Sunday, October 5, 2014


Halibut Nuggets
A Pacific Northwest theme is going on in this dish.  Recently, we purchased fresh wild Alaskan halibut at the fish monger and a beautiful large lobster mushroom at the produce market. Halibut is one of my favorite finfish from the Pacific Northwest and its peak season is from April until October.  And the Pacific Northwest is one of the main growing regions for lobster mushrooms, which are widely available in September and October. I've been eyeing the lobster mushrooms for many years whenever they were at the market, so now was the time to give them a try. 

The halibut recipe is adapted from the Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook. Halibut is a finfish that is high in protein, low in calories and easy to cook. The halibut is cut into chunks and dipped into a honey-mustard mixture, then coated with a hazelnut-crumb mixture and baked in the oven for about 10 minutes.  The end result is a very moist and succulent fish.
And the lobster mushrooms, surprisingly, are not mushrooms but a fungus that grows on certain species of mushrooms, turning them a reddish orange color that resembles the outer shell of a cooked lobster.  They have a seafood-like aroma when cooking and a firm, dense texture.   When sautéed, their succulent meat hints pleasantly at seafood. We simply sautéed the mushrooms in butter with fresh thyme sprigs.

For the Halibut:
Yield:  Serves 2
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 Tablespoon honey
1/4 cup Panko (or unflavored bread crumbs)
1/4 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
2 teaspoons minced cilantro
3/4 pound halibut, skin removed, cut into 8 pieces
Olive oil
Kosher salt
White pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly coat a baking sheet with oil. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the mustard, soy sauce, butter, and honey.  In another small bowl, mix together the panko bread crumbs, hazelnuts, and minced cilantro.

Lightly sprinkle halibut pieces with salt and pepper.  Dip the halibut nuggets in the honey-mustard mixture, allow excess to drain off and then coat with the hazelnut-crumb mixture.  Place nuggets on the baking sheet without crowding.
Bake the halibut nuggets for 8-12 minutes, or 10 minutes per inch of thickness.  The fish should just turn opaque.  To test for doneness, cut into the center of one nugget with the tip of a small, sharp knife and pull apart slightly. 

For the Lobster Mushrooms:
Yield:  1 cup mushrooms

1 large lobster mushroom (about 12 oz)
3/4 stick unsalted butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme

Place lobster mushroom in a bowl of cold water for several minutes.  Remove from water and cut the mushroom in half.  Wipe off and clean the brown spots on the outer parts and in the flesh of the mushroom and remove the hard bottom part.  Slice into 1/4 inch pieces and set aside.
Melt butter in a pan.  Add mushrooms to pan with thyme sprigs.  Sauté mushrooms, turning occasionally, until mushrooms are cooked through. Remove thyme sprigs before serving.
To Finish:
Serve halibut nuggets with the sautéed mushrooms and their pan juices as a side, or place a mushroom slice on each halibut nugget and drizzle with some of the pan juice.  The nugget with the mushroom slice on top is a perfect one-bite experience loaded with intense flavors.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Norwegian Salmon
 After purchasing Norwegian salmon at the market the other day, only one thought entered my mind.  And that was Andreas Viestad and his Kitchen of Light cookbook.  When I arrived home, I perused the book and found one of his favorite salmon recipes that piqued my interest:  Honey and Mustard Marinated Norwegian Salmon with Rosemary Apples.

However, I was taken aback by salmon being served with apples.  Apples?  So I threw away my thoughts about salmon and lentils that day and made it, and I was pleasantly surprised.  I added sprigs of fresh dill to the marinade and fresh thyme sprigs to the apples, and served it with smashed dill potatoes.  It was another great New Scandinavian Cooking dish....without the flight to Norway.

For the Salmon:
Yield:  Serves 2

1/2 pound Norwegian salmon fillet, skin on
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 Sprigs fresh dill
Fleur de sel

Rinse fish under cold running water and pat dry.

In a shallow dish, mix the olive oil, honey, mustard, garlic, lemon juice and dill.  Place fish in mixture, turning to coat it with the marinade.  Cover and marinate for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator.
Salmon in Marinade
For the Thyme and Rosemary Apples:
Yield:  1/2 cup; serves 2

1 green apple
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary

Peel and core the apple and cut into 8-10 slices.  Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the cut apple, thyme and rosemary sprigs.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook, turning apple slices until tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove cooked apple from the heat and discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Set aside.

