Posts tagged ‘ginger’

April 9, 2012

Dry Rubbed Seared Salmon

It’s officially springtime, and with Easter passing I’m beginning to go through my lighter dishes to go with the change of seasons.  I get giddy thinking about fresh grilled corn on the cob, summer salads full of fresh veggies, pears, apples and toasted nuts, and most of all the selection of fresh fish in the local market.  One of my all time favorites is salmon, however, one badly cooked salmon can turn me off for months, so I have to choose wisely when I dine out.  The dry, chalky taste of overcooked salmon is one of the most devastating things you can be met with at the dinner table.  Similar to a burnt cookie, overcooked pasta, or a hockey puck steak, overcooked salmon is a major offense in my book.  But when it’s done well, you’ll want to have it every day of the week.  The beauty of salmon is that it can pick up a variety of flavors, teriyaki, garlic, white wine and butter, and its meaty texture lends itself to a variety of cooking methods.  I don’t recommend cooking Dover sole on the BBQ, but a salmon can stand up to this summer time classic.

The delicate crispy, golden crust that forms on the outside is a perfect contrast to the juicy, meaty flesh.  It’s a symbol of summer and health, and gets you on the track to looking stunning in your new summer swimsuit.

Perfect pan-seared salmon demands on a very hot pan. Use a heavy cast-iron skillet, which heats evenly. Warm the pan before you add the oil – either extra light virgin olive oil or vegetable oil; this trick allows the pan to get it really hot without burning the oil. A preheated pan also requires less oil.  Once you master this method you’ll be able to whip up a gourmet dinner in less than 10 minutes – golden brown outside and tender inside.   I like to serve salmon with a fresh mixed green salad with a tangy vinaigrette, a refreshing contrast to the rich, yet delicate fish.

Ingredients

  • 2 6 oz. salmon fillets (skin on) one per person
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, coarse grind
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 2 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

Method

  1. In a small bowl, mix garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, seal, pepper, lemon pepper, and ginger.
  2. Brush the salmon with olive oil on all sides.
  3. Take the spice mixture and generously coat both sides of the salmon.
  4. Set a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. When a drop of water skitters on the surface, add the oil.
  5. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly and heat until the oil is almost smoking, about 30 seconds.
  6. Place the salmon skin side up in the cast iron skillet.
  7. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes.
  8. Turn the salmon and cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes on the other side.
  9. Then lower heat to medium, place lid over skillet to trap heat and finish cooking an additional 2-3 minutes.
  10. With a minute to go, add a tbsp. of butter and let is melt in the pan, spoon it over the top of the salmon right before you turn off the heat.
  11. To check if the salmon in ready, stick a thin knife in the thickest part and gently look at the color inside.  It should be juicy and barely turning opaque.  If you over cook the fish it will be extremely dry and very white in color.
  12. When salmon is cooked enough to eat safely it will lose its translucency and become opaque. It should also flake easily when tested with a fork.
  13. Serve with a fresh salad and enjoy your very healthy yet tasty dinner!

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March 13, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash and Ginger Carrots

Piping hot out of the oven, or room temperature on a sizzling summer day, roasted veggies serve as a perfect side dish to just about anything.  The variety of flavors you can unearth from diverse spices and oils allow you to adapt your dish to go perfectly with a roast chicken, seared salmon, or simply grilled steak.

The irresistible crunchy, caramelized edges, warm tender center, and rustic quality remind me of Italy.  There’s a time and place for perfectly cut vegetables, but it’s not in my kitchen.  The more time I can spend enjoying the food and less time prepping the better, especially on a busy weeknight. No need to stress yourself over perfect knife cuts – I know chefs everywhere are cringing over that statement – but honestly, as long as they’re all about the same size they will cook evenly and that’s all you need.

The fresh, clean tang of ginger contrasted with the sweetness of the carrots help brighten their natural flavor.  Garlic slowly warmed in the oven with a coating of healthy olive oil; mixed with the deep, creamy earthiness of butternut squash is a blissful combination.  The two together were simply flawless, and set side by side with a grilled steak and you’ll feel like you’re in paradise (or an Italian vacation in the middle of Tuscany).

