Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thai Glazed Salmon with Brussels Sprouts and Eggplant

Well friends - it's been awhile, but I'm back in action.  Things have still been cookin' in the kitchen, but alas, sometimes I let the time fly and things slip past me.  Either way, I'm back at you with a simple and delicious recipe! Of course, inspiration arose from the items I picked up at the farmer's market.  Brussels sprouts still on the stalk? Check. And orange Turkish eggplants? Check.  I've never cooked with Turkish eggplants, but that's most likely because they're not the easiest thing to find in the world.  And, they look like mini pumpkins (how seasonal!).  Regardless, if you make this recipe - which you should - you can use any kind of eggplant, and the results will be just as delicious! 

cute as buttons.

I was challenged the other day by a certain someone - brussels sprouts with seafood? OH, heck yes.  It's on! I mean, I'll eat sprouts with damn near anything because they are just epically delicious, but maybe that's just me.  I have done sprouts with seafood before - check it - but there was a lot going on in that whole preparation, to say the least.  Salmon was my seafood of choice this time around, so I started racking my brain for what I could do with all these delicious components I had.  I have also been jonesing for some Thai food as of recent...and that's when it all clicked!  When it comes to Thai food, I have many an obsession, but one of them happens to be basil eggplant.  Clearly, I had to do a little play on that recipe! Easy enough.  The resulting combination turned out to be what one of my lucky tasters claimed to be one of the best dishes I've cooked for him.  Who knew?

Basil Eggplant & Brussels Sprouts with Glazed Salmon
Serves 4
2 lbs salmon, portioned in 1/2lb fillets
2 cups brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
2 cups eggplant, chopped into about 1/2" chunks
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 T garlic, minced
1-2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced, more or less depending on how spicy you want it 
1 large handful of (Thai if possible) basil leaves, roughly chopped - some extra for garnish
Olive oil

2 T fish sauce
2 T soy sauce
1 T palm sugar (or brown sugar) 
3/4 cup water

In a small jar, mix together the sauce ingredients and reserve. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Generously salt and pepper salmon fillets and let sit out at room temperature for about 15 minutes.  To get the ball rolling, start by par-cooking the brussels sprouts - either by steaming or roasting until just al dente.  Set aside until ready to finish the saute.  When ready to cook, place the salmon in the oven and cook for about 8-10 minutes, cooking on the outside, but still a bit rare in the center.  You'll finish cooking this in the basil sauce later.  This you can do ahead, or you can time appropriately and get it cooking in tandem with the saute.  

In a large saute pan, heat up olive oil over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the chopped eggplant, and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring often.   Remove the eggplant from the pan and set aside.  Swirl in a bit more olive oil, and allow to heat up again.  Toss in the red onions, and saute until soft, stirring often. Next, add in the brussels sprouts, sliced chilies and garlic, cooking for a few minutes more.  Add back the eggplant, and stir in the reserved sauce.  Bring to a boil, and toss in the basil.  Give the dish a quick stir, and allow to cook for another couple minutes until all of the flavors have come together.  With a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables from the pan and keep warm.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Place the salmon skin side down in the pan and spoon the sauce over top a few times.  Flip, and allow the sauce to glaze the flesh of the salmon.  The sauce should start reducing by this point, and be a thicker, more syrupy consistency.  When the salmon is just cooked through, remove from the pan and get ready to plate!

Plating is super simple - just dole out the saute amongst the four plates, and place the salmon a top.  Finish with a few small basil leaves, and voila!

