Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

My Top 10 Recipes – Glazed-Grilled Salmon With Perfect Steamed Rice & Wilted Spinach & Bok Choy

February 28, 2009

Salmon is my favorite fish, although I only like it prepared a few ways.  I HATE smoked salmon (too salty), raw salmon (unless it’s FRESH, it’s too fishy) or poached salmon (too heavy).  I like my salmon best from the Pacific, filleted (no steaks) and grilled.  Atlantic salmon is too mushy for my taste.  When David prepares salmon, it’s usually straight forward – salt, pepper and oil.  He is awesome at getting a perfect crispy crust.  When I make salmon, I tend to go the Asian route, creating a teriyaki-style marinade and pan grilling.  It’s a bit hot, a bit sweet, and the addition of brown sugar allows it to develop into a nice glaze.  I pair the salmon with simple steamed rice – I provide you with my method below and a vegetable, in this case spinach and bok choy wilted with leeks, garlic and pepper.

Ingredient List – Serves 2

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger OR 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup short or medium grain white rice
  • One bunch spinach
  • 3-4 heads small bok choy
  • 1 leek
  • 1/4 medium-hot pepper

Mix the soy sauce, wine, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil, cayenne pepper, ginger and 4 of the garlic cloves, minced.  Marinate the salmon in a bowl or bag for about an hour.

Measure 1 cup of white rice.  Add to a bowl and fill with water until roughly 1/2 inch over the rice. Allow to sit for about a half hour.

Trim bok choy, allowing around an inch of the white stalk to remain.  Slice the remaining 4 garlic cloves and 1/4 of the hot pepper.  Trim the leek so that only the white and light green portions are remaining and cut down the middle lengthwise.

Add two cups of water to a saucepan.  Tie a hand towel around the lid of the pan, ensuring it’s taut along the interior of the lid.  Bring the water to a boil.  Drain the water from the measure rice and add rice to the water.  Cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until done.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large sauce pan and 1/2 tablespoon oil in a smaller saucepan, both over medium-high heat.  Add the leeks, garlic and pepper to the large saucepan and allow them to sizzle.  Add the salmon to the smaller pan, skin side down, with around 1/4 of the marinade.  Allow it to cook for a few moments.  Turn the salmon and add another 1/4 of the marinade.  Add the bok choy and then the spinach to the larger pan.  After a few more moment turn the salmon again and remove the skin.  Cover for a few for moments and then remove the lid, allowing the sauce to reduce a bit more.  Give the spinach and bok choy a toss or two until it’s cooked.  Check on the rice and remove it when done.  Serve the salmon over the rice and greens with some of the reduced sauce.  You may garnish with toasted sesame seeds, if you like.


My Top 10 Recipes – Spicy Broccoli With Crispy Fried Polenta

February 27, 2009

Spicy Broccoli with Crispy Friend Polenta

A reader suggested that I share my 10 favorite recipes, which I thought would be easy.  However, I had trouble deciding between my favorite everyday and favorite special occasion dishes.  I landed on the dishes that I crave often.  Some are easy, some are more complicated.  Many have been adapted from cookbooks, others I’ve made up myself.  I have made the decision to split the recipes out into separate posts, gathering them together in a summation post when I am finished.  I will start with my first recipe and list my other choices, all to come down the line!

Up first, spicy broccoli with crispy fried polenta.  The broccoli portion of this dish is adapted from a recipe from The Zuni Café Cookbook (Spicy Cauliflower & Broccoli Pasta).  The pasta is FABULOUS, and if you are interested, I highly recommend purchasing the cookbook.  I sometimes make this as a pasta, other times I make it as a side dish.  I sometimes use cauliflower, or broccoli, and often both.  Polenta is not something I cook often, but the following recipe is my favorite and I think it’s fantastic paired with the spicy broccoli as a wonderful vegetarian option.

Ingredient List – Serves 4

  • 2 heads broccoli
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 shakes of red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 & 1/2 cup milk (may be replaced with water or vegetable stock to make dish vegan)
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1/4 lemon
  • 1/4 medium-hot pepper
  • Salt & pepper
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cut off the stalks of the broccoli and slice length-wise into thin (1/8 inch) strips.  Don’t worry about the florets as they break off.  The pieces should look like tiny little slabs with bits and pieces of floret.  Mince 6 cloves of fresh garlic and 1/4 cup parsley.

