Monday, September 28, 2009

Mustard Maple Salmon and Roasted Carrot Couscous

As you can see I'm still using the phone to take pictures. I promise I will charge the batteries tonight! Anyway, when I was in college I started eating salmon. I don't know why it took me so long to start liking fish as much as I do now. When I was a little kid we used to eat flounder breaded in cracker meal and fried with a side of baked macaroni that my mother made using white American cheese (especially during Lent). I remember holding my nose and refusing to go in the kitchen if my mother was even cooking fish. My mother would make something else for my sister and I. Usually they only had fish on payday and many times my mother would go to buy the fish at the fish market. I really only remember them eating tuna, salmon, and swordfish. When I went to college I don't remember the first time I had salmon but I feel like I was with M at the Outback. However, if that wasn't my first encounter with salmon, this is the recipe that made me fall in love with it. This is Mustard Maple Salmon. I eyeballed the ingredients and used just 2 pieces of fish but the flavor combination is delicious.

Mustard Maple Salmon (I don't know where my mother found this)

3 tbsp dijon mustard
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 (6 oz) salmon fillets

  1. Combine first five ingredients and marinate salmon in sauce for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
  2. Prepare grill or broiler (I broil mine on high because salmon tends to stick to the grill).
  3. Place salmon on broiler pan and pour leftover marinade over fish. You can also occasionally baste salmon if you prefer or you are using the grill.
  4. If you are using a piece with skin on the bottom (see photo) cook skin side down for 8 min on high or until it flakes easily when tested with a fork.
Serves 4 (WW 8 pts)

I decided to try and use up some whole wheat couscous as my side dish. I roasted 4 carrots with olive oil, salt, pepper and cinnamon. I cooked the couscous in chicken broth and added some golden raisins to allow them to plump up. I also added some chopped hazelnuts I had on hand.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Still no camera for Pad Thai and Clams

My camera is still not charged. I am looking for the battery charger but in the meantime we are having to make due with the cell phone. It's almost not worth photographing. I have been trying to make a home version of Pad Thai at home for a few years now. I don't know what it is but the from scratch variety continued to fail miserably. This time around I used a bottled sauce and it was slightly more edible but for some reason the fish sauce taste was still WAY too strong. I have no idea what they are doing differently at the Thai restaurants but this may be one of the dishes I'm going to have to leave to the professionals. Since this isn't really from scratch here are a list of the ingredients:

pad thai noodles
pad thai sauce
frozen shrimp
peanuts crushed
mung bean sprouts
peanut oil

I think I remembered it all. If not there are plenty of recipes online if you want to try your hand at it. My favorite versions are served at restaurants in Maryland, Noodles Corner in Columbia and Asean Bistro, also in Columbia. In central PA it has been difficult to find something even close to these restaurants, so far the only pad thai that doesn't taste like ketchup is Bangkok Wok in Mechanicsburg. Some people like Amy's Thai in Carlisle and Pakha's Thai House in Dillsburg. I recommend some of the other dishes there but not the pad thai.

I was having another one of those cravings of mine (at least it was something I had eaten before this time) after flipping through the weekly circular of what's on sale. Last night we had some steamed clams as a splurge with a little pasta on the side if you felt like it. The clam recipe is super simple and delicious. The only think I might do next time would be to not use cooking wine because I think it made the clam broth rather salty.

Steamed Clams

48 littleneck clams
1 cup white wine
4 cloves chopped garlic
3 tbsp butter

Wash the clams well in cold water.
Melt the butter and saute the garlic briefly.
Add the wines and the clams and cook covered several minutes until clams open. It is ok to eat clams that don't pop open (unlike mussels) but use your best judgement. Serve with crusty bread (we used a whole wheat baguette).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kung Pao Back to School Night

I am sooooooooooooooooooooo exhausted! Tonight was Back to School Night. Being a teacher, I had to give a presentation in 10 minutes to each period of parents that I teach. I was giddy with an energy high until I got home and all of a sudden I just didn't feel like doing anything. Sadly I still had to eat dinner and I couldn't go out with the other teachers afterwards. Next year I am planning ahead and eating before in case I want to go out after. Every year I never have enough time to say everything and I'll probably be hoarse tomorrow from talking so much and so quickly for 2 hours. But you all didn't come to hear about Back to School Night...

