Recipe: Salmon & “Black Caviar” Lentils w/ Creamy Dill Sauce

As we head into day 137,137 of our stay at home/quarantine, I decided to do a little something outside of our comfort zone and make salmon…at home. Now, I rarely order salmon out unless its sushi, but I’ve had just a few successes at home with salmon and this dish was no different….plus it’s so pretty.

And don’t let the fancy name scare you off. This was super easy. I ordered my Black Caviar Lentils, aka “Beluga” lentils from Rancho Gordo well before the pandemic so I’m not sure how readily available they are in stores, but they are still available here with some possible shipping delays of course. They get their name because they look so much like Beluga Caviar.  I’m actually looking forward to cooking with these type of lentils again. They have so much flavor and add drama to any dish. When they arrived I wondered,  “what in the world what have I done?” What would I make with them? But a local chef  years ago had made them as a bed under some prawns and I saw another dish somewhere on the interwebs with scallops. Well, I’m fresh out of scallops here, but I did have 2 pieces of salmon in the freezer, so that’s how we got here.  Serve this salmon and lentils with asparagus or spinach and you have a complete, colorful meal.

About the sauce in this recipe, you can make just about any sauce you want, but dill loves and seafood and cream. I’ve seen similar recipes of dill sauce calling for creme fraiche but I wasn’t about to make a special trip for that so I used cream cheese instead and have noted that in the ingredients. There’s also a tip below for a totally alternate method that I’ve made before (with some modifications) and it’s almost as good just not warm.  Both sauces are keto-friendly (but the lentils are not).

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Salmon w/Creamy Dill Sauce & Black Caviar Lentils

Ingredients

Wild Caught Salmon filet (try to find one that’s beautifully pink and about 3/4-1 inch thick, about 6-8 oz)
1-2 TBS capers (reserve some juice for later)
Olive oil

Creamy Dill Sauce 
1 TBS minced garlic
1 TBS butter
3 tsp. dijon mustard
4 TBS cream cheese (or creme fraiche if you can find it)
heavy cream (if using cream cheese to loosen to desired consistency)
3 tsp. lemon juice or the reserved caper juice
3 tsp. fresh dill, coarsely minced, plus a few sprigs for garnish
salt/pepper to taste
**see note

Lentils
1 cup black caviar/beluga lentils
oil or butter
Chicken stock or water
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp. salt
dry aromatics like bay leaf or oregano (or you can omit)

First you’ll want to prepare your lentils. Heat oil or fat in a sauce pan. Add lentils and stir to coat. Add the garlic then enough water or chicken stock to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes until just tender.
Note: I strongly suggest you take a look at the recommendation on the lentil package as some may require a bit of a different length of cooking time, but this is what I followed per Rancho Gordo. 

While the lentils are cooking…
If using a thicker piece of salmon, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Add a oil to a hot pan and sear salmon, skin side up, until golden then flip and sear for a couple minutes more. Scatter in the capers (without the juice). You should hear them sizzle and start to crisp. Place pan in the oven and cook for 5 minutes until medium doneness. You can cook a few minutes more if you like it more done.  Note: my salmon was pretty thin and did not need the additional cooking time beyond the sear, but you may need to do bake it here.

For the sauce:
While the salmon finishes, heat the butter in a sauce pan. After it melts, add dijon and stir well, then add cream cheese or creme fraiche and whisk until smooth and creamy.  If it’s a little too thick, add a bit of heavy cream to loosen. I needed about a 4 tablespoons.  Add the lemon juice or caper juice, then the dill and stir.

Plate the salmon and capers, drizzle the sauce liberally over (as little or as much as you want) and finish with a sprig or two of fresh dill. Serve along side or atop the beluga lentils. I topped with some local microgreens.

Enjoy!

**Let’s just say you haven’t been to the store in 37 days and you’re fresh out of cream cheese. Well you can still make the dill sauce with 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 3/4 cup sour cream, 1 TBS lemon juice, 3-4 TBS. fresh dill, pinch of salt. You will not heat this. Just mix and serve. Easy peasy. And save it because if you decide to add capers or relish later, it’s totally a tartar sauce and so is the one above that’s heated first, come to think of it.

 

Enjoy!

 

“Stuck” at home? Enjoy Thai Chicken w/Sweet Potatoes & Pepper

It’s been a minute since I’ve been on, foodies.  There have been many things going on. A quick catch-up on all that, outside of the obvious of course.

Right around the time the CoVid-19 pandemic got super serious around here and they started shutting everything down, schools, restaurants, facilities,  etc, my father, who has battled Parkinson’s Disease for years, took a turn for the worse and he passed away on March. 19. This was made exponentially more difficult because his skilled care center was on lockdown and only end of life visits allowed.  On top of that, my mom, who had been in the hospital with a non-Covid illness (at least we think so as she tested negative) was just released from the hospital and moving into rehab and then back to HER assisted living facility, which was ALSO on lockdown. So we could visit him and so could she, but she has not been able to receive visitors at all in the past 2 weeks while she grieves. We had to settle for a private graveside service with no hugs, which was very difficult. But we shall celebrate my Daddy’s life in a few weeks, months, whenever it is safe to do so.

