Saturday, October 30, 2010

Just Like the Stumbling Goat

Seattle has a two-year old fundraiser called "Celebrated Chefs" - I don't want to endorse the program, so I'm not going explain it, but part of the program produces a cookbook compilation of recipes from fine local restaurants. The cookbooks are nice quality with great photos, but while most of the dishes would be things I would enjoy eating, probably only 20% were dishes I would order in the restaurant, and fewer than 1% were recipes I would ever consider preparing for myself.

There were a couple that stood out in Version II of the Celebrated Chefs cookbook though, and when I stumbled across this salmon recipe from the Stumbling Goat Bistro, I was sure I had a winner.

These beets are incredible, and would be delicious as accompaniment to many different dishes, but they are quite outstanding with the salmon.

Pan-Seared Salmon with Anise Glazed Beets (version as printed)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 salmon fillet pieces, about 6 ounces each, skin removed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups lightly packed watercress, rinsed, dried, and trimmed
1 small fennel bulb, trimed, halved, cored, and sliced thinly
freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 large or 2 medium red beets (about 8 ounces), trimed
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons anise or fennel seeds

Put beets in a pan of cold salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until beets are tender (50-60 minutes). Keep beets covered with water throughout cooking, add more hot water as needed if necessary. Drain and let cool, then peel away skin. Slice in half, the slice halves cross-wise into 1/4 inch slices.

Combine sugar, water, vinegar, and seeds in medium saucepan.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce to medium-law heat and simmer until mixture becomes a thick syrup, about 20 minutes. Strain into a medium bowl. Toss beets gently in syrup.

Heat oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon and cook until nicely browned on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side.

Arrange beet slices in the center of each plate. Drizzle plate with olive oil. Set aslmon atop beets, drizzle plate with syrup, beading syrup with oil. Combine watercress and fennel in a medium bowl, and lemon juice and toss to coat. Plate alongside salmon.
Photo from the Celebrate Chefs, Volume II cookbook, page 94.

I made this recipe for 3 people, using 3 salmon fillets and 3 medium beets, but the same amount of syrup. I still had way more than I needed for serving, and ended up dumping it out afterwards, although I probably could have saved it for a week or two and used it to glaze more beets or even other vegetables like carrots.

The fish could be prepared to your preference. I chose to bake it in a 350 oven alongside barley that I served with this meal. I just squeezed a bit of fresh lemon on the fillets, and a bit of salt and pepper. If you leave on the skin during cooking, be sure to remove it before serving, or do not serve the fillet directly on top of the beets.

I didn't use watercress, because we had a spinach salad to go with the meal. Instead, I just tossed the fennel bulb slices and some of the dill-like springs with lemon juice and a touch of oil, and served it on top.

To avoid waste and to pick-up the same flavor notes throughout the meal, I diced the fennel stalks and used them in place of some onion in a barley recipe of my grandmothers. The version below is the adaption I created for this meal, but would definitely repeat. The fennel flavor is subtle and would compliment lots of dishes, or could be substituted back for all onion.

Baked Barley
serves 6

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped fennel stalks
1/2 cup chopped onion
3-4 chopped baby portabello mushrooms
2-3 teaspoons fennel leaves (fine, threadlike herbal top-portion)
1 cup barley
3 cups chicken broth

Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add fennel and onion and saute 5 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and saute until tender. Stir in fennel leaves and barley, and transfer to 1 1/2 quart casserole baking dish.  Pour broth over, cover, and bake at 325 for 75-90 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

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