Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Pan Seared Fish with Gazpacho Sauce and Black Olive Tapenade

Every once in a while, I have a dish that turns out perfectly.  It is a dish that fires on all cylinders and, from start to finish, everything falls into place. It is a dish that, once plated, makes me actually look like a chef. This is one of those dishes ... Pan Seared Fish with Gazpacho Sauce and Black Olive Tapenade.

The recipe comes from a cookbook that I bought several years ago.  My beautiful Angel and I visited the Little Inn of Washington for a brief vacation.  We had dinner there, which was perhaps one of the best meals that I have ever had.  The kitchen, and, indeed, the entire inn, is run by chef Patrick O'Connell.  We had the opportunity to meet the chef and, before the trip was over, I had purchased a book of his recipes.  The book is Refined American Cuisine.

That book sat on my cookbook shelf for a very long time.  I have to admit that many of the recipes seemed daunting.  A kind of culinary intimidation, looking at something that I thought was unattainable given I lacked the skills and experience of a chef, let alone a chef of Patrick O'Connell's statute.

I have come to learn that there are emotions more powerful than fear.  One such emotion is love.  My love for my Angel propelled me to open that cookbook and search for a recipe to make for her.  I decided to make Pan Seared Fish with Gazpacho Sauce and Black Olive Tapanade. This dish combines the simplicity of a pan seared fish with the brightness from a gazpacho.  The crust created by the salt and pepper in the pan provides a flavorful start and an interesting contrast to the silky, smooth gazpacho.  The fresh vegetables provide a second contrast to the gazpacho.  All of which is topped off by the earthy black olive tapenade.

It is amazing what one can accomplish when fueled by their inspiration.  My inspiration is my beautiful Angel and it produced a wonderful dish.  Until next time....

Recipe adapted from Patrick O'Connell, Refined American Cuisine
Serves 6

Ingredients (for the gazpacho sauce):
3 1/2 pounds red ripe tomatoes, cored and 
     coarsely chopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Ingredients (for the gazpacho salsa):
1 tablespoon peeled, seeded and minced tomato
1 tablespoon  peeled, seeded and minced cucumber
1 tablespoon seeded and minced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon seeded and minced green (or orange) bell pepper
1 tablespoon seeded and minced yellow bell pepper
1 teaspoon seeded and minced jalapeno pepper
1 tablespoon minced red onion
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Ingredients (for the croutons):
2 pieces thinly sliced white bread
2 tablespoons black olive tapenade

Ingredients (for the fish):
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 fish fillets, about 3 ounces each, skin on
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Ingredients (for the garnish):
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1.  Prepare the gazpacho sauce.  In a blender or food processor, puree the tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, onion, celery and garlic in batches until smooth.  Strain the mixture.  Add the olive oil, Tabasco, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, cumin, and celery salt.  Mix well and refrigerate.  When the puree is thoroughly chilled, season to taste wtih salt and pepper.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve and allow to come to room temperature before serving.  (Note: this makes about 5 cups of sauce but you will only need 1 cup for the recipe.  The rest can be served as soup on the following day.)

2.  Prepare the gazpacho salsa.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the tomato, cucumber, bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, red onion and shallot.  Stir in the parsley, tarragon, celery salt, extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate.

3.  Prepare the croutons.  Preheat the broiler.  Cut out six rounds of bread, about 2 inches in diameter, and place them on a baking sheet.  Toast the bread rounds under the broiler on both sides.  Spoon the olive tapenade on the toasts and set aside.

4.  Prepare the fish.  In a non-stick skillet, heat the oil over high heat.  Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper.  Cook the fish, skin side down, for about 2 minutes or until the edges are crisp and golden. Flip the fillets and cook them on the other side for about 30 seconds.  Keep warm.

5.  Finish the dish.  Pour 2 tablespoons of the gazpacho sauce into each of 6 serving bowls.  drizzle a small amount of extra virgin olive oil around the sauce.  Place 1 tablespoon of gazpacho salsa in the center of each bowl.  Place 1 hot fish fillet on top of the salsa and lay 1 crouton of black olive tapenade on each one. 


