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Thursday
Jan072010

WALNUT CRUSTED WILD SALMON & EDAMAME MASH

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I don't want to forget how I felt on my beach walk a few days ago. The tide was unusually low, making a good stretch of hard sand for optimum speed walking conditions. Apparently, I missed the memo that there was going to be a gorgeous sunset, because so many people were out. Most of which were just watching; standing alone, saluting the sun and being still. It wasn't necessarily a moment of quiet, but there was no room for wanting, rushing or worrying. It even seemed that the dolphins, which is a site I am jaded to at this point, were just bobbing in the water, watching the sky with everyone else. With this view, there is no way you couldn't believe in something bigger than yourself, than all of us. Pictures of sunsets don't do them justice, you need to be there and live them as they make you feel at rest. I wish you were there, because feeling rest, even if it's for a brief moment, is quite gratifying.

All the holiday weeks have passed, and I am ready to sit down and have a nice healthy dinner. It's time for a complete meal composed of more than one food group and a pretty plate. There were too many moments where I was eating trail mix or baggies of cereal from my glove compartment these past two weeks (yes, I keep emergency snacks in my car and no, I don't have children). This meal is packed with 'superfood' ingredients, lots of protien and is unique enough to feel like a special dinner. At least for me, but maybe I'm the only one who eats from their glove compartment.WALNUTSALMON_02

WALNUT CRUSTED WILD SALMON & EDAMAME MASH // Serves 4

Atlantic Salmon is far more likely to be farmed than Pacific salmon. You want to choose a wild variety, more often found at a fish market or Whole Foods than your local grocery store. There are a number of varieties, all quite rich, so you only need a small portion. If Salmon isn't your thing, you actually could crust any fish, but vary the cooking time for thinner or less fatty varieties. Also, I suggest reading through the entire recipe before you start. It's pretty easy if you get the jist of the entire process first.

Four 4 oz. Wild Pacific Salmon Filets
1 Cup Walnuts, Very Finely Chopped
1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour (or any gluten free option will work too)
1 Egg White
1 Tbsp. Water
1 Tsp. Dried Basil
1 Tbsp. Oil (anything neutral tasting)


3 1/2 Cups Edamame Beans (organic very important with soy. I used frozen, shelled beans)
2 Tbsp. Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp. Toasted Sesame Oil
3 Tbsp. Fresh Chives, Chopped
3 Tbsp. Fresh Mint, Chopped
Fresh Ginger, optional

Fresh Basil for Garnish
Salt and Pepper to TasteWALNUTSALMON_03WALNUTSALMON_04

Oven to 400'
1. Steam or boil edamame beans for about 8 minutes (longer if you're using fresh). Transfer drained beans to a blender or food processor. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, rice vinegar, lemon juice and sesame oil. Pulse to puree the beans.Pulse until chunky, you want a smooth but slightly chunky consistency, add broth or water if you need to loosen it. Tranfer to a mixing bowl, add the fresh mint and chives and stir. Salt and pepper to taste, add ground ginger or red pepper if you want a kick.
2. Put the egg white and water in a bowl and give it a whisk. Use three seperate shallow plates, put the flour on one, the egg whites mixture in the second, and the crushed walnuts, pinch of salt and herbs in the last bowl.
3. Heat pan over medium heat with 1 Tbsp. of a neutral oil. With one salmon filet at a time and working with ONE side, dip on the flour, then the egg, then the walnuts (which should be pulverized enough to adhere). Add nut side down gently into the pan and sear for about 3 minutes, flip and sear the other side. Tranfer fish onto a baking dish large enough to hold all four filets, walnut side up. Repeat the searing with all four filets, then pop them in the oven to cook through to desired doneness, about 5-8 minutes depending on thickness. I like to keep it just barely rare on the inside.
4. Warm the edamame mash. On each place, put a generous dollop of mash and the warm salmon on top. Garnish with some fresh basil.WALNUTSALMON_05


Thursday
Dec312009

MEXI SQUASH

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Just when I said all I can eat this month are desserts, I can safely say that I now want nothing to do with them. The excitement for all things cookie, toffee, gingerbread or peppermint has waned. The pine is dried to a crisp, and people will take their lights down this weekend after making goals for 2010. It is the week when we go from overdosing on sweets, to proposing a regimented health plan for the new year in a matter of days. I'm now craving the deep greens that are in season, warm root vegetables or anything kissed with fresh citrus. Hugh suprised me with a sweet Schwinn bicycle tied with a big red bow for Christmas, now if I can only figure out how to stop successfully and put my helmet on the correct direction, I may be on to a new hobby.

