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Tandoori-Spiced Salmon w/ Pickled Cucumber

Tandoori-Spiced Salmon

Hands down, this has become my most favorite salmon recipe. I came across it in Saveur Magazine and combined a lot of the steps and played around with the spices a little bit to better match what I had in my spice cabinet and ended up with this winner. This recipe does not use a completely traditional Tandoori spice mix, but I like to think it’s close enough in spirit? (My main spice swap is substituting smoked paprika for chili powder, but I think the smokiness adds an interesting note. If you don’t have smoked paprika, go ahead and use chili powder.)

* Because of the long marinating time, this recipe works best when you plan ahead. If you can marinate the salmon in the morning and let it sit in the fridge all day with the paprika-garlic-spice paste and then spread on the chile-yogurt after work and let that sit while the oven preheats, it’s doable during the week. But also, it makes a great weekend dinner as well.

I’ve always been more of a medium-roasted salmon fan, so I let mine go until it reaches about 130 degrees F or so and then the carry-over usually gets it to about 135. You can adjust the time in the oven to your liking, but keep in mind, you’ll need at least 13-14 minutes to develop a nice crust.

Tandoori-Spiced Salmon

Tandoori-Spiced Salmon

Tandoori-Spiced Salmon

Tandoori-Spiced Salmon

Tandoori-Spiced Salmon
Adapted from Saveur Magazine; serves 2-3
12-16 oz boneless, skin-on salmon filet
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1.5 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp smoked paprika
1⁄2 tsp ground cardamom (I use cardamom seeds that I’ve ground in a spice grinder)
1⁄2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1⁄2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup plain yogurt (Greek-style and/or 2% is fine)
1 tsp red chili paste ( I use this Thai Kitchen variety but you could also use Sambal Oelek, or one minced Thai chili)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Put salmon in a small, rimed baking dish. Add garlic, ginger, and 1 tbsp water to a food processor and chop. Add the canola oil, salt, pepper, vinegar, paprika, cardamom, garlic powder, cinnamon, cloves, and ground ginger and process until everything is mixed and you have a paste. Using a rubber spatula, smear the mixture over the salmon. Cover salmon with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight. I usually try to let the salmon sit with the spice paste for about 6-8 hours.

Combine the yogurt and the chili paste, along with a pinch of salt. Spread the yogurt mixture over salmon. Cover with plastic wrap again and refrigerate for 1 more hour. Carefully transfer salmon to an aluminum foil-covered baking sheet.

Heat oven to 500 degrees F. Bake until fish is lightly charred and cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Using a large metal spatula, transfer salmon to a serving platter (or break up to serve in individual bowls) with brown rice, cilantro, and the pickled cucumbers on the side.

Braised kale or roasted carrots are also great additions to this meal.

Quick Pickled Cucumber
1⁄2 small English cucumber, peeled, halved, and diced into half-moons
1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Toss everything together after you put the salmon in the oven and let sit (unrefrigerated) while the salmon roasts.

Winter Cooking: Kale and Black Bean Mole Enchiladas

Kale and Black Bean Mole Enchiladas

Cold wintery weather calls for something with melted cheese and bubbling sauce, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought too. And it’s really hard to go wrong with Mole Enchiladas. And when you make them a little lighter with kale and black beans instead of chicken, it’s a dinner that’ll find its way into your rotation on a regular basis–maybe even for a Meatless Monday!

For this recipe, I specify an amount of mole sauce to use. Because here’s a confession–the handful of times I’ve made mole from scratch, it’s been um, okay. That’s a lot of work for something that I’ve never been that thrilled with when I attempt to make it myself. So, if you have a homemade mole recipe you love, by all means, use that! If you have a jarred version that you always buy, go for it. You could even swap the mole for a regular enchilada sauce if you’d like (but you’d be missing out a little bit because the rich and peppery mole is definitely fantastic!).

Personally, I’ve had good success with this Black Mole Paste by Juquilita and even the Dona Maria brand that you can most likely find at your local grocery store will definitely do in a pinch. Bottom line–there’s no reason not to use a mole sauce if you want to. Both of the pastes I’ve mentioned work the same way by blending a certain amount of the concentrated mole with vegetable (or chicken) broth. I typically start with a quarter cup of mole paste for every cup of broth and I use a blender to get a very smooth sauce, and then heat.

