paella

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I will always associate paella with the group of friends I hung out with in graduate school. We all enjoyed good food and good drinks, so whenever we got together, everyone would bring food and wine to share. One of my friends was from Spain, and he made paella at several of these get-togethers. Of course, it was fully authentic, cooked in a paella pan set on a tripod over an open flame. The smoked paprika, saffron, roasted red peppers, and rice came directly from Spain, picked up on his latest trip home to visit his parents. Sitting around the fire in my friends’ backyard, drinking good wine and eating paella is one of my most vivid food memories.

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I knew that cooking paella in a Dutch oven on the grill wouldn’t be the same, but I was hoping for just a twinge of that taste, that memory. That’s why I insisted on cooking it outside on the grill instead of using the much easier option of the stove and oven. Maybe it would pick up a hint of smokiness from the coals, but it was more than just the flavor I was after, it was that feeling.

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I got some of each. With the cast iron Dutch oven, the one Dave and I have taken camping for the last ten years, heated over coals on the grill, I got some of the fun of cooking outdoors. Dave sat outside with me with a glass of wine and let me babble on about different rice dishes in cultures around the world.

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The food was good, but I need some paella practice before it’ll be up to the standards of what I remember. The biggest mistake I made was preventing the formation of a soccarat, a layer of crusty bits on the bottom of the pan, which is one of the best parts of paella. Letting rice stick to the bottom of the pan goes against years of rice-cooking training, and I ended up adding too much liquid, making a wetter, saucier paella. I also think I’ll leave out the tomatoes next time. They were included in a number of the paella recipes I looked at, but it’s not a flavor I associate with paella.

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Overall, it was a successful meal, in that I had fun making it and it tasted good. But next time, I’ll use the lessons I learned, like not stirring the rice and leaving out the tomato, and my paella will be that much better. However, I doubt it’ll ever taste as good as one cooked over a fire in a paella pan while enjoying the company of good friends.

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One year ago: Bruschetta with Chickpea Puree
Two years ago: Grilled Potato and Vegetable Salad
Three years ago: Casatiello
Four years ago: Soba Salad with Feta and Peas

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Paella (adapted from Cooks Illustrated, Alton Brown, the New York Times, Leite’s Culinaria, and About.com)

Most of my problems came from not following this method, adding more liquid and stirring more often because I was worried about the rice cooking unevenly. However, it should be noted that the recipe given here has not been perfected.

The recipe specifically refers to charcoal grilling methods, but I think it could be easily adapted to a gas grill.

4 cups water
8 ounces shrimp, peeled, shells reserved
1 onion, half sliced, half diced
2 garlic cloves, 1 sliced, 2 minced
1 small bay leaf
1 large thyme sprig
salt and pepper
1 pounds chicken legs and/or thighs, bone-in, skin-on
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red pepper, diced
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon crumbled saffron
1 cup short-grain rice, preferably Bomba
7 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons white wine
½ cup peas

1. In a medium-size pot over medium-high heat, bring the water, shrimp shells, sliced onion, sliced garlic, bay leaf, thyme sprig and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain, discarding the solids. Return the broth to the saucepan, cover, and keep warm over low heat.

2. Combine the shrimp with 2 teaspoons olive oil, the minced garlic, ¼ teaspoon paprika, and a pinch of teaspoon salt. Mix well to coat with seasonings and let marinate at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour.

3. Light about 2 quarts of charcoal briquettes; once the briquettes are lightly covered with gray ash, spread them over the bottom grate of the grill, then top with another 2 quarts of unlit coals.

4. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven directly over the coals. Add the shrimp and cook, without moving, until browned and pink on one side, 30 seconds to a minute. Flip the shrimp to brown the second side. Transfer to a plate.

5. Season the chicken generously with salt and ground black pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the hot skillet (or Dutch oven). Add the chicken, skin-side down, and cook with moving until the bottom is deeply browned, 3-4 minutes. Turn each piece of chicken to brown the other side. Transfer the browned chicken to a plate. (Because the chicken is mostly raw and the shrimp is cooked and will only be briefly reheated, don’t put them on the same plate.)

