Category Archives: fish

Crab season

red rock crab

I wouldn’t call 4:30 a.m. a friendly time, but if you see it enough – say, growing up in a family dedicated to the first chairlift, or rowing crew in college – it becomes familiar. So when my alarm went off in the pre-dawn calm last Saturday, way before the hours I call human, I popped right out of bed. It was time to fish.

As a kid, we seasoned river trout in a paper bag. My father or brother would catch the fish – if I remember correctly, I never, ever caught one – and we’d pour flour into the bag, douse it with salt and pepper (or lemon pepper, if we had it), add the fish, and fold the top of the bag over twice. Dad set a cast iron pan over the open fire, glazed it with butter, and pan-fried the fish right there, next to the river. Or something like that. I think my father loved it because if we cooked by the water, my mother couldn’t complain about the house smelling of fish. I liked shaking the bag.

But river fishing, to me, always seemed like the easy way. (Don’t tell Dad, okay?) I romanticized deep sea fishing. Catching a fish in a river made you coordinated or perhaps just lucky; catching a fish in the ocean made you A Provider. So when my husband’s family arranged a salmon fishing trip for a group of curious relatives with All Washington Fishing, a local guide company with a slip about 2 miles from our house in Seattle, I was thrilled to join them.

I’d love to say it was a scintillating adventure. I’d love to say I caught three monster king salmon while battling rogue waves, each fish testing my strength to its limits. I’d love to say I came back with windburn, or sunburn, or both, or that I worked for my catch at least a little, but none of that really happened. The fact is, it was an easy, relaxing, calm, quiet morning. Like going to the farmers’ market, only less walking. We didn’t go out far – just across Puget Sound toward Bainbridge Island, where the kings and cohos were hungry and plentiful. The morning was almost absurdly pleasant. I drank coffee and ate Fritos. (It’s not a bad combo at 7:30 in the morning, if you’ve been up for a bit.) I learned how the fishing rods work, and reeled in the occasional fish, and drank in the shifting grays of the sky between our group’s successes. And in the end, perhaps because I was the only one who didn’t land one of the 7 keepers, or because I managed to pee off the bow because I was too proud to make the guide extract the women’s toilet from the hold, or because I’m the only one with a huge freezer, or because I have passable knife skills, I went home with 30 pounds of gorgeous salmon flesh. That, combined with my husband’s huge salmon-eating grin, was worth the wake-up call. I didn’t catch much myself, but my freezer is full.

A man and his fish

But then, on the way home, there was crab. The recreational season apparently opened July 1st here. The boat’s captain cruised by his pots with the same sense of idle convenience I use for getting gas or picking up a half gallon of milk. By then, I’ll admit I’d sort of stopped paying attention because I was focusing on the fish. But with each haul, he drew big tangles of sharp, angry legs out of his crab traps. About half were red rock crabs (pictured above), red-tinted, cranky things whose leg meat is apparently delicious but, besides the pinchers, quite difficult to retrieve. The other half were healthy full-size Dungeness. We took our Dungeness limit, 10 crabs, thinking the sweet, flaky meat could supplement our big family dinner.

What we didn’t realize, hauling in the crab, was that given a good labor force, two hours, and a few beers, the product of 10 pounds of crawlers is about 4 pounds of meat – enough to eat a bunch straight from the shell, stir some into crab salad, make a dozen jumbo crab cakes, pile crab curry over rice, and still have enough left for a hot, bubbling crab dip spiked with jalapeños two days after the catch.

Unlike waking up early, an overabundance of fresh-picked Dungeness crab meat is not a problem I’d call familiar. But if you should find yourself, like I did, with a healthy half pound of the stuff, and you can’t stand the thought of eating plain old crab salad for the third day in a row, and you’re longing for an indulgent appetizer that highlights the shellfish without scrimping on creaminess, this dip’s for you.

And guess what? You don’t even have to set the alarm.

Fishing photos by Adam Corcutt.

Crab Dip with Pickled Jalapeños and Goat Cheese 2

Hot Crab Dip with Pickled Jalapeños and Goat Cheese (PDF)
Active time: 10 minutes
Makes 6 servings

10 ounces fresh-picked Dungeness crabmeat
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapeño peppers
Juice of 1 large lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Tortilla chips, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Gently squeeze the crabmeat in small handfuls over the sink to discard any excess liquid. Transfer the crab to a mixing bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and stir with a big fork until more or less blended. (This is a good time to think about something else; there’s nothing exact about this process.)

Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish just large enough to hold it all. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbling and browned on top. Serve hot, with the tortilla chips for scooping.

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Filed under appetizers, fish, gluten-free, husband, recipe, shellfish, side dish, snack

Telephone

Ingredients for holiday dinner
To listen to the version of this story that aired on KUOW, click here.

I recently played the most ridiculous game of telephone. It started when I called my grandmother to cook her dinner.

I know, it sounds all wrong, doesn’t it? You can’t cook for someone over the phone. I didn’t think so either. I’d planned a trip to Portland to do it in person. My grandmother, June, called her sister, and a friend, and molded an entire day around a trip to the grocery store for about ten ingredients. They scrummed around the produce department guy, battering him with questions about fennel and kale. Then they hit the fish counter, where, June told me, she knew not to order the wild salmon because it’s bad for the environment, and knew she could have told the fish guy where to cut, but didn’t have to. I smiled over the phone, not caring what she bought, because she was going to cook. (This woman eats, but she does not, in contemporary lexicon, cook.)

Then my cat got attacked by a raccoon. He was oozy and insulted and very much upset about being left alone indoors, so at the very last minute, I cancelled on my grandmother. She was devastated. She used that word – devastated – and I could hear the truth of it in her voice, weighing her down like an age. (She’s not usually dramatic.)

So we made a phone date. She’d invite her friends back over, and I’d call “on the cellular phone,” and we’d do it all that way, ear to ear. I’d talk, and she’d chop, and it would be like I was right there in the kitchen.

Of course, there was a little catch. The point of cooking for her, that night, was to demonstrate for her a holiday entertaining menu that even she could master – a whole dinner that would take me a heaping ten minutes to put in the oven. There would be roasted salmon with a lemon-cumin raita (she loves yogurt sauces), Dijon potatoes (she’s a mustard fiend), roasted fennel with sherry, and creamed kale – just the right balance of familiarity and foreignness. I figured ten minutes for me meant 20 or so for us together. But on the telephone?

But they’d already purchased the food.

Dinner at Grandma June’s house is a five o’clock affair. I called at 4:15, and June answered on the first ring.

“We’re here,” she sang. “Mary’s had her cigarette, and Verna has the knife.” Taken out of context, I might have been worried, but in this case, I knew that meant they were ready.

