Miso Salmon

In the past decade of dating/being married to my husband he’s made a lot of requests in the food department.  I enjoy a challenge and, with the exception of one ill-conceived and poorly executed pesto, he’s always been happy to eat everything I make.  Lately he’s suggested more seafood and I have been trying some new fish dishes.  We cook with shrimp a lot, but other fish is not my wheelhouse – I am not experienced enough to make substitutes well based on what’s available.  I also have been generally opposed to salmon – it seems like salmon got trendy in the early 2000s and it was everywhere and generally poorly prepared and I just got tired of it.  I never buy it, but it was on sale at the grocery store and Ross wanted more fish, so I gave it a try.

This dish might be the single easiest dinner I’ve ever made.  It takes 3 minutes of prep the night before and 10 minutes of cooking the day of.  That’s it.  I’ve served it with rice and with quinoa, usually with grilled asparagus on the side.  It’s insanely good.  The miso paste may be hard to find, I located it at Whole Foods.  It’s fermented soybean paste – so it stays good forever in the refrigerator.  Whether you’re a long time salmon lover or a salmon skeptic, give this a try.  Mostly because you can make it in 11 minutes.  You do need to marinate it overnight, so keep that in mind.

Miso Salmon

adapted from Keepers by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion

2/3 cup red miso paste

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp brown sugar

1lb of salmon filets (at my grocery store, this means 2 long filets so I cut eat in half to get four pieces)

1. Place the miso paste, vinegar, and brown sugar in a large ziploc bag or tupperware and mix together until combined.  Add the fish, making sure to coat all sides, and place in the refrigerator overnight.

2. When you’re ready to eat, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, spray or brush with a little olive oil, and heat the oven to 400.  Arrange the salmon pieces on the foil skin side downand bake for 6 minutes, flip them over, and bake an additional 4 minutes, until you’re just able to flake the fish with a spatula.

Chicken Pad-ish Thai

Pad Thai is one of my favorite dishes of all time.  The tang of lime, crunch of peanuts, savory noodles – it’s my go-to at any new Thai restaurant.  Ross requested Pad Thai for dinner last week and, after scouring about a hundred recipes, it seemed like all of them required specialty ingredients.  I’m sure that using one of those recipes would yield a more authentic taste, but I couldn’t really picture dragging my toddler and baby across town to an Asian market where I was unfamiliar with the layout, restrooms, and exit strategy.  So I wanted ingredients I could easily find at Safeway or, better yet, my pantry.

I came up with this recipe and it is really delicious, but you could hardly call it authentic.  It lacks tamarind paste, rice noodles, tofu (due to my sucking at cooking tofu, not availability), and bean sprouts.  But if you’re looking for a noodle dish that’s spicy, a little sweet, and has a lovely peanutty taste, then this is your dish.  You could certainly substitute any protein here – I had intended to make it with shrimp, but the ones at our store looked pitiful this week, so I used two leftover grilled chicken breasts.

 

Chicken Pad-ish Thai

12 oz. linguine noodles (or spaghetti or vermicelli)

1/3 cup fish sauce

2T honey

2T sesame oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2T lime juice

1 tsp sriracha

1/2 cup water

1 shallot (or half an onion, if that’s what you have)

3 cloves garlic

2 eggs

4 green onions

handful of fresh cilantro

1/2 cup chopped, roasted peanuts

lime wedges for serving

oil for cooking

1. Boil the pasta according to package directions, I usually boil for 20% less time than it suggests (so 8 minutes if it says 10 – taste and see).  Meanwhile whisk the fish sauce, honey, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sriracha, lime juice, and water together in a small bowl and set aside.  Mince the garlic and shallot, slice the green onions.  Lightly beat the eggs.

2. In a large pot or wok, heat 2T of oil over high heat.  Add the shallot and garlic to the pan and cook for a few minutes until fragrant, about a minute.  Add the eggs and stir constantly to scramble the eggs – about 30 seconds.  Add the cooked noodles, green onions, and chicken, then toss the mixture together.  Pour the sauce over the top and allow it all to cook together for a few minutes.

3. Chop the cilantro and peanuts for garnish.  Serve warm with cilantro, peanuts, and a lime wedge.

 

Tortellini Salad

When I became a stay-at-home Mom, lunch took on a whole new meaning.  On one hand, it was awesome – I wasn’t restricted to 30 minutes with only a microwave for cooking.  I could use a stove!  Any ingredients I wanted!  I could eat whenever!  It was all fine and good until I found myself with 2 screaming kids who also wanted to eat and a menu that basically varied between taco bell and peanut butter sandwiches.  Something had to change.  Once I had my head above water with 2 kids, I made an effort to improve my lunches.  It’s nothing fancy – typically a wrap sandwich, salad, leftovers, etc.