6. Add the diced onion, red pepper, and a pinch of salt to the skillet; sauté, stirring frequently, until softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Add the saffron and remaining ¼ teaspoon paprika and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about a minute.

7. Add the rice, stirring well to coat with the onion mixture. Add the tomatoes, wine, half of the hot shrimp broth, ½ teaspoon salt, and the browned chicken. Bring to a brisk simmer, stirring once. Simmer, uncovered, until most of the broth has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.

8. Add the remaining broth and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and arrange the peas and shrimp over the surface of the rice in one layer. Cover the pan with a clean dish cloth. Let the rice rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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mediterranean salmon salad

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This salad ended up being something really special, one of those that I raved about all through dinner. But I can’t pinpoint exactly what made it stand out so much. I like all the ingredients, quite a bit actually, but I could say the same for a lot of salads that I like but don’t gush over like I did this one.

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It might have been the wild sockeye salmon my store has been stocking, or the fancy block of feta. You can rarely go wrong with artichoke hearts and quinoa. I was worried the bite of raw onion would be distracting, but it blended in perfectly, and the occasional briny kalamata olive was a treat (for me; not so much for Dave the olive-hater). I think I have a new favorite salad.

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One year ago: Peaches and Cream Scones
Two years ago: Mint Brownies
Three years ago: Crockpot Chicken Broth
Four years ago: Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

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Mediterranean Salmon Salad (adapted from Weekly Bite via Prevention RD)

Serves 4

Dressing:
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Salad:
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
salt
24 ounces (1½ pounds) salmon filet
oil
8 cups spring mix, lightly packed
½ cup kalamata olives, halved
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 (14-ounce) can marinated quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta

1. In a small bowl, whisk all of the dressing ingredients together.

2. Bring 1 1/4 water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the quinoa, reduce the heat to low, and cover; cook for 15 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and let set, still covered, for another 10 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the dressing, using a fork to fluff the quinoa and evenly distribute the dressing.

3. Adjust an oven rack to the top position, about 3 inches from the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Transfer the salmon to the foil-lined pan; season with salt and either spray or brush with a light layer of oil. Broil until the salmon is lightly browned and opaque in the center, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for a few minutes, then use two spoons to flake the salmon flesh into bite-sized pieces, leaving the skin stuck to the foil. Toss the flaked salmon with 1 tablespoon of dressing.

4. Add the lettuce to a large bowl; pour the remaining dressing over it and toss to evenly distribute. Mix in the quinoa, salmon, olives, onion, artichokes, and feta. Serve immediately.

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shrimp and crab avocado salad

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It never fails that I plan lettuce-based salads for dinner on nights when I want something light and quick, forgetting, every time, that the time-consuming part of cooking isn’t waiting for onions to sauté or sauces to simmer, it’s preparing your ingredients. And the process of making salad is almost entirely chopping. And if you’re like me and you like your main dish salads with a lot of components, the time it takes to prepare each one can really add up.

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This salad required slicing shrimp in half lengthwise (I’m not sure why I bothered with this and I don’t recommend that you do), dicing avocado, picking crab out of its shell, and mixing up the dressing. And then cooking bacon at the last minute because I forgot about it earlier (I don’t recommend you do this either). It doesn’t sound like much when I say it that way, but it sure felt like a lot after an early morning run, a full workday, and a big grocery shopping trip.

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You must already know that it was worth the effort or I wouldn’t tell you about it. Truly, I loved this salad and will certainly make it again – but only when I have plenty of time, or at least energy, to spare.

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One year ago: Creamy Taco Mac
Two years ago: Pasta with Goat Cheese and Asparagus
Three years ago: Honey Peach Ice Cream
Four years ago: Croque Madame

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Shrimp and Crab Avocado Salad (adapted from Maggiano’s)

Serves 2

Dressing:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
½ teaspoon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
pinch pepper
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salad:
2 slices bacon
½ pound cooked, peeled shrimp
1 cooked king crab leg, shelled
1 avocado, peeled and diced
4 cups lettuce (about 8 ounces), torn into bite-size pieces

1. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, whisking continuously. Taste the dressing by dipping a bite-size piece of lettuce into it, then add more oil to taste, if desired.

