Ginger Honey Salmon

salmon Baking is one of the easiest ways to cook salmon. It’s not complicated, and you don’t need to do much to make it delicious. Dress the fish with sauce, seasonings, or even just lemon juice, then pop it in the oven for a quarter of an hour and you have the basis of a fantastic meal.

This recipe has been in my cookbook from nearly the beginning, clipped from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sometime in the very early ’90s. I taped the recipe to the page next to a full-page clipping of six ways to serve lemon garnishes.

You need only a handful of ingredients for this. I served the salmon alongside jasmine rice and a side salad with a sesame-soy sauce dressing. Fresh minced cilantro makes a nice garnish, if you have some.

Serves 4

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. soy sauce
20 oz. salmon fillets
1/8 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat oven to 450F/230C degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, honey, ginger, and soy sauce.

Place the salmon on a foil-lined baking pan and spread half the honey mixture on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake 12 minutes per inch of thickness. Halfway through the cooking time, spread with the remaining honey mixture.

Creamy Chicken Pot Pie with Puff Pastry

 

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This is a deconstructed chicken pot pie, one that cooks on the stove and doesn’t need to be baked. You just let it simmer until the sauce thickens, and then it’s ready. The puff pastry is the only part that needs to go in the oven, and it’s a nice way to finish the dish, especially with the sprinkling of parsley on top.

The recipe is my version of one printed in Southern Living magazine a few years ago.

Serves 4
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 lbs.)
3 cups chicken stock
1 puff pastry sheet, thawed if frozen (1/2 of a 17.3-oz. package)
1 egg, lightly beaten
About 1 tsp. dried parsley
12 oz. frozen peas
3 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 large celery stalk, diagonally sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 4 cooked bacon slices, slightly crumbled

Preheat oven to 400F/200C degrees. Place chicken in a large pot with chicken stock and enough extra water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Turn off the heat, then remove the chicken and let cool. Reserve the cooking liquid.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Unroll the puff pastry sheet and place on parchment, then cut into four squares. Brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with parsley. Bake on bottom rack for 12-14 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden brown.

Cook peas according to package directions. Shred the cooled chicken and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery, and cook until carrots and celery are tender-crisp, about 8 minutes. Add the flour and stir constantly for 1 minute. Add the cream and 2 1/2 cups of reserved stock and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.

Stir in peas, cheese, and chicken and cook until mixture is thickened, about 10-20 minutes (watch carefully). Season with salt and pepper. Add bacon toward the end of cooking, if using.

Divide mixture among four shallow bowls (you may have some left over), then top each bowl with a square of puff pastry.

Mexican Sauce for Albondigas Tacos

20200310_124125It’s not often you can make a dish at home that tastes like it could have come from a restaurant. Complex flavors are hard to replicate, even with the tastiest homemade dishes. But this is one of those recipes that really does taste like it came from a professional kitchen.

It does take a long time to make, but it requires no special skills, and it’s worth it if you have an evening to devote to cooking. It will be the most special meatball tacos you’ve eaten in a while.

The recipe is adapted from Aaron Sanchez in the Food Network magazine. He provided his own recipe for the meatballs (the albondigas), but I used my own from the Sopa de Albondigas recipe. The only change I would make is replacing the rice in those meatballs with an equivalent amount of breadcrumbs, corn flour, or a mixture of the two. Bake the meatballs according to the recipe, then boil them for a further 10 minutes to fully cook them. You can make the albondigas while the sauce simmers.

Serve in warmed flour tortillas with crumbled queso fresco cheese and chopped cilantro (fresh coriander).

Serves 4-5

1 head of garlic
2 small/1 large plum tomato
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt
1/2 medium onion, quartered
1 Tbsp. chopped canned chipotles in adobo sauce, or substitute 1 Tbsp. chipotle salsa
1 Tbsp. shortening
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp. adobo seasoning
Freshly ground pepper

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat to 450F/230C degrees. Cut off the top of the head of garlic, then wrap in foil. Toss the tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzled with 1/2 Tbsp. oil and a pinch of salt. Toss the onion with the remaining olive oil on another baking sheet.

Roast the garlic, tomatoes, and onions, switching the pans halfway through, until the vegetables have softened and are browned in spots, about 45 minutes. (Remove any vegetables early if they’re getting too charred.)

