panko-crusted salmon

I am back with another salmon recipe. My apologies for the lack of protein diversity, but we’ve been trying to eat more fish around here lately, and salmon is so versatile.

I don’t have any nostalgic stories associated with this recipe, and eating it for the first time wasn’t a life-altering experience, so I won’t extemporize on it at length. Panko tossed with lemon zest and parsley gives a nice crunch, and Dijon mustard adds some zing to keep things interesting. This salmon is tasty, simple, and perfect for a night when you are tired and need to get something fresh and healthy on the table in a hurry. Try it, and I bet it will go right into your weeknight rotation (it’s in mine!).

I do want to ramble a bit about search terms people use to find blogs. Search engines often do a good job helping people to find the information they’re looking for – lots of people have stumbled upon my blog by searching for sweet potato casserole, for example. Other times, people enter rather amusing/bizarre terms and somehow end up here. I’m not sure how much I help them. But below are some of my favorite examples.

1. “Can you use the same sauce on green beans that you would use on asparagus”. Probably? It depends on the sauce? But really, the green beans aren’t going to protest that no, you see, this sauce really only goes with asparagus and they’d prefer that you sauce them with something more appropriate. If it sounds good, try it – if it’s not so good, try something else next time.

2. “Has anyone eaten moldy hummus?” “What happens if you eat moldy hummus”. Please, no. Throw that moldy hummus away. I don’t even know if it will harm you, but it just sounds gross. I wonder if the second person typed this into a search bar after having consumed the moldy hummus, and then wanted to confirm that they weren’t going to be hospitalized. And did the first person hope to find someone else out there who had eaten moldy hummus and then proudly shared their tale with the internets? Just in case some other poor soul finds herself here searching for the same answer, I will state my opinion on this matter: just don’t do it.

3. “Crepes sweetened cocoa frugal student”. Was this person searching for a frugal student who had posted a recipe for crepes with cocoa? If so, they found what they were looking for, since I was indeed a frugal student when I posted chocolate crepe recipes. But what an oddly specific thing to look for! On the other hand, maybe this person was a frugal student looking for a chocolate crepe recipe that would fit their budget. And since I set my frugality aside to buy fancy cocoa, I probably wasn’t much help here.

4. “Exquisite dinner”. Hey Google, tell me what is the most exquisite dinner of all! I don’t know if my recipes satisfied this person’s demands, but I guess I’m amused/tickled that some search engine decided that my blog was an ideal provider of exquisite dinners.

That’s all for this installment of Curious Search Terms People Use to Find My Blog. On to the recipe!  Read the rest of this entry »


salmon en papillote

Ok, let me acknowledge right away that this is perhaps not the greatest looking photo I’ve ever posted on this site. Maybe my photography skills are to blame, or maybe we can peg this one on the salmon – I’ve posted two other salmon recipes, and I wasn’t super happy with either of those photos either, however much I liked the food itself. So salmon may not be the most photogenic fish in the sea/on your plate – that doesn’t mean you should pass it up for more attractive-looking proteins!

Enough about the photo, let’s talk about the fancy title for this recipe. “En papillote” may sound snooty and French, but it really just means that you cook the fish in a parchment paper packet. You can add all kinds of flavorings – here we will use lemon, garlic, and oregano – and any kind of fish. The fish steams in its packet, absorbing the flavors from whatever seasonings you’ve used. Back in the day, I baked salmon inside a tin foil packet, and while that was kind of easier, going the en papillote route sounds way more sophisticated and gives you that snooty French cred. Two things worth considering.

If you’re worried about calories, this is a much lighter way to cook fish than sauteing or frying, and more exciting than poaching (which always kind of grosses me out, though probably just because I haven’t done it properly yet). And if getting your fish into a fancy parchment package sounds tricky and stressful, not to worry, I have step-by-step photos to accompany this recipe!  Read the rest of this entry »

pizza with pecorino and fried egg

This is my attempt to recreate Otto’s exquisite Pane Frattau pizza – pizza with tomato sauce, pecorino cheese, and, the part that elicited an “Ew” from my mother when I described it to her, a fried egg. My mother is wrong, by the way – the combination of the egg yolk and the sharp pecorino is perfect in every way.

Otto is Mario Batali’s most affordable NYC restaurant (great for my limited budget!). The last time I was there, as we were waiting to be seated, I was staring off into space (a habit that made my parents worry about me as a small child), and noticed a pair of orange Crocs on a pair of feet – I thought to myself, “Who can have such bad taste to wear Crocs to this nice restaurtant?” and looked up to see Mario himself, who of course is known for his orange Crocs. I guess Mario can wear whatever shoes he likes. If you ever visit Otto (which you should if you find yourself in the area – every pizza I have tried there has been wonderful), I wouldn’t recommend dining in Crocs yourself.

I did a few runs of this pizza before I managed to get it right – I wasn’t sure exactly how much pecorino I should use, but I finally decided to use a whole lot of it (less vague quantity can be found in the recipe below). Pecorino is a strongly flavored cheese – like the more well-recognized parmigiano, it is a hard cheese with a sharp flavor. It should be made from sheep’s milk.

