Tag Archives: dinner

Salmon!

When we were in Alaska, we learned that they have 5 different species of salmon that hang out in their waters.  It makes zero difference to me – all of them are delicious.

I decided to make some salmon tonight when Sam told me he wanted fish for dinner.  Actually I had already been thinking of baking some, but I somehow thought he didn’t like salmon so I ignored the fish aisle until I received his text.  Later I found out that salmon is his favorite fish.  Oops.

When I was little, my grandma would often overcook non-Chinese dishes such as pork chops or salmon (thankfully her Chinese dishes were superb), and I’m pretty sure that’s why I like sashimi and steak tartare as an adult.  So whenever I cook meat, I make sure it’s super tender, flavorful and juicy, which usually involves some sort of marinade.

Fish is one of those things that was really intimidating for me to make at first.  It seems really delicate, and it’s not really something you can just chop up and fry.  But it’s actually super easy, and if you enlist the help of your oven, it practically does all the work for you.  So here’s my super simple salmon (hah!) recipe which, really, if I can make it, anyone can.

Ingredients you’ll need:

3 lemons
Olive oil
Salt + pepper
Two boneless salmon filets (or any kind of fish that will hold up for baking – I also like black cod)
2-4 cloves of garlic
1 shallot
Any kind of mustard (I prefer Dijon or garlic)

To make the marinade, start by mincing and dicing the garlic and shallot.  If you like garlic (like Sam and me), use 3 or 4 cloves.  If you don’t, you are more than welcome to just use one, or completely omit.  Combine these in a bowl with the juice of one lemon (don’t worry if you get the seeds in there), a pinch of salt and pepper, two teaspoons of mustard, and about half a cup of olive oil (more if you are making more than 2 servings, or if your filets are extra huge).

Put the salmon filets in either a baking dish or gallon-sized Ziploc bag, and pour the marinade over the fish.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t completely cover the fish; you can flip the fish halfway through.  Marinate for about 10 minutes.

Once it’s done marinating, preheat your oven to 450 degrees and line a baking dish with parchment paper.  This step is completely optional, but it will basically save your life when it comes to cleanup.  Make sure you have enough paper to loosely wrap up the salmon like a package.  Slice up the other two lemons, about 1/4″ thick, and place on the bottom of the dish.

Lemons!

Place the marinated salmon on the slices of lemon, and if desired, pour the marinade directly on top.

Marinated

Wrap up the ends of the parchment paper loosely so it can trap most of the steam inside.  It should look like a magical Christmas package, except more delicious.  Bake for about 17 minutes; if your salmon is more than 1″ thick, add on two extra minutes.

Eat.  (Sorry for the lack of a complete photo – this was too delicious to resist, plus I had to sample my cooking to make sure it tasted okay..)

Remnants

A few things to note:

  • This recipe will make your salmon medium rare to medium, which results in the best, juiciest, most tender middle with a moist and flaky outside.  Mine practically looked like sashimi in the middle, and I’m still alive today, so it’s fine to eat your salmon medium rare.  But if you like your salmon really well-done, just cook it to your liking.
  • You can also substitute half a small onion for the shallot, but I think I’ve mentioned before in another post that I prefer the more mild taste of shallots, plus they’re the perfect size.
  • If you like fancy mustard, by all means, use it!  I had this wonderful garlic mustard that I found at a winery, and hello, garlic, I love you.
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One-Pan Pasta

I’m pretty domestic now.

To give you an idea of how far I’ve come, I used to own one cookware item.  One.  It was a straight-sided sauté pan.  Technically if you count the lid, you could say I owned two pieces of cookware.  If you opened my refrigerator, you would find these things: bacon, beer, and ketchup.  My freezer had nothing more than frozen potatoes.  I learned that frying up the potatoes in the bacon grease in my single pan made for a bomb-diggity breakfast.

I should also add that my pan cost me $12.99 from Target (or was it TJ Maxx?), and the only reason I bought it was because I thought it was perfect for making Hamburger Helper.  And to give you an idea of exactly how un-domestic and lazy I was back then, I didn’t even have milk in my refrigerator, so I would only pick the flavors of Hamburger Helper that didn’t require some sort of cheesy sauce.

Then I met Sam, and he moved all of his kitchen stuff into my kitchen, and now I don’t have room for the gadgets that I do want now: a stand mixer, food processor/slicer, etc.  Also, my refrigerator is stocked to the point where I can probably make cupcakes on a whim.  So sometimes I do.  Today I made chocolate ice cream just because I could.. and because I didn’t want some of my fresh ingredients (eggs, cream, etc) to spoil while I’m gone over the weekend.

The point of the story is that my trusty pan has seen me through my bachelorette days with what my friends affectionately call my “lumberjack breakfasts,” and now it’s the perfect item for making one of my new favorite dishes: the one-pan pasta.

I first saw this recipe in a Martha Stewart Living magazine (which, fyi, I’m totally obsessed with her and Barefoot Contessa.  I want them to be my unofficial aunts so they can plan fabulous parties for me).  The sheer beauty and simplicity of the dish made me want to try it.  So I did, and I totally loved everything about it.

