Salmon Burgers with Wasabi Tartar and Quick Pickled Cucumbers

IMG_8913While my husband and I were on our Alaskan cruise in June, I had one of the best salmon burgers I’ve ever eaten at a local brewery in Skagway. It was one of those meals that while you’re eating it you keep saying, “Wow, this is good. No, this is really good!” over and over and over again. About halfway through devouring the burger I came up for air long enough to take a picture of it so that I could recreate the deliciousness in my own kitchen. After sitting down and talking to my grill-master husband, we concluded that the best course of action was to lightly season the fish, then grill it over low heat on a cedar plank to give it some smokiness. And I must say, it was delicious. Whether eaten by itself or in burger form, this method should be the new way you cook your salmon. Continue reading

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Stuff My Kid Eats: Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Frittata

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As promised, here’s another creation from my Mother’s Day smoked salmon gift, this time coming to you in the form of a frittata. I just recently started making frittatas again after a couple year hiatus. I used to make them once a week when my husband and I were first married and had very little money. We called them “Frittata Fridays” because by the end of the week we’d be out of groceries, out of cash, and out of creative ides for dinner. The only thing we’d have left in the fridge were some eggs (which we somehow always had plenty of), a leftover piece of chicken or a few uneaten shrimp, and a couple of sad looking veggies in the crisper. Tired and discouraged, I’d whip everything up, throw it into the oven, and 20 minutes later we’d be sitting down to eat. Now no longer poor, (although still tired and sometimes discouraged), my love for frittatas was renewed when my daughter became a toddler. Her obsession with eggs (fried, scrambled, hard boiled, you name it!) made me want to cook up this old favorite and share it with her. I guess distance – and a picky toddler – makes the heart grow fonder. Continue reading

Smoked Salmon Focaccia with Asparagus & Eggs

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I realize this is an old topic, but for Mother’s Day this year I was the fortunate recipient of a pound of smoked salmon from Dean & DeLuca (one of my favorite New York food purveyors). After a couple mornings of piling it on the obligatory bagel and cream cheese, I found myself wanting to do something more interesting with my catch — I was picturing something healthy that I could serve my family for dinner. As luck would have it, my weekend trip to the Kansas City farmers’ market left me with a loaf focaccia bread, a bunch of asparagus, and a dozen farm-fresh eggs that were just begging to be used. After quickly cooking the eggs and asparagus, I heaped everything onto the focaccia, shoved it in the oven for a couple minutes, and what came out was a light and fresh meal that was still substantial enough to require a fork and steak knife to eat.

Smoked Salmon Focaccia with Asparagus & Eggs

Serves 4

  • 1 focaccia loaf
  • ½ bunch of asparagus, tender parts only
  • 4 large eggs
  • 5-6 oz. smoked salmon, thinly sliced
  • Kosher Salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped (or another fresh herb like dill, chives, parsley, or marjoram)
  • 1 tsp. truffle oil (optional)

Turn oven on to 350°F. Place focaccia on a baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes or until focaccia is warm throughout. Remove from oven and set aside. Turn oven temperature up to broil.

Meanwhile, fill a medium saucepan halfway full of water and boil. Add asparagus and blanch for 1 minute. Immediately transfer asparagus to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Once cool, dry and set aside.

Lay smoked salmon on focaccia, spreading evenly, then top salmon with a single row of asparagus.

Lightly mist a medium skillet with cooking spray then set over medium-high heat. Once the skillet becomes hot, crack eggs into skillet and cook until the whites just set (the eggs will continue cooking under the broiler). Using a spatula, carefully place eggs over asparagus. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parmesan and chopped herbs. Place under the broiler and cook until cheese is bubbly, about 2-3 minutes (yolks should still be runny). Remove from oven and transfer to a serving platter, then drizzle with truffle oil if using.IMG_7493

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Check back later this week for more smoked salmon recipes!

Stuff My Kid Eats: Seafood and Asparagus Risotto

Stuff My Kid Eats

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“Risotto! Risotto! Risotto!” my toddler squeals with delight as she jumps about the kitchen clapping her hands. This is not a typical response to many of the dishes I serve for dinner. Dinner, in fact, is her least favorite meal, as it usually doesn’t arrive in the form of a sandwich or a waffle. But risotto is different; especially seafood risotto. She thinks she’s getting away with something when I serve it, “You mean I get to eat a whole plate of rice and nobody’s gonna stop me? Yes, please!” The only static this meal causes is when she runs out of shrimp and gets bent that my husband and I won’t fork over ours. Not a bad argument to have with a toddler, as far as I’m concerned!

