Cedar Plank Salmon

A side of Copper River Sockeye Salmon on a cedar plank with lemon slices and seasoned waiting for the grill to be warmed up.

We were back in Seattle this past week to celebrate our 10th Anniversary though we enjoyed a lot of local seafood, I didn’t do much cooking so this weeks post will be pretty brief. One of the many things Seattle is known for is seafood (and rain and yes it really does rain there a lot. Just not so much in the summer) and specifically, amazing salmon.  There are several species native to the rivers of the PNW and Alaska and this time of year, its easy to come by (if you’re in the PNW) and economical because it is in season. Elsewhere frozen may be the way to go. Sprouts carries some nice options for wild ethically caught frozen fish. I was able to pick up a side of fresh, wild caught Alaskan salmon from my local Von’s/Pavilions for about $18 per lbs. a few days ago.

You can use gas, charcoal or electric grill for this and cedar planks are available in the grilling section of hardware stores or online. Just soak the planks in water for at least 30 minutes prior to grilling. Preheat you grill if using gas or electric, or get you coals to white hot. If using charcoal, move the coals to one side of the grill  or gas/electric turn off one set of burners to create an indirect heat zone. Remove excess water from the cedar plank, and line with slices of lemons. Lay the salmon onto the lemon slices and remove pin bones. You can also ask your fish monger to do this for you. Lightly dust with the spice rub. Place the cedar plank on the indirect zone on the grill and cook until the fish turns a light opaque pink, this will take anywhere from 10-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the filets. Enjoy!

Spice Rub

  • 3 parts brown sugar
  • 1 part ground black pepper
  • 1 part garlic powder
  • 1 part ground mustard seeds
  • ½ part cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 part salt
  • 1 part ground paprika

Mix everything in a large bowl until combined. I like to place mine in an old spice shaker. It makes for easier application and reduces cross contamination.

 

Fully Loaded….Fries that is…

Here in Southern California, loaded fries is a pretty big deal and just about every bar and hamburger stand has their variation of them whether it’s Pastrami Fries, Carne Asada Fries, or Greek Fries loaded with Gyro meat and feta. We make our own variation at home and the best part aside from warming up some BBQ brisket or pork and heating up some fries not much prep or cooking required. So this also comes together pretty easy on a week night with stuff from the grocery store.

Jack Danial’s Pulled Pork Fries

1 package of Jack Daniel’s Pulled Pork or Brisket

1 jar of Tostitos Queso sauce

1 bag of French fries, tater tots or waffle fries

2 cups of shredded cheese

1 jalapeno finely chopped

3 scallions finely chopped

1 dill pickle finely chopped

bbq sauce/mayo sauce*

 

Cook the fries according to the package directions. While the fries are cooking, heat up the bbq pork/brisket according to the package directions and set aside. Once fries are cooked, add the shredded cheese and top with bbq meat and drizzle with queso sauce. Return to the oven and heat until the cheese melts (about 5 minutes). Remove from oven, garnish with the chopped onions, jalapeño and pickles then drizzle with bbq sauce/mayo and serve.

*BBQ/Mayo Sauce

½ cup bbq sauce

½ cup mayo

1 TBS apple cider vinegar

pinch of salt

1 TBS honey or agave nectar

1 tsp hot sauce optional

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until combined

 

Dinner in 30 minutes or less…..

Mahi-Mahi Piccata with Bucatini

If your family is anything like mine with everyone on crazy schedules and such sometimes getting a meal on the table in a timely fashion is a struggle. In fact when this blog originally started way back in 2013 the focus was on quick and easy meals for a busy family. Though we’ve deviated away from that concept over the years, the struggle to get a meal on the table before 9PM is still very real in my house. That’s where this mahi-mahi piccata recipe comes in. So long as the fish or chicken is defrosted (or fresh) before cooking you can have all the prep done and dinner plated and served in 30 minutes. In the case of mahi-mahi, all the prep and cooking and the cooking of the fish is done while the pasta cooks.

Recipe (serves 4)

4 4oz mahi-mahi fillets

4 TBS butter

1 TBS olive oil

2 TBS chopped parsley

1 box bucatini

3 cloves of garlic crushed

¼ cup white wine

1 TBS capers

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 TBS flour for dusting on the fish

salt and pepper to taste

red chili flakes (optional)

In a large pot with a lid, bring 8 qts of heavily salted water to a boil. The water should taste like salt water.  While the water is coming to the boil, zest and juice the lemon, crush the garlic, chop the parsley and dry the fish fillets with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper and set aside. Once the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions for al dente typically 8-10 minutes.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat 2 TBS of butter and the olive oil until foaming. Dust the fish on each side lightly with flour and shake off the excess. Place fish into the skillet and cook until golden brown on each side. This take about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and set aside on paper towel to drain.

Add the capers, garlic, lemon juice, zest and white wine to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium low. Let the sauce will boil and slowly reduce. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Adjust the heat to low until the pasta is ready to drain. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water and  drain the pasta and set aside.  Add the remaining butter to the sauce and return the fish to the skillet. Add the drained pasta and toss until the fish and pasta is coated with the sauce. If the pasta is a little dry you can add a little of the pasta water. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon slices.

