Saturday, December 26, 2015

Citrus Baked Salmon with Pomegranate



I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday season.  We celebrate Christmas and had family in town.  Now we are trying to justify our food choices and figure out a plan of action.  This dish is on the menu for the week.

If you know a thing or two about Oregon then you know that Oregonians love their salmon.  Our home sits on a bay.  When the weather is good you will find many fishermen up early trying to land a popular Chinook Salmon.

Driving around you will see these said fishermen piled into flat boats all fishing in the same place.  Seriously, you will see 8-10 boats all together with their lines out.  Sometimes you mights see 30 or 40 fishing boats in one spot.  It's a sight to see and during PEAK season--good luck finding parking to even get your boat in the water.

Personally I don't have that kind of desire to hunt fish with a community effort. If we go, I prefer sitting by a quiet creek with little to no foot traffic or boats by the dozen.

We have yet to catch our own salmon.  Cory bought the gear and has tried a few times with his brother from the shore but without a boat I hear it can be tough. Eventually we may have to get a boat.  Although with the amount of rain we might be building an ark soon.

For now I get our salmon like most people do.  At the store.  I try to buy the freshest pieces I can.  Again, this is not hard in my area because we live in a fishing community and I go to the boat and buy it from the mornings catch.  Yes, we are spoiled that way.

If you read my blog, then you know that we don't eat much meat.  We do eat fish on occasion.  Let me explain.  Our not eating meat has nothing to do with animal cruelty.  I am opposed to inhumane conditions of these factory farms that are horrible to their animals.  I don't buy from these places when we do eat meat.  I try to shop locally from sustainable LOCAL farmers and fishermen.  I know the people who are raising the little meat that we do eat.    For me, it is a protein issue.  My body does not like animal protein.  I am able to eat fish without any visible or noticeable issues.  

For this recipe I wanted to try and experiment with spices and herbs.  I went with a coconut and orange juice bath with slices of oranges and lemons.  I added whole anise and cinnamon sticks while the fish was baking.  I also seasoned with salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, and onion salt.  Use any spices you want.  My thinking was to go with flavors that I thought went well together: orange and cinnamon.  These two flavors remind me of winter.  

It's winter.  It's cold.  We had salmon.  Simple stuff Maynard.



Citrus Baked Salmon with Pomegranate 

1 large filet of salmon, this piece measured about 15 inches long
2 oranges (1 for juice and 1 slices to bake with fish)
1 lemon, sliced
1/2 pomegranate, seeds only
2 whole anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 can of full fat coconut milk
2 teaspoons curry powder
salt, pepper to taste
garlic powder
onion powder
fresh thyme, minced

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Oil a baking dish.  Lay filet in the bottom of baking dish.

2.  Add all of the ingredients (except the pomegranate seeds).  The fat from the coconut milk I scooped on top (see picture above) and poured the liquid in the bottom of the dish.  I seasoned the fish by sprinkling said spices across the top. I don't have a heavy hand and never measure this method. I use it for all of my fish dishes.  It works for us.

3.  Lay the slices of lemon and orange across the salmon.  I added the juice from one orange to the coconut milk--notice the orange color when baked--to add flavor and to extend the broth.

4.  Bake fish until flaky.  Salmon cooks fairly fast.  I usually check it after 15 minutes.  Each oven is different so keep that in mind.

5.  We serve the salmon in steaks over rice and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds for color and flavor.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Toasted Cashews


Are you going nuts yet?  Only a few more days before Christmas.  My house is a buzz with anxious adults and strung out kids.  They are way too excited this year.  The two year old is figuring things out pretty fast and the 8 year old is keeping her promise to not sleep much until Christmas day.  Send wine!

Our family eats a lot of nuts.  Even as a kid, I loved nuts.  One memory I have from my childhood are the bowls of nuts my grandparents had sitting around their home during the Christmas season.  They had the nut crackers and those thin picks.  Oh the piles of shells.  They were everywhere.  The grown ups from my childhood didn't know how to get up and throw the piles of shells away. I guess the Elf on the Shelf did that.