Have a food processor ready. When the vegetables are done, squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins. Put half of them in the food processor, save two cloves for the albondigas, and save the rest for another use. Add the tomatoes, onion, and chipotles (or chipotle salsa) and puree, scraping down the sides as needed.

Reduce the oven temperature to 400F/200C degrees for the albondigas.

Melt the shortening in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the roasted vegetable puree and cook until reduced by half, about 8-10 minutes. Pour in the stock, reduce heat to medium, and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the butter and stir until melted, then add the adobo with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and keep warm while making the meatballs.

Serve with meatballs in slightly warmed flour tortillas, topped with the crumbled queso fresco and chopped cilantro.

Baked Rigatoni in Creamy Tomato Sauce

Rigatoni1The layers of homemade tomato-meat sauce, cheese, and easy, creamy bechamel come together to make a delicious baked pasta dish that could also be a good alternative to lasagna, if you’re looking for something different. The white bechamel has a bit of nutmeg and blends so nicely with the tomato sauce. And I always like when I can cook a creamy dish without any cream — it keeps things just a bit healthier.

You’ll have a few pots on the stove for this recipe, but if you prepare all of the ingredients before you start, you’ll find it comes together quickly.

The recipe comes from Valerie’s Kitchen and I’ve made just a few tweaks, mostly by increasing the amount of meat. The original recipe calls for beef, but I always cook with ground turkey, so I’ve included instructions for both. Serve this with a green vegetable on the side to round out your dinner — I served ours with delicious buttered spinach.

16 oz. rigatoni, cooked until barely al dente

For the sauce:
Olive oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey (or beef)
1 28-oz. can crushed Italian style tomatoes
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp. salt, or more to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup red wine
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

For the bechamel:
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup lowfat milk
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

For layering:
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved

Preheat oven to 350F/175C degrees. If you forgot to cook the rigatoni, do that now.

In a very large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic until fragrant. Add turkey and cook until browned. (If using beef, also drain off the grease.) Add remaining sauce ingredients and simmer while preparing the bechamel.

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in flour and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk in milk and nutmeg. Turn heat to medium and whisk and cook until smooth, thick and creamy. Remove from heat.

Add the pasta to the tomato-meat sauce and mix thoroughly.

In a 9×13-inch baking pan, layer half the pasta mixture, drizzle with half the bechamel, and top with half the cheeses. Repeat the layers. Bake 35 minutes, or until cheese is just starting to brown.

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Buttered Spinach

Spinach is one of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat, especially if you have it raw or slightly wilted, maybe in a salad or made into a spinach pesto. But sometimes you just want to splurge with your vegetables and dress them up a little. That’s what this recipe does, thanks to a generous amount of butter and some seasoning. You could even consider this to be comfort food that you can (kind of, at least) feel good about eating.

You’ll need spinach leaves, butter, salt, and onion powder.

Put some water in a pot, maybe an inch and a half or so. Fill the pot with roughly chopped spinach leaves. Put over high heat and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, pressing down the leaves and stirring them gently with a wooden spoon as you go, just until the leaves have fully boiled down. Turn off the heat. Keeping the spinach in the pot, drain the spinach over the sink by pressing out all the water with the spoon. Quickly put in a generous amount of butter, salt to taste, and a little bit of onion powder. Stir until the butter is melted, then serve.

Chicken Korma

kormaThis made-from-scratch curry will fill your kitchen with wonderful smells of fresh ginger, garlic, and onion. And it’s easy — it involves just some chopping, including with a food processor, and simmering in a pot. Make some basmati rice on the side and you have an amazing meal.

The recipe comes from the Food Network, which had it in their “Weeknight Cooking” section. That ought to tell you how simple it is to make. If you love a good curry, then try this and, as you enjoy bite after bite, be impressed by your cooking skills.

One note on the use of chicken thighs. Try to use them, and not chicken breast pieces, if you can. Thigh meat is much more tender when cooked and fits well with the creaminess of the sauce.

Serves 4

1 13.5-oz. can coconut milk (do not shake before using)
1 1/2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and quartered
1 Tbsp. curry powder (Madras curry if possible)
Salt and ground pepper
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic
2 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup basmati rice
8 oz. thin green beans, trimmed and halved
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (fresh coriander)

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Carefully open the can of coconut milk. The cream will be at the top. Scoop 1 tablespoon of the cream and place in a bowl with the chopped chicken, 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, and a big pinch each of salt and pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large, wide pot, lightly toast the almonds over medium-high heat. Occasionally move them around with a spoon as they toast. You’ll know they’re done when you can smell them and see them start to brown. Remove them to a small bowl and reserve the pot.

