Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tasty Salmon Recipe

Last week I had my hubby swing by Pike Place Market on his way home from work. I wanted him to pick up a Wild Alaska King Salmon. I had him do this last spring and we had the most beautiful tasting fish for three weeks. (I always cut up my filleted salmon into two person serving packets and then freeze.) Since that time I’ve sent him back twice more, including last week, and we’ve been disappointed in the fish. The salmon he purchased last week was a beautiful color and size but it smelled way too fishy. So the third time was not a charm and two bad fishes in a row means that I’ll be doing some local blogging to find the best place to buy salmon around here. I think Pike is just too touristy and pricey.

I’ve purchased salmon twice from Fred Meyers because they make it look so beautiful and fresh in the display. I always buy wild salmon and Freds claim it’s wild but I don’t believe it. The flavor is not there at all. I’m not sure what they do to doctor their fish but after what they were doing to their beef I wouldn’t put anything past them. So no fish from Freds!

Since I could hardly blame my husband for not wanting to take the smelly fish back with him to work and the Market the next day, I cut up and froze the fish anyway. We ate some that first night and it still tasted real good so it’s not like the end of the world. Sometimes you have to work with what you have.

So yesterday I got out a couple of salmon fillets to defrost and started looking for a good recipe. A couple of years ago I purchased a book from a local author named Diane Morgan titled simply “Salmon.” I’ve tried a couple of recipes in the book already and at least two of them have become family favorites. But I wanted to try a new one last night and “Austin’s Soy-Lacquered Salmon with Green Onions” caught my greedy eye. It had a number of excellent qualities the first of which is that it sounds really damn good. It also had minimal ingredients, and it called for green onions that I currently have a plethora of.

Of course, I couldn’t just leave an excellent recipe alone; I had to mess with it. The recipe, which originates from China, calls for the salmon to be poached first in water and then in the soy sauce mixture until done. Since I’m not as familiar with poaching as I should be I was concerned that I would cook it too long and I hate overcooked salmon. So I made a few changes, (in preparation but not in ingredients), and the result was delicious. My husband gave a little ooh and aaah after his first bite and that is always a good sign.

Jenifer’s Soy-Lacquered Salmon with Green Onions

½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup sugar
6 green onion, including green tops
10 quarter-sized slices peeled fresh ginger
4 salmon fillets (about 6 ounces each)

Mix soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar in bowl large enough to marinate your salmon fillets. Cut 6 green onions in to 1-inch lengths and add 5 of them to soy sauce. Julienne fresh ginger and also add to soy mixture. Place the four fillets skin up in marinade for at least 1 hour. Refrigerate.

Spray outdoor grill well with non-stick cooking spray. Place marinated salmon flesh down on grill for 5 minutes, turn salmon to skin side and cook for 3 more minutes. (I have Teflon grill skillet that I used and it worked great sprayed with the cooking spray.) While salmon is cooking quickly put marinade in pan and cook until reduced and slightly thickened. If sauce doesn’t thicken in time for the fish go ahead and stir in some cornstarch and water – it gives the sauce a nice gloss.

Serve salmon over brown rice with sauce. Sprinkle plate with left over green onions. Enjoy!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Vegetarian Spaghetti

Last night was one of my veggie nights. So far my resolution to eat less meat has gone amazingly well. I haven't even begun to feel deprived of anything. In fact, I feel better about myself each time I do it. Double bonus.

Veggie Spaghetti is nothing new and I made a typical sauce with garlic, onion, carrot, celery, tomato paste and Italian stewed tomatoes. Threw in some oregano and basil. I also add red wine and balsamic vinegar which gives it a rich color and some extra flavor character. And a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.

Last nights spaghetti dish was taken to another level by a trick I learned watching Rachel Ray. After cooking her pasta she tossed it into a frying pan with garlic, olive oil and butter. Give it a good quick fry while tossing it in the oil and butter. Sprinkle with some more red pepper flakes or whatever flavoring you'd like and serve with sauce. It really adds an great dimension to the flavor of the whole dish. It works particularly well with whole wheat pasta which can really stand up to the process.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Eating Smarter

If you follow my book blog at you will know that I'm currently reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - A Year in the Life of Food" by Barbara Kingsolver. It is fascinating and depressing all at the same time. The facts introduced in the book regarding where our food comes from and what it costs us environmentally is stunningly grim. But what I've learned about asparagus is more than I ever could have believed. I mean "who knew?!"