I tried the whole nut thing with my family and they did not care for it. Honestly I think it was too messy for their liking.  It's kind of like eating crab. My kids love it as long as I pick the meat out for them.  LOL

This is how we do holiday nuts in our house.  I have been toasting my own nuts for about 5 years.  The process is simple and I don't get too fancy but you can if you like.  I use my cast iron pans because it evenly heats the whole pan and they just turn out better each time I make them than when I use any other pan.


I buy my nuts raw and in a 25 pound bag. I store them in the freezer.  It takes us about 4-6 months to use them up and I find that they may go bad if I keep them in a drawer.  I toast them from a frozen state and have not had any problems with them turning out.

I use vegetable oil because olive oil can be too strong for my family and their taste buds.  I use flake salt to season them with after toasting.  I store them in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.  Honestly they rarely go this long because we add them to almost all of our salads and curry's.  

If I had to describe a toasted cashew it would be nutty creaminess.  The combination of the toasted outside combined with the sweet center is the perfect snack in my opinion.


Toasted Cashews 

2 cups of raw cashews, whole or halved
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt to taste

1.  Preheat a cast iron pan and add oil. Heat oil and toss cashews in.  Stir with a wooden spoon until nuts are brown on both sides.  Remove from heat to a paper towel and sprinkle with salt.

NOTE: Nuts will firm up once they are cool.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Free Form Rustic Tart with Berries



Yay, I finally found a pie I can make successfully.  What?  This isn't a pie--but, the crust is flaky and it has a fruit filling.   For me, this is pie at our house.

Confession time--I am the worst pie maker ever!  Have you ever noticed that I don't post pies during "pie season"?  It's not my thing.  It's my sister-n-law Amy's thing. She makes the best pies.

I make this instead.  Remember my blog is Simply Gourmet and I like to keep things simple.  This is simple because you roll it out flat, toss in your fruit, crimp the edges, and bake.

TA-DA--you have a Free Form Rustic Tart, a Galette or, in my case, a pseudo pie.

More than likely you will be covering it in whipped cream or ice cream anyways.

We like our version and my kids never complain except when the last piece is going out of the kitchen on someone else's plate.  Usually Dads!  HA HA HA






 

If you are hoping for a "fancy" recipe you won't find it here.  This is too simple for a formal recipe.  Here is what you do:

1.  Use your favorite pie crust recipe.  You know the one that has been handed down for generations and generations--yeah, that one.  If you don't have that recipe handy, then try this one here. It is my go to pie crust because the one I was given by my grandma... I can't make.  #terriblepiemakerremember

2.  Round up your fruit and some sugar.  I recommend trying your fruit first.  If it is sweet then only add a little bit of sugar...BUT...and this is huge, if your fruit is sour and tart and that is NOT what you are going for, THEN, just add the damn sugar.  It's a tart-pie-thingy.  A little sugar won't hurt.  I "PUCKERED" my family once with a super tart Tart and they were not happy.  Taste your fruit!

3.  Buy or make a whipped topping or ice cream.  It really does add to the experience as it melts over the fruit and down the sides of the tart to pool under each slice of deliciousness.  Trust me. 


Then make your daughter pose for a bunch of pictures on the day that she is waiting to here back about a job, her RX at the pharmacy is delayed and she has a cold from hell---promise her this pie-tart-thingy--and all is good.

The holidays are busy and can be stressful.  This dessert is simple. It looks gorgeous and whips together in no time. In fact, you can make it the day before and reheat it up in the oven.  How about that?

Let's make this thing.

Preheat your oven to 400, roll out your pie crust on parchment paper, transfer to a cookie sheet or round stone, add your fruit combined with sugar to taste (+plus 1 tablespoon corn starch), fold up the edges (see pictures) and bake.  My oven took 35-40 minutes.  I would check after 30 and then add more time as needed.

NOTE:  I used fresh fruit: raspberries, blueberries and slices of orange.  I have not made this with frozen fruit before.





Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ramen



Ramen rules the roost in our house.  I bet we make it twice a week. It is a dish everyone in our family will like and slurp up.  I rarely hear grunts, moans or words of displeasure of what we are having for lunch or dinner on these nights.

