Roasted Salmon with Dill, Capers, and Horseradish

Buying fish is so hard these days; you’re bombarded with talk in the news of mercury, farm raised versus wild, frozen versus fresh, I usually leave the fish counter confused and not buying anything. But sometimes I get a craving for salmon. I love it and it’s good for you, lots of Omega 3s. So I’ll throw out all the talk and get a nice piece of fish for dinner.

If you are looking for something to make for a special springtime meal, this is it. ­And it’s perfect for a dinner party, because you do all the prep the day before—or in my case, the morning before. Dinner was going to be late, so I prepped the salmon while my coffee was brewing thus it had a solid ten-plus hours in the fridge. The homemade crème fraîche was easy to mix up the night before, add the dill in the morning, and refrigerate all day.

I think I’ve seen fresh horseradish in the produce section, but I decided to cheat and use jarred horseradish sauce that was minimally processed. And my piece of salmon was just over a pound and I made it for two, so I have sauce left over for another meal. I served this for Easter dinner with last week’s springtime salad and potato salad. Delicious!

salmon
Roasted Salmon with Dill, Capers, and Horseradish
This recipe originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

We couldn’t get over how delicious and silky-rich this salmon is, or how foolproof the recipe is. Don’t be thrown off by the total time it requires: Think of it instead as a great make-ahead dish, where all you have to do the night of the gathering is pop the fish in the oven for a short time. What you’re doing in step 1 is making homemade crème fraîche. It’s easy to do; it just takes some time. We love the creamy texture and luscious tang of homemade, but you can substitute purchased crème fraîche or full-fat sour cream. Look for a 3-pound side of salmon with even thickness. Avoid the thin tail end and buy two thicker (1 1/2-pound) pieces if you need to. The dill sauce will keep in the fridge for up to one week.

Yield: Serves 8 (serving size: about 4 ounces salmon and about 2 teaspoons sauce)

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 1/8 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1/8 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 cup finely grated fresh horseradish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
3 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil 1 (3-pound) salmon fillet

1. Combine cream, buttermilk, and vinegar in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 8 hours. Stir in dill, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Meanwhile, combine remaining 1 teaspoon salt, remaining 1 teaspoon pepper, horseradish, and next 4 ingredients (through oil) in a small bowl. Spread horseradish mixture evenly over salmon. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 450°.

4. Place fish, skin side down, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake at 450° for 13 minutes. Remove from oven.

5. Preheat broiler to high.

6. Broil fish 5 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Cut fish into 8 equal portions; top fish with dill sauce.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Speaking of Salmon…

salmon nytCookbook author and New York Times contributor, Melissa Clark, is one of my favorite food writers. Her two cookbooks, Cook This Now and In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite are fantastic if you’re ever in need of a new cookbook. Similar to Mark Bittman, she can make a simple dish seem elegant. I came across this video for Salmon with Anchovy Butter the other day. It looks so good! Another salmon recipe to try!  

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Peanutty Soba Noodles

rainbowI’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I always have a hard time bringing myself to buy some prepared foods if I know I can make it at home less expensively. If it’s the end of the week and the cupboards are bare, I sometimes go to a local supermarket to pick up something for lunch. This isn’t your usual IGA, it’s a high-end supermarket with a wonderful deli that carries lots of specialty cheeses, meats, and salads. And high-end equals high prices.

In the deli case, you can find small containers of egg, ham, and turkey salads, some with prices that range more than $7 a pound. They also make other specialty noodle salads: Thai, sesame, and peanut, with equally high prices. You get the idea, ridiculously expensive, since you can make a batch of egg salad or peanut noodles for a crowd for half the cost of one lunch.

This is my version of peanut noodles, one that is relatively inexpensive and which doesn’t require refrigeration immediately if you take it to a picnic. (Please note, this should be refrigerated at some point!) I made it for a picnic dinner a few weeks ago, and the Eater of the House took one bite and declared it delicious. This can be served as a meatless entrée or side dish, or add some tofu or grilled chicken to it to bulk it up. I wanted more veggies than noodles, but feel free to add more (or less) of either or both if you like. Experiment with other vegetables, maybe the crunch of kohlrabi? Or substitute another bean for the edamame. If you are eating gluten-free, look for gluten-free soba noodles (they are out there) or substitute rice noodles.

noodle saladPeanutty Soba Noodles

Baby carrots are perfect for making match-stick pieces! You can get shelled edamame in the freezer section; just put in a bowl and defrost for a little while. They thaw fairly quickly. 