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Bulgogi-Style Squid

For the few avid readers of my blog, you might have noticed a trend in some of the posts.  That trend involves South Korean-inspired recipes.  (I say inspired because, let's admit it, I am not a professional chef, and, I am a total rookie at cooking South Korean food).  It began with my personal culinary challenge to cook a main course (and two appetizers) from South Korea, which was part of my Around the World in 80 Dishes.   That was followed by an effort to Ojingeo Bokkeum (South Korean Spicy Squid).  And, then, there was the efforts at experimentation, first with Gochujang Chicken and now this recipe, a effort to create a Bulgogi-style squid. 

I realize none of this actually comes close or even approximates true South Korean cuisine, but, there is something about the use of peppers -- whether Gochujang or Gochugaru -- that has gotten my attention.  The heat of the chiles used in South Korean cuisine are different than the chiles used in other cuisines, such as the Piri-Piri chile, the Ancho chile, or my beloved Hatch chile. 

This recipe goes in a different direction, away from the chiles toward bulgogi.  I have made one bulgogi recipe in the past ... Flank Steak Bulgogi.  I noted in that post that flank steak is technically not the right cut of beef for Bulgogi. (It is ribeye.)  Now, I am throwing everything to the wind and using perhaps one of the most un-Bulgogi of ingredients: namely, squid. This was an experiment in creativity and, for a first time, it worked out fairly well.  The sweet (honey and sugar) combined with the salty (soy sauce), tied together by garlic, ginger and sesame to produce a fairy tasty dish.  

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 4

2 pounds of squid, cleaned, slice bodies in 1 inch pieces 
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon rice wine or mirin
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds

1. Prepare the squid.  Combine the soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, honey, rice wine (or mirin), garlic, ginger, and sesame oil.  Add the squid and toss.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

2.  Cook the squid.  Heat a pan over medium high to high heat.  Add the squid in batches and cook covered for about 3 to 4 minutes or until translucent.  Once the squid is cooked, serve with rice and a side, like broccoli.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Indian Flank Steak Tacos

For me, fusion cuisine is something of an issue.  I am a big fan of a wide ranges of cuisines, for the ingredients, the cooking processes and, of course, for the dishes produced.  When one starts picking and choosing from two or more cuisines to produce a dish, that becomes a little more problematic.  To be sure, there are some very good examples of fusion cuisine.  But, there are also a lot of misfires.

Yet, despite all of my misgivings about fusion food, this recipe caught my attention.  It involves the fusion between Mexican cuisine and Indian cuisine.  The smells and flavors of Masla-marinated meat served in naan to produce what is one of the most quintessential dishes of Mexican cuisine ... the taco.  Perhaps it is the fact that I like tacos.  Maybe it is the fact that I love Indian cuisine. Either way, I was determined to make this recipe.  And, apart from the need to improve my ability to cut flank steak on a bias, the recipe got me to rethink my view about fusion cuisine. 

The key to this recipe is the masala.  It begins with the classic of garlic and ginger, but only chiles, vinegar, curry leaves and onions are added to complete the masala.  (If you don't have curry leaves, don't worry, it will still turn out well.)  Once the masala is prepared, then the meat must be marinated.  The recipe calls for at least one hour of marination, but I would go at least two hours if not a little longer.  Once the steak is marinated, a quick grilling over high heat on the grill ensures that the steak will be incredibly delicious.  Just cut it on the bias to reduce the chewiness and serve with grilled naan, the onions, and the cilantro.  

Maybe fusion food is not that bad after all. 

Recipe adapted from Tasting Table
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the Masala):
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 large red onion, diced
1/2 cup packed curry leaves
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 serrano chile (or jalapeno chile), minced
1 three-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Ingredients (for the tacos):
1 pound of flank steak
1/2 red onion, plus more for serving, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Grilled naan, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving
Cilantro leaves, for serving

1.  Prepare the masala.  In a 12-inch skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook  until translucent and lightly golden, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the curry leaves, garlic, serrano (or jalapeno) and ginger and cook until fragrant, 2 minutes more.  Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender with the remaining masala ingredients.  Blend until smooth and let cool completely.

2.  Marinate the meat and the onions.  In a large bowl,  toss the flank steak with the masala to coat.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss the sliced red onion with lime juice and set aside. 

3.  Grill the meat.  Light a grill or heat a cast iron grill pan over high heat.  Grill the steak, flipping once until caramelized and medium rare, 7 to 8 minutes.  Let rest for 5 minutes, then thinly slice against the grain on a bias. 

4.  Finish the dish. Serve the steak with pieces of grilled naan, sliced red onion and lime wedges, garnishing with cilantro leaves.