How To: Saffron ‘Aioli’

Dear Tyler,

When I had the restaurant, we used this recipe instead of plain mayonnaise for lots of things.

You loved it then, as I’m sure you would now.

Low fat or lite mayonnaise will fine for this.

I prefer and highly recommend Duke’s brand from an old southern family recipe and family run business.

Besides being family run, they make a darn good mayonnaise.

Here is how to turn Saffron Aioli into one great condiment that flavors everything very well.

Use it anywhere you would mayonnaise.

About the ingredients:

Saffron is the stamen of the crocus flower. The best quality comes from Spain and all stamen are hand-picked.

It is one of the worlds most expensive spices.

Saffron is coveted for the lovely yellow color and the exotic scent and flavor it contributes to the dishes wherever used.

I’ll do a post on Saffron later.

Aioli refers to garlic flavored mayonnaise.

However, a true Aioli is crushed garlic with olive oil. Some recipes ask for an egg yolk to assist with the emulsification of oil and garlic. Making it correctly is hard and the mixture is temperamental.

It takes a long time to make real aioli which is why mayonnaise has become a common substitute.

Yes, we will use mayonnaise in this recipe.

Saffron Aioli

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2  Tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon each, minced garlic and minced shallot (use the microplane)

1 cup mayonnaise of your choice – I prefer Dukes.

Just don’t pick “miracle whip”!

Add the vinegar, honey, saffron, shallots and garlic to a small saute pan.

Cook the mixture down until it remains separated when a spoon is drawn through the mixture on the bottom of the pan as shown.

Cool the mixture and add it to mayonnaise

Stir it in thoroughly. The longer the saffron sits in the mixture, the more color will dissipate. Stir it in before using to evenly distribute the flavor and color.

Saffron Aioli

Store this Saffron Aioli in the refrigerator and use within a month. Use the expiration date of the mayonnaise used as your guide.

As the aioli sits, it will become more yellow. Stir the color in so there is uniform color and saffron flavor.

It is delicious!

You can use this as a dressing for steamed vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and asparagus.

If you are one to put mayonnaise on your french fries, try this instead. 😉

Yes, you can leave out the shallots, but you have eaten them and liked them.

Make Saffron Aioli in small batches so it is fresh.

I’d like to know if you remember the flavor when you taste it!

Study well.

Love You,

Mom

BTW: You can purchase a small amount of Saffron in local stores. The quantity you buy is so small it is usually packed in small bags or vials  inside much larger packages to deter theft.

Why theft? Because it is pricy and very small.

I sent you some in a small plastic bag and inside a small mason jar. (The smallest one!) Keep it in a dark cabinet away from the heat of the stove, top of fridge or dishwasher.

It will last a long time, if you keep it sealed and in the dark.

When you use it, you only need a small pinch. Just a a few stamens, 5or 6 are enough for a cup of aioli.

XO

How to Cook Salmon

Dear Tyler,

There are many ways to cook salmon. I am going to suggest one or two simple methods here to get you going.

I like to cook extra when salmon is on the menu because it makes great salmon salad, like tuna salad. When you were little, the first time you have salmon salad, you came home from school and told me it was the best tuna fish sandwich you ever had.

So you will like salmon as a salad, if you don’t recall.

To make the salmon salad, I used Saffron Aioli, which will be the next posting for you.

To address the salmon:

The easiest way for you to cook it is to  start by rinsing the fish under cold water. If you have a large piece, cut it into pieces about 1″ thick, or as thick as you want your portions to be.

Feel along the flesh to locate pin bones. If you find some, pull them out with needle nose pliers.

Pat it dry with a paper towel.

Rub your fingers over the fish to feel for any “pin bones”. Pull these out with a pair of needle nose pliers. They are hard to get out, that is why we use the pliers. If you don’t have pliers, try to pull them out with your fingers, being careful not to destroy the flesh while doing so.

Be careful not to destroy the flesh as you remove the pin bones. If can be pulled apart easily. Look carefully, see how this part of the fish looks ‘damaged’? It isn’t all smooth and together like the rest of the fish.

