Friday, April 22, 2005


This recipe had great potential, but it didn't quite deliver. It tasted good enough, though, and I think that once I perfect the execution, it could be great. I foolishly only marinated the salmon for an hour; the recipe asks for 1-6 hours, and although I prefer a longer marination, I didn't see any way I could marinate for 6 hours, considering I get home from work at 6:30 and don't care to eat dinner after midnight. I know, I know--why not do longer than 6 hours? Generally when I marinate things, I make the marinade the night before and let it marinate for 24 hours. But I do like to follow recipes to the letter the first time around, I'd never marinated fish before, and I worried that perhaps the fish would become goo or turn into a pumpkin or something if I marinated it longer. But sure enough, after an hour, I grilled the salmon and could taste only a hint of the marinade. What I did detect was promising, though. I'd only grilled one of my two fillets; A was at an audition and didn't get home until 10:00, so I left his salmon in the marinade until he was ready to eat. According to him, the 3 hours of marination yielded a decent amount of flavor (I wasn't able to verify this myself, having already brushed my teeth). So, next time I'm going to marinate the hell out of that fish and see what happens. I also wasn't able to find any mirin (rice wine) this time around, so I had to use the substitution ingredients of sugar and lemon. I'd be interested to see if the mirin adds more flavor.

Even with all these difficulties, the salmon still had a nice crunchy, sesame-y exterior (I do love sesame seeds) and a good (if faint) sweet-sour glaze. This is a different style than my other salmon recipes, as well as being a breeze to make, so I hope I can refine it to add a little more oomph.

NOTE: I did make this again a few weeks later. I marinated the fish for 24 hours and used a better-quality soy sauce (still no mirin, though), and it was great.

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin (rice wine), or 1/4 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 salmon steaks (I used fillets, actually), about 8 ounces each
1/2 cup sesame seeds
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large Ziplock bag, combine the soy sauce with the mirin, or the sugar and lemon juice. Add the salmon, coating it well with the marinade, and seal the bag. Let it marinate in the refrigerator for 1-6 (or, in my experience, up to 24) hours.

2. When ready to cook, preheat your grill (I used a George Foreman; you can also, of course, use a normal grill, or your oven broiler with the rack in the top position). Remove the salmon from the bag and discard the marinade. Season the salmon with salt and pepper to taste, spread the sesame seeds on a plate, and coat both sides of the salmon with them, patting them down to help them adhere.

3. Grill the salmon until it's cooked through. (If you're using a regular grill, brush it with oil and then add the salmon; if you're using the broiler, set the salmon on a rack set in a baking pan. Either way, cook for about 6 minutes on each side.)

4. The recipe notes that this marinade works well with any fish steaks, including swordfish, halibut, and tuna.

Serves: 4
Time: 15 minutes, plus 1-24 hours marination


Holy cow, it's been a long time since I've posted a recipe--I've been cooking all this time, I swear, just not new stuff. For my birthday, I even made myself chocolate cupcakes, from scratch, with buttercream frosting. Since those were such basic recipes, pulled from the handy old Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, I don't feel compelled to post them here--but for my first cake-baking experience, everything turned out pretty well. I'm thinking yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting for A's birthday next week.

But I made this recipe the other day--er, week--and realized that although I've had it for a while, I hadn't made it yet since I moved to California, and thus it's not been written up here. And so I give you a very good recipe for Pasta Primavera, which to me is kind of like the uber-pasta, a blend of all the other pastas I make rolled into one, containing every prototypical pasta-sauce ingredient. Somehow the tomato/olive-oil/garlic/red-pepper-flake/basil gang meets the green-vegetable/mushroom/butter/cream/Parmesan gang and instead of roughing each other up, they get together and work out a plan for world peace. I don't make it too often--because do you need that much excitement that often?--but it's good stuff, and totally worth the extra steps and extra pans involved. Cook it in honor of spring!

6 cups of at least 3 of the following vegetables: broccoli florets, fresh or frozen peas, thin asparagus spears cut into 1-inch lengths, small diced zucchini, diced yellow squash, thin green beans cut into 1-inch lengths
salt to taste
1/2 pound fresh white or brown mushrooms, sliced
3/4 pound ripe plum tomatoes, cored and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
12 large basil leaves, shredded
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 pound linguine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more to taste

1. Bring several quarts of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. (While it heats, I suggest you do all your prep work first, because this is a complicated recipe that demands your full attention. Cut up your 6 cups of vegetables and set them aside, each vegetable separately, which is a little fussy but that's how the recipe works. Snap the stems from the mushrooms, slice them thinly, set them aside. Mince the garlic, divide it in half, and set the two portions aside separately. Core and dice the tomatoes into 1/2-inch cubes and set them aside too. By the way, when I say "aside," I generally mean that I put the prepped ingredient into one of the five or six bowls I would later use for serving or storing the pasta. There's no point in dirtying a whole new dish for this, and it's not like putting some raw zucchini in a bowl is going to taint that bowl for holding cooked zucchini later.)