“I’m just going to hand the phone to Verna, and you can tell her what to do, okay?” said June.

“Not so fast,” I said. June will do almost anything to not cook. “How about you hold the phone while she chops?” I figured processing the instructions counted for at least half.

And so it began. My dinner plan echoed from Seattle to Portland, from me, to June, then invariably Verna and Mary:

Jess: Okay, let’s start by turning on the oven.
June: Verna, turn on the oven.
Verna: How do you turn on the oven?
June: Push in the dial.
Verna: Okay, how hot do you want it?
June: How hot do we want it?
Jess: 400 degrees.
June: 400 degrees.
Mary: How long is this going to take?

And on we went. I learned, over the next (honestly) 40 minutes, to give extremely specific instructions. We started with potatoes, then fennel, then kale, then salmon. But we started everything slowly:

Jess: Is your white square ceramic pan nearby?
June: Yes, right here.
Jess: Okay, I’m going to tell you how to cut the fennel, then you’re going to put the fennel slices in, drizzle them with olive oil and roll them around a bit. Ready?
June: (To Verna, excited) We’re going to get the fennel ready now. (To Jess) Okay, what do we do?
Jess: Okay. Pretend the fennel is a hand. You see it, with the fingers sticking up?
June: Verna: Pretend the fennel is a hand, with the fingers sticking up.
Verna: I don’t see it. A hand?
June: We don’t see it. What do you mean?
Jess: Can you pretend that the white part is your palm and the green sticky-uppity parts are fingers?
June: Oh, yes.
Verna: What. What? (June explains.)
Jess: (Hems, haws, then decides not to trim the bottom.) Okay. You can eat all of it, but for tonight, we’re going to cut the tops off. Cut the long green stalks off where the rings would be, if the fennel was a hand.
June: Cut the long green stalks off where the rings would be . . . what?
Jess: If the fennel was a hand.
June: If the fennel was a hand. Isn’t it were a hand?
(Chopping sounds.)
Jess: Okay, now cut it into slices through the core.
June: Now cut it into slices through the core.
Verna: I have to talk to her about the center.

Verna washed her hands, and June handed her the phone. I explained how to cut the fennel bulb into wedges right through the center core, so the layers of vegetable stick together, and promised her that it would roast up nice and soft. She handed the phone back to June, and got to work. And on we went, for potatoes, kale, salmon, and the sauce.

Overall, though, it worked quite well. Since it took us (collectively) longer than it took me alone to prepare the ingredients, I had them cut their salmon into smaller filets, instead of roasting it in a big slab, and unless they were lying, it came out perfectly.

From my end, it was sort of a grueling half hour or so. But it also made my heart melt, they same way it does when a kid says something so entirely wrong it’s cute. I’d say, “Squeeze the lemon over the fish,” and June would say, “How do you squeeze a lemon again?” and Verna would say, “June, I know how to squeeze a lemon,” and Mary, more kitchencaster than participant, would say, “What’s the lemon for? Why aren’t we putting it on the fish later?” And since I was there, they’d ask me, to make sure, and we’d spend 25 seconds – watch the clock, it’s a long time – talking lemon-squeezing.

But my goodness, they giggled. There were three of them, but even so, sometimes they were so overwhelmed by the collective energy it took to, say, find the cumin, that they’d abandon me on the counter, and I could hear them twittering, one to the next. It was like listening to a recording of a pack of teenagers in 1939.

And after they’d called back to report that yes, dinner was sensational, I imagined them gathered in front of her giant new television, watching the World Series, picking kale out of their teeth, and wished I wasn’t such a sucker for Whiney McWhiskers. But if anyone understands coddling a cat, it’s June.

Over Thanksgiving, she told me again how much fun she’d had. “But fennel,” she said. “I wouldn’t be too sad if I never saw fennel again. I’m a carrots-onions-potatoes kind of gal.”

Fair enough. I’ll cook the fennel here.

Holiday Dinner 2

The Ten Minute Holiday Meal: Roasted Salmon with Lemon-Cumin Raita, Caramelized Fennel with Sherry Vinegar, Simple Dijon Potatoes, and Creamed Kale (PDF)

The holidays are a time to put the shine on your best silver, if that’s what suits you, but it doesn’t suit everyone. Me? I didn’t always save the pasta-making, reduction-simmering, and bread baking for other times of the year. It used to make sense to stand in the kitchen for hours, talking and stirring. But these days, with an 8-month-old, I’m lucky if I can boil water in one try at 6 p.m. So this year, having guests over will mean simplicity, so there’s a chance – even the slightest, skinniest chance – that I’ll get to talk to the people hanging out with us in our home.

The following simple menu was designed with a 4-person dinner party in mind, to be prepared in a bit over 10 minutes (with dinner about 20 minutes afterward). It doubles easily, but if you do double it, keep in mind that it will take you longer to cut the vegetables, so the salmon might go in later. Luckily, it’s hard to overcook the potatoes, fennel, and kale, so let the salmon determine dinnertime – just add the sherry to the fennel right when you start taking things out of the oven, so it has a minute or two to sizzle.

If you can’t find Olsen Farms’ “Spud Nuts,” which are basically ridiculously small potatoes, quarter golf ball-sized potatoes and use them instead. Potatoes simply halved (per the photos above) don’t quite cook enough in the time allotted.

And, as always, please READ THROUGH the directions before beginning. The directions assume all produce is washed.

*

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

MAKE THE POTATOES: Grease a shallow roasting pan with a teaspoon of olive oil. Toss 1 1/2 pounds Spud Nuts (or quartered small potatoes) with 2 heaping tablespoons Dijon mustard, transfer them to the pan, and put them in the oven on the bottom rack.

MAKE THE FENNEL: Cut the long green stalks off a 1 1/2 pound fennel bulb and save to slice into a salad. Cut the fennel in half vertically (with the stripes), then cut each half into 6 or 8 wedges, so the core keeps each wedge intact. Pile the wedges in an ovenproof pan big enough to fit them in one layer, drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and mix with your hands until all the fennel is coated. Add to the oven’s bottom rack.

START THE KALE: Cut 2 small bunches (about 3/4 pound) lacinato (also called dinosaur) kale crosswise into thin ribbons. Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large, deep pan over medium heat. Add a crushed, chopped garlic clove, stir for a few seconds, then add the kale, and cook, stirring occasionally while you continue.

MAKE THE SAUCE: Stir together the contents of an 8-ounce container full-fat Greek yogurt, the zest and juice of a lemon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, salt and pepper to taste, and if you want, a chopped clove of garlic. Set aside to let the flavors marry, as they say.