So simple, so easy! The flavor combination here is delicious as you can imagine, and the salmon goes so well with it! It's that great Thai principle of having a ton of components, yet keeping everything well balanced.  A little sweet, a little spicy - it's fresh yet still maintains a strong depth of flavor.   Also, the saute itself is perfect for vegetarians - it can definitely be served as an entree, just with a bigger portion.  Cook this for friends and family, and everyone will leave happy.  Go 'head, get down!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

pumpkin time

Pumpkins are EVERYWHERE!  At my local bodega, at all the stands at the farmers market, in every grocery story....but I guess that's what happens when fall hits. An uber-abundance of pumpkins!  I figured someone needed to help in depleting the massive quantities of pumpkins that are all around the city, so of course I stepped in to assist.  This kind of reminds me of a time back in Michigan - there was an open call for hunters because of the out of control population of deer...much more venison that season! Except in this case, the deer is the pumpkin...and it's not so gruesome.  But for both situations, it was the tried and tested eaters that stepped up to the plate! Yeah. Over-abundance of something? Why not make a meal of it.

I was armed with a decent quantity of pumpkins - some for decor purposes, others for recipe purposes - and was ready to start brainstorming.  Obviously, desserts come to mind when you think of pumpkin...pumpkin pie, pumpkin pudding, pumpkin ice cream, you name it! I'm down with some pumpkin ice cream though, that's for sure.  But as per usual, I was ready to make something savory instead.  I was planning on making a simple vegetarian dish, playing around with the pumpkin, but of course came across some beautiful pork chops - and alas, my vegetarian dish was a bust.  Clearly, the pork can be omitted from this, but I'd have to make a few additions to really pump up the flavor.

Needless to say, this dish is perfect on a cold, damp, Autumn day...and we seem to be getting quite a few of those lately.  If only I had a fireplace to complete the scene!

Thyme & Cider Glazed Pork Chop with Pumpkin
Serves 4
4 center cup pork chops, bone-in
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
3 T thyme leaves
1/2 cup apple cider
Pumpkin Puree
Sauteed Pumpkin

Heavily salt the pork chops on both sides, and allow to sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes. (You can make the pumpkin components during this time!).  When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 300F.  Cook the pork chops in the oven for about ten minutes.  After ten minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle about a teaspoon of thyme leaves on the exposed side of the pork.  Place the chops, thyme side down into a heated saute or cast-iron pan, heated over medium heat.   Cook for about 3-4 minutes, until golden brown.  Sprinkle the remaining side of each with 1 t thyme leaves, flip, and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until golden.   Remove from heat and allow to sit for at least ten minutes.  While the pork is resting, pour the apple cider into the pan to deglaze, and reduce down to a syrup.  Brush the pork chops with the cider glaze. 

To plate, spoon a bit of the pumpkin puree down, and place one chop atop.  Divide the pumpkin saute evenly amongst the four plates. Finish with a sprinkling of thyme leaves and enjoy!

Pumpkin Puree and Sauteed Pumpkin
5 cups diced pumpkin (from about 2.5# pumpkin - seeds reserved)
 4 T olive oil
2 T walnut oil
1 T red wine vinegar
~ 2-3 cups milk (2% - I've also used almond milk)
Big pinch of cayenne pepper a little less than 1/4 t
Sea Salt
Fresh ground black pepper

First, take the reserved pumpkin seeds and toast them until fragrant in a 300 degree oven.  Remove, toss in a small bowl with a bit of salt.  Set aside. 

For the puree, heat up 2 T olive oil in a large saute pan.  Toss 3 cups of the diced pumpkin in the oil to coat, and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and fresh pepper.  Cook over medium-high heat, allowing the pumpkin to caramelize, stirring every so often.  When the pumpkin is just al dente, pour in enough milk to cover.  Allow the pumpkin to simmer until tender throughout, about ten minutes.  Transfer all to a food processor and puree until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper and reserve.  (I added in about 1/4 carrot juice for a bit of color, but it's not necessary!)

For the saute, heat another 2 T of olive oil over medium high heat.  Toss in the remaining 2 cups of pumpkin, sauteeing until golden and caramelized on all sides.  Allow to cook through and transfer to a bowl.  Toss with walnut oil, red wine vinegar, 1/2 c toasted pumpkin seeds, and a pinch of cayenne.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and reserve.