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Muscle

22 Jul

viking-48-oven-12-56-2006A good amount of the disk space on our Tivo gets taken up with cooking shows.  Food Network, PBS, I like to mix it all up.  When I watch them, I frequently experience kitchen envy.  Seriously, have you seen Paula Deen’s or Ina Garten’s kitchen?  Dreamy.  Multiple cooktops, deep fryers, and refrigerator drawers.  Best of all are those professional stoves.  48 to 60 inches of high btu muscle with double ovens.  They are the kitchen equivalent of the Ford Mustang in Steve McQueen’s Bullitt.  High revving, rubber burning, wild horses.  I so wish I could have one of those.  My kitchen, in comparison, is more like a Honda Accord.  It’s reliable for getting you where you need to go but would never win in a drag race.

Not that having fancy, expensive equipment means anything when it comes to serving up good food.  Deb, who I heart, from Smitten Kitchen turns out the best food from a teeny, tiny New York City apartment kitchen.  Think your kitchen is small?  Try working in a 24 square foot space.  That’s smaller than my closet.  And yet, without the aid of fancy equipment, she turns out all sorts of baked, fried, and roasted goodness.

Like anything else, your equipment is a tool that either you know how to use or you don’t.  That 48 inch Viking isn’t going to magically transform a bad dish into a good one.  So work with what you have, find its muscle, and make it work for you.  Your kitchen may not burn rubber like Steve McQueen’s Mustang, but it won’t need new tires as quickly either.

Oven Roasted Salmon

Cook’s Illustrated

I added paprika and chili powder, not original to the CI recipe.

  • 1 skin on salmon fillet, 1 3/4 – 2 pounds (I used two individual skinless fillets)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Paprika
  • Chili powder
  • Salt

Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees.  If using skin on salmon, make 4 or 5 shallow slashes about an inch apart along the skin side of each piece, being careful not to cut into flesh.

Pat salmon dry.  Rub fillets with oil and season with salt, paprika, and chili powder.  Reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees and remove the HOT baking sheet.  Carefully place salmon skin side down on baking sheet.  Roast until centers of thickest part of fillets are still translucent when cut into with paring knife or instant read thermometer inserted in thickest part of fillets registers 125 degrees, 9 to 13 minutes.  Transfer fillets to individual plates or platter.

Pineapple Avocado Salsa

The Washington Post

  • 4 ounces fresh or canned pineapple, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch dice (1/2 cup)
  • Flesh of half a medium avocado, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 scallion, white and light green parts, cut crosswise into thin slices (2 to 3 teaspoons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 1 to 2 limes (1 tablespoon)

Combine the pineapple, avocado, scallion, salt, and lime juice in a mixing bowl.  Toss to combine.

Atlantic Salmon on Foodista

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More Cowbell

10 Jun

Plated

I love the Saturday Night Live skit with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken about the rock band and the cowbell.

The point is that while what the band was doing was good, it would have been even better with more cowbell.  Do you ever have days like that?  Days where you’re in a groove, doing your thing, and you just know that if you could have a little something extra it would be phenomenal.  Yeah, you need more cowbell. Continue reading

Rushed

27 May

Mustard Roasted Shrimp

Despite my best efforts to the contrary, there are just days when time is not on my side.  I’ve got too much to do and not enough time to get it done.  Or cosmic forces conspire against me and suck huge chunks of time out of my grasping hands, never to be seen again.  A trip to the grocery store that should take 30 minutes turns into an hour.  Too bad life doesn’t come with rollover minutes, like in the AT&T commercial.  I’d definitely pay for that upgrade.

The problem with poor time management is that something ultimately suffers.  You cut corners, trying to wedge a square peg into a round hole, and the end result isn’t exactly the right fit.  It will do in a pinch but you know you could do better.  That’s how I feel about Mustard Roasted Shrimp.