Our recipe for this dish is simple.  We use Japanese ramen noodles that I buy from Mai's (our local asian store in town) and use a vegetable broth seasoned with Tamari Sauce (gluten free soy sauce).  I have also thrown in a spoonful of miso soup base for added flavor. We include carrots, green onion, red onion and mushrooms.  We have also added: zucchini, hard boiled eggs, meat (if our guest eat meat), and celery.

Honestly, you can add anything you want to your ramen bowl.  The broth is a blank canvas and you can fill it up with what your family enjoys.  Make it your own. This is just what we do because its quick and makes the kids happy.  The kids don't want fancy or sophisticated.  It took me a while to figure this out but I am finally catching on to this whole parenting thing....kind of.

In fact, we eat ramen so much in our house during these cold and rainy days that I invested in a set of Ramen bowls.  I love them.  I tried to buy them all a bit different. I love how they all work together with their own vibrant patterns showing off their own ramen noodles.  I paid about $14.00 a piece for them.  I have no idea if this is a good deal or not...but, they have been used a ton in the last month we have owned them.

A few weeks ago Cory brought home a selection of ramen noodles.  I am not talking about the prepackaged/all in one ramen noodles that sell for 5/1.00.  These are ramen noodles sold like Italian pasta noodles.  We tried fresh, frozen and dried.  They were from 5 different countries.  To be honest, the differences were minor but we kept going back to the Japanese brand as our favorite.  The taste and texture fit with what our expectation of a ramen noodle should be like.

The kids could care less...they just want ramen noodles.

The Japanese ramen noodles were the most expensive so beware of price.  They all have different price points and different ingredients.  Some were made with 2 ingredients and others had 5-6.  If this is important to you then read the labels.

Ramen
This is enough for 4 bowls.  The amounts will vary based on how many bowls you are preparing.  We usually plan on one cup of broth per bowl.  People are here for the noodles..LOL

4 cups of broth-vegetable, beef, or chicken
1-2 tablespoons of Tamari or Soy Sauce
1/4 cup of sliced red onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup green onion
1/4 cup sliced carrots
1/5 cup sliced mushrooms

optional additions are: meat, hard boiled egg, zucchini, or what ever you want

1.  Cut vegetables into small slices, dices or pieces.  Add to broth.

2.  Heat broth to very hot.  We never boil the broth.  Keep broth very hot until vegetables are tender.

3. In a separate pot bring desired amount of water to a boil (see noodle instructions).  Add noodles and cook.  Drain and add to individual bowls.  Our noodles take about 6 minutes to cook.

4.  Add broth and veggies to noodles.  Add any other toppings to your ramen bowl. Serve.

This is a version where we used larger rice noodles and added fresh cilantro.  Keepin' it different!





Friday, December 11, 2015

Chinese Tofu Salad with Cashews



Cory and I used to make Chinese Chicken Salad all the time.  You may remember, it was the salad with Top Ramen added and sometimes served with chicken.  Since we are staying away from a lot of process food the Top Ramen is out.  We also have cut back on our meat.  Cabbage salad sounded boring.  I took the initiative to mix and match my ingredients to come up with a new version for our family and renamed it Chinese Tofu Salad.

It's not exactly like the salad we used to make but it had familiar notes to it.  I think he liked it because he went back for seconds and then thirds.

I used the Fried Tofu from Tuesdays recipe to top our salad.  I like warm protein on my salads.  The process of making fried tofu is in Tuesdays blog post. It is simple and creates a nice warm element to this salad.  

I also toasted sesame seeds and cashews.  The fried tofu, toasted sesame seeds and cashews create a party in your mouth.  The different flavor profiles with the simple dressing explode with flavor and freshness. 


Chinese Tofu Salad with Cashews and Sesame Seeds

1/2 head of cabbage, cut any way you like
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup toasted cashews
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
2 stalks of celery, sliced thin
green onion for garnish on top
Fried Tofu-optional (see post for instructions on how to make)

Dressing:

3 tablespoons rice wine
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
3-5 drops of sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1-2 teaspoons sugar or coconut sugar

1.  Mix salad ingredients together.

2.  Combine dressing ingredients together.  Taste to make sure it is balanced correctly. Adjust with more rice wine, soy sauce or sugar.

