Salmon Salad with Donut Peaches and Pistachios

The inspiration: a long Shabbat afternoon spent with a friend

Shabbat afternoon is the time I use to catch up with my neighbors (who also happen to be good friends of mine).  I live in an apartment building in Brooklyn that is home to about 30 families, and we are all like one big extended family. So many a late Shabbat afternoon (about 2 hours before nightfall on Saturday afternoon) you will find my kids and I visiting a neighbor and sharing a light meal with them.  One of the foods we enjoy at that time besides challah is salad – something light to offset the heavy Shabbat lunch from several hours earlier. I will usually go to visit a friend with fresh produce or some sort of fish and between the two of us we make a couple of salads.

The innovation: pairing a fish with a stone fruit

Salads are fun – you can add so many different combinations. So one Shabbat afternoon I showed up to my friend’s house with donut peaches, leftover baked salmon, and roasted pistachios. It had been a last minute invite, and I was basically making it up as I went. This salad was originally made that Shabbat afternoon with iceberg lettuce, but the flavor of the peaches with the salmon and pistachios stuck with me. Donut peaches are not as sweet as regular peaches – they remind me of more of white peaches – and I find they work really well with salmon.

My interpretation:  Salmon Salad with Donut Peaches and Pistachios

peachsaladfwp

Ingredients

8 oz fresh, boneless/skinless salmon fillet, baked or grilled

10 to 12 oz spring greens or mesclun mix (you want a mixture that has both sweet and  bitter greens)

3 donut peaches, pitted and sliced

large handful of roasted pistachios, crushed

a scant drizzle of best quality light olive oil

a two-finger pinch of sea salt (if desired)

1) Make sure the salmon is completely chilled if you are preparing it fresh. I have used leftover salmon as well – warm fish will wilt your greens.

2) Carefully flake the salmon, and mix the fish, peaches, and olive oil into the greens with your hands delicately.

3) Taste and add sea salt now if desired. If not, top with pistachios.

 

Recipe for a simple baked salmon

In an aluminum tray or pan,  place your salmon skin side down. Add a sprinkle of salt and squeeze half of a fresh lemon over the fish. Cover tightly, bake at 350 for about 15mins. Fish is done when glistening and completely cooked through.

 

Nicoise Salad with Potatoes – May Kosher Connection Challenge

Shavuot is about two weeks away, and I am already planning my menu. Especially for the last meal, on the second day of the holiday. In our Hasidic group the men and boys gather in the synagogues to observe the passing of a previous Rebbe (Grand Rabbi) on that day. They are away from early morning til very late in the afternoon, and even eat the festive holiday meal in the synagogue. These yahrzeit seudot (meals to commemorate the passing of a holy person) take place twice a year – once on Shavuot and once during Sukkot. We women take these times to eat with friends – groups of women co-ordinate and get together and eat in each other’s homes. Just as the men and boys bond together in the synagogues, the women and girls bond together over a delicious Yom Tov meal. It is also a chance to relax the menu a bit – it is our custom to eat meat at every Yom Tov meal except these. nicoise This is a more modern interpretation of a Nicoise salad – it features seared tuna, as well as green beans and baby red bliss potatoes. Instead of a vinagrette, it is merely dressed with fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.  This is a recipe for one large, main course salad, and is easy to multiply for larger amounts.

Ingredients:

1 tuna steak,about 6 oz

4 baby red potatoes, cut in half lengthwise

4 black olives (with pits)

1 Romaine heart (I use Andy Boy), torn into bite size pieces by hand

1 hard boiled egg

8-10 fresh green beans, ends trimmed

Juice from one fresh lemon

3 oz extra virgin olive oil

Table salt for salting water

Sea salt for seasoning

Olive oil spray for grilling

To Prepare: Fill a large pot at least halfway with water, and add table salt to the water, enough so there is the finest layer on the bottom of the pot Add your egg and when the water is at a full boil, add your green beans and potatoes set a timer for 8 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove egg with slotted spoon and set into a bowl of cold water to cool.  Boil for a few minutes more, testing once midway. The beans are done when still crispy and green but not hard. Use a slotted spoon to remove green beans and set aside. Boil for another 10 mins or so, then check potatoes by gently poking with a fork – if they are soft but not mushy, they are done. Drain and remove, setting aside with the green beans. Put a grill pan on the stove, and get it very hot. Spray the pan lightly with olive oil spray. Place the tuna steak into the pan for 2- 3 mins, depending on thickness. Flip once, cook another 2 mins on the other side, then remove from pan, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and set aside. Roll the lemon on a cutting board or counter and cut in half, squeezing into a bowl and removing the seeds. Add the olive oil a tiny pinch of sea salt. Mix well. When all ingredients are cool but not cold, take everything except the tuna, egg, and olives and combine. Garnish with the remaining ingredients and serve immediately.

