Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Asian Glazed Salmon

Remember the other day when I mentioned that I can't cook fish at all, ever, anyway, no way, no how, not ever except breaded? It seems that I have proven myself wrong. So anyone who's keeping a mental file on my cooking abilities, first of all - I can now cook fish, and second of all - um...why are you keeping track of this? Dude, you're freaking me out a little bit.

Ok, "I can now cook fish" may be overstating the issue a little. I followed a recipe a couple of weeks ago - but last night, I made up my own. Which means you might as well just go ahead and call me a poissonier.

What did I concoct that was so good? Something there's a million recipes already floating around for. But that's ok. I'm confident in my non-creativity. You know why? Because I'm eating some more of this salmon as we speak.

Asian Glazed Salmon
  • 2 six ounce salmon fillets
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1" piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar

Mix all of the ingredients except the salmon in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved and it is merrily simmering.

Remove from heat and cool for about 10 minutes.

Pour the marinade over the salmon fillets.

Marinade overnight in the fridge or for about an hour at room temperature.

Turn on your broiler.

Lightly grease a pan (I used a square pan, but a cookie sheet will work just as well - the marinade will just make a bigger burn spot you'll have to clean later).

Place salmon fillets (skin side down, if the skin's still on - mine had skin) in the pan.

Brush the fillets with some extra marinade (or be like me and decide that dirtying another utensil is too much work and just pour a little on each fillet).

Place pan in the oven, 6-7" from the broiler.

Cook for 15 minutes, or until the salmon easily flakes and is thoroughly cooked.

Boil the remaining marinade and serve on the side as a sauce.

Last night, I just let it marinade for an hour on the counter while I went grocery shopping, then came home and popped it under the broiler. It was so good that I was glad I had only fixed half the salmon, because I used the leftover marinade/sauce to marinade the remaining salmon overnight. That extra time in the juices didn't really seem to change the flavor though.

Now that I'm looking at the recipe, that seems like a LOT of brown sugar to me. If I were just finding the recipe, I'd immediately plan on cutting that down. But it really wasn't overly sweet - although the fact that I used high-octane soy sauce (translation: I grabbed the wrong bottle and came home with the non-low-sodium version) may have helped to counter the sugar somewhat.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Round Table Review: Where Flavor Was Born

A while ago, the hostess of one of my favorite food blog events - Sara, aka the Goddess of Weekend Cookbook Challenge - contacted me and asked if I'd like to take part in a round-table review. Due to my extreme good manners, I managed not to reach across the Internets and kiss a total stranger at the offer. A cookbook? That I get to try for free? And cook from while talking to other cooks about the same recipes? Hi, I'm Deborah. Do you need a first-born child as collateral? I might be able to cough one up for you.

{Enter stage left}:

Where Flavor Was Born: Recipes and Culinary Travels Along the Indian Ocean Spice Route.

From the first time I picked up the book, I was in love. The pictures? XXX rated food porn. In suuuch a good way. The book is part cookbook, part travelogue, part food picture diary that I wondered if Mr. Andreas Viestad's looking for a personal assistant for his next book. To, uh, personnally assist him in the eating, travelling and writing. And stuff. But mostly the eating. And the travelling. And the eating.

Mr. Viestad spent time travelling around the Indian Ocean, exploring the spices and cultures in all their similarities and differences. Lucky for us, he wrote about it. Also lucky for us, there was a hell of a photographer along. Do you see the cover up there? Rest assured, that's only the tip of the iceberg.

He's also an incredibly personal writer - most of the recipes tell you where he first encountered the dish, stories about who taught him how to make it, and which version inspired his written recipes. The book is arranged by spice - there are sections on cinnamon, cumin, paprika, cardamom, tamarind, etc, which really appealed to me. It almost encourages you to do a study of the spice, moving from one recipe to another to see how it plays with the other flavorings in a dish.