8 oz. soba noodles, cooked and drained
1 TBS canola oil
1 c. shelled edamame
2 c. cucumber, peeled, halved, and seeded, sliced into half-moons
1 c. carrots, sliced into match sticks
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
Chopped scallions, a couple tablespoons

Peanut Sauce
¼ c. peanut butter (preferably chunky)
2 TBS rice wine vinegar
2+ TBS hot water
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce or tamari
Sriracha sauce, to taste (optional)

1. Cook the soba noodles according to the directions. Rinse, add to a large mixing bowl, and toss with the canola oil.

2. Add the edamame, cucumber, carrots, and red pepper and toss.

3. In a small bowl, add all the ingredients for the peanut sauce and whisk. You want this fairly thin, add more hot water until you get the consistency you like.

4. Add half of the sauce to the noodles and veggies. Toss together and top with the scallions.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: David Sedaris

sedarisOne of my favorite writers is David Sedaris. While he normally doesn’t write about food and dining, he was recently interviewed on the NPR show, “The Splendid Table,” by host Lynne Rossetto Kasper. The interview was great fun and I appreciated the conversation about dining, family dinners, what his dinner table is like now, and his obsession with his Fitbit. You can read the transcript or listen to the interview by going here.

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs

My apologies for no food photo for this week, but I made the chicken to enjoy at our week of evening outdoor music! I think Mother Nature put on a better show this evening than the actual act!

My apologies for no food photo for this week, but I made the chicken recipe to enjoy at a week of evening outdoor music! I think Mother Nature put on a better show this evening than the actual act!

When I find a recipe I love, I tend to hold on to it and bring it into my cooking repertoire without looking back. This recipe is one of the best marinades out there, and you know I love it because I’ve been making it at least once every summer since it first appeared in Cooking Light in 2005!

Chicken legs are inexpensive and take well to marinades. Most everything on the ingredient list I have in the cupboard, so it’s just a matter of getting out the measuring spoons and pouring everything into a plastic bag. I’ve never used basil oil, just canola or vegetable oil, and I’ve also omitted the onion powder. It works well if you’re grilling or even roasting the chicken. The directions say to marinate for two hours, but I’ve marinated for a day and they’re still delicious.

I like to cook the chicken the night before, so there is cold chicken ready for a picnic the next day!

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
This recipe first appeared in the June 2005 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 drumsticks)

1 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons basil oil
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
8 chicken drumsticks (about 2 1/4 pounds), skinned
Cooking spray
Green onion strips (optional)

1. Combine the first 11 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 2 hours, turning bag occasionally.

2. Prepare grill.

3. Remove chicken from bag, reserving marinade. Place reserved marinade in a small saucepan; cook over medium heat 3 minutes. Place chicken on grill coated with cooking spray; grill 30 minutes or until chicken is done, turning and basting occasionally with reserved marinade. Garnish with green onion strips, if desired.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week

gluten-freeGluten-free foods seem to be popping up everywhere; there is a gluten-free crust pizza at our pizza shop in our little town, you see it on labels from everything to crackers to meat (yes!), and the aisle that used to be reserved for “international foods” in the grocery store is now all gluten-free. I know restaurants have been hit hard by this food trend, and I read this article with interest last month in the New York Times about how the city’s high-end Italian restaurants are dealing with this. You can read the article here.

 

 

Tips for the Big Day + Week Night Dinner Series: Chicken (or Tofu) Stirfry with Spicy Peanut Sauce

imagesI can’t believe another year has passed and I’m talking about Thanksgiving again! Wasn’t it just a month or so ago I was making black-eyed peas for good luck for the coming year? (Which, by the way, has been pretty good, so I’m going to continue the tradition!).