Over the past few trials, I’ve modified the recipe a bit to my liking.  But here is the original, with some of my changes:

  • 12 ounces linguine  — I actually just dump in the entire box, and I prefer fettucine
  • 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)  —  I prefer shallots, as you can use two and they have a milder flavor than onions
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced  — I prefer to chop them up
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes  — more if you like a stronger kick
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish  — I’m not a fan of basil, so one time I just put two or three leaves, and threw in some arugula instead
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth + 1/2 cup water
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

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The great thing about this dish is that the only prep you’ll have to do is slice, chop, halve the onions, garlic and tomatoes.  Then everything else goes into the pan.

Boom.

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Have you seen anything more gorgeous?

Throw everything into the pan, then bring the water and vegetable broth to a boil over high heat, and let it bubble away for about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally with tongs so the pasta doesn’t stick together.

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At some point, you’re going to wonder if it’s actually going to work, because it doesn’t look very cohesive.  But fret not: the sauce doesn’t start to thicken up until literally the last minute of cooking.

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Once the noodles are al dente, dish it up, grate some fresh parmesan on top, and eat.  THAT SIMPLE.

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A few things to note:

– You can use any type of pasta that has a cooking time of about 12-13 minutes.  If you’re gluten-free, you may have to play around with it, as gluten-free pastas have much shorter cooking times, and the ratio of water to pasta may be too much, and the sauce won’t thicken up in time.  Plus, gluten-free pastas turn to mush when they’re overcooked.

– You can also throw in some other ingredients after it’s done cooking, like baby spinach or grilled shrimp.  Or you can just leave it as it is (it’s super vegetarian-friendly), and it’ll taste like it came from a kitchen in a rustic Italian villa.

– If you’re freaking out about the sauce not thickening up, just keep stirring, and magically at some point it will turn into a beautiful dish.  Seriously, trust me on this one.  I’ve made this dish numerous times, and I still sort of freak out at minute 11 because it’s still watery.  Then at minute 12, it’s suddenly perfect.  And I also forgot half a cup of water today, but it still turned out delicious.  Really, I don’t think there’s a way for you to mess this up.

Happy cooking!

Say Cheese

Behold.  The great American comfort food.  My frenemy (because I’m lactose-intolerant).

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That’s right.  Macaroni & cheese.  In case you were wondering why this looks kind of funky, it’s because I used the little bow-tie pasta, and these are made with vegetables (along with flour).  I saw them at the supermarket one time and decided to buy them, and 6 months later they’re finally seeing daylight/boiling water.

When I told Sam that I was officially going to veg out for 2.5 weeks, he immediately told me that I could start doing “trophy wife stuff,” which normally wouldn’t include cooking (because we’d have a housekeeper if I was trophy wife, duh).  So I did tell him that I’d make dinner every night, and today I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store.

What do you do with boxes of pasta, 8 oz. of garlic white cheddar cheese in block form, and butter?  Obviously make magic.

If you’re looking for a quick easy one, I’m not sure this is it, because you can’t just melt the cheese down and dump in the pasta.  This one uses a bechamel base, which means lots of whisking/upper arm movement.  Here’s the recipe (using basic guidelines from Homeroom’s Macaroni & Cheese):

1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
4 tbsp butter (I usually keep a few of those tiny half-sticks handy)
8 oz grated cheese (I love garlic white cheddar, but you really can use any combination of smooth-melting cheese.  Also, if you don’t want it to be TOO cheesy, you can reduce the amount a bit to thin out the sauce)
About 2 oz grated pecorino romano for a really cool taste (totally optional)
1 lb pasta of your choice

Boil a huge pot of salted water (according to Alton Brown, it should taste like the ocean).  Start by heating up the milk in a saucepan until hot (make sure it doesn’t boil).  While that’s going, melt the butter over medium heat and whisk in the flour.  Keep whisking (trust me) for about 3 minutes, until it turns a nice golden brown and doesn’t smell like raw flour anymore.  Add the hot milk, and keep whisking for about 3 minutes.  It should smooth out and you’ll know you’ve cooked and stirred it long enough when it coats the back of a spoon (it’ll be pretty thick).  Salt to taste, but keep in mind that once you add the cheese, depending on which kind(s) you use, it can get pretty salty.

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This is my upper arm workout for the day.

Cook the pasta until about 1 minute before it’s al dente, unless you want to skip the oven part.  Just before it’s ready, dump in the grated cheese (actually grating a block of cheese is better than pre-packaged cheese, because it melts a lot more nicely), stir until smooth, and then stir in the pasta (I’m assuming you already know to drain and rinse the pasta first).

ImageI could probably eat this whole thing right now.

Pop it in an oven-safe dish (or, if you’re really lazy, just cook the ingredients in a Dutch oven so you can put it right into the oven), sprinkle on some panko if you like the crunchy top, and bake at 300 for about 20 minutes, or whenever you can’t take the hunger pangs any longer.

Eat.  And then pat yourself on the back, because you just made mac & cheese that did not involve powdered cheese.