Union Square Cafe’s Seared Salmon with Spinach, Corn & Mushrooms

I made this lovely dish for Easter dinner. The sauce was absolutely incredible. I also loved that the salmon was served over a plate of sautéed vegetables. The recipe was adapted from one of the most popular menu items at NYC’s Union Square Café in the 1990’s.

The recipe is from the 40th Anniversary Special Edition of Food and Wine magazine titled “Our 40 Best-Ever Recipes,” contributed by Michael Romano.  I am keeping this issue as a “cookbook” because I want to try so many (practically all!) of the dishes. The issue states that this salmon dish is one of the best recipes Food and Wine has ever published. Very special.

We finished our meal with a celebratory Bunny Cake, of course!

Yield: Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a first course (this recipe can be doubled easily)

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (6 ounces), divided
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion (I used 1/2 of a large red onion)
  • 3 garlic cloves (2 thinly sliced and 1 whole), divided
  • 1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps quartered, divided
  • 1 medium-size ripe tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound fresh spinach
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 3-4 ears)
  • 1 (1 to 1 1/2 pound) center-cut salmon fillet, sliced crosswise into 4 to 6 strips
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Make the Sauce:

  1. Cut 6 tablespoons butter into 1/2-inch cubes, and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium-low.
  3. Add onion, sliced garlic, shiitake stems, tomato, black peppercorns, and bay leaf, and cook until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 12 minutes.
  4. Add balsamic vinegar and 1/3 cup water, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is syrupy, about 4 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to low, and add cubed butter, 2 to 3 pieces at a time, whisking thoroughly between additions.
  6. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Pour sauce through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl; discard solids.
  8. Keep sauce warm over a double boiler.
Prepare the Spinach:
  1. Spear whole garlic clove with a dinner fork. (I’ve never done this before- genius!)
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over high until just beginning to smoke.
  3. Add spinach; cook, stirring using fork with garlic clove, until spinach is wilted.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste; transfer to a colander to drain. Discard garlic clove.
Prepare the Corn & Mushrooms:
  1. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Reduce heat to medium, and add 3 tablespoons butter.
  2. Add shiitake caps, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in corn kernels; cook until completely heated through, about 3 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl, and keep warm.
  1. Increase heat to high, and add remaining 1 tablespoon butter and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet.
  2. Season salmon strips with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add fish to skillet, and cook until browned but barely cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
To Serve:
  1. Divide spinach among 6 plates; surround with corn and shiitakes.
  2. Place a salmon strip on top of spinach, and spoon vinegar sauce on fish.
  3. Garnish with a sprinkling of chives; serve immediately.

Sheet Pan Israeli Couscous with Browned Butter, Corn, Zucchini, & Basil

This wonderful side dish had the incredible nutty flavor from browned butter in every bite. It was a lovely way to enjoy my beautiful CSA corn and zucchini this week. 🙂

This dish was adapted from Meatless Sheet Pan Suppers: 100 Surprising Vegetarian Meals Straight from the Oven by Raquel Pelzel. I added an extra ear of corn and used Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend, a combination of Israeli couscous, red quinoa, orzo, and split dried garbanzo beans, instead of Israeli couscous alone. Great!

Yield: Serves 6

  • 4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 to 4 ears fresh corn, shucked and kernels sliced off the cob
  • 1 large zucchini, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous or Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled, and thinly sliced into ribbons
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Place the butter on a rimmed sheet pan and set it in the oven until the butter melts and smells toasty and nutty, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and spoon about 2 tablespoons of the browned butter into a small heatproof bowl.
  4. Stir the corn and zucchini into the remaining butter on the sheet pan, along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook until the zucchini softens and the corn loses its raw starchiness, about 8 minutes.
  5. Transfer the corn mixture to a large bowl and season with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste.
  6. Add the couscous to the pan alone with the boiling water and the remaining teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine, and wearing oven mitts, cover the sheet pan with aluminum foil (you may need 2 sheets), crimping it tightly around the edges to seal.
  7. Bake couscous for 10 minutes, remove the foil, stir the couscous, re-cover the pan, and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, or until the couscous is plump and tender.
  8. Transfer the couscous to the bowl with the corn mixture.
  9. Add the reserved browned butter and most of the basil. Stir to combine and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
  10. Serve sprinkled with remaining basil.

Fresh Corn Grits with Shrimp & Roasted Pecan Butter

Another Easter weekend food tradition in our family is to eat shrimp and grits as a celebration of one of our favorite places- Charleston, South Carolina. The spring sunshine reminds me of how lovely it is there. It is a particularly special place for us because it’s where my husband and I met. ❤ Charleston is also an incredible food city.

