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Baked Salmon with Dill and Butter

Baked Salmon with Dill and Butter

I confess that I generally prefer my salmon raw, with a dab of wasabi. Perhaps with a little droplet of soy sauce. This whole pregnancy thing, though, has put a major damper on my sushi habit so for the time being, cooked salmon it is. The origin of this recipe is a little weird — it’s something I remember my mom doing. Normally not so weird, except that she exclusively cooked Cantonese food except for this and italian sausage and pasta, both of which she made pretty sparingly. Weird, right?

Whole Foods had some fresh wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, a best choice according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list, when I cruised by the seafood counter today. I asked the fishmonger for a 5 oz. portion from the tail end of a fillet and into the basket it went. I prefer the tail end because it’s typically a little fattier and the bonus is that it cooks faster because it’s a touch thinner.

Anyway, this recipe is a cinch and perfect for a night when you really don’t feel like cooking. 10 minutes in the oven (for well-done salmon, per conservative American guidelines for pregnant women) and you’re done. You could eat it as/is, dress it up with a mustard-thyme vinaigrette, or use it in a sandwich. The possibilities are endless!

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The Other Tortilla

Tortilla española with sauteed brocollini and tomatoes.

Tortilla española with sauteed brocollini and tomatoes.


With one kind of tortilla, you can make chilaquiles or huevos a la mexicana. But there’s a different sort of eggs and tortilla altogether. The tortilla española is Spain’s version of the French omelet or the Italian fritatta.

Preparing the tortilla.  I used some shallots instead of onion.

Preparing the tortilla. I used some shallots instead of onion.


The traditional tortilla has potatoes and onions, but you can add just about anything you have on hand, like any other omelet. In Spain, wedges of a large tortilla are served as tapas, usually at room temperature. In other words, if you have any extra, it makes great leftovers. I’ve scaled this recipe back to make an easy dinner for two, but you can make a bigger version.

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More Mexican Eats: Chilaquiles

chilaquiles

The Mexican food fairy visited last weekend and left delectable chilaquiles in our refrigerator. This act of kindness occurred even after we had subjected her to days of hard labor, which she effortlessly completed with sweeps of her magic wand (I want one of those).

Chilaquiles are yet another Mexican dish to love and cherish. They taste good any time of day. They are easy to serve to large groups. Also, I hear (from a very reliable source) that they are good for curing hangovers.

From what I understand, chilaquiles is like what meatloaf is to Midwesterners: a staple of the family repertoire, with no two recipes alike. Thank God it tastes nothing like meatloaf.

According to the encyclopedic cookbook, El Gran Libro de la Cocina Mexicana by Susanna Palazuelos, a version of chilaquiles was made in prehispanic times. The word “chilaquiles” derives from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs: “chilli” (chile) and quilitil (edible herb). Guess what’s in the recipe?

The Mexican food fairy makes chilaquiles with green sauce (salsa verde), though red sauce could be substituted. She says you can make the chicken and salsa days ahead of time – or even freeze them (cooked) weeks ahead of time so they are ready when you want to make this dish.

Serve with a side of black beans and a fried egg on top, if you wish.

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Oven-Roasted Tomatoes with Thyme and Garlic

Roasted Tomatoes with Thyme and Garlic

I know it’s a bit of a cliche for a food blog to have a post about roasted tomatoes, but I don’t care. I’ve had a batch of tomatoes roasting in the oven for about 6 hours now and the smell is driving me crazy. I have nothing else on the brain but those tomatoes…how many I’m just going to pluck off the sheet and eat, how many I might have on a toasted rustic deli roll from Acme Bread Company, how many I’ll try to save for a creamy pasta sauce, and how many will vanish every time Rourke cruises by the tray as it’s cooling. Argh, WHY must they take so long to cook?!?!

The first summer I tackled roasted tomatoes I was overwhelmed by the number of blog posts about it. I imagine it’s only gotten worse. Everyone has their own favorite method — cut side up or cut side down? 200 degrees F for 8 hours? 175 degrees F for 12 hours? 350 degrees for 4 hours? what herbs and seasonings?

