Friday, August 18, 2017

Grilled Spiced Salmon with Corn Relish

Last Year's Post: Mexican Chicken Pasta
Two Years Ago:   Roasted Tomato Californian

It's corn season, and this is a fun and different way to use fresh corn.  Almost nothing says "summer" more than grilling so celebrate the end of summer and the fleeting corn season with a healthy and delicious salmon and corn dinner.

I made fairly drastic changes to a recipe I found in the New York Times that featured halibut, but I'm sure the halibut would be equally good.  Their recipe called for pre-cooked corn which made no sense if you're going to be grilling anyway, does it?  If it's not corn season, just use frozen thawed corn - Trade Joes even has a bag of frozen roasted corn with nice char marks already on it that would be perfect.

Note that the recipe says to marinate the fish with spices for up to 3 hours, although I'm not sure why.  I think you could skip that step and go directly from rubbing on the spice mix to the grill, letting the fish sit and marinate on the side while you grill the corn.

Regarding the spices, they're fairly potent so use your discretion regarding how much to add to the salmon and how much to add to the corn relish.  I preferred a light hand with the spices so I could taste them more as a background note to the fresh salmon and corn. If you really like the spices in Indian food, by all means increase the amount.  Just remember you can always add more later but you can't take some out.

The yogurt might seem like an unusual addition but the neutral creaminess goes really well with the spices and the rich salmon.  If you skip (or shorten) the marinating step, this is a really easy weeknight dinner.  Start the grill, rub the spices on the salmon, then start some rice.  Grill the corn, then put the salmon on the grill while you (or a helpful friend) make the corn relish.  Start to finish, I would say this shouldn't take any longer than about 45 minutes.

Grilled Spiced Salmon with Corn Relish
Serves 4

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 salmon fillets, 5-6 ounces each
2 lemons (1 juiced and 1 quartered)
1 large or 1 small ears fresh corn, shucked (about 2 cups of kernels)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves plus more for garnish
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
Hot cooked rice

Combine cumin, coriander, fennel, ½ teaspoon black pepper and ½ teaspoon salt.  Rub salmon fillets with juice of ½ lemon, then sprinkle on some of the spice mix (light to medium as preferred), leaving at least 2 teaspoons spice mix for the corn relish.  Rub the spice mix in, then refrigerate the salmon for up to 3 hours.

Preheat a grill to medium-high.  Brush the ears of corn with the vegetable oil, then grill for 2 minutes per each of 4 sides until grill-marked and tender.  Remove and let cool.

Place the salmon fillets on the grill skin side down for about 5 minutes, then carefully flip with a spatula (the skin should come right off).  Grill another 3-4 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 140d.  Remove and let rest for 5 minutes.

While the salmon is grilling, prepare the corn relish:  stand the ears of corn upright and cut the kernels off the cobs.  Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet, then add the chopped onion and sauté until tender.  Stir in 1-2 teaspoons spice mix (depending on preference) and sauté, stirring, until you can smell the spices.  Add corn kernels and the juice of ½ lemon.  Cook briefly to heat through, then add the cilantro and stir to combine.

To serve, place some rice on each plate.  Top with a salmon fillet and corn relish.  Add a dollop of yogurt or sour cream on the side and garnish with a lemon wedge and cilantro sprig.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Chicken Paillards

Last Year's Post:  Spanish Omelet
Two Years Ago:   Cold Sesame Noodles with Cucumber

Paillard (pie-yar) is just a fancy term for a chicken or veal cutlet that's been pounded until it's thin and then grilled or sauted.  It's often cooked in a skillet with the pan drippings used to make a sauce, but I like this particular recipe because it's healthier - the additional flavor comes from seasonings, greens and a mustardy vinaigrette instead of a butter sauce.  It's a very quick, elegant and healthy weeknight dinner.

My inspiration for making it this week was the container of baby kale that I found at the grocery store.  Baby kale?  Totally cute, ridiculously healthy, tender and delicious.  If you can find it, try it, but if you can't, use arugula for a similar tender-yet-slightly-bitter taste.

All you have to do is toast some nuts, gently pound the chicken, make the vinaigrette, cook the chicken for about 4 minutes, and toss the greens.  I think it took less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

One last note about pine nuts:  I added them here because I thought they would go perfectly, and they did.  However, there must be a worldwide pine nut shortage because they're expensive and hard to find at the moment, so feel free to substitute toasted almonds or walnuts.

