Soy-Cured Salmon, Asian Pear, and Cilantro Crème Fraîche

Ooo La La

Ooo La La

Eating healthy is not just salads and egg white omelettes, although sometimes I think about what I eat and salad and egg whites resurface often. However, you can have restaurant or “chef-inspired” dishes on a regular basis with a little fine-tuning and adjustments. In this case, I did not have to change anything in the recipe for once.

I first came across this recipe when I was in Paris at Market (a Jean-Georges Restaurant) that my friend dragged me to. At the time I wanted to experience real French cuisine…duck confit, sole a la meunière, beef Bourgogne not some Asian-French fusion. (You can see why I joined Weight Watchers upon my immediate return from Europe.) I also did not realize it was a Jean-Georges restaurant until after the meal. In the end, it was the best meal I had in Paris even though I felt odd sitting there with chopsticks in hand while dining on the Champs-Élysées.

This recipe is perfect for impressing people (“you cured it yourself?!”) and can be served as an appetizer with crackers or blinis or as a first course. It can also be a light and sophisticated lunch for one while leaning over the kitchen sink.

Soy-Cured Salmon, Asian Pear, and Cilantro Crème Fraîche

From Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges by Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Yield = 4 servings

1 serving = 7 Points Plus

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20.5 hours (includes 20-hr marinating period)

Soy-cured salmon:

  • 1 cup light soy sauce
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • One 2-inch piece fresh young ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 fresh green Thai chile, chopped (substituted jalapeño)
  • One 9-ounce salmon fillet, skinned, trimmed, and halved lengthwise

Dipping sauce:

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • 2 scallions, white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup sliced fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime zest, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ teaspoon minced fresh green Thai chile (substituted jalapeño)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup diced Asian pear (used Bartlett pear)

Cilantro, Ginger, Jalapeno

To start roughly chop the cilantro, ginger, and chile. I used jalapeno because there were no Thai chiles at the store. You can use fresno chiles, serrano chiles, or whatever you like. Chuck it all in your food processor and add 1 cup of soy sauce, preferably light sodium, and give it a whirl. It doesn’t have to be finely puréed, it should be a little chunky.

Sockeye Salmon

Beautiful Sockeye Salmon

IMG_2556

Place your salmon fillets into the marinade and make sure they are completely submerged. I like to put an upside down plate on top just to make sure it has a little weight. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight for a total of 20 hours. Do not marinate it longer than that so it does not over-cure.

After 20 hours take the salmon out of the marinade and give it a rinse. Pat the salmon dry and set it aside. Don’t be off-put by the dark color, it’s just the soy sauce penetrating the flesh of the salmon. When you slice it, you’ll reveal the beautiful orange color of the sockeye.

Salmon After Curing for 20 Hours

Salmon After Curing for 20 Hours

Let’s have ourselves a little lesson on curing. Originally curing was used as a way to preserve food; it can take form as salting, drying, smoking, or pickling. Salt draws out the moisture which prevents the growth of microorganisms. In this case if you cure the salmon for too long, the soy sauce (i.e. salt) will draw too much of the moisture out of the fish and will cause it to be dry and salty. Therefore do not marinade the fish more than 20 hours.

Prep for Creme Fraiche

Next combine the crème fraîche, scallions, cilantro, chile, lime zest, lime juice, salt, and I throw in a little pinch of white pepper. Set aside.

Thinly Sliced Cured Salmon

Thinly slice the salmon in about 1/4″ slices. A sharp knife is a must in this situation, preferably a sharp slicer.

To serve, spoon some of the cilantro crème fraîche on the bottom of a plate. Shingle the sliced salmon on top of the sauce and then garnish with a brunoise of pear. (Brunoise is a fancy term meaning very tiny dice (exactly 1/8″ x 1/8″ x 1/8″).

Impressive, eh?

Impressive, eh?