After some trial and error of my own last summer, I’ve settled on my preferences:

  • I like San Marzano tomatoes.
  • For the most part, you need to use a roma-type tomato, i.e. one that is fleshier than it is juicy. Otherwise the juice in the tomato will take forever to evaporate.
  • I’ve tried cherry tomatoes and they don’t work as well for me. Too much skin or something.
  • I roast them cut side up.
  • Seems like if you roast them cut side down, some like to call this tomato confit. I didn’t bother trying this method because if you do it this way, you’re supposed to slip the roasted tomatoes out of their skin after you pull them out of the oven. That is too much work for me. Messy-sounding, too.
  • I use whole peeled garlic cloves, fresh thyme, salt, and pepper. Then drizzle olive oil all over it — a few tablespoons worth. If you intend to store any of these tomatoes I would drizzle a little more, since you can use the oil to cover the tomatoes in the jar. Continue reading…
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Peach Kuchen

There are some family recipes whose origins are a delicious mystery. For me, that recipe is a dessert we call “peach kuchen.” If you speak German you’re probably thinking “ooh, cake” – but no, it is actually a type of tart. This tart has sliced peaches pressed into a shortbread style crust that is then blanketed with a thin custardy topping.

A slice of summer yum.

A slice of peach kuchen.

I don’t know how the treat got this name since it is certainly not a cake. It could be that an Alsatian member of my family chose to use the German word for cake (kuchen) as a generic reference to dessert. Alternately the use of kuchen to mean tart may have come from the Pennsylvania Dutch community near my home town. Or maybe the name was simply made up by a distant relative talented in baking.

I have never seen another dessert quite like this so I’m going to keep calling it a kuchen. Maybe you can tell me your theory about what to call it after you eat it!

Peach Kuchen, A Fresh Peach Tart with Shortbread Crust

1 c flour
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
7 T sugar
4 T butter, chilled
2 large ripe peaches
½ tsp cinnamon
1 egg
½ c milk
½ tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 400. Combine flour, salt, baking powder and 1 T sugar in medium bowl. (Set aside remaining 6 T of sugar.) Cut butter into small pieces and add to flour mixture. Using pastry blender, cut butter into flour until remaining lumps are smaller than a pea and the texture of the mixture is sandy. This can also be accomplished with a few quick pulses in a food processor.

Pour butter and flour mixture into a 9 inch glass pie plate. Use heel of hand to press mixture evenly into the bottom of the plate and 2/3 of the way up the side of the plate to form a crust.

Peel peaches and slice into very thin wedges – aim to get about 18-20 wedges from each peach. Arrange peach slices in crust so that they form concentric circles covering the entire bottom of the crust. Place the slices very close together so that they overlap each other.

Peaches arranged in crust.

Peaches arranged in crust with raspberry in center as an accent.

Combine remaining 6 T of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Evenly pour cinnamon sugar over the peaches in the crust.  Bake the tart in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

While tart bakes, thoroughly beat an egg in a small bowl. Add milk and vanilla to egg and beat until combined.

Once tart has baked for 15 minutes, remove from oven and place on a level surface. Gently pour milk and egg mixture over top of tart so that it covers peaches.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 and bake tart for an additional 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and allow to cool for at least an hour before serving.

Tart can be wrapped with plastic and held in the fridge for up to 2 days.  The tart is best enjoyed with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Also makes a delicious, if indulgent breakfast treat.

Don’t have peaches? This tart is also good with any ripe stone fruit or fresh blueberries.

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Not Your Momma’s Fruit Salad

At the very least, this isn’t my mother’s fruit salad. She’s not particularly keen on ginger or cilantro, both of which play supporting roles in this spicy tropical fruit salad with pineapple, mango, and honeydew melon. Something refreshing is a nice addition to a summer BBQ, but most of the time, it falls flat.

Lots to chop.  Having a sous chef is very helpful.

Lots to chop. Having a sous chef is very helpful.

This fruit salad, based on one I saw recently on the Cooking Channel’s Everyday Exotic, is far from flat. In addition to the ginger and cilantro, the original recipe has Thai basil which I replaced with fresh mint, and a red chile, which I replaced with a serrano chile because I had one on hand the first time I made this and really liked it. With its sweet, spicy dressing, this will make a beautiful, healthy side dish at your next BBQ.

Tropical Fruit Salad

Tropical Fruit Salad

You can eat this as soon as you make it, or keep it in the fridge for a few days. It will last a week, but the ginger and serrano will get more pungent over time, so if you’re making extra, consider reducing those ingredients a little bit so they don’t overpower the fruit. Continue reading…

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