In a food processor, puree the onion, ginger, garlic, and half the almonds.

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Heat 2 more tablespoons of coconut cream in the reserved pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion puree and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is mostly dry, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken and remaining coconut cream and milk from the can. Cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, make the rice. Put 1 1/2 cups of water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Add the rice, lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and set a timer for 15 minutes. Check the rice once or twice during cooking and give it a stir.

In a bowl, place the green beans with a little water and microwave until bright green, about 2 minutes.

When the chicken and sauce is ready, add the green beans and half the cilantro. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve over rice, sprinkled with the remaining cilantro and almonds.

Chicken Gumbo

A delicious stew for an autumn day, and very easy to make.

It’s yet ANOTHER recipe I’ve had in my binder for ages. It’s from Parade magazine, the Sunday insert in many newspapers, and it was from the late Sheila Lukins, the magazine’s former food editor and famed author of “The Silver Palate Cookbook.”

That book, and her New York restaurant that inspired it, ushered in a new style of cooking in the late ’70s and early ’80s — one that emphasized flavors and seasonings and was still easy to make. Although this gumbo recipe was printed in the magazine much later, probably around 1995, it is still a great example of that kind of cooking.

I simplified the recipe even further, using rotisserie chicken instead of the chicken she laid out in the recipe. But I’ve included her original instructions for that below, in case you don’t have a rotisserie chicken or you want to make it all from scratch.

The only tough part was taking a nice picture of such a basic dish — gumbo may be delicious, but it’s not elegant — so I have no photo to share. But I hope you’ll try it and see for yourself how wonderful Lukins’ cooking was.

Serves 4

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 green bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups sliced okra, fresh or frozen
1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded*
14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, juice reserved
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Place oil in a large, heavy pot. Add celery, onion, peppers, and garlic; cook over low heat, stirring, for 10 minutes. Raise heat to medium, add okra and cook, stirring an additional 5 minutes.

Add chicken, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaf. Cover with reserved tomato juice, making sure that all chicken pieces are covered in liquid (if necessary, add a touch of water to ensure it’s covered).

Simmer over medium-low heat, partially covered, until chicken is thoroughly tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in half the parsley. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes longer. If gumbo begins to boil, reduce heat. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Garnish with remaining parsley. If desired, serve over hot rice.

*If not using a rotisserie chicken:
1 chicken, 2 1/2-3 lbs., cut into 8 pieces, wing tips removed
1 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. sweet paprika
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground pepper
Pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Preheat oven to 400F/200C degrees. Combine seasonings in a small bowl and rub over chicken pieces. Place chicken in shallow baking pan and bake for 15 minutes.

Fettuccine Alfredo

Simple, tasty, elegant, filling, and very much not healthy — but sometimes that’s a worthwhile tradeoff for an easy pasta dinner.

I had a recipe for this in my cookbook for years, but for some reason it stopped working for me. There was no creaminess and it didn’t mix well. This one I found recently on the Food Network site and it was perfect. My only addition is the garnish of fresh parsley.

I served this with small meatballs on the side.

Serves 6

1 lb. fettuccine noodles
1/2 cup (1 stick/110g) butter
1 cup heavy (double) cream
2 cups finely grated Parmesan
Handful fresh parsley, chopped

Start cooking pasta. In a small saucepan, warm butter and cream with a good amount of salt and pepper.

Put half of the cheese in a large bowl.

When pasta is about to finish, add the butter/cream mixture to the cheese in the bowl and mix well. Drain pasta and immediately pour into bowl. Toss well, then add the rest of the Parmesan. Toss to combine.

Garnish individual servings with parsley.

Stromboli

Stromboli2
A baked sandwich roll of pizza dough, marinara sauce, meat, and cheese, stromboli is an easy dinner idea that will make your kitchen smell delicious. Working with the pizza dough takes a bit of practice, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it. You can vary the meats and cheeses however you like. And if you’re feeding a crowd, just make two of these at the same time.

I learned the hard way that being a baker doesn’t necessarily mean you know pizza dough. The gluten makes it stubborn and stretching the dough requires patience. (You can’t be stubborn if the dough is, too.) The first night I tried to make this, I failed — I was so determined to get the dough into the shape I wanted that I pushed and pulled and ended up ripping the dough, which never got much bigger than the size I started with anyway.

