Weekly Winner:  Viva La Vinaigrette – Dressing up the Ordinary Midweek Meal

There is nothing new in the main components of last week’s salmon dinner.  I have made all of these things hundreds of times before — salmon, roasted veggies — many times they’ve even appeared on the same plate.  But this dinner was different…dare I say “snazzy”.

Much like the right accessory can liven up an old outfit, or a new throw pillow can add new life to your old living room, a different vinaigrette turned my ordinary “go to dinner” into an event meal.  I’m talking about Oven-Roasted Salmon with Cauliflower and Mushrooms.  See? Nothing new here.  But oh, wait…. that zippy-tangy-slightly-sweet vinaigrette drizzled over everything hooks you with the very first bite and stifles any yawns you were anticipating with the meal.

The recipe comes from Food Network Magazine and is neither complicated nor time-consuming.  You’re doing what you’ve done a million times, roasting fish and vegetables.  The only added work is whipping up the addictive dressing which actually takes about 7 minutes, tops.  I’ve just been sitting here thinking about what else I can use that stuff on!

Curtis Stone’s Oven-Roasted Salmon with Cauliflower and Mushrooms

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the vinaigrette:

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup dried currants

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the vegetables:

1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into small florets

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

1 1/4 pounds assorted mushrooms (such as cremini, oyster and stemmed shiitakes), halved lengthwise if large

1/4 cup very finely chopped shallots

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh sage

Freshly ground pepper

For the salmon:

4 5-ounce salmon fillets

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup green pumpkin seeds, toasted (optional) – not really “optional” in my book!

Procedure:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Make the vinaigrette: In a small heavy saucepan, bring the wine, currants, shallots, vinegar and brown sugar to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the currants are plump and the liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small bowl.

Prepare the vegetables: In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to coat. Season to taste with salt. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

Meanwhile, heat a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, then add the mushrooms and cook, without stirring, until golden on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Stir the mushrooms and cook until tender and well browned, about 4 minutes more.

Stir the roasted cauliflower, shallots and garlic into the mushrooms and cook until the shallots soften, about 1 minute. Stir in the sage. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return the cauliflower mixture to the baking sheet and cover to keep warm. Wipe out the skillet.

Cook the salmon: Season with salt and pepper. Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, then place the salmon skinned side up in the skillet and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the salmon over; transfer the skillet to the oven and roast 3 to 5 minutes, or until the salmon is mostly opaque with a rosy center when flaked in the thickest part with the tip of a knife. Meanwhile, uncover the cauliflower mixture and rewarm in the oven if necessary.

Transfer the salmon to a platter or four dinner plates. Spoon the cauliflower mixture around the salmon and drizzle with some of the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds, if using (and you should!). Serve the remaining vinaigrette on the side.

Weekly Winner:  Seemingly Stuck on Salmon – Another Winning Salmon Dish

Looking back at the past month or so, it sure seems like we’ve eating a bunch of salmon.  This actually isn’t quite true, but I have tried a bunch of new recipes this month and apparently a good amount have been salmon.  While it’s easily my favorite fish to cook, even I am surprised by the amount of fish that has appeared here in the past few weeks.  Truth be told, I actually tried this recipe for Slow-Roasted Curried Salmon with Corn and Tomatoes before the Asian Pork Salad (my last entry) but thought I needed to take a bit of a break from posting salmon.  Having said that, this could be one of the best yet!

Slow-Roasted Curried Salmon with Corn and Tomatoes comes from Sunset Magazine and is both comforting and exotic at the same time.  It’s got a good bite of heat which is nicely tamed by the sweetness of the corn and tomatoes.  Honestly, I could happily eat this dish once a week without tiring of it. Except for the rice, it is an easy sheet pan dinner which makes clean-up a breeze. And the fact that it’s slow-roasted at a low oven temp means it won’t heat up the house.  Both of those things, added to the amazing taste of the dish makes this a true winner.

Slow-Roasted Curried Salmon with Corn & Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 pounds skinned sockeye salmon fillet

1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. brown mustard seeds

About 1 tsp. salt

1 teaspoon Madras curry powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 very ripe medium red tomato

1/2 small shallot

2 large ears corn

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

12 to 15 large fresh basil leaves

1/2 lemon (optional)

Hot cooked rice

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 275°. Cut salmon into 3/4-in. cubes and put in a large bowl.

2. Grind mustard seeds in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder. Pour into a small bowl and mix with 1 tsp. salt, the curry powder, and cayenne. Sprinkle over salmon and turn to coat thoroughly.

