Weekly Winner: Sensational Simple Salmon Salad (with substitution)!

salmon saladWhen it’s hot and sticky in Chicago, I love a salad for dinner.  I also love salmon.  It is one of the few proteins that I don’t mind eating cold or at room temperature which makes it great for salads.  What I don’t love; however is watercress.  I find that it totally takes over a dish – much stronger than its delicate little leaves would lead you to believe!  So when I came across Nigella Lawson‘s Salmon, Avocado, Watercress and Pumpkin Seed Salad, I knew I’d give it a try — with one slight alteration. Now, without further ado, I present Salmon, Avocado, Arugula and Pumpkin Seed Salad.

Salmon, Avocado, Arugula and Pumpkin Seed Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

For the salmon:

2 salmon filets (approx. 8 oz total)

2 spring onions, trimmed

1 tsp black peppercorns

2-1/2 tsp lime juice

2 tsp sea salt flakes

For the salad:

3 Tbsp pumpkin seeds

5 oz arugula

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 ripe avocado

1 Tbsp grapeseed oil or extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp sea salt flakes (or to taste)

Procedure:

  1. Put the salmon filets in a small frying pan and cover with cold water.  Add the whole spring onions and peppercorns, squeeze in the lime juice and sprinkle in the salt, then bring to a boil, uncovered.  When the pan is bubbling, turn the filets over, then remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand for 7 minutes. Take the filets out of the liquid and leave to cool completely.  Once cool, the salmon will be cooked through.
  2. While the salmon is cooking, start on the salad.  Toast the pumpkin seeds by tossing them in a dry frying pan on high heat.  They will start jumping a little, and will darken and get a smokier taste.  When toasted, transfer to a cold plate.
  3. When you are ready to make the salad, put the arugula into a large shallow bowl (or split between 2 bowls), sprinkle with the vinegar and toss.  Add the salmon, removing the skin and tearing the fish into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Halve the avocado and remove the pit.  Spoon the flesh out onto the salmon and arugula.  Drizzle the oil over the salad, sprinkle with the salt and half of the toasted pumpkin seeds, and toss gently to mix.  Scatter the remaining pumpkin seeds on top and serve.
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Weekly Winner: Pièce de Résistance Risotto

risottoWhat’s not to like about risotto, right?  It needs very little to be perfect.  Often, by adding a bunch of other stuff to it you only take away from the stunning simplicity of the dish.  Simple flavors are definitely the best.  The same can be said for tomatoes in summer.  Don’t mess with them.  They are fabulous just as they are — they need very little help to be sensational.  Put these two things together and you have the penultimate meal – Tomato and Parmesan Risotto.

The recipe for this bowl of awesomeness comes from Bon Appetit.  Honestly. after making this dish I am very tempted to trash all other risotto recipes.  They just seem overwrought and fussy.  However; perfect tomatoes will not be available year-round so maybe I’ll keep those other recipes around for the dead of winter.  Any other time, risotto means this dish.

Tomato and Parmesan Risotto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 oz. finely grated Parmesan (about 1 cup), plus more shaved for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Procedure:

  • Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan; keep warm over medium-low heat until ready to use.

  • Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until golden and very soft, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until it darkens slightly and begins to stick to pan, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and nutmeg, if using, and cook, stirring occasionally, until some of the tomatoes begin to burst, about 2 minutes.

  • Stir in rice; season with salt, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring, until some grains are translucent, about 3 minutes. Ladle in 2 cups broth and simmer, stirring frequently, until completely absorbed, 8–10 minutes. Ladle in another 2 cups broth and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until rice is cooked through and most of the broth is absorbed, 12–15 minutes.

  • Add butter, 2 oz. Parmesan, and remaining 1 cup broth and cook, stirring constantly, until risotto is very creamy looking, about 4 minutes. Taste and season with more salt if needed. Divide risotto among bowls. Top with shaved Parmesan and lots of pepper and drizzle with more oil.

Weekly Winner: Meatless Monday Merges with Taco Tuesday

TostadaAs a certified carnivore, it may surprise you to know that I think there are certain dishes in which meat, of any kind, just really isn’t important.  Seriously, why waste the extra calories, fat and work of having meat in a dish that truly doesn’t need it.  Case in point – Mexican food.  There’s little better than a perfectly constructed bean and cheese burrito — or in the case of last night’s dinner — a Chickpea and Chipotle Tostada.  This dish has everything a good tostada needs: a gooey base, shredded cheese, avocado and a zippy sour cream-based sauce.

This tasty, meatless treat comes from Taste of Home magazine, which surprisingly has a great collection of vegetarian recipes.  These are a bright, fresh, modern spin on the usual tostadas.  To make this even easier, I chose to use store bought tostada shells rather than toast up the tortillas as the recipe suggests.

Chickpea and Chipotle Tostadas

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup salsa verde
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 12 corn tortillas (6 inches) – [I used store-bought tostada shells]
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 medium head iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and cubed
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Procedure:

  1.  Preheat broiler.  In batches, spritz both sides of tortillas with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet; broil 4-5 inches from heat until crisp and lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. If you use store bought tostada shells – you can skip this step.
  2. For sauce, mix sour cream and salsa
  3. In a large skillet coated with cooking spray, cook and stir red pepper and onion over medium heat until tender, 6-8 minutes.  Add garlic; cook and stir for 1 minute.  Stir in broth, chickpeas, chipotles, cumin and salt; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, covered for 5 minutes.
  4. Coarsely mash mixture with a potato masher; stir in lime juice.  Cook over low heat to thicken, stirring frequently.
  5. To serve, top tostadas with chickpea mixture, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and sauce.  Sprinkle with cheese.