 

 

Easy Curried Chicken Salad

 

Curried Chicken Salad tucked into a pita with romaine lettuce

I don’t know about you, but my work life is getting pretty hectic and will probably continue to be until the end of the year so the next few posts will be pretty quick and easy recipes.

This week I’m making a curried chicken salad, which revisits one of the first posts on the blog. This blog was originally started as a requirement for a class on Social Media (yep, you get college credit for learning how to use the social medias).  One of the assignments was to make a BuzzFeed Style listicle. I chose to make my listicle about the best sandwiches (in the world ever!) The assignment gave me a chance (read excuse) to eat/make/photograph all my favorite sandwiches. Let’s pause for a moment of wistfulness and feeling nostalgic for a time when life was arguably less complicated when I was trying to juggle home-life, studio art classes with a full load of credits and working part-time.

Anyway, one of the nice things about this salad is that you can use leftover chicken (or turkey this will be great post Thanksgiving to use up leftover turkey and crudite) and the other ingredients are optional but you probably have them in your fridge and pantry.  Nuts and celery add a nice crunch for texture and raisins, grapes, dated or dried fruit of your choice and some carrots will add a nice bit of sweetness. I used Jamaican style curry seasoning but you could just as easily use a chili powder or five-spice powder to change the flavor profile if you’re not into curry. Feel free to experiment (it won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t follow my recipe and well I’d never know either way).  I usually keep it simple and enjoy the salad with crackers or on a sweet roll but you could easily serve it over a bed of mixed dressed greens or between two slices of your favorite bread.

Ingredients

2 cups shredded or cubed chicken

2 carrots peeled and diced

1 stalk of celery diced

2 scallions chopped

¼ cup diced red onion

¼ cup dried fruit like raisins, dates, mango, cranberries or fresh sliced grapes

¼ nuts or seeds

1 TBS prepared brown mustard or dijon

½ cup mayonnaise

1 TBS curry seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sized mixing bowl mix the curry, mustard and mayonnaise until everything is well blended. Then add the nuts/seeds, carrots, onions, celery and fruit and mix until everything has been coated with the dressing. Now just add the chicken and mix. Enjoy…

Ahi Poke (pronounced poh-keh)

Authentically traditional, Ahi Poke with ogo, alaea salt, kukui nut, onions, scallions and sesame oil.

So a few weeks back there were several reports about a midwest company that does business under the name Aloha Poke, trying to enforce their trademark of the phrase Aloha Poke. There was a bit of an inter-web brouhaha because this same midwest company, sent cease and desist notices to Native Hawaiians that use variations of the phrase aloha and poke for their food related business. You can read more about this story here. There are a couple of Change.org petition which you can check out here and here.

I did my ranting and raving about the gall of that company and their profiting off of the cultural appropriation of Hawaiian Culture a few days ago, So I won’t rehash that here. Though the issue has made me realize that many of you may not know what authentic poke (pronounced po-keh) is or how to make it. ‘Cause the stuff they sell at places like Aloha Poke is not authentic.

At its core, poke was a way to preserve the day’s catch before refrigeration was available and it put to use things that were in abundance like salt, seaweed and kukui (also called candlenuts) nut oil and meat. Ogo which is a dark reddish brown thread-like seaweed as well as alaea salt are used. Alaea salt is sea salt that’s been mixed with red volcanic clay. Chopped kukui nuts are roasted and then salted to make inamona. Alaea salt is then added to the inamona and is the seasoning for the poke. Since kukui nuts are hard to find here on the mainland, my local Tokyo Central sells both Noh Brand and Ohana Flavors brand poke seasoning*, which is basically ground up kukui nuts and Alaea salt (and sometimes furikake and red chili flakes). They also sell dried ogo. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

1 lb sashimi grade fish or tofu cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 TBS Poke Seasoning* (see above)

1/4 cup chopped scallions

1/4 thinly sliced sweet onion

2 TBS sesame oil

2 TBS chopped and rehydrated ogo

Combine the fish, scallions, onions, ago and oil in a bowl and slowly add the poke seasoning. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavors marry.

You can eat poke over cooked rice (sticky white rice ideally), with crackers or if you really want to get authentic, with poi. There are other varieties of poke out there, but this particular one predates the arrival of Chinese, Japanese and Koreans workers who brought soy sauce, salmon and rice to Hawaii.

Shoyu Poke

1 lb fish or tofu

¼ cup chopped scallions

¼ cup thinly sliced sweet onions

2 TBS sesame oil

1 TBS shoyu

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds or sprinkle of furikake rice seasoning

pinch of alaea salt

1 tsp brown sugar or honey

1 tsp garlic chili paste (optional)

In a bowl, mix the shoyu, sesame oil, salt and sugar/honey until both the salt and sugar/honey are dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Shoyu Poke with tako cucumber and avocado and wonton chips

 

Summer Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers make for a refreshing Summer salad.

We just picked our first batch of tomatoes for the summer and I have some dill and a bunch of Persian Cucumbers in the fridge. With it being so hot seems like its a perfect time for a refreshing tomato cucumber salad. This is quick and super easy.