If the skin is still on, don’t try to remove it. There is a technique I will need to coach you on later and that will be done in person. The skin will be very easy to remove after the fish is cooked.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. (When the light goes out, the oven has reached 350°F) Pre-heating the oven may take up to 5-10 minutes depending on your oven. Plan ahead.

Oil an oven proof dish so the salmon won’t stick.

Season the fish with at least salt and pepper. You don’t have to use much, but a pinch will make all the difference. Use your favorite.
Notice the cut portion size.

Season the fish with your favorite seasonings. Salt and pepper are just fine, add a squeeze of lime or lemon; drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

Place a saute pan on the heat and get the pan hot. Add a small amount of oil to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin-film of oil. You can brush it on or pour it and tilt the pan to get the bottom coated.

Place the salmon in the pan, top serving side down first. Sear it until it is golden brown. If the fish is ‘sticking’ to the pan, wait a minute or two. When the salmon is ready to turn, it will release on its own.

Using a metal spatula with slots in it, to turn the salmon over.

This tool is called a fish spatula –  but it is useful for much more than fish!

Place the pan in the oven to finish cooking the fish while you get the rest of the dinner ready.

Total cooking time for salmon is in the general area of 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, the accurate temperature of the oven and how long does the salmon stay on the burner or in the oven.

Safety Hint!

Only place pans in the oven that have oven proof handles! If the handles are plastic or other than metal, they cannot be put in the oven. Check your pans to see if the handles are oven proof before you put the pan in the oven.

Continue to cook the fish until it is no longer raw in the center. You can eat salmon medium rare and even raw, but I would advise buying “Sushi Grade” salmon if you want to eat it less than done.

Sushi grade will cost nearly double. It goes through a freezing process to kill any parasites that won’t be killed by cooking.

If you want to cook some rice to go with the salmon, plan on cooking that just before you start the salmon. It will take about 20 minutes for basmati rice; 50 to 1 hour for brown and heavier grain rice.

While the salmon is cooking, steam some vegetables. In the photo, I chose “Romanesco” which is like a green cauliflower but the florets form a very interesting logarithmic spiral  growth pattern.

English: The fractal shape form of a Romanesco...

English: The fractal shape form of a Romanesco broccoli. Français : Une tête de chou Romanesco et sa forme fractale. Photo prise avec un appareil Canon D-60 équipé d’un objectif 18-135 mm IS de même marque.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It tastes a bit like a mix between broccoli and cauliflower. Sometimes called Romanesco broccoli or Roman cauliflower, this vegetable has been around since the 16th century.

Since you like broccoli, look for this too. I am sure you will love it just as much. I like it for the wonderful oddness of it all. To me it is just a marvel!

Cook it the same as you would broccoli.

Other ways to cook salmon:

Another way to cook your fish is to wrap it all up in a tin foil bundle and bake it at 350°F for 10 -15 minutes; until it is done.

Squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice over the salmon, plate it and gobble it all up.

Or

Place the fish on a sheet pan or oven proof dish and instead of sauteing it in a pan, simply place the dish in a pre-heated oven and cook for 10-15 minutes or until done.

The fish is cooked in all cooking methods when it is no longer dark salmon color in the center, it flakes easily and it reads 145°F on an instant read thermometer.

Cold salmon is delicious too.

It will flake easily when done.

When thinking about what seasonings to choose for salmon, remember salmon has a salty profile with a tinge of sweetness. Sweet vinaigrette such as raspberry vinaigrette or honey Dijon vinaigrette make a great sauce for salmon.

Mix white balsamic (or dark balsamic) vinegar with Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Add olive oil to smooth it out and use that as a sauce. Adjust quantities to taste. You don’t need to make a lot.

Whisk it all together and voila! For raspberries, use melted raspberry jam (seedless) or mash some fresh or thawed frozen berries through a wire mesh strainer to get the pulp without the seeds.

That’s another post!

Let me know if you have any questions.

Bon Apetit!

Love,

Mom

Olive Oil Winners

New olive oil, just pressed. It has a dense co...

New olive oil, just pressed. It has a dense colour at first; later, it clarifies by decantation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The winners of Theros Olive Oil are:

  • Terri S
  • Cynthia Boris
  • Manda
  • Arie
  • Denice M

Congratulations!

