I’m writing this blog after a succession of recipe “fails” that has me wondering if I should be writing recipes at all. They weren’t epic fails, but when you botch a birthday cake, Christmas cookies and sugar cookies within a few weeks, it’s enough to shake your confidence. Then I think about why I started Love and Duck Fat in the first place. One of the reasons was to challenge myself to learn something new. When you challenge yourself, there are usually failures involved, or it wouldn’t be a challenge.
Baking (and dessert making in general) is hard for me. Why? It requires precision. I spent years as an artist learning to embrace happy accidents, paint drips, imprecise lines and sloppy paint. This is very hard to do when you are trained from childhood to color within the lines. I learned to love imprecision because it was more beautiful, wild and freeing. Even to the viewer’s eyes. That is what I wanted to aspire to in art, and I can’t say I ever got there, but I was close.
Baking is just the opposite. It requires exact measurements, precise cooking times and a perfectly steady hand if you want your decorating to look anything close to edible. So I challenge myself with chocolate pumpkin cakes, but I am the first to admit baking is not my forte.
I am embracing my fails as learning experiences and moving on, albeit in a direction I’m more comfortable: seafood.
I was able to get my hands on a gorgeous fillet of wild Sockeye salmon, and paired it with a creamy dill sauce, black Beluga lentils and sautéed leeks. I love the color of the salmon against the dramatic black of the lentils, similar to another recipe where I paired salmon with black rice. The Beluga lentils are a little more expensive and hard to find (buy them on Amazon). They are round in appearance and glisten like caviar, thus the name. You can substitute French green or brown lentils, and the taste will be just as good.
Bring the lentils, vegetable broth, and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Add the garlic clove and bay leaf. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook on low heat for 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender-firm. Drain and return to the pan. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Keep warm and covered.
While the lentils are cooking, prepare the leeks. I like to cut them in half crosswise, and then quarter them lengthwise, into strips. Wash them well in cold water to make sure all the sand is removed. Dry well before cooking.
Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Add the leeks and cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or more, turning every few minutes. You want them to brown slightly and become very soft. Sprinkle with salt and taste.
Pat salmon dry and season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil or butter on medium-high heat in a nonstick skillet. When hot, place the salmon in the skillet, skin-side-down. Place a sprig of dill on each piece. Cook the salmon for 4 minutes, then turn. Cook another 2-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of each piece, and how you prefer to serve. Remove to a plate.
Pour the white wine into the hot pan. Add the minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cream and cook for another 2-5 minutes, until the mixture is thickened and creamy. Add the chopped dill and lemon juice. Season with salt and fresh pepper to taste.
In the spirit of full disclosure, this post contains an affiliate link to a product I purchased and used myself. I recommend this product. If you decide to buy any of these items, I may be able to buy a cheap cup of coffee someday from the commission I receive.
Artichoke and mushroom casserole
I’m taking it easy this Christmas. Since this is my first year with a food blog, I wasn’t prepared for the food-extravaganza going on in the food blogosphere this time of year. There is one. And it’s big. I am so ready to join in, and post amazing holiday recipes daily that will blow your socks off.
Yes, I’m sorry. But I know you won’t hold it against me.
It’s so hard to cook anything inspiring with a 1 year old. He’s getting easier, but he’s also on the verge of walking. Or running…so it’s going to get harder for a little while. Which is why I make recipes like this yummy artichoke and mushroom casserole. It’s easy, and good for several meals (depending on how big a family you have).
Artichokes are one of my favorite foods. So are mushrooms. Together, they are an impressive holiday dish or just some good home cooking. We all love some good home cooking.
If you want to make it on the lighter side, just omit the butter/crumb topping. For me, it doesn’t seem right to eat artichokes without some butter somewhere close by.
Preheat oven to 350°F/
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over high heat. Add mushrooms and cook quickly, allowing them to brown, about 6 minutes, until they shrink in size and the juices are released and evaporated. Transfer mushrooms to a casserole dish.
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the same pan the mushrooms were cooked. Stir to remove any pan drippings. Add the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 3 minutes (until flour is bubbly). Add the chicken broth and cook until thickened and bubbly. Stir in the cream and lemon juice. Remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper (and taste!).
Add the drained artichokes to the casserole dish. Pour the cream mixture on top and stir to combine.
In a small bowl, combine the melted butter and panko breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on top of the casserole.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until the top is lightly browned.
I’m a sucker for cauliflower. When I see this imposing veggie in the supermarket, I grab it. If you don’t have a go-to recipe, buying a cauliflower head is a big commitment. It’s a lot of vegetable. My favorite way to prepare cauliflower is in a soup, like this roasted cauliflower and almond soup.
I came up with this recipe for cauliflower and wild rice chowder during one of our short Miami cold spells (consisting of 2 days in December in the low 70’s). I broke out my boots and we headed out into the sun, reveling in the cool breezes.
My son, who just turned one, was on a two-week food strike of sorts. He refused to eat anything on a spoon, which made feeding him a little difficult. After trying every sort of adult food and baby food (I make some pretty good baby food), he finally opened his mouth wide for cauliflower and wild rice, of all things.
Now I feel deep gratitude for my friend, the cauliflower. Covered in cheese, roasted, fried or souped…
Speaking of soup, let me just share with you how good this hearty chowder is. It is creamy and rich, with soft bits of cauliflower and slightly chewy wild rice. The nuttiness of the rice works with the sweet/nutty cauliflower and the contrasting colors are fun on your spoon. Its home cooking. It’s good. I like to eat a bowl with some crusty bread slathered with sweet butter, stopping to sop up the soup with the bread in-between spoonfuls. Soup day is a good day around here.
In a large saucepan, cook the onion in 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat until soft, but not brown. Add the broth, wild rice bay leaf and cumin (if using). Cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes.
Add the cauliflower to the pot and continue to cook, covered, for another 20 minutes.
While the pot is simmering, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir on low heat, about 2 minutes. Add the milk and cream. Whisk until it just comes to a simmer, then add to the cauliflower mixture. Season to taste with salt and plenty of fresh pepper.