Monthly Archives: April 2013

Salmon, two ways

My daughter loves salmon.  She’s 7.  Won’t really eat much else.  Chicken?  No thanks.  Steak?  Nope.  Pork?  Why bother asking.    She would have salmon 7 days a week for dinner.  She eats lunch and breakfast, but dinner food is just not her thing.  Unless it’s a baked potato, she’s crazy about those.  But I digress.

Not only does she love salmon, she’s extremely discerning.  “Is this farmed or wild?  I think it is farmed.  It doesn’t taste like the King Salmon I really like.”  This is an actual sentence from a recent dinner conversation.  And no, it wasn’t wild.  It was Atlantic farmed salmon because the King Salmon was $24.99 a pound and looked icky.  That’s the technical term, of course.

We cannot fool this girl at all.  She can spot Coho or Sockeye if we try to lie and say it’s King Salmon.  She loves King Salmon and wants only that.  When she gets a job and can shell that kind of money out, she can get it.  For now, it’s whatever is cheaper with Wild being preferred.

On the other end of my dinner table are my husband and 10 year old son.  My husband hates fish.  Mainly because he has texture issues.  He can’t handle rare beef and I think the texture of the fish is too much.  He’s good if it is overcooked to the point of dry though, which is not to anyone else’s liking, of course. My son really doesn’t like salmon.  He’s more of a white fish kid.   Loves monkfish, tilapia, hake, and cod.  We all also like swordfish, but because of mercury concerns don’t really count that anymore.

So, how to bridge the two?  Salmon is a really health fish.  It’s very versatile.   My daughter isn’t about versatile.  She loves it prepared  one way.  The way Julia Child taught me, which is as close to “plain” as it comes.  Kind of poached.  And that’s it.  So I had to find a way to make the fish appealing to her and to my boys.    The only compromise I could think of was adding a sauce to the salmon.   And Salmon two ways was born.  Now, there are no hard and fast measuring rules here.  Use what you have.  Really. I served this with roasted asparagus. Super quick weeknight meal!

Salmon, two ways

1 large onion, rough chop
1-2 carrots, rough sticks
2 celery stalks, rough chop
2 lbs of salmon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Water

Ginger Soy Sauce

1/2 cup of soy sauce (I use gluten free Tamari)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger (1/2 tsp ginger powder)
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion (snag a bit from the recipe above)
1 teaspoon minced garlic

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place onion, carrots and celery on a baking sheet. Place salmon on top of vegetables. Cover lightly with oil and salt and pepper.

Fill baking pan with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.  You want enough water to survive a 20 minute ride through a 350 degree oven.

Poach until just cooked though, about 20-25 minutes.

About 10 minutes before the salmon is finished cooking, prepare the Ginger Soy Sauce by combining all the ingredients, whisk together and simmer until the Salmon is done. Stir occasionally. Top salmon with the sauce for those that want it, leave the salmon plain for those that don’t!

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Ready for the oven!

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40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the main reasons I started this blog was to add some creativity to my cooking.  Day after day making and eating the same stuff was becoming tedious.  Old cookbooks give me great inspiration.   They don’t have 100s of ingredients using various and sundry appliances that I don’t have (or frankly, want).   If you google this recipe, you will see what modern chefs have done to it.   Some have made it ridiculously hard with lots of steps and expensive ingredients.  Frankly, it’s a travesty.  If you are tired of plain old chicken, give this recipe a try.  It’s easy, crazy good, and fairly cheap eats. If you are lucky and can eat carbs, this dish is made to have the cooked garlic smashed across some wonderful, crusty French bread. The bread can also be used to soak up the amazing sauce created by this dish.  If you are no carbing it, the smashed garlic is still wonderful to combine with the chicken.

Serve with a salad or steamed veggie and dinner is complete.

I’ve made this recipe to fit a 5 quart dutch oven.  The recipe is very scalable for other sizes. It’s adapted from James Beard’s 40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken recipe.
40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken

3 stalks of celery, rough chop
1 large onion, medium dice
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
7 chicken thighs (could be 6 or eight, whatever fits)
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper
40 cloves of garlic, unpeeled (or however many you have)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place celery, onion, tarragon in the dutch oven. Top with the chicken thighs. Pour vermouth over thighs, then pour the oil. Season thighs to taste.

Tuck unwrapped garlic into every nook and cranny.

Cover the dutch oven and bake until the chicken is done, about 60 minutes.

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Blueberry Sour Cream Quick Bread

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I’m not a big bread person, but I had such a good time with the #twelveloaves challenge last month, I decided to do it again.   This month, the theme is berries.  Generally speaking, I don’t like cooked berries.  They tend to be mushy and cloying.  I love berries in their raw, full, ripeness.   The one exception, however, is blueberries.  Blueberries raw are tart and lack the mouth feel of a good strawberry.  But cooked, they are a beautiful purple explosion in the middle of what is usually a pale yellow confection.

