Celebrated chef Geoffrey Zakarian
offers new twists for favorite ingredients.
Geoffrey Zakarian is the owner chef of two acclaimed
New York restaurants -- the cosmopolitan Town and the more informal Country. In his new cookbook Geoffrey
Zakarian's Town/Country: 150 Recipes for Life
Around the Table (Clarkson Potter; $37.50) he offers two winning
recipes for each of his 65 favorite ingredients -- one
for sophisticated "town" cuisine and one for
casual "country" fare.
Grilled Salmon with Smashed Cucumber–Date Salad
The idea here is to take salmon—an overused and
sometimes abused fish—and lighten it up by creating
a salad with some Middle Eastern accents (the dates),
a refreshing summery element (the cucumber), and some
extra added crunch (the walnuts). I think the best way
to prepare fish is to lightly grill or sear it, then
garnish it cleanly and simply to enhance its natural
flavors. This recipe is a good example of what I call
Dynamic American Cuisine, a style I was consciously
trying to advance when I created this dish for Restaurant
44 at the Royalton Hotel.
Ingredient notes: English (hothouse) cucumbers are long
and thin, and have few if any seeds. They are also consistently
the most flavorful.
For the olive oil, use a fruity, robust variety (Spanish
THE GRILLED SALMON
1 2 1/2-pound
center-cut skin-on salmon fillet, cut into 6 equal pieces
teaspoon kosher salt
teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
English (hothouse) cucumbers, peeled and cut into 8
cup finely sliced fennel, feathery fronds reserved for
Medjool dates, pitted and cut in slivers
cup coarsely chopped walnuts
tablespoons minced chives
tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1/2 a large lemon)
tablespoons fruity olive oil (preferably from Spain)
sea salt (preferably Maldon from England)
ground black pepper
fronds for garnish
the salmon: Prepare a charcoal fire in an outdoor grill
(alternatively, cook the salmon indoors on a grill pan);
the coals should be medium-hot and the rack should be
positioned about 6 inches from the fire. Place the salmon
fillets on a cutting board, skin side down. Cut down
the center of each fillet lengthwise along the center
seam. Cut through the flesh but not the skin. Draw the
salmon flesh apart at the incision, flattening the fillets,
leaving them skin side down. Fold each fillet into a
horseshoe shape, bending it back onto itself, so it
resembles a boneless salmon steak. Brush each piece
of fish lightly on both sides with extra-virgin olive
oil and season with the salt and pepper. Grill the salmon
just until the flesh firms and grill marks appear, about
1 minute. Rotate each fillet one quarter-turn (90 degrees)
and grill just long enough to mark the fillets, completing
a cross-hatch pattern, less than 1 minute. Turn the
fillets over and repeat the grilling and rotating procedure
until the other sides show the cross-hatch grill markings.
Remove the fish from the grill and reserve. (The salmon
can be grilled up to 1 hour in advance of the meal.)
the salad: Roll the cucumber pieces up in a clean linen
napkin, then smash them—press down hard with the
heels of your hands while ensuring the towel doesn't
unroll—to release the juices. Discard the juice
and transfer the crushed cucumber to a cutting board,
then coarsely chop it. Combine the cucumbers, sliced
fennel, dates, walnuts, and chives in a salad bowl and
cooking the salmon and dress the salad. Preheat the
oven to 350°F.
the salmon fillets in a baking dish, brush each one
lightly with extra-virgin olive oil, and roast about
3 1/2 minutes for medium-rare.
dress the cucumber salad with the lemon juice and 4
tablespoons of fruity olive oil, then season with salt
and pepper to taste. Toss the salad lightly, then arrange
equal portions on each of six plates. Top each portion
of salad with a grilled salmon fillet. Drizzle a little
fruity olive oil on top of each portion, garnish each
plate with fennel fronds, and serve.
Liquid Gold Chocolate Tart
Serves 8 (makes
one 10-inch tart)
Some desserts are just down-home, sweet comfort
food evocative of warm childhood memories.