This is a perfect gluten free side dish, that can easily be made in to an entree with some grilled fish, chicken or tofu. The lime makes it taste fresh but the warm squash keeps it comforting enough for the colder weather. We ended up adding some black beans after the pictures, which made it quite filling. The leftovers were even better as all the flavors blended. Queso Fresco is Spanish/Mexican cheese that isn't aged, so it's fairly mild. If you have feta on hand, it works just as well if not better if you like more of a tang. MEXISQUASH_02MEXISQUASH_03

MEXI SQUASH // Serves 4 as a side

2 to 3 lb. Spaghetti Squash
3/4-1 Cup Queso Fresco/ Feta Cheese
Half Red Onion, Finely Diced
1/3 Cup Cilantro, Chopped

Juice of Two Limes (about 1/4 Cup)
2 Tbsp. Agave Nectar
3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1/2 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp. Coriander Seeds
Salt to Taste
MEXISQUASH_04MEXISQUASH_05

Oven at 375'
1. Cut squash in half length wise, scoop out seeds and place cut side down on a rim baking pan. Fill the bottom for about a half inch of water. Bake on the middle rack for about 50 minutes. You know it is done when the flesh is tender enough to shred easily.
2. While the squash is baking, dice the red onion and chop your cilantro.
3. Make the dressing: start with the red pepper, fresh garlic, coriander and cumin and grind together with a spice grinder, pestel or back of a wooden spoon. Add the lime juice and agave and whisk together. Drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil and whisk again. Add a generous pinch of salt, you can add more at the end.
4. Remove the squash and let it cool enough to handle. With a fork, scrape the inside of the squash into a large bowl, it will look like spaghetti, hence the name. Add the onion and dressing and toss to coat while still warm so it softens the onion and garlic flavors. Test for salt and pepper. Add in the cilantro and half of the cheese, toss again. Serve with fresh cilantro and cheese on top. MEXISQUASH_06

Tuesday
Dec152009

CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT MOLTEN CAKES

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Besides the hearty soup and well balance bowl we've had the past two posts, it seems my diet lately has consisted of more treats than usual. I feel so cliche even saying that, as I would love to tell you I prefer carrot sticks to cookies, but I do not, especially in December. Likely story, I know. I have tried pickles, coffee, brushing my teeth, desperate seances and what not, but sometimes the need for something sweet comes with a fury. By fury, I mean a need for baby chocolate peppermint molten cakes. They are so much easier to make than I expected, and a personal dessert makes a guest, and you, feel special. I am catering a dinner party for twenty this Friday, and after testing these for four, it will be just as easy to do for twenty. Borrowing 16 additonal ramekins is the difficult part. If I am going to make a decadent dessert, it will be worth it. By using organic eggs and butter, and the best quality chocolate you can find, your end result tastes as wonderful as the ingredients you used.

Hugh and I watched Food Inc. last week and I thought it was very well done. I tend to take everything I hear on the subject of the corporate food industry for face value, so am glad I had Hugh to remind me of the art of persuasion. Sure, it is a movie made by one side of the issue, but the material encourages the viewer to buy locally, visit farmers markets, cook at home, plant a small garden and stay away from processed foods. I don't care how literally you take it, but the call to action is unanimously postive. I wish my garden grew molten cakes, then everyone would be happy.lavacake_0002lavacake_0003lavacake_0004

CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT MOLTEN CAKES

1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter
5 oz. High Quality Bittersweet Chocolate (Valrhona or Scharfenberger)
2 Large Eggs
2 Egg Yolks
1/4 Cup Natural Cane Sugar
2 tsp. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 tsp. Peppermint Extract
Pinch of Salt
Candy Cane for Garnishlavacake_0005lavacake_0006lavacake_0007lavacake_0008

Oven at 450'
1. Set a glass bowl over a pot of gently boiling water (double broiler). Break up the the chocolate, and add it and the butter into the glass bowl. While the mixture is melting, whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together in another bowl until light and thick.
2. When chocolate is almost completly melted remove from the heat, stir to release some heat as it should be quite warm. Slowly pour in the eggs, peppermint extract, pinch of salt and then quickly beat in the flour until just combined.
3. Butter and flour four 4-ounce ramekins, tap out excess flour. Pour the chocolate mix evenly amongst the ramekins. At this point, you can keep them in the fridge for several hours, and simply bring them to room temperature before baking. Otherwise, bake them on a baking sheet for 6 to 7 minutes MAX, centers will be soft. Allow to sit for 3 minutes.
4. Invert the ramekin onto a plate, let them sit about 10 seconds and give the bottom a little tap, then lift. Sprinkle with candy cane, serve immediately. Accompany with unsweetened whipped cream or ice cream if desired.lavacake_0009

Thursday
Dec102009

LENTIL SOUP WITH CHIPOTLE  YOGURT

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We had our inaugural rain here in southern California. That means it is now permissable to lug out your big cast iron pot and get creative. I adore how heavy my soup pot is; so sturdy and ready to take on whatever you care to throw in. There is something about soup that seems emotional to me. It reminds me of so many tender moments, whose only common thread is actually soup itself. It's a cozy and comfortable food, lending itself to good company and conversation while inside from cold weather. That is what I find so wonderful about food, that there is something so sensual about it, you can be brought back to an exact circumstance and relive it... the people, the ambiance, how you felt...all initiated by what you ate.

I introduced Hugh to the refined pairing that is grilled cheese and roasted tomato soup, years ago. We sat on his porch while he was living in San Diego, you could see neighbors walking on the boardwalk, it was dusk and just chilly enough to wear a sweatshirt (the best weather as far as I'm concerned). I picked up groceries from Whole Foods on my way down, something quick, as the college man kitchen is not the ideal working space. Fresh grainy bread and water packed mozzarella, the soup came from a box and he was still impressed. It was so simple but so perfect, years later when we make it for a quick lunch, I still find it romantic. Yes, soup from a box... but it doesn't seem to be about the soup.

