Poached Copper River Salmon with Avocado Sauce & Cucumber Salsa

20 Jun

Copper River salmon is on sale at Central Market this week! This dish came together after I saw the beautiful heirloom tomatoes and baby cucumbers I received from Farmhouse Delivery this week. Despite it looking like a fancy shmancy dish, the preparation is actually very simple, just highlighting the taste of quality seasonal ingredients. The recipe below is given in parts. It’s fastest to start out with the cucumber salsa (which needs a few minutes to marinate and develop flavor), then move on to prepping the salmon, then while the salmon is poaching, prepare the avocado sauce, for dinner in about 45 minutes total.

Recipes below yield 2 servings.

Cucumber Salsa

1 medium English cucumber, peeled and diced (or 2 to 3 baby cucumbers)
1/4 medium red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (with seeds if you want spicy)
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

  • Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper (and additional lime juice if desired).
  • Let chill in refrigerator.

Poached Salmon

2 6-oz skinless salmon fillets, of similar thickness (for cooking evenly)
1 or 2 sprigs fresh tarragon, leaves torn off
3 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper

  • Season salmon on both sides with salt and pepper. Lay fillets in a baking dish just large enough to fit both fillets (8x8x2 for example). Sprinkle tarragon leaves on top of fish. Let sit 5-10 minutes to let salmon reach room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, boil vegetable broth in a small saucepan. Pour boiling broth over salmon until salmon is fully submerged. Cover baking dish (with lid or foil), and let salmon poach for 8-12 minutes (for medium rare to medium doneness).
  • Transfer salmon to plate with a slotted spatula/fish turner.
Avocado Sauce

1 small avocado (or half of a large one)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper

  • Scoop out flesh of avocado into a  small food processor. Combine with remaining ingredients and pulse in food processor until sauce is smooth and velvety, seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, and additional lime juice if needed. If sauce is too thick, add in water 1 tbsp at a time until desired consistency.
Putting It Together

1 heirloom tomato, sliced thinly

  • Build a flavor foundation for each plate with approximately 1/4 cup of avocado sauce, spreading it out with the back of a spoon.
  • Place 3 slices of tomato on top of the avocado sauce.
  • Transfer salmon atop the tomato slices.
  • Garnish with cucumber salsa on top of the salmon.
  • Add an additional dollop of avocado sauce on top of cucumber salsa if desired.

Nutrition Facts

Per serving
as calculated by Sparkpeople Recipe Calculator

Calories 630 | Fat 39g | Cholesterol 120mg | Sodium 1299mg
Carbohydrate 18g | Fiber 8g | Sugars 4g | Protein 54g

Vitamin A 15% | Vitamin B-6 59% | Vitamin B-12 87% | Vitamin C 46%
Vitamin D 154% | Vitamin E 13% | Calcium 11%| Folate 28% | Iron 9%


Green Tomato and Cheddar Pie

5 Jun

I love the tartness of green tomatoes but am not a big fan of deep frying, at least in my own kitchen. I received a deep fryer as a wedding gift and it is still sitting in the unopened box. I am not sure if this considered a crime of misuse in the great state of deep fried Texas. I ran across a recipe for tomato and cheddar pie in the August 2011 issue of Bon Appetit and tried it with red and green tomatoes. While the magic of the combination of the juicy tomatoes with creamy mayonnaise and cool dill exists in both versions, the green tomatoes hold their texture better (red tomatoes tend to become more “stewed” in texture) and the additional tartness is the perfect balance to the cheddar and mayonnaise in this rather rich dish. I find the flavor combination so addictive that I could probably eat half of the pie, but since it is a heavy dish, self control is key (at least an attempt at it).

