Spring Salmon with Asparagus & Sugarsnap Peas
Plus: Cookie Tips from an Iron Chef, Albaloo Polo from Adana, and Fresh Pasta and Ice Cream at Antico Nuovo.
Spring is here! Actually, according to my research (a quick Google search), spring started on March 20th so spring has been here for two weeks now. It’s officially time to start cooking with asparagus and green garlic and sugar snap peas and rhubarb.
If I’m being honest, and I’m always honest with you guys, spring is my favorite season for cooking. There’s something so hopeful about that blip of green poking out of the ground after an icy winter (it got down to 50 degrees this year in LA! Can you imagine?).
I love spring cooking so much, that this week’s Amateur Gourmet Podcast (arriving on Wednesday) is all about spring cookery. Ben Mims will swing by to tell us what he’s been making from the farmer’s market and Ali Slagle, NYT recipe writer and author of the brand new cookbook I Dream of Dinner, offers up her tips for spring ingredients. Be sure to become a subscriber so you don’t miss that in your inbox on Wednesday!
Now, as for my own spring cookery, I made this scrumptious salmon dinner the other night and it was so simple and so satisfying. To whit: I bought green garlic (the baby version of garlic which has a green, pleasantly garlicky flavor), asparagus, and sugar snap peas (my favorite spring ingredient). I sliced the white and light green parts of the green garlic and sautéed them in a splash of olive oil; meanwhile, I pulled the strings off the sugarsnaps, cut the bottoms off the asparagus and sliced what remained in half on the bias. I added everything to the pan with the garlic, added a splash more oil, sprinkled with salt, and sautéed until just cooked-through but still al dente, then, off the heat, I added a squeeze of lemon juice.
As for the salmon, I seared it skin side down in a small skillet (after seasoning it with salt and pepper) and when the skin was nice and crisp, I flipped it over and finished it in a 425 oven until a thermometer read 125 on the inside. I put a lemon wedge on the plate, and that was dinner and it was springtastic.
I was actually looking for a spring song to put here and then I remembered this one. It’s one of my favorites.
If you’re sick of all this spring stuff, fear not!
I’ll now tell you the tale of the chocolate chip cookies that I made to ship to Craig today. I used my standard recipe, from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, (I posted it here), and one tray came out beautifully.
The other one, which I baked exactly the same way, on the same brand of cookie sheet, at the same temperature, in the same oven, at the same time, came out like a smooshed-together giant mega-cookie. Here’s my tweet about it:
And look who chimed in with some advice?
Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli!
Adam Roberts @amateurgourmetA lot of people are guessing this but they went in at the same time and I rotated them halfway through. https://t.co/aXBi6znM9P
I honestly never considered what she says here: that putting two trays in at the same time lowers the heat of the oven and that one tray blocks the other from getting the necessary heat. Also, after this experience, I will definitely chill the dough before baking. So thank you Twitter and Chef Alex Guarnaschelli.
Earlier this week, I visited my friend John in Glendale where we continued our tradition of ordering dinner from Adana, the fantastic kebab place that Mark Bittman once wrote about in the New York Times.
John got a bunch of meats; I got the Albaloo Polo, which was grilled chicken with sour cherry rice.
The chicken was divine and I loved the sour cherries, which were beautifully rehydrated and added a nice tart kick to the proceedings. The great thing about Adana is they also give you a TON of other stuff: pita bread, hummus, pickles, salad. Order dinner from there and you’ll be eating for a week.
On Friday night, I went with my friends Tony and Anthony to dinner at Antico Nuovo on Beverly.
My first experience there was pre-pandemic, when it was just Antico and there were copper pots hanging over every table (like the ones you see in the picture above). I remember that, because I was there with Craig and there was an earthquake! All of the pots started clanking together and then when it stopped the whole restaurant applauded. It was a very L.A. moment.
During the pandemic, Antico transitioned into a pizza restaurant that only did delivery — I know because I ordered one and it was a mighty pizza that they also delivered with their famous ice cream (more on that in a bit) — but now they’ve transitioned back into an upscale Italian restaurant, hence the “Nuovo.”
The focaccia, which we ordered as a first course, was among the best I’ve ever had: light as air, rich with olive oil, and vibrant with salt, it was even better topped with the whipped ricotta and hazelnut pesto. (Though the pricing here is bizarre: the focaccia by itself is $9, which, okay, that’s justifiable because it’s so good; but the ricotta with hazelnut pesto, in that small portion that you see above, is $16?! I don’t mind paying for quality food when I’m out for dinner, but it just seemed a little confusing.)
No matter: the next course, a broccoli castelfranco Caesar, earned raves across the table. Who knew cooked broccoli (or broccolini, as this seemed to be) could be such a brilliant vehicle for a Caesar?
That dressing was alive with the briniest anchovies (I bet they were salt-packed), lemon, and Parmesan.
The pastas, though, were the star of the show. I had no idea what mine was when I saw it on the menu: plin dell’ alta manga — sugo di arrosto which the server explained to be agnolotti-like (tiny ravioli) stuffed with beef and braised rabbit, the sauce was made from the braising liquid with butter and Marsala. (I took this pic as the server was raining down cheese on top.)
That sauce was so incredible, I had to eat this with a spoon (Marsala + butter will make any sauce sing, I’m thinking). And Anthony’s orecchiette with broccoli and Tony’s fazzoletti with duck offal ragu were nothing to shake a stick at.
All of this alone would’ve made this one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time, but then came the ice cream. You simply have to order your own; it’s too good to share. I chose pistachio, Anthony chose cookies & cream, and Tony picked the winner with focaccia (!) ice cream. (Bits of crispy sugared focaccia on top.)
Seriously, getting ice cream at Antico Nuovo is one of the great L.A. experiences. Not to be missed.
Now for some links that caught my eye this week!
Melissa Clark rethinks stuffed cabbage… it’s so rethought, it’s not even stuffed! (NYT);
Oaxacan food in Koreatown: I love L.A. (Eater LA);
Speaking of loving L.A., I just learned that the blog L.A. Taco has a free app in the App Store and I installed it on my phone and it’s amazing: it shows you the best places to get tacos wherever you are (LA Taco);
Yes, we’re all tired of the slap, but Wesley Morris’s piece on it is a must-read (NYT);
One-bowl citrus cake? I’m interested (Food52);
I was literally on the cusp of buying a Nespresso after reading this, but I’m going to hold out for a Breville espresso maker with a grinder in it because we just love our freshly ground coffee beans in this family (Epicurious).
That’s all for this week, folks!
In case you missed Thursday’s paid-subscribers only newsletter, I spilled the beans about my time at the Food Network!
If you want to read that essay, plus hear Natasha Leggero’s answers to my Ten Feisty Food Questions, plus have access to all of my archives (including all of the previous bonus episodes and essays), here’s a discount code to become a subscriber for 20% off. A true bargain!
Okay, I’ll see you back here soon….
Adam & Winston