2. In a small skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove from the pan and break into small pieces.

3. Combine the shrimp, crab, and avocado in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the dressing; toss to coat. Transfer the lettuce to a separate large bowl (or in individual serving bowls); mix with the remaining dressing. Top the lettuce with the shrimp mixture and distribute the bacon over the salad. Serve immediately.

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fish tacos

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For a while there, I made fish tacos more than any other meal. That might only be once a month or so, but for this household, once a month is considered heavy rotation. Unsurprisingly, with that much iteration, the original recipe has gone through some modifications.

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In fact, I now have two versions that I alternate between, an easy weeknight version cooked on the stove, plus a smokier grilled option using a firmer fish. The indoor recipe is similar to the original, except now I like to combine all of the toppings – cabbage, red onion, yogurt-based cilantro-lime sauce – into one slaw before building the tacos, which distributes the flavors better along with taming the onion’s bite and weighing down the cabbage – so you can fit more of it into each taco. The other important tweak is a squeeze of lime juice after the fish cooks, which refreshes the flavor of the marinade.

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When I have more time, I’ll (have Dave) heat the grill, and we’ll cook the fish outside. I like thin tilapia filets for cooking on the stovetop, but something firmer, like halibut, is required for the grill. And if the grill is already hot, I’m definitely going toast the tortillas on there, and I might consider grilling the onions as well.

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Sadly, I don’t make fish tacos as often anymore, because I realized that the tilapia available in my town isn’t sustainably produced. Halibut, my favorite variety for grilling, isn’t sold at all here, so I only get to make that when I buy it in the Big City.  But, catfish is readily available here, and it seems like it would make excellent tacos.  I’ll have to test that out with one – or both – of my new and improved fish taco recipes.

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And if you run out of fish, this recipe works great with shrimp too!

One year ago: Lemon Bars (comparison of 3 recipes)
Two years ago: Cream Cheese Spritz
Three years ago: Strawberry Lemon Sorbet
Four years ago: Snickery Squares

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(Grilled or Pan-Seared) Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Slaw

Serves 4

Marinade:
¼ cup lime juice (from 3-4 limes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
¼ cup minced cilantro, stems and leaves
6 (4 to 5-ounce) tilapia filets if pan-searing; 4 (6-ounce) halibut filets if grilling

Slaw:
2 tablespoons lime juice (from 1-2 limes)
½ small red onion, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon table salt
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ cup Greek yogurt (or a mixture of yogurt and mayonnaise)
¼ cup minced cilantro
½ cabbage, cut into quarters, cored, and sliced thin

For the tacos:
1 tablespoon olive oil (if pan-searing)
1 tablespoon lime juice
8 (5-inch) flour tortillas
other possible toppings: green chile, avocados, cheese, salsa

1. In a medium bowl, combine all of the marinade ingredients, including the fish. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the slaw by combining the 2 tablespoons lime juice, red onion, ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper, and yogurt in a large bowl. Add the ¼ cup cilantro and cabbage, folding to evenly coat.

3. To pan-sear the fish: Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook, without moving, until browned, about 3 minutes. Flip the fish and continue to cook until evenly flaky, an additional 2-3 minutes. To grill the fish: Heat a grill to medium-high. Oil the grill grate; grill the fish for about 8 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking.

4. Using two spoons, shred the fish into bite-size pieces. Pour the remaining lime juice over the fish; toss to combine.  Build the tacos by layering fish, slaw, and desired toppings on tortillas.

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california roll burgers

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I am not the most effusive of food bloggers. I’m not much for “OMG OMG make this ASAP” types of statements. I understand that we all have different tastes, different health requirements, different time constraints; what is a perfect recipe for me might not seem so to you. But, most importantly, those types of statements need to be saved for the really special recipes.

