Miso Soup with Shrimp and Watercress

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, March 2015

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Simple but satisfying, miso soup is traditionally served with dried shiitake mushrooms, sliced green onions and tiny cubes of tofu. Here it gets a springtime makeover with shrimp and watercress. Kombu is basically an edible form of kelp or seaweed and bonito flakes  are dried fish flakes.Both of theses products are staples in Japanese cooking and are available at almost any Asian market.

Ingredients:
3-inch piece kombu
1⁄2 cup bonito flakes
2 Tablespoons light miso paste
1⁄4  pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1⁄3 cup  watercress greens
Thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts

Directions:
In a large saucepan, combine the kombu and 3 cups  cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove and discard the kombu. Remove from the heat, add the bonito flakes, and stir gently once. Let stand for 5 minutes. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the bonito flakes. Return the broth to the saucepan.

In a small bowl, combine the miso paste with 1⁄4 cup  of the warm broth. Stir until the paste is softened and very smooth. Stir into the broth and warm gently over medium heat, taking care not to boil the soup.

Add the shrimp and simmer just until bright pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in the watercress, garnish with scallions and serve immediately.

 

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Octopus with Black Bean-Pear Sauce

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Le Bernardin chef Eric Ripert is a master at weaving together unexpected ingredients, like this tender  cooked octopus with a sauce of salty fermented black beans and sweet pear. Finding a wine pairing for such a complex dish, however, is a challenge. “It needs a very aromatic wine, just to stand up to all the flavors,” says wine director Aldo Sohm.

I used a fresh baby octopus that was available at the Asian Market in my local area. Cooking the octopus by this method ensure a very tender protein.

Given the amount of salt in the various components of this dish, I omitted the squid ink. I also added a pinch of brown sugar just give a little more sweetness to the dish and to balance out the acidity of the lemon juice and the balsamic vinegar.

Enoy!

Serves 4
Ingredients:

For the Octopus
6 garlic cloves, halved
2 parsley sprigs
One 2-ounce piece of prosciutto
1 teaspoon salt
4 octopus tentacles (about 2 pounds total)

For the Black Bean–Pear Sauce:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons Chinese fermented black beans, rinsed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon finely diced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon finely diced jalapeño
1/2 small Bartlett pear, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced chives

For the Miso Vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon white miso
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon squid ink (optional)
2 tablespoons water
Salt and freshly ground pepper

To Finish:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons hot paprika
Salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
16 baby arugula leaves
1 small Anjou pear, cut into very thin wedges

Directions:
In a large, deep skillet, combine 2 quarts of water with the onion, garlic, parsley, prosciutto and salt. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add the octopus to the broth, cover partially and simmer over low heat until tender, about 1 hour; drain and pat dry.

In a small skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the black beans and cook over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and shallot and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and jalapeño and cook until starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pear and remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and chives.

In a small bowl, whisk the miso with the balsamic vinegar, oil, squid ink and 2 tablespoons of water. Season with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, mix the olive oil with the paprika and rub it all over the cooked octopus; season with salt. In a skillet, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the octopus and cook over high heat until browned all over, about 6 minutes. Transfer the octopus to a carving board and slice it crosswise 1/3 inch thick.

Spread the vinaigrette on 4 plates and top with the octopus. Spoon the black bean–pear sauce over the octopus. Garnish with the arugula and pear wedges and serve.


Banana Soufflés

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Adapted from Eric Ripert

These simple, airy soufflés are the perfect marriage of Puerto Rican ingredients and French technique to make this dessert. These banana  soufflés are also  the perfect compliment to a meal  for those who like their desserts just sweet enough, but not too sweet. Enjoy!

Serve 4

Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
5 Tablespoons granulated white sugar
2 firm, ripe bananas, mashed (1 1/4 cups)
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon coconut rum
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 large egg yolk
3 large egg whites
Salt

Directions: 
Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Brush four 1-cup (8 ounces) ramekins with melted butter. Add 2 tablespoons of the sugar to 1 of the ramekins and rotate it to coat with sugar. Tap the excess sugar into another ramekin and repeat until all the ramekins are coated with sugar.

In a food processor, puree the bananas with the lime juice, rum, vanilla, egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of the sugar until smooth. Scrape the banana mixture into a large bowl.

In a medium stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until firm and glossy. Using a rubber spatula, beat one-fourth of the beaten whites into the banana mixture, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Spoon the soufflé mixture into the prepared ramekins and tap them lightly on a countertop. Transfer the soufflés to a baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown and risen.

Serve at once.