Category Archives: Main courses

Salmon Chowder: Whether Pacific or Atlantic, Luxury Soup for all Seasons

Pacific sockeye salmon is perfect for a hearty chowder

Soup can be a tricky dish to prepare.  I enjoy experimenting with various stews, bisques, broths, and soups for one-bowl meals, but I learned recently that one can judge a restaurant’s mettle based on its soups, due to timing (the delicate texture of many vegetables, meats, or fish) as well as the intricate balance of correct seasonings in a liquid base.

Before I delve into the Pacific salmon chowder I made recently, I have a few more pictures from my recent holiday in England and Scotland, to follow up on my last post.

No salmon on the menu, but the chicken-ham-leek pie was tasty at a 13-century thatched roof tavern in Honeybourne, England.

Also in the Cotswolds, the village of Snowshill is picture-pefect:

Nearby in Bath, the Sally Lunn House dates back to 1452 and  features a restaurant (home of the famous Sally Lunn Bun) and a kitchen museum.  One can only guess what this mannequin is cooking up:

Exmoor National Park has rolling hills and sweeping vistas, such as this view from the town of Selworthy:

Up in Scotland, salmon would have been a meal fit for a king at Caerlaverock Castle, south of Dumfries:

Up in the Highlands, these deer sculptures could very well be seeking salmon:

To end this travelogue with a food-related picture from Dumfries, Scotland, I say Crabbie’s adult ginger beer would be a fitting companion to salmon chowder:

For the recipe….

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Almond-Butter Hummous: A New Twist on Tradition

Is hummous still hummous without the tahini?  I asked myself this question recently, when I had an urge for hummous but found that there was no tahini in sight (thank you, baba ganouj, for demanding all the tahini, a few days earlier).  What to do in the evening on a small island where food shops are closed by 5 or 6 pm typically?

I had a big jar of almond butter in the fridge, so I thought that this substitution could work.  As I always cook with sesame oil for various Asian dishes, I added a bit to impart that essential open-sesame flavour to this adaptation of hummous.

My hummous allegiance goes back to my vegetarian youth, yet it took me years – and a food processor – before I actually made it.  Hummous is so easy to make and versatile as a spread, filling, or a dip.  It works equally as an appetizer, condiment (instead of mayonnaise on a sandwich, for instance). or main course,

David Lebovitz, he of the Parisian-pastry-chocolate-sarcasm fame, has the best recipe for hummous.  It came from a restaurant, Cabbagetown Cafe, at which he worked in Ithaca, while at Cornell.  I use his version these days, after previously relying on Ina Garten’s recipe for some time before (in the original Barefoot Contessa); Ina’s is also very good.

The almond butter provides a satisfying nutty quality, yet there is still the sesame oil for a hint of tahini’s traditional sesame flavour.  In a pinch or for a variation on a great classic, this version fills the bill for any desperate hummous-cravings.

For the recipe….

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Jewish Pork Tenderloin: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 18

Pork tenderloin is not a classic Jewish dish, needless to say.  Last’s week’s recipe – from my grandmother Jessie’s lost files – was certainly more British than Yiddish.  However, this week’s easy yet delightful pork recipe is definitely not kosher.

This treatment of pork tenderloin is the penultimate recipe of the 19 of the series. (I would expect Jessie to say, “Penultimate?  We all know what that word means, but can’t you just say ‘next-to-last’?  Come on!”).  I am amused by Jessie’s pork recipe, following close on the heels of the Yorkshire pudding from last week, which was on the reverse of National Council for Jewish Women stationery.  This pair of recipes reveals a good deal about Jessie and her complex personality.

At my parents wedding, pork tenderloin was probably not on the menu (L-R: Jessie, her daughter, her new son-in-law, her step-father, her mother, and her husband, 1957).

For instance, Jessie was neither very religious nor even very observant.  This would have been a result of her family’s immigration to the US from Europe in the 1880s, when assimilation into American culture was the dominant force.  Jessie’s own mother, Faye, was even known to have fried pork chops on the Sabbath – so much for tradition (think of the song from Fiddler on the Roof here…).  The apple really does not fall far from the tree.

(When I think of Sabbath – or Shabbat, in Hebrew – I think of the time the group Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys played a gig in Texas on a Friday night. Someone from the audience screamed out, “Shabbat Shazzam!” to welcome them, rather than the correct, “Shabbat Shalom”.  My diversion is a bit off-track, but Jessie’s husband, Louie, had lived in McKinney, Texas, as a young boy, and Kinky Friedman was born in Chicago, as was Jessie, so this all comes back round to her.)