The key, as I then learned, is to take the dough out of the fridge two hours before you need it and to take your time stretching it. Be gentle. Lay it down between stretches and return to it five minutes later. In a while, it will get to the size and shape you want.

Inspiration for this recipe came from Guy Fieri and Bon Appetit magazine. Amounts for the meat and cheese are approximate.

Serves 4

1 lb. refrigerated prepared pizza dough
Olive oil
3/4 cup marinara sauce, plus extra for dipping
2 cloves garlic, minced
Grated Parmesan
2 large spoonfuls basil pesto
3 oz. thinly sliced salami
3 oz. other thinly sliced deli meat, like ham or turkey
8 thin slices mozzarella
8 thin slices provolone

Remove pizza dough from refrigerator 2 hours before using.

The goal is to get the dough into a large rectangle, roughly 9 x 12 inches, or even slightly larger. With floured hands, start by flattening the ball of dough, then picking it up and holding it from the edges, moving your fingers around the circle, pausing for a few seconds each time to let gravity gently pull down the dough.

Set it down and wait 5 minutes before starting the stretching process again. You will need to do the stop-and-wait about 3 or 4 times before you achieve the right size. Be patient! At some point during the stretching process, turn the oven to 375F degrees.

As your dough stretches, keep in mind that you want it to become a rectangle. Stretch the dough as best you can into the rectangle shape.

When the dough is the right size, lay it on top of a large piece of parchment. (Work swiftly so the dough doesn’t decide to shrink again.) With one of the long edges closest to you, brush the dough with a little olive oil, then spread with marinara, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Top with minced garlic, Parmesan, and a ribbon of pesto going from one side to the other.

Cover the sauce with slices of meat (I had room for four rows lengthwise, 2 rows for salami and 2 for ham). Cover the meat with the cheese slices in the same way.

Starting with the end closest to you, roll it into a log, using the parchment paper to help you roll if needed. Gently pinch the sides together as you go. When you reach the end, gently press down on the seam and turn the log seam-side down on the parchment. Lift the parchment with the log on top onto a baking pan, then bake 25-30 minutes.

Let cool about 5 minutes, then use a serrated knife to cut into slices. Serve with some marinara sauce on the side for dipping.

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Thai Chicken Peanut Satay

This recipe came about because I found some Thai peanut satay sauce on sale at the store. I knew I wanted to serve it with chicken skewers, but I needed some ideas. Improvising with chicken is not something I’m good at.

There are many versions online. Lots of them were for grilled skewers, but I wanted to use the oven. Some used the peanut sauce for basting, but I wanted to use it for dipping. After a lot of searching, I found two chicken skewer recipes from the Food Network (their recipes always work for me!) that I combined to make a perfect easy dinner. One recipe gave me the idea to marinate and the other had the cooking instructions.

Here’s the result. I served this with sesame broccolini (trim stems on the diagonal, parboil, drain, drizzle with sesame oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds, serve hot.)

Serves 4

1 7-oz. jar Thai peanut satay sauce
2 1/2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Large handful of cilantro (fresh coriander)
12-14 long bamboo skewers

For the marinade:
1 Tbsp. hoisin sauce (I know it’s not Thai, but it worked)
1/2 cup lime juice
4 Tbsp. agave
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced

Whisk the marinade ingredients together and set aside.

Trim the chicken, then cut into strips. Length doesn’t matter too much, as long as they’re not more than 5 inches or so. You can always put two small strips together on a skewer. Don’t make them too wide — maybe between 1 and 1 1/2 inches.

Whisk the marinade again briefly, then pour into a large bowl. Add the chicken and let marinate 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.

Soak the bamboo skewers in water for 1 hour so they don’t burn in the oven. A good idea is to lay them in a rimmed baking pan (which you’ll use for the skewers later) and pour enough water on top to cover them.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C degrees. Remove the bamboo skewers from the pan, empty the water, and line the pan with a sheet of foil.

Thread the chicken strips onto the skewers, leaving space on one end for handling, as with a popsicle stick. Place them on the foil and bake for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through.

While they’re cooking, pinch off four cilantro sprigs, chop the rest, and set aside. Pour the satay sauce into small individual serving bowls and stick a cilantro sprig in each. Make the broccolini, if using.

To serve, stack all the skewers on a large plate and sprinkle the cilantro on top. Put the broccolini in a serving bowl. Place both on the table for everyone to help themselves.