The Barnes & Noble Review
You might think that Jody Adams, one of Boston's brightest young chefs, would want you to spend more time in restaurants -- her restaurant, in particular -- but in fact, she wants to seduce you into spending more time in your own kitchen. "Make it your business to cook just a little beyond your abilities," she urges.
For Adams, the immediacy of mincing garlic, chopping vegetables, or stripping kale is its own satisfaction. She is a great advocate for so-called artisanal home food -- the art of taking high-quality raw ingredients through a series of steps to a finished state. Adams cooks from a European culinary mind-set, using regional recipes, but often with ingredients from Rhode Island or Maine. The resulting dishes are sophisticated and inventive -- Clam and White Bean Soup with Fennel, Anchovy, and Lemon, for example, or Tagliatelle with Shad Roe, Pancetta, and Spinach.
Adams worked at many great Boston restaurants (Seasons, Hammersley's Bistro, Michela's) before starting her own. Although this is not a restaurant cookbook, In the Hands of a Chef contains a chapter with such signature Rialto dishes as Roasted Marinated Long Island Duck with Green Olive and Balsamic Vinegar Sauce and a Soupe de Poisson that made Jacques Pépin drool.
Adams is particularly helpful on technique. She has tips on pitting a lot of olives at once, peeling cooked beets (use plastic surgical gloves), working with squid and octopus, and preparing fava beans (the short blanch vs. the long blanch). All the recipes are adapted for the home kitchen but call for ingredients that you may not commonly use.
Read an Excerpt
Fresh Tomato Soup with Seared Eggplant Sandwiches
This dish shows how even old standbys can sometimes be reworked so they become vivid and fresh again. Tomato soup and old-fashioned eggplant Parmesan are too predictable. But an open-faced sandwich of eggplant slices with pesto and mozzarella that would get me to sit up and pay attention. And what if we serve it in a rich tomato broth jazzed up with some garlic and onions? The soup tastes wonderful and the black stripe of eggplant against the brilliant red soup attracts the eye. Where did this dish come from? Not any one place, but bits and pieces of the puzzle are assembled from all over Italy.
About 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 beautiful eggplant (about 10 ounces), sliced 1/2 inch thick into 8 slices2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus 4 leaves for garnish
1/4 cup Pesto (page 44)
Four 1/4-inch-thick slices fresh mozzarella (about 2 ounces)
Four 1/2-inch-thick slices rustic bread, about the same size as the eggplant slices
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sugar, lower the heat, and cook for 25 minutes.
2. While the tomatoes are cooking, season 8 eggplant slices with salt and pepper. (If youhave more than 8 slices, set the remainder aside for another use or discard.) Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant slices and sear on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the heat and let cool.
3. Add the water to the tomatoes and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Purée in a blender and strain through a fine sieve. Return the tomato soup to the pot, add the chopped basil, and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
5. Spread the eggplant slices with the pesto. Put a slice of mozzarella on 4 of the slices. Top with the remaining 4 eggplant slices, pesto side down, to make "sandwiches."
6. Brush the bread with about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and place on a small baking sheet. Toast in the oven until golden brown. Top each slice with an eggplant sandwich and continue heating until the cheese begins to melt.
7. While the sandwiches are heating, reheat the tomato broth.
8. Place an eggplant sandwich in the bottom of each warm bowl. Pour the tomato broth around the sandwiches. Drizzle with olive oil, garnish with the basil leaves, and serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings
Salmon with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries
Dried cranberries and walnuts are a pair of obvious New England ingredients for an easy variation on seared salmon, and both go well with spinach. Red cranberries, orange salmon, green spinach, and a golden sauce make a seafood entr&3233;e that looks festive, tastes great, and is easy and quick to prepare.
The dish is easily doubled, especially if you grill the salmon instead of sautéing it. Any leftovers translate into an instant lunch. The spinach is delicious cold, and the salmon can be sliced thin and drizzled with fresh lemon juice or given a completely different spin with a flavored mayonnaise (pages 13-14).
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted buffer
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons dried cranberries, soaked in 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons grated fresh horseradish, or
2 tablespoons bottled horseradish, drained
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Four 6-ounce salmon fillets, skin on
1 pound flat-leaf spinach, trimmed of thick stems, washed, and dried
2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter with the shallots in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until the shallots are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce to 2 tablespoons. Pour the orange juice from the cranberries into the saucepan (set the cranberries aside). Reduce the orange juice to just 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the remaining 7 tablespoons butter, a tablespoon at a time. Add the horseradish and lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep in a warm spot, away from the direct heat or the sauce will break.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan (nonstick if possible) over high heat. (Use two pans if all the fish won't fit comfortably in a single pan.) Sprinkle the salmon liberally with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, almost smoking, add the salmon fillets, skin side up, and sear until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Do not try to move the fillets until they've gotten a good sear, or they'll stick to the pan. Flip and cook on the other side. A 2-inch-thick fillet will take 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium.
3. While the salmon is cooking, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing, until the spinach has just wilted, a minute or so. Add the walnuts and cranberries and cook for another 30 seconds to heat everything through.
4. Place a quarter of the spinach and cranberries in the center of each of four warm plates. Set the salmon skin side up over the spinach. Spoon the sauce around the plates. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 entrée servingsIn the Hands of A Chef. Copyright © by Jody Adams. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.