Garlicky Butternut Squash

Ingredients

  • 2 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. black truffle infused olive oil
  • 1 tsp. coarse ground salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, coarse ground
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Wash and peel squash, and cut it into bite size squares.
  3. Place squash in a glass baking dish and drizzle with extra light olive oil.  Extra light olive oil has a higher burning temperature so I find it better for roasting.  Due to valuable antioxidants and ability to help lower total cholesterol, I always use extra light olive oil as a substitute for butter, shortening and other vegetable oils.
  4. Sprinkle with garlic, salt, ground black pepper and crushed red pepper and mix with a spoon until the squash is evenly coated with oil and seasoning.
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins
  6. After 30 mins, remove foil and continue baking for 10 minutes
  7. Just before removing he dish from the oven, turn the broiler on high for a few minutes
  8. Watch the oven, as the broiler will be hot and will burn the squash if left unattended.  It goes quickly, all you’ll need is 2-3 mins.  Once the butternut squash gets a slight golden color to the edges remove from oven and let cool for 5 mins before serving.

Ginger Carrots

Ingredients

  • 8 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 tsp. course ground salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, course ground
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 chicken bullion cube

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Place all the squash in a glass baking dish and drizzle with extra light olive oil.  Extra light olive oil has a higher burning temperature so I find it better for roasting.  Due to valuable antioxidants and ability to help lower total cholesterol, I always use extra light olive oil as a substitute for butter, shortening and other vegetable oils.
  3. Sprinkle with garlic, salt and ground pepper and mix with a spoon until the squash is evenly coated with oil and seasoning.
  4. Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins
  5. After 30 mins, remove foil and continue baking for 10 minutes
  6. Just before removing he dish from the oven, turn the broiler on high for a few minutes
  7. Watch the oven, as the broiler will be hot and will burn the squash if left unattended.  It goes quickly, all you’ll need is 2-3 mins.  Once the butternut squash gets a slight golden color to the edges remove from oven and let cool for 5 mins before serving.

March 3, 2012

Chinese Meatballs with Udon Noodles

I didn’t grow up eating meatballs; they were very foreign to me.  I was raised on Italian Bolognese, shepherds pie, and bacon sandwiches.  Yes, bacon sandwiches are just as they sound, toasted bread, ketchup, and bacon.  I simple, peasant style dish originating in the UK, and often called the “hangover cure”.   But that isn’t on today’s menu.  Today we’ll be having a much healthier meal, but just as satisfying.    OK, back to the meatballs.

My idea of meatballs was a dense, dry rock of unseasoned meat, or if you want to get even classier, those artificially tasking Chef Boyardee meatballs swimming in a thin copper red sauce – a far cry from a basic tomato sauce.  I can’t remember where or when this happened, but I eventually got over my fear.  The variety of flavor combination you can get from one simple dish never leaves you bored.  Italian, Swedish, Irish, Spanish… each culture has their own take and I urge you to try them all, and make some of your own.  Now you don’t hear of a “Chinese meatball” very often, but why not?  I incorporated all the same flavors you get in a stir fry and toss it with some Japanese udon noodles and you have a perfect fusion of flavors and textures.

Once you pop these in the oven and the aroma will envelope your kitchen.  And on those stressful days where you want the comforting flavors on Chinese takeout, you can spare the menu and the cost and whip this up in under 30 mins and you can rest easy you fed yourself a well-balanced meal.   A Rachel Ray recipe I found a few years ago inspired this dish.  The original is delicious but I wanted to switch a few things up and make it easier to cook on a school night. The original recipe can be found at the following link.  Chinese Spaghetti and Meatballs by Rachel Ray