3.  Pour dressing over salad and toss.  Add tofu to individual plates of salad. Garnish with green onion pieces.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tofu and Red Onion Salad


I really wanted to name this salad Finnley's Favorite Salad in the Entire World but I think it might be a bit too long.  The girl loves red onions in rice vinegar.

We first had this salad a few weeks ago at our local Japanese restaurant.  I wasn't really sure what I was ordering but I knew that I liked tofu and red onions.  What could there be to not like? NOTHING!  It was delicious and Cory barely got any of it.

When we got home I knew that this needed to be added to our monthly menu line up.  To be honest the tofu freaked me out.  I had no idea what I was doing when it came to frying tofu and set out on a mission to dig a little deeper.  I own several cookbooks that helped me to figure it out.  


The method that I am using in this recipe is by far my favorite because its a simple process of heating up some oil, tossing the cubes of tofu in a starch and frying until golden brown.  I experimented with deep frying the pieces and it was messy and my tofu was a bit oily.  I think I am not set up to deep fry in my home kitchen and I will let the restaurants tend to that process.  I might need to invest in a Fry Daddy, but again, the pan fried method worked for us.  

The tofu was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside--perfect!


I fry up a whole block of extra firm tofu because it reheats well for other dishes. I also used it in the recipe coming out on Friday for my Asian Tofu Salad with cashews and toasted sesame seeds.

A few weeks ago we had company and I threw this together in a very short amount of time.  My brother-n-law and sister-n-law thought the salad was a success.

During the photo shoot, Finnley, could not hold back.  She sat right down and started helping herself to her salad.  She was too cute to say no and so I continued shooting and she continued to eat. I love the picture above with her cute feet straddling her salad.  She is growing up too fast and these little moments remind me of that.

Below I will show you step by step how I prepare the tofu to fry.  The salad starts with four simple ingredients: red onion, rice vinegar, salt and pepper.


Tofu and Red Onion Salad

1/2 red onion, sliced very thin
1-3 tablespoon rice vinegar, depends on amount of onion used
salt and pepper
1 block of extra firm tofu
oil for frying
starch for coating

1.  30 minutes before you make your salad prepare the tofu.  See the images below to help you with this step.  Also cut the red onion and add the salt, pepper and rice vinegar.

2.  After 30 minutes, cut tofu into slices and then small pieces.  Toss in starch of your choice (corn, arrowroot, potato).

3.  Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of  a skillet.  Add tofu pieces one at a time.  They might clump together if you toss them all in at once.

4.  Fry on each side until golden brown and remove to a cookie rack until ready to add to the red onion.

5.  Top red onion salad with warm tofu and serve.

TOFU Instructions
This is how I remove the excess water from my tofu.  I wrap it in a dish towel and add something heavy to the top of it.  The dish towel will absorb the extra water and create a more dense block of tofu for frying.


I slice the tofu into 1/2 widths.

I then take each slice and make it 6 pieces.

Heat my oil, and add each piece one at a time.  

Let get golden brown on each side. Remove to cookie rack.



Friday, December 4, 2015

Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon


I first had this salad in June of this past year.  We were leaving Maryland and our friends had invited us over for a goodbye luncheon.  Natasha served this salad with a few others.  THIS SALAD is amazing!

I have tweaked it a bit from her original recipe, but let me tell ya, I make this salad for every guest that comes to our home....AND?  They love it.  I think love may not be a strong enough word.  People are shocked to be eating Swiss Chard. Most of them have never had Swiss Chard and instantly fall in love with the texture and flavor.  It's hardier than a regular green salad.

I believe what makes this salad so beloved is its simplicity.  The combination of lemon, bread crumbs (Panko in the picture above) and olive oil riles up their taste buds.  The balanced dressing makes you notice how perfect a salad can with a few ingredients.

Everything we make doesn't have to be fancy to be good.