I really like the story behind this amazing version. Apparently, it was created on Top Chef season 5 by Jeff McInnis, owner of Miami’s Yardbird restaurant. He was challenged to create a shrimp and grits dish without using grits. He made fresh corn “grits” using fresh corn, but, the best part was that he incorporated pecan butter in the grits because of a memory of eating fresh nut butter from his grandmother’s pecan tree. The fresh nut butter put this dish over the top. Delicious. I wish that I had the imagination to dream up a dish like this one.

This was my husband’s favorite shrimp and grits (thus far), and I’ve made quite a few versions. I pointed out that it may be because this dish didn’t actually have grits. 🙂 This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Jeff McInnis. I increased the amount of fresh corn in the grits and slightly increased the amount of prosciutto. Next time, I may reduce the amount of lager. I may increase the amount of grits as well- we wanted more!

Yield: Serves 4

For the Roasted Pecan Butter:

  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 1/2 tsp canola oil
  • coarse salt, to taste

For the Grits:

  • 6 large ears of corn, shucked and coarsely grated on a box grater (2 cups pulp and juice)
  • 1/4 cup milk, plus more for stirring/serving, as desired
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • roasted pecan butter (about 1/4 cup), directions below

For the Shrimp Sauté:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 to 4 ounces thinly sliced country ham or prosciutto, cut into strips
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup lager, to taste (I used 1 cup but may reduce it next time)
  • lemon wedges, for serving, optional

Make the Roasted Pecan Butter:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Roast the pecans about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant.
  3. Process toasted pecans in a mini food processor with canola oil until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  4. Season with salt to taste.

Make the Grits:

  1. In a saucepan, simmer the grated corn and juices with the 1/4 cup of milk over moderate heat, stirring, until thick, 4 minutes.
  2. Season with salt and pepper and fold in the pecan butter; keep warm.

Make the Shrimp Sauté:

  1. In a large, deep skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter.
  2. Add the prosciutto and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the onion, snap peas and corn, season with salt and pepper and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until they just begin to curl, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the lager and bring to a boil.
  6. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are cooked through and the liquid is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.
  7. Swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

To Serve:

  1. Whisk a little milk into the grits so it’s the consistency of polenta; heat until warm.
  2. Spoon the grits into shallow bowls, top with the shrimp sauté and serve at once.
  3. Serve with lemon wedges, as desired.

One Year Ago: Seared Scallops & Cauliflower Grits

Two Years Ago: Classic Shrimp & Grits

Three Years Ago: Shrimp with Fresh Corn Grits

Four Years Ago: Shrimp & Grits with Tomatoes

Five Years Ago: Hominy Grill’s Shrimp & Grits

Thai Corn Chowder

Okay! Enough about birthday celebrations. I have to get back to my soup posts. 😉

I love the flavor of coconut milk and Thai cuisine in general. This dish is a wonderful adaptation of Thai flavors in the form of a soup. The coconut milk base gave it subtle richness which balanced nicely with the lime juice, fresh herbs, and hot sauce.

This recipe was adapted from The Moosewood Restaurant Table: 250 Brand-New Recipes from the Natural Foods Restaurant that Revolutionized Eating in America from the Moosewood Collective. Fabulous!

Yield: about 8 cups

  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions (I used 1 large yellow onion)
  • 1 fresh hot pepper, minced and seeded for a milder “hot” or 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt, plus more as needed
  • 2 T peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 pound potatoes, diced (I used teeny tiny white potatoes from Trader Joe’s)
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 3 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (16 oz (1 pound) bag frozen organic yellow corn)
  • 1 14-oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 T fresh lime juice, from 1/2 of one lime
  • 3 T fresh basil, chiffonade (Thai basil is bets, but Italian basil is fine too.)
  • hot pepper sauce or Chinese chili paste, optional
  • chopped fresh basil, cilantro, and/or mint, for garnish, optional
  1. Warm the oil in a soup pot on medium heat. (I used an enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Add the onions and hot pepper/cayenne and cook for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the bell peppers and salt and cook, stirring often, until the vegetable soften, about 6 minutes.
  4. Add the ginger, potatoes, and stock. Cover and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the corn, coconut milk, lime juice, and basil and remove from the heat.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, remove 2-3 cups of the strained vegetables from the pot.
  8. Using a blender or an immersion blender, puree the remaining ingredients, about half of the soup.
  9. Stir the whole vegetables back into the pot.
  10. Season with salt to taste, and, if you want it spicier, add some hot pepper sauce or Chinese chili paste.
  11. Garnish with lime, fresh basil, cilantro, and/or mint, if desired.