So we, the humble food bloggers (otherwise known as Sara, Mike, Mary and Lis), set out to work our way through this book. We came up with a list of six recipes that we wanted to try. The list had a little tweaking later on, but the final list was:

  • Yogurt Cucumber Soup with Coriander and Cumin
  • Entrecote with Onion, Ginger and Tamarind
  • Fish in Coconut Curry
  • Stuffed Onions with Ginger and Lamb
  • Bananas with Coconut and Cardamom
  • Coconut Curry Cake
In typical "Jump in feet first without checking the depth of the water" fashion, I decided to make the stuffed onions and the bananas for a couple that we invited over for dinner. Luckily, they're also foodies and were just as drawn to the book - and the hilarity of me trying to stuff these onions - as the rest of my fellow cookbook bloggers. The lamb recipe made more than enough mix to stuff the onions (I made some little meatballs from the leftover mixture). And hollowing the onions and then poking the stuffing back into them was an adventure - and a housekeeper's nightmare - by itself. This recipe could have used a little more "how-to" in that onion department. The flavors, though, exploded when we tasted the finished product. There's a lot going on in this dish - the onions are cooked in tumeric, then the stuffing has cumin, fresh ginger, ground ginger, dried apricots and - yum! - ground lamb. But all of these ingredients played together very nicely for my guests, and we were all impressed with how well these turned out.

The bananas in coconut milk were so easy to make, that The Professor has actually made them on two more nights. By himself! The fresh cloves and cardamom that steep in the coconunt milk make the house smell yummy. And The Professor has learned how to make one more thing in the kitchen without asking me how to turn the stove on. Double Victory!

Sensing I was on a roll, I tackled the steak and onions next. The recipe calls for a walloping SIX onions to go with two 8 oz steaks. I began to suspect that perhaps onions are a tad smaller around the Indian Ocean? Or there's just a lot of people that smell fairly strongly of onions. Not being so open-minded where my breath is concerned, I cut that number in half and only made three. Tamarind paste is a brand spanking new item in my pantry - and I only used a couple of tablespoons, so I'm going to have to find some more recipes soon - and I was more than a little nervous about it. I shouldn't have been. The onions outshone the steak (although I'll never complain about juicy red meat, in case you ever need that piece of information. Hint Hint).

My favorite recipe by far was one that did not contain red meat! If you had told me last month that I would have picked fish over lamb or steak, I would have asked you what restaurant I went to, because I? Me, right here? Can't do anything more interesting with a piece of fish than put it in a bunch of bread crumbs and serve it with a sprig of parsely. But the Fish in Coconut Curry (I used Mahi) was almost too easy. And the sauce that was left made incredible leftovers over rice the next day.

The coconut cake universally underwhelmed us in coconut flavor. I used fresh ground whole spices - which I think made a big difference, from our varoius opinions - and the spice comination of cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, nutmeg and ginger was a star. The cake was very light, and fairly spicy. But there was no coconut flavor, so I think I'll be tweaking this recipe in the future.

There are quite a few recipes in Where Flavor Was Born that I'll be getting to soon, but I'll keep a few things in mind - the size of onions for one! For another, that there isn't enough tutorial-information for newbie flavor explorers (like moi). But I learned a lot about my spices from this book, and the pictures....well, the Best Friend and I would call them food porn. You're free to also, if you like.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Creamy Potato Soup

The potatoes are taunting me.

I dream of potatoes. In a way, it's my own fault. I did buy ten POUNDS of the blasted things. And then I left them in a conspicuous place so that I'm forced to constantly think of what in the world to do with two or three at a time. I am on a quest: a quest not to let a single one of these suckers go bad.

Who knew that there actually comes a time when you don't want to think of potatoes anymore?

Obviously, we've done the baked potato. The twice baked potato. There was the potato casserole. I made hash browns. And then Saturday dawned clear and cold, with about an inch of snow. The blessed day had arrived.

It was time for potato soup. I wanted it to be creamy, but not full of fatty cream (It's January, and my jeans are revolting). The compromise? Fat free evaporated skim milk.

