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Archive for June, 2010

I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of cooked salmon. Smoked salmon or sushi? I’m completely on board with that. But I don’t looooove the flavor of cooked salmon. That said, I appreciate its subtle sweetness and the health benefits it provides, so I work with it.

This recipe gives it a ton of flavor. The simple spice rub gives it a nice crust, and the sauce adds a bright, summery flavor (and uses a lot of basil, which we seem to be overflowing with lately). Greek yogurt is yogurt that has been drained for a bit and is extra creamy. If you can’t find it at the store, line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth or heavy-duty paper towels, dump in the yogurt, and let it sit over the sink for about 30 minutes.

Salmon with Cucumber-Basil Sauce

Sauce:

2 cups Greek yogurt
2 cups packed basil
1 tsp cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp ground cumin)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 pickling cucumbers, peeled and seeded* (or 2 regular cucumbers)

Salmon:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb salmon fillet, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp red pepper

Roughly chop basil. Combine all ingredients except for cucumbers in a food processor and process about 30 seconds, until it’s pretty smooth. Roughly chop cucumbers, add to food processor, and pulse a few times until combined. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine cumin, salt and pepper, and coat salmon with cooking spray. Coat salmon with spice rub. You may not need all of it, but you at least need most of it — it’ll be pretty thick. That’s what helps get you that nice crust.

Place salmon skin-side up onto hot oil. Cook 6-7 minutes, resisting the urge to poke or move the salmon. You can tell it’s done with its bright pink color fades a bit. Serve with sauce.

You’ll probably have extra sauce. It would be great on grilled chicken or grilled veggies, as a dip, or just drank from a cup with a straw. Just kidding on that last one…kind of. It’s really good sauce.

*To seed a cucumber, first peel it. Then scoop out the seeds with a spoon, like so:

You’ll end up with nicely hollowed cukes, like this:

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I love orzo salads for many reasons. For one, they are easy to make — just cook the pasta, chop the ingredients, mix, and you are done. They taste good warm, cold, or at room temperature. Also the leftovers keep well for a day or two. This one combines a mix of veggies with whole-wheat orzo and a white wine vinaigrette, and it’s highly customizable so you can cater to the likes/dislikes of your family.

Orzo Salad with Chicken and Veggies

1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
5 oz cooked chopped chicken (rotisserie is good, or some of those frozen, pre-cooked chicken breast strips)
1 chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped spring onion (or red onion)
1/2 cup chopped chard
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1.5 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil

Cook orzo in boiling, salted water until tender, 8-10 minutes.  Combine all ingredients through basil and stir well. Add salt, pepper, vinegar, and olive oil, and toss until well combined.

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Watermelon Margaritas

This one’s for Jen D., who, like me, loves both watermelon and margaritas. You just can’t go wrong when you combine them. We bought our first watermelon of the summer this weekend, and after eating as much as we could stuff our faces with out of hand, we commenced to making our favorite summer drink. It’s fruity and refreshing, and barely tastes alcoholic. Mmmm.

Watermelon Margaritas

2 cups cubed watermelon (about 1-in cubes)
4 tbsp simple syrup*
4 tbsp lime juice
1/2 cup tequila
4 tbsp orange liqueur (I used Patron Citronage, which is tasty and cheaper than Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
4 cups ice

*Do not be afraid to make simple syrup. It’s ridiculously easy. Just heat one part water with one part sugar (I usually do one cup each) and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Done.

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Makes 2 drinks.

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10 Things to Do With Carrots

Behold the first 10 Things post! I picked carrots because, well, we get a crap-ton of carrots around here and it’s easy to run out of ideas for how to use them. Here’s a list of ways that ranges from basic to a bit more exciting. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but when you get your next batch of orange, carroty goodness and are drawing a blank, this list should help you out.

1. Finely chop them and add to pasta sauce to sweeten it up. Follow this basic recipe to make your own, or simply simmer with your favorite jarred sauce for a quick meal.

2. Cut into sticks to eat with your favorite dip, as a healthier alternative to chips. Some of my favorite carrot dips are salsa and hummus.

3. Roast and serve as a simple side dish, or add to salads. I like to roast a big batch of veggies on the weekend, then chill and add them to salads during the week. Try this recipe, and omit the maple syrup for something more savory.

4. Make them the focal ingredient of a quick soup, like this curried carrot soup.

5. Use them in a salad. Ok, before you roll your eyes saying “Steph! I know to put carrots in a salad! That’s not why I’m reading this post!,” just hear me out. We’re going to think outside the box here. The carrots could be part of the dressing like in this decidedly non-boring avocado salad with carrot-ginger dressing. Or, they could be in the salad itself, like in this Moroccan carrot salad.

6. Make dessert, taking advantage of carrots’ natural sweetness. How about this Indian carrot pudding, or something fancier like this carrot-buttermilk tart?

7. Forget pickled cucumbers. How pedestrian! Pickle your carrots, instead!

8. Cube and add to your favorite pot roast recipe. I’m partial to an Italian-style roast, similar to this one, using Italian-style canned tomatoes.

9. Eat ’em for breakfast, like in these carrot pancakes, or these carrot cake breakfast cookies.

10. Really, really can’t stomach another carrot? Just make chicken or vegetable broth with them. It’s a great way to use up other veggies you have lying around, too, and homemade broth tastes a million times better than store-bought.

How else do you like to use carrots?

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Fruit salsas scream summer. I love the combo of sweet peaches and mangoes with spicy peppers, and it goes well with more than just tortilla chips. Try this salsa on grilled chicken or pork, or as a dip for mild vegetables like squash. I like salsa spicy enough to make my nose run, so if that’s a little too hot for you, remove the seeds from the jalapenos before you add them, or just cut down on the amount of peppers you use.

One more thing — I didn’t peel the peaches for this recipe, although you are certainly welcome to. It’s kind of a pain, but if you want to go the extra mile, check out my peach-peeling instructions at the bottom of this post. I don’t mind a little peach fuzz, and once everything’s mixed up you don’t even notice it. If I was cooking the peaches I’d peel them, but for this recipe it’s not necessary.

Fresh Peach-Mango Salsa

1.5 lbs peaches, pitted and chopped
2 mangoes, peeled and chopped
2 jalapenos, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
3 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Chill at least an hour before eating. You can eat it right away, but chilling for a little bit lets the flavors combine nicely.

How to Peel Peaches (or any stone fruit, or tomatoes, for that matter)

Bring a pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, use a sharp knife to cut an X on the bottom of each peach. Fill a large bowl with ice water. When the water reaches a boil, drop the peaches in and let them boil for 45 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and immediately drop into the ice water. Wait a few minutes until you can handle them, then peel. The skin will start to pull away at the X you cut, and it’ll slide right off.

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