Seared Salmon with Strawberries, Rose Water and Balsamic Vinegar

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I had my first experience with balsamic vinegar, the bona fide aged article from Modena in Emilia Romagna, while working in a gourmet grocery store in rural Rhode Island in 1981.  I remember the occasion because it involved tasting a small drizzle atop strawberries and I thought it was a prank.  The taste was transformative.  Imagine sweet-tart strained through a bottle of Chateau Margaux.  The combination has remained with me ever since.  You can catch an echo of that experience in this week’s Seared Salmon with Strawberries, Rose Water and Balsamic Vinegar.

Sea Scallops, Peas and Chervil

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If I ever leave New England, it will be the taste of a freshly seared Atlantic sea scallop that brings me back.  Big, meaty, packed with marine flavor.  When people talk about regional American cuisine and they trot out Texas or North Carolina barbecue or Virginia hams or Alaskan salmon, I always ask if they’ve ever tasted a genuine New England sea scallop.  Most haven’t.  This week: Sea Scallops, Peas and Chervil.  The sea scallops are large, they take a thin edge of delicious sear while remaining moist and rare in the center, and they hold a delicious court with butter, peas and chervil.

Layla and Mohammed’s Moroccan Short Ribs of Beef with Prunes and Ras el Hanout

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The little piles of sesame seeds atop the prunes are the traditional way of garnishing the dish.

We’re baaaaaaacccckkkkk….  with a dish that’s great for a winter that refuses to die–Moroccan Short Ribs of Beef with Prunes and Ras el Hanout.  Before we stumbled through an invisible portal into the Gehenna of wiring, longtime Rialto employee Mohammed Karachi and his family spent a morning cooking with us.  Mohammed’s wife Layla walked us through their Moroccan family recipe for braised short ribs, using ras el hanout from Mohammed’s mother.  What a treat!  Layla’s ribs easily earned a place in my personal pantheon of great braised dishes.  The spicy and sweet components are kept separate until the dish is served.  Do you want a forkful of beef with Moroccan seasoning and a bit of prune at the same time?  Or first the spicy, then the sweet?  (My preference.)  It’s comforting either way.

Roxanne’s Balsamic Chicken with Olives

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Ah, children.  If you append the name of one child to a dish, the other will someday ask, “Why didn’t you ever name anything after me?”  Our son Oliver’s mastery of Oliver’s Chicken Stew made him a culinary hero to his impoverished roommates.  Our daughter turned 18 this week – sob – and reminded us that she needed a dish that she could take with her to college, something within her skill set that might make her a culinary goddess to her future roommates, something with her name on it.  Ergo Roxanne’s Balsamic Chicken with Olives.

Print this recipe – Shrimp Scampi with Orange Bitters

Food bloggers and their readers tend to be a supportive, upbeat, crowd (“Kale!  Wow!  Double thumbs-up!”).  We don’t get many complaints, helpful suggestions for improving the site, but every few months this plea arrives: “Can’t you do something so we don’t have to cut and paste your recipes?”  Never let it be said The Garum Factory …

Glazed and Enthused – Spanish Mackerel, Saffron and Honey with Blood Orange – Fennel Salad

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Spanish Mackerel, Saffron and Honey with Blood Orange – Fennel Salad.  If you make nothing else from us this year, make this.  It’s crazy delicious, one of my contenders for the tastiest thing Jody’s cooked in the past year, and it’s easy. Contrary to what you may think, the recipe doesn’t involve filleting your own mackerel.  Unless you want to.  If so, have it.  That’s what we did, but only because the whole fish were so gorgeous I couldn’t bear not photographing them, so I spared our fishmonger the hassle of filleting them for us.  You’ll also notice that there are three fish and only four fillets, when you’d expect six.  That’s because we roasted the third mackerel whole.  If Spanish mackerel’s around, we can’t get enough of it.  Make this dish.

Dutch Babies with Blood Oranges

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Jody cautioned me not to create any titles with “babies” and “blood” in them.  Then she made the tactical error of going to work.  Herewith Dutch Babies with Blood Oranges.  C’mon, like you wouldn’t have done the same thing?  Besides, after last week’s Attack of the Devil Baby* prank on New Yorkers, I figured you could handle it. What’s a little shudder when these “babies” taste so good, when the payoff is having a hot air balloon collapse in front of you, its final gasps scented with vanilla, cinnamon, orange and lemon?  What name would you choose for this wheezy pastry–Dutch baby or German pancake, the main alternative?  Dutch babies sound playful, easy, maybe even good for you.  German pancakes, whatever their other virtues, convey an air of seriousness. “Time for German pancakes!” could be a euphemism for “Let’s build a railroad through the Black Forest.”   So what’s your choice?  Light-cuddly-easy?  Or Heavy-serious-Hans-Henry-was-a-steel-drivin’-man?   Right.  Dutch babies it is. And don’t forget the blood oranges.

You say Tagliatelle, I say Fettucine…

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Stand aside, from-scratch croissants.  Out out, damn osso bucco!  For all of the satisfactions of spatula-and-tongs-ing your way up culinary K2’s  nothing produces quite the same glow as transforming 3 eggs, 2 cups of flour and bit of semolina into a pound of Fresh Tagliatelle.   Making your own pasta is akin to making your own pie crust, one of those notches on the wooden spoon that certifies you as a cook.  Contrary to reputation, it is neither difficult nor arduous, and only mildly time-consuming (30 – 40 minutes, start to finish).  We’ve wanted to do this post for awhile, if only to give everyone who makes one of our pasta dishes a place to go for instructions on making their own.  After you taste your first batch of homemade, you’ll marvel at your abilities, those you feed will sing your hosannas (or you’ll kill them) and while you may not entirely give up buying commercial noodles, you’ll know that your own taste better.

Back to meat – Rialto Bolognese

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The good news is you get a great pasta sauce this week.  The bad news is you get the pasta part of the post next week.  We thought asking you to make both the sauce and the fresh pasta would be asking too much, so this week we’re doing Rialto Bolognese, enough sauce for three meals.  Next week we’ll be posting Fresh Tagliatelle.  You can wait until then to bring them together, or simply use a pound of your favorite fresh wide noodle pasta and jump the gun.  In fact, the great thing about a sauce like this is having it on hand, ready to go, for a meal when all you have to do make the pasta.

Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie with Pecans

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Who doesn’t love sweet potatoes?  Culinary gravity inexorably pulls them toward brown sugar or molasses or something candied, even with bacon (candied bacon).  But don’t do it, at least not this time.  I never encountered a sweet potato during my year abroad in the Swiss canton of Fribourg, a stone’s throw from the town of Gruyères (town, plural: cheese, singular), but I can guarantee that that if there were ever a culinary match made in heaven it’s sweet potato and that most hazelnut and butter flavored of all cheeses, aged Gruyère.  Some cheeses should never be melted (sorry, brie en croute is ghastly) but Gruyère is just the opposite.  Quiche, the poster child of boring French food from the ’70’s, is redeemed by the addition of aged Gruyère.  Fondue without Gruyère is but a pale revenant of the real deal.  Gruyère is expensive (around $20/lb.) but the recipe only calls for a cup and half of the stuff, grated, about 3 ounces.  Unfortunately, I only found out about the Gruyère after the ingredients photograph had been taken.  Jody announced that she’d added Gruyère–I couldn’t even photograph it being stirred into the bowl.  I growled and stomped around.  I should have waited until I tasted the finished pie.  Gruyère and sweet potatoes rule.