Please e mail your contact information to: SpoonFeast@gmail.com.

Include your shipping address and your phone so Theros can contact you to ship your bottle of amazing Greek Olive Oil!

Congratulations!

You are going to love this oil.

Thanks for participating.

Last Day to Enter the Olive Oil Give-Away

New olive oil, just pressed. It has a dense co...

New olive oil, just pressed. It has a dense colour at first; later, it clarifies by decantation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a bottle of Theros Extra Virgin Greek Olive Oil

Give Away Time!

Theros Olive Oil has agreed to give away 6 bottles of

Theros Undiluted Extra Virgin Olive Oil

To win one here’s what you have to do:

  1. Follow Spoon Feast on WordPress
  2. Like Theros Olive oil on Face Book and check out the amazing photos of the process
  3. Leave a comment on their Facebook page about why you like olive oil and ways you use it
  4. Leave a comment on this Spoon Feast post about why you like olive oil and ways you use it

6 winners will be chosen based upon meeting all 4 criteria above.

You have until Midnight tonight (EST USA) to enter. Winners will be announced on Sunday,  June 17.

The Worlds Best Olive Oil and a Give Away!

On a weekend outing recently I had the honor to meet an inspiring , charming Greek man whose family owns olive groves in Greece.

The family produces some of the best olive oil I have ever tasted. Pure, green, fruity, this oil is unlike anything you have ever tried.

The olive tree, one of the bases of Greek agri...

The oil is extra virgin, undiluted. This means this oil is from the first cold pressing of ripe olives. The category of extra virgin olive oil is required to have an acidity of .o8%. Theros  Undiluted Extra Virgin Olive Oil is .045%.

If you are lucky, you will get a bit of the denser oil that filters to the bottom of the barrels. There is a very small amount of this because most of the oil is drained off and bottled in the clear state. Because the oil is undiluted, more of the ‘solids’ will fall to the bottom of your bottle. Shake it up if you like or save it for an ultimate treat near the end of your oil.

Theros also produces and sells unfiltered olive oil.

When we were children, we lived in Seville, Spain for a few years. My mom would slather us kids in olive oil and tell us to go play outside for a while. After we would come in, bathe and go to bed. Our skin and hair were so smooth and lovely. I remember the distinct aroma of the rich olive oil on my skin. I loved it.

When I smelled Theros oil, my memories of Spain came flooding back, the rich ripe aroma of olive oil. I wanted to slather it and go play. Amazing, we were brown as berries but we never worried about sunscreen then, and didn’t get sunburned. Mostly anyway.

The trend lately is to know where your food comes from, buying local, sustainable, etc.  I find it limiting  to say “we only use food from 100 miles of where we are.”

Why be so limited when the world has become so accessible?

Here is a way to extend the boundaries of local to include the world. In this case Greece. Who can say no to Greece?

Taken by Nick Fraser in 2005. The fruit of an ...

Taken by Nick Fraser in 2005. The fruit of an Olive Tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Greek economy is in pretty bad shape now. In a small way, buying olive oil helps support the families who grow and harvest the olives. In small ways, each purchase can help the Greek economy. Small yes, but it is something.

By using our purchasing power, and choosing to buy authentic Greek olive oil, authentic Greek Feta cheese, and authentic Greek Yogurt is our own small ways we can contribute positively to support Greek economy so they can begin the recovery they need as the break away from the European Union and the Euro takes place. (In my opinion, it is a matter of when, not if.)

The Italians have had such a world-wide demand on their olive oil, most of what you find in common supermarkets can no longer be trusted to be quality olive oil of any grade.

Italy exports so much olive oil the country itself is left to buy olive oil from Spain and Greece to grace their tables. If you are buying olive oil in a market in the US, chances are rare you will see

Simple meze of feta cheese and olives: charact...

Simple meze of feta cheese and olives: characteristic Greek flavours. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

olive oil from anywhere else but Italy.

However, with the olive oil awareness and a more sophisticated demand by consumers, your chances are improving that you will find other countries of origin.

