Monday, March 29, 2010

Kissing Up to the Landlord Part Deux, brown sugar-glazed salmon

I love fish, but I don't have enough of it in my diet. One of my favorite fish is salmon, which dukes it out at the top with tuna and halibut, depending on my mood, the phase of the moon and whether the fish was wild-caught.

A word about sustainability. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has started Seafood Watch, which lets you know what fish are safe to eat when. For those with iPhones, they have app for that as well. It's scary to think it's possible to run out of fish in my lifetime, so I keep an eye on it.

A friend made this recipe, telling me the sweetness of the brown sugar overpowered the strength of the salmon. I suspect he had bad salmon. 

I've never used Taste of Home before. If I'd been going by just the name, I might have skipped it over. I am not fond a lot of traditional American food unless I make it. This was pretty different, though, and I loved the results.


  • 1 salmon fillet (1 pound) we had slightly more than that. The guys could easily eat a pound of fish between the two of them
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper I do not measure the salt and pepper that I sprinkle over things. I go for light, but even coverage.
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar I prefer dark, more molasses flavor
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce I've yet to taste the difference between low-sodium and regular sodium soy sauce. I'm pretty sure ours is regular; I can't tell, the label is in Japanese
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard I actually was out of dijon, which annoyed me, as I didn't feel like running back to the store. So I used 4 T of spicy mustard and threw in a couple tablespoons of white wine.
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar


  • Cut salmon widthwise into four pieces. Place in a foil-lined 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake, uncovered, at 425° for 10 minutes.
I thought this might be too much--dried out fish is not tasty! It worked rther well, though

  • Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, mustard and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Brush evenly over salmon. Broil 6 in. from the heat for 1-2 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Yield: 4 servings.
I had enough of the glaze left over for another couple of filets. I'm wondering how this might work with a grill--we'll be trying it this summer.

Austin the minimalist roommate loved this recipe. It didn't go over so well with my sweetie. He's a big proponent of not wanting sweet tastes with his protein. I thought between the mustard, the soy sauce and the vinegar, he'd be okay. Fortunately, we had a filet left over and I made it lemon-pepper style for him. 

No major changes for this recipe, except for not measuring the salt and pepper. I found the taste to be more mustardy than sweet. A nice change from the typical salmon with dill. Try it!

Next week: Mac & cheese redux!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

By Request--Pesto without a processor

A while back Beki asked, "When are you going to make pesto?"

Time to start researching. Over at the Food Network, there was this one and this one which both called for a food processor. Not what I wanted. You may recall that my search for a blender with a food processing attachment at the local mall resulted in a plain blender.

Then I found How to Make Pesto like an Italian Grandmother. Let me hear you say, "Bingo!" How could I turn away from this one? I used to live across the street from an elderly Italian couple, and Mrs. Patrica liked to feed us. The trick was to go over there when you were totally starving, and if you protested, "No, Linda, I'm not hungry," for about a half an hour, the food would come at a (slightly) slower pace. It was from her that I learned how to make tomato sauce. She threw in pork chops and started simmering. When the meat fell off the bone, it was ready to serve.

But anyway. Another nice thing about the above link is it gave me an excuse to buy more kitchen toys. After some shopping around, I found

My sweetie was the one that turned me on to Wusthof knives, and the price on this one is a steal.

Some folks out there think pesto is pretty complicated, but it really isn't. One of my favorite type of recipe is that which tastes like it took hours to cook, but really was only a few minutes.

1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and dried I plucked and washed about an hour before I started chopping, laying the leaves on a layer of paper towels, then blotting them with another layer.
3 medium cloves of garlic I shoulda listened, but by now you know that I can't leave a recipe alone. I used four large. My suggestion--start with the three and taste as you go along.
one small handful of raw pine nuts I have pretty small hands, but this turned out to be too much. I am guessing my hand holds about a quarter cup. Next time, I plan to reduce that and use about three tablespoons.
roughly 3/4 cup Parmesan, loosely packed and FRESHLY GRATED'nuff said
A few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil I used more than few to bring it all together.

Start chopping the garlic along with about 1/3 of the basil leaves. Once this is loosely chopped add more basil, chop some more, add the rest of the basil, chop some more. I scrape and chop, gather and chop. At this point the basil and garlic should be a very fine mince. Add about half the pine nuts, chop. Add the rest of the pine nuts, chop. Add half of the Parmesan, chop. Add the rest of the Parmesan, and chop.
I love this method, I really do. It takes a lot of the tedium out of simply chopping, I really felt I was making something instead of just prepping ingredients.

I did toast my pine nuts with a little olive oil first. I just happen to like the taste better. My sweetie mentioned that he appreciated it.

The knife and board worked like a dream. When the bowl of the board got too full, I emptied the pesto into a small bowl, and mixed in the FRESHLY GRATED (just had to do that) parmesan.

It took me a little longer than the half hour described, but in the end, I had a garlicky basil pesto. Like I said, shoulda listened. I also should have tasted more as I went along.

I tossed my concoction, after adding olive oil, with some basil and garlic linguine, and served it alongside a nice piece of steak, and a salad of baby romaine leaves, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basalmic.

In the end, I thought it was too garlicky. My test audience says there is no such thing as too much garlic, but on later reflection, thought there could be a few less pine nuts and a little more cheese. I'll be visiting pesto again in a month or so.

Have a recipe you want me to try? Questions? Comments? Let me hear from you!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Minimalism. Almost.

Some of the best recipes out there have only a few ingredients. Use them at the peak of freshness, and you're a hero to those you're cooking for.

If you grow your own vegetables, or you have time to get to a Farmer's Market every day.

