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Mardi Gras Red Beans and Rice

Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday Bacon-Granola Pancakes with Fried Egg

Nothing says lovin’ like something from the…top of the stove. I hope you’re skipping the long wait and perhaps not-so-great-service at the restaurants on Valentine’s Day.  Go to your favorite spot some other time and give your best servers a break…  Instead, stay home and fix this luscious meal for you and your happiest partner, you and a friend, or just for yourself.

There’s little faster than fish for any meal any time and what’s more heart-loving than salmon? This sumptuous special, however, includes a silky-smooth garlicky broccoli mash which does definitely extend the cooking time a wee bit.  Still, it’s all pretty snappy like this:  A pot of water boiled. Veg cooked/pureed. Another veg grilled or oven roasted and tossed with citrus. Fish in a very hot pan topped with a frisky fresh salsa of minced green onions (scallions), parsley, and tomatoes. See?    

         table-setting-for-one-afm

Meanwhile the table is set, candles lit, the wine is opened, the music is turned on…(youtube Ella Fitzgerald here-try her, you’ll like her) and it doesn’t get any better. Unless you stay up all night and the sunrise looks like this…

Try a little tenderness:


SALMON WITH SCALLION PESTO

ON BROCCOLI-PARM  MASH

This meal does not take a really long time to cook, but it’s best to begin with the broccoli mash, as it takes the most time and the fish is seared very quickly.  I like to serve it with orange asparagus and include the recipe below.  Both the mash and the asparagus could be made a day ahead and then warmed while you cook the salmon.  Do warm your plates/bowls ahead of time in a 200 degree F oven.

Serves 4

  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 center-cut salmon fillets, 6 ounces each
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Scallion pesto for garnish (recipe below)
  • Broccoli-Cauliflower Mash (recipe below)
  • Orange asparagus for serving, if desired (recipe below)

Heat a large cast iron or heavy skillet(s) over medium heat; add oil and heat until quite hot.  Lay the salmon fillets skin side down carefully and season well with salt and pepper. Let cook 4-5 minutes or until quite browned; turn, season again, and let cook another 3 or 4 minutes or salmon is cooked to your liking.*

After the salmon has been turned in the pan, begin plating the meal. Spoon at least 1/2 cup mash across each plate or bowl and add asparagus to the side, if serving.  When the salmon is done, remove fillets with tongs onto the mash and top each piece with a generous spoonful of scallion pesto.  Serve hot immediately.

*FDA temperature is 145 degrees F for safely-cooked salmon.

COOK’S NOTE: Rather put your fish in the oven? Try this: Oven baked salmon recipe

FOR A VEGAN VERSION:  Cook up a seared cauliflower steak in place of the salmon. You might also think about a broccoli-potato mash.

BROCCOLI-PARM MASH

4-6 servings

I like these garlicky vegetables granny done as they mash more easily. To get them oh-so-soft and silky, I simmer them in a large pot of well-seasoned water until totally fork-tender. If you’d rather, you can steam or sauté/steam instead. The amounts and proportions of vegetables aren’t critical. If there’s more, you’ll add a bit extra butter. If there’s less, perhaps not so much cheese–and so on. VEGAN VERSION: Use more olive oil and skip the cheese.   Great leftover or cold for a snack.

  • 1/2 teaspoon each: kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 8 cups broccoli florets and stems (a bit more than a pound)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, and diced–optional
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter or olive oil or more as desired
  • 1 ounce  Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup) — omit for vegan version

In a 6-8 quart covered pot, heat 3-4 quarts of water seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper over high flame. When boiling, add all of the vegetables, reduce heat to simmer, and cook until everything is very tender– 15-20 minutes. Drain well and while in colander, push out excess water with a wooden spoon or with another, smaller colander.  Spoon vegetables into food processor, add red pepper, 1 tablespoon butter or oil and cheese. Process pulsing until quite smooth, adding more butter if needed. (Or mash by hand with a potato masher.) Taste and adjust seasonings. Return to pot and cover to keep warm.  Reheat as needed over very low flame, stirring often.

Cook’s Note:  You could use 1/2 broccoli and 1/2 cauliflower. I tried it and adored it.

Another method here.

SCALLION PESTO

I used yellow, orange, and red tomatoes for my scallion pesto. You might also add colored peppers if you like those.

  • Small handful of parsley, well-trimmed and minced — about 1/3 cup
  • 2 scallions, trimmed — white and green parts, minced
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh tomatoes or more to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Stir together vegetables and season with just a tiny bit of olive oil. Spoon into a small bowl and set aside or refrigerate until needed.

ORANGE ASPARAGUS

serves 4  This recipe calls for grilled asparagus, but I include instructions for oven-roasting it, too. Choose the method that suits you best.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, well-trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • Zest of one orange

Heat grill or grill pan over medium flame. In a large bowl, toss the asparagus thoroughly with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add asparagus to the grill pan in a single layer and cook for 3 or 4 minutes on one side and then another 2 minute or so on the other.  Remove back to the bowl and toss with the orange zest.  Set aside until needed.

Cook’s Notes: If you undercook the asparagus a bit, you leave room to warm it up later–even for a minute in the microwave.

Oven-roasted asparagus:  Place the oiled and seasoned asparagus on a baking sheet (parchment paper lined or lightly greased) and roast at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove and toss with orange zest.

{printable recipes for salmon, broccoli-parm mash, and orange asparagus}

Wine:  Oregon Pinot Noir or Washington state Syrah. Budget alternative: French Côtes du Rhône.  Salmon deserves a full-bodied red to offset its fatty nature, but nothing too heavy like a Cabernet Sauvignon or too dry like a Chianti. White lover:  California Chardonnay.

Appetizer and First Course all in One: Tapenade Salad with Hot Tomatoes and Goat Cheese. 

Dessert:  Want to bake?  Make my Stained Glass Shortbread Hearts.  Don’t want to bake? Buy some stellar chocolate ice cream and top it with sliced strawberries or marshmallow creme.

If you like this, you might also like:

Asian-Style Tuna on Broccoli Slaw (photo above)

Need other ideas for Valentine’s Dinners? Check this out.

Be happy and cook at home!

Thanks for spending more time at the table,

Alyce