We are coming upon the biggest cooking day of the year (and since the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving Day this year, this makes it doubly so!), and as has been my custom, I’m going to give you my tips for making it relatively stress-free and fun. Some of these tips may seem elementary, although to me they make the actual battle of getting everything ready all at once easier. Some of these tips are mine and some are other cook’s tips I’ve collected through the years that work for me. Whether you’re cooking Thanksgiving for ten or having a dinner party at another time of the year, I find these tips are good to have in your back pocket.

My Vermont Kitchen’s Thanksgiving Cooking Tips
• This goes without saying, but prepare some items the day before or even two or three days before. Make this weekend your friend; rolls can be made and frozen until Thursday morning. Squash can be made Monday or Tuesday, make and bake your pies late Wednesday evening, that way you’re not trying to jockey for space in the oven with your turkey the next day.

• Make sure your knives are sharp! I made this tip last year when my dad found my knives were less than sharp when he was carving the turkey. (He has since given me a hand-held knife sharpener.) If you don’t have one, find a kitchen shop that does sharpening and take them in this weekend. This will make carving the turkey all that much easier–and everything else for months to come!

• On Wednesday, take out all serving bowls and utensils and assign dishes to each one. This saves a lot on the “what bowl is the stuffing going into?” questions when you have some ravenous people hovering at your elbow in the kitchen. I put the assignments on scraps of paper and place them inside each bowl or plate, which I find helps my memory immensely the next day. Make sure all china, glasses, and linens also are cleaned and ready to go, so all I have to do Thursday morning is set the table. If necessary, do the wash this weekend so it’s not a last-minute chore during the week.

• For me, the most important piece of paper in the kitchen will be my timeline. I take my menu, figured out how long the turkey was going to cook and what I have to do when it comes out of the oven. So I have everything down to the time, “10 a.m., turkey in the oven; at 12:45 see if it’s almost done and start the potatoes” etc. This allows me to easily whisk around the kitchen and for everything to be done pretty much at the same time (fingers crossed!). This method also is good for any meal you’re cooking while entertaining, as I have a habit of forgetting things once the door opens and the guests arrive!

• Since almost all of us have one oven, prime real estate in the kitchen is small. Last year, at the suggestion of “America’s Test Kitchen,” I pulled out my crock pot for an additional burner! Set to low, it warmed my squash wonderfully and freed up an extra burner.

• A small, old-fashioned relish plate as an appetizer. So many times I’ve made a couple of appetizers, which fill up your guests before the meal. How about some carrots and celery sticks, a bowl of black olives, and cornchicons? Just a little something light to tide everyone over before dinner. Sliced fennel with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper is another tasty treat. Serve with toothpicks

• Instead of putting all the dishes on the table, finding room among the arms and elbows, I set up the kitchen table as a buffet, so people can fill their plates and return to an uncluttered table. While it doesn’t paint the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving feast, I find this to be a much nicer way to eat, so you aren’t surrounded by people plus dishes!

• If you want some additional quick recipes, check out Mark Bittman’s fantastic “101 Tips for the Big Day” from the New York Times. This is well worth reading and printing out; I always refer to it this time of year; Bittman is the king of quick tips and simplicity and is always so helpful.

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Week Night Dinner Series #5: Chicken (or Tofu) Stir Fry with Spicy Peanut Sauce
You can serve this over rice or another grain, but I like the simpleness of just veggies and meat.

I know I’ve mentioned before, but Monday dinners have to be pronto, with a capital P; I get home from the gym long after 7 p.m. and I’m famished. So dinner has to be made quickly or I may find myself stopping at the grocery store before I leave town for something unhealthy to eat. Stir fry is my go-to meal, but lately I’ve getting bored with my usual hoisen sauce mixture. This is my latest creation, a delicious spicy, peanutty sauce that makes you want to lick the plate and go back for seconds!

If you chop your chicken the night before, one step is already done. I chop the veggies when I get home, everything tossed into a hot skillet, and the sauce whisked together while everything is cooking. In actuality, everything can be prepped ahead of time, making this an even quicker meal!

Veggies are whatever are in the vegetable bin, but my favorite combination these days are red peppers, zucchini, onions, broccoli (can this possibly be becoming a favorite vegetable?), and carrots. A small chicken breast or some tofu are what I use as protein. I don’t measure, but I’d say the ratio is 3:1, veggies to protein.

