Monthly Archives: February 2012

Salmon Curry

Most people are intimidated by Indian cooking thinking it is very complex and involves a lot of exotic ingredients.   I know I used to think that.  Sometimes that is the case, but other times you can make a really great and uncomplicated dish with a few simple ingredients.  Another misconception about Indian food is that it always has a strong curry flavor.  That is also not always the case as this recipe has no curry powder in it at all.  This is just a delicious curry that is not difficult to make and is created with ingredients that you can find in any supermarket.

This is my dad’s recipe and he has been making it for as long as I can remember.  I have been making it for a few years and I admit that mine never comes out as good as his.  Like my chicken soup, it uses both the stems and the leaves of cilantro which is something that he does often.  For my dad, this dish is a labor of love and he takes a lot of time with each step – softening the onions for 30 minutes, cooking the sauce for another 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, etc.  In my version I shave some cooking time off each step of his original recipe in order to make it less labor intensive and accessible.  If you have the time to cook each step longer, then by all means go ahead!  It will only make the dish better.  Even if you follow my cooking times you will not be disappointed with an exotic and impressive curry.

We often eat this curry as a fish course for a Shabbat dinner, or as a main course on any night.

 

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time:  40 Minutes

Yield: 6 – 8 servings

salmon

 

2  pounds salmon, skinned and cut into 2 inch cubes

¼ cup canola oil

2 large yellow or white onions, or 3 medium

¼ cup of cilantro stems, finely chopped

¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped + a bit more for garnish

cilantro

3 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons tumeric

1 red pepper, cut into one inch pieces

1 (28 ounce) can of whole peeled tomatoes in juice

1 lemon

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.

 

In a food processor or mini chopper pulse together the onion and garlic.  If you do not have a processor you can chop everything by hand.  Just be sure it is finely chopped.

In a large pot heat the canola oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic, cilantro stems,  turmeric, salt and pepper and mix well.  Cook over low heat until the onions completely soften, about 15 – 20 minutes stirring often.  If the mixture begins to stick add some water and keep stirring.  You want the onions and cilantro stems completely melted.

Add the red pepper and tomatoes with their juice.  Break up the tomatoes and mix well.  Add the cilantro leaves, a few pinches of salt and the juice of a lemon.  Continue to cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes until you have a thickened sauce.

Add the salmon pieces and stir once to combine.  This is the last time you should actually stir the curry to avoid breaking up the salmon once it begins cooking.  You will only want to shake your pot after this.  Reduce heat to low and cook the salmon for 15 minutes covered, shaking the pot gently back and forth a few times.

Carefully remove salmon pieces from the pot. Garnish with cilantro and serve with plenty of sauce over rice.

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Cheese, Glorious Cheese

If you have taken a look at some of my previous posts you will probably notice that I have a love of cheese.  Not just a love, but a love affair.  This love affair has been going on for as long as I can remember.  As a kid I always preferred savory food instead of sweet foods and cheese was my favorite thing to eat (on pizza, macaroni and cheese, plain, etc).  I was the only kid on the block to give away my Halloween candy, but I would wrestle you for a chunk of cheese. Luckily, I grew out of that phase, but I still have a major fondness for cheese.

I could eat cheese at every meal, all day long.  I do realize that if I did that I would have to live at the gym to burn off all those calories.  Yes, cheese is high in fat, but on the flip side it is also high in calcium and protein.  My take is that everything is ok in moderation!  I do have a few rules that I try to stick by.  If I am eating a hard cheese such as cheddar I try to buy a reduced fat version. I stay away from fat free cheese as they are mostly made of chemicals and you really sacrifice on flavor and texture.  Not all reduced fat cheeses are great, but you can find some good ones. If you are going with a full fat cheese then use a really flavorful and strong cheese, like a really sharp cheddar or really pungent blue cheese,  so that you do not need to use a lot of it for your flavor pay off.  Goat cheese and feta cheese tend to be lower in fat than hard cheeses so I feel I can be a little more generous with portion sizes for those.  My final rule is that if you are going to eat cheese – ENJOY IT!

I have recently been buying a lot of Cabot cheeses.  It can be readily found in most supermarkets which is nice and it is kosher (although not cholov Yisroel).  They have a good 50% Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar and a Reduced Fat Pepper Jack that has quite a kick.  Their Extra Sharp Cheddar has a great sharp taste and their Seriously Sharp Cheddar is perfect for anyone who really loves the bite of a STRONG cheddar.

