For dinner: coho salmon with oregano pesto breadcrumbs that aren’t browned enough. Boring. Alongside: Ottolenghi’s Spicy Carrot Salad, with couscous mixed in (regular and Israeli, because Ottolenghi).
I finally broke down and bought myself Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest book, Jerusalem. I got all starry-eyed over the first recipe I looked at: a recipe in the way, way back of the book, with all the other weird sub-recipes you need to make half the items in the book.
It’s a spice paste called pilpelchuma, and involves a quarter cup each (each!) of cayenne and paprika, along with 20 cloves of garlic. Y’all, it is intense.
This Spicy Carrot Salad uses a single tablespoon of this spice paste. (Someone posted the recipe here, which uses the suggested double amount of harissa instead of pilpelchuma.) With the couscous, I got about 7 servings out of that salad, and the spice level was not messing around. From one tablespoon. You will see more of pilpelchuma.
Ah, Thanksgiving. How was yours? Mine was super-relaxing.
Want to know what a Personal Chef eats on the day before Thanksgiving? And for lunch the day of?
The same thing everyone else eats: whatever is most convenient.
And when it’s a pescatarian Thanksgiving meal that one doesn’t start planning until Tuesday (luckily for only three people), it’s a meal full of nothing but simple “greatest hits” that one can basically bang out with eyes closed.
Or blurry eyes, if you’ve already gotten into the bar. And it’s Thanksgiving, so of course you have.
Dessert was a Lemon Curd Tart with a Gingerbread Rusk crust, adapted from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. It was my one concession to the overachiever that lives in my heart.
To deal with some leftovers, I cooked up a couple of bacon slices, sautéed a bit of leftover kale and Brussels sprouts in the fat, and tossed it all with some cooked orzo and a healthy dash of hot sauce. Beer. Salad. Lovely.
The day after Thanksgiving is the day I do not leave the house. Man, forget that. Instead, I put on Christmas music (this year’s selection), whip up some eggnog, and put up the tree. It is absolutely my favorite holiday. This year, I even made cookies.
The eggnog this year is the aged eggnog recipe from the Art of Eating, and you guys it. is. amazing. Previously, I’ve used the uncooked eggnog from the Joy of Cooking, but always end up with a huge pitcher of eggnog that I end up dreading towards the end, but slogging through bravely. I mean, one can only drink so much nog before it begins to wear a person down.
This recipe, though, has you mix an egg-booze-sugar base that gets aged at least three weeks (!), and mixed up one cocktail at a time. It’s perfect. Bonus: aging the eggs in booze actually kills all traces of salmonella, so it’s safer than my old traditional uncooked eggnog. We do not discuss cooked eggnog around here.
If you have a copy of the magazine, I strongly urge you to mix up a batch. It’ll be ready just in time for Christmas.
Hope you had a lovely holiday weekend. Now let’s get ready for the next one.
My oh my, I haven’t given you all a recipe in ages, have I? Poor darlings, here you go.
Over dinner the other night, I helped a dear friend brainstorm ideas for her family’s Christmas feast. They planned on salmon, but needed ideas for something festive to dress it up. Fennel immediately sprung to mind, in a sort of raw relish, with a heavy dose of lemon.
Which would be, you know, okay, but it’s not good enough. Not for Christmas.
A quick google didn’t turn up exactly the soignée dish I had in mind, just page after page of fennel and cucumber summat-er-other. I wasn’t inspired at all until one word caught my eye: beets. Yes! Beets! Fennel and beets! Anise-y crunch with earthy sweetness. Perfect.
I wrote my friend an email, containing a sort of recipe that came out as a stream of consciousness, as I pictured what I might reach for were I making it right then. Roasted beets. Raw fennel, small dice. Toasted fennel seeds. Shallot. Lemon. Garlic. Olive oil. And loads of herbs. I was confident.
Of course, I had to try it out for myself. (Can’t let everyone else have all the fun, right?) A couple of filets of sockeye later, cooked according to my latest go-to, foolproof, perfect-every-time method, which you should absolutely try as soon as possible, my confidence turned into unabashed pride.
It’s crunchy, it’s sweet, it’s raw, it’s roasted, it’s bright, and it’s just killer with a fine piece of salmon. It’s exactly what I was going for.
Here’s hoping it can liven more than one holiday table this year. Bon appétit!
This relish is stunning served with a simple roast salmon, though I suspect darn near any fish would work quite well too. I can also see this as an hors d'oeuvre, with crostini and a tangy goat cheese, or even as a topping on those dreadful endive boats (if you insist on using them).
You may notice that the recipe calls for golden beets, while I clearly used red beets in the photos; if you don't mind a little staining, it doesn't matter which you use. Use both, if you like.
If you can, make this several hours or even a day in advance. It's one of those recipes that drastically improves with a little rest.
3 large or 5 small beets (preferably golden)
1 medium shallot
1 lemon (preferably organic)
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 to 8 tablespoons olive oil, to taste
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 cup minced fresh mint
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 whole fennel bulbs, with leafy tops attached
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400º F. Scrub the beets well, and trim the leafy tops which are hopefully still attached (save those for eating another time). Wrap each of the beets tightly in aluminum foil, and pop in the hot oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how big they are. Small ones will, of course, cook faster.
2. Meanwhile, mince the shallot finely and put into a large bowl that won't stain (you know, glass or metal). Zest the lemon into the bowl, and squeeze in all the juice.
3. Smash and peel the garlic clove, chop into very small bits, and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt. Using the side of your knife, smash and scrape the salted garlic into a paste. Add this paste to the bowl, along with the Dijon mustard.
4. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the olive oil. Use only enough to take the harsh edge off the dressing, while still letting the lemon flavor shine. This doesn't need to be perfectly emulsified, so don't worry about whisking it to perfect smoothness.
5. Toast the fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat for a minute or so, just until fragrant. Either throw them in whole, or crush them up in a mortar and pestle, depending on preference.
6. Chop the thyme, mint, parsley, and a handful of fronds from the fennel; add to the bowl.
7. Remove the tops from the fennel, and any brown spots on the outside. Cut the fennel into a small dice, and add to the bowl with a few grinds of black pepper. Toss well, and let stand until the beets have finished roasting.
8. When the beets are done (they will feel slightly soft when squeezed through the foil), let cool until they can be handled. Peel the beets, chop into a small dice, and add to the other ingredients. Toss together, and taste to check the seasoning. Correct as needed with additional salt, pepper, olive oil, and/or lemon juice.