Kale and Black Bean Mole Enchiladas
Kale and Black Bean Mole Enchiladas
Kale and Black Bean Mole Enchiladas
Kale and Black Bean Mole Enchiladas
Kale and Black Bean Mole Enchiladas
Kale and Black Bean Mole Enchiladas

Kale and Black Bean Mole Enchiladas
Makes 8 enchiladas; serves at least 4
2-1/2 cups mole sauce (divided)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium red or white onion, diced
1 bell pepper, cored and diced
1 bunch kale (6-8 oz), stemmed and leaves chopped
1 can black beans, rinsed
8 corn tortillas
2 tbsp goat cheese (about 1.25 oz)
3 oz grated cheddar cheese (this is just under a cup)
1 tsp sesame seeds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare the mole (if using a paste, it’ll be about 1/2 cup of the paste and 2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth, depending on whether you want it to be vegetarian). Warm the sauce up in a pot and hang tight.
Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Add the diced onion (hold back about 2 tbsp) and the bell pepper. Saute about 5 minutes until soft and starting to color just a little. Add the rinsed and chopped kale along with a sprinkle of salt, cover the skillet, and cook about 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Stir in the goat cheese and about 1/4 cup of the mole sauce. Set aside.
Warm your tortillas. You can either char them a little over a stove-top gas flame or wrap in foil and set them in your preheated oven for about 5 minutes. Right in the pan, divide the filling into four sections, then use each section to fill two tortillas (dividing the filling up before you start will make it so you don’t run out of filling early). But, before you start rolling, pour about 1/2 cup of your mole sauce into the bottom of your baking dish (a 9 X 13-inch baking dish works great) to cover the bottom. Then, roll each tortilla up around the allotted filling and place it on top of the sauce. Eight enchiladas should fit perfectly.

Pour the rest of the sauce, (about 1-3/4 cups) over the enchiladas, making sure everything gets nice and coated. Sprinkle the cheese down the middle and then top with the reserved diced onion and the sesame seeds (if using). Forget to hold back some diced onions? You can skip adding more to the top or even use a couple of diced green onions. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with non-stick spray and cover the enchiladas with the foil, spray-side down (this is a precaution in case any cheese touches the foil–you don’t want it to stick and lose any of your delicious cheese).
Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 more minutes. Everything should be melted and bubbly.

Serve with avocado, cilantro, and/or sour cream (or Greek yogurt). Also, chips and salsa on the side are not going to hurt anything.

Winter Cooking: Chicken Goulash with Sour Cream Dumplings

Chicken Goulash with Sour Cream Dumplings

This is the blog post where I announce a triumphant return to blogging on the regular.

Really. This time I mean it. And what better way to start mid-January 2018, than with a recipe for a smoky and delicious chicken goulash? This dish originally comes from Food and Wine Magazine but I’ve played around with it a bit and finally landed on this version. It’s a meal I make at least three or four times throughout the fall and winter. I think it’s best if you can make the goulash earlier in the day, then store it in the fridge for a few hours to let all the flavors meld together and get awesome.

If you don’t have time to do that, no problem, just make the dumplings after you get the broth into your pot and it will still be mighty flavorful. The orange brightens up the earthiness a bit and plays very well with the smoked paprika.

Some of the ingredients are divided and used for different parts of the recipe (half the sour cream for the dumplings, the other half with the chicken; some of the butter in the pan, most in the dumplings), but the diligence in reading through the directions carefully will be rewarded in the end. Promise.

Chicken Goulash with Sour Cream Dumplings

Chicken Goulash with Sour Cream Dumplings

Chicken Goulash with Sour Cream Dumplings

Chicken Goulash with Sour Cream Dumplings
Adapted from Wood and Wine magazine, serves 3-4
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
5 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons (divided)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, and finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp Hungarian paprika
1 tbsp + 2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds (divided)
3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
juice of 1 orange
1 cup sour cream (divided)
2 tsp baking powder
Fresh dill, chopped (for garnish)

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dust lightly with flour. In a deep ovenproof skillet or pot, melt 1 tbsp of the butter with all of the olive oil. Add the chicken and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 7 minutes total. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet. Stir in the paprikas and 3/4 tsp caraway and cook for 30 seconds. Add the orange juice and 2-1/2 cups of chicken stock. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 10 minutes.

At this point, you can turn the heat off and let the goulash sit for an hour off the heat, or longer in the fridge (overnight, even!) so that the flavors have some time to get to know each other and meld a bit. When you’re ready to keep going, just make the dumplings and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. If you do want to just continue on right away, add the sour cream when you add the broth and let the chicken simmer only briefly while you make the dumplings.

To make the dumplings:
In a food processor, pulse the 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper, and 1/4 tsp caraway. Pulse in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup of the stock with half of the sour cream (1/2 cup) and drizzle over the dry ingredients; pulse until a dough forms.

Stir the other 1/2 cup sour cream into the goulash and bring that back up to a gentle simmer (if the goulash was off heat or in the fridge).

Scoop ten to twelve 3-tablespoon-size mounds of biscuit dough over the chicken (a medium ice cream scoop works great for this). Transfer the pot to the oven and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the biscuits are cooked. Serve the goulash in bowls, spooning the biscuits on top, and garnish with the dill.

National Pumpkin Day: Let’s Celebrate with Pumpkin, Poblano, and Manchego Soup

Pumpkin, Poblano, Manchego Soup

October 26th is National Pumpkin Day so let’s live it up with this spicy and satisfying soup!

Aside from being just plain delicious, the aroma of roasting squash and then chiles will make your kitchen smell like Fall with a capital F. You can certainly use canned pumpkin here, but there’s something to be said for diy-ing it—the slightly caramelized edges, the satisfaction of scooping out the velvety goodness from the golden pumpkin shells–it’s all part of this soup’s charm. That said, we all have jobs and responsibilities and using canned pumpkin is certainly a valid life choice. I am not judging. Promise.

