Maple-bourbon glazed salmon

Maple-bourbon glazed salmon

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If there’s one thing I love, it’s bourbon. Sorry I’m not sorry. On the rocks. In cocktails. In desserts. On fish?

Totally on fish. With sticky maple syrup and toasted pecans. This dish is warm. I mean, obviously warm in temperature. But also warm in flavor.

The best part about drinking bourbon is the way your whole mouth and throat warms after the first few sips. You can feel the blush rise up in your throat and burst in your mouth and it’s just lovely after a hard day, or a mediocre day, or a good day. Any kind of day.

Obviously the alcohol mostly cooks out of this dish, so it doesn’t create that same blush as when you drink bourbon. But it creates a flavor that’s warm and rich and lovely. Also, this dish is quick and easy, but doesn’t taste like it. Those are my favorite kinds of dishes.

I started by preparing my sauce: some bourbon, some maple syrup, a little water in a sauce pot over high heat. [Read more...]

Three universal tips for cooking fish

Three universal tips for cooking fish

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As of this moment, salmon is one of my favorite dishes on the planet. Not only is it extremely healthy, providing valuable Omega-3s with a laundry list of joint, artery and immune system benefits, but it also tastes oh-so-good! If you enjoy curry dishes or Indian food in general, be sure to try out Jewels’ delicious Tandoori Salmon recipe.

For years, I had the misfortune of falsely believing I disliked fish. I imagine there are plenty of other individuals out there who, like my past self, believe that fish just isn’t their thing. Perhaps you had a single bad dining experience involving fish. Maybe the only fish you’ve tried was from a frozen bag. It’s possible that your first fish experience was with a species like mackerel, which has a more “fishy” taste, and you haven’t quite worked up to that.
In my case, the only fish I had ever eaten had been cooked by my father, and while my dad was a master at grilling steaks, he had a tendency to over cook fish.

Anyone who has successfully cooked fish can tell you that overcooking is possibly the worst mistake you can make. The delicate meat deteriorates quickly once you get passed the perfectly cooked point, unlike chicken and steak, which have much wider margins of error.

It wasn’t until I decided to try cooking a fresh piece of salmon for myself, prompted by the numerous health benefits, that I discovered how delicious fish could be. Here’s what I learned:

1) Don’t overcook the fish! [Read more...]

A brief review of food magazines and salmon in chermoula and Israeli cous cous

A brief review of food magazines and salmon in chermoula and Israeli cous cous

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I subscribe to a number of food-related magazines: Real Simple, Better Homes and Gardens, Cooks Illustrated and Food & Wine.

I think, this year, I’m going to trade Real Simple for Rachael Ray’s magazine. I’ve been thoroughly unimpressed with the general lack of flavor in Real Simple’s food section, even though I really like the concept of a magazine dedicated to organization.

Anyway, if I had to personify these magazines — personifying inanimate objects is, after all, one of my favorite pastimes — Better Homes and Gardens would be the hippy, organic-only, down-to-earth friend that is best sought out for hiking or an outdoor arts fest. Real Simple is the Type A, completely put together friend who gives the best logic-filled advice. Cooks Illustrated is the super intellectual, museum-g0ing, lover of science. And Food & Wine is the snobby, rich, designer-clothes-wearing friend who throws the best parties and is most fun after a few glasses of wine.

Food & Wine likes to put fancy names on their recipes and use the most expensive, hard-to-find ingredients out there. They also like to use the most involved cooking methods out there.

I rarely make a recipe of theirs, because 1) I probably haven’t even heard of half the ingredients listed so there’s no clues as to how the dish will taste, and 2) I don’t have the time to search through 16 specialty grocery stores, located miles from each other, for freaking wheat berries or whatever .

But occasionally, I realize that a recipe isn’t as scary as it sounds, and I might know where to find all the ingredients, and then I’ll go ahead and try it.

Such as the case with this salmon (original F&W recipe here). Basically you marinate this salmon in chermoula, which is, specifically an Algerian seafood marinade, and then you grill it, and serve it atop this fancy cous cous.

I daresay this is the best salmon I’ve ever cooked. Perhaps it’s because I forgot it was in the fridge, and let it sit in the marinade for over a week. Perhaps it’s because it was grilled to perfection. I don’t know. Whatever it was, I’m going to do it exactly the same the next time I make it.

The recipe includes a sauce composed mostly of ground up cooked mushrooms, tahini (which is a paste made from sesame seeds) and dill. I made up my own sauce, after I didn’t love the F&W version. I found theirs too bitter. Mine is still full of mushrooms, tahini and a bit of dill, but I tried to soften the flavors a bit, so it didn’t over power the salmon infused with the delicate herbal marinade.

So I started by putting my fish fillets into a baggie with the chermoula  — made with fresh cilantro, oil (I used sunflower, but you could use canola or vegetable),  freshly minced garlic, freshly minced ginger, salt, paprika, turmeric and cumin.

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Poached halibut in a lemon-thyme broth

Poached halibut in a lemon-thyme broth

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Here is a home-management tip for everyone. If your cable or Internet goes out, call and confirm it’s an outage. And then ask for a credit. They won’t offer you a credit, but if you ask, the cable company is legally required to give you one. And it might not seem like it’s worth it for a few dollars, but it’s happened twice to me this month, which means next month we’ll get 10 percent off our bill.

Anyway, fish can be a little troublesome to cook — it gets rubbery if it cooks too long — but it’s great for a weekday meal because it thaws and cooks very quickly.

In the past, I have baked fish, steamed fish and seared fish in the skillet, but when I came across this Martha Stewart recipe for poached halibut, I thought it was brilliant.