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This is a really special recipe. If you consider the best burger I’ve ever eaten to be really special, that is. And I think it is, because I have eaten some pretty fantastic burgers, starting with the classic green chile cheeseburger, including lamb burgers with feta and tzatziki, and not to mention the fancy schmancy fig-glazed burger with onion jam.

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All are wonderful, and I don’t plan on giving them up, but this one is my new favorite burger. Admittedly, this is coming from a sushi lover who lives over 150 miles from the nearest sushi restaurant, so I’m always excited when I can get sushi flavors without requiring raw fish or hours of rolling.

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I thought at first that mild turkey burgers would work better with the light shellfish and vegetable toppings, but it turned out that the turkey was too timid, and I could hardly taste it over the king crab, avocado, and wasabi. It was still the best burger I’d ever had though. But I tried again, this time using hearty ground beef instead of turkey and pasteurized lump crab (soaked in milk for 20 minutes to null fishy odors, as per Cook’s Illustrated’s recent crab cake recipe) instead of king crab. And then that was the best burger I’d ever had.

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And next time, I’ll get the best of both worlds by using ground beef and king crab, and then that will be the best burger I’ve ever had. This small-town desert girl has figured out how to get her sushi fix, and that’s worth getting excited about.

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One year ago: Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
Two years ago: Stuffed Butterflied Leg of Lamb
Three years ago: Fresh Strawberry Scones
Four years ago: Hash Browns with Sautéed Vegetables and Poached Eggs

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California Roll Burgers (adapted from Use Real Butter)

6 burgers

The fish sauce replaces salt in this burger recipe, while also providing a dose of umami. I’ve tried it with regular burgers and didn’t notice any difference, but I like it here because the flavor matched the toppings I used for this burger. If it isn’t something you keep around, use ¾ teaspoon salt instead.

If you prefer, you can replace the Greek yogurt with additional mayonnaise.

1 pound ground beef (no leaner than 90%)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 ounces shelled crab (from 2 king crab legs, or use pasteurized lump crab)
¼ cup mayonnaise, divided
2 sheets nori, cut into strips
¼ cup Greek yogurt
1-2 tablespoons powdered wasabi
1 tablespoon soy sauce
6 burger buns, halved horizontally
2 avocadoes, peeled, seeded, and sliced
1 cucumber, sliced thinly
sesame seeds

1. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, fish sauce, sugar, and pepper. Form into 6 patties, about ½-inch thick and 4 inches wide. In a medium bowl, combine the crab, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, and nori. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons mayonnaise with the Greek yogurt, wasabi powder, and soy sauce.

2. Prepare a medium-hot grill. Using a paper towel, grease the grate with vegetable oil. Grill the beef patties for 5 minutes; flip, and continue grilling another 5 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the burger buns on the hottest part of the grill.

3. Spread the wasabi mayonnaise on both sides of the buns. Top with slices of avocado, a burger patty, the crab salad, cucumber slices, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

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shrimp ricotta ravioli

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The day I made these was a Saturday with weather too unpleasant to spend time outside, so it was the perfect time to blast chick music and hang out in the kitchen. My dinner plans were fairly ambitious – crab cakes, roasted asparagus, goat cheese scallion muffins, and for dessert, pizzelles with ricotta filling. While I was already in the kitchen, I went ahead and prepared some things for later in the week, like bagel pre-doughs, burger patties, and hard-boiled eggs. And I thought, if I have extra energy and time, I’ll make shrimp ravioli.

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The problem is that the shrimp ravioli would be our first course of the night, so I’d have to make it before dinner – before I stood the chance of running out of energy and time. And making ricotta, pasta, seafood broth, shrimp filling, seafood cream sauce, and ravioli is exactly the sort of ambitious project with the potential for wearing me out.

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In the end, I did manage to get everything made, and what’s even more impressive is that I managed to have fun the entire time. But, all told, I spent about six hours in the kitchen that day. It was glorious. And exhausting.

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Everything I made turned out really well, but if I had to choose a favorite, I think it would be these ravioli. Even more than the muffins and the crab cakes and the pizzelle, although that’s a tough choice. (Asparagus is not my favorite vegetable; it never stood a chance.) The crab cakes and muffins are probably a better value for your time, but who cares about time when you’re stuck inside on a Saturday?

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One year ago: Quinoa with Salmon, Feta, and Dill
Two years ago: Cheddar Shortbread
Three years ago: Tiramisu Cake
Four years ago: Peanut Butter Torte

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Shrimp Ravioli in Shellfish Cream Sauce

6-8 first-course servings

I really liked the seafood sauce I made, but I only used a bare amount of it, because I didn’t want to overpower the filling.

1 tablespoon butter
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 shallot, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 garlic clove, minced
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup white wine
1 cup clam juice
8 ounces shrimp, shells on
8 ounces ricot
1 egg
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
2 tablespoons minced parsley
½ cup heavy cream
1 recipe of fresh pasta, rolled to the second-to-last setting

1. For the seafood broth: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the butter just until the foaming subsides. Add the carrot and shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots start to brown around the edges. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook and stir until fragrant, about a minute. Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the white wine, clam juice, and the shrimp with their shells. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer. Remove the shrimp when they curl and turn pink, after about 3 minutes. Peel the shrimp and return the shells to the broth. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Strain the broth, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids.

2. For the filling: Transfer the cooked shrimp to a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until minced. Combine the shrimp with the ricotta, egg, parmesan, and parsley.

3. For the ravioli: Place one rounded teaspoon of filling every 3 inches along the length of a pasta sheet. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, wet the pasta along the edges and in between the rounds of filling. If the pasta sheet is at least 4 inches wide, fold it lengthwise over the filling. If the pasta sheet is too thin to fold lengthwise, lay a second pasta sheet over the filling. Press around each ball of filling to seal the two layers of pasta together. Use a pizza roller to cut between the filling to form squares of ravioli. Transfer the formed ravioli to a dry dish towel until ready to cook (there’s no need to cover it). Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add a tablespoon of salt and lower the heat until the water is at a lively simmer. Cook the ravioli in small batches until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes, using a skimmer or large slotted spoon to remove the ravioli from the boiling water.

5. For the sauce: Combine the heavy cream and strained seafood broth in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until thickened, 6-10 minutes. Gently toss the sauce with the drained ravioli; serve immediately.

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poached salmon pasta salad

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It’s a recipe that doesn’t require butter and flour! These have been few and far between around this joint lately (and an unscheduled break didn’t help matters), or at least it would seem that way if your only window into my kitchen was through this blog. We’ve actually been eating dinners that are just as healthy as always (in other words, very healthy on the weekdays, decidedly less so on weekends), but while I was going through my excessive baking phase for a few weeks, I stuck to meals that were familiar and easy, so cooking dinner would minimize the time I had to spend apart from butter and sugar.

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Now that I’ve settled down and slowly stepped away from the mixer, I’m more willing to try new recipes after work. This one was a nice way to get out of the salmon rut I’ve been in. I know I can’t go wrong with pasta and a yogurt-based sauce. This one also has several other ingredients I love, like capers, mustard, and red onion. Since there was no cooking fat in the recipe, I indulged a bit and stirred in some mayonnaise to the sauce in addition to the Greek yogurt.

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I keep trying to serve things in romaine leaves, and it keeps turning out to be a mess. But there are worse things than tangy bites of salmon and pasta falling out of their lettuce cups. There’s no butter or sugar and I didn’t get to use the mixer, but it’ll do.