Seafood and Asparagus Risotto

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Risotto is a traditional Italian meal made with a short-grain rice called Arborio. The higher starch content in the rice adds creaminess to the dish, without actually adding cream to the dish — so it’s a win-win for those calorie counters! This recipe takes a bit more hands-on attention, as it needs to be stirred continually for about 30 minutes, but it’s worth every bit of elbow grease — consider it part of your daily workout!

Serves 4

1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups fish stock, or chicken or vegetable stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks)
1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc (see Note*)
½ bunch of asparagus, tender parts only, cut into 1-inch pieces
24 uncooked bay scallops
12-18 uncooked medium shrimp, deveined and peeled with tails removed
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

*Note: All of the alcohol in the wine burns off as it cooks, so it’s safe to serve to children, however, if you prefer, replace wine with an extra cup of stock.

In a saucepan, bring stock and wine to a low simmer. Meanwhile, over medium-low heat, melt butter and oil in a large straight-sided skillet until bubbly. Add shallots and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add risotto and garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Using a large soup ladle, pour 1 ladle-full (about ½ cup) of stock into risotto and stir until liquid is absorbed. Gradually stir in remaining broth 1 ladle-full at a time, cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding the next ladle. Continue this process until all but 1 ladle-full of stock has been used, approximately 25-30 minutes. Add the last ladle of stock with seafood and asparagus, and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until shrimp and scallops are fully cooked and asparagus turns bright green. Uncover and stir until all remaining liquid has evaporated, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

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Sidekick: Serve with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc or a non-oaky Chardonnay.

Shortcuts:

  • Replace homemade stock with store bought stock
  • Replace wine with an extra cup of stock
  • Use precooked seafood and toss it in at the end of the cooking process after the asparagus have been steamed. Stir until seafood is heated through.

Lobster Bisque for Valentine’s Day!

Lobster Bisque for Valentine’s Day!

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Lobster, with it’s high price tag, short refrigerator life, and fatty sidekick (butter!), tends to be a financial and dietary indulgent for many of us. Valentine’s Day is one of the handfuls of times that people are willing to spend the big bucks on this saltwater splurge (not to mention take the time to separate the delicate meat from it’s hardy shell). This year, why not try a more elegant approach to lobster and turn it into a rich, velvety soup. It’s decadent and creamy, and the best part is, you do all the cracking and cleaning in the kitchen, saving yourself messy hands, piles of shells, and swearing (in my husband’s case) at your nicely set dinner table.

Lobster Bisque

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There aren’t many recipes that I follow to a tee; I usually end up changing ingredients, altering amounts, and differing cooking methods, but this recipe is SPOT ON! No modifications necessary, unless, of course, you can’t muster the courage to handle a live lobster. In that case, substitute 2 uncooked lobster tails for the real deal. Note: Live lobsters can survive in the refrigerator for up to 24-hours, either in a plastic bag, or in a bowl of fresh water. Before cooking, place the lobster in the freezer for 30 minutes. This puts them in a hibernated state, making them easier to handle, and less intimidating to you. And, if it makes you feel any better, the first time I cooked a live lobster I wore workmen’s gloves and noise canceling headphones because I was sure I’d be able to hear it scream — it didn’t, and I looked ridiculous. (Recipe from Fine Cooking.)

For the broth:
  • 1 1-1/2- to 1-3/4-lb. live lobster, rinsed
  • 1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) unsalted butter
For the bisque:
  • 2-1/2 oz. (5 Tbs.) unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-1/8 oz. (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbs. cream sherry
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Make the broth:

In an 8- to 10-quart stockpot, bring 1-1/2 inches of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tsp. salt and the lobster, cover, and steam until bright red and one of the smaller legs twists off easily, about 18 minutes. Remove the lobster with tongs and reserve the steaming liquid.