The book is about eating only local foods along with vegetables and fruit out of their garden for a full year. Easier said than done as it turns out. Some products are nearly impossible to attain anymore without having access to specialized equipment. Flour and oats for instance. The family also gave themselves an item that each felt that they could not do without - coffee for her husband, dried fruit for her oldest daughter and baking spices for her. (I'm not sure I could make an apple pie without cinnamon either!)

The book was written in 2007 and as I head into the third chapter it has already occurred to me that this countries finances were a lot different then than they are now. Of course, although it was known by only the Alan Greenspans of the world and they kept it a secret, the economy was already on it's way to collapse. My point is that organic foods are almost always more expensive.

Even as Ms. Kingsolver talks about the American people becoming more conscious of their food choices I know that this trend is already beginning to reverse. It is not because we no longer care but because we can no longer afford it. One of the more annoying car commercials on the planet is the one where they ask the rhetorical question "Do you have to be rich to be safe?" Well, hell yes you do, at least in the good old US of A! You have to be rich to eat fish, to eat organic food, to have your own doctor, and to have at least 2 - four wheel drive vehicles that allows you to not see the ancient small Subaru you've just run over -(sorry, I digress).

Poor people have to eat Top Ramen and Kraft Mac and Cheese. They have to eat the most highly processed foods because these are the foods we produce cheaply in bulk. These are the corporate food producers that taxpayers help subsidize and who grow endless acres of corn and soybeans in order to create high fructose corn syrup and added fats. I guess organic farmers who raise animals on the food they were born to eat, like grass, and who grow vegetables in season, don't have any lobbyists.

One positive thing about reading this right now is that it fits in where me and my husband would like to go with our diet. We may not have made it to the promised land yet but we're going to have a heck of a time trying to get there. I was happy to see in the first of Camille Kingsolver's contributions she includes in her weekly menu a Sunday dinner of Organic Roast Chicken that is exactly what we had for our dinner last Sunday. Her weekly menu includes the leftovers served on Tuesday - chicken soup. Tonight I'll be using our leftovers for chicken and dumplings. I'll report on how it went tomorrow. Until then, eat well and eat smart.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Stormy Nights

Last night around Seattle many of us, including my husband and I, spent the evening watching the local news to find out which of our community neighbors were being flooded out. It has been one hell of a winter so far. Talk about non-stop excitement since Friday, December 20 when we received our first heavy snow. The last of that just melted yesterday in a deluge of rain on our mountaintop to the great misfortune of our lower land neighbors.

We in Western Washington are used to rain but the unlimited snowfall we experienced in the latter part of December was completely out of our realm of experience. Even as the rains began this week the community was still grilling our local and state officials on their handling of the snow. The officials are between a rock and a hard place however. Do you budget huge sums of money (that nobody but the filthy rich have anymore) for a big snow event that normally never happens? That is when the same community will point fingers at wasteful spending. Catch 22 really.

I'm glad the snow is gone. Now that I work from home I don't get the advantage of a snow day anyway. I was also feeding the poor little birds 2 to 3 times a day. When the snow falls they really encounter some hardships in getting food. Considering the cost of birdseed these days you can see why I'm happy to see the snow melt.

Last night was a vegan evening but it also required a comforting quality to offset the howling winds and drumming rain outside our windows. Last time I stocked up at Trader Joes I picked up a couple of their whole wheat pizza crusts, some fresh mozzarella and basil. The pizza crusts freeze very well so you can keep them for a while. So while the tempest whipped the forest outside Tim and I enjoyed a deliciously simple pizza in front of the fire. Not a bad way to spend the evening.

Cheese Pizza

1 Trader Joes whole wheat pizza crust
1 ball of fresh mozzarella
6 Large Basil leaves shredded by hand
1 small can Tomato Sauce or Pizza Sauce

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out room temperature pizza dough to size and shape of your pizza pan and place on cooking sprayed pan.

Swirl tomato sauce or pizza sauce to the amount you enjoy over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with shredded fresh basil leaves. Cut fresh mozzarella into slices and place strategically over sauce and basil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired. Bake on lower rack of oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Truly Homemade Tuna Casserole in Two Pans

It seems like these days I want to be frugal in everything I do. From shopping, to energy, to waste management, to cooking, I look for ways to save. Even if it does nothing more than save my husband some extra dishes to put in the dishwasher I go ahead and do it. In these hard times it appears that is has become a part of my DNA.

A few years ago I ran into a recipe for Tuna Noodle Casserole in Bon Appetite. Interestingly enough it had been adapted by food editor Kemp Miles Minifie from her mother's recipe. Her mother, Betty Blood Miles, used cream of mushroom soup in the 1950's as everyone else did to make her 4 kids a tasty dish they all loved within their budget. But Kemp figured out how to make it minus the processed food products.