MAKE THE SALMON: Center a 1 1/2 pound (roughly 1 1/2” thick) salmon filet on a parchment- or baking mat-lined baking sheet. Smear with 1 teaspoon olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes or so, or roughly 10 minutes per inch of thickness, until the salmon just begins to exude small white beads of fat (but really not much longer, please).

UPKEEP: Add 1 cup heavy cream and a quick grate of nutmeg to the kale, stir, and walk away. Come back in 10 minutes, stir the kale, pour yourself more wine, and sit back down. (The kale is done when the cream’s gone, but it’s very happy to sit on low heat until you’re ready to eat.)

WHEN THE SALMON IS DONE: Add a big splash – about 1 1/2 tablespoons – sherry vinegar to the fennel pan, and return to the oven without breathing in too deeply (watch those vinegar fumes). Take the salmon out, and transfer it to a serving platter, along with the sauce. Transfer the kale to a serving bowl. Snuggle the potatoes in next to the salmon. Shake the fennel pan to release the wedges, and add them to the platter, too.

Serve hot.

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Filed under farmer's market, fish, gluten-free, kitchen adventure, media, radio, recipe, side dish, vegetables

Sorting and reading

I’m all tumbled up inside. We went to Colorado this weekend, to celebrate a loved one who had decided not to say that she was dying. It was, I think, the kind of gathering she’d envisioned, but I can’t chase the feeling of juggling too many emotions. There’s the surprise, that she had cancer at all, and the sadness, that she’s gone. There’s heartbreak, because she suffered the evilest death, but also happiness, because she had the kind of sweetness and charisma and kindness that made us all want to come together to think about her.

That’s just what we did. It seemed easy, hopping on a plane, then driving out I-70, to their house in the desert. It was the thing to do, so we did it. We hugged and cried and smiled and talked, but now, after the service, when there’s nothing left to do, it’s harder. Bill Withers comes on the radio, and I weep into my tea. We’ll miss her.

Anyway. It certainly puts things into perspective, as death always seems to do so effectively. There I was, whining about the weather and my stupid mouth, when she was fighting, literally, for her life. I need to find a sorting hat, and spend some time thinking it all out.

It’s been a while, I think, since I shared what I’ve been working on. Today, that feels like a safe topic. (Most links are PDFs.)

From Sunset magazine, a day with Bakery Nouveau’s William Leaman, something about Seattle’s Skillet Street Food, and a little ditty on learning my manners at Seattle’s Fairmont hotel.

Edible Seattle, a new local food magazine, is also out. The recipes aren’t available online yet, but pick one up (at Metropolitan Market, for example). Them’s tasty recipes. (Here’s a little more about what the magazine is about.)

In Seattle Metropolitan magazine, there’s been stuff about green garlic (from April) and razor clams (March). (I also chatted about clamming on Seattle’s NPR station, my segment starts at about the 34-minute mark.)

Ooh, and of course, don’t miss Seattle Weekly‘s annual dining guide.

And, lucky for my newly stitch-free mouth (not to mention my body), Arthritis Today reports that strawberries are natural anti-inflammatories. Here’s one of my strawberry recipes from AT online that I’ll be making again this week. No crunchy baguette required.

Salmon with Strawberry Salsa

Pan-Seared Salmon with Strawberry Salsa (PDF)
In strawberry season, top heart-healthy salmon with a sweet strawberry pico de gallo-style salsa for a nutritious, satisfying meal.

Serves 4
Prep time: 25 minutes

1 8-ounce container strawberries, tops removed, chopped
2 scallions (green and white parts), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 small salmon filets (with or without skin, about 1 1/3 pounds total)
2 teaspoons olive oil

Stir the strawberries, scallions, cilantro, lime juice, and jalapeno (if using) together in a small mixing bowl, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the salmon dry with paper towels, then rub fish on both sides with the oil and season with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, add the salmon, skin side-up if applicable. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the salmon is nicely browned. Gently flip the fish over and cook another 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your filets, until cooked through. (As a general rule, fish takes about 10 minutes to cook (total) per inch of thickness.)

Transfer the fish to a serving plate, and top with the salsa. Serve immediately.

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Almost

Resting spanish tuna

This wasn’t meant to be a recipe. It was meant to be just dinner, something relaxed and unfussy, served with paprika-roasted potatoes. But it was delicious, so I scrambled to take notes.

But in five more days, I won’t have to write up everything that tastes delicious. The photos I take can be snapped in the daytime, instead of rushed across the lens at night, while my husband waits patiently to dig in.

Almost there.

Spanish tuna with tomatoes and olives

Spanish Tuna with Tomatoes and Olives
Recipe 360 of 365

Serves 4

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cut a large albacore tuna loin into four pieces, and smear with smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton de la vera) and salt and pepper. Add a swirl of olive oil to the pan, tilt the pan to coat, and sear the tuna on each side just until it releases naturally from the pan, just 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the tuna to a plate and cover with foil.

Add a can of chopped, fire-roasted tomatoes, a big scoop of capers, and a handful of good olives (chopped) to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 5 minutes. Return the tuna to the pan, and simmer for 5 minutes more, turning the tuna occasionally. Serve immediately.

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Filed under fish, gluten-free, recipe

Pigs and vinegar

Brussels sprouts with pigs and vinegar

In my mind, Brussels sprouts have two life partners: pigs and vinegar. Whether that means pancetta and balsamic vinegar or prosciutto and apple cider vinegar matters very little, but every fall, when Brussels sprouts show up, paraded around like miniature kings on stalks much too big for them, I try them all different ways and relearn that pigs and vinegar work best for me.

It’s worked on other people, too. Kids, even. One Thanksgiving, a family I prepared Thanksgiving for on Cape Cod convinced a legion of teenage girls that Brussels sprouts are awesome. (Just ask Carroll.) Oh, yes, that’s what we need today, a dose of Brussels sprout evangelism. Buy some sprouts, and come into the light.

Last night, I had a plan: I’d roast Brussels sprouts, leeks, and bacon together in the oven, sear halibut fillets to a delicious golden brown on one side on the stove, then flip them onto the sprouts (seared side-up) to finish cooking in the oven with some sherry vinegar (it’s my acid of choice these days, have you noticed?), and make a quick pan sauce.

But it didn’t happen that way. I transfered the halibut to the oven, whipped across the kitchen with the pan in my hand, and splashed it with cold water so Tito didn’t have to scrub it (as hard) later. I went back to the stove to find the thyme and white wine staring up at me from the counter next to the stove like pets needing to be fed. You forgot us? they seemed to be asking.

Yes. Yes, sorry, I did forget you. And when the fish was ready, we had no choice but to strand it on white plates next to a pile of Brussels sprouts with pig and vinegar, with no drizzle of anything to cloak it in warmth and moisture.