In fact, as an adult, she attended synagogue seldom.  Towards the end of her life,  she did find one she liked at Water Tower Place.  Water Tower Place is a vertical urban upscale shopping centre on north Michigan Avenue in Chicago.  It was the first of its kind in the U.S. to put better stores in a mall in a city’s high-rise building.  Jessie could walk to this “big-deal” of an urban shopping mall from her condo on the Gold Coast, and often did, given her propensity for shopping.  I do remember that she was intrigued by the small synagogue, just above the nine-stories of shops.  My theory was she wanted to rest her feet after shopping excursions as much as exploring her new-found faith, in her seventies and eighties.

My mother poses in front of their Xmas tree in 1933 - was pork tenderloin for dinner?

Besides her strudel-rugelach or mandelbrot, most of her recipes were decidedly New World, in origin, and American, in tone, as she was herself.  But she liked all things British and French, as well.

The pork tenderloin is noteworthy, in my view, as it was the only meat dish I found. I remember her having made very good pork as well as roast beef and other dishes, which I would have avoided during the vegetarian years of my adolescence .  Do I  have to tell you that Jessie really did not approve of this phase?

For the review of the pork tenderloin – and the recipe

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Classic Basil Pesto: A Sauce for Summer’s End

What cookbook would you take to the hypothetical desert island?  I would have to lug my tome, New Best Recipes, from America’s Test Kitchen.  I consult this indispensable volume more than any other of my hundreds of cookbooks.  In fact, I just did their zucchini bread recipe in my last post.  Their pesto recipe is simply outstanding.

(To my consistent readers, I decided to put Wednesday’s What Would Jessie Dish? on hiatus until after summer, ongoing renovations at the moment, and a trip with my mother to Maine  for the upcoming week. The remaining recipes were all very autumnal, and I thought it best to wait and highlight seasonal summer dishes.  Sorry, but it will return in just a few weeks!)

ATK is so thorough and creative in testing the many permutations, techniques, and varieties of ingredients to create the ultimate recipes.  Sometimes they are a bit fussy, but this is based on their experimentation to produce the best taste, texture, and finished product.  One thing I do find is that their recipes tend towards the less hot (spicy) side, so I often will up the heat or add a bit, when I feel like it.

I had made a few recipes for pesto before trying ATK’s, and this one really is best.  Toasting garlic and nuts adds a bit of time, but it is worth it to highlight the flavours, creating depth, subtlety, and nuttiness – what more can you ask for in life?

On our island, we have a garlic growing cooperative, and I was able to participate in a couple of sessions (prepping, cultivation, planting, weeding, harvesting), which gave me 40 bulbs of organic Russian hard-neck porcelain garlic – if you really want to know the variety.  It was an interesting experience, and I now have quite a bit of garlic for the upcoming colder months.

The basil we have been growing on the deck (it is not deer-proof, though it is supposed to be) has been doing well the past few years, with our southern exposure.  Around this time of year, I have plenty of basil – and combined with a bounty of garlic – making pesto for the winter is a good idea.  So I tripled the ingredients, and the three batches went along much more quickly than doing each one separately, of course.

For more on storing the classic basil pesto and the recipe… Continue reading

“Karma Chameleon” Bucatini with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil – Red, Gold, and Green

At the risk of being sued by Boy George (as opposed to a-wannabe-lawyer-who-liked-to-bathe-in-apricot-Jell-o), I decided to call this treatment of bucatini with cherry tomatoes “Karma Chameleon” for obvious reasons.  The pure red cherry tomatoes with the vibrant “sungold” cherry tomatoes (from our deck-top garden) and fresh basil (right off the deck, too) made me think of the lyrics:

Loving would be easy if your colours were like my dream
Red, gold, and green, red, gold, and green.

Huh? What exactly does that mean?

This is from an era of many pop songs with memorable refrains but not much meaning:  the 1980s, of course.  The song was very catchy but did not really have the “deeper” meaning indicated by the references to “karma” and the changeability of the chameleon. There is good alliteration with “karma chameleon” together, while “red, gold, and green” make a nice vivid trio of colours.  But does the song really say anything, other than just being a fun tune?

Like the song, bucatini is a fun pasta. However, it is not always easy to find bucatini in your grocer’s shelves, nestled among its more popular cousins, spaghetti and linguine (do not even try to find “buca-what?” on a small island like this one).  Bucatini is like a drinking straw, with a hollow centre, a kind of tubular spaghetti, which provides, a nice al dente contrast to the warmed cherry tomatoes, and good textural counterpoint to the light olive oil-butter sauce.