To Finish:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Remove salmon from refrigerator and brush off marinade.  Reserve the marinade.  Transfer the salmon to a lightly oiled baking dish, skin side down. Let salmon sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.  Place salmon in oven.  After 8 minutes of baking, pour the reserved marinade over the salmon. Continue to bake salmon for another 4-5 minutes or until the flesh flakes nicely with a fork.  Remove salmon from oven and season lightly with Fleur de sel.

Serve alongside the apples.


Rock Shrimps have always been one of my favorites.  Many restaurants serve "rock shrimp" dishes, but not all are rock shrimps, per se.  Many establishments use tiny shrimps which are coated in a thick batter and then deep fried.
Rock shrimps are firmer, slightly chewy and their flavor is sweet and similar to that of lobster.  They are sold without their shells and are typically available frozen year-round and are generally available fresh from July through November, peaking in September. 

Recently, I purchased some rock shrimps and wanted to make them in a "tempura" style.  However, I didn't want a layer that took away from their delicate sweet flavor, so I decided to do a very light coating of a batter, then deep fried them and tossed the shrimps in a creamy spicy sauce.   The flavor of the shrimps was not masked in a typical heavy coating while the creamy spicy sauce added a little heat that enhanced the sweetness of the shrimps.  They were light, sweet and spicy.
I adapted this recipe from Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa's book, NOBU NOW. First, I made a light coating for the shrimps using an egg yolk, AP flour, and seltzer.  The shrimps were then fried in canola oil and finally tossed in a creamy spicy sauce.

Batter Coating:
Yield:  1 cup

1 egg yolk
3/4 cup seltzer
1/4 cup AP flour

Lightly whisk together all ingredients to make the batter.

Creamy Spicy Sauce: 
Yield:  3/4 cup

1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
 Pinch of white pepper
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 cup grape seed oil
1teaspoon sriracha sauce

Whisk together the egg yolk, salt, pepper, and vinegar, and then gradually whisk in the canola oil.  After sauce is thickened, add the sriracha sauce.

Rock Shrimps:
Serves 2

1/2 pound rock shrimps
Batter Coating
Splash of Yuzu juice
Chopped Chives
Canola oil for frying

In a heavy deep pot, place about 3" of oil (enough to cover shrimps).  Heat oil to 355 degrees.  Dredge the shrimps in the batter coating and gently place several shrimps in the hot oil, without overcrowding.  Fry shrimps until lightly golden, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove shrimps and place on a wire cooling rack.  Repeat the process until all the shrimps are cooked.

To Finish:
Place the cooked shrimps into a large bowl with the creamy spicy sauce and toss to coat.  Splash with yuzu juice, sprinkle with chopped fresh chives and serve.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Baked Herbed Salmon with Lentils
The first time I made Herbed Salmon with Lentils and Red Wine Sauce was in 1996.  It was from a recipe that appeared in the February issue of FOOD & WINE Magazine and has become another one of my favorite go-to dishes since then.

There are hundreds of recipes available for the classic salmon and lentils combination, but since both the salmon and lentils are prepared separately, there is a lot of flexibility and creativity for making each part.

The herbed salmon could be seared in a skillet on the stovetop, grilled on the grill, or baked in the oven. The seared or grilled versions result in a salmon with a crust, while the baked kind creates a moist herbed topping sans crust.  For this recipe, I baked the salmon, and as can be seen in the photo, there are plenty of herbs without a crust.

Any method works well and the end result is a moist pink, flaky fish inside. Of course, if someone wants the salmon to be well done, then the cooking time could be adjusted accordingly. 

And for the lentils, I tried making them several ways by first adding them to the pan covered with water and then adding the vegetables.  Alternatively, I tried sautéing the vegetables first, and then added the lentils and water or a flavored broth.   Either way, I found that they almost always never cooked as the suggested time listed in the recipes.  Typically, they would require an additional 20-30 minutes.

Finally, the Red Wine Sauce adds a slight tartness to the dish.  It does not overpower the fresh herbs or sweetness of the salmon or the tenderness of the lentils which absorb all the flavors. 

For the Salmon:
Yield:  2 Servings

2 fresh tarragon sprigs, leaves finely chopped, stems reserved
2 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, leaves finely chopped, stems reserved
2 fresh chives, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Finely grated zest of 1 orange, about 1 Tablespoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets, about one-inch thick
Extra oil virgin olive oil (for drizzling or sautéing salmon prior to cooking)

In a small bowl, mix together the chopped tarragon, parsley, chives, kosher salt, orange zest and pepper.  Spread the herb mixture evenly on both sides of the salmon and arrange the fillets in a large baking dish.  Marinate in the refrigerator for about 3-4 hours. 

