The following originally appeared on 5/14/08 at Exit 51
I have a confession to make. I have a relationship with another man. Maybe you’ve heard of him – Mark Bittman of the New York Times, otherwise known as The Minimalist. Shhh, don’t tell SFC.
He embraces a lo-fi approach to cooking…it’s not about fancy gadgets or exotic ingredients or esoteric techniques. It’s about plain and simple good food which only seems to be fancy or exotic or esoteric.
I regularly check out his Bitten blog on the New York Times and I have one of his cookbooks at home. And here’s the thing, when his recipes work for me, they work beautifully. But when they don’t, they fail spectacularly. Yet, I keep holding out hope that if I give those less than successful ones another try, show them a little more love, they will repay me by magically transforming from frog to prince. This is why I have leftover rockfish with soy glaze in my fridge that I have no desire to eat but don’t have the heart to throw away because it SHOULD have been so good.
So while I keep searching for the next princely Minimalist recipe, I’ll share with you two that have never let me down. If you feel like showing them a little love, I’m sure they will be equally as kind to you.
Bittman’s Basic Vinaigrette
MB’s Notes: Vary this however you like: with herbs, with garlic (roasted is very nice), with a tiny bit of soy sauce and sesame oil, with lemon juice in place of the vinegar, with hazelnut oil, with spices . . . you name it, in moderation it will work. You can also just beat the ingredients in a bowl with a fork, or shake them in a jar; it won’t be as creamy, but it will still taste delicious.
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons or more good vinegar — wine, sherry, rice, balsamic, etc. (WM note – I find that I use anywhere from 3 to 6 tablespoons)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 large shallot (about 1 ounce), peeled and cut into chunks
- honey to taste (WM addition, not in MB’s recipe)
Combine all ingredients but the shallot in a blender and turn the machine on; a creamy emulsion will form within 30 seconds. Taste and add more vinegar a teaspoon or two at a time, until the balance tastes right.
Add the shallot, and turn the machine on and off a few times until the shallot is minced within the dressing. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve. This is best made fresh but will keep a few days refrigerated; bring back to room temperature and whisk briefly before using.
Bittman’s Roasted Salmon Steaks With Pinot Noir Sauce
MB’s Notes: This sauce is relatively simple because it is based on caramelized sugar. The wine, added after the sugar liquefies, need not be expensive — I used one that sells for less than $12 a bottle — and you get to drink about half of it.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups pinot noir
- 1 sprig rosemary, plus 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
- 4 salmon steaks, each about 1/2 pound
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place sugar in heavy-bottomed saucepan and turn heat to medium. Cook without stirring (just shake the pan occasionally to redistribute sugar) until sugar liquefies and begins to turn brown, about 10 minutes. (WM Note: you really shouldn’t be far from the stove while this is going on. You can go from brown to burnt in no time flat.) Turn off heat, and carefully add wine. (WM Note: I move the whole shebang close to the sink when it’s time to add the wine because it sputters, a lot.) Turn heat to high, and cook, stirring, until caramel dissolves again. (WM Note: be patient with this; it may seem like it’ll never happen but eventually that hardened caramelized sugar does dissolve in the wine.) Add rosemary sprig, and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is syrupy and reduced to just over 1/2 cup, 10 to 15 minutes.
As liquid reduces, heat a nonstick skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke. Season salmon on both sides with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then place in pan and immediately transfer to oven. Cook 6 minutes, then turn salmon and cook another 6 minutes. Remove salmon when medium-rare or thereabouts (or cook another minute or two if you like it more done), and keep warm.
When sauce is reduced, stir in balsamic vinegar and butter and turn heat to medium-low. Cook until butter melts. Season with salt and pepper, and remove rosemary sprig. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve over salmon, garnished with chopped rosemary.