Chicken Paillards
Serves 4

2 large or 4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garlic powder
Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon grainy mustard
8 cups baby kale, baby arugula, or mixed greens
Shaved parmesan cheese
½ cup toasted pine nuts

To make the dressing, whisk the lemon zest and juice, mustard, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a bowl until combined (or shake in a small jar).  Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.

Preheat a grill pan, outdoor grill, or large nonstick pan to medium high.

If using large chicken breasts, cut each in half horizontally to make two cutlets.  Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound gently using a meat hammer until each is an even thickness and quite thin – about ¼”.  Remove the chicken pieces from the plastic and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, massaging it into both sides with your hands.  Sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

If using a nonstick pan, coat lightly with oil.  Grill or sauté the chicken pieces for 2-3 minutes per side until cooked through.  Place on individual plates

Combine the greens with just enough dressing to coat lightly, then mound on top of the chicken.  Top with parmesan shavings, toasted pine nuts and additional freshly ground black pepper.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Zucchini Parmesan

Last Year's Post:  Savory Kale and Corn Galette
Two Years Ago:    Spanish Shrimp

It's summer, which means fresh tomatoes and zucchini are everywhere.  If you have a garden or made a recent trip to the farmer's market this is a perfect way to use some of them up.  I recently made a similar recipe for zucchini roll-ups stuffed with ricotta and topped with a tomato sauce that was very good but pretty fussy and time-consuming so the idea of simply layering the zucchini, cheese and sauce was appealing.

The original recipe didn't have ricotta cheese, which made it a nice light side dish.  Adding the ricotta makes it a satisfying vegetarian entree. It's your choice either way.

If you don't have a bunch of fresh tomatoes, you could always used good quality canned tomatoes.  To make it even easier,  you could buy a marinara sauce at the store.

First you thinly slice the zucchini, then bake until tender. Layer the zucchini, sauce, and ricotta mixture (if using) with Parmesan and bake.  I wanted to use a pretty oval baking dish for the pictures, but couldn't quite figure out how to layer the rectangular zucchini slices in an oval dish.  Next time I think I'll just bake more zucchini and overlap them every which way, if that makes sense.

This is not only healthy, but truly delicious.

Zucchini Parmesan
Serves 6

For the tomato sauce:
2 to 2 ½ pounds fresh ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped 
2-4 garlic cloves, to taste
Salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar
2 sprigs fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

For the zucchini parmesan:
2 to 2 ½ pounds zucchini
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
2 garlic cloves, grated
3-4 sprigs fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 

Line 2 sheet pans with parchment.  Trim ends off zucchini and cut in half crosswise, then cut into thin lengthwise slices about ¼ to 1/3” thick.  Season both sides with salt and pepper and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Arrange zucchini slices on baking sheets in a single layer and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.  Roast for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned and tender.  Remove and let cool.  Reduce oven to 375d.

While the zucchini cooks and cool, make the sauce:  if you have a food mill, quarter the tomatoes.  If not, peel, seed and chop them.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add onion.  Cook, stirring often until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and basil sprigs.  Increase heat to medium-high.  When tomatoes are bubbling briskly, stir and reduce heat to medium.  Cook, stirring often, until tomatoes have cooked down and are beginning to stick to the pan, 15-25 minutes.  Remove basil sprigs; taste and adjust seasonings.  If using a food mill, put sauce through medium blade.  If not, pulse sauce in a food processor until just coarsely pureed.  Stir in chopped basil.

To assemble and bake:  place the ricotta, egg yolks, grated garlic and basil in a small food processor and pulse to combine.  Set aside. Oil a 2-quart dish with olive oil or nonstick spray. Spread ¼ cup tomato sauce over the bottom of the dish.  Arrange a third of the zucchini slices in an even layer over the tomato sauce.  Spoon a third of the remaining sauce over the zucchini and sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmesan.  Repeat one additional layer, then spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the second layer.  Add one more layer of zucchini, sauce and Parmesan.  Drizzle on the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. 

Bake 30-35 minutes until bubbling and browned.  Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.  

Friday, July 28, 2017

Grilled Shrimp Quesadillas

Last Year's Post: healthy white bean dip
Two Years Ago:  chicken quinoa salad with nectarine vinaigrette

Ahhh, summer.  Ideal summer foods are light, simple and tasty.  If they involve grilling, so much the better.  These shrimp quesadillas fit the bill in every way - they involve a grand total of five ingredients (not counting vegetable oil, which really shouldn't count) plus two brief grill visits to create something pretty special and very delicious.

