melt-in-your-mouth salmon steaks

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I come from a long line of fishermen. As early as I could walk I had special roles in our family’s fishing adventures. Roles like digging worms in the wee hours of the day, before the sun was even up. As I grew into my responsibilities I was promoted to more sophisticated and privileged duties such as squishing the wriggling worms onto the fishing hooks or scooping fish guts out of dead fish, to prepare for cooking.

Besides for now having a high tolerance for blood, guts and dead fish, I also have an appreciation for fresh food. Food that has a journey that I can trace, from the first step. Freshly-caught-anything tastes completely different than freshly-bought-anything.

This recipe is made with salmon that my father caught with his own strong (and hairy) arms. He brought the enormous creature (larger than my daughter) to my house and I proceeded to chop it into steaks, feeling very happy and nostalgic, while my son stared at me in wonder.

You can certainly use store-bought salmon, but I highly recommend trying to go and catch one of your own.

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Melt-In-Your-Mouth Salmon Steaks

6 salmon steaks, about 1 inch thick

Very coarse fresh cracked pepper

Pinch of coarse Kosher salt

A handful of fresh dill, chopped

Wash and pat dry salmon, sprinkle with pepper, salt and dill

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 min

Eat slowly to enjoy the delicate flavor (and to make sure you don’t choke on fish bones)

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roast lamb with garlic and red wine

Usually when I have a party I try to stick with vegetarian dishes. Guests leave happier and lighter. But once in a while I go old school and serve a huge piece of juicy meat. I try to be accommodating to my guests and offer different options, gluten free, vegan, dairy free, nut free, because as John Steinbeck, my favorite author in the world, put it

“It is generally understood that a party hardly ever goes the way it is planned or intended. This of course excludes those dismal slave parties, whipped and controlled and dominated, given by ogreish professional hostesses. These are not parties at all, but acts and demonstrations, about as spontaneous as peristalsis and as interesting as its end product”

No ogres here. You’ll see tofu stir-fry right beside roasted lamb on our table.

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Roast Lamb with Garlic and Red Wine

6 lb lamb shoulder

2 onions, chopped into large pieces

1 lemon

10-12 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons dried basil

Fresh cracked pepper

2 cups water

Bottle of red wine

 

Open wine and pour a large glass. Drink some. Grate garlic with a fine grater, such as Microplane (best kitchen invention ever)

Mix garlic paste with oregano, basil and pepper, set aside

Pour water and a good dose of red wine in the bottom of a roasting pan, add onions

Rinse and pat dry lamb and place on a roasting rack

Scoop and smear garlic and herb paste all over the lamb, then squeeze lemon juice on top and put the lemon peels in the roasting pan

Bake 25 minutes per pound at 350 degrees

Check about halfway through and if the liquid is running out, pour a bit more water in the bottom of the pan

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two-toned zucchini salad

IMG_4556This zucchini salad satisfies the “potato-salad-craving” as one of my dear friends put it, only with no mayonnaise and no potato. Perfect for a BBQ side dish or as a sandwich filling.

Two-Toned Zucchini Salad:

2 yellow zucchinis thinly sliced

2 green zucchinis thinly sliced

2 sweet onions thinly sliced

1 cloves minced garlic

3-5 hard-boiled eggs

1 tablespoon dried dill

1 tablespoon mustard

sea salt

freshly cracked pepper

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In a large pan, sauté the sweet onion in olive oil on low for at least 10 minutes (should be a caramelized-brown color). It’s usually 20 minutes for me because I’ve forgotten about it.

Add the minced garlic and dill. Stir

Add the sliced zucchini and stir periodically until zucchini is wilted and slightly transparent

Turn up the heat and stir a few more minutes if there is a lot of liquid

Plop (that’s actually the sound it makes) into a large serving bowl

Peel and roughly chop the eggs, add to the zucchini-onion salad

Add mustard, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Eat some. Adjust seasonings if necessary

Note: you can use only green zucchinis and regular onions, if that’s all you have

eggs in hell

It’s been one of those weeks. And it’s only Wednesday. Children are oblivious to the tribulations of adults and when they want dinner they want it now. Well, here you go kids.

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Eggs in Hell

I’ve slightly adapted the original recipe by M.F.K. Fisher. It is scrumptious over quinoa. Not to mention fool-proof, as I’ve several times forgotten about the pan entirely and the eggs were still delicious because the eggs and thin layer of sauce got crispy on the bottom.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic minced

1 onion minced

2 cups of Italian-style tomato sauce

1 teaspoon each of chopped basil and parsley

Fresh cracked pepper

8 eggs

 

Heat oil in a saucepan that has a tight cover

Add the garlic and onion and cook until golden

Add the tomato sauce and herbs

Cook about 10 minutes, stirring often

Into this sauce break the eggs. Spoon the sauce over them, cover and cook until the eggs are done, about fifteen minutes.