Miraculously, I dragged my rear into the kitchen and whipped up some Kung Pao Chicken from Cooking Light.

Kung Pao Chicken (adapted from Cooking Light)

1 tablespoon peanut oil , divided
2 broccoli crowns, cut into florets
1 tablespoon ground fresh ginger, divided
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast half
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped unsalted peanuts
  1. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add broccoli and 2 teaspoons ginger to pan; sauté 1 minute. Add water. Cover; cook 2 minutes or until broccoli is crisp-tender. Remove broccoli from pan; keep warm.
  2. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in pan; add remaining 1 teaspoon ginger, crushed red pepper, and chicken. Cook 4 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned, stirring frequently.
  3. Combine broth and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl, and stir with a whisk. Add broth mixture to pan; cook until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Return broccoli mixture to pan; toss to coat. Sprinkle with peanuts.

Peach Cake and Risotto with Caramelized Pears and Gorgonzola

One of my absolute favorite desserts comes from the Silver Palate cookbook. Peach Cake is AMAZING. Unfortunately I had to modify it a little bit but it was wonderful anyway. We ate it so fast there aren't any pictures of it. But I implore you to try it you won't be disappointed.

Peach Cake (The Silver Palate)

4 tbsp. unsalted butter + extra for greasing the pan
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup milk
2 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced (original called for 3 but I couldn't fit that many)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
4 tbsp. unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a heavy 9" skillet (my mother always used cast iron but I used my all-clad since I don't own one) well. Prepare the cake: cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Sift the dry ingredients together. Beat half into the creamed mixture. Repeat; beating well. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet. Arrange the peach slices on top of the batter. Bake for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the ingredients for the topping together in a small bowl with a fork. After the cake has baked for 25 minutes, open the oven and quickly crumble the topping over the peaches. Close the oven and bake until the cake is firm and has pulled away from the edges of the skillet, another 8 minutes. Serve warm, accompanied by a pitcher of heavy cream (that's what the original called for to serve, I whipped the cream with a little sugar and vanilla and served that one top instead). 8 portions (we ate 2 portions each)

One of our favorite flavor combinations is pear and blue cheese. From tartlets to flatbread pizza we just can't get enough of it. I don't particularly like raw pears in fact. Browsing around one day I found a recipe for a risotto with this combination. I've been searching for a risotto that J will eat and enjoy and so I decided to try my hand at a similar (though not the same) recipe.

Risotto with Caramelized Pears and Gorgonzola (inspired by a recipe from Dana McMahan)

1 pear, thinly sliced and peeled
1/3 sweet onion, chopped
1 Tbsp butter
1.5 Tsp sugar

handful of hazelnuts, chopped

  1. Melt butter over medium high heat
  2. Add pears , sugar and onion
  3. Cook over medium high heat at least 10-12 minutes or until caramelized.
  4. Reduce heat to lowest setting.
  5. Add hazelnuts so they can toast for about 4-5 minutes.

2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup of white wine
1 shallot, peeled and sliced
Broth (about 4 cups, maybe a bit more or less; chicken or vegetable broth can be used)
1-2 oz gorgonzola cheese

3 tbsp cream

  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Cook the chopped onion until translucent and very slightly colored.
  3. Add the rice and cook about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the wine to the rice and allow it to evaporate.
  5. Add about ½ cup of broth and simmer.
  6. Add the rest of the broth, about ½ cup at a time, keeping mixture at a simmer.
  7. Simmer the rice until the risotto is creamy, about 20 minutes stirring constantly.
  8. Stir in blue cheese.
  9. Stir in pear mixture.
  10. Allow cheese to melt.
  11. Serve with a drizzle of cream and black pepper.
I thought the whole thing was HEAVENLY. J wasn't quite as impressed. I'm starting to think he's never going to appreciate risotto or that I am cooking it incorrectly. I thought it was perfectly toothsome and creamy without the usual hearty dose of Parmesan. I'll try and put up the not so great picture of the meal I took on my phone but the quality was atrocious. I would definitely make this again even if J won't eat it again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Trio of Vegetarian Dips and the Labor Line-up

This year as I have for the last 2 years since I bought my house, I hosted a Labor Day get together. It's always a challenge to decide on a menu and I wanted to try something a little healthier this year. After many suggestions, including roasting a pig on a spit Hawaiian style (rather ambitious for us however), I finally decided on a spread with some Mediterranean flare.

