Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gemelli Pasta With Tomato Sauce And Roasted Eggplant

The reward of growing tomatoes in your garden is that everyday there is a new harvest, another crop of sun ripened beauties just waiting to be picked and turned into a savory tomato sauce. This recipe pairs garden fresh heirloom tomatoes with tender eggplant from the farmers market.

Gemelli Pasta With Tomato Sauce And Roasted Eggplant

For the eggplant:
3 cups eggplant pealed and cubed
1 cup onions sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a sheet pan add the eggplant with the onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat and roast for 30 minutes, until golden brown.

For the tomato sauce:
4 cups fresh tomatoes diced
1 tablespoon garlic finely minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup basil leaves torn
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a saucepan gently heat the olive oil and garlic until it sizzles but does not brown. Stir in the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes on low heat stirring a few times.

For the pasta:
To a large pot of salted boiling water add 1 pound of gemelli pasta, stir and cook until desired doneness. Please do not over cook the pasta.

To plate:
Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with the tomato sauce and the roasted eggplant. If more liquid is needed use the reserved cooking water. Taste for seasoning and sprinkle with freshly grated pecorino romano cheese and the torn basil leaves. Serves 4-6.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Seared Salmon With Sauteed Corn and Smokey Tomato Relish

As we begin to see the last of the summer's local produce at the city's farmers markets, I find that each week I cannot resist gathering the remnants from the end of the season's harvest. With this in mind, I created this easy and flavorful salmon recipe that takes advantage of wonderful local sweet corn from Eden and ripe heirloom tomatoes from my garden.

Seared Salmon With Sauteed Corn and Smokey Tomato Relish

For the tomato relish:
2 cups fresh tomatoes diced
1 garlic clove finely minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and set aside. 

For the corn:
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3-4 ears)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a hot saute pan. Add the corn and season with the sugar, salt and pepper. Saute the corn over high heat until lightly brown, about 4-5 minutes. Set aside.

For the salmon:
4 salmon filets 6 oz. each
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 

Heat a non stick saute pan until hot but not smoking. Brush both sides of the salmon filets with olive oil and season each side with salt and pepper. Add the salmon to the hot saute pan and sear them on both sides, until each side develops a dark brown crust, about 3-5 minutes per side. 

To plate:
Spoon a mound the corn in the center of each of 4 plates. Place a salmon filet on each mound of corn and top each salmon filet with the tomato relish. Drizzle the collected tomato juices around the plate and over the salmon. Serves 4.

The components of this dish play off of each other beautifully. The crisp, sweet corn and smokey tomatoes are a wonderful balance to the richness of the salmon. Serve this dish with a simple salad and a chilled white wine, and you have an elegant meal.

As luck would have it there are still venders who bring fresh produce to our local farmers markets each week, so there is still time to gather these ingredients and prepare this quick, delicious and healthy recipe. 


Monday, September 15, 2008

Reading (and Eating) Ruhlman

Many years ago, my best friend Paul gave me a book that would open a new page for me culinarily. It was written by Michael Ruhlman, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. Ruhlman wrote a trio of books, each an account of his experiences at the CIA and of the people he met during his two year study. 

With the first book, The Making of a Chef, Ruhlman invites readers inside the CIA, introducing the instructors and students in addition to describing the day to day regimen in the classroom and kitchen. This book inspired me to visit the CIA for a personal exploration of the campus and restaurants. Savoring the innovative menus at the student-run restaurants along the way, I returned two more times for kitchen equipment, supplies, and authentic chef duds.

In Part One of the second book, The Soul of a Chef, Ruhlman explores the Certified Master Chef Exam, in which chefs attempt to earn the title of Certified Master Chef. This is no easy feat. It involves a ten day competitive examination from which few chefs ever emerge victorious. Part Two tells the story of one of Cleveland's most beloved restaurants, Lola, and the equally reputable chef/owner Michael Symon, who is most commonly known as Iron Chef Symon. 

In the third book, The Reach of a Chef, Ruhlman takes the reader into the kitchens and everyday lives of professional chefs, giving his audience an in-depth profile of the phenomena surrounding todays celebrity chefs. Ruhlman's style is clever, humorous and down to earth, making these books a must read for every food lover.

Since reading his books, Ruhlman has become one of my favorite writers not only for his food writing and cookbooks (like The French Laundry Cookbook, Charcuterie and A Return to Cooking, which he co-authored with other chefs), but also for his nonfiction work. My favorite, House: A Memoir, is a charming tale of the author's quest for a house for his family, a story that resonated with me personally. 

Ruhlman's most resent book, The Elements of Cooking, demystifies the professional jargon of the kitchen for the everyday cook. It is a thesaurus for food and cooking terms that also gives definitions of both culinary techniques and ingredients. Helping to answer the quandaries related to the culinary arts, this easy read assists the home chef in obtaining a better understanding of food and cooking.

On August 9, 2008 Michael's father, Richard Morgan Ruhlman (Rip), passed away in Michael's home. On August 11, 2008 Michael fulfilled his commitment to the Chautauqua Institution by appearing in front of 3000 people to give a lecture on sustainable food. Along with him in attendance was his wife Donna, their two children and his mother. Here is a man who, in the troughs of grief, set an example for his children, by teaching them how to be strong and courageous. Rip would be very proud indeed. 

At a book signing later that day, I had the great pleasure to meet Michael. He was very gracious and signed two of my books, one of them House: A Memoir. Although I felt that I was in the presence of greatness, Michael is disarming with his very humble nature. I found that to be endearing. 

Thank you, Michael for the value that you put into your work. It makes the world a much better place. Please know that I share the grief of you and your family, and that I wish you peace.


Holy flame
By any name-
Creator, Terminator,

Receive this praise,
The due of days
Of hobbled terror, healing:

Your muffled light,
Its comrade night
Swept outward, forward, farther 
                                                                    Reynolds Price