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 3 scallions finely chopped
  • 1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 tablespoons Tamari (dark soy sauce)
  • 2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, 1 tbsp for the meatballs and 1 for the noodles, available on the Asian foods aisle of market
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (you’ll have plenty of salt from the soy sauce)
  • 1 pound udon noodles, you can find them on the Asian foods aisle or substitute with spaghetti
  • 2 beef bullion cubes
  • 2 tablespoons extra light olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, available on the Asian foods aisle of market
  • 1 zucchini, julienned
  • 1 yellow zucchini squash, julienned
  • 1 scallion, finely sliced for garnish
  • 3 tbsp. cilantro, roughly chopped for garnish

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Place a large pot of water with bullion cubes on to boil for the noodles. The bullion helps flavor the noodles without overpowering your palate with soy sauce.  When it comes to a boil.  Lower it to a simmer until you put the meatballs in the oven, then it’s time to bring it back up to a boil and cook your udon noodles, don’t worry, I’ll let you know when to come back to these.
  3. Place the pork in a mixing bowl along with an egg, five-spice powder, scallions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, salt, pepper, and panko breadcrumbs.
  4. Mix gently but thoroughly with your hands.  If you use a spoon you will likely over mix the meat and you’ll end up with tough, dry meatballs.
  5. Form 1 1/2-inch balls and place on a baking sheet.
  6. Brush the meatball with extra light olive oil and roast for 15 mins.
  7. Now that the meatballs are in, bring your water back up to a boil.
  8. Follow the directions on the noodle package.
  9. While the noodles and meatballs cook, julienne the squash and zucchini and set aside for garnish.  Roughly chop a good handful of cilantro and thinly slice 2 scallions for your garnish.
  10. When your noodles are ready, drain and return to pan.
  11. Toss noodles in 2 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. sesame seed oil.
  12. When the meatballs are ready, remove from oven and assemble your dinner.
  13. Begin by placing noodles at the bottom of your bowl.  Add meatballs and slices of zucchini.
  14. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, scallions and cilantro.
  15. Enjoy!

November 10, 2011

Red Thai Curry

There’s a multitude of Thai restaurants in a 2-block radius of my office and yet I still can’t find one that makes me want to return.  I find myself suffering through waterlogged, tasteless, or blistering hot curry at lunch, with the most random ingredients from string beans to rhubarb, and my ultimate favorite…. beets?!?  I’m all for experimentation, but these vegetables just don’t belong in a traditional Thai curry.  Let’s face it, if it’s good don’t mess with it.  What happened to good old-fashioned Thai curry with the sweetness of coconut and the balancing heat of red chili and ginger?  As a result, I had to take matters into my own hands.

It may seem like a long list of ingredients, but it’s one of those dishes you can make in one pot, so the clean up is easy, and the stove does all the work.  I like to make it on a Sunday and then have it for dinner Monday night.  It’s always better the second day as the spices have a chance to develop, so now I just plan it out that way knowing the following night I’ll be in Thai curry heaven.  In the winter I make it with heartier root vegetables, and in the summer I lighten it up with a thinner sauce and readily available summer veg.  The one here is good  year round, it’s harmonious blend of spicy, sweet, and sour is a satisfying end to any day, the only thing missing is a fresh bowl of steaming rice.

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. red curry paste
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Sauce

  • 1 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp. ginger, finely diced
  • 6 Thai chili peppers. Finely dices seeds removed (leave the seeds in if you like it very spicy)
  • 3 tbsp. red curry paste
  • 3 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 small head cauliflower, broken into bite size pieces
  • 1 handful cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. semolina flour (for thickening)
  • Bunch of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (for garnish)
  • Small handful on unsalted peanuts (for garnish)