The clock was already ticking when I set out to make the shrimp.  Dinner had to be done and I had to be out the door in little more than an hour.  So the notion of marinating the shrimp in mustard, olive oil, and tarragon for an hour in the fridge was immediately dismissed.  And soaking bamboo skewers so that the shrimp could be  broiled?  That would have to wait for another day.  These need to be in the oven NOW.

Did you ever notice that when you’re trying to hurry, even the simplest tasks get complicated?  Like peeling shrimp.  Sure, the package says EZ Peel but should it really take twenty minutes to peel two pounds of large shrimp?  In tv land there would be an assistant to instantly transform them into peeled and cleaned morsels.  In my kitchen, there’s just the cat sitting there looking mildly interested in me dropping one of those morsels on the floor.

By now, my hour is down to about 40 minutes.  Sorry shrimp but the best I can offer you at this point is a short stay in the marinade out on the counter.  The oven gets heated, sheet pans get prepped, and the timer ticks down to less than 30 minutes.

Finally, the shrimp go in the oven.  At this point, I stop looking at the clock.  It will take as long as it takes and since my superpower to stop time has yet to develop, clock watching isn’t going to do me any good.  As soon as I start to smell the aroma of hot mustard, it’s time to turn the shrimp over.  Tick-tock, tick-tock, I can’t turn the clock in my head off.

At last the shrimp is bright pink and the mustard marinade is just starting to brown on the sheet pans; time to come out of the oven.  Sprinkle a quick pinch of salt and onto the plate we go.  In the five minutes or so that I have to actually eat, I keep thinking how this is ok but it could be so much better.  Each bite mocks me with flat flavor.  Even the next day, the leftovers lay there on the plate, not living up to their full potential because of me.

I take full responsibility.  I rushed what could have been a very good thing.

Broiled Shrimp with Mustard and Tarragon

From Bon Appetit: Fast, Easy, Fresh

  • 1/3 cup dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 green onion, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 1 1/2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled and devenined
  • 8 wood skewers, soaked for 30 minutes

Whisk first four ingredients in a medium bowl to combine.  Add shrimp; toss to coat.  Chill 1 to 3 hours.

Heat broiler and line sheet pan with foil.  Thread shrimp onto skewers.  Season with salt and pepper.

Broil shrimp until cooked through, approximately 2 minutes per side.

Eat Fresh

13 May

Fresh Picked

Advertising executives may want you to believe that eating fresh means patronizing a certain fast food chain.  To me, it’s something entirely different.  My definition of eating fresh is cutting down, as much as possible, the  journey fruits and vegetables take from the grower to my plate.  Since I’ve come to peace with the fact that I will never be the house in the neighborhood that has a killer vegetable garden, I am eager to find an alternative.  See those beautiful spears of asparagus?  That was my first attempt. Continue reading

Notes on a Recipe – Molly’s Spicy Pickled Carrots

11 May

Prepped

That Molly, she doesn’t mess around.  Those pickled carrots, they knocked my socks off.  First, because they were good.  Second, because they were HOT.  SFC thought they were just right but they were too spicy for me.  So depending on your tolerance, you might want to turn down the heat by reducing the red pepper flakes and maybe not cracking the black pepper corns. Continue reading

Slow Motion

22 Apr
Well Duh!

photo by me

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the obvious.  Remember that fable about the tortoise and the hare?  What was the moral of that story?  Right, fastest isn’t always best.  Continue reading

Notes on a Recipe – Bon Appetit Shrimp and Garlicky Beans with Feta

20 Apr

BA Shrimp

Every dog may have its day, but there’s no telling how long that day may be in coming.  If that dog happens to be named Bon Appetit’s Garlicky Beans with Feta and Mint, it is my sincere hope that I never see that day in my lifetime.  Since going all South Beach in the kitchen, I have tried to overcome my dislike of garbanzo beans.  There’s something about their texture that just does not work for me.  They’re not gritty on the tongue but they’re not smooth either.  Maybe because they are unlike any other food I enjoy eating, I can’t get past my consistency prejudice. And calling them chickpeas isn’t fooling me. Continue reading