You start by grilling some shrimp and red onion.  While they grill (a total of maybe 10 whole minutes) you could a) sip a glass of wine and enjoy the breeze or b) shred some cheese for the next step.  If you're really good you can do all three at the same time, but stay close to the grill - those shrimp go fast.

When the shrimp and onion are done, the onion is chopped and the shrimp sliced in half to form crescents.  Dump the cheese, onion and shrimp on flour tortillas and grill until pretty, folding partway through.  Serve with your favorite salsa or pico de gallo - just nothing too hot or bold that might overpower the shrimp.

A note about this recipe - it's from Rick Bayless, one of my favorite chefs.  He calls for a young Manchego cheese, which is Spanish.  He probably specifies young cheese because it gets stronger as it ages and again, he doesn't want to overpower the shrimp.  It was very good with Manchego but you could certainly substitute Monterey Jack if you felt like it.  You could also add lobster or crab in addition to the shrimp to make the quesadillas really special.

One quesadilla per person makes a light dinner with a side salad, or you could cut them into small pieces to use as an appetizer or part of a Mexican party table.

print recipe
Grilled Shrimp Quesadillas
Makes 6 quesadillas

½ medium red onion, cut into ½-inch rounds
12 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp
 ¼ cup vegetable oil, divided
3 cups (about 12 ounces) shredded young Manchego cheese
6 (8-10 inch) flour tortillas
Salsa, for serving

Heat a gas grill to medium-high on one side, medium on the other, or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with white ash, then bank the coals to one side. Using an oil mister or pastry brush, oil each onion round on both sides and lay on the hottest side of the grill. Cook, flipping them half way through, until soft and grill-marked, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool, then cut into ½-inch pieces.

Place shrimp on skewers for easy cooking.  Oil the shrimp on both sides and lay the hottest side of the grill. Cook, flipping halfway through, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes total. When the shrimp are cool enough to handle, cut them in half through the back making two crescents.

Lay the tortillas on the cooler side of the grill. Top each with about ½ cup of cheese and cook until the cheese starts to melt.  Divide the grilled onion and shrimp among the tortillas. When the cheese is about half melted, fold the tortillas in half, enclosing the filling. Cook the quesadillas until the tortillas are lightly grilled and the filling is warmed through, about 2 minutes per side. Serve with your favorite salsa.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sicilian Grilled Swordfish

Last Year's Post: Chinese Chicken Salad
Two Years Ago:   Grilled Salmon with Kale and Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

If you like swordfish, you're going to love this recipe.  Relatively thin swordfish steaks are quickly grilled and then soaked in a lemon, olive oil and oregano sauce.  Since they're thin and pierced with a fork before pouring the sauce over the hot fish, the flavor permeates throughout the fish while the sauce keeps it wonderfully moist and tender.  If you can't find thin swordfish steaks, just ask you fishmonger to cut a thick one in half horizontally (or do it yourself).

Because it's easy to overcook swordfish until it becomes dry and tough and particularly if it's thin, I strongly recommend buying an instant thermometer if you don't have one already.  They're invaluable for testing the doneness of meats and poultry in addition to fish.  The new thermometers read the temperature within a second or two after insertion so you don't need to fool with one of those thermometers that stay in the food in your oven or grill and you can quickly test the temperature in multiple spots which is particularly helpful with something like chicken or turkey.

I served the swordfish with an orzo salad on the side with black olives, roasted tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and lemon dressing to continue the Sicilian theme.  Leftovers made a great lunch salad the next day.

Sicilian Grilled Swordfish
Serves 4

Note: If you can only find thick swordfish steaks have the fishmonger cut them in half horizontally for you.

4 relatively thin (1/2” or so) swordfish steaks, 5-6 ounces each
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, cut into quarters

Preheat a grill (or indoor grill pan) to medium-high.

For the sauce, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Set aside.

Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes on the first side, then flip and turn for another 1-2 minutes until almost cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 120d.  Remove to a flat dish, prick holes in the fish with a fork, and pour the lemon sauce over the fish while it’s hot.  Cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes to soak up the sauce and finish cooking.