This tortellini salad is a great lunch option whether you work or stay at home.  It’s good cold and actually improves during it’s time in the refrigerator.  You can add or subtract anything from the recipe – depending on what you have.  I like to make a big tupperware full of this and eat a bowl for lunch every day.  As the dressing soaks into the veggies and pasta, they get better and better.

Tortellini Salad

1 large package cheese tortellini (I use the 20oz. Contadina)

1 small container feta cheese (or goat, if that’s what you have)

1lb. cherry tomatoes

1 cucumber

1/2 to 1 cup kalamata olives

1/2  of a red onion

1/4 cup olive oil

3T red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp dried oregano

salt and pepper

1. Boil the tortellini according to package directions, but subtracting about 20% of the cooking time (if it says 10, only go 8).  Half the cherry tomatoes, chop the cucumber, kalamata olives, and onion.

2. Whisk the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, and oregano.

3. Run the tortellini under cold water.  In a large bowl stir the tortellini, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and crumbled feta.  Pour the dressing over the top and toss to distribute evenly.  Chill before serving.

Classic Barbecue Sauce

My family is definitely a cooking family.  Some of my best memories in life center around the kitchen – bustling around with my parents and brothers, my husband and sister-in-law, and now my kids.  As with anything, after you’ve cooked enough meals together everyone sort of falls into their own specialty – my dad will set an alarm every three hours all night to feed the smoker, my grandma makes amazing potato salad, my mom pulls together insanely good sides, I typically make dessert, and, in the case of a bbq, Ross always makes the sauce.  The recipe comes from one of our dearest friends, James, and exists only in an email sent from him to my husband 8 years ago (it’s a picture taken of a recipe).  I haven’t changed anything about the recipe, but I’m tired of searching through the archives of Ross’ email every time I want to make barbecue sauce so I’m sharing it here.  James is one of the best barbecue-ers (meatists?) I know, so his authority on sauce is commendable.  It’s only fitting that I share it now, as he’s about to move across the country and we won’t be seeing him for a while (though, he offers us an excellent excuse to visit L.A.!)

The smell of smoking brisket and homemade barbecue sauce is one of my favorite smells in the world and given that our sense of smell is tied so closely to my memory, it’s no wonder I have so many wonderful memories of cooking.  If you’ve never made your own sauce, give it a try – it’s not very hard and it tastes a million times better than what you could purchase at a store.  We’re hoping to try some new varieties this summer (I’ve grown some awesome peppers in my garden, so a spicy version is on tap for the near future).  This makes about a quart of BBQ sauce, enough to serve and have plenty left to keep in the refrigerator.  It you reduce it enough it fits perfectly in a large mason jar.

James’ BBQ Sauce

3T olive oil

3 cloves garlic

2 1/2 cups ketchup

3/4 cup chicken broth

3T soy sauce

6T brown sugar

5T molasses

3T red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Mince the garlic.  Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, until fragrant.

2. Add the other ingredients, stir, and allow the mixture to come to a boil.  When it does, turn the heat to low, and allow the mixture to simmer and reduce for 20-30 minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Easy Vanilla Ice Cream

Memorial Day, like Thanksgiving, is one of those holidays that I never really “got” until I was an adult.  As a kid, I was fine with the day off from school, a few flags in the neighborhood, and a tasty barbecue, but really, there were no fireworks, no gifts, no parades to speak of, so it wasn’t anything special.  As an adult, it has become one of my favorite holidays, partially because it truly signifies the start of summer.  As a stay-at-home-Mom, with no end of the school year to trigger the “summer” vibe, I like that Memorial Day weekend marks the start.  We usually swim for the first time, eat watermelon, spend time outside in the heat (though this year it rained all three days), and, of course, it’s the first day of the year that I make homemade ice cream.

For me, ice cream is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  Having spent two of the last three summers extremely pregnant, I acquired a whole new love for frozen desserts, and I felt like I was making homemade ice cream all the time.  I’ve made several vanilla ice cream recipes, and this one is undoubtedly the easiest, but it’s weirdly also the best.  During my second pregnancy in a bizarre nesting/hot/hungry rage I made several varieties in one day and hosted a blind tasting to determine the best – and Philadelphia style (no eggs) won out unanimously.

One way to make this easier is to purchase vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla beans.  I started using the paste many years ago and I haven’t purchased a single vanilla bean since.  The paste gives the correct look, taste, and consistency without the trouble (and expense!) of real vanilla beans.  The bottle may seem expensive, but it will last for a long time.  Pair this with some homemade chocolate sauce, a handful of strawberries, and some toasted pecans and it’s basically heaven.  This recipe makes the perfect amount for my 1.5 quart Cuisinart ice cream maker and serves about 6.   I purchased a second bowl for my ice cream maker a few years ago so I make 2 batches for a crowd.  As with all homemade ice cream, getting the ice cream to harden is difficult, so making it the night before so it can benefit from a night in the freezer gives it a great consistency if you aren’t into soft-serve.