The first time I ever had cheese made from sheep’s milk was at a cheese and wine tasting shortly after I had moved to Cambridge (similar to the chocolate tasting I described a few posts ago). The tasting was run by my college’s head of the catering department, who was very enthusiastic indeed (though in an understated British way) about his cheeses. When he got to describing the sheep’s cheese (I can’t remember what kind it was exactly), he informed us, with great gusto in his voice, “You can really taste the animal in this one.” I was a little freaked out by both the content of the statement and the excitement with which it was said. Was I ready to taste the animal? My cheese world until then had largely consisted of American cheese singles, and pre-grated yellow-dyed “cheddar” or mozzerella. I ate only a tiny sliver, and decided that was brave enough.

My cheese-appreciation is more advanced these days (thanks partially to that cheese-tasting), and I enjoy all kinds of sheep’s cheese, including the wonderful manchego, and the pecorino on this pizza. The moral of this story is that you want to be able to taste the animal, as it were, on this pizza – the flavor of that pecorino should be loud and clear.

Read the rest of this entry »

sausage and potato gratin

This is a comforting dinner for the miserably chilly, wet days we’re having here in the northeast at the moment – a one-dish meal of meat and potatoes that is flavorful and satisfying (though you could also have something green on the side to make this a bit healthier!). It is pretty simple to make – other than briefly boiling the potatoes and sauteeing the onions, you just throw everything into the casserole dish and throw (or gently place) the casserole dish into the oven. This is thus a great weeknight dinner option, especially if you do some of the prep work the night before to save yourself some time – chopping the onions, peeling the potatoes, or grating the cheese, for example. If you’re only cooking for a few people, it will leave plenty of leftovers, which are just as delicious reheated as when fresh out of the oven.

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penne alla vodka

I don’t think I’d ever had/heard of vodka sauce before moving to the Northeast. For the similarly uninitiated, vodka sauce is a basic tomato sauce, plus vodka, plus some heavy cream, and it is generally served over penne. One can’t really single out the flavor that the vodka contributes, but it adds a certain something that makes the pasta more exciting than just a tomato or tomato-cream sauce.

I was tired and scatterbrained last night as I was preparing this, and started off by nearly burning the pancetta after overheating the pan. Very little of the pancetta actually burned, but somehow this was enough to send billowing smoke all over the apartment, forcing us to open a window to the 15 degree weather outside. I later tried to put all four servings of sauce onto the two servings of pasta we were eating, and had to fish the pasta out of the sauce since I wanted to save some sauce for tonight. But then, still forgetting that I had intended for there to be leftovers, I dumped all the pancetta into the pasta that we ate last night, meaning there will be no pancetta tonight. After that, I made a comically disastrous attempt at whole wheat pitas, which went wrong in too many ways to list. If that had been my first time working with yeast doughs, I’d probably vow never to deal with yeast again. The pitas are more or less edible, although instead of being perfectly round, as the picture from the recipe I used suggested they should look, they are more like weird alien amoebas. Oh well, not every cooking experiment can go smoothly. In any case, despite creating one disaster after another last night, this sauce came out perfect – smooth, flavorful, a little spicy. And, yes, I think your serving size should be a lot bigger than the one shown in the picture. Read the rest of this entry »

chicken quesadillas

This may not look like the most Christmas-y of recipes, but in the run up to the big cooking days ahead, it can be nice to have a few quick and easy dinners planned. I don’t know how authentically Mexican or TexMex these quesadillas can claim to be, since I don’t know much about either of these cuisines (at least not yet!). I can say that they are spicy, tasty, make plenty of leftovers (depending on how many people you are cooking for), and are pretty simple to throw together.

I always liked “taco night” as a child, when the tacos were usually made from one of those El Paso kits that come in a box. This recipe offers something similar (except in quesadilla form, because why stop at soft tacos when you could fry the tortillas in butter?), but from scratch – so the spice mix is much healthier since it has a lot less sodium than those pre-made packages. I prefer to fill my quesadillas with chicken, cheese (generally a sharp white cheddar), and pickled jalapeños, and serve them with sour cream and salsa. You could obviously do all kinds of other things here – the original recipe I’m using recommends putting corn, sauteed onions and tomatoes into the quesadillas, for example. Served with rice, beans, or a salad, these make a delicious and easy dinner.  Read the rest of this entry »

chicken with cherry tomato pan sauce

Several foodblogs that I follow posted this recipe a few weeks ago, and it looked so delicious that I decided I needed to make it myself. It’s a pretty simple dinner to prepare, especially if you have a handsome sous-chef around to help you chop all the fresh herbs that go into this. You saute butterflied chicken breasts in a flavored butter, then sear the tomatoes in the pan until they burst and char (yum), then add some fresh herbs and a few others things, and it’s ready to go.

The recipe I used also included a tasty-sounding polenta recipe with parmesan, basil, and fresh corn. I’d never made or eaten polenta before, and I’m not sure my first attempt was quite worth posting about. This is probably because the polenta I bought wasn’t the best kind. I made sure not to buy the bags labeled “instant,” which left me with just one choice; only when I got home I saw that the bag assured its buyers that while it was indeed not instant, it just so happened to cook in one minute anyway. Marcella Hazan, my trusted advisor on all things Italian, would not have approved. In any event, you can find the polenta recipe if you go to the original link; it sounds like it ought to be good if it were made properly! Otherwise you could serve this with rice, roasted potatoes, or even with pasta (if you doubled the sauce, perhaps). And though we sadly didn’t have any wine with this, I think you should.  Read the rest of this entry »