A few days ago I tested this theory in my local grocery and was pleasantly surprised to find 1 brand of Greek olive oil and 1 brand of Spanish – the rest were Italian.

Greece is ranked second in the European Union for their production of olives – 147,500 tonnes in 2010. I do not know how much was pressed into varying grades of olive oil vs being brined to eat as olives.

It would be extremely interesting to take a sabbatical from work and go harvest olives in Greece, take the olives to be pressed and learn about brining olives to make them palatable. Then to France to harvest grapes.

What a fall that would be!

Give Away Time!

Theros Olive Oil has agreed to give away 6 bottles of

Theros Undiluted Extra Virgin Olive Oil

To win one here’s what you have to do:

  1. Follow Spoon Feast on WordPress
  2. Like Theros Olive oil on Face Book and check out the amazing photos of the process
  3. Leave a comment on their Facebook page about why you like olive oil and ways you use it
  4. Leave a comment on this Spoon Feast post about why you like olive oil and ways you use it

6 winners will be chosen based upon meeting all 4 criteria above.

We will choose the most creative and delicious ways you use olive oil.

Winners will be chosen by a panel of Spoon Feast advisers.

All domestic and international shipping arrangements will be made directly with Theros Olive Oil.

You will have until Friday, June 15th to participate!

Winners will be announced on Sunday, June 17th.

Treat yourself, Check out Theros Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil!

English: Olives in olive oil.

Olives in olive oil. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Grill Is On! Grilled Vegetable Salad

This weekend turn the grill on and have some tasty treats. Aside from the typical dogs and burgers, I am going to suggest a grilled vegetable salad perfect for a weekend.

  • Zucchini
  • Yellow Squash
  • Eggplant – sliced and sprinkled with salt. Allow to sit and drain for 10-15 minutes. Rinse and marinade.
  • Red Peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Onions
  • Portobello Mushrooms
  • Grape  or cherry tomatoes

Slice all the vegetables; keep them separate in zip lock bags.

Add enough vinaigrette of your choice (my suggested recipe follows) to coat each slice evenly. They do not have to swim in the marinade.

Each vegetable has different cooking times so we want to place each kind of veg on the grill at the same time. This will help prevent you going bonkers while grilling if they were all mixed up.

Grill the vegetables, like items together.

Grill about 5 minutes or until each slice has a nice grill mark.

Remove from the grill and place into a large bowl. If the veg needs to be sliced after grilling, set those aside so you can cut them before combining the vegetables.

Portobello, red peppers and eggplant  and asparagus will need to be cut into bite sized pieces after grilling.

Saute tomatoes; they are too small to grill

Cherry tomatoes are too small to grill so give them a quick saute in a hot saute pan with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Blister them and they are good to go.

Toss all the grilled vegetables in a large bowl. Add additional dressing if necessary.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

This salad can be served either warm or cold or room temperature.

Just don’t let it sit out longer than 4 hours.

 Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • * 1 clove garlic, minced fine
  • 1 shallot or sweet onion, minced fine
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar of good quality, can be white or dark
  • 2/3-cup olive oil
  • 1/3-cup vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients except oils. Slowly add oils while whisking to emulsify.

The dressing will separate and will need a whisk or two before serving.

If you blend the oil in with a food processor or blender, the dressing will be more stable and will not separate.

*Garlic is optional. Dried minced garlic is alright to use as long as you give it time to re-hydrate

Grilled Watermelon

Uh huh, you heard that, Grilled watermelon.

Get your grill hot, really hot.

Slice watermelon about finger width or thicker slices.

Ingredients for Grilled Watermelon

Drizzle the melon with a high quality Greek olive oil such as Theros unfiltered extra virgin.

Sprinkle Herbs de Provence. Fleur de Sel (or kosher or sea salt) and grind some fresh black pepper over the oiled slices.

Place the watermelon on the hot grill for 3-4 minutes. Once grill marks appear, flip and grill the other side.

5 minutes is all it takes once you have a really hot grill. You want the melon to have some chars on it.

The flavor and texture totally changes and is a refreshing, wonderful treat!

Try it.

Smack your lips and say “Hallelujah!”