Method

  1. Heat a large heavy bottomed pot on the stove on medium/high
  2. Add oil, turmeric, cumin, mustard seed, and red pepper flakes and cook the spices in the hot pan for 1-2 minutes until the aroma of fresh spice fills your kitchen
  3. Add red curry paste and stir until it dissolves in the hot oil
  4. Salt and pepper the sliced chicken and drop into the hot pan,  Sear on all sides, 6-8 minutes
  5. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside for later, no need to wipe out or rinse the pan, it’s good to go
  6. Add a little more oil (1-2 tbsp.) and add onion, garlic and ginger to pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  7. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes
  8. Add red curry paste, turmeric, cumin, coriander, mustard seed, and red pepper flakes and coat the onions with the spices until they’re speckled with red and orange.
  9. Add Thai chili peppers and continue to cook on medium for another 5 minutes until onions are translucent
  10. Pour in 2 cans of coconut milk, whole milk, bay leaves, lemongrass and tomato paste.  Stir well and bring to a low simmer.
  11. Add the chicken back in along with all the juices that accumulated on the plate (that’s where a lot of the flavor is!).
  12. Add chopped carrots, cauliflower and whole tomatoes, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  13. Add semolina flour to thicken the sauce, I usually start with 2 tbsp. and add a little more later if needed.  It will take a minute to thicken so wait about 5 minutes before adding more.  Semolina flour is a good alternative to cornstarch and is very fine so it doesn’t result in a grainy texture.
  14. Poke the carrots with a fork to make sure they’re tender; once they are you’re ready to go!
  15. Serve with steamed rice and a garnish of cilantro and peanuts.  The cilantro add a nice freshness and the peanuts add to the nutty flavor of the sauce and much needed crunch alongside the tender vegetables and moist chicken.
  16. Don’t forget to remove the lemongrass stick before serving!

You can easily make this a vegetarian dish, just skip the chicken and add whatever you like, Chinese eggplant, potatoes, and acorn squash are some of my favorites.  I also like it with brown rice, as the chewy texture soaks up all the sauce and creates a curry stew at the bottom of your bowl!

October 18, 2011

Yellow Chicken Curry with Vegetables

You might be interested to know that curry is not a spice. In fact, there are several definitions out there designed to describe curry’s various combinations of piquant flavors, with many of these relying on origin just as much as how it’s used in the kitchen.  The important thing to remember is that it’s a blend of spices that can be selected and mixed by hand or purchased as curry powder to get the exact level of heat, spice or mellow warmth you’re looking for.  In my quest for the perfectly mild, yet also spicy curry, I began working on my own concoction.

My yellow curry can be altered to suit a spicy palette or toned down for those who prefer a mild heat, either way it’s depth of flavor and fragrant bouquet of spices will have you craving Indian more often.  I prefer a rich, velvety sauce with lots of meat and vegetables that offers up a variety of textures and flavors.  I use big chunks of carrots and cauliflower that soften as they simmer and absorb all the flavors of the cooked spices.  The rich flavor and velvety quality of the curry is perfectly paired with freshly steamed jasmine rice; you can’t help but go back for seconds.  Just adjust the amount of cumin and red pepper flakes to change the level of heat, either way you’ll get a traditional Indian curry worthy of being  part of your menu.

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 2 lbs. skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 4 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 tsp. coriander
  • 2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. dehydrated jalapeño peppers
  • 2 tsp. cumin

Sauce

  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 tsp. coriander
  • 2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. dehydrated jalapeño peppers
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 jalapeno, finely chopped (include seeds if you want more heat)
  • 4 Bay leaves
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 2 10 oz. cans light coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbsp. semolina flour (for thickening)
  • Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Raita

  • 1 pint plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp. fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. lime juice (1/2 medium lime)

Method

You’ll start this recipe by cooking the chicken in a mixture of spices, similar to the ones that you will use in the sauce.  This gives the chicken way more flavor than if you just dropped it in at the end

  • Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a large, heavy bottom skillet at medium heat
  • Add paprika, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, dehydrated jalapeño peppers and cumin to the hot oil and slowly cook the spices.  This will bring out all the deep flavors and give you a great base for the chicken.  Use the spice amounts listed in the top part of the ingredients under “chicken”
  • Let the spices cook for about 1-2 mins until aromatic
  • Drop chicken in the pan and let cook for about 6 mins. You don’t need to worry about cooking the chicken through, you just want to coat all sides with the spices and oil and slightly brown the pieces.  Carefully toss until everything is coated and the outside is golden
  • Remove from pan and leave in bowl for later
  • No need to wipe out or rinse the pan, just add in the oil and continue cooking on medium heat
  • Add oil and spices: paprika, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, dehydrated jalapeño peppers, cumin and salt and cook for 2 minutes until aromatic
  • Add onions, garlic, ginger and jalapeño and bay leaves stir to evenly coat the onions.  Cook on medium for 10 minutes, you don’t want the onions to turn brown, you want them translucent (it’s called “sweating”)
  • Once the vegetables cook down, add tomato paste, coconut milk, and carrots.  Stir in new ingredients, cover and bring to a simmer on low heat.  Leave for 20 minutes to let all the flavors meld.
  • While the curry flavors develop, it’s time to make the raita.
  • In a medium bowl, add yogurt, mint, cumin, salt, pepper, lime juice and bell pepper.  Mix well, cover with saran wrap and leave in the fridge until dinner
  • Add chicken and cauliflower continue to simmer for another 20-30 mins.
  •  Serve over rice with a side of Puppodums and raita.

Puppodums are wafer thin Indian “crackers” made with lentil flour and sometimes spices usually served at the beginning of a meal, or alongside the main dish with chutney and raita for dipping.  I LOVE THEM!  I usually eat a whole box when I make curry, I break them up and use them like a spoons.  I just can’t have curry without them, and the ones from the store are easier than making them from scratch.  I buy the Tiger brand Spicy Puppodums, spray a little oil on them, and them pop them in the microwave for 40 seconds.  Puppodum perfection!

September 13, 2011

Aka Sushi, Best Sushi in Houston

Salt and vinegar potato chips, molten dark chocolate cake, fish and chips, bacon, and stick to your ribs homemade macaroni and cheese.  We all give into our cravings. Lucky for me, one of mine happens to be healthy.  There aren’t many places that make me as happy as a trip to my favorite sushi place in Houston, Aka Sushi.

You will not find better sushi for such a good price anywhere in Houston, let along anywhere in Texas.  I grew up in San Francisco, a mecca for fresh fish and great produce, so I think I can say with conviction I’ve tried my fair share of sushi.  Through all my travels, Aka is still at the top of my list.

Upon my first visit, I was eager to try about 20 different rolls on Aka’s enormous menu. They’re certainly on top of some of the better Japanese fusion trends.  I took some recommendations from the welcoming and very informative waiters, and was extremely pleased with all my selections.  Ask for Tony and Jay (they are my two pals and know me too well), they will steer you in the right direction.  Whether you’re the adventurous type, or a beginner sushi lover, they’ll be able to help you navigate the multitude of choices.

Here is my number one tip.  If there is anything you remember from this post, it has to be this.  Ask for a side of their creamy ginger dressing to go along with your sushi.  This is essential to enjoying the ultimate sushi experience.  It has a smooth, rich consistency and the combination of spicy ginger and tangy vinegar makes a perfect addition to any roll.  It’s heavenly, pure bliss!

I’ve tried most of their sushi rolls, and here are my top picks for both the adventurous and timid:

  • Tony’s roll a.k.a. flamin’: spicy salmon, tempura crunch, pepper tuna, avocado, tobiko, sesame seeds, eel sauce, honey wasabi To die for…probably the best roll I’ve ever had.)
  • Ninja roll: spicy tuna, cucumber, avocado; topped with blackened tuna, crumbled goat cheese, honey wasabi, balsamic soy (ask for it “Tony style” and they’ll add some fresh apple slices)
  • Crazy: spicy tuna, shrimp temp., cucumber, jalapeño, masago, sesame, spicy mayo
  • Spicy crunchy salmon: spicy salmon with tempura crunch
  • Spicy crunchy tuna:  spicy tuna with tempura crunch

Aka’s lunch and happy hour deals are unbeatable.   If you get a chance to visit please let me know how you like it and your favorite roll, I’m always looking to try something new!

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