Green Tomato and Cheddar Pie

Recipe yields 6 servings

1 deep dish pie crust
1/4 cup coarsely ground cornmeal
4 to 5 medium green tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (matured Irish cheddar works well with the green tomatoes)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 or 3 sprigs fresh dill, chopped
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Spread 1 or 2 tbsp of cornmeal evenly to cover the bottom of the pie crust.
  • Toss both cheeses together in a medium bowl until blended.
  • Whisk together mayonnaise, dill, vinegar, sugar, the remainder cornmeal, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Spread a layer of 1/4 of the mixed cheese on top of the cornmeal covered pie crust,  layer 1/3 of the tomato slices on top of the cheese, spread 1/3 of the mayonnaise mixture, and repeat with cheese, tomatoes, and mayonnaise for 2 more repetitions.
  • On top of the last layer of mayonnaise, spread the remaining 1/4 cup cheese mixture and bake in oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is starting to brown around edges of tomatoes.
  • Let pie cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

Nutrition Facts

Per serving
as calculated by Sparkpeople Recipe Calculator

Calories 446 | Fat 34g | Cholesterol 48mg | Sodium 556mg
Carbohydrate 22g | Fiber 2g | Sugars 8g | Protein 14g

Vitamin A 24% | Vitamin B-6 8% | Vitamin B-12 7% | Vitamin C 41%
Vitamin E 12% | Calcium 35%| Folate 8% | Iron 9%

Onion Jam

4 Jun

I spent Memorial Day weekend in New Orleans indulging in food whenever I could find room in my stomach. One bite stuck out in my memory through the eating marathon, the sweet onion jam on top of seared chicken rillette with bacon broth at Chef Donald Link’s Herbsaint restaurant. I couldn’t believe how easy it is to make this stuff after Googling several recipes for onion jam on the internet. A lovely enhancement to a cheese plate, pizza (particularly paired with a strong cheese), burger, or even just spread on some toast, I definitely see this little condiment becoming a regular in my fridge. The best part? You can make this jam many ways with different types of onions and vinegars depending on what you have available. The variety of possibilities makes it even more exciting!

Onion Jam

1 medium onion, halved and sliced thinly (I used a sweet onion variety)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp sugar
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp vinegar (I used a sherry vinegar)

  • Melt butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Add in onions, salt, and sugar, and let the onions “sweat” for 20 minutes, covering the saucepan with a lid and stirring occasionally to make sure onions cook evenly.
  • Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, and add in wine and vinegar, stirring and cooking until liquid evaporates and onions are caramelized to a golden brown color, about 15-20 minutes.
  • Let cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

I initially meant to make this jam for a pizza with smoked mozzarella, but one bite of this good stuff on some crusty French bread made me realize that I couldn’t wait. So my pizza became a cheese plate for lunch garnished with the onion jam 🙂

Orzo with Shrimp, Kalamata Olives, Tomatoes, Feta & Mint

22 May

My better half is doing some long stints in Shanghai for work this year. His request for home cooked meals when he returns stateside is always the same, “Something with cheese!” Consistent with my travel experiences to east Asia, there is something about missing dairy for an extended periods of time that starts resembling a mind game.

For a quick and light summer lunch, feta was the dairy indulgence of choice. In this orzo dish, feta is combined with other Mediterranean flavors like Kalamata olives and oregano.

Orzo with Shrimp, Kalamata Olives, Tomatoes, Feta & Mint

Recipe yields 4 servings

1.5 cups orzo (or other small pasta)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup (8-10 large) pitted Kalamata olives, halved or roughly chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled
a few leaves of fresh mint
salt and pepper

  • Cook orzo according to package directions to al dente (boil in rolling water for about 6 minutes), drain, and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in minced garlic and shrimp. Cook 2-3 minutes or until shrimp is starting to become opaque, and flip shrimp over, and fry for another minute.
  • Add in tomatoes, olives, and oregano to skillet and stir mixture until tomatoes start to release juices, 1-2 minutes.
  • Add in white wine and bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and add in cooked and drained orzo.
  • Toss everything in skillet until combined and orzo is heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Turn off heat and add in feta cheese, tossing to combine.
  • Top with roughly chopped mint (and additional feta for garnish, if desired) and serve.