I really do not discriminate against any type of cheese and have yet to find one that I do not like.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some personal favorites.

Brie – One of the things that I love about this cheese is its texture.  It is typically from France and is made with cow’s milk.  It has a plastic-like rind on the outside (yes, you can eat it) and the cheese on the inside is creamy, smooth and rich.  It is best served at room temperature so that the middle of the cheese ripens.  You can spread it on baguette slices, crackers or fruit.  Another great way to serve it is baked with preserves or jelly.  Seriously delicious!!

Cheddar – Other than processed “American cheese” (which I do not really consider  cheese) this is the cheese that I most associate with the U.S. of A.  We produce some really good cheddar at reasonable prices in places such as Vermont and Wisconsin.  If you are looking for an imported cheddar then English cheddars tend to be very nice.  I have already said that I enjoy a seriously sharp cheddar.  It is hard to describe the tang and bite that goes along with it.  Again, I do not discriminate and think pretty much any cheddar cheese is wonderful!  It melts really nicely so it is perfect for fondue or macaroni and cheese.  The taste can stand on its own in a cheese sandwich, grilled cheese or with eggs.  It is also delicious in quesadias and in Tex Mex cooking.

Feta – Traditionally from Greece, this sheep’s milk cheese is unique and delicious.  It is brined and has a crumbly consistency.  It is normally sold in blocks and can also be found in crumbles.  It has a tangy and salty taste.  It is commonly found in Mediterranean cuisine and is great in salads (Greek salad), omelets and sandwiches.

Goat Cheese aka Chevre – The name says it all.  This cheese is made from goat’s milk.  It has a distinctive and tangy flavor and is also known for its smooth , soft consistency.   At room temperature goat’s cheese is easily spreadable which makes it perfect to eat with crackers, baguette slices or fruit.  I also spread it on sandwiches and crumble it into salads.   When melted it has a very creamy consistency.  I will stir it into sauces or use it as a filling in omelets.

Gorgonzola – I actually used to have an aversion to the “blue” cheeses.  It was only in the last five or six years that I started to really appreciate them.  I do like a good blue cheese and fell in love with creamy gorgonzola.  I often use it in salads or eat it with crackers and/or fruit on a cheese platter.   It is made with cow’s milk and traditionally comes from Italy.  Yes, the blue veins are a product of mold spores being injected into the cheese, but it is best not to think about that.  Besides mold can be good for you – look at penicillin – right?

Mozzarella  – I had to include this cheese on my list if for no other reason than it is traditionally on pizza, one of my all time favorite foods.   There are two types of mozzarella that you can readily find.  Fresh mozzarella is sold in a brine, is milk white in color and has an almost spongy consistency.  This type is often referred to as buffalo mozzarella.  It is delicious paired with tomatoes and fresh basil for a caprese salad or sandwich.  I use part-skim mozzarella in a variety of dishes.  I like that it is a low fat cheese and that it is easy to find sacks of it already shredded.  It is one of the cheeses used in my Spinach Artichoke Dip.  I often use shredded mozzarella  when making Italian dishes such as lasagna, ziti and yes, pizza!   It also makes a good high protein, low fat snack on its own.

These are just a few of my favorite cheeses.  What are yours?

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Balsamic Chicken

Chicken breast may be one of the most boring ingredients.  On its own it is pretty tasteless and if overcooked it can be dry and tough.  Why then is it one of the most popular staples in American cooking?  I think it is because it is such a blank canvas.  It can take on the flavor of almost anything you put on it.  It is adaptable to any style of cooking and it is also a really good source of lean protein.

Because it is so readily available it is often a go-to for weeknight dinners.   It is no surprise then that people are always looking for good chicken recipes, me included.  I hope that this recipe will become something that you can keep in your back pocket for a really flavorful and easy dish. I used to make this so often when I lived in NYC that my roommate dubbed it “Micky Chicken.”  I would marinate 2-3 chicken breasts in the evening after work.  I would then cook them the next night so that half the work was done one night and the other half was done the next night, making for a very small time commitment on either night.  I would have dinner for that night and leftovers for either lunch or dinner the next night.   I used to also make this often for Friday night Shabbat dinners and it was always a hit.  It is delicious hot, warm or even cold.  My favorite way to eat it cold is to slice it and put it on top of a green salad.  As a side note, it is not necessary to marinate the chicken over night.  Fifteen minutes is even fine!

