“Where there’s a will there’s a way,” my mother used to say. The ‘will’ was to prepare a pesto with leaves from my flourishing basil plant for dinner one evening in my Miami Beach rental sans food processor or even a blender, and a delicious grilled salmon recipe with Dijon and balsamic vinegar for dinner another evening – without a grill or even an oven broiler. I used a good chefs knife (my own) to finely chop garlic, walnuts and julienne the stacked basil leaves, and then, with the end of a thick wooden spoon handle, I pounded the mix, incorporating extra-virgin oil, and it resulted in a darn good pesto to serve with the fresh, hand-made pasta I’m able to purchase at a store nearby.
Fresh Market in South Beach brings in fresh fish three times a week. On one of those days I picked up a glistening piece of center cut salmon. With the heavy cast-iron ridged skillet I found in the bottom oven drawer I was happily able to stove top grill my marinated salmon, which was crisply delicious.
Since it’s strawberry season in Florida and although rhubarb doesn’t grow like a weed they way it does on the East End, I prepared the strawberry rhubarb compote from my book, ‘Savoring the Hamptons: Discovering the Food and Wine of Long Island’s East End.’ The local supermarket chain carries frozen rhubarb, (rhubarb freezes well) which enabled me to prepare the delicious compote that we love to have over dulce de leche ice cream. The apartment is lovely other than limitations, re: kitchen equipment. I guess most folk don’t spend much time cooking while in Miami Beach.
FETTUCCINE WITH WALNUT PESTO
Served 2 to 3
For the Pesto
1 cup walnuts halves or pieces, toasted
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups fresh ricotta
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly grated Reggiano
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf Italian Parsley
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon fresh chives, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 pound of Fettucine
1. Heat a large pot of well-salted water to the boil while you are preparing the pesto.
2. Put the walnuts and garlic in the food processor, and pulse until the nuts are chopped into very tiny bits (but do not grind them into a powder). Scrape the ground nut-garlic mixture into the large bowl, and stir in the ricotta, olive oil, grated cheese, parsley, salt and pepper until thoroughly blended.
3. When the pesto is ready and the water is boiling, drop all the pasta into the pot at once and stir the pasta so it does not stick together. Cover the pot, and over high heat return the water to a boil rapidly. Set the cover ajar, and cook the pasta, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 4 minutes (or more, depending on the thickness), until the fettucine are perfectly al dente – in this dish, the pasta does not cook further when tossed with the pesto.
4. Working quickly, lift out the fettucine with a spider and tongs, and drop into the bowl with the dressing. Drop soft butter dollops on the hot pasta and toss until all the strands are nicely coated with the pesto – if the dressing is too thick, loosen it with a bit of hot water from the pasta pot as you toss.
5. Serve immediately in warm bowls with more grated cheese at the table.
GRILLED SALMON WITH DIJON BALSAMIC CRUST
1 1/2 to 2 pounds center cut salmon fillet with skin
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon coarse Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1. Rinse the fillet and pat dry. Season both sides well with salt and pepper
2. Mix the shallots, Dijon and vinegar and coat both sides of the fillet with the dressing. Let marinate for up to 3 to 4 hours.
3. Preheat a gas grill or preheat grill pan over medium heat and place the fish skin side down. Skin should sizzle. Cook for 5 minutes on skin side without moving the fish then carefully turn with a large metal spatula or two spatulas to cook about 3 to 4 minutes longer on the flesh side without moving the fish. For medium rare the fish will be springy to the touch – or if preferred cook until fish is a bit firm for medium. Transfer fish to a carving board, skin-side-down, and slice into four even servings as well as possible. The pieces may look a bit raggedy but that’s fine. Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve.