This weekend marks at least the 3rd or 4th time this year that St. Louis has had record heat. Who wants to cook anything when it’s 90 degrees outside?
For all the cooking I do, I haven’t mastered the art of cold meals. I don’t particularly like them. Cold is for snacks and desserts and beverages. Think of cold cereal and PBJ – convenience meals. Now, hot food on the other hand – that’s what’s for dinner. However, I conceded the need to reduce the amount of time that I used my burners. Salmon was on sale, so I decided to make Salmon with Spinach Salad and Miso Vinaigrette.
Happy Lunar New Year! I wanted to tell you about the dinner I made tonight for it, but I want to have the leftovers before I finish my blog post about it. Instead I’ll tell you about last night’s dinner, which was also very delicious and satisfying.
As an adult, I’ve discovered that I like several vegetables that I hated as a kid. Most of this comes down to textural issues. As a child, I learned to tolerate broccoli, but now I enjoy it, as long as it’s still relatively crisp after it’s cooked. Brussels sprouts are another of those vegetables that earned a bad reputation to my young self. Little did I know, until a few years ago, that they are delicious when they retain their structure and texture, and when flavored boldly with soy sauce or garlic. Roasting the vegetable brings out a hint of sweetness and mellows out their bitter tendencies.
I was definitely interested when I came across the recipe for Garlic Roasted Salmon and Brussels Sprouts. It had a satisfyingly short ingredient list (garlic, olive oil, white wine, oregano) and would be fast to make. It was the perfect thing to make with the pound of salmon that I’d bought but had no clue what I wanted to do with. The original recipe made 6 servings, but I decided that it would be best if I halved it.
It’s just the beginning of March, but tonight I had a taste of summer.
Last summer I made various salsas to go with chicken and fish. Sure, they were all kind of similar, but you can’t really go too wrong the combination of tomatoes, bell pepper, cilantro, and lime juice. I particularly like the combination of cilantro and lime.
When I was specifically looking for a recipe to cook tuna (the first one I made was a sesame-crusted tuna that I didn’t really cook properly), I came across the recipe for Coriander-Crusted Tuna with Black Bean Salsa. I wasn’t interested in it at all while the temperatures were freezing. Cold weather is hearty comfort food weather, not fresh, lively food weather. But now the weather’s warmed up slightly, and so I finally decided to give it a shot when some produce was on sale. I figured even if the tomatoes and peppers weren’t at their best, they’d still be worth trying. This also didn’t have too many carbs, which meant that I could make it for me and Alex.
I made the salsa before I cooked the fish because I didn’t want the fish to get cold. I used a can of regular, store-brand black beans, but I made sure to rinse them really well. I substituted about 2 cloves of garlic for the green onions, since I forgot to buy some, and I used an orange bell pepper. I dried off the tuna with paper towels before I seasoned and cooked it, and I think that helped me get a nice crust on the tuna. I cooked it in a nonstick skillet at medium-high heat, for closer to 3 minutes on each side than 2, since I wanted it a little more done. I served it with a little avocado on the side.
This dish cooked up pretty quickly – we were eating dinner within 30 minutes. Alex and I both really enjoyed this. The coriander and cumin were tasty on the fish, and it cooked really well in the skillet. The salsa tasted bright and fresh. It was a good combination of flavors, although it would have been better with the green onions instead of the garlic I added. Overall, this was a really good recipe, and I’d definitely make it again.
The last thing I made that I knew Alex wouldn’t like was Salmon with Red Wine-Morel Sauce. I halved the recipe since I had plenty of leftovers from the other meals I had made.
I weighed out a quarter ounce of dried porcini mushrooms and soaked them in boiling water. I used onion in place of shallots, and used a small amount of vegetable bouillon/broth in place of the seafood stock. The recipe instructions worked as written. Actually, this was the first time that I satisfactorily cooked salmon in a skillet.
This was pretty good. The mushroom-wine sauce was rich and savory, and went well with the salmon. I should have chopped both the soaked mushrooms and the onions much, much smaller to blend into the sauce better, as that would have made it look more appealing. Overall it was easy to make, but it feels like I made something luxurious since I normally don’t make things like sauces. I’d make it again.
Of course, I didn’t actually grill this – I actually baked it instead. This means it didn’t get a delicious grilled taste, but I figured that would be okay since it would have great flavor from fresh tomatoes and fresh basil. I only had a pound of salmon (pieces, rather than a full fillet), so I only used a third of all the other ingredients, except that I still used a full two tomatoes. I baked this at 425F for 10 minutes.
This was pretty tasty. I think it’s hard to go wrong with a combination of tomato, basil, and garlic. Those flavors did go well with salmon. It’s a good excuse to use those flavorful ingredients and to eat fish. I would make this again.
Another recipe I made to use up some zucchini was Halibut with Zucchini Salsa Verde. In place of halibut, I broiled some tuna that I had. The salsa verde was simple to put together. Unfortunately, I made this a while ago and am having trouble remembering specifics of the recipe. I blended all the ingredients together, and it’s possible that I added less salt because the amount of salt that goes into this salsa seems a bit high.
We both really enjoyed this. The lime flavor really stood out and made the salsa piquant and refreshing. There was a lot of salsa, but it was good with chips. I liked having so much salsa to go with the fish. I’ll definitely make this again next year when I’ve got lots of zucchini again.
I’ve said before that I’m not a particularly big fan of tilapia, but it’s a very inexpensive fish so I’m trying to figure out different recipes to make with it where I will enjoy eating it.
I decided to try the recipe for Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Asparagus and Lemon. I used a 12 ounce bag of frozen asparagus, which is only half of what the recipe calls for, but I used the full pound of tilapia. The recipe was pretty simple. Cook the asparagus first. (I microwaved mine, which I unfortunately overcooked.) Make a spice rub of chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. Coat the fish with it and cook on the stove in a skillet. Remove the fish from heat and add the asparagus, lemon juice, and additional salt, cooking for a few minutes. Serve the asparagus with the tilapia.
This recipe wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t wowed by it at all. It’s possible that my chili powder isn’t the best mixture of spices (I was pretty sure they wanted the chili powder mix instead of cayenne this time). I just ground a little salt into the spice mix, rather than measuring it, so I think I didn’t get enough salt in there. The thing that gets me about the recipe is that the lemon doesn’t actually go with the fish – it’s chili-rubbed tilapia with lemony asparagus. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but I do think it’s kind of false advertising, even though it’s something easy enough to fix.
I don’t think I’d make this again. If I’m going to cook tilapia, I’d rather make fish sticks or tilapia cakes out of it instead. If I did make it again, though, I’d use the proper amount of salt and add a little lemon juice to the tilapia before it left the skillet to give it a little more zing.
I didn’t peel the peaches for the salsa because I don’t mind eating the skins. I omitted arugula because I didn’t find it at the store. I used somewhere between a half and one teaspoon of habanero that I minced and froze a few months ago, rather than chopping a fresh one. I made the full recipe of salsa.
The marinade for the fish was pretty simple and quick to make. I halved the amount of marinade because I made half the quantity of fish. I broiled the fish instead of grilling it, and at first I didn’t have my oven rack high enough, so it wasn’t searing (crisping? charring? I don’t know what to call it) like it should have. Moving the oven rack up did the trick, but I overcooked it to get a better outer texture.
I enjoyed this recipe more than I expected. I didn’t really expect to enjoy the peaches with the red peppers or the scallions, but I did. I had the right amount of spice in the salsa. I liked the sweet and spicy together, but it wasn’t too spicy. The marinade for the fish was okay – it didn’t add a lot of flavor, but it did go nicely with the salsa. I had the leftovers for lunch the next day (I heated the fish separately) and enjoyed it just as much then. This was a good accompaniment salsa, and I’d definitely make this recipe again. It’s a great hot weather food.
I have a bad habit of not getting my skillets hot enough, which was the case when I seared the shrimp. They turned out just fine, though. Although I was halving the recipe, I used the full amount of shrimp for the recipe because it wasn’t worth it to try to only thaw half of them.
I used onion instead of shallots. This time, I actually bought some Arborio rice instead of trying to use my sushi rice. I used vegetable stock that I made and kept in the fridge, and I omitted cheese because I don’t like cheese. I don’t think this hurt the recipe at all. I can’t remember if I added the butter at the end or not.
I enjoyed this. It was light and refreshing. We did have double the shrimp than the recipe called for, which was also nice. I may have had a little much spinach in it, since the frozen spinach was probably already lightly cooked (which would have reduced the arugula in the original recipe). I would make this again.
I wanted to try deep-frying again after giving it a shot last month, so I decided to make the recipes for Fried Catfish and Hush Puppies from Cooking Light magazine. I don’t fry things very often, but I’ve seen recipes similar to the catfish recipe before. The magazine gives tips on healthy frying – keep oil at proper temperature, add leavening or carbonation to reduce oil absorption, drain on paper towels, eat in moderation – but ultimately, I wouldn’t say that this is anything new. These are all things to do to have food fried well.
I used a pound of catfish nuggets (there’s just me and Alex, and I knew it would be more than we should eat), so I halved the catfish batter and breading. There was still way too much of it – I was glad that there was enough, but I don’t like throwing out the breading and dipping liquid. It’s possible I didn’t add enough pepper to the flour (I can’t remember now if I measured it or not), but I rubbed an unspecified amount of salt on the fish itself (no measuring there).
I made the full recipe for the hush puppies. I didn’t feel like grating onion, so I put in 3 tablespoons of frozen minced onion – it wasn’t really the same, but I didn’t know what I’d do with the remaining onion if I’d grated it. I forgot to reduce the heat for the hush puppies, so I overcooked them.
I wouldn’t call it “healthy,” but overall I would call it pretty tasty. Definitely the prettiest fried food I’ve ever made.
Although these turned out very well, I think there’s room for improvement. I’d never made fried catfish or hush puppies before, but I’ve eaten enough to know that I wanted more flavor. The catfish wasn’t overly salty, although I think I did add extra to it on accident. I may not have had enough pepper in it, and I think that in the future I’ll look at other catfish recipes, if only to get other seasoning ideas for the batter. The breading on the catfish was nice and crisp, and the texture was better than most fried catfish I’ve had out. Hush puppies were okay. I think that it needed the grated onion and more/other seasoning, although I’m not entirely sure what. I also needed to cook them less – I think hush puppies are generally moist on the inside, and these weren’t.
I was able to prep the hush puppies batter while I fried the catfish, which is a plus. I think that these recipes are good foundations. The technique is there, but the flavor and seasonings need to be improved upon.