But with a slice of rosemary bread and a little salad, it turned out to be the perfect dinner. With no sauce, we really tasted the fish, perfectly cooked. We felt its crisp, flavorful tan melt into our tongues, and tasted the sprouts’ humble, earthy flavor.

Sauce? What was I thinking?

Pan-Seared Halibut with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Leeks

Pan-Seared Halibut with Brussels Sprouts, Leeks, and Bacon (PDF)
Recipe 298 of 365

This is my idea of a 30-minute meal: no theme, no tricks. Just a few good ingredients, cooked with care and a splash of vinegar, with time to enjoy a glass of wine while you’re at the stove.

TIME: 35 minutes, start to finish
MAKES: 2 servings, with extra sprouts

2 thick slices bacon, diced
1 small leek, halved lengthwise and cut into 3/4” pieces
3/4 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 halibut fillets (about 3/4 pound, approximately 1” thick)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the bacon in a baking dish large enough to hold the sprouts in a single layer, and roast 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Add the leeks and Brussels sprouts, season with salt and pepper, stir to blend, and return to the oven for 10 more minutes (or just 5 minutes, if you find small sprouts).

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the halibut with salt and pepper. Add the sherry vinegar to the Brussels sprouts, and return to oven while you cook the halibut. Add the oil to the hot skillet, and swirl to coat the pan. Add the halibut, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the halibut is nicely seared on the bottom side. Transfer the halibut to the pan with the Brussels sprouts, seared side-up,

Pan-Seared Halibut with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Leeks in pan

and roast until cooked through, another 4 to 5 minutes. Serve hot.

*Note: there’s no reason you can’t finish cooking the halibut in the pan on the stove, and just serve it with the sprouts. This recipe is just exactly what I did. Also, you could make a quick pan sauce with some white wine . . .

No more brussels sprouts

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Filed under fish, recipe, vegetables

Method: Greek Yogurt Omelet

Last week I went to a Method home party. The idea is an old one: a whole bunch of folks show up at a pre-designated house (in this case, one Method has rented out for the month for such occasions and bathed in hipness) to learn something. I wasn’t against going; their products are environmentally friendly and smell really, really good, so when someone told me about their “detox Seattle” program, I thought, why not? I’d love to bring the more environmentally offensive side of my cleaning closet somewhere and exchange it for planet-happy stuff. Sure. And I figured anything – anything – that inspired me to clean perhaps a little more frequently would be a bonus. Ooh, and the learning came in the form of an organic cooking demo (read: free dinner and drinks). That was a good hook, too.

I walked in thinking I’d have to hold onto my checkbook, that this was some sort of Tupperware party, but there was nothing actually for sale – just a big, hungry trash can that ate all the full containers of poisonous cleaning products I already owned. No sales pitches, no cleaning tutorials. It was fun, in a way, meeting new people, etc. But what I hadn’t understood when I was packing my nasties was that the products we brought for them to dispose of (properly, of course) weren’t replaced by products with the same function. Herego, I walked away with some stellar lavender hand soap, a window product, floor mopping junk, and some yummy grapefruit-based counter cleaner. Detoxed, but not replenished. Monetarily, this was roughly the equivalent of what I brought in, but functionally, it was nowhere near a fair trade. With the exception of the counter cleaner, which I am now obsessively using to clean every surface because it smells so darn nice, I basically took home doubles of all the Method products I already use.

This turns out to be very clever on their part, but quite inconvenient for me. (Duh.) Take last night, for example. We returned from the wedding on Orcas Island (amazing!) to dog mess on the rug (but no Resolve to clean it with), loads and loads of laundry (but no laundry soap), and a counter littered with debris from a bunch of dying sunflowers leftover from Dave and Kelly’s party (but no counter wipes to whisk them away with instantaneously). Grrrr. So obviously I’m supposed to use those coupons Method conveniently included to run out and buy all the household goods that I now need. Environmentally, it would be a good move (and one I’ve been meaning to complete for years now anyway), and I do love their stuff, but how did I not see this coming? I’m mad at Method for pointing out how easily I succumbed to their marketing ploy. I’m the sucker.

Anyway. I’m over it, as you can tell.

The best part of the party was a cooking demo by local private chef Becky Selengut, who’s most well known for her website, Seasonal Cornucopia, which is an online guide to what’s in season in the Puget Sound area. I met Becky a few years ago, when I was deciding whether to continue personal cheffing once we moved to Seattle. She rocks.

When she mashed up Yukon Golds to serve under spice-rubbed duck and caramelized fennel, she folded in Greek yogurt, instead of the more traditional cream or sour cream, which gave them a great texture and a bit of a tangy kick.

She got me thinking about all the other places I add just a bit of sour cream or cream, and when I woke up this morning, gazing into post-travels refrigerator wasteland, I thought of the killer omelet I had last week at Crave, and the Greek yogurt sort of leapt out at me. Turns out that whisking it into eggs until only really small pieces remain gives you super fluffy eggs.

Smoked Salmon, Roasted Poblano, and Goat Cheese Omelet

Smoked Salmon, Roasted Poblano, and Goat Cheese Omelet (PDF)
Recipe 288 of 365

In the world of food fashion, Greek yogurt is the new heavy cream, and like a good black dress, it’s surprisingly versatile. Whipped into eggs, it makes a fluffy, moist omelet with just a hint of tang and considerably less fat than cream. You can roast poblano peppers yourself as directed here, purchase them at a farmers’ market, or simply substitute roasted red peppers or canned green chilies. Or, just use the egg and yogurt base to make scrambled eggs.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 1 to 2 servings

3 large eggs
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (I use 2%)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Spray olive oil
1 ounce goat cheese (a quarter of a little log), crumbled
1 ounce hot-smoked salmon, broken into small pieces
1 roasted poblano pepper, chopped

Whisk the eggs, yogurt, and a little salt and pepper together in a small bowl until the eggs are frothy and only very small lumps of yogurt remain.

Heat a small (8”) nonstick pan over medium-high heat. When hot, spray with olive oil, then add the egg mixture, and let cook for a few seconds. Turn the heat to low. Using a rubber spatula, stir the eggs slowly a few times, so that new raw egg hits the bottom of the pan and cooked egg gets stirred to the top. When there’s almost no runny egg left, distribute the remaining runny parts evenly along the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the cheese, salmon, and pepper pieces all over the egg, and let cook for a few minutes, until the egg is set on the top and the goat cheese begins to melt.

Smoked Salmon, Roasted Poblano, and Goat Cheese Omelet (in pan)

Fold the omelet over and serve hot.