Nutrition Facts

Per serving
as calculated by Sparkpeople Recipe Calculator

Calories 480 | Fat 14g | Cholesterol 96mg | Sodium 1206mg
Carbohydrate 56g | Fiber 5g | Sugars 7g | Protein 27g

Vitamin A 40% | Vitamin B-6 4% | Vitamin B-12 11% | Vitamin C 43%
Vitamin D 22% | Vitamin E 9% | Calcium 14%| Folate 35% | Iron 24%


Michi Ramen at North Austin Trailer Yard (NATY)

12 May

UPDATE: Michi Ramen is closing their trailer location on June 17. Per Michi Ramen’s Facebook page:

“As of June 17th, Michi Ramen will be closed indefinitely. As a 2-man operation, cooking in a kitchen down south and serving from a truck up north is realistically unsustainable. That said, we are actively searching for a brick-and-mortar space of our own. Relocating will bring about much-needed changes and hopefully lead to a proper ramen-ya in Austin.”


The North Austin Trailer Yard is having their grand opening party today. I stopped by last night to check out the converted space in the middle of the giant Hobby Lobby/Planet Fitness parking lot at Anderson and Lamar. What really piqued my interest was a tweet from @AustinNATY about Michi Ramen joining the fun.


Michi Ramen’s menu is simple. Every bowl of tonkotsu ramen is currently served in their homemade pork broth (a result of a 20+ hour cooking process), and you simply add the toppings you’d like. The top of the menu has some combination suggestions (for those who are unsure of what combination of toppings to get). I ordered a bowl of the simply named “ramen” which comes with two slices of chashu (braised pork), woodear mushrooms, onions, and blackened garlic oil.

This phone photo doesn’t do the rich broth justice. This is dense, rich, milky, so viscous that it sticks to your ribs kind of pork broth! I’ve only had ramen at a few of places in Austin, but this definitely ranks up there as one of the best. The ramen, flown in from California and never frozen, has the perfect al dente texture.

Michi Ramen plans to have a chicken-based broth on their menu soon.

The North Austin Trailer Yard also features several other trailers that I hope to check out soon (Snarky’s sandwiches, KraK2 gourmet donuts, Genuine Joe’s Coffee, Big Fat Greek Gyros, and The Dog Pound hot dogs and shaved ice.)

Michi Ramen
1012 W. Anderson Ln
Austin, TX 78757

Pasta with Arugula, Roasted Red Pepper, Parmesan, and Bacon

5 May

Since discovering De Cecco, I can almost recreate the taste of our summer trip to central Italy last year in my own kitchen. For a dried pasta, De Cecco cooks to amazingly near perfect al dente texture without being too mushy or doughy. This quick and simple dish combines mine and hubby’s favorite things: I love greens (especially greens with a big punch of flavor like spicy and slightly bitter arugula) and he loves all things bacon.

Pasta with Arugula, Roasted Red Pepper, Bacon, and Parmesan

Recipe yields 3 servings

8 oz pasta (I used linguine)
4 strips thick cut bacon, fatty ends trimmed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 dried red peppers, crushed (or 1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes), optional for those who prefer no heat
1 red bell pepper, roasted and diced (I used jarred roasted red pepper, about 4-5 large pieces)
6-8 cups arugula, packed, roughly chopped (you can also use spinach but spinach doesn’t hold up as well under heat and isn’t quite as flavorful)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

  • Cook pasta per package instructions, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water
  • Meanwhile, fry bacon over medium-high heat in a large (12″), deep skillet.
  • Remove bacon to paper-towel lined plate, crumble or tear into bite-sized pieces. Reserve 1 to 2 tbsp of bacon fat in skillet.
  • Saute garlic and crushed red pepper in the reserved bacon fat over medium heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until garlic starts to turn golden.
  • Add in diced roasted red pepper and arugula. Add in 1/2 cup reserved pasta water and lemon juice, and cover skillet for 1-2 minutes, until arugula is slightly wilted.
  • Add cooked pasta and most of the Parmesan cheese to the skillet. Toss with tongs until all ingredients are well-mixed and pasta is warmed through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Top plated pasta with bacon crumbles and remainder Parmesan cheese.