 

Prep Time: 20 Minutes

Cook Time:  25 – 35 Minutes

Yield: 4 – 6 servings

 

1 ½ pounds chicken breast (can also be made with bone-in chicken or a combination of both)

½ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

1 ½  tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together the vinegar and olive oil with mustard, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture over chicken breast and marinate anywhere from 15 minutes to overnight.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and place it in a baking dish.  Bake uncovered for 25 to 35 minutes (depending on size), turning once after 15 minutes.

If you are making this recipe with bone-in chicken (such as chicken thighs) the cooking time will need to be longer, 40 to 45 minutes.  If you are doing a combination of bone-in and plain chicken breast then make one tray of each so that you can take out the chicken breast and still cook the chicken on the bone longer.

The chicken should read 165 degrees F internally on a kitchen thermometer and juices should run clear when pierced with a knife.

NOTE:  This is also great cooked on the grill!

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SuperFoods

I love to read.  I love food.  So, every once in a while I read a book about food.  Not just a cookbook (although I do read those like books too), but an actual book about food.  Now I know you are thinking that there is no way a food book is going to hold your attention or be a good read. I thought so too, but I was wrong.

A few years ago my good friend Cathlin and I were talking about reading material as we have very similar taste in books.  Since she knows that I have an interest in good and healthy food and recipes she suggested that I read Superfoods Rx by Dr. Steven Pratt and Dr. Kathy Mathews.  Based on her suggestion I purchased the book.  I immediately flipped though it and did not see any pretty pictures of beautiful recipe creations and was skeptical.  Luckily I gave it a chance and am so happy that I did!

The premise of the book is that eating certain foods can actually improve your health and increase your longevity.  The authors calls these foods SuperFoods.  I loved this premise as we are so often told of the foods we should not be eating.  It was refreshing to hear about the foods we should be eating.  I also like that they specifically state that anyone at any age can benefit from eating these SuperFoods.  Even if you have never made these foods part of your diet, you can still benefit by adding them at any point in your life.

In the book Dr. Pratt cites personal examples where he has seen food dramatically improve quality of life and decrease disease.  He also cites loads of research demonstrating that by making these foods part of your diet, you can actually change the course of your biochemistry, can prevent all kinds of diseases and can even improve longevity.  He talks about micronutrients, phytonutrients, flavonoids, antioxidants and more.  The best part is that he explains all of this in layman’s terms.   It is not overly scientific, but he does give evidence to back up his points.

In addition to going into detail on each of his fourteen SuperFoods and their health benefits, he also gives substitutes in case you do not like a particular SuperFood.  For example, if you do not like tomatoes he suggests other lycopene rich foods such as watermelon or red grapefruit.  If you do not like spinach he suggests other leafy greens.

Another nice feature is that there are recipes featuring SuperFoods from acclaimed Chef Michel Stroot of the Golden Door Spa.  Some of them are easy enough for even a novice cook to follow and are delicious!  In addition the book provides shopping lists and supplement recommendations.

The book was so popular that there was a follow up book published with ten additional SuperFoods.  Overall, I think SuperFoods Rx is an easy read, extremely interesting, practical and helpful to anyone who would like to lead a healthy lifestyle.  I have seen prices ranging from $8 to $15 so it is a bargain as well!  If you are looking for the list of the fourteen SuperFoods they are listed below.  To know why they are SuperFoods you need to read the book 🙂

Beans • Blueberries • Broccoli • Oats • Oranges • Pumpkin • Salmon • Soy • Spinach • Tea — green or black • Tomatoes • Turkey • Walnuts • Yogurt

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am admittedly not a great baker. I love to cook.  Bake, not so much.  In cooking you can be creative and do not need to follow a recipe to turn out a great dish.  I cook mostly by instinct and feel and even if I make a recipe a hundred times I can always take liberty with it whenever I feel like it.  You can’t really do that with baking.  If you want your recipe to turn out well you better follow it pretty closely.  That means measuring and weighing and all the things I don’t pay attention to while cooking.  I always say that cooking is an art and baking is a science.

