My local Whole Foods has a display of wooden boards for grilling fish set up in front of their seafood counter. You can choose a cedar, maple, or cherry board and then pair it with a compatible fish. The friendly merchant confessed that she was crazy about the cherry plank, but I chose cedar since it matches up admirably with salmon, the fish I am planning to use.
Whatever your selection, when fish is set atop a wooden plank, then placed on a grill (whether charcoal or gas), the wood imparts a lovely smokiness to the seafood. What, I thought, could be better to grill on this long holiday weekend than marinated salmon fillets on a cedar plank. For my recipe (a favorite I created several years ago) I use a simple, yet distinctive marinade of maple syrup, lime juice, soy sauce, and fresh ginger. The ingredients provide, respectively, sweet, tart, salty, and spicy notes that complement the scent of smoked wood.
While the fish is marinating, I’ll soak the cedar plank in water. Then after preparing the grill, I’ll heat the plank for a few minutes, place the salmon on it, and put down the lid. In about 15 minutes, the cedar will have imparted a smoky scent to the fish, which turns a light mahogany color. I plan to serve the fillets right on the plank, with a garnish of chopped cilantro and green onions sprinkled over each. Corn on the cob and a bracing slaw would make fine sides.
Happy Labor Day weekend to all of you!
Saturday mornings from May to October, I can’t wait to drive to the center of our New England town to the Farmers’ Market. There on a short block that dissects the town common, local growers present their weekly harvest under canopied stands. Ours is not a large, sprawling market, but what it lacks in quantity, it certainly makes up for in quality.
Proud farmers display bins of gorgeous vegetables and fruits (mostly organic), and are eager to discuss what varieties they’ve grown. Want a Green Zebra or a Cherokee Purple tomato. No problem—our vendors offer those and countless other heirlooms.
There’s a stand that sells superb grass-fed lamb, butchered and packaged in frozen bundles. Bakers set out baguettes and French peasant loaves as well as flax, sourdough, and olive breads. Others sell exquisite seasonal flowers picked that morning, and a few tempt shoppers with local maple syrup and homemade soaps.
Recently, as I ambled by the different stalls, I stopped at the local yogurt stand where a merchant was selling smoothies made with her maple/vanilla yogurt and fresh chopped peaches. Unable to resist, I purchased one of the icy cold drinks and downed it in seconds. The tart yogurt was balanced by a hint of maple syrup and a dash of vanilla, while the peaches provided a subtle, fruited accent. I’ve included the recipe, and hope you’ll enjoy this “market” smoothie as much as I did.
In late July I traveled to York, Maine, to give weekend cooking classes at the beautiful Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School. My courses, held in the morning, ended at 1 PM, so afterwards I was anxious to try the Café in the large retail complex. A true foodie, I asked the staff at the school what I should order. “Get the BLT with avocados,” they all replied!
At the counter of the bustling café, my husband and I asked for iced tea and sandwiches. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much because today’s BLTs never seem to be exceptional, but after one bite of the Stonewall Kitchen version, I changed my mind. The secret lay in the perfect summer ingredients used to craft the sandwiches. The tomatoes were crimson, ripe, and sweet, while the bacon was wood smoked and perfectly crisp. The avocado slices were silken smooth, and the white bread was high quality and toasted lightly.
|Courtesy of the Smith College Archives
Yes, that headline is correct. If Julia Child were alive today, she’d be a hundred years old on August 15th! America’s first lady of cooking was well into her thirties when she moved to France, became passionate about French food, and took cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu.
Julia mastered the techniques of her adopted cuisine, but it wasn’t her French knife skills that made her famous once she returned to America. It was her personality and her joie de vivre that we all loved.
Over 6 feet tall, she towered above her cook top in her first television series, and with that high, proper voice, gave amusing commentary while turning out omelets and whipping up soufflés with boundless enthusiasm. Viewers adored her because she was so down to earth, and had a willingness to make fun of herself when something didn’t come out right.
This past week, while teaching two cooking classes, one in Massachusetts and the other in Maine, I featured cumin-scented pork tenderloins topped with fresh peach salsa from Sunday Roasts
as the centerpiece for each menu. My students loved the refreshing taste of peaches used in a savory instead of a sweet role.