Line a small baking pan with parchment paper.  Simmer milk with 2 cloves of garlic, sprig of rosemary, lemon and pepper for five minutes.  Do not allow it to get too hot or the milk with burn.  After five minutes, remove the rosemary, garlic, pepper and lemon from the milk.  Season the milk with salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat and add the polenta in a slow stream while stirring.  Cook for a few more moments until the polenta is creamy.  Put the polenta into the baking pan and cover with another piece of parchment paper.  Press down with a flat object (like a smaller pan) until the polenta is around 1/4 inch thick and uniform.  Put into the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.

Remove polenta and cut into 2-3″ pieces.  I like to cut them into abnormal shapes so they are not uniform.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add 1/4 cup olive oil.  When hot, add the majority of the broccoli pieces, leaving the small florets behind.  Give the pan a good shake and LEAVE THE BROCCOLI to crisp up.  Do not be tempted to continually stir the broccoli or you will end up with a steaming mass.  After around 5 minutes give the broccoli a toss and add a dash of olive oil, the remaining bits of broccoli, the garlic and the red pepper flakes.  Leave to crisp again for a few more moments.  Add parsley and remove from heat.

Heat the remaining oil in another large sauté pan.  Add polenta pieces and fry each side until brown.  Plate the polenta and add the broccoli on top.  Add loads of yummy Parmesan cheese and serve!

Coming up in future top recipe posts…..

Herb-Roasted Pork Loin with Mustard Breadcrumbs (from Sunday Suppers at Lucques)

Glazed-Grilled Salmon

Strawberry Shortcake (from Martha Stewart)

Pan-Roasted Chicken (from Biba’s Northern Italian Cooking)

Garlic Hummus

Crab Cakes (from Saveur magazine)

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Chicken, Walnut & Apple Salad

Shrimp Cocktail

Baked Fries (To Go With Those Baked Chicken Strips)

February 25, 2009

I saw a recipe for baked fries over at Lottie + Doof, one of my favorite cooking blogs, and I had to share it with you guys.  Especially because they would be great with my baked chicken strips!

Photo: Lottie + Doof

Chicken “Strips” Without The Grease

February 24, 2009

If you’re anything like me, you have found yourself drunk at a Hard Rock Cafe (TGI Fridays, Applebees, the list goes on and on) sitting in front of a basket of fried chicken strips.

I LOVE chicken strips.  It’s probably one of the most unsophisticated dishes I enjoy, but I don’t care, they are delicious.

However, I don’t fry anything at home (with the exception of crab cakes and falafel), and I certainly don’t own a deep frier.  Years ago I saw a small feature in a fitness magazine about baked chicken strips, and I tried it out.  I have since developed my own recipe that I think is delicious, and far more healthy than the fried version.  These strips are easy and perfect for a simple dinner (pair with a starch and a vegetable) or topped on a salad.

Here is what you’ll need.  Keep in mind that I kind of wing my recipe and adapt given what I have in the kitchen, so go with what works for the batter and breading.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons spicy mustard (or any preferred mustard)
  • 1 dash white wine
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cups panko or plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cayenne pepper

Whisk the eggs, mustard, wine and oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Mix the panko/bread crumbs with the chopped almonds.  Add a dash of cayenne pepper and season with salt and pepper.

Note: I throw it just about anything to the breading mix.  My preferred mix is half panko and bread crumbs, chopped almonds, some almond meal, fresh parsley, S&P and cayenne pepper.  In the photos shown, I used panko, bread crumbs, cayenne, dried polenta, dried herbs, salt and pepper.

There’s a lot of flexibility – use oats if you like, or omit the mustard if you’re not a fan.  Play with it.

Butterfly the chicken breasts and cut into strips.  Dip in the egg mixture and then into the bread mixture.  Place on a well-oiled pan.  Before putting into the oven, spray the tops of the chicken strips with olive oil.

The chicken should take around 15-20 minutes to cook.

Top 10 Kitchen Ingredients

February 24, 2009

The ingredients I find myself using the most and keeping well stocked in our kitchen.  What are yours?

Fleur de Sal & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

I keep a small sack of fleur de sal by the stove for garnishing food. It has a lovely texture, less “chunky” than other sea salt. This Portuguese-harvested salt is a great substitute for the more expensive fleur de sel (from France). I don’t use it to season food while it’s cooking, but garnishing with this salt treats you to a textured and layered flavor that cannot be beat. As for pepper, I am pretty simple. I prefer freshly ground black pepper – I usually buy the Trader Joe’s brand with the built-in grinder. I have yet to invest in proper grinders for salt or pepper.

Fresh Italian Parsley

The fresh herb I use most often, after rosemary and sage. I buy it because it’s cheap and I tend to use it all before having to toss it. It can also be frozen and added to fresh chicken stock for flavor. It’s a simple garnish and has a subtle flavor that I enjoy.


If I could, I’d put garlic in everything. I think its flavor is so beautiful and delicious, and I love how it changes depending on how it is prepared. You can roast whole garlic cloves to spread on crackers or bread with cheese, shove cloves into meat for depth of flavor, infuse oils, add minced garlic to sautéed vegetables or simply toss a few cloves into a roasted dish. Garlic tastes delicious in every savory dish. I move through it like it’s no-body’s business.

Whole Dried Red Pepper & Flakes

Highly underestimated for their ability to add heat to a variety of dishes. I use dried red pepper in the form of flakes, powder or whole dried (which I will customarily toss into a dish while cooking and then remove – like a bay leaf).


Delicious! I buy lemons and/or limes on just about every other shopping trip. It’s weird, because I love citrus, but I don’t eat oranges. Lemon juice or zest, however, end up in a boat-load of my dishes. Sometimes I will squeeze the juice into the dish, but more often I will toss a few slices in for flavor. Zest adds a subtler flavor. Limes are, for the most part, used in cocktails, Pellegrino and Mexican food (grilled meats/vegetables and guacamole).


The pinnacle of hard, Italian cheeses. I buy it whenever I can afford it. Rinds are always saved for tossing into soups, which infuses them with a deep, rich flavor.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I recently read that unless you buy the right EVOO, you might as well be using vegetable oil insofar as the health benefits.  But, even though I can’t afford good quality EVOO, I still use it as I enjoy the flavor.  I buy a large bottle of the Trader Joe’s brand for general cooking and I love buying DeCecco oil as a bit of a splurge.


I use vinegars a lot, mostly for dressing salads.  Balsamic and rice vinegars are what I most commonly use, although my friend K was just telling me how much she loves Bittman-recommended sherry vinegar, so I might be giving that a try next.  Buying high-quality balsamic makes a HUGE difference, although I rarely do so.


I will throw nuts in any dish given the chance.  It drives David…..well, nuts.  I find that almonds are the most versatile, but I love using walnuts in salads and cashews in stir fries.  Slightly toasting nuts brings out their flavor, no need to buy flavored or candied nuts – they just add sugar.


Pasta is not my favorite starch but I do think it’s the most versatile of the non-perishables (rices, polenta, bulgar, etc etc).  I buy Barilla pasta when I find it on sale, penne is my favorite.  I avoid long pastas like fettuccine, as I think they are better when homemade (ditto with ravioli).

All Photos: Veer

Top Ten Kitchen Gadgets

February 23, 2009

I took it as a sign that I should write about my favorite kitchen gadgets when I saw this recent post over at The Kitchn.  I had been contemplating writing about what I use most in the kitchen, and it was the final push I needed.

We cook a lot, and while we do have some nice gadgets, most of our cookware is basic and moderately priced.

Victorinox Knives

David and I received a set of these knives two Christmases ago.  It’s a low to mid-range brand that has served us well thus far.  I use the paring and chef’s knives most often.  You can purchase the Victorinox chef’s knife at Amazon for $23.  It’s currently rated at 5 stars (with 263 reviews).

