Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring is Here, and so is Dill!



Brian and I wanted to keep it low key on Saturday night to get some rest before the Shamrock Shuffle, so we hung out at home and cooked up an awesome dinner. The beautiful spring Chicago weather inspired me when I was coming up with a meal. I started by picking out an herb I wanted to cook with, and DILL! just smells like fresh summer cooking to me. So I came up with a dinner based on the delicious fresh herb. A dill extravaganza, if you will. Now I can't wait for the outdoor Green City Market to open back up on May 4! (conveniently located a few feet from my front door)

Headed to Sheffield's for some delish BBQ and beers after the race! What a great day.

The menu? Zucchini and Potato Pancakes and a Cucumber and Onion Dill Salad over Pan Fried Salmon. I modified a recipe for the zucchini and potato pancakes from a contest winner on Food52. And as Amanda and Merrill comment on the recipe, "... and you, too, will devour them straight from the pan." My modified recipe is fresh and springy, and you guys will love it.

Cucumber and Onion Dill Salad


The Sauce

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic (minced)
1/2 lemon (juice)
2 tbsp dill (finely chopped)
Sea Salt

In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and buttermilk. Next, whisk in Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar and lemon juice. Add the garlic, dill and sea salt and mix to combine.


The Salad

1/2 the Dill sauce
1 English cucumber ( peeled, halved, pitted and sliced)
1/4 red onion (thinly sliced)

Prep your cucumber by first peeling the skin. Next, cut in half and take a spoon and carve out the seeds and pulp. Slice into 1/4 inch slices and put into a bowl. Put the slices of onion in the bowl as well and spoon about 1/2 the dill sauce over the vegetables. (Save half the sauce for the pancakes) Mix to combine all ingredients. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving to let the flavors soak into the cucumber and onion.


Zucchini and Red Potato Pancakes
(makes about 6)

2 zucchinis (grated)
1 large red potato (grated)
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 tbsp dill
1 large egg
1 clove garlic (minced)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Butter (or olive oil)

Grate up zucchini and potatoes into a bowl lined with a clean kitchen towel. Over the sink, squeeze all the excess liquid out of the grated zucchini and potatoes (there will be a lot!). If you don't squeeze it out, it will be impossible to form pancakes.


In a separate small bowl, whisk together the egg, lemon zest, dill, garlic and salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the zucchini and potatoes and mix. In a hot skillet or frying pan, heat up 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Once the butter is bubbly, scoop the zucchini mixture into the pan. Get a big spoonful of the mixture and drop it in the pan. Flatten it out so it looks like a pancake with the back of the spoon. I was able to fit 4 at a time into my frying pan. Cook each side for about 7 minutes, or until a dark golden crust has formed.


Serve these with the remaining sour cream sauce. It's a very fresh side dish with all the dill. You could substitute the sour cream with Greek yogurt if you wanted. But I love sour cream.

Pan Seared Salmon

This is my go-to recipe to cook salmon. The method of cooking gives it a really nice crust and keeps the inside juicy and delicious.

Salmon fillets (1 per person)
4 cloves garlic (pressed)
Lemon juice
Flour
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Start by turning the garlic into a paste. To do this, I first put my garlic cloves through a garlic press. I then put a generous amount of salt on top of the garlic to help render the oils and break the garlic down. With the face of my chef's knife, I press the garlic against the cutting board. I kind of slide the face of the knife across the garlic, mashing it. It takes about 4 minutes. You should end up with a sticky, paste-like mush.


Salt and pepper the salmon and rub the garlic paste into the flesh. Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the salmon. On top of the garlic paste, sprinkle some flour on the top of the salmon, and press it into the skin a little bit. The flour gives the salmon the nice crust when fried in oil.


Add some olive oil to a oven-safe frying pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the salmon fillets to the oil flour side down (skin-side up). Don't move them once you put it in, it will ruin the crust. Let it cook for about 7 minutes on the stove top (or until the salmon looks like it is cooked half way through- half light pink/half dark pink). Place the frying pan directly into the oven, and cook for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Depending on the thickness of the piece of fish, adjust the time.

Remove the pan from the oven, with an oven mit. Place the oven mit on the handle of the pan so you don't accidentally grab it!!! Yes, I have done it many times. Serve the salmon with the cucumber and onion dill salad over it, and the zucchini pancakes on the side. Yayy summer food!
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