Monday, December 15, 2008

Dartmoor, A Ploughman's Lunch and Mulled Wine on a Winter Afternoon

After flying London for years, I've always wanted to see the rest of the England. When my friends Meliora and Vic invited me to visit their home in Exeter, Devon last December, I didn't hesitate. One week before Christmas I left. It didn't matter that I hadn't shopped, decorated or planned Christmas dinner, all that mattered was the chance to visit England during December. It is one of the most lovely times of the year. One particular morning we left to explore Dartmoor.

We had lunch in a cozy pub. We feasted on a Ploughman's Lunch and Cups of Mulled Cider next to the fire. Warm and sated we headed up onto the moor.
Wild ponies, and occasional blooming heather.......
and a view from the Tor that couldn't be beat.
I decided to recreate this lunch on a cold New York Afternoon. I had last night's London Broil in the refrigerator, wedges of Buttermilk Blue Cheese from Wisconsin and a Double Creme Brie from France. I found a ripe avocado, cut a few sticks of fresh fennel and added dollops of Chile Pepper Jelly and Horseradish Sauce. I peeled a mandarin orange and tossed that with baby lettuce leaves in a Dijon vinaigrette. Garnished with last summer's oven roasted tomatoes and a few olives. It was better than the original. We enjoyed it with a glass of mulled wine and a baguette. Make up your own version with chicken, fish or even grilled tofu. It's a lunch designed to be hearty and filling. It's perfect after a day of skiing or walking the moor.
Horseradish Sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons horseradish, or more if you like it hot
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Mix mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon mustard and horseradish in a small bowl. Blend well and taste for seasoning. Add more horseradish if needed. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Chill until ready to serve.

Dijon Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Combine the white wine vinegar and the Dijon mustard in a small, lidded jar. Shake well. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper and shake until thoroughly blended. Toss immediately with the salad.

Mulled Wine

1/4 cup sugar
1 bottle of red wine
a few slivers of lemon zest
10 whole cloves
cinnamon sticks

Place Lemon zest and cloves in cheesecloth and tie with string. In a 3 quart saucepan, stir together the sugar and red wine and the cheesecloth bundle. Heat to the boiling point. Let steep 5 minutes. Remove cheesecloth and pour into mugs. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

All recipes and photographs are the sole property of The Gypsy Chef, unless otherwise credited.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Narita Soba Noodle Soup

This morning as the snow was falling, I remembered a noodle shop in Narita, Japan. A few of us would go every trip. Once we landed, after a 14 hour flight, we would rush to the hotel bus to take a ride to the center of Narita. We would walk down Green Street, turn right onto a small side street and enter the best noodle shop around. On a winter night, the shop would be hot and steamy, filled with the aroma of fresh noodles, broth, and conversation in every language. The proprietor knew us and would bring large cold bottles of Japanese beer to the table and we would order our favorite soups. Favorites were the Beef Chili Pepper and the Fish and Soba Noodles. Served with large red spoons, you would help yourself to the disposable chop sticks in the center of the table and use the facial tissues which served as napkins. After we'd eaten, we would leisurely walk back to the bus stop, tired, sleepy and full of hot satisfying soup. Teriyaki Salmon Soba Soup

4 pieces salmon filet, about 5 ounces each
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, roasted
4 bunches baby bok choy, washed and trimmed, leaving root end attached
4 handfuls fresh baby spinach, washed
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1-1 inch piece ginger, minced
1 teaspoon canola oil

Dashi Broth
4 bunches soba noodles

Teriyaki Sauce

7 teaspoons dark soy sauce
7 teaspoons sake
7 teaspoons mirin
1 teaspoon sugar

Combine the soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar in a small bowl. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
Add the salmon and coat gently. Set aside to marinate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Dashi Broth

1 quarts cold water
1 large piece of kombu, seaweed, wiped clean with a damp cloth
1 -1.5 ounce bag bonita flakes
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin
salt to taste
sugar to taste

Fill the stock pot with the cold water and drop the kombu in it. Heat the water slowly so that it takes at least 10 minutes to begin to boil.
When the water starts to bubble before it comes to a full boil, remove the kombu. If you leave it in the water, it begins to smell.
Add the bonita flakes and return to the heat. Allow the stock to come to a full boil, then remove it from the heat at once.
If the bonita is allowed to boil for more than a couple of seconds it will make the dashi bitter. Strain the flakes through a fine sieve or a paper filter. Return the broth to the pot, add the mirin and sake. Taste for seasoning. If needed, add a little salt or sugar.

The Garnish

In a small saute pan, add the oil and heat until smoking. Add the ginger and shallots, saute until lightly colored. Remove and set aside.
Add 2 quarts of water to a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and drop in the bok choy. Blanch for 2 minutes, remove with a spider basket and rinse in cold water. Set aside.
Add the soba noodles and cook as directed. Drain and rinse with water.

