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Love in a piece of fish

May 26th, 2009 | 11 Comments »

I’ve always considered myself a pretty flexible, go with the flow kind of person, and nowhere is that more evident than in the food that I will eat. I’m no gourmet and I don’t require an exotic or complicated meal ever; I’m just as happy to chomp through a grilled brat as I would be to sit in front of half a dozen fancy courses at dinner. No one has to worry about cooking me something amazing if I am invited to dinner. Even though I prefer eating healthier options, I’m OK with eating a wide range of foods, and flexibility is key to happy indulgence and peaceful co-existence. I never want to be considered a diva about food.

At one point in my life I was dating a very nice guy and it seemed like it might be getting serious. Then one evening for a meal, I suggested that we have salmon.

“Oooh, I don’t really like salmon.” Was what he said, or something like that.

This statement gave me pause.

“You don’t like salmon?” I said, gazing at him quizzically, mentally tossing out all those ‘permanent’ thoughts I was starting to entertain. How could I be serious about a man who didn’t eat salmon?

“Why?”

“It’s just too dry and flavorless.” (or something like that. It’s possible I may have blocked out some of this conversation to save my sanity)

“Hmmm.” I was scratching my chin and trying to think of something witty. But I couldn’t.

“Well, would you try it if I make it?” And thankfully he agreed.

It was a delectable Maple Glazed Salmon that the guy actually liked. A lot.

And apparently he liked a whole lot more too.

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You see, there was a lot at stake in the appreciation of that piece of fish.

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I can’t say that it was just that piece of perfectly cooked salmon that set in motion three lives to be intertwined forever, nor was it the multitudes of perfectly cooked fish that have crossed our plates since then. I just know that slightly more than 8 years ago, I met a man who didn’t much care for fish and with one plate of plump pink salmon, the future seemed pretty rosy.

And we sealed it all with a kiss.

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I’m sure you could be wondering…. did he fall in love with me, or with my cooking?

I’m certain it was me, because at that point in my life, while I was a pretty good cook, it paled in comparison to what happens in my kitchen these days and it was that salmon that seemed to be the start of my epic culinary journey. I had concocted a delicious recipe for Maple Glazed Salmon and submitted it to a magazine, which somehow got them all excited and itching to talk to me, which led to a two-page spread about ‘Cooking Healthy for Your Family’ that included my Salmon recipe, photos of all of us and lots of nice words. This was in the Spring issue of Reiman’s Light and Tasty magazine way back in 2003. The following year, after submitting my most favorite veggie pizza recipe to a ‘Meatless Marvels’ contest and winning a Runner-Up prize, I looked at what I wanted in my life and felt like food was the key. Healthy food. Better for you food. Not your Mama’s food.

maple glazed salmon 004And to think that all that love, that nurturing and contentedness, and 8 years with a great guy (nearly 7 of them married), all that started somewhere back around a piece of fish, with a willingness to be open to potential and the flexibility needed to understand that life isn’t always the way you might imagine. Or remember.

maple glazed salmon 009This recipe is quite simple, and stands up well to the assertiveness in salmon. I don’t recommend it for lighter and mild fish such as tilapia, halibut or mahi mahi, but it would be equally welcome on pork or chicken if that suits you. Use top quality maple syrup too.

Kate’s Maple Glazed Salmon

2/3 c. pure maple syrup
1 T. worchestershire sauce
1 T. brown sugar
1 T. ketchup
1 T. cider vinegar
1/2 t. ground mustard

1 salmon fillet, or two steaks

In a small saucepan, blend all ingredients together and bring to a gentle simmer. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and darker in color. Pour into a heat-proof container, such as a pyrex measuring cup, to cool, whisking regularly. You can speed up the cooling process by placing the container in a bowl of cold water and whisking briskly.

Brush about half the glaze onto the salmon and allow to sit for up to 30 minutes. Heat a skillet to hot and place the coated salmon, glaze down in the pan. Allow to cook until nicely browned and the glaze is bubbling. Carefully turn over, brush on more glaze and cook over lowered heat until cooked through, but still tender. Salmon can be served drizzled with remaining glaze.

The side dish in the photo is a blend of cooked barley, wheatberries and spinach, with plenty of shaved parmesan cheese.

Sesame Seared Salmon from the memory ashes

February 22nd, 2009 | 6 Comments »

We all have events in our lives that aren’t the most pleasant to look back on, but when traced with the correct pencil of perspective we can firmly point out maybe a benefit or two gained from the experience. This Sesame Seared Salmon is one of the good things that came from a not-too-pleasant occasion during my culinary school days.

I was a member of our school’s culinary competition team. The local culinary schools engage in a friendly student competition each year at a big food show that goes on in February. We started our practices in October, meeting once a week to work on knife skills and a four-course menu that needed to be done in a 90 minutes window on the day of the competition. The whole thing was fraught with elements of disaster from the start, mostly due to one team member who was so bloated with self-importance that he refused to allow anyone to tell him what to do or work with anyone else on the team to make it a smooth venture. No amount of nagging or threats could get the team captain to kick him off and replace him with someone easier to work with. We plodded on, although I knew the whole thing was going to be only slightly less catastrophic than a thunderous tsunami.

