Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Halibut with Capers, Basil, and Tomatoes

This is one of my favorite fish recipes. After my amazing dining experience at Trio last year (in Jackson Hole), I set out to find a halibut recipe similar to the one I had at the restaurant. Although this is not exactly the same, it is very similar and the flavor is amazing. This tastes like a restaurant quality dish, and when you've made it once, you realize how easy it is to put together. I suggest serving this with mashed potatoes or some crusty bread; the sauce it too good to throw out.

I've made this recipe many times, and have used different types of fish when halibut is not available. As much as I love halibut, it's the sauce that makes this dish so great. So if halibut isn't available where you live, just use a white fish that you enjoy. I've made this with red snapper and instead of cooking off the fish in the oven (snapper fillets are much thinner than halibut), I just made everything on the stove. I've also had difficulty finding pepitas sometimes, but I never miss them all that much when I don't have them (though some people disagree with me on that topic).

I've had to eyeball the measurements for this dish, or guess when I haven't had the recipe/internet available, and it has still been delicious every time. If you claim you don't like seafood, try this one. As long as you have good quality fish, there is no "fishiness" to this dish and you'll be able to enjoy the sauce without cringing. If you love seafood, my guess is you'll love this halibut (and maybe it'll become your favorite as well).

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Peanut Chicken Salad

Continuing with the summer food kick, I thought it would be a good idea to try out this chicken salad. This was another recommendation from my sister, and turned out to be a great summer dinner. It is nothing like a traditional salad, but I can't think of a better way to describe it. This salad is very filling since it's made up of mainly chicken, red peppers, and asparagus and can stand on it's own as a dinner meal.

I didn't have any sesame seeds around when I made this and did not feel like anything was missing. If you can't find split chicken breasts, you can use chicken thighs or regular chicken breast. I am also guessing that shredding a rotisserie chicken would be the easy way of making this dish. You can add a few extra vegetables to this without taking away from the flavor of the dressing. For example, adding another pepper or throwing in some sugar snap peas would be great additions to this salad.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Israeli Couscous with Peas and Asparagus

For some reason, I had never bough Israeli (also called pearl) couscous until a couple of days ago. If you've never tried it, I suggest you go out and buy some. I love the texture and flavor and am now hooked. I don't think I'll be buying traditional couscous for a while. These larger pieces of couscous make for a heartier meal, and you will notice the difference in this dish if you use regular couscous (it'll still be good, but not as delicious).

I went to the farmer's market over the weekend and picked up some fresh asparagus. I am loving all the produce available at the farmer's market and can't wait for even more fresh produce. Instead of making my usual summer asparagus (grilled with some olive oil and topped with Parmesan), I decided to make this recipe. My sister had tried it once before and loved the flavor combination, and since we like a lot of similar food, I took her word for it. This is a great summer meal or side dish. It's really light, and full of veggies, but does not come across as healthy tasting (maybe I'm crazy, but some things just taste healthy, and end up bland and boring). This also tastes great the next day if you don't eat it all at once.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Apple Chunk Cake

It's pretty common for me to bake something because there are fruits that need to be used up (or milk, or eggs, etc...). A lot of the recipes I discover come from a need to use up a specific ingredient. This is what led to me baking this apple cake. Once summer fruit is in season, I don't want to eat apples until every last stone fruit in the markets has been consumed. So having 7 apples hanging out in the fruit bowl day after day only meant one thing: this apple cake needed to be baked.

Although the flavors in this cake make it more of an autumn/winter combination, I still love it year round. The first time I baked this was for Thanksgiving (I don't like pumpkin pie, so I'll make sure there are a few other options on the dessert table), but it's just as good in 80º weather. My only suggestion would be to cut your apples smaller than I did. The cake is very delicate and can fall apart easily with the larger pieces of apples inside of it. My guess is smaller apple chunks might help with that, but apparently I forgot this detail from the last time I baked this. The cake itself is moist and has a subtle cinnamon flavor, and it stays moist even after slicing into it (it's day 3 and I'm still snacking on it).