I find Swiss Chard year round where I live.  This particle variety is called Rainbow Swiss Chard.  The stems are different colors.  I personally don't include the stems in the salad. I use a small pairing knife and trim the stem out of each leaf.  I find the stem to be tough.

I toast the Panko crumbs in a dry cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  They turn a nice golden brown. I have also used croutons that I make up ahead of time from old bread.  I crush them in a bag and toast them like the Panko crumbs.  If you are gluten free either omit the bread crumbs all together or use a gluten free variety.

If you use cheese, then I would recommend a nice strong Parmesan to finish this salad.   I also have friends that add bacon.  We don't add bacon because we don't eat it but if you do....then go for it.  


This salad stores in the refrigerator well.  I have heated it up the next day for a few seconds in the microwave with excellent results.  The bread crumbs/Panko crumbs get a little soggy but this does not bother me.


I live across the street from a beautiful bay along the Oregon Coast.  We often see bald eagles flying and nesting in the area.  On the day that I shot the pictures for this piece I turned and looked out the window to see a bald eagle fishing right in front of me.  I had no time to get a stronger lens so I used what I had.  I captured this image below.  I tell you, the excitement and thrill that pulsed through my veins to watch this spectacular bird in its natural habit and so close to my house...was incredible.


Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon

1 bunch of Swiss Chard, with the stems removed
1 lemon, juice only
1/4 cup olive oil,  add more as needed
1 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded finely
1 cup of toasted bread crumbs or Panko crumbs
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon minced red onion
Bacon--optional and use what you like

1.  Slice the swiss chard leaves into bite size pieces.  In a bowl add all of the ingredients and toss.

2.  Taste the salad and adjust to your taste buds.  We like ours tart so I add more lemon usually.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Salsa Verde



It's the holiday season and we are so excited in my house.  The tree is up and the decorations are out.  This is our first year in the beach house and we are settling in and starting new traditions.

I am sharing one of our favorite recipes this time of year.  In my mind I was under the assumption that Salsa Verde is a summer thing.  Well, in Oregon it's an all year round thing.

I can buy the ingredients at my local Fred Meyer and this brings a bit of freshness into our gray and winter months here at the beach.  We have seen so much rain.  One night we had 2.5 inches.  A LOT OF RAIN is in our forecast and this bright salsa is an easy way to add color to our plates and lives.


Each time I make Salsa Verde it disappears from the fridge.  My kids eat it as an after school or late night snack with chips.  My favorite is to drizzle it over my nachos with some fresh red salsa and cilantro.  I also make vegan burritos and use it as the sauce. 

I have noticed that if I use the smaller tomatillo's that it can be a bit tart.  We like this about the salsa but some people find it too strong.  I have used the tomatillos raw but I usually try to roast them or toss them in my cast iron pan for a few minutes.  This helps to round out the flavor and tartness.




You may have noticed that my recipes have become simpler.  We are still eating mostly vegetables, fruits, nuts and less meat.  It's been an easy transition and we love getting creative with the rainbow of fruits and vegetables at our local grocery store and Farmer Market.  I find I don't need long recipes to make delicious food for most of our meals.

I also notice that much of our cooking is using the "a little of this and a little of that" mentality.   If my recipes seem to not offer a lot of instruction its because they depend more on your taste buds and personal preferences than on following a recipe that is set in stone.  I want you to think about what you are cooking, taste your food, learn what you like, and learn about the ingredients you are working with.  

I hope you enjoy this bright, tart salsa this time of year.

Salsa Verde 
Makes about 2 cups

8-10 Tomatillos, raw or roasted
1/2 bunch of cilantro
1/4 cut onion
1 jalapeno--optional
salt to taste
lime juice to taste--optional
1 clove minced garlic

avocado--If you want a creamy version, this is a great way to use up a very ripe avocado.

1.  Roast the tomatillos on stove top with a little bit of oil or in a very hot oven for 10 minutes.

2.  Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor.

3.  Taste and adjust flavors: add more lime, jalapeno, cilantro, or salt as needed.

4. Store in refrigerator.

Sifting Through Life: Stand Up

"If  you stand  for nothing, Burr, what'll  you   fall for?" from Hamilton . This quote speaks volumes to me.  What ...