Your friends and neighbors will think you crazy at first, but they will soon be grilling their own watermelon and smacking their lips too.

Do you think Grilled Watermelon will be as popular as deep-fried turkey?

{Try it before you answer!}

Stay tuned! Find out how YOU can win a bottle of Theros Unfiltered Greek Olive Oil.

Details coming soon

Grilled Watermelon

The Bread Show

We had a wonderful weekend in the North Carolina mountains visiting friends. This post is to provide a quick link to the bread show we did on Charlotte Cooks not too long ago.

In my mind, the show was a comedy of errors with too hot lights, dough rising way too fast in response to the too hot lights. . . Sometimes, you just have to laugh!

If you want to make m “No-Knead Sourdough Bread“, here is the visual.

Spero, this one’s for you!

SPOILER ALERT!
I am working on a post about some amazing Greek olive oil I discovered this weekend.
Watch for the next post for a chance to try some too!

Arugula and Pickled Beet Salad

Today’s shared bounty is some lovely arugula (aka rocket). The added bonus of this shared bounty is roots! After washing what we would eat, I choose some to plant and grow more.

Thanks Adria!

Washed and refreshed, arugula is ready for a terrific, quick and easy salad from things created over the last few days for posts on Spoon Feast.

Picking some fresh red-leaf lettuce from the garden, combining it with arugula, garnishing with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, steamed artichokes, pickled beets and hard-boiled eggs.

All food gathered from a walk to the farmers market Saturday and shared bounty from friends and colleagues. Oh, add salmon, wild caught, from Alaska.

We tossed the salad with a chive blossom vinaigrette to bring it all together then added croutons and slabs of fresh bread and a few shavings of cheese.

You could use the beet juice from the pickling jar and drizzle a bit of olive oil for the dressing.

I drank champagne; Robert, Stella Artois.

We got to eat the duck, kale and white bean soup earlier

This is how we get to use up a weekend of playing in the kitchen. I don’t just write about recipes and food, we live it. Every day, every meal.

Only a small percentage of what I really cook ever gets written about. I call that “cooking without documentation.”

I cook and create food every single day for as many meals as I can. Sounds like we would be fat porkers, but we aren’t.

Eat responsibly is the key. Love and enjoy food but don’t overdo it.

Robert loves the results. I must admit, it sure is fun to finish with all the cooking and writing and photography; go take a bath and fall asleep. The next day go down to the kitchen and enjoy all the tasty things there are to eat over the next couple of days.

It leads to more posts, more food and photographs.

Robert does not like his food photographed.

Arugula and Pickled Beet Salad with Salmon

So, I make a plate to shoot before we eat. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t like his food photographed, he wants to eat first.

I try not to waste food by eating what is photographed. Sometimes it is necessary to dedicate a plate to the shoot. Others, the plate gets consumed as soon as the camera lights fade.

This time of year is my favorite as there is so much produce, fruit, and flowers available to play with.

I encourage you to try using arugula/rocket in a salad. It is great to top a pizza or drop into soup.

Use arugula/rocket just as you would spinach, raw and cooked. The home-grown varieties  seem to have more peppery flavor than commercial products.

Let me know how you like this crazy green.

Roasted Duck, Kale and White Bean Soup

Since it is cold and raining outside, making a soup from roasted duck, kale and white beans sound good. It is time to use up what is in the refrigerator.

Roasted Duck, Kale and White Bean Soup

You will need

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced small
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 small russet potato, peeled and diced small
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 cup leftover roasted duck meat, diced small
  • 1 cup cooked or 1-15 oz. can of white beans, drained
  • 1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and diced OR 1-15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups roughly chopped and stemmed fresh kale
  • Salt and pepper to taste (Start with 1 tablespoon and adjust to suit your taste)
Carrots of many colors.

Carrots of many colors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Saute the onions and carrots in oil for 3 minutes, add the garlic, potatoes and thyme, stir.

When the onions are translucent, add the stock and bring to a boil.

Add the duck and the white beans, bring to a simmer.

Add the tomatoes, simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in the kale and simmer for 5 minutes more.

When the carrots and potatoes are done, adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Serve with good bread and crispy kale chips.