 2 fillets of fresh salmon. Snip about 4 tiny stalks of chive (do not substitute green onion)over top and toss gently with a small amount of sea salt and black pepper. Finely dice 1 avocado, squeeze half a lemon over the avocado. Plate tartare starting with the salmon using a ring mold, followed by the avocado. Carefully remove the ring and serve immediately.

But salmon is something I also enjoy cooked. Salmon is a fish that is moist and tender and best served slightly under done. Trust me. I love the contrast in texture and flavour: crusty and golden on the outside with a moist coral-coloured interior.

One of the best ways to cook a fillet of salmon is to crust it with sesame seeds. But be warned, if you want salmon perfection, this does require your full attention. I am normally all for multi-tasking, but please don’t read your mail, answer the phone, or anything else you might do when you’re making dinner. A focused ten minutes on this. That’s all I ask. Bon Appetit!

Sesame Encrusted Salmon:

Serves 2

4-5 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tbsp black sesame seeds (if you don’t have it, just add more white sesame seeds)
2 fillets of salmon – washed, and patted dry
2 tbsp vegetable oil/ light olive oil

1. Heat a large pan on medium heat. Add vegetable oil
2. Ensure the salmon is patted dry. Press the fish flesh-side down onto a plate of sesame seeds. Press firmly to ensure that the flesh is well covered
3. Drop 1 sesame seed into the heated pan. If it sizzles, place fillets sesame seed side down onto the pan.

Your fish should look like the picture above... Mostly cooked but with a cool center. In the photo above, I have served the salmon with a simple miso-umeboshi plum sauce.

...Read more

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Good Dinner Guests Bring Dessert – Part Two: Lemon Squares

There is something inherently comforting about old school desserts like brownies, chocolate chip cookies and lemon squares. For me, they evoke a time when our sweet cravings were satisfied by something simple, and more Betty Crocker like before we ate molten chocolate cakes, brules, and other seemingly fancier desserts.

Truth be told, I don’t really have a sweet tooth. I prefer a crusty baguette with a really nice butter to something sweet or chocolatey. But when I crave something sweet, this is what I crave. We have a bakery down the street that sells these humble little bars drizzled with white chocolate. Unfortunately, these bars rarely scratch the itch for me. There is not enough lemon curd and not nearly enough lemon flavour. While this bakery makes a mean mincemeat pie at Christmas, I have to turn to my own kitchen for a proper lemon square.

This is also one of my stand-by desserts to bring to a casual dinner party.

They are homey and unfussy but well plated, they look fancy enough for the occasion. I bring my shaker of icing sugar for plating and some fruit (I like blackberries) and you have dessert.

(This is also a great way to get rid of the three egg yolks if you made this.)

Lemon Squares

1 cup flour less 2 tbsp
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cornmeal or crushed pistachios
4 tbsp icing sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 whole egg
3 egg yolk
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 tbsp 35% cream
juice of 1 large lemon*
Zest from 1 large lemon
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 F and butter and line the bottom of a 8 x 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper
Combine flour, salt, cornmeal (crushed pistachios) and icing sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the dough is crumbly
Press dough into pan, trying to ensure the crust is even throughout. Bake crust for about 18 minutes until the edges look golden. Set crust aside to cool
Whisk the together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, cream, juice, zest and baking powder until smooth. Carefully pour the filling into the cooled crust
Bake for approximately 25 minutes until set (the top will be slightly golden - do not overcook)
Cool at room temperature then chill in the fridge
Cut into squares and dust with icing sugar

*I have also made this recipe using limes (needs about 3 limes)

...Read more
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