2. When the water boils, add the first vegetable, plus salt to taste. Cook until the vegetable is crisp-tender, about 30 seconds for frozen peas, 1 minute for zucchini or yellow squash, or 2 minutes for broccoli, green beans, fresh peas, or asparagus. (Be careful not to overcook the vegetables, because they will continue cooking after you remove them from the water thanks to their inner heat, and they're going to sit around waiting--and thus cooking--for a little while before they get used.) Use a slotted spoon to remove the blanched vegetables to a bowl, then add the next vegetable and cook it, and so forth until they're all together in the bowl.

3. While this is happening, set 4 quarts of salted water in a large pot on the stove and bring it to a boil for cooking the pasta.

4. Once the veggies are blanched and while the pasta water is heating, heat the olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. When it's warm, add half the garlic and all the red pepper flakes and saute until the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are heated through, about 3 minutes. (Don't overcook the tomatoes--they should keep their shape.) Shred the basil and throw it in the pan with some salt and pepper to taste, then remove the pan from the heat and set it on a back burner.

5. Set a large skillet on the just-vacated medium-heat burner, add the butter, and melt it. Add the remaining garlic and saute it over medium heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they release their juices, about 6 minutes, then season generously with salt and pepper.

6. Sometime during this process, the pasta water will boil; add the linguine and cook until al dente.

7. Add the blanched vegetables to the skillet with the mushrooms and cook them, tossing several times, until they're heated through, about 2 minutes. Then add the cream to the skillet and simmer it until it thickened a bit, 2-3 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

8. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and then toss it into the skillet with the sauce, the tomato mixture, and the Parmesan. Serve it with a little more grated cheese and pepper sprinkled on each serving.

Serves: 6
Time: 1 hour

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


After A and I both concluded we didn't really like this butternut squash soup recipe all that much, I was in the market for another one. Luckily, there is nothing Jack Bishop cannot do with vegetables, and I quickly found this one in The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. It's less sweet than the cashew version (the onions give it more bite, I think, and there's no sugar) and takes waaaaay less time because you don't have to bake the squash beforehand. The addition of cheese doesn't hurt, either. This is simple and tasty, and while it's not my new favorite soup or anything, it's a noble use for a squash.

Jack calls for whole milk to give the soup creaminess, but since I had some half-and-half in the fridge already, I just used a mixture of half half-and-half (oof, that's a lot of halves!) and half 1% milk, which I figured would approximate whole milk. When I added 1/4 cup of this mixture to the first of the two batches of soup I was pureeing in the blender, the soup got very thin. So I left the milk/cream out of the second batch of soup, to prevent it from being downright runny. I don't know, maybe my squash was small or I had a little too much stock, but it's possible the amount of milk Jack calls for is excessive. I'd be cautious when adding it; just start with a few tablespoons and go from there. I guess it depends on what texture you like, but in my household we want our soup to have some body.

1 medium butternut squash (about 2 and 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 and 1/2 cups stock (Jack calls for vegetable, it being a vegetarian cookbook and all, but I used chicken because that's what I make homemade) or water (eek, I wouldn't recommend that unless it was an emergency)
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2-3/4 cup whole milk (or whatever, some kind of dairy drink, and be forewarned you might not use all of it)
12 fresh sage leaves
4-6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cut away and discard the tough skin of the squash. (Jack says to use a knife, but knowing my knife skills, that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, and I've found that you can do this really easily with a good vegetable peeler.) Use a knife to cut off the very ends of the squash, then halve the squash and scoop out and discard the seeds and stringy pulp with a spoon. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch chunks (Jack helpfully notes there should be about 6 cups) and set it aside.

2. Heat the butter in a soup kettle over medium heat. When the butter is warm, add the onion and saute until golden, about 6 minutes. Add the squash chunks and cook, stirring often, for 2 more minutes.

3. Add the stock, the teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

4. Transfer the soup to a blender (I had to do this in two batches) and add the milk (Jack says to add 1/2 cup and then add more if necessary to thin the soup, but as I mentioned above, I only really needed a few tablespoons before it became more than thin enough for me.) Pour the pureed soup back into the kettle and heat it briefly until hot, then ladle it into bowls. Chop the sage leaves and sprinkle them atop each serving. (Jack says to garnish each bowl with 2 whole sage leaves, but who wants to pick big leaves out of their soup?) Sprinkle a tablespoon of cheese over each bowl, plus a little more pepper.

Serves: 4-6
Time: 30-40 minutes