We spent a week in May visiting my family in Virginia. It was my first visit back in six years, and our first as a family of four. As you can imagine, one week was not nearly enough time to spend with my extended family, a few days at the (very unseasonably cold) beach, and head downtown to Connecticut Ave in Washington DC.
One week was enough time, however, to remind me where my culinary heart lies: The South. I simply adore all the creations that, in life pre-refrigerator, were evidence of living providently–putting up the summer harvest to enjoy through the winter. I of course got a cookbook while we were there, and I’ve been in a tailspin, making stewed blackberries, cornmeal puddings and hoecakes, chutneys, succotash, sweet potato biscuits and honey pecan butter. Oh. Man.
Welcome Spicy Apricot and Nectarine Chutney. Chutneys are chunky condiments made with fruits and vegetables, and cooked down with vinegar, spices, and sugar. They are pretty simple to execute–load everything into a pot, cook down while stirring, and serve hot or can for later. I adapted the apricot chutney recipe from Dishing Up Virginia, doubling the amount of apricots called for, using nectarines instead of peaches, and switching out the habanero for jalapeño. The author of the cookbook offers up a great tip about chutney timing: “Overcooked chutney can become a solid brick; undercooked chutney is too runny.”–make sure your chutney is above 185F.
This particular chutney was begging for an Indian companion, so Indian 5-Spice Shrimp it was. I simply marinated the shrimp with turmeric, salt, and Indian 5-Spice, then quickly sautéed in olive oil over medium-high heat. This dish was sweet, spicy, fragrant, and so flavorful you’ll have to have seconds.
SPICY APRICOT AND NECTARINE CHUTNEY
Adapted from Dishing Up Virginia
- 8 apricots, pitted and chopped*
- 2 nectarines, pitted and chopped*
- 2 Granny Smith apples, cored and chopped*
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped*
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
- 1 jalapeño, minced and seeded (if desired, may use the seeds for a hotter chutney, and may add one more jalapeño for more heat)
- 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
*Chop all fruits or vegetables relatively the same size so they will all cook evenly
- Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot over medium heat. Cook until the fruit has softened and darkened in color, about about 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
- After the fruit has softened, use a potato masher, fork, or spoon to mash the fruits to achieve the desired consistency. (Most chutneys are thick and chunky, so don’t mash to a preserve!)
- Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture has darkened, about another 15-30 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the fruit (the riper the fruit, the quicker the cook). You’ll know the chutney is done when you draw your stirring spoon across the bottom of the pot and see the bottom for one to two seconds. As soon as this happens, remove your pot from the heat. At this point the chutney is ready to eat right away, or you can can some for later.
- To can, ladle the chutney into three prepared pint jars, leaving about 1/4-inch of space at the top of the jar. Top the jars with clean lids, close tightly, and let cool to room temperature. Make sure jars have sealed properly; if the lid bounces back when you press your finger on the center button, it hasn’t sealed properly. To reprocess and seal, set the jars in a hot water bath covered by at least 2 inches of water and let process for at least 15 minutes. Let cool and test the lids again.
Just a reminder that we eat mostly meatless…meaning I do cook dinners with meat a few times a month. Fish is nearly always my go-to meat because it cooks up super quick and it’s so versatile. And of all the fish I normally grab salmon because of its potassium, vitamin B12, and Omega-3 essential fatty acids. And it just tastes really, really yummy.
This is an easy oven-roasted salmon with buttered leeks and a bright and sassy lemon quinoa on the side–oh man, such a rich and decadent meal that will make you feel like you are eating at a 4-star restaurant. The salmon is rich and bright from the lemon, the leeks just melt into this buttery, warm and rich topping, and the quinoa adds more lemony brightness. And, just because, I’m also throwing a breadcrumb gremolata on top of the leeks. A typical gremolata is an herby citrusy Italian topping for pasta or meat. In addition to parsley and lemon zest, I’m also adding breadcrumbs to my gremolata, for a bit of crisp crunch on top of the buttered leeks.
Forget the restaurant–make your kitchen the 4-star date hot spot, and give yourself the tip!
OVEN ROASTED SALMON WITH BUTTERED LEEKS AND LEMON QUINOA
I’ll be honest, I don’t know the weight of the filet; I purchased a full salmon filet and cut it in thirds. I used one third for this meal, and it was about 6 inches in length.
