Maple-Cardamom Glazed Salmon

I've made this salmon countless times. It's a quick-to-be-executed favorite, equally fit for a dinner party or a weeknight meal, and, as I painter, I can't help but relish the fact that it involves one of my favorite utensils: a brush. With loaded strokes, I slather the fish in a delicious overcoat of maple syrup and cardamom -- a pair that strikes a beautiful chord between sugar and spice. Smoky paprika and cayenne pepper finish the glaze with a hit of heat, and after a stint in the oven, the salmon emerges dripping in caramelization. For an even smokier finish, I recommend grilling it on a wood plank over charcoal.


1 pound wild salmon filet, de-boned  
1/4 cup maple syrup 
 2 teaspoons ground cardamom 
1 teaspoon smoked paprika 
 pinch cayenne pepper 
 salt and pepper 

1. Preheat oven to 450 dgF. In a small bowl combine maple syrup, cardamom, paprika, cayenne and a bit of freshly ground pepper. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Adjust to taste.

2. Arrange salmon filet on a cutting board. Remove the bones (if your fishmonger hasn't already) and cut into pieces, size as preferred. Brush syrup mixture evenly over the salmon filets. Place a large cast iron skillet into the oven and allow it to heat up for about 5 to 10 minutes while the salmon rests.

3. Place the salmon in the preheated skillet (scale-side down) and cook for about 10 minutes. Brush more glaze onto the salmon and cook for an additional 3 to 5 minutes until the salmon is cooked to your liking. (Time will vary depending on thickness of fish and preferred pink-ness of interior).


Cernia alla Livornese

Livorno, Italy is a mariners' town. The traditional dishes of the Tuscan port city are frill-free -- simple, hearty fishermen's fare -- heavily influenced by proximity to the sea and the region's local ingredients. Here, fish, olives, and wine take to one plate in a Livornese specialty: Cernia alla Livornese. Deliciously simple, it's a perfect expression of the reverence for great, fresh ingredients that is the cornerstone of Italian cuisine. A white fish (typically grouper, sea bass, red snapper or another mild, local variety) is simmered in a bright tomato-white wine broth that is bolstered with sauteed onions, olives, fresh parsley and crushed red pepper. I particularly love how the salty punctuations of the olives complement the sweet, buttery flesh of the fish (and having some crusty bread on hand to mop up the tomato-wine broth at the end is highly encouraged.)

[Adapted from Saveur]

1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
1 medium yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced 
1 1/2 lb hake filet (grouper, or red snapper also delicious) 
1⁄4 cup dry white wine 
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes (or use fresh)
1⁄3 cup pitted kalmata olives 
1⁄2 bunch parsley, chopped 
Pinch red pepper flakes  
Wilted arugula, to serve

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Add onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are fragrant and slightly soft, about 2 minutes. Add fish, skinned side up, and cook until lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Turn fish and cook other side another 2 minutes.

2. Add wine, tomatoes, olives, half the parsley, and red pepper flakes to the skillet with the fish. Sprinkle with salt and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered, until fish is just cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes, spooning sauce over fish as it cooks. Uncover and simmer until sauce has thickened slightly, about 3 minutes. Adjust seasonings and sprinkle with remaining parsley.

3. Serve warm (over a bed of wilted arugula or another green, if you like), and have crusty bread on hand to mop up the juices.


The Table's Set: June

I'm of the mind that good music, like good food, is meant to be passed across the table and shared. Introducing The Table's Set, a playlist of tunes that I'm currently relishing by the earful. The first set kicks off summer with an eclectic mix of beat-filled tracks + soulful lyricism -- some recovered gems, others recent discoveries -- all worth piling on your plate. 


To Zion (feat. Santana) | Lauryn Hill
Mathematics | Mos Def
The Instrumental | Lupe Fiasco
No Strings | Mayer Hawthorne
Mr. Brown | Bob Marley vs. Lee Scratch Perry
Go Get It | Sepalot & Ladi6
Crystalised | The Xx
Dirty Laundry | Bitter Sweet
Rock Rock Y’all | A Tribe Called Quest
As We Enter | Nas & Damian Marley
Love and Happiness | Marc Broussard
The Love Song | K-OS
The Gunshot | Nicolay & Kay
I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now | Lupe Fiasco


Roasted Red Peppers + A Summery Soup

Aside from color, a roasted pepper bears little resemblance to its raw counterpart. After a stint in the oven, the skin becomes charred and wrinkly, sagging around the flesh it once held so tautly. The molten inside easily sheds its blistered skin – emerging incomparably more succulent and sweet than the raw version. It's an exquisite transformation, easily achieved in the oven, under the broiler, or over an open flame -- heat, in each case, being the operative ingredient.

Makes: 6 to 8 servings

8 large bell peppers (any color)
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

1. Heat the oven to 450°F or position the rack under the broiler about 4 inches from the heat source and turn it to high. Halve the peppers, leaving stems intact if you like, and remove the seeds. Put the pepper halves on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, cut side down. Roast for about 25 minutes (or 10 if broiling), then flip and cook another 15 to 20 minutes (10 if broiling), until skin is dark and blistered and peppers begin to collapse. (Note: You can also roast the peppers whole, then remove seeds and stems after they cool). 

2. Gather up the corners of the foil from the pan and tightly wrap the peppers (use a kitchen towel to help if the foil is too hot). Cool until you can handle them, about 15 minutes, then remove the skin. (You can do this under running water to make it a little easier.) Don’t worry if the peppers fall apart. 

3. Serve the peppers within an hour or so, sprinkled with a pinch of salt and drizzled with 2 tablespoons olive oil, or more if you like. (Or drizzle them with 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil and store them in the refrigerator for up to a few days; bring them back to room temperature before serving.) 

Note: If you want them really charred and smoky-tasting, you’ve got to use the broiler, or better yet, a grill. To roast peppers on a grill: Prepare a grill; the heat should be medium-high and the rack about 4 inches from the fire. When the fire is hot, put the peppers directly over the heat. Grill, turning as each side blackens, until they collapse, 15 to 20 minutes. Then continue with Step 2, using a piece of foil to wrap them after they come off the fire.

Besides the simplicity of the process, the beauty of roasted peppers is their supreme versatility. It's hard to resist devouring the warm, slimy flesh straight from the tray -- fingers-to-mouth, or, more civilly, with a fork and good olive oil. But they also add flavor and substance to sandwiches, pizza, bruschetta and pasta, make killer condiments (with some yogurt and spices), as well as bright pureed soups...

A roasted spin on gazpacho -- pureed, chilled and kissed with mint.

2 roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
4 campari tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup water
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp chopped mint, or to taste

1. Heat oven to 450°F. In a foil-lined baking dish add campari tomato halves, red onion, and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat then place in oven and roast until tomatoes begin to release their juices, and onion and garlic are soft and browning, about 10 minutes or so. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

2. In a food processor, combine roasted peppers, tomatoes, onion, garlic with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 cup water, 1 tsp red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, salt and pepper. Puree to a smooth consistency, adding more liquid as needed. (You can also up the amount of yogurt if you want a creamier soup.)

3. Transfer soup to a bowl, cover, and place in the fridge for at least an hour to cool fully and allow the flavors to meld. Serve chilled and garnish with freshly chopped mint.