Serve the fish with sauce poured over and a lemon quarter on the side.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Spanish Chicken Salad with Manchego and Smoky Almonds

Last Year's Post:  Spiced Carrot Soup (Hot or Cold)
Two Years Ago:   Baked Falafel

This is a sophisticated salad that's incredibly easy to throw together in the time it takes to toast some almonds.  But there are a few somewhat unusual ingredients that are key:  Manchego cheese, smoked paprika, piquillo peppers and really good sherry vinegar.  Manchego cheese is a Spanish cheese similar to Gruyere that you can find in most good cheese shops.  Smoked paprika can be found in some spice aisles and at Penzeys, my favorite spice store.  Smoked paprika is very Spanish and makes the salad much more interesting so don't be tempted to substitute regular paprika.  Piquillo peppers can be found in most grocery stores next to regular jarred roasted red peppers.  I think they have a brighter and more interesting taste than regular roasted red peppers but if you can't find them, regular roasted peppers would be fine.

And finally, sherry vinegar.  Sherry vinegar is my favorite vinegar ever since I had the opportunity to sample a really good quality one from Spain, and I'll never go back.  Please don't buy one of those little bottles from the grocery store.  Take the time and effort to get a high-quality bottle from your local gourmet store or online - the difference in taste is amazing.  I bought this one online from iGourmet.

Anyway, after you buy the Spanish ingredients it's a very quick salad to assemble because you use precooked deli chicken.  The only cooking you do is to toast the almonds.  Stay nearby and stir frequently while they toast because they can burn fast.

Spanish Chicken Salad with Manchego and Smoky Almonds
Serves 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup sliced almonds
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 cups salad green, preferably red and green
½ cup drained piquillo peppers from jar, cut into thin strips
4 cups shredded deli chicken meat
1 cup Manchego cheese, cut into cubes or strips

Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add almonds and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes.  Watch closely so they don’t turn too dark.  Transfer almonds to paper towels and sprinkle with smoked paprika and salt.  Let cool.

Whisk shallot, vinegar and oil in a small bowl (or shake in a small jar with lid) to blend.  Season dressing with salt and pepper.  Place salad greens in a large bowl.  Add dressing and toss to coat.  Divide among plates, then top with rows of chicken, peppers, cheese, and almonds.  (Alternately, toss everything together except the almonds and divide between plates, then sprinkle almonds on top.)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Grilled Korean Shrimp

Last Year's Post: Coconut Chicken Fingers
Two Years Ago:   Ravioli with Fresh Corn

If you like Korean food or spicy food in general, you'll love these shrimp.  The sauce gives them big, bold flavor with enough kick to make your lips tingle for a few minutes so be sure to serve them with a nice cold beverage. I particularly like the look of the shrimp and onions after grilling.

They're very quick and easy to make (no marinating) and would be perfect as part of a summer grilling party - serve one or two shrimp with green onions on mini-skewers for each person.  Larger skewers could be served over a big green salad, or with fried rice, or as I did over a tangle of noodles with garlic, olive oil and parsley.

The Lawyer said this picture looks like music.  :-)
The only unusual ingredient is Gochujang, which is a thick, dark red Korean spice paste that's essential to Korean cooking.  At one time I would have hesitated to post a recipe using it, but I recently found it in the Asian section of my local Fry's store so it's getting much easier to find.  If your grocery store doesn't carry it, you can find it at your local Asian market.

One of my favorite parts of the recipe is the green onion - crispy-charred and spicy from the basting sauce, they taste sort of like spicy fried onions.  This is a unique and unusual twist on grilled shrimp that's completely delicious.

Grilled Korean Shrimp
Serves 4

16 colossal (U10-12) or 20 extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 green onions, trimmed, white and light green part cut into 2 inch lengths
Kosher salt

Gochujang sauce
1/4 cup Gochujang paste (Korean red pepper paste.)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Wooden skewers, soaked

Using 2 skewers side by side, alternately thread on pieces of green onion and shrimp, beginning and ending with green onions. Sprinkle the skewers lightly on both sides with the kosher salt. Whisk the Gochujang sauce ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (400°F).

Put the skewers on the grill over direct medium-high heat and cook for three minutes. Flip the skewers and baste with the sauce.  Cook for another two minutes, flip the skewers, and baste again. Cook for one more minute. Remove the skewers to a platter, and brush one last time with sauce (or serve with additional leftover sauce on the side).   Serve hot or at room temperature.