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When the lobster is cool enough to handle, twist off the claws and the tail. Using a nutcracker, crack the knuckles and claws and push out the meat with your little finger or a pick. Set the tail on a hard surface and use your hand to press down and crack the shell; push out the meat. Slice the tail meat in half lengthwise and remove the black intestinal vein. Dice the meat from one claw and half of the tail and set aside for garnish. Coarsely chop the remaining meat. Reserve the shells.

Rinse out the tomalley (green matter) from the upper body. Split the body lengthwise and use your fingers to remove the innards. (If the lobster is female, you’ll see bright-red roe; leave it in the body for additional color and flavor.)

Use kitchen shears or a chef’s knife to break the body and reserved shells into 1- to 2-inch pieces and then use a meat mallet or a small pot to flatten them.

Measure the steaming liquid and add water to total 6 cups of liquid. Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the flattened shells and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to blister and their color intensifies, about 5 minutes. Add the liquid and 1/2 tsp. salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface.

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Strain the broth through a fine sieve into a large liquid measuring cup. You should have 4 cups—if there’s more, boil until reduced to 4 cups; if there’s less, add water.

Make the bisque:

Clean and dry the saucepan and melt the butter in the pan over low heat. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic and cook until softened, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, until golden and bubbly, about 2 minutes.

Add the wine, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaf; bring to a boil, and cook, stirring, until the liquid is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Add the lobster broth and cook uncovered over medium heat until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped lobster meat and simmer for 2 minutes to heat. Remove the bay leaf.

In a blender, purée the mixture in batches until smooth. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve back into the pot, pushing on the solids with a wooden spoon.

Stir in the cream and sherry, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook the bisque over low heat until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Serve the bisque garnished with the diced lobster meat.

Make Ahead Tips

The bisque and lobster garnish can be refrigerated separately for up to 1 day. Reheat over medium-low heat before serving.

Sidekick: Both Valentine’s Day and lobster bisque call for uncorking a bottle of bubbly. My favorite is Veuve Clicquot Rosé, but if you’re not one for champagne, try a big, buttery Chardonnay instead.

Zesty Tomato Soup with Balsamic Reduction, Fried Sage; Open-Face Tuna Melt

Zesty Tomato Soup with Balsamic Reduction and Fried Sage Leaf
Served with Tuna Melt Toast and Arugula Salad

Zesty Tomato Soup with Balsamic Reduction and Fried Sage

This is one of my all-time favorite soup recipes. My mom used to serve a version of this every Christmas, and after a while, the family started referring to it as, “Christmas Soup.” The recipe has evolved over the years with the addition of orange zest and balsamic vinegar, and is now no longer relegated to being served exclusively on December 25th. (Note: the recipe can easily be adapted to suit a vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken stock.)

Serves 6

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter, cut into cubes
1 white onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
3 fresh sage leaves finely chopped
28 oz. can peeled whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 ½ tsp. freshly grated orange zest (about 1 large orange)
2 bay leaves
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks)
6 oz. can tomato paste
8 whole cloves
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 ¼ cup whole milk
2 tsp. Kosher salt, plus more to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325°. In a large glass baking dish, combine onion, celery, carrots, garlic, orange zest, chopped sage leaves, bay leaves, drained tomatoes, and olive oil. Season with 1 tsp. salt and dot the top with butter cubes (Figure 1). Bake for 75 minutes, stirring half way through.

Figure 1 – Slow roasting tomatoes and vegetables

Slow roasted tomatoes

Remove baking dish from oven and let cool slightly. Find bay leaves and set aside. Pour tomato/vegetable mixture into a soup pot with ¼ cup reserved tomato juice, and using a hand blender, purée until smooth (or working in two batches, purée tomato/vegetable mixture and ¼ cup reserved tomato juice in a blender or food processor until smooth, then pour into soup pot). Use more tomato juice to thin if necessary.

Add tomato paste, chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, 1 tsp. salt, fresh cracked pepper, whole cloves, and reserved bay leaves to tomato/vegetable purée. Simmer for 1 hour partially covered, stirring occasionally, until soup thickens. Add milk and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove bay leaves and whole cloves, discard. Season with more salt and pepper if desired.

When ready to serve, ladle soup into pre-warmed bowls, drizzle with balsamic reduction and top with a fried sage leaf.