Moroccan Carrot Dip- I omitted the olives in this one.
Cucumber Dip (see recipe below)
Hummus en Fuego- I omitted the olives in this one and used 2 cans of beans.
Panzanella (containing homemade croutons, tomatoes, basil, red onion, fresh mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic vinegar)
Hot Melon Salad-I changed the quantities and used 3 types of melon (honeydew, watermelon, and cantaloupe)
Caesar Pasta Salad (see recipe below)
Grilled Chicken
Hot Italian Turkey Sausage
Make-Your-Own Ice Cream Sundae

Sadly I completely forgot to photos of any of the rest of the food. The ratatouille and the carrot dip were the favorites. The pasta salad was extremely popular as well. The panzanella was a little stale by the time I served it and I slightly overcooked the melon so it was runnier than I thought it would be. The hummus was better after 2 days but the cucumber dip was tasty. The rest was just a little mundane in general so there isn't much to talk about. All in all it was a great party with good company. I only wish I had remembered the photos.

Cucumber Dip (from Doris)
16 oz. softened cream cheese (I used low fat)
1 large cucumber grated and drained
Seasonings to taste (paprika, pepper, garlic powder, salt, onion powder or whatever you like)

Mix well. Whipping is ideal but not essential.

Caesar Pasta Salad
1/2 cup low far mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup low fat milk
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium head romaine lettuce, cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 box pasta twists or penne, cooked according to directions and cooled
fresh ground pepper

1. Combine first 5 ingredients.
2. Add lettuce and pasta and toss to coat. Season with pepper.

Asian Rice with Shrimp and Sugar Snap Peas

This was another semi-disappointment. As Cooking Light goes they generally have some tasty dishes. This was another adaptation but I don't think adapted enough in this case. Originally CL was serving this as a snow peas recipe. Sadly I am not a fan of snow peas so as a general rule I sub sugar snap peas. In this case I should have stir-fried the shrimp in the sauce instead of pouring it over the shrimp later. J said I shouldn't make this again. I kind of liked it but it felt like a waste of shrimp since it wasn't very flavorful. So here it is but I would try something a little different next time.

Asian Rice with Shrimp and Sugar Snap Peas (adapted from Cooking Light)

1/2 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoons bottled chopped garlic
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas
3/4 pounds large peeled and deveined shrimp
1/4 cup diagonally cut green onions
2 teaspoons slivered almonds, toasted
  1. Combine long-grain rice, 1 cup water, and fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  2. Combine soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, hot sauce, and garlic in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Set aside.
  3. Cook peas and shrimp in boiling water 2 minutes or until shrimp are done. Drain. Add peas, shrimp, green onions, and rice to soy mixture; toss well to combine. Top with almonds. Serve immediately.

Fettuccine with Creamy Basil-Pine Nut Sauce

Last week I had a request. "Can we fend for ourselves one night?" J for some reason is not a big fan of some of my experiments and so last week while he ate something else entirely, what I haven't the faintest recollection. I myself had a lovely meal of fettuccine with creamy basil-pine nut sauce. Lovely may be a little strong of a word. This was a pretty good recipe. I modified a Cooking Light recipe to fit what I had and I must say that with a similar base you could probably pull off a sauce reminiscent of Alfredo sauce.

Fettuccine with Creamy Basil-Pine Nut Sauce (adapted from Cooking Light)
3 servings (serving size: 1 cups)

2 garlic cloves
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup light ricotta cheese
1/2 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
2 teaspoons cooking sherry
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 (9-ounce) package fresh fettuccine
Fresh basil leaves (optional)

  1. Place the garlic in a food processor, and pulse 2 to 3 times. Add basil and the next 5 ingredients (basil through pepper); process until smooth. Stir in pine nuts.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Combine pasta and sauce in a large bowl; toss well. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.