My inspiration for combining bucatini with cherry tomatoes comes from a casual dinner a few years back, hosted by friend and fellow island blogger, Lynn, of Real Food from a Small Island.  Lynn’s sauce was delicious yet somewhat different from this recipe.

I like the classic Italian base of garlic-olive-oil-black-pepper-and-Parmigiano-Reggiano.  This base also can include parsley, bread crumbs, red chili flakes, anchovies, lemon juice, capers, or many other ingredients, depending on the region. time of day, and the chef.  I posted about a combination that I did a few months back, Umami Linguine.  A bit of butter, I find, in a sauce like this helps improve with the mouth feel and adds a bit of richness to the sauce without becoming heavy.

For the recipe…

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Halibut Cheeks Poached in White Wine and Shallots: A Fast, Enticing, and Unusual Summer Feast

Do you ever feel a bit odd eating animals’ various body parts?  Pork belly, “prairie oysters” (Google it or contact me, if you really want to know…), or halibut cheeks make me visualize those particular bits of the anatomy.

In the case of halibut cheeks, I can picture a big halibut swimming with its cheeks all puffed out, as if it were about to blow out candles on a birthday cake.  I am pretty sure that halibut usually do not have birthday cakes, with or without candles. The frosting would get all wet in the ocean…and how would the candles manage to stay lit?

Regardless of halibutian (halibutty? halibuttery? can there be no adjectival form of “halibut’?) birthday celebrations, I find fish cheeks most intriguing.  The consistency is not the firm, rich flake of a halibut fillet but rather is somewhere between a sea scallop and a chicken thigh – meatier, a bit roapy (not in a bad way, however), and much more substantial.

Gratuitous kitty and wildlife interlude:

What could Jinja be watching now?

That is no flying halibut in the nasturtiums...

it is a ruffous hummingbird (no hummingbirds were harmed in creating this post, just one halibut).

For the inspiration and the recipe…
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Cheese Pancakes – Delicate, Distinct, and Chewy: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 11

Who thinks much about cottage cheese these days?  I know that I do not.

This week’s recipe, from my grandmother Jessie’s recently rediscovered recipe files, features cottage cheese as the star ingredient.

Back in the late 1960s and 1970s, cottage cheese was a “diet food”, often combined with iceberg lettuce and flavourless tomato wedges as a standard main course salad in American restaurants.  I think gloppy Thousand Island dressing would have been the most popular accompaniment, hardly a low-calorie option. Another purported health food was a leaf of iceberg on a plate, supporting a perfect pineapple ring (canned), on which sat a neat ice cream scoop of cottage cheese, topped with a maraschino cherry.  Richard Nixon, President of the US until his resignation in disgrace in 1973, stated that he enjoyed ketchup and cottage cheese together – which seems more like a gore-ish prop for a horror film, rather than a favoured food combination.

Always fashionable, Jessie is hip (circa 1970) even while visiting at a state park - with my father, youngest cousin, yours truly (as a hippy), and my brother.

Around 1970, Jessie was recently widowed, and she seemed to enjoy shocking people a bit.  My uncle (Jessie’s son) had given the recording of the Broadway musical Two Gentleman of Verona to my youngest cousin, who was a teen at that time, shocking my  grandmother because of its strong language.  To prove that she was “with it” or just that she could shock our family even better, Jessie gave me the album from the Broadway musical  Hair,  lyrics of which I still can recall almost verbatim.  I cannot remember if I asked for it (it was my first record album, when they were long-playing black discs, with nothing compact about them).  The language, however, was a bit much for a child of seven or eight – even I have to admit.

More than Hair – with all its revivals – cottage cheese just is off the radar these days.  Perhaps ricotta and artisan curd cheese have eclipsed cottage cheese in the realm of culinary trends:  category curds and whey.

Jessie, however, always seemed to have cottage cheese in her fridge.  Perhaps it was for  salads or to make this cottage cheese pancake.  After making this dish, I finally remembered having these pancakes at her place, when I stayed over for the weekend.

The pancake is almost like a mélange of a Swedish pancake or a French crepe with a more fashionable lemon-ricotta pancake.  (I have recipes from different versions at one west coast and one east coast B & B at which I have stayed – perhaps these are future blog fodder?)

For the pancake analysis – and the recipe…

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