Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cedar Grilled Salmon

Grilled salmon is one of those dishes that can and should be spectacular but most often mediocre at best.  I don’t even order it in restaurants anymore for the fear of being presented with a dried our slab often covered in some kind of sticky sweet substance they call glaze.  It is one of those dishes on the menu that you would get if nothing else is making you salivate or if you overate the night before.  And why do they always put a piece of wilted steamed broccoli next to it and mark it as “smart choice”, do you have to be on Weight watchers to genuinely enjoy it?  

I have had it done great of course, but actually never at a restaurant it always started with a great fresh fish, preferably wild caught and sushi grade.  Served almost rare, with just a touch of char on the outside, raw pink and moist on the inside.  Seasoned just enough to make the fish dance on your taste buds, flaky and beautiful.   I am very much looking forward to trying it in Oregon next week, Pacific North wild salmon is a beautiful fish, and I hear they know how to cook it over there.

I made my own version last weekend and had grand reviews.  I was also antsy to try out Date syrup, which was brought to me by a friend on her recent Israel trip.  Date syrup is sometimes called Date Honey is a popular sweetener in the Middle East.  It is not honey, but rather a form of molasses left over from cooking dates.  It has a wonderful floral note and tastes mildly of dates and although very sweet, has a bit of pleasant bitterness to it.

During the last grand clean out of my pantry I found some long unused cedar grilling planks, which I totally forgot I had.  It seemed like a good idea to break them out and make the only thing I ever used them for, grilled salmon.

Next time you want to make a grand dinner in 10 minutes, try this….you will not be disappointed.

Cedar grilled Salmon
2 cedar grilling planks
2 large Salmon filets, skin on.  Preferably wild caught but most importantly sushi graded and super fresh.
2 tsp of sea salt
2 tsp of date syrup or mild honey
1 lemon sliced
A few springs of dill

Soak the cedar planks in warm water for a 3-4 hours or overnight.  Make sure they are fully submerged, you may need to weight them down with something heavy like a can or a brick.
Preheat your grill to a medium.  Lay salmon skin side down on each of the cedar planks.  Season with salt and drizzle the date syrup or honey on top.  Lay lemon slices and dill (do not chop it, it will burn and you will need to remove it before serving) on top.  Grilled for 7-10 minutes at a medium heat, so that the cedar planks have a chance to smoke and the fish is still medium rare in the center.
Remove the dill springs and serve immediately right on the grilling wood planks.

Devour and enjoy!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Chili spiced Chocolate Ice Cream

Long awaited summer time and I finally broke out the ice cream machine and have been making ice cream pretty much non-stop for 3 weeks.  My freezer gets full of these pints and they despair within days even though our family is not that big on ice cream.  I personally like making it much better than eating it.

What makes a great ice cream?  First of all, if you are an adult, it should transport you back to childhood and if you are a kid, it should make you feel giddy with joy.  Ice cream should be fun, there should be all kinds of things in it to make it interesting…fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, candy…something to break up the creaminess… and it should be luscious, silky and it should look and feel like the guiltiest pleasure…

Get all of the above right and you can write your own ticket to being the favorite host or mother. 
I made a slew of successful ice creams lately but I was very apprehensive about trying a chocolate one.  Chocolate ice cream is very tricky, cocoa texture and chemical composition screws up the creaminess and can taste chalky or gritty.  If you stand in front of your grocer’s freezer there is only one or two brands that get it right, the rest taste either artificial, or too chocolaty or not chocolaty enough or too “something is not quite right” kind of way.  I wanted to make an intensely chocolate ice cream and after scouring my ice cream making bible ( David Lebovitz’s The perfect Scoop) and going through a few failed attempts I think I got it just right.  I also wanted to bring something different to the party, my favorite way to eat chocolate is with either chili or sea salt, so I knew either of those things had to be incorporated.  I could not find a way to incorporate salt crystals without having them dissolve so that idea was quickly abandoned and I turned to my hoarded collection of various chilies.  I used ancho chili powder for its smokiness and mild heat, but I also think toasted Amarillo chili would work well if you like a bit more heat. 

Chili spiced Chocolate Ice Cream

Based on David Lebovitz’s Aztec “Hot” Chocolate Ice Cream recipe
This is a non-custard style ice cream without the eggs, but you would never know it as it comes out silky and creamy.

2 ½ cups of heavy cream
7 tbs of unsweetened cocoa powder ( Dutch processed)
½ cup of sugar
2 oz of bitter sweet chocolate chopped
2 oz of semi-sweet chocolate chopped
1 cup of whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs of brandy -  optional
3 tsps of chili powder ( I used ancho but you can play with different ones to get the heat and the spice just right)

Whisk together the cocoa powder, cream and sugar and bring to a boil.  As soon as it foams up, turn off the heat and add the chopped chocolate.  Whisk to get the chocolate fully melted.   

  Stir in all the other ingredients and don’t forget the brandy ( I know it is optional but booze and chocolate go too well together to be ignored) and whisk until the mixture is silky smooth.  

You may even want to give it a whirl in the blender.  Store in a tight container to chill fully, than freeze according to your ice cream machine’s instructions.

Serve with something crunchy like toasted almonds or a bit of crunchy granola for extra texture.

Stay tuned for a new Travels and Tastes blog coming in a few weeks… I will be eating and drinking my way through Oregon’s Willamette valley, Portland and Oregon’s coast.