2004_08_food_tyler2.jpgTyler Florence's Real Kitchen (Clarkson Potter, 2003)

Gothamist hates going out for Sunday dinner -- it interferes with our Six Feet Under obsession. So, we decided to make our boyfriend dinner this last Sunday using Tyler Florence's cookbook. Surely, the man behind Tyler's Ultimate could set us up with some man-friendly food that would be easy to make but impressive in the way that you expect from someone who's cooked at Aureole, River Café, Cibo, and Cafeteria.

The cookbook itself is creatively organized into sections based on when you are eating and with whom -- Dinner with Friends, Weekend Brunch (including dim sum), Cocktail Party, etc. The pictures are lush, and give you that really inspired, "Wow, I can really make that!?" feeling. And sometimes, the answer is no. While the book emphasizes simplicity and accessibility to real home chefs, and some really yummy-looking easy recipes are featured (like the Blackberry and Rosemary Crumble), many of the recipes are a little involved for casual cooking (Blue Cheese Soufflé with Chamomile-Fig Compote, for one).

We mixed and matched from the Dinner for Two section, serving the Slow-Baked Salmon with Asparagus and Honey-Onion Marmalade with the Chinese Salad that was supposed to be served with seared tuna. The salad was excellent, and even though Gothamist is super lazy, making the dressing in the blender was no big deal. We would make it again, maybe with the seared tuna on top. We've included that recipe as well.

The salmon was fine, but not as impressive as we had hoped. When it came out of the oven, we said, "Well, that's the reason there's no picture in the book!" We don't think it's a good cooking method for salmon -- it didn't cook to our liking and the salmon-fat collected on the asparagus, which looked gross. The cold herb puree was just not worth the effort it took to run around town to find the four different fresh herbs, but it was okay once it was mixed in with the tasty onion marmalade. Overall, Gothamist calls bullshit on this recipe. Nevertheless, we look forward to making other recipes from Tyler's book, as long as there is a picture on the facing page.

Slow-Baked Salmon with Asparagus and Honey-Onion Marmalade
Serves 2

Salmon and Asparagus
1/4 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 bunch fresh chives
1/4 bunch fresh tarragon
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons canola oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each, skin removed, about 1 inch thick (6 ounces should be fine unless you are violently hungry)
1 bunch asparagus, stems trimmed (just bend the ends till they break off)

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 Vidalia onion, sliced
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 250°F and line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Combine the herbs, dry mustard, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the canola oil in a food processor and pulse to make a puree. Season the puree with salt and pepper and set aside to let the flavors marry. Place both the fish and asparagus in a baking pan and drizzle them with the remaining 3 tablespoons of canola oil; season with salt and pepper. Bake the salmon and asparagus for 20 minutes. While they cook, make the marmalade.

Salmonenhanced.jpgHeat a skillet over medium-low heat. Coat the pan with oil and add the onion. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to help the onion break down and slowly cook it, stirring, until it caramelizes and releases natural sugars, about 20 minutes. When very soft and cooked down, stir in the orange juice and honey. Season with salt and pepper. The mixture should have the consistency of marmalade.

Remove the salmon and asparagus from the oven. Drizzle the salmon and asparagus with the herb puree and serve with the honey-onion marmalade on the side. Garnish the plate with a few fresh herbs.

Chinese Salad and Ginger-Soy Vinaigrette
Serves 2 (with leftovers)

1/2 head Chinese cabbage, such as napa or Savoy,shredded
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 bunch watercress, hand-torn
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 hothouse cucumber, sliced thin
2 green onions, sliced on the diagonal, white and green parts
2 radishes, sliced in circles (Gothamist hates radishes so we left these out-the salad was still good)
1 carrot, sliced thin
1/4 cup radish sprouts (optional)
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup canned mandarin orange segments, drained (just use the little can, no need to measure)

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
Juice of l lime
Splash of rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
4 teaspoons Chinese mustard (if you don't have any leftover from takeout, you can buy it powdered)
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the soy sauce, lime juice, vinegar, ginger, mustard, and honey. Gradually drizzle in both oils, as you constantly whisk, until the dressing thickens and comes together (or be lazy like Gothamist and give it all a whirl in the blender). Add a few twists of freshly ground black pepper to give the vinaigrette bite.

2004_08_food_chinesesalad.jpgCombine the cabbage, watercress, cilantro, cucumber, green onions, radishes, and carrot in a bowl. Use your hands (or salad-tossers shaped like hands!) to toss the salad. Then add the radish sprouts, almonds, and mandarin oranges; lightly toss again. Don't dress the salad yet because it will get soggy. Cover it and put it in the refrigerator while you make the rest of dinner; when you are ready to eat, toss the salad with half the vinaigrette; season with salt and pepper. Divide the salad between two plates and
then drizzle with the remaining dressing.

To make the Seared Tuna to go with the Chinese Salad:
Buy 2 sushi-quality tuna steaks, such as ahi (yellowfin), 6 to 8 ounces each. Rub both sides of the tuna steaks with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, salt, and white pepper. Spread 1/2 cup of sesame seeds out on a plate and lightly press each side of the tuna steaks into the seeds. Heat the canola oil and one tablespoon of sesame oil in a large skillet over high heat. Lay the steaks in the hot pan. Sear the tuna for about 3 minutes, until the sesame seeds form a crust. Flip the tuna steaks over and cook the other side 3 to 4 minutes longer for rare. Slice the tuna on a slight angle into 1-inch thick slices. Serve atop the salad.

-- girlynyc