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Baked Wrapped Tilapia

Summer is in full swing and I am loving it. I went for my first hike of the season today and am so glad there are sunny blue skies when I wake up in the morning. Along with this weather comes the change in food. For some reason, I tend to eat more seafood during the summer. I'm guessing because it's not very heavy and I usually eat smaller portions when I have fish, but who really knows. This is one of the many great fish recipes you should give a try this summer.

This recipe, which can be made with any firm white fish, has a refreshing flavor, thanks to the cilantro and scallions. It includes lots of flavors that I love in summer seafood dishes: ginger, cilantro, and soy sauce. In the original recipe, the tilapia gets cooked in a banana leaf, but aluminum foil will do the job (though it won't look as exotic). This recipe can withstand lots of creativity by the cook, so play around with the flavors if you see something you don't like. I didn't end up using the chile or fish sauce, and it was great. It will take no time at all to prepare the fish and just 20 minutes to bake it, so it's a great last minute meal.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beer Bread

When I got to my sister's house last week, she told me to help get rid of the beer in her fridge. While there's a nice stash of micro brews and other tasty beers, there were also a couple cans of Bud Light floating around. I used to think Bud Light was great when I was in college, and still for a while afterward. But after I opened up one of the cans, I realized that I'm getting old. I have crossed over from being a Bud fan to thinking it tastes pretty average. Since just drinking Bud Light was no longer sounding like a good idea, beer bread was the next best option.

I'd never tried this recipe before, but this bread is so easy and good. I often avoid making breads because I usually waste hours in the kitchen with an end result that is dense and inedible, but anyone can make this one. You just mix beer into your sifted dry ingredients, cover with some butter, and wait. One hour later you have homemade bread. The melted butter makes the top of the bread crunchy while the inside and bottom are softer. This bread is still denser than something like a baguette, but considering how simple and quick it is, this is now my go to homemade bread.

The flavor of this bread changes with every bite. Sometimes you taste a slight sweetness from the sugar. Other times you'll notice a bit of salt, or the butter. I baked this yesterday afternoon and now there is only a 1 inch slice left. We all loved this bread and kept walking back to the kitchen to cut off another slice. Have it warm out of the over or spread some butter on top, you'll enjoy the (minimal) effort you put into making this.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Asian Grilled Salmon

When I was searching for a grilled salmon recipe a couple days ago, this is the first one that I came across. I kept looking around and read lots of others, but came back to this one. It uses really basic ingredients, and aside from the salmon, I usually have everything else in my kitchen (or whichever kitchen I may be cooking in). I also tend to have luck with Ina Garten recipes and love the food she creates.

This salmon comes together really quickly for a last minute meal. The marinade is a great combination of flavors that makes this salmon stand out from other fast and easy salmon recipes. It tastes like it would have taken much more time to put this together, but all you need are 20 minutes (including grill time). I made this with a salad and some grilled corn for a perfect summertime dinner. You can serve this with extra marinade on top or just the way it is from the grill. Either way, it is delicious, flavorful and definitely worth your time.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Everyday Blueberry Cake

My sister introduced me to this cake recipe a few days ago. It's a really easy everyday cake with simple ingredients and you can use whatever kind of berry you like on top. The other day there were some blueberries sitting in the fridge that no longer looked appealing to snack on, so this cake was the perfect solution. Even though it is in the 80s outside and turning on an oven makes the kitchen feel like a sauna, this cake is well worth it.

What makes this cake stand out from other everyday cakes is the sprinkle of sugar on top. This extra little crunch is a welcomed addition to an otherwise soft and moist cake. I also like that this cake is made with regular milk, which I always have around, as opposed to sour cream, yogurt or buttermilk. I realize I could make buttermilk, but sometimes I am lazy and one minor inconvenience will stop me from doing something. Luckily there was no stopping this cake from being made. My sister had tried this recipe before with strawberries, and also loved that variation (apparently they get a jam-like consistency when baked).