Smoked Salmon, Roasted Poblano, and Goat Cheese Omelet 2

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Filed under Breakfast, fish, gluten-free, recipe

Recipe 284: Seared Albacore with Rosemary-Mustard Sauce for One

When M. mentioned she doesn’t eat pork, she instantly volunteered to just make do with salad and potatoes, the only two things I’d made without porcine ingredients. That’s ridiculous, I thought. Why would I invite you into my house and not feed you?

So while the rest of the crowd loaded up on pork, I went to work: I smeared half an albacore tuna loin (yes, I happened to have a just-thawed loin hanging out in the fridge – I’d planned to use it for ceviche but hadn’t had time to make it) with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I stole an uncontaminated rosemary branch from the plate I’d arrange the pork on, chopped it up, and smeared that on the tuna while I heated a pan over medium-high heat. I seared the tuna, just a minute or two on each of its three sides, and quizzed M. on her likes and dislikes. I transfered the tuna to a cutting board, and dropped a spoonful each of whole grain and Dijon mustard into the pan (still out from making the potatoes), along with a bit more chopped rosemary and a glug of the white wine we’d opened before dinner. It bubbled away at a hard simmer for a few minutes. M. filled her plate with salad and potatoes, and I sliced the tuna. I turned the heat off, seasoned the sauce with salt and pepper, stirred in a knob of soft butter, and piled it all on her plate, first the tuna, still good and pink inside, then the rosemary-mustard sauce.

We slid into our chairs just as people were picking up their glasses for a toast, and it occurred to me that I was glowing – from the Cosmos Kim made, of course, but also from the excitement of making a meal from scratch, with absolutely no premeditation.

It’s one of the things I love most about cooking – how it sometimes forces a flexible, instantaneous creative process, with results that become tangible right when you see someone taste what you’ve made. (She loved it.)

It’s also something that this project makes me miss: I rarely walk into the kitchen, think what am I going to eat?, and just go to it. There’s usually a plan, however loose, and always a paper, a pen, a timer, a camera. In my head, this (unnamed, I now realize) project has become The Monster. In the span of more than nine months, it’s encouraged my kitchen creativity overall, but on some level it’s also stripping the joy out of what I enjoy most about cooking: the actual cooking.

I didn’t photograph this one – my glass was raised in a toast to our guests of honor, and I was reveling in having made something delicious without writing it down.

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The salmon waited

Salmon Tacos 2

Salmon Tacos with Poblano-Peach Salsa (PDF)
Recipe 252 of 365

Here’s a great use for leftover salmon. If you’re cooking it fresh, just sear it in a little olive oil in a nonstick pan for 3 to 5 minutes per side (depending on thickness) over medium heat.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

1 poblano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 large peaches, pitted, peeled, and chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 large lime
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh small corn or flour tortillas, wrapped in foil and warmed in a 350-degree oven
1 1/4 pounds cooked salmon, shredded (and warmed, if desired, also in foil in the oven)
Sour cream, for garnish

Mix the peppers, peaches, garlic, onion, cilantro, and lime juice together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, pile warm tortillas with salmon, then the salsa, then add a dollop of sour cream.

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Just for the halibut

If I had a nickel . . .

Grilled Halibut with Caper-Butter Lemon Juice 2

Grilled Halibut with Caper-Butter Lemon Juice (PDF)

Recipe 235 of 365

When I’m having dinner at someone else’s house, and there’s a slice of lemon for each person’s portion, I always watch the platter make its way around the table, hoping someone skips their citrus. I love lemon on my fish.

Here’s a quick sauce that delivers for me – huge lemon punch, followed by salty capers, and only then, after the initial flavors subside, does the butter kick in. It’s not so much a lemon-caper butter, but caper- and butter-flavored lemon juice.

TIME: 10 minutes active time
MAKES: 2 servings

2 halibut filets (about 3/4 pound total)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat a grill over medium-high heat.

Pat the fish dry, and brush with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill five minutes on the first side, and 2 to 5 minutes on the second side, depending on the thickness of the fish.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan. When melted, stir in the capers and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Serve the sauce over the fish right when it comes off the grill.

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A topping, for whatever suits you

Tomato and Sole wtih Spinach-Sundried Tomato Crust

Be with what is is still following me.

I came home from Whole Foods with two filets of Dover sole. I meant to make some sort of a spinach stuffing for it, and roll them up around it. I thought I’d save money by buying fish for two, making enough stuffing for four servings, and stuffing the extra goods into halved tomatoes.

But a kitchen is unpredictable. My stuffing turned out like more of a topping (it would be great for a rack of lamb, or almost any fish), and when dinner came out of the oven, it looked like thin filets of sole, stretched out on their tippy toes, topped with a colorful, crunchy mix of spinach, sundried tomatoes, and breadcrumbs. The thinnest part of one filet, the part I’d considered cutting off, had melted under the topping’s olive oil into the consistency of crunchy shoestring potatoes. I’d also packed it onto tomatoes, and the vegetables and fish looked so funny there on the plate next to each other, like those comparisons in People magazine of two women with vastly different bodies wearing the same outfit.

A few hours later, I was looking at my receipt, and realized I’d actually spent more on the fancy heirloom tomato than on the fish, which was on sale. So, hey. Put the topping on whatever you can find.

On sole, bake only about 10 minutes.

Sole with Spinach-Sundried Tomato Crust

On salmon or halibut, more like 15. On a 1 1/4-pound rack of lamb, more like 25 to 35 minutes.

Tomato with Spinach-Sundried Tomato Crust

Recipe for Baked Tomatoes with Spinach-Sundried Tomato Crust (PDF)
Recipe 216 of 365

This is one of those infinitely versatile toppings – keep it in mind for when you have spinach that’s about to go bad. Or make it in big batches, and use some to top tomatoes, and freeze smaller portions to top baked fish, chicken, or halved zucchini, or to add crunch to a meaty stuffing for peppers or mushrooms.

Buy the kind of sundried tomatoes sold in a jar, packed in oil.

TIME: 20 minutes prep
MAKES: 4 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 (5-ounce) package baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
1/3 cup breadcrumbs (regular or panko)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 large tomatoes, stems removed, halved horizontally

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, and swirl to coat the pan. Add the spinach, a little at a time if necessary, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, until the spinach has wilted completely, about 4 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a paper towel-lined plate to cool and drain.

Place the sundried tomatoes, breadcrumbs, parsley, chives, and cheese in a small mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper, chop and add the spinach, and stir to combine well. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over the mixture, and stir until the breadcrumbs are evenly moistened.

Arrange the four tomato halves cut side-up in a baking dish, and pack handfuls of the spinach mixture onto the top of each tomato.

Tomatoes with spinach-SDT crust (raw)

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden brown and the tomato’s juices are beginning to bubble. Serve hot.