Poaching is a cooking technique most often used with eggs. You create a little jacuzzi of liquid in a pot and let your eggs, or in this case, halibut. According to Wikipedia, poaching is used most often with delicate food or food that will easily dry out such as fish, poultry, eggs and fruit.

Poaching is a fail-safe way of perfectly cooked fish. Good ‘ole Martha!

I started by creating my jacuzzi of flavor. I used my vegetable peeler to peel strips of lemon zest away from the lemon, added some whole garlic cloves, whole peppercorns, fresh thyme, lemon juice and chicken broth. The chicken broth is in ice-cube form from when I made it from scratch and froze. [Read more...]

Tandoori salmon

Tandoori salmon

A tandoor is a clay oven used to prepare food. It originated in Asia and the Middle East. There’s fire right in the oven, so food gets cooked three ways: from being set directly above the flames, from the heat circulating throughout the oven and from fat from the meat dripping on top of the fire and generating smoke.

When something is referred to as tandoori, it means of the tandoor. Tandoori meats are typically marinated in a seasoned yogurt marinade.

Although I don’t have access to a tandoor, tandoori things are also made on a grill. I don’t really have access to a grill either, but I do have access to a grilling pan and a stove!

This tandoori salmon might not have been exactly authentically prepared, but it was delicious. The seasonings in the yogurt marinade turn out to be settle and just give a hint of spice. The yogurt sauce is thick and really coats the fish even when it’s on the grill pan. [Read more...]

Steamed asian fish

Steamed asian fish

Sometimes cooking is about pulling out all the ingredients as listed and following the recipe exactly as written. Sometimes that includes using fancy equipment like a food processor or stand mixer or frying thermometer. But sometimes all you need is a little ingenuity and making do with what you have.

How do you steam fish when your only steamer basket is full of frozen broccoli. With a little creativity.

First I made the sauce for the fish. I whisked together some minced fresh ginger, soy sauce, lemon juice, rice vinegar, parsley and sesame oil. [Read more...]

Honey soy salmon

Honey soy salmon

You know that phrase, “You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” Well, that is probably true. My cousin was just telling me about a Berkley study on kindness and how being kind gets people farther in life than being connected.

Anyway, I’m straying from the topic. The point of the fly-saying is that if you’re nice to people, you can usually sway them from being mad at you. This works especially well if you’re in the workplace, I’ve found.

If you’re in the homeplace, however, you will also attract more potential suitors with honey than vinegar. Take some honey, put it in something savory and whoever you’re dining with will probably want to marry you. Unless of course you’re dating my boyfriend who found this dish too sweet. (Luckily I’ve already wooed him with other culinary delights.)

Also this is super, super easy. (I just love cooking fish. It’s so easy and quick!)

I adapted this recipe from Healthy Green Kitchen‘s recipe for Honey Soy Roasted Salmon.

I took the four 4-ounce salmon fillets and put them in a baggie with a marinade of soy sauce, Sriracha sauce (my dad calls this “chili paste”) and honey.) It sat for about 30 minutes out on the counter in room temperature.

[Read more...]

Seared trout over wild rice with radicchio-orange salad

Seared trout over wild rice with radicchio-orange salad

I love colorful meals. They say, the more color you have in your meal, the more healthy it is too. This meal is full of color and flavor. It looks exotic and gourmet. It feels healthy and that you have your life together, but it’s totally easy and simple.

The radicchio-orange salad is tangy and rich with some brown sugar that gives the salad a round, warm fullness. A sprinkling in pecans gives it a fantastic crunch.

The trout is simple and pan-fried with just some salt and pepper. The simpleness is perfect for the nuttiness of the wild rice and sweet tang of the orange-juice soaked salad.

I adapted this recipe from a recipe in Real Simple’s March 2012 edition. I normally would totally cheat and post the salad and the fish in a separate post, but it was so easy and went together so well, that I decided to post them together.

I made the salad first. I food processed a head of radicchio and two oranges. [Read more...]

Honey shrimp with candied walnuts

I am the first to admit I am a radical seafood snob. I am overly suspicious of any food from the sea — especially when it’s not fish AND in a landlocked state such as Pennsylvania.

So I didn’t expect to like this meal at all. I was mostly making it for A.J. because I never leave the fish realm when making dinner and he likes to eat all sorts of aquatic creatures. I was mostly thinking I would try one shrimp and then feast on the peanut butter green beans I made to go alongside this shrimp.

But, you guys, this was really good! It didn’t taste fishy at all, which is my primary concern when it comes to food shipped from coastal states to non-coastal states.

A.J. said it was the best dinner I’ve ever made. If you’ve ever had/made my enchiladas, you know that is a bold statement to make.

I started by chopping the tails off a thawed bag of frozen, medium-sized, deveined, raw shrimp. I patted them dry and them put them in a bowl with the whites of two eggs and some salt. I let them soak for awhile, about 30 to 40 minutes. [Read more...]

Citrus and thyme salmon

When I get home from work I am usually starving. Usually because I forget to pack my lunch or I eat fake food during the day or I work weird hours and forget to eat. Anyway, that’s why I love having fish for dinner. It cooks so quick!

I’ve made a lot of fish, but this was the easiest and in my opinion, one of the tastiest. I just love recipes that let you experience all the flavors of the ingredients subtly and simply. I don’t like when one flavor dominates all the others.

This recipe, from Real Simple, is so easy and so quick and uses so few ingredients. Perfect after a long day at work. (Also fish thaws super quick in a sink full of hot water, so coming home to frozen fish is not an excuse.)

I put some salmon fillets on a parchment lined baking sheet. I drizzled them with olive oil and then layered slices from one lemon and one orange all around and on top of the fish. I added some thyme sprigs. And salted everything. Done and done. [Read more...]