And Oh. My. God. This soup was the best potato soup I've ever made. Although honestly, that has just as much to do with the smoked Spanish Paprika that found it's way into the pot.

Creamy Potato Soup

  • 6 medium potatoes, cut in cubes
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, cut in a large dice
  • 6 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 can fat free evaporated skim milk
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Start boiling potatoes.

In a soup pot, saute the onions and celery for about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. Add the flour and stir constantly for a minute.
Stir in the milk and vegetable broth; bring to a slow simmer for about 5 minutes. Add paprika and season with salt and pepper.

By this time, your potatoes should be done - you don't want them to be falling apart, but just fork-tender. Drain the potatoes and divide in half.

Mash half of the potatoes and stir them into the soup. Simmer for another five minutes. Add the remaining potatoes and adjust seasonings to taste - I added a bit more pepper and another dash of smoked paprika.

Serve with whatever toppings you like - I forgot to buy bacon, but that's usually my first choice of a topping. Instead I just used some shredded cheese.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fried Doughnuts: Who wants unclogged arteries anyway?

When I was growing up, one of the kids favorite breakfasts was fried doughnuts. My parents either:

  1. loved us enough to give us the sugary sweetness, or
  2. Hoped that the massive quantities of sugar and fat would start a massive sibling civil war that would kill one of us off.
We didn't care what their reasons were - as long as they let us shove these down our throats every once in a while.

This morning, I introduced The Professor to the delights that are Fried Doughnuts. In a moment of weakness on Friday, he had bought a box that some group on campus was selling as a fund-rasier. After I finished cursing him for putting over 2 gajillion calories home in my hand, I promised to make it up to him by cooking breakfast.

Fried Doughnuts


  • Doughnuts
  • Butter

Cut the doughnuts in half horizontally. Slather the insides with butter and put them butter-side down in a hot skillet. If your arteries are feeling a little too healthy today, feel free to add more butter as they cook.

Cook until the buttered sides are getting brown and crispy and the glaze is melting and you just can't take it anymore and you have to eat one NOW.

Notes: the best doughnuts for this are the cheapest ones. Don't buy Krispy Kremes (even though that's what these were), because they aren't thick enough to soak up enough butter to actually push you over the edge into Heart Attack Land. Buy the ones at the grocery store that are on sale because they're two days old. Stale doughnuts soak up much more butter. And the store doughnuts are much thicker. Which leads me to a basic recipe for life:


Monday, January 14, 2008

Potato Casserole

Last weekend at the grocery store, I had a moment of semi-craziness. I went past the mounds of potatoes, and was halfway past the bags full of the globes of goodness, when I noticed something odd.

The 10 pound bag was only 20 CENTS more than the 5 pound bag. I was confused. I was bewildered. I looked around, but other than a few people wondering why a crazy red-head was staring so intently at the potatoes, no one seemed to find anything out of place.

Somehow, I came home with 10 POUNDS of potatoes. For two people.

The Professor and I have nothing against potatoes. They’re yummy – especially loaded with butter and cheese. But I couldn’t see up eating 10 pounds of baked potatoes.

The easy answer is potato soup. Which will assuredly be made at some point. 5 or 6 of the things went to the best friend – for some reason, I feel the need to shove food at her at frequent intervals. That still left me with a helluva large number of starches on my kitchen counter.

So, once again, I made the rounds of pantry and refrigerator to find things to throw in a dish that could be lunches for a few days.

Potato Casserole

  • 4 large potatoes, cut into 1” cubes
  • 1 small onion, cut in thin slices
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
  • Spray-on butter

Preheat oven to 350F.
Boil potatoes in salted water until mostly soft. Drain.
Mix potatoes, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, basil, oregano, garlic and Parmesan. Pour into 2 ½ quart baking dish.
Bake, covered, for 30 minutes.
At this point, I decided it needed something. In my world “something” is usually a direct translation for cheese – so I stirred in the mozzarella.
Bake, covered, for another ten minutes.
Top with Ritz crackers and then spray on as much butter as you want.
Bake, uncovered for 10 more minutes.