Cuisinart 14 Cup Food Processor

Everyone tells you it’s a must have for the home cook.  They’re right.  This was another Christmas gift, and while we don’t use it as often as we’d like, it’s wonderful to have around when we need to whip up pesto or blend soup.

Double-Blade Mezzuluna

I’m not quite sure how I lived without this.  It’s fantastic for chopping and mincing herbs (I use it mostly for parsley).  I prefer those with two blades and a double handle, as they are easier to control.

Ikea Cutting Boards

Ikea cutting boards are cheap and of decent quality.  I buy both the wooden and plastic boards.  The wooden boards are used for cutting vegetables and for displaying cheeses and other spreads during parties.


In my opinion this is a must-have item for home cooks.  Perfect for grating hard cheeses, citrus, ginger, cloves, etc etc.  A flat-surface microplane is multi-functional, but I prefer our rotary grater for cheeses.

Citrus Juicers

Here’s a story David never hears the end of.  My friend K brought me back this awesome metal hand-held citrus juicer from Costa Rica (or Mexico, I can’t remember – she travels a lot).  I LOVED it.  In the summertime, I make loads of tart, citrus-drenched cocktails, and this juicer was indispensable.  Then David broke it.  I was so upset.  It has been replaced with lemon and lime juicers (in citrus-coordinating colors, of course) that I picked up at Sur la Table.  But I still miss my old one, especially because I know it cost K under a buck.

Calphalon Nonstick Pans

This is a perfect example of a non-fancy item we use in the kitchen.  Cookware can be phenomenally expensive, and I know that we will someday replace our pans with lovely copper, cast iron or stainless steel pieces.  For now, these work just fine, especially considering that we don’t even have a gas range.  I find myself using the 12″ everyday pan most often.

Piral Terra Cotta Pot

This gets used more than our dutch oven, believe it or not.  It’s quite similar to the one shown except taller, and I got it for a steal at Sur la Table.  We use it often to make David’s famous, buttery rice pilaf.


I think I use these OXO tongs just as often as I use wooden spoons.

Expobar Espresso Machine

I’ve spoken of our espresso machine before, but it simply cannot be left out of a discussion of kitchen gadgets.  We use it at LEAST twice a day.  It’s our baby, and it’s a powerhouse.

Next up, my top 10 ingredients.

Salad For Lunch – Two Ways

January 25, 2009

I made some yummy salads this afternoon for David and I, again using what we had left in the fridge.  Both salads had grilled shrimp and toasted cashews, but aside from those two ingredients, they were quite different.

We had some large frozen shrimp which I flash-grilled in a sauté pan with lemon, onions, garlic and some Fresno pepper for heat.

David’s salad had mixed greens, cucumber and red pepper.  I tossed the grilled onions on top with a few shrimp and some cashews.

For my salad I wilted some spinach with a dash of wine, olive oil and fleur de sal.  I sliced some white mushrooms thin and tossed with a bit of rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and pepper.  I added these on top of the spinach and topped with a vinaigrette of walnut oil and balsamic.

All Photos: Penny

A Side Dish of Recession?

January 11, 2009

“The big hit this year will be charcuterie platters, Wolf says. Look out for dishes filled with items such as pates and cured meats. She also thinks bite-sized desserts will be popular and that Peruvian cuisine will become the next hot ethnic cuisine.”

Bonny Wolf, NPR’s Weekend Edition

Sounds…….cheap?  Methinks Bonny is a little disconnected from reality.

$100 Dinner Party Recipes

December 31, 2008

I am anticipating some requests for the recipes we used for our NYE dinner party.  I’ve decided to provide them all in a separate post, as the original post is so long.

Prime Rib Au Poivre

I found this recipe on Epicurious.  As I said, I’ve never made it, so I looked for the most basic and highly rated recipe on the site.  We followed this pretty closely, substituting shallots with onions and using brandy, as that’s what we had at the house.

Bitter Greens Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Apple with Walnut-Mustard Vinaigrette

I flew by the seat of my pants with this one, basing it on a salad from one of our favorite restaurants.  I like REALLY tart and light salad dressings.  If you are looking for a more detailed recipe, I recommend the Radicchio & Haricot Verts Salad with Candied Walnuts from Epicurious.  I made this for Thanksgiving and it was a hit.