Blueberry muffins are seriously my favorite muffins.   I  know, how retro, not cool like scones, I suppose.  Can I rant? Muffins have become these gargantuan bakery items with every single imaginable flavor foisted upon it.  Remember when chocolate chip muffins were a big deal?  Now, it’s double chocolate chip muffins with cayenne or sea salt caramel or some such awful twist.  I saw a maple bacon muffin.  Seems a little “try hard”.  Meanwhile, what makes a good bakery product seems to get lost in the quest for unique flavor.  Sure, the muffins are huge, but they are likely a dry mess with an overly big top that comes easily apart from the bottom. Not hardly worth the $2 they are charging for them.  Rant over.

Quick breads are so called because they don’t use yeast, thus no need to wait for a “rise”.  Using yeast as a leavening agent was slow and not always consistent.  As chemistry was applied to cooking, someone thought to combine baking soda with an acid like lemon juice, buttermilk, or vinegar and a little heat to give “rise” to cakes and breads.  Thusly creating rise with no yeast.   The “rise” of the quick breads starts around the mid 18th century.  Without this step forward, brownies, cakes, and some cookies would really not be made.  As time progressed, chemists worked to create a powder that combined the base and the acid, but that didn’t react until instigated by the presence of a liquid.  Baking powder (baking soda and a powdered acid like cream of tartar) in its various brand incarnations  (Rumford,  Calumet, Clabber Girl, etc.) was born.  If you have ever wondered why recipes have both baking powder and baking soda, you’ll probably see elsewhere in the recipe an acid.  If so,  the recipe is adjusting the baking powder downward because baking soda alone will react with the acid.  No need to make the dish unpleasantly bitter with acid in both the baking powder and the acidic ingredient.

Could I translate the parts that I love from my muffin recipes into quick bread?  Plus, I have some sour cream in my fridge that I need to get rid of before it expires, could I include that?

I could.  And I did.

I love the combination of blueberry and citrus.  Round out the flavors with bourbon vanilla and this is my ideal flavor profile for blueberry muffins.

Blueberry Sour Cream Quick Bread

2 cups and 1 teaspoon All Purpose Flour, used separately
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon bourbon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup blueberries

Streusel topping
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of butter

Grease a 9×5 loaf pan and set aside
Preheat oven to 375

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl, whisk or mix briefly to aerate. Add the butter and sugar and beat until the butter is in small pieces.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the egg, sour cream, milk, honey, vanilla and zests. Mix until well combined. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture. Mix the dry and wet mixtures until they are just combined.  This will look really dry.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 teaspoon of flour and blueberries. Toss blueberries until well coated.

Gently fold the blueberries into the batter. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Combine all the ingredients for the streusel topping and place on top of mixture.

Bake at 375 for about 60 minutes. Check at intervals after 45 minutes to avoid overcooking.

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Really dry looking batter!

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Dusting the berries with flour keeps them all from sinking to the bottom.

Waffles!

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Waffles are a really, really old food.  So old, that there is reference to them in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales the 14th Century!   Puritans, fleeing English persecution, stayed for a bit in Belgium and brought the waffle to colonies.    Thomas Jefferson, according to legend, brought a waffle maker from France and threw lavish waffle parties.    Who doesn’t love a good waffle?

I really, really love waffles. When I was a kid (and there were only 3 channels on the tv), all we had were pancakes. Waffles were restaurant type food. Fancy stuff, not something mom would just make for breakfast. Even though pancakes are made with essentially the same batter, the batter was transformed into something special on the waffle iron. Crunchy, yet tender. Somehow always sweeter.

In 2009, Kellogg’s put out a press release saying it would have to ration its Eggo Waffles due to a flooded plant in Atlanta and issues with a bakery in Tennessee.  This shortage was a really big deal at the time.   There were panicked consumers stocking up just like when Hostess recently shuttered it factories. I should confess,  I have a hard time understanding why one would pay for a frozen waffle.  They don’t taste particularly good and are insanely expensive, given the ingredients (ingredients listed are for Eggo’s Homestyle Waffles):

Enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, vitamin B1 [thiamin mononitrate], vitamin B2 [riboflavin], folic acid), water, vegetable oil (soybean, palm, and/or canola oil), eggs, leavening (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate), contains 2% or less of sugar, salt, whey, soy lecithin, yellow 5, yellow 6.

Vitamins and Minerals:  Calcium carbonate, vitamin A palmitate, reduced iron, niacinamide, vitamin B12, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin).

I think the normal price is about $2.50 per 10 ounce package.  The organic brand (Van’s) is $3.50 per 8 ounce package.  The ingredients aren’t really much different:

Water, Organic Whole Wheat Flour, Organic Unbleached Wheat Flour, Organic Soybean Oil, Organic Oat Fiber, Organic Cane Sugar, Baking Powder (Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Organic Cornstarch, Organic Malt Extract, Sea Salt, Organic Soy Lecithin, Organic Guar Gum, Organic Caramel Color.