So…here we are.
I hope you are all doing well. After a hectic week and a half going back and forth to the Triad, I actually am so grateful for being at home with my family and cooking and only going out for essentials. As much as I like to eat out, I am a homebody. As you may know, I homeschool, so our schedule hasn’t changed too much other than we don’t go to our school co-op on Friday or church on Sunday. I like an excuse to stay home for sure.

I figure no time like the present to pop in for some recipes and what’s going on in the local restaurant world when I hear about it. For one, DO try to support local restaurants by ordering takeout occasionally. They need your support now more than ever. But since you can, enjoy cooking at home too.

So here’s the first of a few recipes I plan on posting that will hopefully get you out of the doldrums and pack your plates with flavor. I didn’t take a lot of photos because I was throwing it together, however it was just so pretty, I decided to snap one.

This dish turned out so great and was gone in a flash.  I cooked it in the Instant Pot but it can easily be done on the stove, you just need to cook longer until the potatoes are cooked through.

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Thai Chicken w/ Peppers & Sweet Potatoes

1 1/2 pounds chicken, boneless thighs preferred here
1 red pepper, sliced in strips
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
1 bunch of arugula, kale, spinach (optional)
1 large knob of fresh ginger, divided
1/4 onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 Tbs. Thai red chili paste
1 Tbs. ground or fresh turmeric
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk
1 Tbs. fish sauce
juice of one lime
Handful of cilantro (optional but really not)
red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste
green onions for garnish
2-3 Tbs. oil, sesame oil or ghee
salt/pepper to taste

Before you start cooking, rub the chicken with the turmeric and half of the ginger. Let it hang out overnight or a few hours but if you forget, it’ll be fine. Turn the IP to sauté and once hot, sear the chicken on both sides until lightly browned.

Add the onion, garlic, sweet potatoes, chili paste and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add garlic remaining ginger, broth, coconut milk, cayenne or red pepper and fish sauce if using. Here, you may add the red pepper but I like it a little crisper, so you can add it at the end if you prefer.

Turn the Instant Pot to manual pressure and cook on high for 8 minutes. Quick release the pressure, remove the lid, add the red pepper, greens, lime juice and season if needed.  Turn the heat to sauté and reduce the broth a bit, until peppers are tender crisp. This won’t take long. Stir and check for flavor, being careful not to bust up your sweet potatoes. Serve over rice. Top with fresh arugula or cilantro and or green onion.

Stove Top version:

In a dutch oven, heat oil of choice. Follow all the steps as above at medium heat, adding the peppers to the pot, but once you get to the pressure cooking part, turn the heat down to a light simmer and allow to cook partially covered for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are mostly tender (you don’t want them falling apart). Add some broth if it gets too thick. Once fully cooked, add your greens, lime juice and spices as necessary.  Top with cilantro or arugula and green onion and serve over rice.

Enjoy!

Sweet Changes in store at Black Mountain Chocolate in WS

Hi, foodies!

Well I kind of felt it was inevitable that little Black Mountain Chocolate might be thinking “bigger and better”. And here we are. The folks at BMC have just announced that they will be moving their Trade Street operations to Bailey South in the Innovation Quarter.

They’ll be doubling their square footage, adding hours, events, a bar and jobs! We’ll also see a slight name change. Keep reading for details. We just love these folks and we are truly excited for them.

Service Counter

Here’s the hot off the presses announcement:

Black Mountain Chocolate Factory today announced a move from its current Trade Street location to Bailey South in downtown Winston-Salem’s Innovation Quarter. Along with the move, Black Mountain Chocolate Factory will be rebranded as Black Mountain Chocolate Bar and add coffee and cocktails during extended morning and late night hours at its new 4,800 square foot location.

Black Mountain Chocolate Bar is excited to offer a unique culinary experience in the Winston-Salem area, with a desserts-focused menu that will attract Winston-Salem visitors and locals alike. The expanded lounge will accommodate 75 guests indoors, with additional seating outside and place an emphasis on offering hospitality, fostering community, and showcasing the excellence of the fair-trade craft chocolate created at the factory.

The new space will almost double the Chocolate Bar’s square footage, include a generous and inviting seating area for guests, and enhance the ability to host chocolate tasting events and classes. This move is also expected to double Black Mountain Chocolate’s workforce to approximately 20, creating new jobs for both back and front of house employees.