Salmon with  Herbs

For the Lentils:
Yield:  3-4 cups cooked lentils

1 1/2 cup French green lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch dice
1 carrot, peeled and chopped in 1/2 inch dice
1 celery stalk, chopped into 1/2 inch dice
4 large garlic cloves, minced
4 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Water, about 2-2 1/2 cups

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil until it slides across the pan.  Add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme sprigs and salt, and cook stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 15 minutes. 
Add the lentils and enough water to cover lentils (about 1-1 1/2 cups) and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until the water no longer covers the lentils, about 30 minutes.  Add salt and more water (about 1/2 cup) so the lentils are once again covered.  Continue cooking, adding more water, until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes more.  Discard thyme sprigs prior to serving.  The lentils can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one day.  Reheat before serving.
Cooked Lentils
For the Red Wine Sauce:
Yield:  3/4 cup sauce

Red Wine Sauce Prep
1 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
1/2 cup port
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
Reserved tarragon and parsley stems
1/2 stick (2 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch dice

In a non-reactive medium saucepan, combine the red wine, port, red wine vinegar, shallots and tarragon and parsley stems.  Boil over high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes.  Strain the mixture into a small non-reactive saucepan and bring back to a boil over moderate heat.  Lower the heat and gradually whisk in the butter until the sauce is slightly thickened; do not let the sauce boil.  Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
To Finish Salmon:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Remove salmon from refrigerator at let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.*

Drizzle salmon with extra virgin olive oil and place in the oven for about 7-8 minutes, or until desired doneness.  Remove from oven and let salmon rest for about 5 minutes. 

*Alternatively, after reaching room temperature, the salmon could be sautéed instead of cooked in the oven.  Heat a large, heavy cast-iron skillet.  Brush the herbs from the salmon.  Drizzle bottom of skillet with olive oil.  Cook the salmon fillets over moderate heat, turning once until nicely browned and just opaque throughout, about 4 minutes per side. 

To Plate:
Make a bed of the lentils on each plate. Set the salmon fillets on top, spoon the red wine sauce over the fish and lentils and serve.

Herbed Baked Salmon with Lentils (Side View)


Tuesday, September 23, 2014


This is another one of those dishes from the cupboard that I like to revisit from time to time. 

Back in 1993, Patricia Wells' recipe for Penne with Vodka and Spicy Tomato-Cream Sauce (Penne alla Bettola) from her cookbook TRATTORIA was published in The New York Times.  Although it has been more than 20 years, I still have the tattered and stained article.  I kept it for memorabilia purposes.  All, or most, of those recipes from the past are now in the computer, but many of the original paper documents have been saved as well.

For this recipe most of the ingredients are always on-hand, with the exception of the light cream and fresh parsley, which is a quick stop at the market.  And with cooked frozen shrimps and king crab legs in the freezer, it was a very simple dish to make.

I've always made the vodka sauce separately and serve it over pasta instead of combining the sauce with the pasta as the recipe notes.  This way, extra sauce is always available for at least one-two days.  Since there is cream in the sauce, it will not freeze well.   

Also, I like to add shrimps and/or king crab legs as a protein.  The creaminess and touch of heat from the sauce is a great accompaniment to the subtle brininess of the shrimps and the sweetness of the crab.  Over the years, I've used uncooked shrimps where I peeled, deveined and added them at the end to cook in the sauce.  And more recently, I tried the frozen, pre-cooked shrimps where they just need to be thawed, drained and then warmed in the sauce at the end.  The king crab legs are already cooked and frozen, so thawing and steaming is the only prep needed for them.

Cooked, Frozen Shrimps

Steamed King Crab Legs

1/2 pound penne pasta
2 Tablespoons salt for penne
1/4 cup Olive Oil
5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1/2 tsp Pepperoncino or Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 28 oz can Crushed Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Vodka
1/2 cup Light Cream
1/4 cup Parsley, Chopped
6-8 Shrimps (U 12/15)*
3 King Crab Legs, halved**

Add the penne to a large pot of salted water and cook until the penne are al dente.