For the salad at our NYE dinner, I used greens from our garden.  Mesclun, Red Leaf and Arugula.  The greens were quite bitter, something I personally do not enjoy, but everyone else loved it.  I toasted some walnuts under the broiler, and added some shaved carrots and sliced green apple.  For the dressing, I whisked together some walnut oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, S&P and a bit of sugar.  You can easily substitute the walnut oil with olive oil.  This salad would also be excellent with feta cheese.

Sautéed Green Beans with Almonds

This is a stand-by dish for me that is always popular.  I usually try to get Haricot Verts, which are essentially mini green beans.  David bought normal green beans and had gotten them ready before I got home, so he broke them in half.  Personally, I don’t suggest doing that :-)

Wash and green beans and blanch for one minute in boiling water.  Drain and reserve until ready to sauté.  Add a tablespoon of olive (or vegetable) oil to a skillet and toss in some green onions, sliced in half.  After a minute or so, add the beans and toss in a few slices of lemon.  Throw in a dash of dry white wine (from your glass, of course).  Add some almonds (sliced, chopped, whichever you prefer – or you can sub out with another nut, or omit) and continue to cook until they are browned.

Mashed Potatoes with Dill

I don’t really have any direction for this.  People tend to be VERY particular about how they prepare mashed potatoes.  My only tips are this:

  • After cooking the potatoes, drain and throw back on the stove top to cook off the water.
  • If using cream, milk or butter, warm it in a small saucepan before adding to potatoes.
  • Prepare before if possible, they are very easy to reheat.

I use a ricer.  For this dinner, I added a bunch of dried dill.  I put about 2 tablespoons of warm milk/cream/butter on the bottom of a dutch oven and threw the mashed potatoes in.  I added a bit more milk/cream and a pat of butter and covered.  When the meat came out, the potatoes went into the oven to rewarm.

Coffee/Orange Scented Chocolate Mousse

David made this and it was actually quite excellent for being lactose-free AND low in fat.  He got the recipe from his dad, an obsessive cook who catalogs countless recipes.  It is from Sunset magazine.

Serves 12

2 Packages Silken Tofu (Approx. 14 oz Apiece)
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
6 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa
2 Tablespoons Coffee-Flavored Liqueur
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
2 Tablespoons Grated Orange Peel
1 Package Reduced Fat Frozen Whipped Topping, Thawed
1 Tablespoon Miniature Semisweet Chocolate Baking Chips

  1. Rinse and drain tofu.  Press between think layers of paper towels to remove water.  Break each block into several pieces.  Blend tofu pieces with sugar, cocoa, liqueur, vanilla and orange peel in a food processor or blender until very smooth.
  2. In a bowl, combine tofu mixture with whipped topping and fold together.
  3. Refrigerate.

You can chill in the bowl or put the mousse into separate servings and chill, as David did.  The recipe calls for the chocolate chips to be sprinkled on top, but we used our micro-plane to grate.  We also added fresh whipped cream (for those of us not lactose-intolerant).

NOTE: You can substitute the coffee liqueur with 1 Tbsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 2 Tbsp hot water OR 2 Tbsp brewed espresso.

Now I am off to another dinner party – enjoy your New Year everyone!!

Soup January Is Almost Here!

December 30, 2008

Photo: Apartment Therapy (The Kitchn)

In November, during the craziness that was preparing for a group of 20 at Thanksgiving, David suggested Soup January. A month of soups! Initially, I thought it was a fantastic idea. I love soup, and cold, wintery January is an ideal month for soup making. But the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I became. I hate being nailed down and cooking is no exception. What if I craved falafel on January 18th? What if I just didn’t feel like involved soup-making?

I decided to get over it, and lay down some ground-rules to allow for a bit of flexibility. I also talked David into planning ahead for the month, so we wouldn’t be caught off-guard without ingredients.

Of course, I haven’t planned anything yet. I will do it during the long weekend. But I am open to suggestions! What are your favorite soup recipes?