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206: Salmon-Corn Cakes with Basil Cream

Salmon Corn Cakes with Basil Cream

Recipe for Salmon-Corn Cakes with Basil Cream
Recipe 206 of 365

Think of these as a Seattle version of crab cakes, minus the mayo. I used salmon from the frozen section at Trader Joe’s because it comes without skin, but I’m sure fresh salmon would work fine, too.

You’ll have a bit of basil cream leftover if you eat the cakes as is – try it on tacos! – but I can’t wait to try the cream slathered on a mini burger bun and topped with the salmon cakes: salmon sliders!

TIME: 40 minutes
MAKES: 2 dozen small cakes

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon capers
1 pound salmon (no skin), cut into 1” chunks
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 cup fresh corn
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup sour cream
Spray olive oil

Pulse the jalapeño pepper, garlic, and capers in the work bowl of a food processor until finely chopped. Add the salmon, and pulse until ground. Add the eggs, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and few grinds of pepper, and pulse again until the eggs are incorporated.

Transfer the salmon mixture to a mixing bowl, and add the scallions, corn, lemon juice, breadcrumbs, and 1/2 cup of the basil, and stir to combine. Season again with salt and pepper, and stir.

Next, make the basil cream: Blend the remaining 1/4 cup basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, sour cream, and a grinding of pepper until smooth and uniform in color in a blender or small food processor, and chill until ready to use.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Scoop the mixture by very rounded tablespoons into your hands, form into a ball, and transfer to the paper. Flatten the balls gently into 1/2” thick disks, and spray with the olive oil spray.

Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. When hot, carefully add as many salmon cakes as will fit comfortably in the pan, oiled side-down. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. (Note: Try to check only one cake, because flipping them before they’re browned may cause them to fall apart.) Spray the top sides with more oil. Flip the cakes gently, cook another 2 to 3 minutes, until browned, and serve hot, with the basil cream on the side or spooned on top as a garnish.

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Flat Eggs with Fish

The other night at Cafe Presse I ordered Oeufs Plats, Jambon, Fromage . In French that translates roughly to “flat eggs , ham, cheese,” which explains why French restaurants and bistros serving real renditions of French food keep the menu items listed in French. Flat Eggs with Ham and Cheese does not sound sexy. Oeufs Plats (which sounds roughly like hoopla) sounds at least a little better.

And when it came to the table, a hot oval ceramic dish lined with the Parisian version of American sandwich ham and topped with baked eggs (with still-gooey yolk) and a thick pool of melty gruyere, my fondue food memory flashbulbs went off. My salivary glands kicked into overdrive. It was sexy. It was also delicious.

I’m not sure where to find that same kind of ham, which bears very little resemblance to what people put on sandwiches here. It’s not proscuitto; it’s less cured and much lighter in color. But when I’m craving a ham and butter sandwich (which happens more than I should admit), or in this case Flat Eggs with Ham, there is no substitute.

Unless, of course, you’re willing to try smoked salmon. We had some left, and it created its own mini breakfast miracle, which Tito will undoubtedly demand again soon.

I wonder how smoked salmon tastes on a baguette with thick slabs of salted butter from Brittany.

Oeufs Plats au Saumon et Chevre 2

Recipe 200: Oeufs Plats au Saumon et Chevre (or)
Flat Eggs with Fish and Goat Cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Wipe or spray the inside of a creme brulee dish or small ramekin with butter or olive oil. Arrange slices of smoked salmon in a single layer along the bottom and sides of the dish (it should reach up the sides of the dish like a tart crust). When the oven is hot, crack a large egg into the salmon and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the egg white is set but the yolk is only set at the edges. (Timing may depend on your baking vessel of choice.)

When the oeufs come out, sprinkle with goat cheese and chopped chives, and serve with a toasted hunk of good bread.

Hint: If you’re making multiple servings, it’s easier to put all the ramekins on a baking sheet and transport them that way.

Café Presse in Seattle

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199: Smoked Salmon-Wrapped Melon

The other day I bought a melon, a huge lemon-shaped one with green-tinged bumpy wrinkles running the length of its yellow body. Inside, it was the color of honeydew:

yellow melon

Its flavor was similar, but with a strong taste of cucumber. Cucumber melon, I thought. What goes with melon? Proscuitto popped into my mind first. How cliche. Salmon and cucumber are so often paired together, why not switch it up?

Smoked Salmon-wrapped Melon 1

Simple. Delicious. Healthy. Fast.

Does anyone know my melon’s name?

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A nice fish dish

Joanna and I went to Pike Place Market yesterday, intending to buy Copper River salmon, but I went into sticker shock and came home with trout for $3.99 a pound. Into the pan went the box of dying grape tomatoes, praying for revival, with some withering shallots and a little chardonnay, and out came a simple, elegant-looking trout dish. We mopped up the juices with a great baguette.

Tip: Waiting until the vegetables are done cooking down to turn on the oven (instead of turning on the oven before you start) offers a grace period conducive to finishing the bottle of wine.

Baked Trout 1

Recipe for Baked Trout with Red Pepper, Cherry Tomato, and Caper Sauce
Recipe 177 of 365

It’s a mouthful of a title, but the flavors are actually quite simple: tender fresh trout, baked on top of a vegetable compote made from shallots, peppers, tomatoes, capers, cilantro, and a good slosh of white wine. If you can’t find trout in your area, substitute any fish with firm, white flesh (halibut, cod, or bass would be delicious).

This is a chop-as-you-go recipe – no need to prepare all the ingredients ahead of time.

*If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, just transfer the vegetables from your skillet to a 9” x 13” baking dish before adding the fish.

TIME: About 45 minutes total cooking time
MAKES: 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 large shallots, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 serrano chili peppers, finely chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup (packed) finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup capers
2 whole trout (about 2 pounds), gutted, heads removed, rinsed and patted dry

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, then the shallots, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add both kinds of peppers, and cook another 5 minutes, stirring. Add the tomatoes, season again with salt and pepper, and cook an additional 15 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to give up their juices.

Increase the heat to high. Add the wine, and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in half the cilantro and the capers. Place the fish (whole, skin on) on top of the vegetables, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the fish is opaque in the center. Sprinkle the remaining cilantro on top of the fish, and serve the filets immediately, topped with the vegetables.

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Tito on location, part 2

Yesterday, disaster loomed large when I inadvertantly began ordering a platter of Polychaetes, which were still very alive and wriggling around on the table next to me. Best not to point at things inquisitively when you lack the vocabulary to say “no thanks, I was just curious.” Backpedaling was tricky, but I managed via spastic sign-language to secure an order of grilled sardines instead. The sardines were quite dead, and they were delicious. Honestly, French bistros around the world should give up and go home– the Koreans have perfected the sardine. Sliced lengthwise (still whole), rolled in cornmeal and seaweed, and served amidst an array of sauces, they were just about perfect.

