Wasabi soy-glazed salmon with bok choy and pear slaw

Light, cool, simple: a trinity of simplicity

Originally appeared in the June 28, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

The prime imperatives behind this week’s dish: keep it light, keep it cool.  And it doesn’t hurt to keep things simple, while you’re at it.  This recipe succeeds on all three levels.

The salmon should rest with the sweet-and-savory marinade long enough for the tender fish to absorb the Asian-inspired concoction.  There’s a bit of spice here—what with the wasabi, crushed red pepper, and ginger—but it’s a nice counterbalance to the cool-crisp characteristics of the bok choy slaw.  Like most vinegar-based slaws, you don’t want to make this too far ahead of time before actual service, as the weight and absorption of the dressing compromises the volume and texture of the vegetables.  In other words: you can make your dressing in advance, but please wait until the last minute to execute this step.

As for as cooking procedure, I would suggest firing up the grill outside, but due to the Mohave Desert-like state of most of our arid lawns, it’d probably best to hang out within the ambient coolness of air conditioning.  Best bet: a sturdy grill pan.

After assembling and serving this dish at the kitchen table, my wife, Jess, called this one of her favorites.  Guess what I plan on cooking tonight?

Wasabi soy-glazed salmon with bok choy and pear slaw

Serves 2

For salmon and marinade:

  • 1 pound salmon fillet, skin and pin-bones removed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground wasabi
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 fluid ounce lite soy sauce
  • 3 fluid ounces vegetable oil

For dressing and slaw:

  • ½ fluid ounce sesame oil
  • 1 ½ ounces olive oil
  • 1 fluid ounce apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 2 heads of bok choy, halved and sliced very thin
  • ½ of an Anjou pear, cut into small batons
  • 2 radishes, cut into matchsticks

1.  In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk all ingredients from wasabi through vegetable oil, and pour into a plastic, zip-tight freezer bag.  Add salmon and marinate for at least four hours.  Afterwards, place a grill pan to medium-high heat, and brush with vegetable oil or spray with cooking spray; preheat oven to 400° F.  Remove salmon from marinade (but don’t throw away), and gently place on grill.  Sear and create grillmarks before flipping to opposite side; place salmon on oven-safe dish and finish cooking until desired doneness is reached, intermittently brushing reserved marinade over salmon.  Remove from oven and allow to rest.

2.  In a separate bowl, thoroughly whisk oil along with following six ingredients (dressing can be made ahead of time).  Toss bok choy, pear, and radish in a bowl, and drizzle on dressing; gently toss to coat.  Serve salmon on top of bok choy slaw.

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Buffalo turkey meatballs

A Buffalo wing makeover

Originally appeared in the June 21, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Wings are a wildly popular appetizer and snack, and meatballs are a classic comfort food.  What I’ve done for this dish is take all the savory fingerprints (no pun intended) of your average Buffalo wing, and combined them with the unpretentious approach of an easy-to-recognize meatball.  And to give a nod to the trusty “wing,” I’ve substituted lean, ground turkey in place of chicken.

To retain a velvety internal texture, it’s important to 1) not overmix, and 2) employ some finesse when it comes to cooking; the former is simple to accomplish (read, just resist mixing the heck out of it), but the latter requires a little more attention.  For this application, I advise a shallow poach for the initial phase of meatball cookery.  You want the hot stock to set-up the meatballs, but not cook them through (that will come later).  This also gives you a certain level of control when it comes to refining the flavors and adjusting the consistency of your sauce.

And what would wings be without blue cheese?  Well, the cheese is integrated into the actual meatball base.  And don’t forget to garnish with that cool, crisp accompaniment of celery.  Think of this as a make-over of classic Buffalo wings—no wet-wipes required.

 

Buffalo turkey meatballs

Serves 3 – 4

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons Panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup (or more) whole milk (plus more for final sauce)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons Buffalo wing sauce (plus more for final sauce)
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups of chicken stock (can adjust with extra water)

1.  In a bowl, combine breadcrumbs and milk.  Allow breadcrumbs to absorb milk until it forms a crumbly paste (may need to add more milk if too dry).  In a separate large bowl, combine turkey, eggs, wing sauce, blue cheese, basil, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Once breadcrumbs have absorbed milk, add to meatball base.  Mix contents with hands or a spatula until all ingredients are well incorporated (don’t overmix).  Cover and refrigerate mixture for 2 hours.

2.  In a wide, high-sided sauté pan, heat stock to just below a simmer (you may need to add a bit more stock or water to make sure liquid comes up about ¼ on the sides of pan).  Using a spoon or portion control scoop, form balls from meatball mixture and gently settle into poaching liquid.  You may need to do this in batches, adjusting liquid along the way.  Rotate meatballs from top to bottom until exterior is par-cooked.  Remove meatballs in batches, reserving on a plate.