My Review of “Herbivoracious” by Michael Natkin

In no way I have been compensated for my review of this cookbook. I was given a galley copy of the book to review. All opinions are my own.

Kashrus Note: This is a vegetarian cookbook. There are recipes that on occasion call for different types of cheese. Some of the cheeses listed are considered “aged” or “hard” and usually require a 6 hr waiting period between their consumption and eating meat.

 In many of cases, the cheese can be omitted in what is called a “vegan option.” It is the responsibility of the reader to ensure, as with any recipe I list here, that the ingredients they use conforms with their level of kashrus. This is not a “carte-blanche” for people to change their level of kashrus, nor to use product that they may have not used until now.  In any and all cases regarding questions regarding the use of unfamiliar ingredients one should consult their local Orthodox authority.

I am not a vegetarian. Not even close. My coffee is not complete without a healthy pour of milk, I eat fish as many as 3 meals a day during the week, and snacks include cheese sticks.  (For health reasons, I am on a very high protein diet.) For the Sabbath, there is nothing like a freshly roasted chicken for Friday night, and cholent with beef neck meat for Sabbath day.

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, where vegetarians were “crunchy-granola”, wore Birkenstocks, smelled funny, were far too intense about the planet for my liking, and were similar to hippies. I tried tofu once (probably in the late 90’s) and it was like eating a sponge. I even tried the vegetarian-protein-faux-meat. Apparently, it didn’t like me, and the feeling was mutual.

In cooking school, we acknowledged that vegetarianism was a trend, and as such we had to at least “try to understand” the philosophy behind it-all the while quietly rolling our eyes and then getting on to what we considered “normal cooking.” In the restaurants I worked in at the time, vegetarian options were usually salads. Rabbit food, if you will.

In 2012, I understand a little more about vegetarianism, but always saw it as for people who perhaps were a little more liberal, more “into nature”, more “green” than myself. Perhaps they needed eat this way for health reasons.  Just like people who eat non-kosher, or halal – all fine and well- but not for me, thank you.

Michael Natkin saw my theory taken and turned ever so gently upside down. A computer engineer from a young age, Michael began cooking healthy, vegetarian food for his mother, (of blessed memory) who was suffering from cancer. His mother had wanted to try to eat a macrobiotic diet, but was unable at that point to cook for herself. So he and a good friend of his decided to cook for her. The love of the writer for his mother, and for his cooking is palpable. His passion for the land, respect of food, of traditional ways of eating, of all good, green growing things resonates long after you put the book down. He states in his introduction that he “ate his way” through many countries, such as Japan, Holland, Spain, India, and the Czech Republic.

I believe him. I may have been a skeptic when I picked up the book, and while I am not convinced that a completely vegetarian lifestyle is for me, I can sincerely say this book has given me a lot to consider. I will definitely be considering alternate sources of protein for my diet, to start.  I thought the book would try to “convert” or try to push upon me why I should become vegetarian, to give up meat and fish. I was never more wrong. From first page to last, Michael simply presents the dishes, with many helpful hints, backgrounds of where the dishes came from, and even little tidbits about his friends and family. What ultimately won my respect: he plates his dishes very simply, he never preaches, he does his own photography. The defining point: nearly every recipe leaves room for changes. For someone who can follow a recipe, but hates being confined  (I always want to go my own way, with some basic foundations to keep me somewhat grounded)  this aspect is what finally won me over. Page 96 even has a whole half-page devoted to the topic “Don’t Stick to the Recipe”!

The recipes come from across the globe: Ethiopia, Spain, Mexico, Italy, the Middle East, Japan, Korea. The recipes range from classics redone with a modern riff, to completely traditional dishes from the various regions.

Being taught how to cook in the classical (French) style, my eyes were drawn to the more European recipes initially, as these contain more ingredients I felt I understood. Grilled treviso radiccho, white bean and kale soup, potato and green bean salad with arugula pesto- all things I could understand.  Another aspect of this book that I love- there is something in here for everyone! No matter what cooking style, no matter where you fall cooking wise (traditional, modern, a trained chef, a home cook) it doesn’t matter- there are recipes (yes, I deliberately use the plural, and gleefully!) for you.

For me, I spent the most time studying the pastas, and the lentil dishes. Spanish lentil and mushroom stew, linguine with mushrooms, mujadara, and Sicilian spaghetti with pan roasted cauiflower will definently find their way onto my menu, as well as many other recipes as well. From small plates to dessert, whether you considery yourself a cook or baker, more into savory or sweet-there is something here for you.

Michael Natkin’s book is available on amazon.com  His blog is http://herbivoracious.com/ and he is on Twitter @michaelnatkin

A special Thank You to Jackie Gordon @divathatateny for connecting me with Michael and his team at Harvard Common Press, and making it possible for me to get my hands on this fantastic cookbook!