When done put the eggs on slices of dry toast and cover with sauce or spoon over cooked quinoa.

Optional: sprinkle with Parmesan cheese

 

you say (heirloom) tomato

What to do with a bag of overripe heirloom tomatoes that you bought on sale at the farm market?

A member of the nightshade family, tomatoes are native to South America and at some point were thought to be poisonous. Others adored tomatoes: the French called them pommes d’amour (love apples) and claimed that they had aphrodisiac powers. Either way, it took until the 1900s for this fruit to gain popularity in North America. While technically a fruit, in 1893 the U.S. Supreme Court classified the tomato as a vegetable for trade purposes, based on a popular definition that it’s not served as dessert, but rather with dinner.

Because tomatoes are very perishable, they’re often picked green and ripened later with ethylene gas or in a warming room. These will rarely have the same aroma and taste as vine-ripened or heirloom tomatoes. In addition to the balance of sugars and acids in the tomato, the flavor also depends on subtle fragrant compounds, called volatile compounds. These compounds float to our nostrils when the tomato has been bitten or sliced and contribute to flavor. It’s speculated by scientists that geranial (one of the volatile compounds in tomatoes) improves the overall flavor of a tomato by enhancing its innate sweetness. Compared to heirlooms, standard tomatoes have less geranial. Modern supermarket tomato plants are generally bred for high yield, which means that the tomatoes will be less sweet since the more fruit a plant produces, the less sugar it can invest in each tomato.

Upon bringing these misshapen beauties home, I realized that the only way to salvage them would be to drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle generously with basil and fresh cracked pepper and roast at 425 until the skins look crispy. I didn’t, however plan for the excessive amount of liquid that the heirlooms would produce. Not wanting to waste this precious juice, I scooped most of it out and used it instead of water to make the quinoa. Kids approved highly of my invention.

roasted carrots and cylindra beets

IMG_1951Not sure what possessed me to venture outside today. Roads covered with snow. Cars either gridlocked or sliding all over the place. I guess visiting my dear friend and her new baby boy is a reason good enough.

I love how a big snowfall brings out a person’s inner self. You have the grumblers and the shovelers. The latter of which I had the pleasure of meeting a few hours ago when he shovelled my minivan out of the snow (the second time I got stuck).

Thank you to the man with the long hair and striped hat! My panic was greatly lessened thanks to your benevolent willingness to help a complete stranger.

Something about the snow makes me want to eat roasted veggies. I know- you were expecting me to say soup. That too. But roasted root vegetables are hearty and hearty foods tend to give warmth akin to a bowl of soup, in my opinion. Either way, here it is: a recipe for roasted cylindra beets and carrots. The dark purple beets contrasts beautifully with the glowing orange of carrots. You can use regular beets in lieu of cylindra, obviously.

7 cylindra beets, ends cut off, peeled

3 carrots, ends cut off, peeled

olive oil

1/8 teaspoon cumin

fresh cracked pepper

Preheat the oven to 425

Half the beets lengthwise and cut carrots into 3, then half lengthwise if they’re thin (you want thick pieces of carrots)

Toss everything together in a 9 x 13 baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes (depending on how soft you like them veggies. I like mine roasted almost to the point of shriveled, so I actually bake for 45 minutes)

Variations on this dish can be played ad infinitum. You can add rosemary, parsley or dill, or other vegetables entirely.

What are your favorite hearty, winter meals?

gooey portobello mushrooms

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Serves 4, but this recipe can and should be doubled. These heavenly fungi will be devoured before the cheese stops bubbling.

4 large portobello mushrooms

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

2 packed cups chopped rainbow chard, stems and ribs removed

2 cloves fresh minced garlic

1 cup plain cooked quinoa

1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese

3/4 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese

1 teaspoon dried oregano

fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450.

Line a good quality baking sheet (I use Doughmakers brand) with parchment and spread a very thin layer of olive oil on the parchment to prevent mushrooms from sticking.

Gently wash mushrooms and pat dry. Scoop out the insides, including the stem, by scraping with a spoon.

On medium-low sauté chard, garlic, oregano and a dash of pepper in olive oil for about 2 minutes.

Add cottage cheese and stir until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes.

Add quinoa, stir. Add 1/2 cup of shredded cheese, stir and remove from heat.

Stuff the mushrooms with the mixture.

Use remaining shredded cheese for sprinkling on top of each mushroom.

Bake mushrooms for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and soak up the liquid from the baking sheet with a paper towel.

Return to the oven and bake 5 minutes more.

Garnish with fresh parsley