More Cheese! I think I would put some more cheese on top if I make this again. Calcium, right?
More herbs wouldn’t hurt, but really it was very good like this.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Yes, I DID say canned salmon

I've been poking around the back corners of my pantry lately, trying to use up the stuff that I've stockpiled. If there's anything my family is good at, it's packing every square inch of storage space in a house full of just about anything you can imagine. With me, the one place where I excel at maximum-clutter-per-inch is my pantry.

And today, as I was collecting bits and pieces from around the kitchen and putting them in the pile of what was going to be dinner at some future moment, I found a can of salmon.

The only thing I have ever used canned salmon for is salmon patties. In fact, I kind of had it stuck in my head that that's the only GOOD use for them. So I set out to prove myself wrong.

After we ate, I realized I had basically made tuna casserole in a skillet. But it had the three basic food groups: dairy, cheese and butter.

Salmon and Penne Skillet

8 oz cooked penne pasta, drained
1 tbsp butter
1 small yellow onion, cut in half and sliced
1 green bell pepper, cut in strips
1 can of salmon, drained with juice reserved
about 1/2 cup of milk
about 3 tbsp Parmesan Romano salad dressing (See notes for some substitutions)
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
3 oz frozen spinach
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
pepper, to taste

Saute onions and bell peppers in olive oil until the onions are transluscent. Whisk together the salmon juice, milk, Parmesan-Romano dressing, mustard and tarragon. Add to skillet and cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Add pasta, spinach, about 1/2 cup of cheese and pepper to taste. Stir until cheese is melted and then add the salmon. Cook until heated through and top with the remaining cheese.

I would have used half and half, but I only had skim milk. So I added the salad dressing to thicken it up a bit, and figured the extra flavor wouldn't hurt. But since I think I'm one of about five people in the country with this particular flavor of salad dressing, feel free to use cream or 1/2 and 1/2 in place of the milk and dressing.

I would definately recommend cranking up the amount of mustard and tarragon - probably doubling it. I wanted it to have that slight mustard bite and it didn't - although if you use cream instead of the salad dressing, the mustard and tarragon flavors might come through a little better.

I need an herb garden!

After I typed this up and hit "publish" I realized this is perfect for Presto Pasta Nights! So that's where it's heading off to.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


It’s gotten VERY warm here lately. Last week we had one day that the high was only 32. Five days later, the high was 72. So you’ll understand my momentary madness when I had the overwhelming urge to make what is, to me, a very summery dip. Guacamole.

Guacamole is SOOO easy. Even if you just got some avocadoes and smashed the ever-loving heck out of them with a little lime juice, it would taste heavenly. Since I’m an overachiever, I added a few things. Since I’m a nincompoop, I forgot to take a picture. I actually looked at the empty bowl and said “Damn! I needed a picture of this!”

Now, I’m a little kinky when it comes to avocadoes. I like to hold back a little bit of the scooped out fun so that there’s some chunks in the mix. If you like it nice and smooth though, go ahead and throw it all in the food processor at the same time. It’ll still give you a momentary urge to turn your kitchen that awesome shade of light-green, 1970’s horrible interior decorating green that we all still have nightmares about. Or at least I do, and I wasn’t even born until 1977.



  • 3 avocadoes, pulp removed from the rind
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 jalapenos, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds and white pitch removed
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • Juice from 1 lime

Saute jalapenos in olive oil until the skin is blackened. Put them in a food processor with 2 ½ of the avocadoes and the rest of the ingredients and pulse until mostly smooth. Roughly chop the remaining avocado and stir in. Serve with the chips of your choice. Or spoons. Really, it’s your choice.

Notes: a little fresh cilantro would make this a lot better. But because I’m forgetful, I forgot to buy any.
I really like this with some chopped roma tomatoes sprinkled on top. The reds and greens are both Christmasy and summery all at once – which makes it perfect for a week with crazy weather like this one.