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Grill-Roasted Corn & Tomato Melange

The genius of this recipe is that the corn is roasted on the grill prior to shucking it. The corn is completely clean and fabulously roasted after 20 minutes. I can’t believe I’d never done this before! This method can actually be done in an oven as well. Fabulous.

We ate this dish as a side salad but it could also be used served over pasta, gnocchi, or with steamed green beans. The melange is prepared ahead of time so that the flavors blend and develop before serving. Perfect for guests! This dish is from Mad Hungry Family: 120 Essential Recipes to Feed the Whole Crew by Lucinda Scala Quinn. It’s a must try before the late summer corn is gone.

Yield: Makes enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta, gnocchi, or steamed green beans

  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped or 2 pounds grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • handful of basil leaves, torn or chiffonade
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 5 ears fresh sweet corn, in the husk
  1. Preheat a grill or oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil, oil, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, place the unshucked ears of corn on the grill (or in the oven) and roast for about 20 minutes (you’ll smell the aroma of sweet corn when they’re done).
  4. Let the corn cool in the husks. Remove the husks and cut the kernels off the cobs.
  5. Incorporate corn into the tomato mixture. Let flavors meld for up to several hours prior to serving. Use as desired.

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Creamy Ricotta, Fresh Corn & Tomato Baked Ziti

Yes! More tomatoes. They are taking over my kitchen! 🙂 I loved that this dish also incorporated sweet summer corn- and basil.

This is a wonderful summertime version of one of my favorite winter casseroles. Cheesy but not too rich. It’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

The recipe was adapted from TheKitchn.com, contributed by Christine Gallary. I modified the proportions, reduced the pasta cooking time, and used Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in the sauce. Great.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8
  • cooking spray
  • 1 pound dried penne or ziti pasta
  • 15 to 16 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (about 4 to 5 medium), diced
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (I used kernels from 3 ears of corn)
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F, preferably on convection. Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
  3. Add the pasta to the water and cook about 2 minutes shy of al dente, about 8 minutes, or adjust according to package directions.
  4. Meanwhile, place the ricotta cheese, milk, Parmigiano-Reggiano, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend until very smooth; set aside. (I used a Vitamix.)
  5. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Add the tomatoes, corn, and ricotta sauce and stir until thoroughly combined.
  6. Transfer to the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil.
  7. Bake until bubbling around the edges, 30 minutes. Uncover and stir to evenly coat with sauce.
  8. Taste and season with salt as needed. Sprinkle with the basil. Serve.

Note: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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Chilled Corn Soup with Tomato-Bacon Toasts

This is a bowl of fresh and creamy heaven. Easy to prepare too. I topped it with a splash of color from my absolute summer favorite, basil. The toasts made it a filling meal as well.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. We ate it slightly chilled instead of cold because we enjoyed it on a cool and rainy summer night. My husband gobbled up the chilled leftovers and would recommend this soup served cold as well. 🙂 I think it would also be delicious served warm!

Yield: Serves 4 to 5

  • 4 slices bacon (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 6 ears of corn)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 to 8 slices crusty bread (I used a sourdough baguette)
  • 4 ounces manchego or other hard, sharp cheese, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds (I halved them again to fit on my bread slices)
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • basil, chiffonade, for serving
  1. In a large straight-sided skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, turning once, until crisp, 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels.
  2. Add onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt to skillet; cook stirring, 8 minutes.
  3. Stir in 4 cups corn, then 2 cups water; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is tender and most of liquid has evaporated, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a large bowl, stir in 1 1/2 cups ice water and the sour cream.
  6. Blend mixture with an immersion blender, or in a blender (in two batches, if necessary), until smooth.
  7. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 45 minutes. (I skipped this step and served it slightly chilled.)
  8. While the soup is chilling, season the tomato slices with salt and pepper. Toast the bread slices.
  9. Top the bread with cheese slices, tomatoes, and bacon.
  10. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with remaining 1/2 cup corn kernels, more pepper, drizzles of oil, and basil, as desired.

I’m sharing my summer soup at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #181 this week co-hosted by CH @Cooking From My Heart and Nimmi @Adorable Life. Angie featured my post from last week’s Fiesta- Yay! Check it out! 🙂

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