Most of us need to make do with what's at the grocer, and I have to say selection is better and fresher than it was even five years ago. I like to buy organic; I think it tastes better and the vegetables keep a little better. This article about organic food is worth a read, even if you don't think organic is worth the money.

I came across this week's recipe when I was in a "back to basics" frame of mind. This roast pork loin with rosemary and garlic is from Epicurious, and was very easy to make

4 large garlic cloves, pressed
4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 2 1/2-pound boneless pork loin roast, well trimmed
Fresh rosemary sprigs (optional)

One look at this list and I knew a few things: 1) Rosemary and pork are delicious together 2) I was going to need more herbs than what was called for 3)this recipe could use a little freshening.

And big booboo on Bon Appetit. The ratio of dried herbs to fresh herbs is three to one, not two. Maybe I just like bolder flavors.

Actually, when I put all the ingredients together, my first thought was, "More. We need more of everything." I didn't want to just have the occasional bit of herbal flavor, I wanted each bite of pork to burst with rosemaryness. I simply didn't have enough herb/garlic mixture to cover the real estate of the pork loin, so I added another tablespoon of fresh rosemary and another garlic clove.

I mentioned freshening above. Maybe it's my desire for spring and summer (we got a fair amount of snow in CT this past winter), but I wanted to brighten this recipe, and my freshener of choice was lemon juice. Just a couple of tablespoons in with the spice mix.

The rest of the recipe:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 13 x 9 x 2-inch roasting pan with foil. Mix first 4 ingredients in bowl. Rub garlic mixture all over pork. Place pork, fat side down, in prepared roasting pan. Roast pork 30 minutes. Turn roast fat side up. Roast until thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 155°F., about 25 minutes longer. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes.
Pour any juices from roasting pan into small saucepan; set over low heat to keep warm. Cut pork crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Arrange pork slices on platter. Pour pan juices over. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, if desired.

The instructions here were very easy to follow, and I was really pleased when the oven actually did what the instructions said and the pork was the exact temperature after the roasting time. Most ovens aren't calibrated that well.

The result was delectable. I served it with herbed bread dressing and green beans. Few leftovers, and they were gone the next day, so I call this one a raging success.

Next week: by request, I bring you pesto without a food processor.

Questions? Comments? Want me to deconstruct a recipe? Let me know!

Have a great week, everybody!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I don't get tired of Indian food--tandoori chicken sans tandoor

While I could go for a few days here and there without ingesting animal protein, my sweetie is, as he fondly put it, a meatitarian. He likes meat for at least two of his daily meals. Don't get me wrong, he's not someone who doesn't eat vegetables, and he gobbled the veggie curry from a few weeks ago.

I once had a friend who never ate greens; only white and brown food. It was scary to watch him order at a Chinese restaurant. "Beef and broccoli without the broccoli."

But anyway, we're talking meat, and this recipe for tandoori chicken caught my eye. I had to make the garam masala, which was both fun and educational and the rest of the ingredients were easy enough to come by:

10 pieces of chicken (drumsticks and/or breast with skin removed) I used two packages of chicken tenders
1 cup plain yoghurt I like Chobi or Fage greek-style. This is an unpaid endorsement
1 tablespoon melted butter I used unsalted
1 tablespoon lemon juice it's worth it to buy the lemon
1 tablespoon red chilli powder (adjust according to preference) I just heaped the tablespoon
1 tablespoon coriander powder Spice Islands brand runs a little cheaper than the high-end McCormick
1 tablespoon garlic paste-I actually had crushed garlic in the house
1 tablespoon ginger paste I chopped the ginger really fine. Next time, I may try crushing it in the mortar and pestle
1 tablespoon cumin powder Cumin and chili powder. Suddenly we're in Texas? Not quite, read on.
½ tablespoon mustard my kitchen is never without it
½ tablespoon garam masala powder see last week's entry for putting garam masala together
Optional Spices:
few pods of cardamom I bought these; I know I bought them, but somewhere between the cashier and my home they vanished. I keep hoping they'll show up in the trunk of my car.
pinch of saffron I'll definitely try this next time; I have some money left over from a modest tax refund.
Salt to taste I didn't add any. It can always be added later.

Note: You can also buy readymade Tandoori Chicken Spice mixture or paste in any South Asian store or ethnic sections of big grocery store.

I've seen jarred sauces, but never spice mixes at my local grocery store. I will say Patak brand is pretty tasty. I really liked their Jalfrezi sauce.
1 Mix all spices with yogurt and butter to make marinating sauce.
2 Prick the chicken (stabbity stabbity stabbity. Go crazy, we want the sauce sinking in to the chicken) and apply the sauce. Cover chicken and marinate overnight inside a refrigerator (at least 4 hrs).

I marinaded for four hours.
3 Grill the chicken in regular way.  (For better result, apply melted butter to the chicken just before you grill.)

What the hell is the regular way? And while I love butter, my cholesterol is a little high, so I skipped that option.  Anyway, it was too cold for Austin to open the charcoal grill, so we decided to use his George Foreman. Not quite the temperature you'll get in a tandoor, but hotter and more intense heat on both sides of the chicken than an oven. We did a few pieces at a time at about three minutes a shot.
4 Cook chicken until brownish (or way you prefer)
5 Serve sliced onion (ring) and lemon wedges with the tandoori chicken. Also, serve. Lemon juice can be sprinkled on the cooked chicken to add zesty flavor.

Next time, I'd like to try adding saffron and seeing what a difference it makes, and making it on a charcoal grill.
This recipe rocked for several reasons--generally easy to assemble, realistic marinade time. The chicken came out very tender and flavorful and the lemony taste was a nice counterpart for the curry served alongside.

Refreshing change in that I didn't feel the need to change this one too much and the results were devoured to the point of no leftovers.

Next week: rosemary pork loin