The picture above showcases the beautiful and impressive presentation. I actually served it this way to my family for a nice, light appetizer before our Sunday dinner. However, when I made it for myself I bulked it up into a meal with the addition of cucumbers and extra pear. May not be as classy and a little on the messy side but just as tasty.

When no one was looking...this is what it really looks like

When no one was looking…this is what it really looks like

Miso Salmon with Soba Noodle Salad

Just to let you all know I do take recipe requests for my blog. So this one is for my Aunt Shelly, who pointed out that I didn’t have a recipe for salmon on my blog. This is something I have been making for many years and never fails to impress. It’s easy and quick enough to make during the week, and also can be dressed up for company on the weekends. The soba noodle salad is awesome because it can be served hot or cold, as a main dish or side dish and the ingredients can be adapted depending on the season and what you have on hand. Also, using soba noodles is a great way to introduce whole grains into your or your family’s diet without freaking anyone out.

 

Miso Salmon with Soba Noodle Salad

 

Makes 4 Servings

1 serving = 4 oz salmon and 1 cup noodles = 11 Points Plus

 

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

 

For the Salmon:

  • 1# salmon (preferably wild-caught), skin off
  • 3 tbsp miso paste
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • cilantro sprigs (for garnish)

 

For the Noodles:

  • 8.8 oz soba noodles (1 package)
  • 4 oz ramps (1 bunch), bottoms should be sliced and tops can be left whole**
  • ¾ # asparagus
  • ¼ cup soy sauce, divided
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup bean sprouts

 

**If ramps are not in seasons, feel free to use a combination of scallions (1 bunch) and 2 cloves of sliced garlic.

 

Asparagus @ Union Square Greenmarket

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Combine miso paste, ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce, vinegar, mirin, and orange juice and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the soba noodles and cook according to the package’s directions (usually about 8 minutes) until the noodles are cooked through. Drain and set aside.

Soba Noodles

Meanwhile, combine 2 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tsp sesame oil in a large bowl. Add the asparagus and thoroughly coat the asparagus in the dressing. Place asparagus on a foiled-lined sheet tray and place into the oven. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Cut into 1 inch pieces and set aside.

In a medium sauté pan, add ramp bottoms and sauté for 1-2 minutes or until soft. Add the ramp tops and cook until slightly wilted.

In a large bowl combine remaining soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and brown sugar. Whisk to combine until sugar has dissolved.

 

When the soba noodles are cooked through, drain well, and add to large bowl with the dressing while the noodles are still hot. Add the asparagus, ramps, and bean sprouts and toss everything together to combine thoroughly. Do a quick taste test to make sure everything is properly seasoned. You can either keep this salad at room temperature or refrigerate to serve it chilled.

For the salmon, brush the miso glaze onto both sides on the salmon and place on a foil-lined sheet pan. Place into a preheated 375°F oven, and bake until the fish is about medium in temperature, about 10-12 minutes depending on the size of your filet. Let me the salmon rest before you cut into it. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

 

My favorite was to enjoy this dish is with the warm salmon sitting on top of the cold noodles because I love the contrast in temperature. Keep the requests coming!

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Asparagus is one spring’s most versatile ingredients. It can steamed, sautéed, stir-fried, baked, broiled, and even grilled. In this dish I decided to have some restraint and let the asparagus be natural and delicate. This dish only has 4 ingredients, which means it can be made on-the-fly and enjoyed over and over again.

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Makes 4 Servings

1 Serving = 2 Points Plus

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, blanched and shaved
  • 1 oz parmigiano reggiano, shaved
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

First you want to blanch your asparagus in very salty water for 30 seconds. Take the asparagus out and shock it immediately in ice water. Allow to cool for 3-5 minutes. When asparagus are cool, drain them and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels.

Next you want to shave the asparagus. You can either use a peeler or Japanese mandoline. If the asparagus are teeny-tiny you can just cut them in half.

Next whisk together lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Combine asparagus, lemon vinaigrette, and the parmigiano reggiano. Season with salt and pepper.