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One year ago: Lentil Goat Cheese Burgers
Two years ago: Soft Chocolate and Berry Tart
Three years ago: Chicken Artichoke Pesto Calzones
Four years ago: Sushi Rolls

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Poached Salmon Pasta Salad (adapted from An Edible Mosaic via Prevention RD and from Cooks Illustrated’s Poached Salmon recipe)

Serves 6

2 lemons, 1 sliced ¼-inch thick, 1 juiced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, stems reserved
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup water
4 (8-ounce) salmon fillets, about 1½ inches at the thickest part
Salt
12 ounces dry pasta
½ red onion, minced
1 tablespoon capers
2 teaspoons mustard
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1. Arrange the lemon slices in a single layer across the bottom of a 12-inch skillet. Scatter the parsley stems and minced shallots evenly over the lemon slices; add the water and wine. Place the salmon fillets in the skillet, skin side down on top of the lemon slices; set the pan over high heat and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the sides of the salmon are opaque but the center of the thickest part is still translucent, 11 to 16 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully transfer the salmon to a cutting board. When cooled, remove the skin and cut the salmon into bite-sized chunks.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to rolling boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta; cook according to the package instructions. Drain.

3. Combine 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, the mustard, parsley leaves, capers, yogurt, and mayonnaise in a large bowl. Fold in the pasta and salmon. Serve immediately or chill for several hours.

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pasta with salmon in pesto cream sauce

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I never know what to do about Valentine’s Day. On the one hand, I’m not interested in the traditional stuff; I don’t want gifts or chocolate or a heart-covered card with a canned message. I’ll never say no to flowers, although I don’t love the responsibility of keeping the cat from eating them. On the other hand, Valentine’s Day is hard to ignore, because the rest of the world is definitely into it. I’m not one to scoff at something because it’s mainstream; I’d rather join in on the fun.

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I thought that, at the very least, I’d make a nice meal. But Valentine’s Day is on a Tuesday this year, so I couldn’t get too ambitious. Dave’s favorite meal, salmon pesto pasta, would have fit the bill perfectly. It hardly takes longer to cook than it takes pasta to boil, assuming that your pesto is already prepared.  For all that it’s so easy, the finished dish is deserving of being Dave’s all-time favorite dinner, with generous bites of salmon held to pasta by a sauce that’s creamy but not too heavy, since it’s made from evaporated milk instead of heavy cream.

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But, we’ve been having salmon pesto pasta a lot lately, trying to use up last year’s surplus of pesto before this year’s basil starts growing. I decided it wasn’t special enough for Valentine’s Day, even my lazy attitude toward the holiday, so instead we’re having prosciutto-wrapped salmon, farro risotto, and roasted Brussels sprouts. Dave will be so disappointed, but it will be short-lived, because salmon pesto pasta is so easy that we can just have it next week for a non-holiday.

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One year ago: Chocolate Oatmeal Drops
Two years ago: Jalapeno Baked Fish with Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes
Three years ago: Pot Roast
Four years ago: Apple Galette

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Pasta and Salmon with Pesto Cream Sauce

Serves 4

I usually make half of this recipe to serve two people, and the smaller 5-ounce can of evaporated milk is perfect.  I tried using more, so that the full recipe would use a whole 15-ounce can of evaporated milk, but all the dairy blunted the other flavors.

12 ounces pasta, preferably a short shape (rotini, penne, farfalle, orechiette)
salt
2 (6 to 8 ounce) salmon filets
10 ounces evaporated milk
½ lemon
½ cup pesto
parmesan, for serving

1. Adjust a rack to the upper position and heat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Once the water boils, add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook the pasta until it is slightly undercooked, about 1 minute less than the package indicates the pasta will be done. Drain.

3. Meanwhile, place the salmon, skin-side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Season it liberally with salt. Broil until the salmon is lightly browned on top and flakes easily with a fork, 6-10 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

4. Return the empty pasta-cooking pot to medium-high heat. Add the evaporated milk and ¼ teaspoon salt. Simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot often to prevent sticking, until the milk is reduced to about ⅓ cup, about 5 minutes. Add the pasta to the milk, and cook, stirring constantly, for about one more minute, until the pasta is al dente.

5. Use two spoons to break up the salmon into bite-sized pieces. Squeeze the lemon juice over the flaked salmon. Add the salmon and pesto to the pasta; stir gently to combine and serve immediately, topping with parmesan.