- 6-inch salmon filet (the filet I purchased had the skin on, but you can also use fish without the skin)
- 1 leek, cleaned and sliced thinly
- 1 slice whole grain bread, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 lemon, zested, sliced, and seeded (reserve the zest for the breadcrumb topping, and use the slices for the salmon)
- 1/2 cup red or rainbow quinoa, rinsed
- 1/2 carrot chopped
- 1/2 celery stalk, chopped
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the fish filet by patting dry with a paper towel, and lay on baking sheet with parchment paper (makes for easy clean up). Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and arrange the lemon slices on top. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes. The fish will flake in the middle when done–keep an eye on it so it won’t be overcooked and get dry.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Saute the carrot, celery, and onion with a little salt and pepper until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rinsed quinoa and saute until the quinoa is slightly toasted, then add the vegetable broth. Let come to a boil, then immediately cover and turn the heat to low. Let simmer until the quinoa is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. If the quinoa sticks to the bottom of the pot from cooking a little too long, turn off the heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of water, cover, and let sit for a few minutes, it’ll fluff right up.
- While the quinoa is simmering, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cleaned and sliced leeks with salt and pepper to taste and saute until the leeks are translucent and sort of melty, about 10-15 minutes. Set melted leeks aside in a bowl and in the same pan, back on medium heat, add another tablespoon of olive oil, and toast breadcrumbs to make the gremolata. When toasted, put in a bowl and add the chopped parsley and lemon zest and stir together.
- When salmon is done, pull out of the oven and let rest. Pull the lemon slices off the salmon and throw in the pot with the cooked quinoa. Smash the lemon slices with the quinoa to release the roasted lemon juice. Also add one quarter of the buttered leeks. Stir together, then pull out and discard the lemon rinds.
- To serve, slice the salmon into 4 portions (or two very large portions if you are starving), top with the buttered leeks and the toasted breadcrumb gremolata, and serve with lemon quinoa on the side.
One of my most favorite cookbooks is the Moosewood Restaurant Favorites Cookbook. The Moosewood Restaurant is located in Ithaca, New York, and first opened its doors about 40 years ago. Bon Appetit Magazine said Moosewood Restaurant is “One of the 13 most influential and revolutionary restaurants of the 20th Century…Moosewood changed American dining forever.” The Moosewood collective cooks and chefs created their ever-changing menu based on seasonable produce and regional cuisines, introducing a plant-based/vegetarian diet, fresh and seasonal eating, and eating whole foods at a time when vegetarianism was considered a hippie and “far-out” lifestyle (and not the cool kind of “far-out”), and when grocery stores were not as well-stocked as they are today.
We are so lucky–we can walk into any grocery store and find fresh herbs, five different kinds of apples, leafy greens, and peppers, and ten types of whole grains readily available. In a fast-food and convenience-centered world, it is so accessible and convenient to be plant-based today, more than ever before. In my opinion, Moosewood gets all the credit for the delicious beginnings of the plant-based lifestyle.
I love that their cookbooks have fresh and doable recipes, and I don’t have to spend oodles of money to change my pantry and get crazy-health ingredients to whip something up in 20 minutes for dinner. Although they are known for being a mainly vegetarian/vegan establishment, they do offer fish entrees on their menu, and have included a whole fish section in this cookbook. I adapted my shrimp cakes from their Fish Cakes recipe–if you love more fish than breading in your cakes, this is the recipe for you.
The original Moosewood Restaurant Favorites Cookbook calls for 1 1/2 pounds of any firm fish fillets. I have adapted this recipe using all shrimp. The cakes freeze well and reheat easily in the oven without getting dry.
- 1 1/2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 red onion, finely diced
- 4 green onions, finely sliced
- 1/2 red pepper, finely diced
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 tablespoons chipotle mayonnaise (vegan is preferred)
- 1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper to taste
- Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
- Heat 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
- While the oil is heating, form the shrimp cakes. I use a #6 ice cream scoop (which measures almost 11 tablespoons), but you could also just eye-ball it and divide the mixture into equal-sized balls in the bowl. Press the ball firmly, ensuring it sticks together, and gently flatten it into a patty shape. Place in pan to start cooking.
- If you have a large enough pan, you should be able to cook all six patties at once. Remember the recipe calls for raw shrimp, and these patties are pretty thick–about 1″ in thickness. Give them time to brown nicely and cook all the way through, about 5 minutes on each side.
To serve, you can top with yummy Mango Guacamole, serve on a bed of greens, top it as a “burger” on a bun, sautéed veggies on the side, rice–whatever you have ready to hit the plate!