Weekly Winner:  The Secret to Succulent Salmon? A board and a killer glaze

There is very little you can do to salmon that I wouldn’t like. Broiled, poached, sautéed, flaked … you name it, I’m a fan. One of my favorite ways to prepare salmon is definitely on the grill. Grilling fish however, is fraught with peril. The delicate fish can break, stick or simply fall through the grates (or possibly all three!)

The answer is cedar-planking the fish.  It’s like a safety net for the fish!  In addition, it imparts more smokiness than simply throwing it on the grill.  Add an amazing glaze and you’ve got yourself a fabulous fish dish.  Plank-Grilled Miso Salmon from Eating Well magazine checks all the boxes and comes together in about a half hour (not counting the soaking of the plank).  

Plank-Grilled Miso Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp maple syrup

1 Tbsp sake

1/4 cup white miso

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 tsp lemon zest

1-1/2 pounds salmon fillet, skinned or 4 boneless, skinless filets

4 scallions, trimmed

1/4 tsp ground pepper

2 tsps black and/or white sesame seeds

Procedure:

  1. Heat sake and maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat just until warm. Remove from heat and whisk in miso until smooth. Let cool for 1 minute, then whisk in mayonnaise and lemon zest.
  2. Set up your grill for indirect grilling. Build a medium-high heat fire or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.
  3. Place the plank, smooth-side down, directly over the flame and grill until the bottom is charred and smoky, 2 to 4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Run your fingers over the salmon and remove any bones you find with tweezers. Place scallions on the charred side of the plank, leaving a little space between them. Place the salmon on the scallions and season with pepper. Spread the glaze on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  5. Grill the fish on the plank over indirect heat until the glaze is bubbling and browned and the fish is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve on the plank, if desired.

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Weekly Winner:  Noshing on Noodles

There’s something about cold noodles that I just love.  They’re addictive and refreshing all at once.  Usually you find cold noodles in some sort of Asian variety, but if we’re being totally honest with each other, I’ve been known to dig into cold left-over Italian-style pasta as well.  A noodle is a noodle, right?

Cold Sesame Noodles with Broccoli and Kale from Bon Appetit was a happy find for me for several reasons.  First of all, they’re cold noodles – and not just any noodles, but ramen noodles (bonus!). Secondly it has roasted broccoli.  I am happy to eat broccoli in any way, shape or form (including raw) but roasted is definitely my favorite.  Finally, it served as yet one more way I can get hubby to happily eat kale.  I think the zip of the vinegar and spice of the sambal oelek has a lot to do with it, but I’m taking my victories however I can.

As the temperatures continue to rise here in Chicago, rest assured this will become not only my go-to lunch, but also an awesome side dish to take along to concerts, picnics and cookouts.

Cold Sesame Noodles with Broccoli and Kale

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 large head of broccoli, cut into large florets with some stalk attached

2 garlic cloves, 1 finely grated, 1 thinly sliced, divided

1-1/2 tsp sambal oelek

1 Tbsp plus 1/2 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, divided

3/4 cup vegetable oil, divided

1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/4 tsp black pepper, plus more to taste

3 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced, plus more for serving

1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled, cut into 1-inch match sticks

4 cups chopped Tuscan kale leaves

2 (10 oz) packages fresh ramen noodles or 2 (3 oz) packages dried

Torn mint leaves and toasted sesame seeds (for serving)

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 450F.  Toss broccoli with grated garlic, sambal oelek, 1 Tbsp vinegar, and 1/4 cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper.  Roast, tossing occasionally, until tender and browned in spots, 20-25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, whisk scallions, ginger, sliced garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and remaining 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup oil in a large bowl.  Add kale; toss to coat.  Let sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  • Cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain; rinse under cold water.  Add noodles and warm broccoli to kale and toss to coat. Divide among bowls and top with mint, sesame seeds, and more scallion greens.

Weekly Winner:  Perusing Persia through seriously yellow chicken

I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe from Persia.  Heck, I’m not even sure I’ve ever eaten Persian food before finding this recipe last week.

Persian Chicken with Turmeric and Lime caught my eye for several reasons.  First of all that color!  I mean that is sunshiny-yellow chicken with some seriously verdant green toppings.  It’s beautiful, right?? Then looking at the list of ingredients it had lots of the things I’ve grown to love:  white rice, warm spices such as cinnamon, cardamom and turmeric, yogurt, and nuts.  And not just any nuts but pistachios which easily make the list of my top three all-time favorite nuts.  