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This is an update from a earlier blog entry. For a meal we love as much as this one, I thought a new entry was worthwhile.

smoked salmon kale carbonara

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When we were in Italy, we tried to eat whatever the local specialty was. That means that in the first few days when we were on the Mediterranean coast, and then the next couple of days on the Adriatic coast, we ate a lot of spaghetti ai frutti di mare – pasta with a bunch of different types of seafood, basically. We ate it three days in a row, and on one of those days, we also had risotto ai frutti di mare.

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In Tuscany, we ate more red meat, and in Rome, every dinner included some version of pasta with fatty pork, whether carbonara, amatriciana, or gricia, the difference between them being whether the sauce includes eggs, onions and tomatoes, or nothing but meat and cheese, respectively. I remember enjoying the gricia and amatriciana, but the carbonara I got was overly sauced in a rich cream and wasn’t at all what I thought it should be.

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Of course, I had no other traditional carbonara experiences to compare it to, and I still don’t. While I can’t guarantee that the creamy carbonara I had in Rome wasn’t authentic, I know for sure that this one isn’t. Instead of smoky pork, this recipe includes smoky fish, which, if you’re going to be unauthentic, is kind of a perfect way to do it. And while we’re at it, why not throw in some bitter greens? I probably shouldn’t say this out loud, but this carbonara was better than any of the similar pastas I had in Italy.

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One year ago: Roasted Chicken Thighs with Root Vegetables
Two years ago: Lamb Stew
Three years ago: German Apple Pancake
Four years ago: Banana Cream Pie

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Smoked Salmon Kale Carbonara (adapted from Cara’s Cravings and Gilt Taste)

Serves 4

12 ounces dried pasta
salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ small red onion, minced
2 clove of garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 large bunches of kale (about 12 ounces), thick stems removed, leaves cut into 1-2 inch pieces
2 eggs
2 ounces (1 cup) grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces smoked salmon, torn into small pieces
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil; add about 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook, according to the package instructions, until just tender. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until it just starts to brown around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the kale; cover the pan and cook until tender, 3-5 minutes, stirring about once a minute. Set aside.

3. Beat together the eggs, cheese, ¼ teaspoon salt, and a pinch of black pepper.

4. Transfer the cooked pasta back to the cooking pot; stir in the kale mixture and salmon. Stirring vigorously, add the egg mixture, then the lemon juice. Serve immediately.

salmon kale carbonara 6

smoked salmon mousse

salmon mousse 6

Having friends with kids when you don’t have kids is tricky. I appreciate being invited to their house for dinner, but I’m not sure how best to reciprocate, especially with people who don’t have family in the area to be built-in babysitters. One solution a friend and I came up with is to have dinner at her house, but split the cooking. That way, we all get to hang out, she doesn’t have to do all of the hostess work, I get to cook, and the kids can still go to bed at their normal time and place.

salmon mousse 2

The last time we did this, we decided to each make a few small dishes rather than one big meal. I had lots of ideas, but nearly all of them were based on carbs, like green chile fettuccine alfredo (which I did make), empanadas, crostini, and California rolls. I settled on cucumber slices to replace the bread in crostini, not to mention add some vegetables to the menu.

salmon mousse 3

Salty smoked salmon is perfect with watery cucumber. Piping stars on the slices is so pretty, and what’s more, the mousse is extremely easy to make – it’s nothing more than blending a few ingredients together in the food processor. With these little bites, I didn’t miss carbs one bit. In fact, the only people who didn’t like these were the kids.

salmon mousse 4

One year ago: Roasted Vegetable Bean Soup
Two years ago: Applesauce Snack Cake
Three years ago: Spinach Artichoke and Red Pepper Strata

Printer Friendly Recipe
Smoked Salmon Mousse (adapted from Annie’s Eats and allrecipes)

Makes about 25 appetizers

3 ounces smoked salmon
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh minced dill
Black pepper

Place the smoked salmon in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend to desired consistency. To serve, pipe the mousse onto cucumbers slices or crackers, or serve as a dip.

salmon mousse 7