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mediterranean Style Quinoa Salad

Quinoa salads are such a great summertime meal or side dish. They're really filling, healthy, and can be made to suit your flavor preferences. Ever since I was little, I have loved Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. If I had to live off of one style of food the rest of my life, that's what I'd choose. My sister thinks I'm weird sometimes because I like sliced cucumbers and tomatoes for breakfast. I generally prefer them over lots of breakfast foods, like danishes and muffins. I've always enjoyed almost all veggies and fruits, which is probably why I like so many different types of salads.

Now that I'm in Denver and enjoying the 80º+ weather, it's time to start enjoying summer food and eating dinner outdoors. I came up with this quinoa salad the other night after deciding I felt like having something with feta cheese and olives. It was really easy to put this together, to the point where I wondered if I should even put up this post. But, since most people I know prefer quick and easy dishes over something complicated, I figured someone might enjoy it. My sister and I had some grilled portobello mushrooms along with this salad and called it a meal. As with many of the foods I make, your can easily change this salad to suit your taste buds.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mailänderli (Swiss Lemon Butter Cookie)

Mailänderli are typically a Christmas cookie in Switzerland, but that has never made much sense to me. They're buttery, lemony, and don't have any "Christmas" flavors in them (no cinnamon, allspice, ginger, etc...). My mom has always made them year round and I've come to consider them more of a shortbread alternative. I actually forgot they were meant to be a Christmas cookie until I found the original recipe link and read the description there.

These are the perfect cookie to have with tea or coffee. They're crispy and make a great dunking device. What I love about these is the lemon flavor. I find most traditional shortbread cookies kind of boring, but the lemon zest and heavy dose of butter in these makes for a great flavor combination.

This dough makes LOTS of cookies. I ended up with over 5 dozen, but it's really hard to gauge how many average sized cookie this dough would make since mine were all bizarre shapes and sizes. I especially loved the bite sized mini cookies I baked. They vanished within they first day since they were so easy to snack on every time I walked by the kitchen. If you don't want tons of cookies, feel free to cut this recipe in half. Otherwise you can roll out your cookies and freeze the ones you don't want to bake right away. Just make sure to add a little more baking time if you take the cookies out of the freezer.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cheese Bourekas

Every now and then, I go on a meat strike. I love meat, but if I have it too many days in a row, I need a break and turn into a vegetarian for a few days (sometime longer). This past weeks was meat intensive. First there was a veal roast, then the Japanese stir fry, followed by a chicken dish. I needed a break from the carnivorous life and bourekas were the prefect meal. It's still cloudy and cool here, so having something warm and comforting was just what I wanted.

Since bourekas themselves aren't really healthy, and are more of a side dish/starter than a main meal, I like having lots of salads to go with them. Usually I make a leafy green salad and an Israeli salad, along with some hard boiled eggs, and call it a meal. There are tons of different variations for making bourekas, but these are simple, easy, and really good. These also freeze really well, so if you find yourself with too many bourekas, feel free to put them in the freeze with the egg wash already on them. All you have to do the next time is throw them in the oven.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Japanese Style Stir Fry

This recipe is another oldie but goodie. It's been in circulation for over 32 years (yes, that's longer than I have been alive). My mom picked up the recipe when she worked in a printing and lithography studio. Apparently my mom and her coworkers used to smuggle food into the dark room so their bosses wouldn't catch them with their constant feasts. This recipe is one of the many dark room dishes that was created back in the day. Her coworker brought a portable wok to work one day and cooked everyone a Japanese inspired dish. It was such a success that we are still making, and enjoying, this meal decades later.