This dish was exotic and familiar at the same time.  There’s nothing more cozy to me than a bowl of chicken and rice and that’s exactly what this dish is, but it’s also so much more.  The spice mix in the rice alone elevate the lowly basmati rice to something incredible and the hit of the turmeric on the chicken really make this dish unique.  Its spicy without being at all hot.

This perfect “getaway in a bowl” comes from Epicurious and while the list of ingredients might seem daunting, it is really quite easy and quick to prepare.  One word of warning however:  if you’re like me and use your hands to rub herbs, marinades and seasonings on meat, you will (as I did) have yellow fingernails for about 3 days after making this! That turmeric is serious stuff!

Persian Chicken with Turmeric and Lime

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

• 1 medium onion, halved, thinly sliced

• 2 teaspoons ground turmeric

• 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped, plus 1 garlic clove, smashed

• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus 8 wedges for serving (3–4 limes total)

• 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

• 2 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin, divided

• 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more

• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

• 1 cup basmati rice

• 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1 cup plain yogurt (optional)

• 1 English hothouse or large standard cucumber, peeled if desired, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2″ pieces (about 2 cups)

• 1 cup (packed) herb leaves, such as mint, cilantro, and/or dill (I used mint, parsley, and basil)

• 1/3 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped

• Sumac (for serving; optional)

Procedure:

Mix chicken, onion, turmeric, chopped garlic, lime juice, 1 Tbsp. oil, 2 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. salt, and 3/4 tsp. pepper in a medium bowl.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil over medium in a heavy medium saucepan. Add rice and smashed garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted and fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Stir in cardamom, cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. salt, and remaining 1/4 tsp. cumin and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Add 1 3/4 cups water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer, covered, until water is evaporated and rice is cooked, 18–20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let sit, covered, until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil over medium-high in a large skillet until very hot but not smoking. Add chicken mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 6–8 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in yogurt, if using, then adjust seasoning to taste. Cover to keep warm.

Gently toss cucumber, herbs, and remaining 1/4 tsp. salt in a small bowl.

Fluff rice with a fork and divide among bowls. Spoon chicken over. Top with cucumber salad, pistachios, and sumac, if using. Generously squeeze lime wedges over

Weekly Winner:  Pretty As a Picture Pork

Since my job is cooking for other people, and some of those other people are good friends, it’s sometimes difficult to make something quick, easy and new for them when getting together. Chances are anything I’ve prepared they’ve had before or I just wind up throwing the same old burgers, steaks or ribs on the grill.  So last weekend when we were headed to friends for a cookout and I offered to bring the main dish, I wanted something new and different (and of course, I wanted to impress just a bit too).  But I also didn’t want to slave away preparing it (the cooking of said dish wouldn’t be a problem  – if a grill is there, the cooking responsibility falls to hubby).  I just had to get the dish ready.

As I was looking through recipes for something new (or at least new to them), along came this little gem:  Apple-and-Pepper-Layered Pork Tenderloin. Bingo!  We have a winner!  The recipe is from Chile Pepper Magazine and while it looks super fancy and dare I say even a bit fussy, it couldn’t have been easier to prepare.  As usual, I made a few tweaks to the dish.  First of all it calls for yellow jalapeños.  I have never seen a yellow jalapeño and since jalapeños in general can be a bit unpredictable as far as heat is concerned, I substituted poblano.  The recipe also says to alternate layering the apples, peppers and the prosciutto. Really?  that would mean only every third slot would get prosciutto and that just didn’t seem right.  This dish needed more pork-on-pork action.  I alternated between the apples and peppers but every slot got prosciutto, because, well… why not??  Finally the recipe calls for a 2-1/2 pound pork tenderloin.  I opted for two 1-1/4 pound ones and it worked perfectly fine.

Next time you want something different to throw on the grill, or you want to impress without the work, this is your meal.

Apple-and-Pepper-Layered Pork Tenderloin

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2-1/2 lb pork tenderloin (or two, 1-1/4 pound tenderloins)

1/2 Tbsp dried marjoram

1/2 Tbsp dried sage

1 tsp dried thyme

1 Tbsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 of your favorite apples

3 yellow jalapeños, seeded and membranes removed and sliced lengthwise (or 1 large poblano seeded and deveined and sliced)

4 oz prosciutto

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the grill to 425F
  2. Cut slits across the pork tenderloin, about 1/2 inch apart, leaving about the same distance from the bottom to keep the tenderloin together
  3. Combine all the dry spices in a bowl.
  4. Drizzle the pork with the olive oil, then rub the spices into the pork, including in between the slits.
  5. Alternating the ingredients, stuff the slits with the apples, peppers and prosciutto
  6. Grill for 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 140F. Let rest for 5 minutes then serve.