Category Archives: Cool Cooking Techniques

Paula Wolfert’s Oven-Steamed Salmon

Cooked in the oven with a pan of water underneath, salmon fillets steam gently for a incredibly supple texture.
Cooked in the oven with a pan of water underneath, salmon fillets steam gently for a incredibly supple texture.

One of the great joys of summer in the Bay Area is the advent of wild king salmon season.

Few things can top the rich, lush, buttery, deep taste of this magnificent fish.

Generally, I’m all about grilling it, oftentimes on a cedar plank.

But when I spied this recipe for “Oven-Steamed Salmon,” I couldn’t help being intrigued.

It’s featured in the treasured cookbook, “Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life” (Grand Central Life & Style, 2017). Food writer extraordinaires Emily Kaiser Thelin and Andrea Nguyen teamed with esteemed food photographer Eric Wolfinger to create this cookbook, which celebrates the delicious life work of Paula Wolfert, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013.

Wolfert learned this technique for salmon from the legendary French chef Michel Bras.

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You Want Me To Cook These Things For How Long?!?

Fresh Italian romano beans -- cooked perfectly for a crazy amount of time.
Fresh Italian romano beans — cooked perfectly for a crazy amount of time.

The first time I came across this recipe for romano beans, I did a double-take.

Even then, I couldn’t quite believe it.

That’s because it calls for cooking these meaty Italian broad beans on the stove-top for two hours. Yes, fresh beans, not dried, cooked for two whole hours.

“Long-Cooked Romano Beans” boggled my mind.

But I had faith. After all, the recipe is by the late-great Judy Rogers, and it comes from her seminal classic, “The Zuni Cafe Cookbook A Compendium of Recipes & Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant” (W.W. Norton and Company, 2002).

Surely, the chef who created the most perfect roast chicken of all time and so many other iconic California cuisine staples was worth trusting on this, even if in the back of my mind, I feared winding up with green beans as pallid as those from a can.

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You Say “Potato,” I Say “Perfection”

Crusty, crispy and divine -- who can resist these semolina-dusted potatoes?
Crusty, crispy and divine — who can resist these semolina-dusted potatoes?

When others shun potatoes, I welcome them with open mouth.

Yes, in this low-carb world, I am the outlier who lusts for spuds.

And when I find a recipe that does them proud, I am beside myself.

Such is the case with “Crispy Semolina Potatoes.”

This insanely good yet simple recipe is by Susan Spungen, a recipe developer, stylist and cookbook author, who is the former food editor at Martha Stewart Living. She was also the food stylist for the film, “Julie & Julia.”

It’s from her newest cookbook, “Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings” (Avery), of which I received a review copy. When Spungen cooks, she likes to break down the prep into stages so that it can be spread out over a day or two. That way, it’s less intimidating, especially if you’re cooking for company.

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Simmered Asparagus with Orange and Mint

A classy little asparagus dish that requires barely any time at all.
A classy little asparagus dish that requires barely any time at all.

My favorite way to enjoy asparagus is grilled. The high heat brings out the natural sweetness of the spears, while the lick of smoke makes anything tastier.

But now and again, it’s nice to swap primal and rustic for elegant and lady-like.

That’s where “Simmered Asparagus with Orange and Mint” comes in.

It’s much like glazed carrots — pan-simmered with a little water and aromatics until the liquid evaporates and turns to steam, leaving behind perfectly tender spears coated with deliciousness.

The recipe is from “All About Dinner: Simple Meals, Expert Advice” (W.W. Norton, 2019), of which I received a review copy. It’s by award-winning cooking instructor, cookbook author, and recipe developer Molly Stevens.

It’s one of 150 recipes in this indispensable book that offers up approachable and thoughtful dishes for home-cooks that make use of vegetables, grains, meats, fish, and sweets.

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Oh, Snap — As In Peas

You won't want to cook sugar snap peas any other way after this.
You won’t want to cook sugar snap peas any other way after this.

Sweet — and yes — snappy, sugar snap peas don’t need much to enjoy fully.

In fact, just the opposite is true — we often do too much to them or overcook them so their delightful crispness is obliterated. As simple as they are to prepare, they can be tricky to get just right. A few seconds too long in a steamer, saute pan or boiling pot of water, and they turn wrinkly and mushy.

That’s why I practically leaped for joy after making “Sugar Snap Peas with Pine Nuts, Fennel, and Lemon Zest” from “The Side Dish Bible: 1001 Perfect Recipes for Every Vegetable, Rice, Grain, and Bean Dish You Will Ever Need” (2019), of which I received a review copy.

This tome of spectacular side dishes is by America’s Test Kitchen, where proper technique rules.

This easy side dish recipe gets snap peas perfectly. The key is cutting the snap peas in half — something I admit I’d never done before. Usually, I just stir-fry them whole.

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