Sometimes Not Planning is the Best Plan

As is probably evident from the hastily written menu board this was a meal that was spontaneously put together, based on what was at the market, what new recipes that I wanted to try but hadn’t yet that would use seasonal ingredients and what I had in the fridge.  The last part was easy: I had a mostly intact Concord Grape Pie – so check off dessert.

Yunnan Kitchen’s chef Travis Post had published a unique recipe for a green tomato salad that I wanted to try – Buried Treasures at the Union Square Green Market had heirloom not yet ripe green Zebra tomatoes that would be perfect.

Also making its first appearance at the market were organic cranberry beans, I knew I had some corn and overly ripe red tomatoes at home and succotash is one of my favorite things to make so there was one more dish down.

Finally while running through Whole Foods I saw Wild Coho Salmon on sale  for 9 bucks a pound – whoaha!

The first thing I did when I got home was make the Green Tomato Salad I love making spice pastes and this recipe reminded me of making Thai Curry pastes.  A simple paste that transform something as basic as a green tomato.

Then I husked corn, sautéed butter, onions, corns, chopped up tomato and Thyme while in a separate pot I cooked the Cranberry beans in some water with an onion, a few garlic cloves and some Thyme branches.  When they were nicely cooked I added the beans and broth to the Corn mixture, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper and some more fresh Thyme.  Done.

The last dish I wanted to make was a Baked Ricotta that was delicious but the recipe says it’s for 4 and I thought the portion was huge for an appetizer and that next time I would make it in smaller ramekins for 8 as an appetizer as a main course with a salad the bigger portion would work. I love how spicy the mushrooms where and how luxurious and unctuous the brown butter balsamic reduction is.  And can I just take a moment here to say shame on the food stylist and editors at tasting Table for showing a picture of the dish that really isn’t an accurate reflection of the dish.   First off, made according to the recipe, you have an abundance of mushrooms which I used to cover the ricotta with, not just dot a few in the center (and mine were not completely dry they still sat in a reduction of olive oil and wine).  Then you top the whole thing off with the brown butter sauce, making it a wonderful, saucy, mushroom sweet spicy elixir that melds so perfectly with the cheesy blandness of the Ricotta.   So yeah, it looks prettier the way they show it because the finally presentation is kind of, well….brown.  And fucking delicious.

It’s just a sore point for me as someone who has done styling that we so often don’t want to show the dish as it is because it’s not photogenic.  For me I want to see how the dish actually looks (maybe I’m in the minority?) and so often throughout my life of cooking I get disappointed because what I made doesn’t look like the picture in the recipe.  I remember doing a noodle cookbook and one of the recipes was called something like eggplant, goat cheese and tomato broth noodles.  In the final picture there was no tomato broth because, well, it didn’t look good. Really?  Really.

Seems to me if you want to actually get people to cook you’d be doing them a service by actually showing them what the finished product actually looks like. And sure you can present it beautifully with good lighting with just the right wine glass by the plate or whatever, but if young cooks are going to be inspired to make a recipe you should give them some sense of how it’s going to turn out – even if the picture in the recipes looks more professional it should still actually be the recipe.

Sorry I digress, back to the menu.  I always make home-made focaccia because it’s easy and so tasty and I prefer to make it then to buy bread, but hey not everyone has 3 hours it takes to make your own so support one of your local bakeries my favorite one in my neighborhood is Pain D’Avignon.  Awesome bread.

As for the Salmon I rubbed it with some olive oil, salt pepper and baked it for 10 minutes in 400 F oven.

The combination of the creamy succotash, with the acidic/spicy green tomato salad was  a brilliant stroke of luck and a perfect foil for the fish.  My thought at the end of the meal was that I’d like to try the green tomato salad as a raw chutney next time, instead of half-moon slices of tomatoes I think they could be roughly chopped up or whizzed in a food processor ever so sparingly and served with any fish more accompaniment then salad.  However you serve it this recipe is a winner!   And so was the dinner, which proves once again that some times the best things are the ones you don’t plan.

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note:
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3 Responses to Sometimes Not Planning is the Best Plan

  1. There are so many exciting ideas here, I was clicking links as fast as I could. But the green tomato salad, at this time of year (with not quite enough warm weather ahead of us to ripen the newly fruiting tomatoes), ought to come in handy. (But oh, balsamic brown butter….)

    • urbanfoodguy says:

      It’s interesting to note that in this post I say that the Green Tomato Salad would make a great chutney and when I walked Yunnan Kitchen last night I peaked in and saw on their black board: Green Tomato Relish…and in reading the description further I see it’s the same recipe! I must be psychic 😉

      It also occurred to me that Poppy Seeds which is a significant ingredient in this dish, are something I always think about as being Eastern European, but duh! Poppies grow in abundance in (wait for it) Yunnan Province. This fact somehow makes me admire this dish even more – because initially I thought it was some weird fusion idea, but nope, not at all.

  2. databong says:

    You said “unctuous”

    * makes “fancy pants” face *


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