What I love about this stir fry is that it is really healthy, even though it was created before knowledge about health food became more widespread (think of common late 70s food: deviled eggs, pigs in a blanket, quiche, ranch dressing). Almost all of the flavor comes from the marinated meat, so make sure you leave plenty of time for that step. The veggies can be switched up easily, but I love this combination. The celery seems odd at first, but somehow it works.

This stir fry always leaves me with plenty of leftovers, but it is still great the next day. I serve this over basmati rice (it is my favorite rice and gets used for everything) that is cooked in chicken broth. This way there is flavor in the rice as well as the stir fry. However, you can really put this over just about any grain. There isn't tons of sauce in this stir fry, so it you're looking for something that has lots of extra juices to pour over your rice, you can double the marinade.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lentil Soup

Believe it or not, it's soup weather in Southern California. It's cloudy and 60ºF here, which many people would consider alright or pretty nice (especially anyone living in the Lake Tahoe area), but not when you have absolutely no cold tolerance. Seriously, I have none. I'm at the point where it gets embarrassing because my lips turn blue/purple in the cold and strangers think I am dying or need medical care. So in my book, 60º warrants a nice bowl of soup.

One of the easiest soups to make is this lentil soups. The ingredients are simple, it's budget friendly, and the flavor gets better by the day. This is another one of those recipes that you don't need to take too seriously. If you add a few more ingredients or swap out dried for fresh herbs, it will still be good. What I love about this soup is that it's really filling and hearty, but it's healthy and (almost) vegetarian. I prefer the flavor of chicken broth, but use vegetable broth instead if you want to keep it completely vegetarian. Serve this with a loaf of crusty bread and you'll be set for dinner (or lunch). If you don't own an immersion blender or food processor, the texture won't be as creamy, but the flavor will still be great.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Israeli Kabobs

When I was a kid, these kabobs were a typical dinner on a hot summer night. They're made very quickly and have enough flavor to please adults, but aren't too strong to put off the kids. My mom got this recipe years ago from a family friend when she was first learning all about Israeli and Middle Eastern food. The only change that has occurred over time is adding more spice to it. And don't worry, if spicy is not your things, just remove the jalapeno and cut back the red pepper flakes.

Decades later, this recipe is still loved and one of my go to "what should I do with this ground beef?" recipes. Sometimes I buy ground meat and have no clue what I want to make with it. The days when my brain doesn't feel like working, I make these. You can use different types of ground meats with this kabob recipe if your don't have ground beef. I've tried it with ground turkey and chicken and both have been a success. If you don't have a food processor, just finely chop all the herbs, onion, garlic, etc... These can be changed to your flavor preferences very easily, so don't hesitate to skip or add ingredients (just make sure you add the egg and breadcrumbs, or they tend to fall apart). These are great on their own, but can sometimes dry out a bit if you have them as leftovers more than once. When that happens, I love dipping the kabobs in ketchup since they are sort of like an oddly shaped, well seasoned hamburger.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Blackberry Coffee Cake

A coffee cake made well can be dangerously addictive, but oftentimes they turn out flavorless and dry. When I came across this variations, I knew I wanted to bake it since I'd never tried a coffee cake with blackberries or a cream cheese layer. I also have loved every recipe I've made from, so I was optimistic. This coffee cake was everything I hoped it would be. Moist, flavorful, and crowd pleasing.

The first time I made this cake, I had all the layers poured into the spring form pan and just as I was about to put the cake into the oven, the spring form fell apart and the batter went all over the counter. After a few rounds of cussing and throwing the broken spring form into the garbage, I found a different spring form, scooped up the batter and berries from the counter, and dumped them into the form. I made a new crumble topping and figured I might as well see if I could save it. The batter tasted delicious, so I had high hopes, even for this reject variation. Believe it or not, this version of the cake still tasted great (this is the cake in the photo above since the other was eaten before a picture could be taken). I made a nicer version a few days later for my mother's book club and it was a hit. If you think you hate coffee cakes and find them bland, this one will quickly change your mind.
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