Spicy Squid Salad

I have been a really good girl all winter long. I tried my hardest to keep my cooking seasonal including my ingredients and techniques. Before this past winter, I had never consumed so many root vegetables, winter squash, and dark greens before in my life. I have made pots upon pots of soups, stew, braises, and slow-cooked meals. That said I needed to brighten up my repertoire just for a moment to remind myself that spring is on the way.

This recipe was inspired by an episode of Bill’s Holiday, which is on the Cooking Channel. I decided to play more with southeast Asian flavors and keep it super simple.

I hate to admit this but there is nothing local or seasonal about this recipe. But it is refreshing, light, simple, and a burst of sunshine in your mouth.

Spicy Squid Salad

Makes 3 Servings

1 serving = 1 cup = 4 Points Plus

  • 1 # squid, cut into small rings
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red finger pepper, minced (you can substitute whatever chile you like)
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 packet of Truvia
  • ½ cup celery, julienne
  • 1 cup English cucumber, cut into half moons
  • 1 small mango, cut into small cubes**
  • 1 cup cilantro, whole leaves
  • ½ cup mint, torn leaves
  • 1 small shallot, sliced
  • 3 cups baby spinach

**My mango was not very ripe so I cut into small cubes, placed it into a small plastic container with 1 tbsp of water and microwave for 20 seconds. This will soften the mango and bring out some of their natural sugars

Cut the squid into small rings (you can always ask your fish monger to do this for you). Combine the squid with the garlic, finger pepper, and lime zest. Set aside and allow to marinate while you make your dressing and cut your vegetables.

Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, and Truvia. Set aside.

Combine the celery, cucumber, mango, cilantro leaves, and mint in a large bowl. I usually hate raw celery in salads but it works so well in this recipe. The crunch of the celery adds an awesome texture and since you julienne the celery it wilts ever so slightly when you toss it with the hot squid. Give it a try! (And you know you always have leftover celery hanging around from when you needed it for tomato sauce or a braise and didn’t know what to do with the rest of the bunch.)

Heat up a wok on high heat (if you don’t have a wok…no worries…just use a large sauté pan). Spray the wok with non-stick cooking spray and toss in your shallots. Sauté for 1 minute or until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add in your squid and sauté on high heat for another 2-3 minutes or until cooked through, season again with salt and pepper. Add your squid to your bowl of vegetables and herbs. Toss the squid and veggies with your dressing. Serve on a bed of baby spinach and enjoy. If you want to make a more substantial meal serve it with some brown rice or quinoa.

My New Love…Asian Pears!

One of the challenges of losing weight and keeping a healthy style is being able to change up with your diet. You want to try eating different fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains. It’s also important to explore different cooking techniques and types of cuisine.

With that said, I decided to take the plunge into the world of pears (I haven’t always been the biggest fan of pears)…and I found that I LOVE ASIAN PEARS! Asian pears taste like a cross between an apple and pear. Really firm texture, crunchy, juicy, and slightly sweet.

I made my newfound love, Asian pear, into a salad with goat cheese, almonds, and a sherry-red onion vinaigrette.

Spinach Salad with Asian Pear, Goat Cheese, and Almonds

Makes 1 serving

1 serving = 5 Points Plus (salad + 2 tbsp vinagrette)

Vinaigrette:

  • ¼ of a red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, whole
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey

Salad:

  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 8 almonds, toasted with salt
  • ½ oz goat cheese
  • 1 Asian pear, sliced
  • 2 tbsp scallions, sliced

Another challenge you might come across is making a thick, delicious vinaigrette WITHOUT using oil to emulsify it. My trick is using onion or garlic puree to thicken sauces or dressings without adding additional fat or oil (this technique is actually used in many 4 star restaurants as well).

Preheat your oven to 250°F and wrap your red onion and garlic in a piece of aluminum foil. Place in the oven for 2 hours or until soft. Then puree the softened onions and garlic with the vinegar, mustard, and honey. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble salad and dig in!