Instructions

1. Warm a couple of teaspoons of oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the vegetables and cook until barely done. Remove from heat and put the mixture in a large bowl.

2. Return the skillet to the stove, add a little bit more oil, and add your chicken or tofu and cook until done. While this is cooking, mix up the peanut sauce.

3. When the chicken or tofu is done cooking, mix in the vegetables. Add the peanut sauce, make sure everything is covered evenly, and serve!

Spicy Peanut Sauce
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
2-3 Tablespoons hot water
1 teaspoon soy sauce (or tamari)
1 generous teaspoon sambal oelek (or less if you like things less spicy)

In a small bowl, add the peanut butter and hot water. Whisk together until it make a thin paste (the amount of water you add will depend on the oilness of your peanut butter). Whisk in the soy sauce and sambal oelek. Taste test to make sure all the flavors meld well together and adjust accordingly.

Cook’s Note: Sambal oelek is a garlicky chili sauce you can find in the supermarket in the ethnic foods section. But if you can’t find it, you can substitute red chili pepper flakes; start with 1/2 teaspoon and work your way up to the desired heat.

Homemade Applesauce

DSCN0687How could I let the month of October go by without an apple recipe?

Growing up, every Sunday we would pile into the car and go about eight miles to Ellie’s to pick up our weekly apples. Ellie reminded me a lot of my Grandma Koli, and she had a wonderful farm stand and gift shop, which was a bit on the old-fashioned side with little china trinkets. (It was the first time I saw the sign, “you break it, you buy it” which always led me to wonder if I actually had enough money in my piggy bank, just in case!) Ellie always let my brother, sister, and myself pick out one apple to munch on the way home. The apples would be in wooden crates and I would always dig through to find the biggest, reddest apple. It is an autumn tradition I remember fondly.

Subconsciously–or not–I’ve continued this tradition every fall. The apple orchard in our little town used to be on my long Sunday walk, so I would walk, pick up my apples (and cider doughnuts), and then walk back, exercising off the just-eaten doughnuts. But a few years ago, they moved their “store” to their other orchard, a few miles away that is not on my regular walking route. I have walked it, but it’s on a main road and my backpack would be laden down with apples, cider, and sometimes maple syrup, so it’s just not fun. Since the move, I drive over every Sunday after 4 p.m., when the apple picking crowd is starting to thin, and select my apples and Concord grapes for the week.

Helpful Kitchen Tip: I use Cortland apples for both applesauce and pies, as their flavor is sweet, not too tart, and they have a bit of water which is good for baking. If you select a harder apple, like a McIntosh, they will be great, they’ll just take longer to cook and more sweetener, depending on your taste. Another tip, if you have a food mill, you don’t have to worry about paring the apples; just core, dice, and the food mill will eliminate the skins for you! Cooking with the skins on adds a bit of pink to the sauce!

Homemade applesauce is delicious and easy to make. All you have to do is peel and dice some apples, put it in a saucepan with a little bit of water, and leave it on the stove top to cook. Add some more water, if needed, sweetener, cinnamon and/or nutmeg, and you’re done! And this time of year is perfect; a roasted chicken, some roasted root veggies, a simple green salad, and you have a perfect autumn meal to warm you on a chilly evening!

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Homemade Applesauce
I like my applesauce to have a little bit of texture, so I sometimes don’t cook the apples fully, so there are pieces of apple. Honey adds a different layer of flavor, but you can always use white or brown sugar.

4 Cortland apples, fairly large
1-2 Tablespoons honey or sugar
¼ cup of water, more if necessary
Cinnamon
Nutmeg

1. With a paring knife, peel and dice the apples. Place in a saucepan with ¼ cup of water.

2. On low heat, cook the apples, occasionally stirring them. Add more water, a quarter cup at a time, if you find they are getting too dry. When the sauce it at the consistency you like, add one tablespoon of honey or sugar, taste test, and add more to get the right sweetness.

3. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. You can keep this in the refrigerator for at least four weeks.

Just in Time for Halloween!
In case you missed this recipe last year, I thought I’d bring it to you again. Surprisingly enough to me, it was my most popular recipe EVER! Sadly, it is not my own, but it was fun to make and you could whip up a batch this weekend for the little trick-or-treaters who will knock on the door next Thursday or give away to your co-workers like I did!