Nutrition Facts

Per serving
as calculated by Sparkpeople Recipe Calculator

Calories 430 | Fat 11g | Cholesterol 20mg | Sodium 1405mg
Carbohydrate 63g | Fiber 4g | Sugars 6g | Protein 21g

Vitamin A 28% | Vitamin B-6 6% | Vitamin B-12 6% | Vitamin C 23%
Vitamin E 2% | Calcium 32%| Folate 14% | Iron 20%

Lemongrass Meatballs and Vietnamese Style Pickles in Lettuce Cups

19 Apr

Some time last year I began a love affair with using lemongrass in my cooking. The zesty herb popular in Thai and Vietnamese dishes like Tom Yum soup and lemongrass pork chops has the same refreshing citrus characteristics as lemons, but without the bitter undertones. Lemongrass also carries a hint of ginger flavor, making it a perfect companion to pork and fish dishes.

This recipe for pork and lemongrass meatballs is based off of a recipe from the March 2011 issue of Bon Appetit. Since I didn’t have time  to make the meatballs in time to chill overnight, I added egg and flour to the recipe so the meatballs held together better and could be fried right away. As it turns out, I really enjoyed the velvety texture of meatball interior with the egg addition and the coloring of the outside golden crust. Add some crunchy quick pickled radishes and cucumbers (recipe at bottom of post) and serve in butter lettuce cups, and it’s a colorful feast for the eyes and a textural party for the mouth.

Lemongrass Meatballs 

Recipe yields 12 meatballs

1/2 lb ground pork
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lemongrass stalk, white and yellow parts only, sliced
1 leek stalk, white part only, sliced (can also use shallots or spring onion)
3-4 sprigs cilantro, stems removed, roughly chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 clove garlic
1 large egg
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper

  • Combine everything but the pork and vegetable oil (last 10 ingredients) in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Add in ground pork and pulse to blend. Shape pork mixture into 12 meatballs (about 1 inch in diameter).
  • Heat vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Fry meatballs until golden brown, turning frequently so that meatballs are cooked evenly on all sides. (Meatballs can also be fried in deep fryer).
  • Remove meatballs to drain on a paper towel lined plate. Serve in lettuce cups with Vietnamese style quick pickles (recipe below).

Nutrition Facts

Per meatball
as calculated by Sparkpeople Recipe Calculator

Calories 76 | Fat 6g | Cholesterol 29mg | Sodium 328mg
Carbohydrate 2g | Sugars 1g | Protein 4g

Vitamin A 3% | Vitamin B-6 5% | Vitamin B-12 3% | Vitamin C 2%
Vitamin E 2% | Calcium 1%| Folate 3% | Iron 3%

Pickling is a great way to preserve seasonal veggies and add a touch of flavor to any dish. In addition to using them as condiments to meat dishes, I like throwing them on salads to add some extra zing. I get a lot of radishes in my CSA box in the spring, and I enjoy how pickling cuts down on the bitterness of the radishes and enhances out their subtle sweetness. Cucumbers, carrots, okra, cauliflower, and pearl onions are some other favorites.

Quick Pickling Mix (Vietnamese Style)

Pickling veggies cut to desired bite size
1 part rice vinegar
3 parts water
1 Thai chili per 8 oz (1 cup) of pickling liquid, sliced into thin rings (can also use jalapeno or serrano)
3 tbsp sugar per 8 oz (1 cup) of pickling liquid
1/2 tbsp salt per 8 oz (1 cup) of pickling liquid

Mix water and vinegar and pour over veggies in a jar until all veggies are fully submerged in liquid. Add in chopped chilis, sugar, and salt based on volume of pickling liquid, stirring to mix. Place lid on jar and chill at least 6 hours. Pickles can be kept for up to 2 weeks, but I like them the best the first 1 or 2 days. After that the veggies tend to be too soggy for my liking.