Others are pure celebration. This is most
definitely of the latter category. It was
inspired by a taste epiphany I had at a small
inn in the south of France in 2000. For dessert,
we were served lightly toasted baguette slices
with just a pinch of salt, a drizzle of olive
oil, and a delicious spread of smooth chocolate
at room temperature—simplicity, elegance,
and the essence of chocolate. This tart, by
way of that inspiration, is one of our signatures
at Town, where we present it in individual
6-inch servings; here I've converted
it to a simpler, more convivial format—a
single large pie. What could be better than
a warm chocolate tart topped with oozing caramel
sauce and doubled up with a luscious caramel
ice cream? This is a dessert that fulfills
some of our strongest taste cravings—sweet,
salty, chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate
. . . and did I mention chocolate? You may
not think of ice cream as salty, but this
particular version supplies just enough of
that taste to counterbalance the unctuous
sweetness of the caramel.
Ingredient notes: Ideally, the dark chocolate
should be 60 percent cocoa solids; Valrhona
is a recommended brand.
If you don't want to go to the trouble
of making the ice cream yourself, Häagen-Dazs
Dulce de Leche is a perfectly acceptable substitute.
THE SWEET TART
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks)
unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup confectioners'
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose
1 tablespoon heavy
7 ounces dark chocolate
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
Caramel Ice Cream
Caramel Sauce (recipe
Edible gold leaf (optional)
Prepare the dough, approximately 4 hours in
advance. Place the butter and confectioners'
sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Using
the paddle attachment on low speed, mix until
just combined, taking care not to overmix.
(The mixture should not turn creamy.) Add
the egg yolk and gradually mix until just
combined. Add the flour all at once and combine
until the flour is incorporated three fourths
of the way. Turn off the mixer and add the
cream. Restart the mixer on low and continue
to mix the dough until it just comes together.
Remove the dough from the mixer. Flatten it
into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap; and chill
in the refrigerator for several hours.
Prepare the tart: Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Bring the dough to room temperature. Roll
out the tart dough to approximately 1/8 inch.
Place the dough in a 10-inch tart pan. Trim
the edges and use any excess dough to patch
tears. Chill the unbaked tart shell in the
freezer for 15 minutes, then line it with
parchment paper or aluminum foil. Weight the
dough with dried beans or pie weights and
bake in the oven until the edges no longer
look raw, approximately 10 minutes. Remove
the beans and lining paper and bake the crust
until light golden, about 10 minutes more.
Remove from the oven and reserve at room temperature.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.
Prepare the filling: Chop the chocolate and
set it aside in a medium bowl. Combine the
milk and cream in a medium saucepan and bring
to a boil over medium-high heat. Pour the
milk mixture over the chocolate and allow
to stand until the chocolate softens, 2 to
5 minutes. Place the egg in another mixing
bowl and whisk lightly. Whisk the chocolate
and cream together until smooth; continue
to whisk the chocolate, and pour this mixture
over the egg. Strain the chocolate mixture
through a chinois or china cap (fine strainer),
then pour it into the prebaked tart shell.
Bake the tart until the filling is almost
set, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven
and allow the tart to set for at least 5 minutes
more before unmolding and serving.
Serve the tart warm or at room temperature,
topped with warm caramel sauce and accompanied
by a scoop of caramel ice cream. For an extra
touch, garnish the tart with edible gold leaf.
Caramel Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart
2 cups whole milk
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon pure
1 teaspoon kosher
Prepare the ice cream, 1 day in advance Bring
the milk to a simmer in a large, heavy saucepan
over medium heat. Meanwhile, place the egg
yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a large
bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined.
When the milk reaches a simmer, gradually
whisk it into the egg yolks, adding no more
than 1/4 cup at a time. Pour the mixture back
into the saucepan and cook over medium-low
heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon,
until it thickens enough to coat the spoon,
about 5 minutes. Pour the ice cream base through
a fine sieve into a bowl set over ice and
stir to cool.
Combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 2
tablespoons of water in another heavy saucepan.
Cook over medium-high heat, without stirring,
until the sugar caramelizes and reaches a
deep amber color, about 5 minutes. Remove
the caramel from the heat and whisk in the
heavy cream a couple of tablespoons at a time.
Allow the caramel to cool for 30 minutes,
then whisk it into the ice cream base. Add
the vanilla and salt and mix thoroughly. Chill
overnight and process in an ice cream machine
according to manufacturer's instructions.
Makes about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean,
split and scraped
the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in
a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture
is a deep caramel color, about 5 minutes.
Remove the caramel from the heat and gradually
whisk in the cream. Add the vanilla bean
and simmer the sauce over medium-high heat
until it reduces by about one-quarter, approximately
2 minutes. Carefully remove the vanilla
bean and serve warm.
|Photo credit: Quentin Bacon