Pan Seared Salmon with Dijon Crème Fraiche and Lentil Frisée Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Lentils:

1 cup beluga lentils, rinsed well and drained

3 cups vegetable stock

1 dried bay leaf

5 sprigs fresh thyme

Mix the lentils with the stock, bay leaf, and thyme in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring the saucepan to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for approximately 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are cooked through but not mushy. Drain. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

Vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar

⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

In a small container with a tight fitting lid, combine the vinaigrette ingredients, close the lid tightly, and shake well to combine. Or, whisk to combine the ingredients in a small bowl.

Salad:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced small (⅔ cup)

2 medium carrots, peeled and grated (1 cup)

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) 

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint

1 small head frisée, rinsed and dried, chopped or torn into bite-size pieces (2 cups)

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Add the olive oil, onions and carrots to a medium sate pan over medium-low. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

In a large bowl, combine the contents of the sauté pan along with the lentils.

Grab the vinaigrette and give one more good shake or whisk, then pour it over the warm salad and gently mix with a large spoon.

Fold in the parsley, mint and frisée. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Salmon:

1 pound salmon fillet, 1½ inches thick, skin on, cut into 4 equal pieces

1 tablespoon lemon zest (zest of 3 lemons), grated on a Microplane

2 teaspoons roughly chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Pat the salmon dry, then pat the non-skin side with the lemon zest and chopped thyme, season lightly with salt and pepper, and allow the salmon to sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat until hot; add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the butter to the sauté pan. The butter will bubble up, turn brown and perhaps even smoke. Swirl the sauté pan to distribute, then add the salmon, skin side up.

Cook for 1 minute, flip to skin side down and continue cooking for 30 seconds.

Cover the sauté pan and immediately push the sauté pan off the heat. Turn off the heat and allow the salmon to rest undisturbed for 15 minutes.

Dijon Crème Fraîche:

1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard

¼ cup crème fraîche

Place the mustard and crème fraîche in a small bowl and stir until combined.

Serve salmon topped with a dollop of Dijon crème fraîche and on a bed of the lentil frisee salad.

Note: I recommend preparing this recipe in the following way in order to maximize your time. Cook lentils first. While lentils are cooking, make the vinaigrette, followed by the Dijon crème fraiche. Start the salmon and then work on the salad. And, as always, mise out/prep your ingredients first!

Braised Pork Shoulder (Ragu) with Fennel and Mushrooms

Watch me make this on my YouTube Channel!

Yield: 6 servings

2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1½ inch cubes

1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced medium

3 celery stalks, diced medium

4 large carrots, peeled and diced medium

1 medium fennel bulb, end trimmed and diced medium

1 pound baby bella mushrooms, quartered

2 tablespoons tomato paste (preferably double concentrate)

10 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly

1/8 teaspoon crushed red (chili) flakes

1 tablespoon toasted whole fennel seed

1 cup red wine (red zinfandel or cabernet sauvignon)

2 cups chicken stock

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 cup water

2 dried bay leaves

7 sprigs fresh thyme

3 (4-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary

3 (4-inch) sprigs fresh oregano

4 teaspoons soy sauce

4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Ragu Base: pasta, polenta, gnocchi (your choice!)

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, not pre grated

Season the pork (cubes) all over with the salt and pepper.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle-lower position and preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Open a few windows and/or turn on the oven hood/fan; it might get a little smoky!

Heat a heavy 5.5 quart Dutch oven over medium-high until hot, then add 1 tablespoon oil. It will most likely start to smoke. Evenly distribute the pork and brown on all sides, about 1 minute per side. (Work in batches if need be to not overcrowd the pan) Transfer the pork to a medium bowl. (You should have about 2 tablespoons of oil left in the Dutch oven. If not, add some extra-virgin oil to make up the difference.)

Add the onion, celery, carrots, fennel and mushrooms. Stir, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, chili flakes and toasted fennel seed. Stir. Cook uncovered for approximately 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid has thickened.

Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula, loosening up any brown bits stuck to the sides and bottom of the pan. Cook for 5 minutes more; it will begin to thicken and you will see large bubbles.

Stir in the stock, tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, oregano, soy sauce, Worcestershire, sugar and pork with any of its juices left in the bowl.

Bring the Dutch oven to a simmer throughout (not just the sides), cover partially (opening the lid about an 1-inch) and transfer to the oven. Cook for 90 minutes, stirring once after 45 minutes, until the pork is tender and can be easily shredded with a fork.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes, covered (lid on fully). Remove the pork and transfer to a large bowl. Shred the pork with two forks. Discard the bay leaves, thyme sprigs, rosemary and oregano. Return the pork to the Dutch oven. Stir and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle pork ragu over pasta, polenta or gnocchi. Top with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Sweet and Spicy Brussels Sprouts Salad

Watch me make this on my YouTube Channel!

Yield:  4 servings

1 pound Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and any discolored outer leaves discarded

1 large shallot, peeled and halved lengthwise

¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 small apple diced small

1/3 cup toasted and salted pecans, roughly chopped

1/3 cup pomegranate seeds

1/3 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Feed Brussels sprouts and shallot through the food processor chute with the slicer attachment.

Add the sliced Brussels sprouts, shallot, cayenne pepper, coriander, salt and pepper to a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Add olive oil and stir to combine.

Spread Brussels mixture evenly on an aluminum foil-lined sheet tray.

Place an oven rack in the upper position. (Approximately 5-inches below the heat source.) Place sheet tray under broiler for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, stir and broil for an additional 3 minutes. (Keep your eye on things!) Remove from oven and set aside.

In the same bowl you used to mix the brussels sprouts, add the mustard, maple syrup, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. Whisk to combine.

Transfer the brussels sprouts mixture from the sheet tray to the bowl with the vinaigrette. Stir to combine.

Add the apple, pecans, pomegranate, parsley and Parmigiano and stir to combine.

Serve while still warm.

Cinnamon Spiced Carrot Ginger Muffins

Watch me make this on my YouTube channel!

Yield: 12 Muffins

½ cup old fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

½ cup whole roasted and salted pecans (you will also need an additional ½ cup finely chopped pecans – see last ingredient below)

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 equal pieces

2 whole large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup (Zante) currants

¼ cup small diced candied ginger

½ cup grated carrots, grated on a Microplane

½ cup whole roasted and salted pecans, finely chopped

Set an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cups.

Place oats on a parchment paper-lined sheet tray. Once oven is preheated, bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring halfway through, until toasted. Set aside.

Place the sugar and ½ cup of the whole pecans in a food processor with the blade attachment. Pulse 15 times until the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Pulse 10 times to combine. Evenly distribute the butter. Pulse 10 to 12 times, until it starts to resemble wet sand. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Pulse until the texture turns into a uniform, thick batter, approximately 25 times.

Add the toasted oats, currants, ginger, carrots and finely chopped pecans to a medium bowl. Stir gently to combine.

Transfer batter from food processor to the medium bowl with the ginger carrot mixture using a rubber spatula. Fold to combine with the spatula.

Fill each muffin tin equally with the batter. (It’s just over a ¼ cup per muffin.)

Transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Test readiness by poking a toothpick or knife in the middle of a muffin; if it comes out clean, it’s ready.

Remove from oven. Place tin on a cookie rack and let the muffins cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing the muffins from the tin.