While the penne is cooking, combine the oil, garlic, pepperoncino in a medium (4-quart) sauce pan.  Cook over moderate heat until the garlic turns golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes with their juices. Stir to blend and simmer, covered, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 15 minutes.  Add the vodka to the pan.  Separately, add about a tablespoon of the sauce to the light cream and stir the mixture slightly before adding the cream into the pan.  Let sauce cook for about 3-4 minutes.  Add the shrimps to cook/warm through.  Let sauce rest for about 5 minutes. 

Spoon the sauce and shrimps over cooked pasta and mix.  Place crab legs on top with a drizzle of more sauce.  Garnish with chopped parsley.  Serve immediately.

* If using uncooked shrimp, they should be peeled, deveined and then added to the sauce for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking.  If shrimps are already cooked and frozen, thaw them thoroughly, drain and add shrimps to the sauce to warm completely. 

**King Crab Legs that are cooked and frozen should be thawed completely, either overnight in the refrigerator, or placed in cold water that is changed every 20-30 minutes for about 1-2 hours (depending on the size of the crab legs).  Then the legs should be steamed for about 10 minutes.
Vodka Sauce with King Crab Legs and Shrimps over Penne

Served With Shrimps Over Black and Pink  Fettuccine; Circa 1998

Monday, September 15, 2014


This is one of those simple "go-to" dishes using items from the cupboard.

Goya® products are a favorite of mine.  They make the best beans, both canned and dried, and a variety of their rice products are always in my cabinet.  Using a can of the Goya Black Beans Frijoles Negros, I adapted their recipe for Classic Black Beans.  For the rice, I used Goya Yellow Rice Arroz Amarillo and prepared the rice according to the directions on the box.  I also had beautiful Poblano peppers from the Farmers Market, so I roasted, skinned, seeded and chopped them and added them to the beans at the end.  
The finished beans and roasted Poblano peppers were then served over the yellow rice.  And finally, I thawed shrimps from my freezer and sautéed them in olive oil and chopped garlic to complete the meal.

The result was a tasty meal with very little effort.   It served two people for two days, and the food cost was less than $2.00 per person.

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15.5 oz. can Goya Black Beans, un-drained
3/4 cup water (use the can as measuring vessel to obtain all of the bean juice)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 packet Sazon Goya without Annatto
1 Tablespoon Cider Vinegar
1 cup chopped roasted Poblano peppers (or red/ green bell peppers)*

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Add chopped roasted Poblano peppers.

*Unroasted bell peppers should be added with the onion and garlic at the beginning.   Roasted peppers should be added at the end.

Serve over prepared yellow rice. 

I like to roast my peppers in the oven at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes, turning the peppers every 15-20 minutes for an even cooking process.  First, line a sheet pan with foil then coat the peppers with olive oil.  Place peppers on the sheet pan and into the oven. When peppers are done, turn off the oven and let peppers stay in for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let peppers cool down until they are ready to handle.  Remove the skins and seeds and chop. 


Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Za'atar Roasted Chicken Thighs
This is an adaptation from Chef Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe for Za'atar Roasted Chicken With Green Tahini that appeared in the August 2014 issue of Bon Appetit.  Since I had all of the ingredients on hand, this one certainly piqued my interest.  I made it with chicken thighs and served it over Israeli Couscous which absorbed all of the flavors from the chicken marinade. The Green Tahini was a perfect side condiment that added an exceptional flavor to the dish.
Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that is typically made with sumac, thyme, roasted sesame seeds, marjoram and oregano.  It is versatile and can be used on poultry, meats, vegetables, rice, and breads.
Tahini is a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds.  It is used in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines.
Parsley, Garlic, Tahini, Lemons
Green Tahini:
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup (lightly packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
3-4 Chicken Thighs
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
1 tablespoon sumac
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons za'atar

For the Green Tahini:  Pulse garlic, parsley, tahini,  add lemon juice in a food processor. Add olive oil until a smooth paste is formed.

For the Chicken Thighs:  Preheat oven to 400°. Toss chicken, onions, garlic, lemon slices, sumac, allspice, cinnamon, water, and 1/4 cup oil in a large dish, cover with plastic film.  Chill in the fridge for at least 4hours.
Chicken in Marinade
Remove chicken from fridge and place the chicken, onions, garlic, and lemon slices in a baking pan.  Add the remaining marinade over and around chicken pieces. Sprinkle chicken with za'atar seasoning and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast until chicken is browned and cooked through, about 55 minutes.

Serve chicken over couscous with green tahini as a condiment.