For the salsa, diced peaches are combined with chopped red onions, minced jalapeno peppers, and both lime juice and zest. Some chopped cilantro adds more color and rounds out the flavors. The pork tenderloins are rubbed with a mixture of ground cumin, coarse salt, and pepper, and then roasted for a mere 20 minutes.
Grocery shopping at my neighborhood market this summer in Paris, I noticed a bin of tomatoes labeled “tomates pour rôtir,” which means “tomatoes for roasting.” I put several of the deep red orbs in my cart, imagining that they would be delicious stuffed.
Back in my small apartment kitchen, I scooped out the seeds and flesh, and filled the cavities with a mixture of homemade breadcrumbs, sautéed shallots, bits of creamy goat cheese, and herbs. Then I popped the tomatoes into the oven for less than half an hour until they were hot and the cheese had melted. The tomatoes held up beautifully in the oven and were indeed perfect for roasting. For serving each tomato was garnished simply with a fresh basil sprig.
Back home in New England, I was surprised to find similar tomatoes at a nearby Whole Foods.
|The small kitchen at Table d’Aki
Several years ago I went to a fabulous new restaurant in Paris called Hiromatsu
a small, intimate place lauded for the inventive French cooking of its Japanese chef. The day of our visit I savored course after course of artfully presented dishes, and was wowed by the talent of Hirotoshi Hiromatsu. In fact, I was so enamored of French fare prepared with subtle Japanese accents that my husband and I returned to the restaurant when it moved across town to larger quarters in the 16th arrondissement
Last winter when two different friends, both enthusiastic food lovers, mentioned that I should try Sola
, a new Left Bank place headed by another Japanese chef, Hiroki Yoshitake, I didn’t waste any time reserving for lunch. The meal was so special that I featured the restaurant in the Out and About section on my website
This summer while in the French capital, a young American couple who live and work in Paris and who adore the Japanese chefs there, suggested that we book at La Table d’Aki, a recently opened spot
The French take their fruits and vegetables seriously so in each neighborhood you’ll find several “primeurs,” specialized stores that sell these products exclusively. I am crazy about these outposts and often go in and talk to the helpful sales people—“les vendeurs et les vendeuses.” If I want to serve fresh melon with mint, they’ll smell and touch a dozen before handing me the perfectly ripe one for my dinner that night. If I can’t decide between white and yellow peaches, they’ll give me the heads up, and when I say I need some basil for a food photo, they’ll offer me the prettiest bunch.
The other day at one of my local “primeurs,” the staff was abuzz about the figs. The first of the season had arrived and were “français,” not from some exotic land. I bought a small bagful and prepared them simply.
Although parades, band concerts, and fireworks all define July 4th, it’s the food that many of us anticipate most. Whether special burgers, smoked ribs, barbecued chicken, corn on the cob slathered with seasoned butter, spicy baked beans, or fresh strawberry shortcakes, a big spread is the way everyone loves to celebrate America’s birthday. Typically, cooks focus on the entrees, sides, and sweets, but starters are important too. You don’t have to resort to a bowl of chips served with a purchased dip when you can make Grilled Shrimp with Cumin Mayo in only a matter of minutes.
|De Kas Restaurant from the outside
Since we were already in Paris, I suggested to my husband that for his upcoming birthday we take a 2-day trip anywhere 3 or so hours away by rail from France’s capital. Almost immediately, he settled on Amsterdam, one of our favorite cities.
|Interior of De Kas
We love the charm of Amsterdam’s gorgeous canals bordered by17th-
century narrow brick houses, the astounding number of museums, and the friendliness of the Dutch. And we like trying the food there as well. For our first night we booked at De Kas
, a stylish restaurant situated within what used to be a greenhouse built in the 1920s. Set amidst the green fields of a park, the tall, glass-framed structure was surrounded by an exquisite herb garden, while the interior, with its soaring glass ceiling and walls, took advantage of the structure’s brilliant light on a late summer evening. You could see the open kitchen from the large dining area and also a nursery where the restaurant grows its own produce. Talk about local!