Place the salmon in a parchment lined roasting pan. Sprinkle with the roasted sesame seeds and place under the broiler. I like to remove mine while the salmon is still dark pink in the center. To check for doneness, you can flake the salmon with a fork.
To assemble: Place noodles in the bottom of a large noodle bowl. Place a bunch of bok choy on on side of the noodle mixture. Lay the salmon filet in the center. On the other side place a handful of spinach. Gently pour the hot dashi broth over the top. Garnish with Scallion and sauteed ginger and shallot. Kombu and bonita Flakes can be found in Whole Foods or most Asian markets. Some cooks feel it's optional, but I like the authentic Japanese flavor. All pictures and recipes are the property of The Gypsy Chef unless otherwise credited.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Manhattan Scallop First Course

After having had a fabulous lunch at Casa Mono in Manhattan yesterday, I was dying to try my hand at a stacked, eclectic, stylish dish. I raided the fridge to see what I had on hand. I found scallops, arugula, half a pomegranate and some Cara Cara oranges. I seared the scallops in a cast iron skillet, dressed the arugula with a Champagne Vinaigrette, cut up a few segments from those beautiful sweet pink oranges, and topped the whole thing in pomegranate seeds. The entire dish took about 20 minutes and tasted great. It's elegant enough for a dinner party or makes a perfect lunch entree.

Manhattan Scallop Salad

4-6 sea scallops, fresh and sweet
2 handfuls of baby arugula
1 Cara Cara orange
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons Champagne Vinaigrette

Heat a cast iron skillet to the burning point. When it starts smoking, you'll know it's ready. Add the scallops. DO NOT touch them, let them sear. The scallops will smoke and seem like they're burning. They're not. Once seared you can turn them with a metal spatula. If they are not releasing from the pan easily, they aren't seared yet, let them cook for a few more minutes.
When they're ready, turn them over and sear the other side. When finished, remove and reserve. Don't worry about the scallops not cooking through, as they sit, they will continue to cook.
Peel the orange, using a fillet knife. It's able to cut close to the skin leaving as much flesh as possible. Cut off both ends and remove sections of peel a little at a time.
Remove the sections of the orange by cutting between the with pith that divides the segments.
Now you have beautiful segments with not a wisp of white pith.
Remove the pomegranate seeds by splitting the pomegranate in half and tapping it with a knife. The seeds will fall right out.
To assemble, toss the arugula with the vinaigrette and place in the center of the plate. Stack the scallops as high as you like alongside the arugula. Place the orange segments next to the arugula and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over the lot. Drizzle more vinaigrette over the scallops and oranges, and serve.
Serves 2

Champagne Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon style mustard
1 teaspoon honey
sea salt
freshly ground white pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor or a blender, add the champagne vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper. While the machine is running pour the olive oil into the feed tube. This will allow it to slowly drip into the vinegar mixture and form an emulsion. Once the oil is incorporated, the dressing is done.

All recipes and photographs are the sole property of The Gypsy Chef unless otherwise credited.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ode to the Maple Oat Scone

I am totally addicted to Starbucks "Maple Oat Scones". At one time they were available everywhere. I had my friends and family eating them in New York, Los Angeles and Delaware. Now they are only available in the Starbucks Shop on the corner of Powell and O'Farrell in San Francisco. Why is that? Isn't everyone storming the store demanding a Maple Oat Scone? Honestly, I just don't understand it.
When I'm in San Francisco, I wake up at 4:30 AM and walk 2 blocks to buy a Grande Coffee of the day and a "heaven on earth" Maple Oat Scone. It takes every bit of will power I possess not to buy two. Or a dozen for that matter.
What is it about these sweet and chewy delicacies that drives me to bid my schedule around their availability?
I've searched the internet for recipes, played with a few and this is what I've come up with. This recipe is a little lighter and more moist than the original.

Maple Oat Scones

1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon real maple syrup
1 large egg
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup oat bran flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
For the Glaze:
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place oven rack in center of oven.
Spread oats and walnuts on a sheet pan and toast in the oven until fragrant and lightly colored, 5-8 minutes. You can actually smell them when they are done. Set aside to cool. Reserve 3 tablespoons of oat, nut mixture.

Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Whisk milk, egg and 1/4 cup maple syrup in a large measuring cup until blended.

Place flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 3 times to blend. Add butter to bowl and pulse several times until the dough resembles coarse meal.
Turn the dough out into a large bowl, stir in the cooled oat nut mixture. Stir in the milk mixture until the dough comes together.

Dust the work surface with 1/2 the reserved oat, nut mixture. Turn the dough out onto the surface. Dust dough with remaining oats and nuts. Pat into a 7 inch circle about 1 inch thick. Using a bench scraper cut the dough into 8 wedges, move them to the parchment lined baking sheet and place about 1-2 inches apart.Brush with reserved 1 tablespoon maple syrup and sprinkle with one tablespoon sugar. Bake until golden brown, 12-14 minutes. Gently move the parchment paper onto a wire rack and let scones cool to room temperature.
For the glaze, whisk 3 tablespoons of maple syrup and 1/2 cup confectioners sugar until smooth. Spoon glaze over scones.

All text and photographs are the sole property of The Gypsy Chef.