Recipe:

4 ripe tomatoes

4 Persian Cucumbers

1/2 medium red onion

Juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper

2 TBS olive oil or grape seed oil

1 TBS fresh dill

Cut the tomatoes into slices, quarters, 8ths or cubes, it doesn’t really matter and the same goes for the cucumbers. Slice the onion into thin slices and  place  the tomatoes, onions and cucumbers into a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, salt n pepper to taste, dill, oil and lightly toss. Done…yes it really is that easy.

We had this with grilled steak but its so light that it will go well with any protein.

Poached Cod with Ginger Garlic Broth and Udon


Poached Cod in Garlic Ginger Broth with Udon and finished with a dash of Furikake and a drizzle of eel sauce.

A few months back we tried out Blue Apron to sample different types of cuisine without having to spend a fortune on pantry items, to reduce midweek trips to the grocery store and to cut down on the amount of produce we waste weekly. As it turns out, we wound up only cooking a few of the recipes and just stuck the protein in the freezer and used the produce for other stuff. Nothing against Blue Apron itself as a concept it just didn’t work for our lifestyle and schedules. My wife works from home mostly and I have a schedule that fluctuates. There’s quite a few evenings where I’m not home for dinner or to make dinner, we wound up just not cooking many of the meals.

Blue Apron did help us break out of our rut of chicken breasts, steaks, and salmon as our sole protein sources and Blue Apron helped me realize I don’t hate all squash or cod and I still really hate beets. I would recommend Blue Apron for novice cooks and folks trying to branch out and try more diverse cuisines. Most of the meals can be prepared within an hour and they try to have things cook in 1 pan. Which is great for folks just starting out or in a dorm where they may not have made the investment in a lot of kitchen gear. That said, if the previous does not apply to you, you can save a lot of time by multi-tasking through a recipe and using a couple of pots and pans to prepare the different parts of the dish.

But what does any of that have to do with poached cod? Well the Mrs. said that the wants to try pescatarianism again and I mentioned that we still had some cod in the freezer left over from our Blue Apron days. The question then became what to do with it using stuff we already had in the pantry and fridge. Our panty probably isn’t typical, we are blessed to live in an extremely diverse area of Southern California so we can access these ingredients fairly easily. You will need to to have access to a decent Asian grocery store. I’ve seen miso paste, toasted nori and furikake at Safeway/Vons and of course carrots, ginger, scallions, and garlic are available in the produce department. Sometimes you can find udon. I’ve seen udon at some Whole Foods, Vons/Safeway and Wegmans (for those Mid-Atlantic folks). They probably do have a selection of dried mushrooms, but it’s been my experience that they’re are wildly over-priced outside of Asian markets. You will also need an Asian Market for eel sauce and Kombu stock, this is also where I find sachets (usually on the tea aisle). If you can’t find eel sauce, then a drizzle of soy sauce or oyster sauce will give a nice fermented saltiness.

The poached cod is on the lighter side with no added fat though there is a good amount of sodium from the kombu and miso. If you want something lower carb you could easily add more vegetables and leave out the udon all together. If you want something with a little more heat you can add Sriracha or garlic chili paste or some dried chilies to the poaching liquid. This is also a quickish weeknight meal which you can have prepped and on the table in about 30  minutes so long as the fish is thawed.

Ingredients

1  Qt water for poaching

4 cups water to cook udon

1TBS White Miso Paste

½ cup dried shitake mushrooms that have been steeped in hot water

2 TBS scallions

2 TBS julienned carrot

½ cup shredded napa cabbage

2 3oz Cod fillet or white fish of you choice deboned and skin removed

2  packets of kombu stock ( I get mine from Daiso)

1 head of garlic

3 nickel sized slices of ginger that have been smashed with the flat side of a knife

1 sheet of toasted nori

2 star anise

2 lemon sliices and juice of half a lemon

eel sauce and furikake for garnish

To start, place dried mushrooms in a deep bowl and cover with boiled water. Let steep until they are soften. This will take about 15 minutes. While mushrooms are steeping, julienne the carrots, cut the napa and chop the scallion.

Mise en place of reconstituted shitakes, napa cabbage, julienned carrots, scallions, garlic, ginger, anise and lemon slices

Strain the mushrooms reserving the liquid and set the mushrooms aside. Bring 1QT of water to a boil and add the leftover liquid from the mushrooms, kombu stock packets, miso, garlic, ginger, star anise, lemon slices, lemon juice and sheet of nori and let boil.

 

Kombu stock, nori, and sachet of garlic, ginger, lemon and anise coming to a boil.

In another pot bring 4 cups of water to boil.  Reduce the heat on the boiling stock  to a slow simmer and add the fish fillets. It will take about 6-8 minutes to poach. Quickly blanch the julienned carrots and strain retaining the boiling water. Set aside the carrots and add the udon noodles. Udon usually cooks in 2-3 minutes. Remove the fish from the broth and reserve the broth. Strain the udon. Divide the udon between 2 soup bowls and place a fish fillet on top, add vegetables to each bowl and cover with the poaching broth. Garnish with furikake and eel sauce.