Candy Corn Cookies

The Bounty is Here!

After months of waiting, August is finally here, and the veggies are at their best! Gone are the early days of June, with just a few sad-looking root vegetables sitting in the bins the farmers’ market; now it’s bursting at the seams and overflowing with everything fresh and beautiful! So prepare yourself, it’s going to be a vegetarian month!

I adore cucumbers, they always taste fresh and have virtually no calories! (I presume there are no calories in a cucumber, but I didn’t want to give false advertising!). Nothing is better to me than a fresh cucumber, thinly sliced with  just a little bit of salt.

This side salad is a mish-mosh of a couple different dishes I make: a raita I make to accompany fish and a green bean salad that my grandmother makes. It’s so good, I’ve been known to eat a big bowl of it for lunch! It’s easy and was a nice cool complement to a dinner of chicken and some sautéed Swiss chard. If you want a little heat, add a dash (or two) of cayenne or crushed red pepper. And if you don’t eat dairy, you can leave out the sour cream;  it’s just as delicious.

Helpful Kitchen Tip: 
Placing the cucumbers in a colander in the sink and sprinkling with a little salt allows much of the water to drain. This is a great suggestion for any dish that calls for cucumbers. Do this about 30 minutes before you’re ready to make your dish. I don’t rinse off the salt since I only use only a little, but I tend not to salt the dish when it’s finished.

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Cucumber Dill Salad

Using fresh dill with this recipe is the best, but if you only have dried on hand (like I had), it is still terrific. 

• 2 cucumbers, peeled, sliced in half horizontally, seeded and sliced like half moons
• ¼ cup diced onion
• 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar (if you want a little more zing, add a couple of teaspoons more)
• ¼ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
• Dill weed, as much or as little as you’d like, or none at all
• Freshly ground pepper
• Salt to taste, if needed

1. Take the seeded and cut cucumbers and place them in a colander in the sink. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and let them sit for about 30 minutes, or until you’re ready to make the salad. Don’t rinse.

2. In a mixing bowl, add the drained cucumbers, onion, and vinegar. Stir in the sour cream or yogurt and mix well. Add as much dill weed as you’d like, and some pepper. Serve.

Cilantro Pesto

I can hear the “boos and hisses” already! I know that some eaters absolutely despise cilantro, avoiding it at all costs, but bear with me! Admittedly, I didn’t like cilantro for many years, but through time it has become a favorite herb, although one that is used sparingly. It always seems when I buy a bunch, though, it always ends up forgotten in the bottom of the veggie bin until I discover it as a black, slimy mess. But this recipe solves this problem!

I became familiar with cilantro pesto several years back from a colleague of mine. And while I was skeptical, I was a convert after that first bite. You make this just like its Italian counterpart, but to me, the flavor has a little zing to it. A squirt of lemon juice at the end was perfect. And I think a lot of the cilantro “flavor” is lost with the mixing of the nuts, garlic, and cheese. I added some green beans when I was cooking the pasta which added a nice crunch. I find taking the leaves off the stems a bit tedious, but you can take off just the woody end pieces, as the more delicate stems are edible. With the farmers market booming and overflowing with fresh garlic, veggies, and herbs, now is a perfect time to try this out!

Helpful Kitchen Hint: If you are gluten-intolerant, you can use this pesto on meat, fish, or even as a dip with veggies or chips!

Of course, the real test is with the eater of the house, a self-confessed cilantro hater. I put out two different kinds of pesto, cilantro and basil. When I went to clean up the kitchen, guess which one was gone? He will say it was because he was starving, but I think it’s because he liked it!

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Cilanto Pesto
2 medium garlic cloves
1 cup, lightly packed cilantro leaves
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon warm water
½ cup shredded parmesan or Asiago cheese
1 Tablespoon pine nuts (or walnuts or almonds), toasted if desired
1 squirt fresh lemon juice

This recipe is all in the blender. Add the garlic cloves down the chute with the blades set at chop. Add the cilantro, oil, water, and cheese, and pulse until it is a thin paste. Add the pine nuts and lemon juice. Pulse until it all comes together. Add a little more water or oil if it is too thick.