3. Cut tomato into 1/2-in. dice and mince shallot. Cut kernels off corn cobs. Add vegetables to salmon along with oil.

4. Stack several basil leaves, roll length­wise, and slice very thinly to make a chiffonade; repeat with remaining leaves. Mix 3/4 of leaves into salmon bowl.

5. Spread salmon and vegetables in one layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake just until salmon is firm and barely flakes, 9 to 12 minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon juice if you like, and season with salt.

6. Spoon rice into bowls; add salmon and vegetables. Top with remaining basil.

Weekly Winner:  Spectacular, Slightly-Spicy, Super Sloppy Salmon Sandwich

I was going to name this blog “Hey look!  I made a Muppet!” Seriously, this picture reminds me of some strange new Muppet character.  Can’t you just imagine it singing?? No? Oh well, maybe it’s just me. But this burger did in fact speak to me….it said “Dang, I’m tasty”.  There are a lot of elements to this Salmon Burger with Harissa Mayonnaise, but nothing is difficult.  The hardest thing was keeping the burger together while eating it.  It is a messy thing.  A very delicious messy thing.

This Muppet of a salmon burger comes from Food & Wine Magazine.  The only change I made to the recipe was that we didn’t grill these.  I couldn’t see the point of putting a skillet on the grill to cook them when I could just as easily cook them in the skillet on the stove top.  So that’s what I did. You do what speaks to you.

Salmon Burgers with Harissa Mayonnaise

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

Cucumber Relish

1 English cucumber—halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped dill

1 shallot, minced

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Harissa Mayo

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons harissa

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt

Pepper

Salmon Burgers

5 scallions, white and light green parts only, coarsely chopped

1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped (about 3/4 cup)

1 small green bell pepper, coarsely chopped (about 3/4 cup)

1 1/2 pounds skinless center-cut salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen for 30 minutes

1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 buns, split and toasted

Lettuce and tomato slices, for serving

Procedure:

MAKE THE CUCUMBER RELISH In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

MAKE THE HARISSA MAYO In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

MAKE THE SALMON BURGERS In a food processor, pulse the scallions and bell peppers until finely chopped; transfer to a medium bowl. Pulse the salmon in the food processor until finely chopped but with some bigger chunks remaining. Add the salmon to the bowl with the scallions and peppers and fold in the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and 1/3 cup of the harissa mayo. Using lightly oiled hands, shape the salmon into six 3/4-inch-thick patties. Transfer to a lightly oiled plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Light a grill. Set a large cast-iron skillet on the grill and melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in 2 tablespoons of the olive 
oil. Add 3 of the salmon burgers to the skillet; cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden brown and just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining butter, olive oil and salmon burgers.

Spread some of the harissa mayo on the buns. Top with 
the salmon burgers, cucumber relish, lettuce and tomato slices and serve.

Weekly Winner:  Sumptuous, Citrusy, Cedar Salmon

We’ve been eating out a lot this month.  House guests, restaurant openings, dinner with friends – you name it. If there was an excuse to not eat at home, we used it. However, there comes a time when enough is enough and you just need to have a sensible, homemade dinner.  Generally when I get to that point, my go-to dishes are either pork chops or salmon.  As I wanted to lighten things up a bit, I opted for the salmon and this Mustard-Glazed Planked Salmon has been one of my favorites for quite some time.

The recipe comes from Coastal Living magazine.  It’s easy, keeps the house cool since its grilled and allows you to char up some wood – how fun is that??  The result is truly delectable salmon with a hint of cedar smoke, a mustardy punch and the sweet zing of orange.

Mustard-Glazed Planked Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 large cedar plank

4 (6- to 8-ounce) skin-on sockeye salmon fillets

1/4 cup whole grain mustard

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 orange slices, halved

Garnish: chopped chives

Procedure:

1. Soak wood plank in water 1 hour; drain. Preheat grill to medium-high heat (350° to 400°).

2. Remove pin bones from salmon, if necessary. Combine mustard and next 5 ingredients in a small bowl, and brush half of mustard mixture over salmon, reserving remaining mustard mixture.

3. Grill plank 3 minutes or until grill marks appear. Remove from grill. Place salmon, skin sides down, on heated side of plank. Top with orange slices.

4. Grill planked salmon, covered with grill lid, 10 to 15 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. (Check occasionally to make sure edges of plank don’t ignite.) Garnish, if desired. Serve with reserved mustard glaze.

Weekly Winner:  Marvelously Mellow, Magical Miso

I find that I’m quickly becoming a huge fan of miso.  I realize this is in no way a new ingredient.  On the contrary it’s been around for almost as long as Japanese cuisine has existed.  And while I’ve certainly had miso in quite a few Asian dishes, it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve started making it a central part of sauces, marinades and toppings.  It’s unctuous, salty, earthy and incredibly mellow.  It just seems to disappear into whatever you put it in, while making everything else in the dish taste more cohesive. It’s magic!  It’s like the perfect party mixer – everything that’s around miso just seems brighter, more savory and, well, yummier.