“We can’t wait to share with the community our inviting gathering space, featuring rich experiences like truffle classes, chocolate tastings, wine pairings, and cocktail labs,” say Black Mountain Chocolate Bar co-owners, Brent and Millie Peters. “From morning coffee to an afternoon cookie treat to an evening cocktail, the Black Mountain Chocolate Bar will offer sweet fun for every age at every hour.”

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The anticipated move will happen in early summer. Black Mountain Chocolate has been a key member of the thriving Arts Scene on Trade Street since 2014. They will continue to support Winston-Salem’s thriving arts culture from their new location while also connecting with the heartbeat of the Innovation Quarter. “There are so many exciting developments happening in downtown Winston-Salem right now,” says Marissa Joyce, marketing director at Black Mountain Chocolate. “We are proud to be a part of what makes this city unique and enjoyable, and we plan to continue to be a sweet spot in Winston-Salem’s culinary culture.”

“From morning coffee to an afternoon cookie treat to an evening cocktail, the Black Mountain Chocolate Bar will offer sweet fun for every age at every hour.”

– Brent and Millie Peters, Black Mountain Chocolate Bar Owners

Black Mountain Chocolate Bar will be a unique establishment in the city, with a sophisticated gathering space and a menu that caters to coffee, sweets, and spirits.  Their commitment to creating fair trade, organically sourced chocolate will continue.  Their chocolate is distributed to over 100 retailers across the country. The new location will be located in the Bailey Power Plant complex at 450 N Patterson Street, across from Bailey Park and adjacent to the Coal Pit.

“The more people who come here to live, work or learn, the more places we need where people can gather, unwind and enjoy great food and drink,” says Graydon Pleasants, head of development for Innovation Quarter. “Black Mountain Chocolate Bar is the perfect mix of all those elements you’re looking for when building a sense of place, and we look forward to their opening later this year.”

Black Mountain Chocolate has been working with STITCH Design Shop, Eastern Restaurant Supply, Sunnyside Millwork, and Designer Alice Webb in the creation of their new space. Construction has already begun, with an anticipated completion in late May. Black Mountain Chocolate Bar is looking forward to joining and contributing to the thriving nightlife and special events that already occur in the Innovation Quarter community.

Wine Review: 2015 Polkura Syrah

The following is a review of a wine provided to me gratis by Wine Merchants in Winston-Salem. All opinions herein are my own. 

I wouldn’t call myself a big wine drinker thus I do not consider myself full of wine knowledge. We probably have wine at home once a week max. However, I’m a lot like you and I know what I like. I know when something will taste good alone (like on the deck in the mountains) or with food. I’d like to think that’s why Caleb Flint, owner of Wine Merchants and Vin 205 Bistro & Wine Bar, graciously gives me a wine to try from time to time. He likes the feedback and I really appreciate that he wants to hear it from me.

I’m notoriously slow at getting around to drinking the wine. I cook a lot at home but having children at home who need to get in bed at a certain time all around homeschooling, a wine pairing dinner isn’t always possible. And truthfully, mr. foodie isn’t always in the mood for wine with dinner.

So the bottle patiently waits.

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The  2015 Polkura Syrahfrom the Colchagua Valley in Chile was finally paired with some leftover pizza on a Sunday night.  I love a good Syrah and I’ve been starting to enjoy South American wines a bit more as well. They usually have a good price point (Polkura is priced round the $17-20 range). This Syrah is definitely one I would consider with food. It’s a bit on the spicier side for me, not that I didn’t like the spiciness…it was just certain for my palate that it would be wonderful with pizza (which was a good choice incidentally) as well as steak. For sure steak.

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Since this is such a food-friendly wine, I definitely suggest you visit Wine Merchants and let Caleb or Alan guide you to it as well as any other wines from Polkura and enjoy this Syrah to elevate your pizza night or a great steak. I’ve never not found a great, affordable wine at Wine Merchants. There you’ll find a great selection of boutique type wines and some local items, like hot sauces, the best olive oil and balsamic vinegars, and chocolate.  Visit on a weeknight prior to dinner and see why Vin 205 is one of Winston-Salem’s hidden gems. It’s one of our favorites.

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Have you heard about the awesome news from Caleb and Alan at Wine Merchants and Vin 205? Read about their butcher’s market and new restaurant concept coming later this year! 

 

Get your tickets to our Chef’s Table at Sophie’s Cork & Ale

Hi, foodies…

We’ve been on a bit of a reunion tour of sorts with our 2020 Chef’s Tables. We’ve been going back to some of our favorites by popular demand. January-Meridian Restaurant; February-Vin 205 Wine Bar and next month-Sophie’s Cork &  Ale!

Read about Chef John Wilson and get details on our event here. 

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Chef John is one of the most creative and talented chefs in the Triad and he’s truly doing his thing at Sophie’s and getting that restaurant all kinds of recognition.

Join us on Monday, March 16 at 6:30 at Sophie’s in Lexington.