But after all of the roasting and/or chopping, this soup comes together fairly quickly. Ideal garnishes include fried tortilla strips and chopped cilantro (or maybe even roasted pumpkin seeds or shredded cabbage) and if you want to substitute the pumpkin, an acorn or a butternut squash will do the trick nicely while still keeping the autumn theme intact.

Pumpkin, Poblano, Manchego Soup

Pumpkin, Poblano, Manchego Soup

Pumpkin, Poblano, Manchego Soup

Pumpkin, Poblano, Manchego Soup

Pumpkin, Poblano, Manchego Soup

Pumpkin, Poblano, Manchego Soup

Pumpkin, Poblano, and Manchego Soup
About 4 main course servings – 6 first course servings
1 small baking pumpkin (about the size of a softball), halved, seeds scooped out (or 1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree)
2 tbsp olive oil + more for drizzling
1/2 a medium white or red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 poblano (pasilla) peppers
2 tbsp AP flour
4 cups low-sodium vegetable (or chicken) broth
4 oz grated Manchego cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Garnish ideas: chopped cilantro, tortilla strips, toasted pumpkin seeds, shredded purple cabbage

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray the surface with a little non-stick spray for some extra insurance. I like to also drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over the pumpkin halves, and then sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Rub the oil and seasoning in a little and then turn the pumpkins over cut-side down and roast for about 30 minutes or until a fork easily pierces the flesh. Let cool and then scoop out the flesh.

When you’re ready to make the soup, roast the peppers under the broiler until blackened on all sides. Place in a bowl covered with foil to steam for about 10 minutes. Then, peel all the blacked skin off, de-stem, and de-seed. Roughly chop.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and just starting to color, about 4-5 minutes. Add the chopped pepper and cook for another minute or two. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and let cook for another two minutes, stirring every so often.

Next, stir in the broth and the pumpkin puree and let it come up to a boil. Simmer for about five minutes. Now, you’ll either want to blend the soup in batches or remove from heat and use an immersion blender right in the pot. When you’ve got a nice and silky texture, return the soup to the pot if you used a blender and bring it back up to a very slow simmer. Turn off the heat to avoid curdling and slowly add in the grated Manchego, stirring while it melts.

Now, you might have done everything right and then cheese might still curdle a little. That’s the way it is sometimes, it’s happened to all of us. But a nice trick is to just pour the soup back into the blender and blend it again–voila! Smooth and creamy soup.

Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Garnish with your garnishes of choice. Happy National Pumpkin Day.

The Perfect Fall Dessert: French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake

This cake is unlike any other I’ve made. Well, except for the apple cake that it’s based on.

But, here, in this rebooted version, pears replace the apples and pecans replace the walnuts. The pears are peeled and thinly sliced and then mixed into a very light batter. During a second trip into the oven, the brown sugar and pecan topping firms up and turns golden brown, with an almost custardy cake beneath. It’s really pretty amazing.

There may seem to be a number of steps, but don’t fear, it all comes together very easily and the only special gadgets you need are a cake pan and a couple of spatulas. So give this fall dessert a try!

French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake
About 8 servings; Adapted from the Apple Lady Apple Cake in the Paris Cookbook by Patricia Wells

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup 1% or 2% milk
3 large pears, cored, peeled, and sliced into thin wedges — I used 2 Anjou and 1 Starkrimson

1/3 packed brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup roughly chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Decide on your pan. I have made this cake in a round cake pan and also a loaf pan—both worked just fine, but for the best presentation, you will also need to flip it out of the pan, and then onto a serving plate. You can also use a springform pan and skip the flips entirely.

Once you have decided on the pan, butter and flour the pan or, in a pinch, coat the inside with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir to blend. In a separate bowl, mix together the vanilla extract, eggs, oil, and milk. Then add that to the flour mixture and stir until well blended.

Add the pear slices and combine to thoroughly coat them with the batter. Your bowl will contain mostly pear slices, covered with a bit of batter.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until fairly firm and golden, about 35 minutes. (I have found that both a cake and a standard loaf pan take the same amount of time.)

Meanwhile, while the cake is baking, prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine the sugar, egg, and melted butter, and stir to blend. Set it aside.

When it’s done, remove the cake from the oven and turn the temperature down to 350 degrees F. Pour the topping mixture over the cake and sprinkle with the pecans.

Return the cake to the oven and bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 15 minutes. After 10 minutes take a peek and make sure the brown sugar is not burning. If it’s getting too dark, cover loosely with foil for the last 5 minutes.

Transfer the cake pan to a rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Run a knife around the sides of the pan and release and remove the springform side, leaving the cake on the pan base. Or, if using a regular cake or loaf pan, after running the knife along the edges, put a plate over the top of the cake and flip onto the plate. The cake will be upside down. Take another plate and put that on top of the cake and flip again. The cake should now be right-side-up on the second plate.

Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into thin wedges. Store in the refrigerator for up to three days.