Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Recipe #282: Sesame-Crusted Salmon

For Christmas, my aunt gifted me with a subscription to a fabulous magazine, Cooks Illustrated.  Here's my first attempt at making one of their recipes, and it was perfect (although I modified amounts a little). The amounts listed below are how I made the dish.  So juicy and flavorful!


1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 6-8oz skinless salmon fillets (I used ones with skin and it turned out fine)
1-2 scallions, white parts minced, green parts sliced thin
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest plus 2 teaspoons juice
4 teaspoons tahini
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon vegetable oil


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.  Dissolve 5 tablespoons salt in 2 quarts of water (I put this in a 9x13 casserole dish).  Transfer 1 cup brine to bowl, stir in sesame seeds, and let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes.  Submerge fillets in remaining brine and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Drain seeds and place in 12-inch nonstick skillet.  Cook seeds over medium heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown, 2-4 minutes.  Transfer seeds to a plate and wipe out skillet with paper towels.  Remove fillets from brine and pat dry.

Place scallion whites and lemon zest on cutting board and chop until whites and zest are finely minced and well combined.  Transfer scallion-zest mixture to bowl and stir in lemon juice, tahini, ginger, cayenne, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Evenly distribute half of paste over bottoms of fillets.  Press coated sides of fillets in seeds and transfer, seed side down, to a plate.  Evenly distribute remaining paste over tops of fillets and coat with remaining seeds.

Heat oil in now-empty skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Place fillets in skillet, skin(ned) side up, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook until seeds begin to brown, about 2 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat and carefully flip fillets over.  Transfer skillet to oven.  Bake until center of fish is translucent, 10-15 minutes (15 for my 8 oz fillets worked well).  Transfer to serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with scallion greens and serve.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Recipe #281: Pad Thai #2

This is my second Pad Thai recipe, but this one is different enough that I had to post it.  I'm really happy with how closely it tasted like the version at my favorite Thai restaurant, although this recipe does not use chicken (which, I found out, is not authentic).  I found this on www.thaitable.com, and my changes are in red.


1/2 package Thai rice noodles
1-1/3 cup bean sprouts
1-1/2 cup Chinese chives (I used the same amount of scallions)
2 tablespoon cooking oil  (I used peanut oil)
2 tablespoons tamarind paste (I used the same amount of white vinegar)
2 tablespoon sugar (I only used 1 tbsp)
1 minced shallots
1/3 cup extra firm tofu
1/2 lime
2 tablespoons peanuts (I used more)
1/2-1/4 lb shrimp
ground pepper (White is recommended)
1/2 teaspoon ground dried chili pepper
3 cloves minced garlic
4 teaspoons fish sauce
1 egg



Start with soaking the dry noodles in lukewarm or room temperature water while preparing the other ingredients (8-10 minutes). Make sure that the noodles are submerged in plenty of water. By the time you are ready to put ingredients in the pan, the noodles should be flexible but not mushy. Julienne tofu and cut into 1 inch long matchsticks. When cut, the super firm tofu/pressed tofu should have a mozzarella cheese consistency. You can fry the tofu separately until golden brown and hard, or you can fry with other ingredients below.

Cut the Chinese chives into 1 inch long pieces. Set aside a few fresh chives for a garnish. Rinse the bean sprouts and save half for serving fresh. Mince shallot and garlic together.


Use a wok. If you do not have a wok, any big pot will do. Heat it up on high heat and pour oil in the wok. Fry the peanuts until toasted and remove them from the wok. The peanuts can be toasted in the pan without oil as well. Add shallot, garlic and tofu and stir them until they start to brown. The noodles should be flexible but not expanded at this point.

Drain the noodles and add to the wok. Stir quickly to keep things from sticking. Add tamarind, sugar, fish sauce and chili pepper. Stir. The heat should remain high. If your wok is not hot enough, you will see a lot of juice in the wok at this point. Turn up the heat, if it is the case.

Make room for the egg by pushing all noodles to the side of the wok. Crack the egg onto the wok and scramble it until it is almost all cooked. Fold the egg into the noodles. The noodles should soft and chewy. Pull a strand out and taste. If the noodles are too hard (not cooked), add a little bit of water. When you get the right taste, add shrimp and stir. Sprinkle white pepper around. Add bean sprouts and chives. Stir a few more times. The noodles should be soft, dry and very tangled.

Pour onto the serving plate and sprinkle with ground pepper and peanuts. Serve hot with a wedge of lime on the side, raw Chinese chives and raw bean sprouts on top.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Recipe #280: Baked French Fries

These went with recipe #279.  I would like to try getting them crispier next time, but steak fries are never really crispy.  The flavor of the spice mixture is subtle but perfect for this!  Duplicate the recipe once per person being served.  About 2-3 potatoes can fit on a baking sheet when cut up this way.


1 large baking potato
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Cut potato into wedges. Mix olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder and onion powder together. Coat potatoes with oil/spice mixture and place on a baking sheet.
3. Bake for 40-45 minutes in preheated oven.

Note:  I was out of chili powder, so I used a mix of cumin, oregano, and hot sauce in its place.

