Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Carrot Sambal

If you’re tired of cole slaw, this slightly spicy side dish goes beautifully with barbecue.

(serves 6–8 as a side dish)

4 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno pepper
¼ c canola oil
¼ c sugar
4 tsp fish sauce
juice of one lime
1 lb organic carrots (see tip below)
2 scallions, trimmed and chopped
a small handful of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

1. Smash the garlic with the flat side of a large knife, then peel and trim each clove. Trim the jalapeno, remove the seeds, and mince the flesh.

2. In a skillet set over low heat, cook the garlic and jalapeno in the canola oil until the garlic begins to brown, about 8–10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the sugar and let cool. Complete the dressing by whisking in the fish sauce and lime juice.

3. Meanwhile, wash, trim, and shred the carrots in a food processor. Add the scallions and cilantro. Toss with the dressing.

• I specify organic carrots primarily because you don’t need to peel them. That’s a big plus when recipes like this one call for carrots in quantity.

• Carrot sambal (made with carrots from our garden) has become such a staple in our house that I’ve had to develop a variation, just so we don’t get bored. I add 2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and minced, along with ½ teaspoon of ground cardamom to the simmering oil. The resulting sambal has a nice, refreshing tang.


This is a great dish for a crowd. The name may be fancy, but it’s really just a simple seafood stew. Note, however, that the recipe sinks or swims with the freshness of the ingredients, so I make it only when I’m near the ocean.

(serves eight to ten)

The Fish and Seafood
1 lb white steak fish (such as swordfish and halibut)
1 lb bivalves (such as mussels and small clams)
1 lb shrimp
1 lb squid
1 small lobster (optional)

The Stew Base
3 large leeks, white part only
1 medium onion
6 cloves garlic
½ c olive oil
2 c chicken stock
1 c white wine
1 c water
2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes
a large handful of fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
several sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme
Tabasco sauce, to taste

The Finish
½ c brandy
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
a small handful of fresh dill, coarsely chopped

1. Prep the fish and shellfish. For the fish, remove any skin and cut the steaks into large chunks. For the bivalves, scrub the shells and debeard the mussels (see tip below). For the shrimp, shell and devein. For the squid, clean and slice the bodies into rings. For the lobster, kill and quarter (see tip below).

2. Rinse the leeks well, slice into thin rings, and rinse again. Peel and coarsely chop the onion and garlic.

3. In a large stockpot over a medium-low flame, heat the oil. Sauté the leeks, onion, and garlic until the leeks and onion have wilted, about 10–15 minutes.

4. Add the chicken stock, wine, water, tomatoes, parsley, rosemary or thyme, and Tabasco. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary.

5. Add the fish and seafood, cover, and simmer for another 30 minutes.

6. Uncover. Add the brandy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the dill. Serve with crusty bread.

• It’s important to rinse the leeks after they’re chopped because dirt often gets trapped between the various layers of growth.

• The beard of a mussels is the little bit of algae-like fuzz attached to the concave side of the shell. Commercially raised mussels often don’t have beards, but wild ones do. To remove the beard, simply give it a tug.

• The best way to quarter a live lobster is to get it over with quickly. Start by cutting through the top of its body between its eyes. This kills it instantly. A good description of the process, complete with photos, can be found at  HYPERLINK ""

Green Curry Game Hens

I use game hens with this Thai-influenced marinade because half a game hen makes a lovely dinner-party serving. But the marinade works equally well with whole chickens.

(serves two adults and two children)

The Marinade
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp white peppercorns
1 bunch cilantro (including the roots and stems)
2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed
2 cloves garlic, trimmed and peeled
1 large shallot, trimmed and peeled
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and sliced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
large pinch of kosher salt
1 Tbs fish sauce
3 Tbs peanut oil

The Game Hens
2 game hens, butterflied (see tip below)

1. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and white peppercorns until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. When the spices have cooled, grind them in a spice mill (or crush them with a mortar and pestle).

2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ground spices with the rest of the marinade ingredients. Puree until a paste forms. Rub the paste over the hens and let them marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to a full day.

3. Prepare the grill. Arrange the hens skin-side up and cook for 10 minutes before turning and cooking until done, about another 10 minutes.

• Butterflying poultry means splitting the bird’s body into two pieces that remain attached but lie flat. If you don’t have a butcher to do this for you, don’t worry; it’s easy. Using poultry shears or a sharp knife, remove the bone that separates the two pieces of breast. Then pry the chest cavity open until you hear the spine crack. The bird should now lie flat on its exposed interior.

• If you don’t have whole spices, you can make do with ground ones. You can also substitute black peppercorns for white (which are milder), but use a little less.

• You can dramatically reduce the spiciness of this dish by discarding some or all of the jalapeno seeds.

• If you’re unfamiliar with lemongrass, don’t be intimidated. Simply remove the brittle, yellowish-greenish outer leaves to expose the dense white core. Then trim both ends so that you use only the bottom four inches or so.

• You can also make this dish in the oven. Place a roasting pan on the middle rack and preheat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. (The roasting pan should be large enough to hold the hens in a single layer.) When the oven has reached the proper temperature, arrange the hens in the pan skin-side up and roast until done, about 25–30 minutes. For a crispy skin, finish with a few minutes under the broiler.