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Sockeye Salmon with Dill Yogurt Sauce

Sockeye Salmon with Dill Yogurt Sauce

I am always looking for new and easy ways to embiggen the taste of the average every-night dinner.  I am also enormous fan of Greek yogurt.  The non-fat, unflavored kind has become a must-half for me over the last year and I’ve officially added it to my pantry staple list.

Lately I have been experimenting with Greek yogurt as a sauce base.  Sauces are great because you can serve a simpler meat/fish and side and flavor them both with the same agent- conferring the virtue of fewer parts, elegence in simplicity.  Typically, sour cream, crème fraîche, mayo (aioli) or some other such matrix is employed to make many traditional condiments, but I shy away from those for day-to-day stuff because of their high fat content and fickleness.  Special occasions, a weekend or for a once-in-a-while they’re fine, but for more general use I advocate Greek yogurt.  FYI- If you like yogurt but want a more sumptuous sauce, there are 2% and 10% fat Greek yogurts available.

It’s tang makes it’s a little less easy to work with flavor-wise, sure, but the health benefits make up for it, I think.  Play around with one or two tubs of it.  Up top I had a piece of sockeye, and I remember seeing a creamy dill sauce on salmon once on TV, so I bought some dill and got cracking.  I went on to add a touch of lemon juice and salt, and it was nearly perfect.  I was actually content to leave it at that, but after ruminating for a few minutes over a sink of dirty dishes, I remembered the small jar of whole grain mustard in the fridge.  The tiniest dollop of the stuff and the sauce was complete.  The mustard has a slight sweetness from the vinegar and the mustard backing was perfect.  Another easy winner is shredded cucumber squeezed dry, garlic, and salt in the self-same yogurt.

Dill Yogurt Sauce-

  • 1 small container (6 oz) of plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp dill fronds (more to taste if you like)
  • squeeze of lemon
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp whole grain mustard

Mix yogurt and dill, then add the lemon.  Before mixing again, add the salt and aim for the pool of lemon juice.  The salt will have an easier time dissolving in the lemon as opposed to the thick protein-rich yogurt.  Mix and add the pepper and mustard.  For best results, allow to sit for one hour before serving.

There you go- even in the dead heat of August, you can have fun playing in the kitchen and you might even come up with your new favorite recipe in the process.  Bon Appetit!

Chain Steak Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw, Chick Pea Salad, Sweet Onion Relish and Aged Irish Cheddar Cheese

Chain Steak Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw, Chick Pea Salad, Sweet Onion Relish and Aged Irish Cheddar Cheese

Greetings to one and all on this summery Monday.  A few weeks back, Elizabeth and I were lucky enough to be able to post our second PSMO odyssey on  The Kitchn.  We were thrilled by the great comments and the much love from the readers there.  Our motivation for the piece was that buying a larger cut of meat, sharing most of it at something like a cookout, then saving the rest for consumption later was a great way to stretch a modest monetary investment for culinary miles.   So here, this DIY taco set-up represents the last of the noble PSMO.

To prepare the chain, I marinated it for a few hours in soy sauce, lime juice and cumin.  then I seared it on all sides in my grill pan then I placed it into a 250 F oven until my thermometer told me it was ready, about 140 F.   I had some leftover red cabbage slaw, a staple round these parts, to go with it.  Also I felt like caramelized onions, so I divided a quick-n-easy relish that was just 1 1/2 finely chopped sweet onions and one diced jalapeno  cooked in a sauce pan on low for 25-30 minutes until all the onions got nice and golden and sweet.  The heat from the single chili was just enough to give it a warm finish and a nice compliment to the beef.  The chain meat isn’t quite as lean as flank steak, but I was surprised how roasting it in the oven cut down on he greasiness.  It’s not the *best* beef for tacos, but by way of using every last bit of PISMO, it was delightful.

Chain Steak, done well-- well-done

Chain Steak, done well-- but not well-done

Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde

Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde

I’ve been dying to try my hand at green enchiladas for a long time.  Most of the recipes I found were either very ingredient-intensive or of the following genre:

  • cook chicken
  • roll in tortillas
  • open a can of green sauce
  • pour on top

I don’t consider myself a perfectionist and I try not be a snob, but I felt I could do better.  I had found some poblano peppers at the grocery store, a rare occurrence to say the least, and decided that it was a sign.  I also remembered from the recipe hunting I’d been doing before that I needed to get some tomatillos also.  Luckily, I remembered that a local market usually had them in the springy months.

I guess the message here is that just because you’re daunted by a recipe at first, don’t just write it off.  Keep it in the back of your head, or better yet, keep a little book or journal on hand to jot down ideas, inspiration or cool things you see in the store.  The opportunity will eventually present itself: be it an opportune time, event or appearance of a rare ingredient and when it does, you’ll be ready to take the plunge.