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My part of the team was to do the appetizer and I did a three part salmon plate; one was a Salmon Tartare in a Savory Cornet shell, the other was a Vegetable Bisque with Seared Salmon and the third was bite-sized nuggets of this gorgeous Sesame Seared Salmon. Outside of absolutely loving the Sesame salmon, making a friend for life in my teammate Emily and getting to spend a lot of time with some amazing chef mentors who taught me a great deal, the entire incident was one that I often look at with utmost regret. We placed dead last and quite frankly, it was a little embarrassing to go up against schools who spent an entire year prior to the competition in a class that did nothing but mold them for the end result. We looked like a group of rusty, beat up old clunkers at a Porsche convention.

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This salmon, however, was all my creation and I couldn’t have been more pleased with it. I really need to make it more often.

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The seasoning is a simple blend of Old Bay, lemon and lime zest, a little squeeze of either juice, salt and pepper and a mix of black and white sesame seeds. Press the fish into the mix,  heat a skillet to smoking and drop the fillets in a small puddle of good olive oil. Turn the heat down slightly, cook until the side is burnished and fragrant and flip it over to finish.

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This meal, indulged in on a kid-free night was so full of flavors that Mike and I could do little else but gaze at each other in awe; firm moist salmon with the delightful citrus-y crunch of the sesame crust and my absolute favorite parmesan-garlic sauteed spinach that ended up perfectly cooked even when I was afraid I over-did it.

I made my own Old Bay style blend instead of buying an overpriced tin of it. I’m really a spice hound and have a huge shelf in my kitchen that is full of different spices. I prefer to make my own blends- I made garam masala when I needed it and was able to make a suitable Chines 4-Spice blend¬† that managed quite well without the star anise. Easy access to bulk spices helps too. The recipe for Old Bay that I found on-line required 13 ingredients- I had 12 on hand.

(jump for recipes)

Come in to my kitchen…

Black Bean and Corn Relish

June 30th, 2008 | 3 Comments »

Black Bean and Corn Relish by Kate

1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed well
2 c. frozen corn, thawed (or use the kernels from 2-3 fresh ears to make enough)
1 avocado, diced
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, diced
1-2 t. fresh grated lime zest
Juice of half a lime
1 T. cumin
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl. Chill before serving. Also tastes great on tortilla chips.

Arroz Amarillo

March 17th, 2008 | 5 Comments »

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Arroz Amarillo or Yellow Rice
original recipe- A Cooks Tour of Mexico by Nancy Zaslavsky

This is Kate’s version:

2 T. vegetable oil
1 c. white rice, rinsed and shaken dry
One medium onion, sliced
One Jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced thin
One poblano pepper, seeded and cut in half
One red pepper, seeded and cut in half
2 cloves garlic, minced
One medium tomato coarsely chopped
Half of a 14-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 c. chicken stock
1 t. turmeric
2 t. ground cumin
Cilantro leaves

Place poblano and red peppers on foil covered cookie sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray. Broil until skins are charred, watching carefully. Place in bowl and cover with plastic wrap to sweat. Remove skins when cooled and coarsely chop.

Heat oil in deep skillet; add in onion and saute over medium heat until soft and slightly browned, about 5-8 minutes. Add in garlic and jalapeno and cook for about a minute, until fragrant. Remove vegetables from heat and add a tablespoon of oil to pan. Stir in rice and coat with oil. Cook, stirring continually until rice is nutty, browned and fragrant, about 8-10 minutes. Do not allow to scorch. Stir turmeric and cumin into hot stock until dissolved. Add vegetables back to pan, stir to combine, then add stock. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Add tomatoes to pan, cover and allow to simmer until nearly all the liquid is absorbed. Stir in beans, roasted peppers and a handful of cilantro leaves. Cover and cook for about 5 more minutes. Serve with lime wedges and pimento stuffed green olives if desired.

RECIPE NOTES: For more tomato flavor, hold off adding it until you stir in the beans and roasted peppers. It would hold its shape better at this stage. This rice was just beautiful on our cobalt blue plates!

Smoked Salmon & Corn Chowder with Roasted Red Pepper Spread

September 13th, 2007 | 7 Comments »

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Smoked Salmon Corn Chowder
from ‘The 12 Best Foods Cookbook’ by Dana Jacobi

4 small red potatoes, scrubbed and diced
1 T. canola oil
1 small red onion (or two shallots) peeled and minced
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 green (or red) pepper, cored and diced
1 14-oz can creamed corn
1/2 c. frozen corn kernels (i used corn cut from two fresh cobs)
1 c. fat free lo-sodium chicken broth (i used way more, like almost a quart)
2 t. fresh thyme leaves, minced; or 1/2 t. dried thyme
Pinch cayenne pepper
4 oz smoked salmon, flaked
Salt and pepper

Place potato in medium saucepan and bring to boil; simmer until just fork tender. Drain, and set potato aside. In stockpot, heat oil, then saute onion until tender. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds or until fragrant, then add pepper and cook until crisp tender (or to taste- you may like it softer). Add in creamed corn, corn kernels, thyme, broth and cayenne and bring to a boil. Add in potato and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, stir in salmon, season with S&P and serve.

Roasted Red Pepper Butter

1 c. room temp butter
7-oz jar roasted red pepper, drained and finely minced
2 t. milk
1 T. fresh chives, minced
1 T. fresh parsley, minced
1/4. c. fresh grated parmesan or asiago cheese
Salt and Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and beat with a hand mixer until smooth and fluffy. Can be shaped into a log and chilled, or stored in a plastic container.

Hint: with the peppers, the finer you mince, the prettier and more spreadable the butter will be. I used a knife on mine but next time will use a food processor or chopper to get them even finer.