I’m not sure how I acquired my first waffle iron.  I just remember buying a box of frozen waffles and thinking how EXPENSIVE they were.  And I had to buy 2 boxes for just the weekdays.  I decided to buy a waffle iron and try it out.  It was so easy!  My kids pretty much eat waffles every day for breakfast. I make them on the weekend, freeze them, and toast them all week.  It’s really not that hard and makes my mornings SO easy.  I make eggs or reheat sausage made the night before and toast the waffle.  Viola!  Breakfast. Of course, my kids now think pancakes are a special treat!  The ingredients I use are organic or pastured and I don’t need guar gum and colors to make them look good.  And, the fat in the recipe is butter versus soybean/vegetable oil.  Needless to say, they are a lot cheaper!

Waffles require a gentle touch.  The key is bubble maintenance.   A good waffle recipe has two methods to infuse bubbles into the batter.  One is through chemistry.  The combination of an acid and a base (usually baking powder, which is activated by liquid).  The other is through the whipping of the egg whites.  I will confess that I have skipped the egg white whipping portion of the recipe and just tossed the eggs in there and really, saw no appreciable difference.  I’m serving a 7 and a 10 year old.  Not Gordon Ramsey.   So, when you get to that part of the recipe, understand that you can take a short cut.  Also, I have substituted Whole White Wheat flour from King Arthur Flour for the All Purpose Flour and no one seemed to notice.

Chocolate Chip Waffles

1 3/4 cups of all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 3/4 cups of milk
6 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips (I use 60% cacao)

Preheat waffle iron.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Whisk until aerated and well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, butter and vanilla. Slowly add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until the flour mixture is moistened.

In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites until they hold firm peaks.

Fold the egg whites into the now moistened flour mixture until just combined.  Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Spray the waffle iron with a spray oil (I use coconut) and then follow your waffle iron’s instructions.  I freeze the leftovers in a freezer bag and enjoy the rest of the week.

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Joys

The Peter Paul Company introduced the Mounds bar in 1920, and its “sister” candy Almond Joy in 1946. Mounds is a really old, but beloved, candy bar, a coconut confection enrobed in dark chocolate. The Peter Paul company changed hands a variety of times and is now owned by the Hershey Company. My kids adore these candy bars, although they love the Mounds more. They aren’t wild about the almond.

One day I reviewed the ingredients for the Mounds (source: Hershey’s website: http://www.thehersheycompany.com/brands/mounds-bars/bar.aspx):

CORN SYRUP; SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE (CHOCOLATE; SUGAR; COCOA; MILK FAT; COCOA BUTTER; SOY LECITHIN; PGPR, EMULSIFIER) ; COCONUT; SUGAR; SALT; NATURAL & ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR; HYDROLYZED MILK PROTEIN; SODIUM METABISULFITE, TO MAINTAIN FRESHNESS; SULFUR DIOXIDE, TO MAINTAIN FRESHNESS; CARAMEL COLOR; MILK

Um, wow.

So, I looked around the internet to see if there is a more simple recipe.  Joy the Baker had a great one (http://joythebaker.com/2010/10/homemade-almond-joy/) that I was able to adapt.  My kids loved making the Almond Joys, but didn’t want the almonds.  In fact, one burst into tears about the addition of almonds.  She wanted to know if we could just make Joys.  I tried to tell her that the candy without almonds is called “Mounds”, but that “sounded gross”.  So, we call them Joys.  Almond Joys without the Almonds.

Joys
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
about 20 ounces (a bag and a half) of good quality bittersweet (60% Cocoa) chocolate chips

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Combine milk, sugar, vanilla extract and salt in a medium bowl.

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Add the coconut.  At this point, the mixture is the sticky mess you see above.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  The freezer firms the mixture up a bit and makes is easier to work with.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Remove the mixture from the freezer and with clean hands, shape coconut mixture into tight logs or “mounds”.   They need to be rather hearty, as we are going to be dipping them in chocolate.  If the mixture becomes too soft during the log making, stick it back in the freezer.  Place the logs onto the lined baking sheet.

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Place the baking sheet in the fridge.

Now, I could tell you to whip out your double boiler and gently stir the chocolate until melted.  I could.  But that’s not how I do it.  I stick the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and over low power, and nuke it until  just melted.  You have to actually stir the chocolate to check the level of melt (this is the best way I know to describe it.  Seriously, you can look at the bowl and all the chips look fine and then stir it and the chips are all melted), because chocolate chips will hold their shape even if completely melted through.  Once your chips are melted, allow the chocolate to cool slightly.  Remove your baking sheet from the fridge.  Place a log on a fork and coat with the chocolate using a spoon and return the covered log to the baking sheet.  Repeat until all logs are covered.

Return baking sheet to the fridge until the “Joys” firmed up and the chocolate is solid.    I store mine in the fridge.  The kids love them, to quote “these are awesome”!

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