In case you were wondering…

  • 3 poblanos: quartered and roasted under the broiler until charred
  • 4 medium tomatillos, paper removed and roasted for 6-8 minutes at 425 F
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-5 garlic gloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 bunch parsely
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • juice of 1-2 limes
  • salt/pepper/red pepper or dried chipotle powder

Remove the poblano skins once cooled, just like roasted red peppers  and chop roughly.  Remove the green tomatillo skins once they’ve cooled.  Saute the onion and garlic until fragrant and softened, 3-5 minutes on medium heat.  Remove stems from the herbs (I used leftover chimichurri instead of fresh herbs, but that’s another post).

Add everything to the blender and swirl until smooth.  Use this instead of canned sauce on your enchiladas.  Also, I recommend Monterrey jack cheese for these guys, but use whatever you like.  Also, if you’re using our old enchilada preparation, save yourself the trouble and omit the peppers and onions and just stick to chicken and cheese for this guy.   (Standard enchilada recipe can be referenced right here)

Viti Verde Vici!

Brined Pork Chops with Mashed Plantains and Mojo

Brined Pork Chops with Mashed Plantains and Mojo

Here is my first attempt at the Dominican dish Mangu’.  Essentially, green plantains are treated very similarly to potatoes, just peeled and boiled for 10 minutes, then mashed.  I used my mortar and pestle, but a ricer would have worked also.  I mixed in an ‘onion gravy’, which was little more than one chopped onion sauteed in a fair amount of olive oil and/or butter until soft and yummy.    I had some great manchego to shred for the top, but I forgot to put it on.  Of all the lousy luck, I really think I could have sold this dish to my skeptical wife otherwise.  Oh well, remember for next time.  Also- I got three large green plantains at my Stop and Shop for one dollar.  That’s an entire side for the cost of one onion and an additional dollar.  The mojo is the same one I used in our last TV spot.

I brined and grilled the chops on my electric grill.  Brining pork is really easy and really improves pork; modern hogs have been bred to be extra lean (by pig standards) to make the meat healthier, but it can get dry.  That being said, I’ve finally found a pork chop brine recipe that works reliably for me.  Whenever I use this brine, Elizabeth always cleans her plate, the best proof positive as far as I’m concerned.  The ones I had been using were either for 2 hours or 24, and I wanted one strong enough to act while I was at work but didn’t overdo it.  This one is good for waking up in the morning, mixing and dunking the chops for consumption that night.

  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups water, one hot and one cold

Mix the salt and sugar in the hot water to dissolve.  Next add the remaining water and vinegar.  Pour into a tall container or study zip-top bag and submerge the chops.  Wait 8-10 hours.  Rinse the chops, dry and prepare normally.  Deliciousness follows.

Grilled Chicken Pita with Grilled Onions, Tomato Jam and Cilantro Creme Fresh

Grilled Chicken and Onion Pita with Tomato Jam and Cilantro Creme Fresh with Garbanzo Salad

This is something I made about a year ago and really enjoyed, but then never made again.  I had been travelling the previous weekend and when I returned home, I was in a creative mood.  My fridge was stocked with strange leftover odds and ends and I sought out to improvise wherever possible.  The tomato jam is definitely the star and the hero of this preparation- the tandoori gives a depth that’s both unexpected and irresistible.  Also, this is the first time I thought to add onions- as a Philly boy, it’s embarrassing that this sweet and savory cheesesteak staple eluded me for so long.  The recipes follow:

Grilled Chicken and Onion Pitas with Tandoori Tomato Jam and Cilantro Creme

  • 2-4 pitas.
  • 12 oz chicken tenderloins
  • soy sauce
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large onion, sliced into thin circles
  • 1 14 oz can of petite cut tomatoes
  • 1-2 tsp tandoori spice
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • creme fresh
  • cilantro, finely chopped

Marinate the chicken in enough soy sauce and balsamic vinegar to coat for 20 minutes.  Open the tomatoes and drain most of the liquid.  In a medium saucepan, add the tomatoes, sugar and tandoori spice and turn to medium high.  The sauce will begin to simmer then reduce and after 5-10 minutes, turn down the heat to medium.  Continue reducing the heat as the mixtures tightens, ending eventually at low.  Add a splash balsamic vinegar every once in a while when the tomatoes are looking dry.  Give this at least 30 minutes and keep a vigil over the pan to make sure its simmering high enough but not sticking or burning.

Warm up an electric or outdoor grill (medium setting) or grill pan or saute pan.  Cook the chicken until done, reaching an internal temp above 170 F.  Remove the chicken from the grill then immediately add the onions and saute until brown and sweet, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.