Recipe #279: Portabella and Gouda Burger with Garlic Mayo

So simple and delicious!!  The picture doesn't do it justice, especially since you can't see the mayo or the cheese.  I served them on pretzel buns.  This recipe is from food.com.


2 large portabella mushroom caps, cleaned and stem removed
3 -4 slices gouda cheese (thin slices, smoked is good!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 slices fresh ripe Tomatoes (thick slices)
2 good bakery roll or 4 slices French bread, lightly toasted

Garlic Mayo
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons bermuda onions, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1/2 tablespoon dried parsley or 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced


Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil,sliced garlic clove and thyme in a zipper-lock bag.

Add portabella mushroom caps, zip up and marinate for at least 30 to 45 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the Garlic Mayo ingredients and allow to blend in the refrigerator.

When mushroom caps are ready, heat a little olive oil in a skillet (maybe another tablespoon or so) and saute for about 5 minutes, stem side down.

Try to include as much of the sliced garlic and thyme as possible in the skillet.

Turn mushroom caps over and top with cheese.

Cover skillet and cook for about another 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve with tomato on toasted rolls or French bread spread with garlic mayo.

Recipe #278: Buffalo Chicken Dip

This awesome appetizer seems to be a staple at parties lately, and I decided it was time to make it myself.  This is my adaptation.


1 rotisserie chicken, hand shredded (this could be done ahead of time)
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 8oz block of cream cheese
3/4c bleu cheese dressing
3/4c ranch dressing
1/3c hot sauce (I used buffalo wing sauce)
Shredded cheese


Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat oil in a skillet and cook celery until soft.  Add cheese and dressings and cook until smooth.  Add in chicken and hot sauce and mix well.  Pour into a greased 8x8 dish and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Recipe #277: Chewy Toffee Almond Bars

I don't quite know what compelled me to make a dessert, since I don't have a sweet tooth, but I'll make exceptions for both toffee and coconut.  And look, here's both in a really easy recipe!  I found this one on the back of the 8oz bag of Heath English Toffee Bits (Bits 'O Brickle Toffee Bits).

Shouldn't it be O' instead of 'O?  Just noticed that.  ANYWAY, here we go:


2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 c sugar
2 c all-purpose flour
8oz package Heath Bits 'O Brickle Toffee Bits
3/4 c light corn syrup
1 c sliced almonds, divided
3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes


Heat oven to 350F.  Grease 9x13 baking pan.

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy (this made me laugh).  Gradually add flour, beating until well blended.  Press dough evenly in prepared pan.

Bake 15-20 minutes until edges are lightly browned.  Meanwhile, combine toffee bits and corn syrup in medium saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until toffee is melted.  Stir in 1/2c almonds and 1/2c coconut.  Spread toffee mixture to within 1/4" of edges of crust.  Sprinkle remaining coconut and almonds over top.

Bake an additional 15 minutes or until bubbly.  Cool completely.  Cut into bars- makes 36.

Recipe #276: Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus

I've made these before, but I never posted the how-to, apparently.  Really easy and adaptable.... and obviously delicious!

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Wrap 3 stalks of thick asparagus (woody ends removed) per strip of bacon, securing the end with a toothpick.  Place on a rack (I used a cooling rack for cookies) on a foil-lined cookie sheet.).  Brush top end with butter or spray with Pam olive oil, and dust with garlic salt.  Bake about 25 minutes until bacon is done.

Recipe #275: Chicken Chimichangas with Sour Cream Sauce

I had a little trouble with this one, between wrapping these things and frying them in oil, but they still turned out delicious.  Next time I'll try my own wrapping technique or bigger tortillas, and I think I'd bake them instead of frying them.  Besides being a healthier option, they won't burn as quickly.  The one minute fry time is WAY longer than necessary.  Still delicious despite not being quite how I wanted them, and I definitely ate way too much!  The green chilies are great in this dish.  Thank you again, allrecipes.com....


Chicken filling:
2 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3 cups water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (7 ounce) can chopped green chilies, divided
1/2 cup diced onion
3 large cloves garlic, minced

Sour cream sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1 cube chicken bouillon
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

oil for frying
8 (8 inch) flour tortillas
8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese



Place the chicken breasts into a large saucepan. Pour in the water, and season with chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cumin, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, stir in 4 ounces of green chiles, onion, and garlic; continue simmering until the liquid has reduced to 1 cup. Reserve remaining 3 ounces of chopped green chilies. Remove the chicken, shred with two forks, and return to the onion mixture.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour, and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the water and bouillon cube until the water has thickened and the bouillon cube has dissolved, about 4 minutes. Whisk in reserved 3 ounces of green chilies and the sour cream; season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Place a tortilla onto your work surface, then spoon about 1/3 cup of the chicken filling halfway between the bottom edge and the center of the tortilla. Flatten the filling into rectangle shape with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle about 1 ounce of the Monterey Jack cheese over the filling. Fold the bottom of the tortilla snugly over the filling, then fold in the left and right edges. Roll the chimichanga up to the top edge, forming a tight cylinder; secure the ends with wooden toothpicks. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Cook the chimichangas, 2 at a time, in the hot oil until they are crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate, and remove toothpicks. Top with sour cream sauce to serve.