The first time I made it I was confronted with the recipes multiple steps and time consuming production. I was also met with one of the most delicious tuna casserole's that has ever crossed my rosy lips. It was good enough that I've made it a couple of times since but the amount of work required kept it from being a regular on our table. Now that I'm jobless in Seattle I have the time and with a severely reduced income tuna has become a popular option again.

I adapted the tuna noodle casserole again on Monday night in order to cut the recipe in half, reduce the caloric content, and limit the number of pans and steps required. The result was delicious and impossible to tell apart from Kemp's first adaptation. I recommend that you use line caught white albacore canned tuna for your recipe because it is more sustainable than other tuna.

Tuna Noodle Casserole (adapted recipe from Kemp Miles Minifie and Jenifer Reinhardt)

1/2 medium onion chopped
1 small can sliced mushrooms
2 1/2 T butter
1 tsp soy sauce
1/8 cup sherry
1/8 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup 2% milk
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
1 can tuna, drained
3 oz dried curly egg noodles (I used the pasta I had in my cupboard - leftover penne)
3/4 cup coarse whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/2 a cup of coarsely grated cheddar cheese
1/2 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook onion in a Tablespoon of butter in medium cast iron skillet until softened. Add mushrooms and saute until heated through. Add soy sauce and sherry and cook to mostly evaporated. Remove from heat. In another large pot cook your pasta. When pasta is done drain and add to cast iron with mushrooms and onion.

Melt remaining butter in pasta pan over moderately low heat and whisk in flour. When cooked add broth in a stream while continuously whisking and bring to a boil. Whisk in milk and continue simmering until white sauce is of a creamy consistency. Flake tuna into cast iron skillet and then pour sauce over whole mixture and stir together.

In small bowl toss together bread crumbs and cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and toss again. Sprinkle evenly over casserole and then place in oven. Bake for 20 t0 30 minutes until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling. Yummmm!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Stretching the Benefits

This is the time for New Years resolutions. I've never been very into the whole ritual since I am somewhat of a cynical character. Since I never actually witnessed anybody accomplish their goals in this manner, I always felt that it put a lot of undue pressure on the start of a new year. But about six years ago I became an exception to my own rule by quitting smoking at the start of the year.

This was not a "fun" experience. I was a true addict of the cigarette not one of those mamby pamby smokers who have 1 or 2 a day. I used the patch and I did a lot of puzzles and other work with my hands and after a few weeks I became patch and smoke free. So I'm hear to tell you that resolutions can work if you really want it bad enough.

So that brings us to this year. I need to lose weight. I've needed to lose weight for years and all I've ever managed is a few pounds up and a few pounds down but never anything dramatic. I seem to be on some kind of horrible maintenance program which would be great if I was starting at an ideal weight which I clearly am not.

I also want to reduce my carbon footprint. As the country heads in a whole new direction (hopefully) I also want to change my bad habits. My family has already dropped a car from it's repertoire. Thankfully it is just the two of us so when I need the car I just drive my husband to the park and ride in the morning and pick him up at night. It's pretty much exactly like my parents did in the sixties when they only had 1 car (yes, people actually used to live with just one).

Another great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to eat less meat. Did you know that eating a pound of meat is the equivalent of driving 40 miles in a SUV?! And a cow's farts are notorious for dumping methane into our atmosphere. One fifth of the world's green house gas emissions are from the production of meat. The University of Chicago says that eating less meat is 50% more effective then switching your car to a hybrid in regard to cleaning up emissions. Check out this site for more information: warming.asp.

So let's add this up. The resolutions are to lose weight and reduce carbon emissions. Eating vegetarian is a proven diet that works for many people trying to lose weight. Introducing less saturated fat in the form of animal fat into my system will have great benefits for my heart and overall health. Fewer animals will have to die. By eating 1 less chicken a week I will have contributed to reducing global warming to the same extent as if I had taken 500,000 cars off the road for a year. By eating less meat I will be able to shop for more locally grown food thus reducing transportation emissions. My grocery bill will go down. This is a win, win situation folks!

Now for those of you who think that most vegetarian foods are dull and tasteless then you haven't really thought it through. Recipes online for vegetarian meals are readily available and you don't even have to go that far. Think of all the veggie recipes you already know and love like Cheese Pizza, Baked Potatoes, Macaroni and Cheese and Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce. And let's not forget our fish. Shop responsibly for them and you'll do the environment a world of good. The last time I checked the farts from fish were not a contributing factor to global warming!