Finally, add the chopped cilantro to the creme fresh.  The amounts here vary based on how much of the green stuff you like on your pita.  Chop the cilantro finely to avoid that leaf-in-teeth feeling.  Add a bit of salt and pepper.  You can substitute Greek yogurt or sour cream for the creme fresh, so omit it all together and mix the cilantro into the tomato jam once it’s done cooking.  Stuff pitas to your liking and dive in.

Simple Garbanzo Salad

  • 1 15 oz can chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red pepper, roasted and chopped
  • 1/4 onion or 2 shallots, chopped very fine
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2+ tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Mix the first four ingredients well.  Top with the vinegar, add some salt and toss.  Let sit for *at least* 30 minutes.  If the salad is too bland, add more vinegar.  Drizzle with olive oil before serving.  Any number of additional components can be added to the salad, just make sure the garbanzos have some quality time with the vinegar and make sure that whatever else you add can stand up the salt and acid for the waiting period, otherwise wait to add it until serving.

Bon Appetito!

Artic Char with Roasted Tomatillo and Red Pepper Salsa and Brown Rice

Artic Char with Roasted Tomatillo and Red Pepper Salsa and Brown Rice

Wait! You can’t do fish two days in a row!

Well, while rifling through the photos waiting to be posted, I came across this little number waiting to be expounded upon. I like this one, not for the fish or the rice preparation (which are both standard; we’ve covered them before, just click the tags on the side), but for the salsa on top. And so I’m not talking about fish, I’m talking about salsa. So there.

I’ve always wanted to try using tomatillos and figured that the warm spell of early March was as good a time as any. Roasting these guys involves first removing the leaves and giving them a scrub, broiling for 4-5 min then turning them over and going another 4-5. Let cool and chop- I paired them with chopped roasted red peppers and a splash of white balsamic vinegar, a little olive oil and salt/pepper. A simple fresh herb is a nice addition, maybe parsley, basil or cilantro. This is an incredibly sweet and tangy healthy salsa that goes with about everything. Keep your side plain (orzo, brown rice, cous cous, etc) and just mix the salsa in to really take it all in. This really is a nice flavorful brown recipe rice while keeping everything very healthy.  Enjoy!

Elizabeth here.  I was prompted to start a post on this after I came in from work to the most *heavenly* scent filtering through the halls, and frankly, Michael needs to tell you the secrets to a simple sauce using some canned tomatoes, some garlic, and some luck.

I try not to be a food elitist.  It’s not been an easy task, and more than once I have been (rightly) reamed out for criticizing another home-cook’s fare.  Please understand that this does not apply to the restaurant world where we pay top-dollar for food, there I’ll be as critical or nice as I like.  But the home kitchen comes with a different set of rules: homecooking is a gift given from one to another, not a service that’s been purchased.  As such, the consumer mantra does not (or should not) apply.  

How does this apply to tomatoes?  (masterfully segued!)   When it comes to the humble red sauce, I used to think there were only two options: either a lovingly dawdled-over all-day Italian grandmother-styer production or da-red-in-da-jar.  Both are great at what they’re great at- but are these my only options?  A six-hour simmer or a complete concession of creative control? 

Enter my friend Caitlin.  During junior year of college, she spent a semester in Rome.  While I’m sure she had a whole mess of enriching experiences or whatever also, she brought back this simple and amazing recipe for a tomato sauce that she claimed everyone used in Rome (if I’m wrong, feel free to tell me and I’ll send her contact information to you so you can correct her).  She also taught me about real bruschetta well before TV chefs started harping on it, but that’s a post for another day.  

To begin, take 2 cans of tomatoes (Wait! Not fresh? Actually, from what I hear, in Italy they understand that tomatoes are not good most of the year and canned are substituted.  If it’s May-July, use the fresh ones if you like.  Here’s a handy tomato converter).  Place them in a sauce pan over medium-high heat with some chopped garlic, and a good amount of salt & pepper.  And that’s it.  Allow the sauce to cook down for at least 20 minutes, but really until most of the juicy stuff has cooked off and the mixture is thickened.  If the sauce seems to be burning or sticking, turn the heat down to medium.  Really, the key is reduction.  Just take your time.  Also, you can add some red wine at the beginning of cooking if you’re into that kind of thing.  I’m into that kind of thing.

Literally, that’s it.  And it’s one of the test tomato sauces I’ve ever had.  It comes together fast with a minimum of trouble and it goes with just about anything.  Surprisingly, it lacks that super-acidic twang of many quick sauces (which can be counteracted with grated carrot, by the way).  I could go on at length about the pristine majesty of simplistic cuisine and the joy of deconvoluting your cooking, but I’ll save that for another time. Until next time,  Ciao.

Simple Sauce reducing...

Simple Tomato Sauce reducing...

 

A key pantry staple.  For serious.

A key pantry staple. For serious.

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