3.  Add desired amount of wing sauce to stock, along with a small amount of milk (liquid may seem thin but will thicken up after meatballs have finished cooking.  Return meatballs to pan, increase heat slightly, and cover.  Cook for an additional 15 – 20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160° F.  Serve meatballs with poaching sauce, blue cheese crumbles and celery.

 

Curry-dusted scallops with minted peas

Loosen up: cooking à la minute

Originally appeared in the June 14, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

My favorite form of cooking is à la minute, which essentially means cooking to order.  Mise en place (or making sure all your ingredients are prepped and portioned) is critical in all applications of culinary arts, but it is particularly important when cooking à la minute.

For this week’s installment, you can see the recipe is composed of these simple ingredients: scallops, peas, mint, some fat, some liquid, and some seasonings—that’s it.  Sure, we all need guidelines to execute a recipe, but I think you’ll see it’s much more fun to wing it in the kitchen.

When you’re ready to cook for your guests, you’re mise en place should already be prepped and arranged in an easily accessible arrangement (why do you think most old-school kitchen are so tightly confined?—it’s easy to keep thing within reach).  Heat your pan with oil, dust your scallops with salt, pepper, and a bit of curry powder, and you’re off.  After removing your scallops, use the same pan to sauté your peas.  Trust me: you can make a show of it and be serving your culinary comrades in no time.

Yes: recipes are important, but it’s more important to have fun and loosen up, and cooking à la minute is an ideal way to be free.

Curry-dusted scallops with minted peas

Serves 2

  • 6, medium-sized sea scallops
  • As needed, curry powder
  • As needed, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • As needed, olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry wine
  • As needed, fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup frozen peas (thawed)
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh mint
  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter

1.  Heat a medium-sized sauté pan on medium-high heat; add a small amount of olive oil.  Lightly dust your scallops with curry powder, salt, and pepper.  Gently settle scallops onto sauté pan.  Sear scallops until golden brown before flipping to other side (adjust pan with more oil if needed.  When scallops have gained color and are nearly cooked through, reserve them on a plate.  Deglaze pan with sherry wine, scraping fond form the bottom with a wooden spoon; allow to reduce halfway.  Add lime juice and momentarily simmer.

2.  Add peas and stir to heat.  Remove pan from heat and add mint and swirl in butter.  Adjust seasonings before plating peas.  Rest three scallops on top of peas for each serving.  Garnish with extra mint.

Published in: on June 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Parmesan-crusted pork with asparagus pasta

A little boiling, a little broiling

Originally appeared in the June 7, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

For this week’s installment, you’ll be employing a little boiling and a little broiling—the former with the pasta (fettuccine), the latter with the parmesan.

While the protein centerpiece of this dish is the pork (a thick-cut loin cutlet), my favorite part is the pasta.  Here, it’s fun to exercise a bit of friendly deception with the asparagus, which is meant to mimic the shape of the fettuccine.  This is easy to accomplish:  simply place your asparagus (about 6 – 8 pieces for a 2-serving portion) flat on a cutting board, and use a vegetable peeler to shave long ribbons away from the stalk.  (I have taken to using vegetable peelers with fine, serrated teeth, which are good for gripping your product; but a good old fashioned peeler should do the trick.)  Cut off the delicate tips and incorporate them into the pasta.

Now, on to the pork.  After grilling or pan-searing you pork, arrange your oven rack closer to the broiler, and crank the broil temp up to about 500° F. before prepping the parmesan along with rest of your ingredients.  The parmesan pork makes for a nice pairing with the lighter, fresher, asparagus pasta.

Parmesan-crusted pork with asparagus pasta

Serves 2

  • 2, thick-cut  pork loin chops
  • ¾ – 1 cup hand-grated parmesan
  • 6 ounces fettuccine noodles
  • 6 – 8 stalks of asparagus
  • As needed, olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ tablespoon chopped, fresh basil
  • As needed kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1.  Season pork chops with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.  Using a grill pan or sauté pan, sear pork loin on both sides; afterwards, place in preheated oven (if needed) to finish cooking to desired doneness.  Cover chops with aluminum foil and allow to rest as you finish prepping remaining ingredients.

2.  Boil fettuccine in salted water.  Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to shave ribbons of asparagus.  Drain pasta.  In a sauté pan, gently heat olive oil; add in asparagus and cook briefly; add in pasta, adjust seasonings; add in basil and toss in butter, coating the noodles and asparagus.

3.  Evenly sprinkle the parmesan over the top of the pork and place under the broiler.  Allow to melt and get crispy.  Serve pork over bed of fettuccine and asparagus.

Published in: on June 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm  Leave a Comment