Balsamic Reduction:

1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. honey
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 sage leaf
2 whole cloves

In a heavy sauce pan, bring all ingredients to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer. Continue to simmer, watching closely, until liquid is reduced to ¼ cup, about 30-40 minutes. Pour reduction through a fine-mesh sieve and allow to cool before using.

Fried Sage Leaves:

Fried Sage Leaves

6-8 fresh sage leaves
¼ cup olive oil
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Gently place sage leaves in oil and fry until leaves stop bubbling and are crispy but not burned, about 8-10 seconds. Transfer leaves to a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt.

Sidekicks: 

  • Consider serving a cup of Zesty Tomato Soup with an Open-Face Tuna Melt: Slice French bread on the diagonal. Drain a 12 oz. can of tunafish and combine in a bowl with ¼ cup mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp. dijon mustard, 1 tsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. worcestershire sauce, and 1 finely chopped shallot. Season with salt and pepper. Spread a heaping spoonful of tuna mixture on the bread, and cover with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese. Place slices on a cookie sheet and broil until cheese has melted and is bubbly at the edges. Top with a handful of arugula dressed with equal parts olive oil and white wine vinegar, season with salt and pepper and enjoy!
  • This soup pairs well with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.

Shortcuts:

  • Substitute store-bought stock for homemade stock.
  • Instead of roasting tomatoes and vegetables in the oven, replace 28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes with a 28 oz. can of fire roasted whole peeled tomatoes. Start by sautéing the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in butter and oil directly in your soup pot. Once vegetables are soft and starting to brown, about 10-15 minutes, add the drained tomatoes, orange zest, and herbs. Cook for 15 minutes, then allow to cool slightly before following the instructions on puréeing.

Stuff My Kid Eats – Lemony Pasta with Tuna Sauce

Stuff My Kid Eats

Stuff My Kid Eats

(Photo credit: Audrey Kranz)

I have been fortunate enough to have a toddler who is relatively adventurous in the foods she will try — and often even like. This is not to say that we don’t have our moments of refusing to eat, declaring something “yucky” simply because it’s brown, or ending a meal in tears; she is 2 years old, after all! But almost without fail, I can count on her to at least taste everything I put in front of her, even if she won’t finish it. When I do find a dish that is particularly popular with her, I feel like SuperMom and do a private little victory dance in my chair across the table from her.

In this weekly segment, I’ll be sharing quick, easy, healthy recipes that break away from the mac-‘n-cheese/quesadilla/chicken nugget rut that’s so easy to get stuck in. All of the meals I post here are great for kids, and delicious for adults as well. Good luck and enjoy!

Lemony Pasta with Tuna Sauce and Arugula

Lemony Pasta with Tuna Sauce

I found this recipe in one of my husband’s Men’s Health magazines over the summer (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on the similarity of a grown man’s pallet to that of a toddler’s.) I was able to throw this meal together in 15 minutes, then crossed my fingers that it was something my daughter would eat — she did, and now it’s one of her favorites. Hallelujuah!

Serves 4

1 lemon
8 ounces radiatore pasta
2 – 5 oz. cans of tuna in olive oil (see Tips*)
2 canned anchovies (even if you don’t like anchovies, don’t omit them! They really enhance the flavor.)
¼ tsp. red-pepper flakes, divided (see Tips*)
5 cups baby arugula
¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Juice and zest lemon. Cook pasta per package instructions; drain, saving ½ cup of cooking water.

While the pasta cooks, drain tuna, saving 3 Tbsp. of the oil. In a blender or food processor, combine tuna, reserved oil, lemon juice, anchovies, and ⅛ tsp. red-pepper flakes; process until smooth.

In a large bowl, toss the hot drained pasta with tuna sauce (thin with pasta water if necessary). Add arugula, lemon zest, salt & pepper, and remaining red-pepper flakes (see Tips*). Serve topped with fresh grated parmesan cheese and cracked pepper.

*Tips:

  • I waited to add the final ⅛ tsp. red-pepper flakes until after I dished my toddler’s serving to save her delicate tastebuds from too much heat (if there is such a thing).
  • To make this a heartier meal, buy an additional can of tuna, drain, then add chunked tuna to the finished pasta.
  • Look for Genova brand tuna, if available (pictured below).

Genova Tuna