Which brings me to this week’s winner:  Edamame and Salmon Stir-Fry with Miso Butter. The recipe comes from Eating Well Magazine and is incredibly easy and ridiculously healthy.  The result is one of those dishes that you just keep going back for one more bite of.  And why not?  With all this good stuff in it go ahead and gorge!

Edamame and Salmon Stir-Fry with Miso Butter

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp white miso

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 Tbsp water

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 lb salmon, skinned and cut into one inch pieces

1 cup sliced shallots (about 3 medium)

1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced

8 oz frozen edamame (about 1-1/2 cups), thawed

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Procedure:

  1. Whisk miso, butter and water in a small bowl.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a 14 inch skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, but not smoking.  Add salmon and cook, stirring gently, until almost cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a plate
  3. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp oil, shallots, zucchini and edamame to the pan; cook, stirring until the vegetables are almost tender, 3 to 4 minutes.  Stir in the miso sauce until well coated. Gently stir in the salmon and basil

Serve over rice noodles or rice.

Weekly Winner: Vietnamese Salmon – Caramelized Nuggets of Goodness

Try as I might I just could not come up with a catchy alliterative headline for this dish. But regardless, this was definitely the surprise hit of the week.

I knew we would like it – I’m not sure there’s a salmon dish that we wouldn’t like.  But this was surprisingly luscious.  There’s a serious sweetness in the caramel sauce which glazes the naturally rich salmon…. but all this is cut with the fresh carrot slaw.  The recipe called for the salmon to be served on the carrots; however that caramel sauce was seriously asking for some rice to sop it all up, so I called an audible and made rice.  I’m crazy and bold like that sometimes.

This recipe comes from a recent issue of Fine Cooking.  It’s quick, it’s easy…. and it was the first time I got to play around with making a real caramel.  A tremendous success all around.

Vietnamese Caramel Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lime juice; more to taste
  • 1 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 2 medium carrots, coarsely grated or julienned (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 lb. skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces

Procedure:

Heat the sugar in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook, tilting the pan occasionally to help the sugar melt evenly, until dark amber (like maple syrup), about 3 minutes. (If your pan is dark, test the color by dribbling some on a white plate.) Remove from the heat and carefully add 1/4 cup water; it will steam and bubble. Put the skillet over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add 1 Tbs. of the lime juice and the fish sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook until thick enough for a spoon to leave a trail in the skillet, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the carrots, cilantro, and the remaining 2 Tbs. lime juice. Season to taste with more lime juice and salt.

Heat the oil in a wok or 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add the caramel sauce and 3/4 tsp. pepper and bring to a simmer. Add the fish and toss gently to coat. Distribute the fish in a single layer and simmer vigorously, stirring once, until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with the carrots.

Weekly Winner: Sanity-Saving, Sublime Salmon

IMG_0578This has been a crazy week. We’re having some major renovations done here in the house which means my beloved, sacred schedule has been knocked for a serious loop! Between construction workers traipsing through the house, the mind-numbing noise and the never-ending dust, cleanup and minute-by-minute decisions to be made, dinners have not been the most thought-out and carefully planned.

However, I’ve had a stack of new recipes I’ve wanted to try out and a few nights ago when our contractor left a bit early to let cement and tile glue dry, I pulled out this one to give it a shot.

Salmon has always been a bit of a comfort-food for me. By that I mean, I just always feel better after eating it. The same can not be said for a lot of other “comfort foods”. You love eating them and are happy while you are consuming them, but then afterwards? Not so much.

This however was wonderful. Elegant, sumptuous, and easy. Just what was needed to restore some semblance of order and sanity to our little corner of Chicago.

The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine and is incredibly simple.  The recipe just calls for brown basmati rice, but I went ahead and mixed some spinach into ours.

Coconut Curry Salmon with Basmati Rice

Recipe serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp fresh lime juice

1 1/2 tsp red curry paste

1 (15 oz) can light coconut milk

4 salmon fillets, skinned

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

brown basmati rice for serving

Procedure:

Place brown sugar, lime juice, red curry paste, and coconut milk in a large skillet, stirring to combine.  Add fish to pan; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 9 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning once after 5 minutes.

Place fish on plate.  Prepare brown rice according to package directions.  Bring remaining sauce to a boil in the skillet; boil 5 minutes or until reduced to 1/2 cup.  Serve with fish and rice.

 

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