Other things on the gastronomical list include trying bibimbap, a signature rice dish complete with a fried egg (genuis!) on top, and learning to say mashi isseumnida (direct translation: “It’s tasty!”).

I’m now back in my hotel after a quick trip to the nearby market, where I saw a label on a noodle package that read “MSG, for health!”. I passed on the noodles and purchased a bottle of Soju for 750 won (about 80 cents). I think maybe I’d better mix it with something.

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Filed under fish, husband, Korean, travel

Fish tails

Branzini tails

Yesterday a big group of us headed down to Pike Place Market for the Seattle Cheese Festival, where we watched people race cheese wheels, said hi to Rachel, and ate ourselves stupid for the second day in a row. (The previous day had involved Jade Garden, Red Mill, Salumi, and Uwajimaya.) The biggest cheese discovery was undoubtedly the truffled goat cheese Cypress Grove will be releasing this summer. Oohhhhhh.

Nevertheless, we pursued dinner. The fish store I like at Pike Place, which I call The One in the Middle because I never remember its name, had happy-looking (and relatively inexpensive) branzino, so I scooped some up and asked the guys there to clean and scale them for me.

Gutting branzino

Cooking such lively-looking creatures certainly captured the attention of our animals, who took turns poking their noses into the photos I was taking. It was obvious to me that the dog saw the cat becoming interested, and dared him to lick a fish’s tail, which he did, like the good teenaged boy he is. They then held a tableside conference to determine outcome of the tail-licking experience and thus the desirability of our dinner:

Jackson investigates

Bromley dares Jackson to taste the tail

Conference about taste of fish tail

Eventually it was determined that while the fish certainly smelled good, the presence of such scary real-world features as fins and tails would make each fish too heavy to carry off the platter with much success. So they both waited patiently for scraps.

Here‘s a good video on how to filet fish, if you’ve never done it. It’s for raw fish, but it will show you where to begin cutting a cooked filet off – if the fish is cooked, the flesh will lift off the bones, so none of the knife-scraping-head-to-tail business shown in the video will be necessary.

Grilled Branzino 1

Rosemary-Grilled Whole Branzino
Recipe 140 of 365

Branzini are a small species of sea bass native to the Mediterranean (the French call them loup de mer), but it’s often possible to find them fresh from the Pacific in fish markets on the west coast. They have a nice, mild flavor, like a cross between regular sea bass and trout, which would also make a great substitute if you can’t find branzini. Here’s a simple way to grill them over hot coals (you can prep the fish while the grill heats up), stuffed with rosemary and sliced lemons and grilled over additional rosemary sprigs for a little touch of smoky, piney flavor.

To serve the fish, cut the filet away from the backbone with a small, sharp knife, or (I found this easiest with this particular fish) simply reach inside the fish and push your fingers between the rib bones of one side of the fish, effectively pushing the filet off the bones from the inside.

TIME: 15 minutes, plus 10 minutes grilling time
MAKES: 6 servings

3 fresh branzini, roughly 1 pound and 15 inches long each (or large trout), gutted, scaled, rinsed, and patted dry (heads left on)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing grill
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large lemon, very thinly sliced, plus 1 lemon for serving, cut into wedges
9 (6” – 8”) sprigs fresh rosemary, plus another big handful for the coals, if using charcoal

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill over medium heat.

Brush each fish inside and out with the olive oil, and season inside and out with the salt and pepper. Rub the 9 rosemary sprigs together in your hands to bruise the needles and release their oils a bit, and stuff three into the cavity of each fish, stabbing the sharp ends of the rosemary directly into the inside flesh of the fish, if necessary, to anchor the rosemary inside the fish. Stuff a few of the lemon slices into each fish, and set the fish aside.

Clean the grill grate, and grease it with an oil-soaked paper towel. Just before cooking, if using charcoal, toss the remaining rosemary onto the coals. Holding the fish together at the thickest part, transfer the fish to the grill, and cook directly over the coals for about 5 to 7 minutes on each side, or until the skin is crispy and the meat just begins to flake. (Note: the less you mess with the fish, the more likely it is to come off the grill intact.) Serve hot, with additional lemon wedges.

No more branzino

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A cat named Mochi

During my trip to Japan in 2005, I became sort of obsessed with the way the language sounds – it’s so perky and staccato and sounds like so much fun to speak that I developed a tendancy to want to name things with Japanese words, just so I could incorporate them into my daily life. I started calling Bromley ichiban inu, Number One Dog, because (try it) it’s fun to say.

But Japanese food offers the best sounds: take mochi, for example. Sure, it refers to glutinous rice cakes (or the delicious frozen dessert I buy at Trader Joe’s), but it has such a ring to it. Oh, how I would love to have a cat named Mochi.

Here’s a flashback, using another one of my favorite Japanese food words (of the 10 or so I know), furikake. My husband loves to sprinkle it on anything he deems flavorless (mmm, mac and cheese with sesame, fish, and seaweed sprinkles, anyone?), so I figured I’d beat him to the punch and put it directly on the food before he can get to it himself. Calling this Japanese food would be a true ethnic slur (I have mentioned how hopeless we can be in the ethnic foods department), but since I rarely use nori outside sushi, it reminded me of Japan.

Yes, there is MSG in furikake, I discovered. But I figure I ate plenty of Double-Stuffed Oreos when hydrogenated fat was a la mode, and I’m not twitching. Yet. The bad stuff gets cancelled out by the Omega goodness of salmon, right?

Raw furikake salmon

Recipe for Furikake Salmon Salad with Ginger-Miso Vinaigrette
Recipe 135 of 365

Furikake is a dried mixture of spices, sesame seeds, and seaweed used frequently in Japan to flavor rice. It’s also an easy way to lend flavor to salmon. Serve this as a salmon salad, with the salmon on top, or as a more traditional dinner with a side of sticky or brown rice.

Look for furikake (I tend to buy the one that looks like it has the most seaweed in it) in the Asian section of a large grocery store.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds salmon (from near the head), cut into 4 equal portions
2 tablespoons furikake
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons white miso paste
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, or to taste
4 big handfuls salad mix

Preheat a large nonstick pan over medium heat.

Drizzle 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil evenly over the salmon pieces, and sprinkle each piece with about half a tablespoon of the furikake. Place the pieces furikake-side down (if you’re using nonstick, you shouldn’t need to oil the pan further) and cook for 4 minutes. Turn the salmon skin-side down and cook another 4 or 5 minutes, or until the salmon is light pink all the way up the sides. (You want the salmon to remain a little translucent in the center.)