I'm fairly certain you can get a few days worth of fiber from one bowl. It's healthy, I will say that much, so be generous with your 'dollop' of chipotle yogurt. I also highly suggest adding the greens when all is done, as I mention in the directions, the color is so much more a vibrant green than the overcooked alternative.lentilsoup_0002lentilsoup_0003

LENTIL SOUP WITH CHIPOTLE YOGURT // Serves 6

2 Cups Lentils (French or Black Beluga)
1 Yellow Onion, Diced
1 Fennel Bulb, Diced
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Cup Brown Rice, Cooked (any whole grain will work)
6 Cups Organic, Low Sodium Vegetable Stock
1 tsp. Cumin
1 Large Bunch of Kale, Chard or Combo of Leafy Greens
Salt/ Pepper
1 Lemon

CHIPOTLE YOGURT
1 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1 Chipotle Chile in Adobo, Chopped (no more than 2 tsp.)lentilsoup_0005lentilsoup_0006

1. Cook your rice or desired grain and set aside. Boil about four cups water, and boil the lentils for 20 minutes until cooked. Add water as needed. Drain.
2. In a large soup pot, saute the yellow onion and the fennel in the olive oil for about 8 minutes, or until just starting to turn light brown. Add the stock and cumin. Bring the heat back up to a gentle boil, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the lentils and the brown rice and simmer about 10 minutes. While you are waiting, stem your greens and slice them into thin strips. Taste the soup for salt and pepper, add seasoning as desired.
4. Turn off the heat and add in the greens, stir. The greens will wilt in the hot soup, and avoid overcooking this way. Stir in the juice of half the lemon, add more to taste.
5. Mix the greek yogurt with the chipotle chile and stir. Serve the soup with the dollop of the chipotle yogurt. Warning, chipotles are pretty spicy, so start with a small amount of sauce and you can add if you like it hot. If too spicy, add more yogurt.lentilsoup_0007

Friday
Dec042009

PEANUT SAUCE BENTO BOWL

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Why are there consistently bottomless leftovers from Thanksgiving? I went by my parents house today and there remain two giant tupperware full of stuffing. I didn't take home any leftovers and still do not want to look at any dish that represents colonial America. Our dinner this year was great. The food was lovely, we were in good company, my grandma said inappropriate things to new guests, my mom fell four feet off a stool getting mugs and bruised her entire left side, the dogs ate so many scraps they threw up in the garage....you know, the usual. There were vegetables present at the table, but I have been craving something light, crispy and resembling a place far far away from the motherland of butter, salt and starch. Not to mention that Hugh often asks for asian food, and it's the last culture I lean towards for inspiration, so it was about time to compromise.

I'm not going to say "this is the best peanut sauce recipe I've tasted", but it was a nice change and certianly good enough to make again. I have read that using Skippy or Jiff yields a better consistency, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I like the idea of a mix of raw and steamed vegetables with a savory sauce, so you can play around with it. A traditional Japanese bento box typically includes a lean protien, rice, pickled vegetable and represents a balanced, complete meal. This is our intrepretation... Thai meets Japan... every component gets along quite well in this lovely bowl of goodness.bento_0002

PEANUT SAUCE BENTO BOWL// Serves 2
12 oz. Extra Firm Tofu
1/2 lb. Soba or Rice Noodles
1 Bell Pepper, thinly sliced
4 Baby Bok Choy
2 Carrots, Shaved with a Vegetable Peeler
Half a Cucumber, Sliced on a Bias
4 Scallions, Halved Length Wise
Sesame Oil
Cilantro for Garnish
1/3 Cup Pickled Ginger

PEANUT SAUCE//
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter
1/2 Cup Light Coconut Milk
1/2 Cup Water
1 tbsp. Tamari/Soy Sauce
1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
2 tsp. Lime Juice
2 tbsp. Agave
1 Shallot, finely chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp. Canola/Peanut Oilbento_0003bento_0004

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the noodles. Drain and press the tofu. Cut it into cubes and saute on medium heat with 1 tsp. sesame oil until lightly browned. Be gentle so the tofu stays in cube form.
2. Start the sauce. Saute the the garlic and shallot in the oil to soften, whisk in the peanut butter, coconut milk, water, agave and soy sauce and mix to combine. Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes. When all ingredients are warmed through, add the lime juice. Add spices as you wish here.
3. In a steamer basket, or pan filled 1'' with water. Steam the bok choy, scallions and bell peppers for 6 minutes with the lid on (time may vary). Remove.
4. Cook the noodles according to instructions. Drain and drizzle a little sesame oil to prevent them from sticking. Mix the tofu with desired amount of sauce so it looks like a creamy mess. Lay the tofu on top of the noodles and arrange the bok choy, peppers, cucumber, pickled ginger and shaved carrots along side. Sprinkle everything with sesame seeds and fresh chopped cilantro.bento_0005