Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cashew Pistachio Crusted Tilapia with Crispy Parsnips and Cherry Sesame Warm Spinach Salad

     Can you remember the warm spinach salads that were a popular item a few decades ago?  The warm spinach salad lost its popularity over the years.  Warm spinach salad is now rarely seen on a modern restaurant menu.  There were some great and very creative warm spinach salads that were served at finer restaurants 25 years ago.  Why did warm spinach salads disappear?  Greasy spoon diners and low quality chain restaurants had a lot to do with the decline of the warm spinach salad's popularity.
     I have seen some really bad warm spinach salad dressings in restaurant kitchens in the past.  Dark brownish black greasy liquid with sugar, vinegar and rancid pieces of bacon floating on top is what a bad warm spinach salad dressing looks like.
     On the first day at work, at a few restaurants that I was hired in, I would notice what food items needed improving or what food was being made incorrectly.  Usually a neglected warm spinach salad dressing was located at the farthest spot away from the cooking line in the steam table.
     I have seen cooks reheat the same hot bacon dressing day after day, till there was nothing left to reheat due to evaporation.  The reaction I got from the unskilled cooks that maintained the steam table was "That stuff never sells anyway!"  My thoughts always seemed to center on the fact that those unskilled cooks probably had killed off the customers that liked warm spinach salad, by serving them the old rancid dressing!
     Well, the warm spinach salad in today's blog entry is safe to eat and it is very healthy!  Recipes like this creative warm spinach salad sold well back in the day.  Adventurous customers liked the idea of a warm spinach salad that was not made with the standard warm bacon dressing.  I should post more of the creative warm spinach salad recipes that we created back in those days.  Who knows?  Warm spinach salad may become popular again some day!
     Crispy Parsnips Recipe:
     Peel a parsnip and cut in half.
     Cut 4 to 6 very thin lengthwise slices.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 generous splash of vegetable oil.
     Pan fry the thin, long parsnip slices.
     Pan fry the parsnip slices on both sides, till they become crispy and golden brown in color.
     Place the crispy parsnip slices on a dry towel to remove any excess oil.
     Season with sea salt.
     Set the crisp parsnips aside.
     Warm Cherry Sesame Dressing Recipe: 
     Heat 1 cup of water over medium low heat in a sauce pot.
     Add 1 small handful of dried cherries.
     Simmer the dried cherries, till they plump up and reconstitute.
     Add 2 ounces of cherry liquor.
     Add 2 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped onion.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 3 tablespoons of pomegranate vinegar.
     Taste and check for a 50/50 balance of sweet and sour flavor.  Adjust the level of sugar or vinegar if necessary.
     Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.
     Stir the dressing occasionally as it simmers and reduces.
     Simmer and reduce the dressing, till it almost becomes a very thin syrup like consistency.
     Keep the dressing warm over very low heat.   Add a spoonful of water, if it reduces too far.
     Cashew Pistachio Crusted Red Snapper:
     Finely chop 1/4 cup of cashews and 1/4 cup of pistachios.
     Season a 6 ounce tilapia filet with sea salt and black pepper.
     Press the filet into the chopped nut mixture.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 ounces of clarified butter.
     Place the nut crusted red snapper in the pan.
     Saute the nut crusted fish filet for just long enough to lightly toast the nut coating.
     Flip the fish only once, to cook the other side.  (Too high of a heat will scorch and sour the chopped nut coating.  Flipping the fish excessively will cause the nut coating to fall off.)
     Remove fish from pan after the nut coating is toasted.
     Place the filet on a baking pan.
     Bake the filet in a 325 degree oven, till the fish becomes fully cooked.
     Set the filet on a dish and keep it warm on a stove top.
     Cashew Pistachio Crusted Red Snapper with Crispy Parsnips and Cherry Sesame Warm Spinach Salad:
     Place 2 large handfuls of trimmed baby spinach leaves in a mixing bowl.
     Add the crispy parsnip slices.
     Add about 3 to 4 ounces of the warm cherry sesame dressing.
     Immediately toss the ingredients together while the dressing is hot.
     Mound the warm spinach salad on the center of a plate.
     Place the cashew and pecan crusted red snapper on top of the salad.
     The flavors in this salad are very unique.  Dried cherries give off a very intense tart cherry flavor.  The ginger adds a complimentary flavor.  The crispy parsnips add a crispy texture and earthy sweetness.  The naturally smoky sesame oil flavor takes the place of a bacon flavor.  The cashew pistachio crusted tilapia makes this warm spinach salad irresistible!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

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