While the salmon cooks, whisk the vinegar, miso, and ginger in a bowl to blend. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons sesame oil and the vegetable oil (3 tablespoons if you like sharp vinaigrettes, 4 tablespoons if you prefer a less vinegary taste), and whisk again. Pile the salad on plates, drizzle with the vinaigrette, and serve with the hot salmon.

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Filed under fish, japanese, recipe, salad

Ceviche

It may seem strange that I feel most safe buying sushi-grade tuna at a farmer’s market, where it’s been sitting in a cooler for however many hours, but I love being able to talk to the person who actually caught the fish. Serve this ceviche with great tortilla chips.

Albacore ceviche

Recipe for Albacore Ceviche
Recipe 132 of 365

Inspired by a Mexican ceviche I had at Toplobampo in Chicago, this is an easy, healthy way to use high-quality raw fish. Feel free to add chopped jalapeno, cilantro, or avocado, or substitute olive oil for the avocado oil.

TIME: 10 minutes
MAKES: 4 small appetizer servings

1/4 pound sushi-grade albacore tuna, cut into 1/2” cubes
1 tomato, finely chopped
2 scallions (green and white parts), finely chopped
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon avocado oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix the tuna, tomato, scallions, lime juice, and oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

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Shake ‘n’ Fry

So yesterday, after much coercing from various readers, I set out to buy some Shake’n’Bake. Only my local store didn’t have it, and I was too stubborn to make a special trip to buy something I knew I probably shouldn’t be buying anyway. So the initiation shall wait. Here’s my version, which is more like Shake’n’Fry.

Corn-Crusted Tilapa Tacos with Avocado Cream

Recipe for Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia Tacos with Spicy Avocado Cream
Recipe 129 of 365

Here’s a homemade version of Shake’n’Bake, or Shake’n’Fry, really. This dinner comes together surprisingly quickly – the sauce is just a few ingredients whirled in the food processor.

TIME: 30 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

For the cream:
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
15 to 20 sliced jalapenos from a jar (to taste), plus 2 tablespoons liquid

For the tacos:
Corn tortillas or taco shells
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
4 large tilapia filets, about 1 1/2 pounds total, cut into 1” chunks
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 small cabbage or 1 large head fennel, very thinly sliced or shaved

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

First, make the cream: place all the cream ingredients in a small food processor and puree until smooth. Set aside.

Wrap the corn tortillas (12 4” tortillas or 8 6” tortillas) in foil and put them in the oven to warm.

Next, place the cornmeal, salt, pepper, and cumin in a large zip-top bag. Seal the bag and shake to mix. Add the fish pieces, close the bag, and shake to coat all the fish evenly.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom with about 1/4” of oil. When a small piece of fish sizzles when placed in the pan, the oil is ready. Carefully place about a third of the fish pieces into the oil. Fry for 2 minutes per side, or until browned and crisp, and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining fish (you’ll probably need to do 3 batches), keeping the cooked fish covered with foil while the remaining batches cook.

While the fish cooks, place the avocado cream, tortillas, and shaved cabbage or fennel on a serving platter, and when the fish is done, serve ‘em up.

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Filed under fish, mexican, recipe

Baked Swordfish Amanda

Some days it’s easier for me to say hello to a friend via the food I’m eating than it is to pick up the phone.

I spent half of yesterday getting ready for Take It Bake It, which is (gasp!) tonight. As I spread my six shallow metal pans out on the counter and began filling them with strawberry-rhubarb crisp, my mind wandered to Amanda, a friend from Cape Cod who once helped me make twelve dinners for six in a day. Packing up food this way always seems a little strange to me. The foil pans are little life rafts for the food, sailing what might otherwise be destined for waste into the freezer, where technology allows humans to press pause on their lifespan.

Last winter Amanda and I both worked from home, so we’d have lunch together every week or so, alternating houses. Once I showed up and she announced a recipe that struck me as . . . how do I put this delicately? A little . . . ghetto, maybe. She’d mixed equal parts cream cheese and mango salsa, slathered it onto salmon, and baked it. I was hesitant – it certainly wasn’t pretty – but when my fork reached my mouth, the tender, rich fish blended so well with the creamy, slightly spicy pink sauce. Every once in a while I find myself hankering after Amanda’s salmon.

Last night, after making 32 egg yolks’ worth of creme anglaise and folding the seven crisps into their little foil and plastic sleeping bags, I mixed a little cream cheese with peach salsa and piled it onto the swordfish steaks I found marked “sashimi” (really?) in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s. Even as I made it, I doubted it again. This is worse than cream of mushroom soup in a can, said someone in my brain. But it worked, again, and the utter speed of the whole operation made it taste even better.

I sat there thinking about Amanda all through dinner, about how her then 1-year-old learned her name and used it for a week straight to identify every noun and emotion that came to him, about how she puts brownies in s’mores, about the dill bread she’d make almost every time we had lunch in her kitchen, and about how she and her husband taught us how to play Speed Scrabble (which I just found out is also called Idaho Scrabble) . . . Then we dug out the end of a bag of chocolate chips and started eating them straight from the bag for dessert, just like she does. Why do I find this habit of hers so endearing?

It did eventually dawn on me that Amanda’s not eating much swordfish these days because she’s pregnant, but it didn’t matter. I was able to put my finger on why the recipes with the cheesiest, dorkiest names, those most often titled (Method) (Ingredient) (Person), are those we come back to again and again: these are the recipes that bring us the people we miss, no matter how far we feel from them. Baked Swordfish Amanda might not mean much to you. But to me, it means a night with a friend I might not see more than once a year.

Hello, Amanda. It was nice having dinner with you.

Baked Swordfish Amanda

Recipe for Baked Swordfish Amanda
Recipe 120 of 365

I guess this is more of a method than a recipe; you simply mix equal parts salsa and cream cheese and spread it over a piece of fish. And I can’t take the credit, either. Amanda got the recipe from somewhere else, I think, but I’m not sure where.

TIME: 5 minutes active time, plus cooking fish
MAKES: 2 servings

2 (1/3 pound) swordfish steaks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup peach, mango, or pineapple salsa
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened (whipped cream cheese works fine)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the fish in a baking dish and season with salt and pepper. Mix the salsa and the cheese together in a small bowl with a fork until blended, and spread it over the top of the fish. Bake roughly 10 minutes per inch of thickness, 10 to 15 minutes for typical swordfish steaks. Serve immediately.

And the “big batch” recipes I made with Amanda, published in the April 2006 issue of Cape Cod Magazine:

Recipe for Corkscrew Bolognese

Recipe for Chicken, Spinach, and Proscuitto Lasagna

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