Vanilla Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup milk (I used 2%)

3/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

1. Pour the sugar, 1 cup of the cream, the salt, and vanilla bean paste into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved (don’t bring it to a boil, it doesn’t need to be that hot).

2. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the milk, the second cup of cream, and the vanilla extract until combined.  Place the bowl in the freezer or refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill.

3. Make the ice cream according to directions on your ice cream machine.  Mine usually takes 20 minutes or so and makes a soft-serve consistency.  Transfer to a container and move it to the freezer to harden before serving.

Chilaquiles

I had chilaquiles (chee-la-key-lays) for the first time at Tila’s an adorable restaurant in Montrose  near our old apartment in Houston.  I am pretty sure I only ate inside once, as they had a fabulous patio like so many Houston restaurants.  See, in Houston, June-August is really, really awful and hot, but September through May is absolutely gorgeous.  You basically transition from summer to the rainy season (hurricane), then it’s lovely weather for 6 months before it gets dreadful and those 6 months were ideal for margarita sipping on patios.  This was back before we had kids and actually ate at restaurants other than Taco Bell.  Chilaquiles are basically a nacho casserole – and from my understanding you can pretty much put anything you want on them.

I love the pickled onions and avocados on these, it makes the dish really summery.  You can throw this together in a matter of minutes, depending on what you have on hand.  I made my own salsa verde, but you could certainly use jarred salsa as well.

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Chilaquiles

2 jalapenos

1 red onion

2 limes

1 bag tortilla chips (Calidad are my favorite)

2-3 cups cooked chicken (I used 2 grilled chicken breasts)

3 cups green salsa

1 cup queso fresco

sour cream

cilantro

2 avocados

1. Finely dice the jalapeno and slice the onion into strips.  Place both in a small bowl and juice the limes into the bowl.  Allow the mixture to sit at least an hour, but you could let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 350.  Cube the chicken, grate the cheese.  In a large casserole dish, arrange half of the bag of chips along the bottom of the pan and spread the chicken over the top.  Pour the green salsa over the top and sprinkle the cheese over the whole dish.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  While it’s baking, slice the avocados and chop the cilantro.

3. Top the hot chilaquiles with the pickled onions from before and the sliced avocado.  Serve with the cilantro and sour cream on the side.

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Chickpea and quinoa Thai-style vegeburgers

Before you start thinking that I’m here to replace all of your actual meat burgers with quinoa, know that I am not.  I grew up eating various iterations of vegeburgers, some excellent and most not so excellent.  As for the idea that a Boca burger is a reasonable substitute for actual meat, I firmly disagree.  Unless you’re a vegetarian, if you want a burger, you want a real burger and no matter how delicious, a vegeburger isn’t going to cut it.

To that end, I’m selling you on this the same way I sold my husband on vegeburgers: an alternative sandwich option.  Sort of like a snowcone and a chocolate brownie are both delicious desserts, but if you want chocolate a snowcone won’t do.

We had ours on a bun with the slaw and peanut sauce, but if you’re vegan  (or just not a fan of carbs, whatever), they really aren’t necessary.  And know that they don’t resemble the sad little pre-formed quinoa/boca/TVP you’re picturing in your head.  There are 3 components: the patty, the slaw, and the sauce.  You can easily make the slaw while the quinoa is cooking and then mix up the sauce while the patties are cooking.

Chickpea and Quinoa Thai Burgers

makes about 8 patties

for the patties:

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa

1 cup water

15 oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

3/4 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup cornmeal (I substituted grits since it’s what I had)

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. paprika

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp. sesame oil (or olive)

1 egg

1 bell pepper

1/2 of a small red onion

olive oil

 

for the slaw:

1/2 head  of purple cabbage

3 carrots

handful of cilantro

 

for the sauce:

1/2 cup peanut butter

2T honey

2T soy sauce

2″ piece of fresh ginger

1/2 tsp red pepper

1 lime

2 T water

 

1. Toast the uncooked quinoa in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat for about 3 minutes.  Add in the cup of water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, pulse the chickpeas, cornmeal, oatmeal, salt, paprika, garlic and sesame oil together in a food processor until well combined (it should look a bit like wet sand).

2. Transfer to a bowl and add stir in the egg.  Finely dice the bell pepper and onion (I put them in the food processor) and stir them into the mixture.  Then fold in the cooked quinoa to create a thick, cement-like mixture.  If it needs a bit more moisture to hold it together, add in a tiny bit of olive oil.

3. Shred the cabbage and carrots, and chop the cilantro.  Toss together to make the slaw.

4. Form the quinoa mixture into 8 patties and fry in a tiny bit of oil over medium high heat.  Alternatively, you could use an electric skillet with no oil at 350.  Fry them for a few minutes on each side until they start to turn golden brown and crispy.

5. Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together to make the sauce.  To serve, top each patty with a heap of slaw and drizzle the sauce over the top.  Serve with or without a bun.