Because of this you will not find very many baking recipes on my blog.  Except for this one.  I love these cookies!  I have been making them for years and they are a hit with kids and adults.  I have always liked oatmeal cookies, but have never been crazy about the raisins in them.  I adore chocolate chip cookies.  So, I came up with the idea to combine the two.

One thing that is unique about these cookies is that I sneak in some whole grains and try to make them a little bit more healthful.  Don’t get me wrong, the recipe does start with a stick of butter and sugar.  BUT, it has oatmeal and whole wheat pastry flour as its base as well.  If anyone has a suggestion to cut out some of the butter and sugar and still taste as good I would love to hear it!  Whole wheat pastry flour is readily available in most supermarkets and can almost always be found at Whole Foods.  If you cannot find it you can use half a cup of regular flour and half a cup of whole wheat flour for similar results.  I have experimented in making these cookies with white flour, regular whole wheat flour and the whole wheat pastry flour is always the best.  Trust me, you would never know that there is whole wheat anything in them. The cookies also have walnuts in them which are rich in omega-3’s and very good for you.  It makes me feel less guilty eating the cookies if I know they are made with a whole grains and nuts.  Most importantly, they taste sooooo good.

Another nice thing about this recipe is that you do not need fancy equipment to make the cookies.  Just two bowls, a spatula and some elbow grease.  If anyone is looking for a last minute recipe for Valentine’s Day you should try these out!

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Cook Time: 8 – 10 Minutes

Yield: 25 -35 cookies

1 cup quick cooking rolled oats

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking power

¼ teaspoon salt

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened

½ cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl combine oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Mix with a whisk until all dry ingredients are well combined.

In another large bowl cream together the softened butter and sugars.  Add egg and mix until completely combined.   Stir in vanilla.  Fold dry ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture in three batches.  Then add the chocolate chips and walnuts.  Stir until just combined.  Do not over mix.

Place rounded teaspoons of the cookie dough onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, until tops are slightly golden.  Allow cookies to cool before serving.

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Chocolate

In honor of Valentine’s Day next week I thought I would post about one of my favorite topics – chocolate! Although I have a personal opinion that Valentine’s day is a contrived holiday and do not care much for it, I also find it a good excuse to eat some chocolate.  Really, I do not need an excuse to eat chocolate, but if there is a day that lends itself to some choco indulgence then who am I to argue?

As you have probably already gathered, I loooooooovvvveee chocolate!  I never understood people who do not like chocolate.   If milk chocolate is too sweet then you have the option of dark.  If dark is too bitter then try milk!  There are so many brands and ways to prepare this tasty confection that I cannot imagine that someone could not find some kind of chocolate that they would like.

For centuries cultures all over the world have been processing chocolate.  I am not sure who came up with the idea of  harvesting the beans from the cocao tree and adding milk and sugar to it, but whoever it was, they really were a genius – thank you!

I used to believe that chocolate was naturally sweet. I was wrong.  In its raw form it is actually quite bitter.  Chocolate is produced from the beans of the cacao tree.  The cacao beans are dried, cleaned, roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are ground to produce coco mass. The coco mass can be processed into cocoa solids and cocoa butter.  Depending on how the cocoa is processed from there will depend upon what type of chocolate you get.

Dark chocolate – This is made up mostly of cocoa solids.  In Europe they even have stipulations as to how much cocoa solids must be in the chocolate to deem it “dark chocolate” .  This is actually my favorite type of chocolate.  However, that was not always the case.  I used to find it too bitter and much preferred milk chocolate.  Then one day I was watching Dr. Oz talk about the health benefits of dark chocolate and I was intrigued.  Could eating chocolate actually be good for you?  I had to learn more.  I discovered that eating a small amount of dark chocolate often is good for you because it is so rich in flavenoids which act as antioxidants.  This was music to my ears!  I then made a concerted effort to eat dark chocolate as opposed to other types of chocolates and I gradually became used to the more bitter taste.  Nowadays unless I am eating really good milk chocolate I am finding that I actually prefer the dark.

Milk Chocolate – Is a combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter (or other fat), sugar and a milk product.  This is the most popular type of chocolate consumed in the U.S. today.  Not everyone has gotten on the dark chocolate bandwagon – yet.  Some of my favorite uses for milk chocolate include fondue and eating it in candies and chocolate bars.

White Chocolate –  White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk but no cocoa solids.  Because there are no cocoa solids many people do not even consider it chocolate. Trivia – the cocoa butter that is in the popular creams that you rub on your dry skin is the same cocoa butter in white chocolate.  I find white chocolate to be very sweet and do not use it often.  Because it is white it can be mixed with different colors  and used in homemade candy making.

Cocoa Powder – Cocoa powder is the cocoa solids without being mixed with fat or sugar.  It is actually low in fat and also has a bitter taste on its own.  The nice thing is that it is very “chocolatey” and is perfect for baking cakes and brownies.  Another great use for cocoa powder – hot chocolate!

A great combination chocolate is semi-sweet chocolate.  It is not as bitter as dark chocolate and not as sweet as milk chocolate.  Whenever I use chocolate chips I use semi-sweet.  This is used in my recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies which is the ultimate cookie!

Nowadays you can find some really impressive chocolates from all over the world in local grocery stores and markets.   My personal favorite is chocolate that comes from Belgium.  I am not sure what they do in Belgium to make their chocolate so good, but whatever it is they need to keep it up!  I really do also love chocolate from all over the world.  There are many terrific artisanal chocolate shops popping up.  Then there are restaurants dedicated to chocolate.  I love Chocolate By The Bald Man which now has locations in a few cities.   Then there are some shops that specialize in some tasty chocolatey treats. One thing I really miss from NYC is the hot chocolate at City Bakery.  If you are ever in The City and want some great hot chocolate this is a place to go.  Of course there is also the famous frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity which is a New York tradition.

Regardless of where you get your chocolate, or what type is your favorite, I think it is a great way to say “I love you” to a person, or yourself and not just on Valentine’s Day 🙂

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Quinoa With Black Beans

I have seen quinoa popping up on menus and in recipes all over the place.  It is gaining popularity every day thanks to some famous proponents like Dr. Oz.  Although it is an ancient “grain” I admit that this is a relatively new ingredient that I added to my repertoire only two or three years ago.  Since then I am a huge fan!  I am always looking for a way to add protein to a meal and I love grains.  Rice, cous cous, bulgur, etc.  Quinoa fits both bills.  It has the texture and characteristics of a grain, although it is not a grain at all.  You can even eat it on Passover.  It is high in protein, fiber and magnesium – an all around super food!

Some brands of quinoa come pre-washed.  Others do not.  Just be sure to follow the package directions as there is a bitter, soapy film on the quinoa that needs to be rinsed off before it is cooked.  Once it is washed it cooks very similarly to rice.

Although I am not a vegetarian I try not to eat a lot of meat, and I have a lot of vegetarian friends.  I wanted to come up with a healthy and satisfying meatless dish.  This recipe is all that and more.  I have already touted the health benefits of quinoa.  I also added red bell peppers for color and vitamin C.  Tumeric is my go to health spice and black beans add additional protein and fiber.  Most importantly – it tastes really good!  It can be served as a main dish or side dish; hot, cold or room temperature.

 

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Cook Time: 20 Minutes

Yield: 4 -6 servings

quinoa

 

1 cup quinoa (you may have to rinse it first depending on the kind you buy)

2 teaspoons and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small or ½ of a large red onion, chopped

1 red pepper, diced (can substitute yellow or orange)

red pepper, onion, jalapeno and garlic

1 jalapeno pepper (seeds and ribs removed), finely chopped

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon cumin

1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, rinsed well and drained

¼ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped

1 large lemon plus ½ of its zest

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Cook 1 cup of quinoa according to the package directions.  While the quinoa is cooking add 2 teaspoons of olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat.  Sauté the garlic, onion, red pepper and jalapeno with the turmeric, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of cracked pepper.  Continue to cook until the vegetables are softened  – about 7 to 8 minutes stirring frequently.

To make the dressing, whisk together the zest of half the lemon, the juice of the whole lemon with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, ½ teaspoon of salt and some cracked pepper.

Once the quinoa is cooked, combine in a large bowl with the cooked vegetables, a can of rinsed black beans, chopped cilantro, parsley and dressing.  Toss until all ingredients are mixed well.

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