Grilled Salmon Chop

Yummy salmon!!

I made this delightful grilled salmon “chop” a couple of days ago. It was really very simple.

First I took a salmon steak (you know, the U-shaped cut with a bone down the center that’s essentially a cross-section of the fish) and with a very sharp chef knife cut that right down the middle, severing it into two “chops”. I seasoned the salmon with Konriko Greek Seasoning and a bunch of cracked peppercorn and then I rubbed it with a generous amount of olive oil.

It was a cool evening so I used a stove-top grill-pan for my grilling. I pre-heated the oven to 350°F and heated the grill-pan over high until it was smoking-hot. I placed the salmon down in the pan and grilled the first side for about five minutes (or until nicely charred) and then flipped it. I grilled the other side for about three minutes and then popped the whole pan into the oven for six minutes.

I removed the pan from the oven and allowed it to sit on the stove-top for a few more minutes, just to cool down a tiny bit.

I served the fish with a scoop of steamed Japanese rice and a veggie saute of fresh corn, petite peas, and diced zucchini. Instead of a lemon wedge I added a slice of ripe tangerine.

It was a perfect dinner! The salmon was lush, buttery, custardy, and oh-so tasty. The skin was crisp and chewy and unctuous. The fish was rich and delish. You could almost feel the Omega-6 fatty acids coursing through your veins. So good!

 

Feeding the Family

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A casual dinner by the Willamette River.

Regina, Bennet, Vivian, and I visited my father and step-mother in Portland, Oregon last week. Dad and Joan have an absolutely gorgeous place by on the east bank of the Willamette River. Their house is set on a bluff overlooking a wide expanse of perfect lawn that leads down to the river bank. My father is a dedicated plant man and he’s got stunning vegetable beds, fruit trees, and grape vines growing vigorously on their property. Kale and tomatoes, lettuces and potatoes, rosemary, lavender, fig, eucalyptus, red chard, bartlett pear, apples, and more. In the eight years they’ve been in Oregon they’ve managed to create and maintain a home that is inviting and charming and that’s a reflection of their progressive thoughts on nature, food, health, light, and community. And on a late summer afternoon there’s nothing better than sipping a glass of my Dad’s homemade white wine and watching rowing sculls flit across the river’s surface, competing occasionally with the wake-making antics of jet-skiers. Birds loop in the blue skies, adopted fuzzball cats get fresh with your legs, a breeze stirs the perfect green beans clinging from their trellis, the occasional passenger jet carves contrails impossibly high above us. It’s all so perfect. So perfect, in fact, that Regina and I got married on these fair premises last summer.

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Always superb salmon can be found in the Northwest.

When we visit I usually try to cook one good meal for my family; we only seem to have time for one as we always have so much on our plate — other friends and family to see, zoos to visit, and breweries to tour. We like to eat outside, watch the sunset, play board games as we nibble dessert, and perhaps sip a little cheap sherry (that would be only my father and me) as we yak about our lives, politics, and what-have-you. This past week talk of politics, the food industry, my much-missed absent sisters, and (naturally) The Olympics dominated. We try to make the most of what Dad and Joan’s garden has to offer, we take a casual pace, and we enjoy each other’s company.

Joan and Jeff (my bro) contributed some excellent Coho salmon — each filet about a pound, very lean, but very fresh. Full of pin bones, even though I yanked out most of them. I patted-dry the fish very well, cut the filets down to individual pieces, and seasoned them with sea salt, pepper, and a big pinch of some random Penzey’s spice mix (maybe like a poultry seasoning) that Joan had in her cooking arsenal. I cooked the filets by first searing the fish skin-side down in a very hot skillet with some olive oil. After the skin was crisped I then flipped the pieces and cooked the other side about a minute. I then transferred the par-cooked pieces to a baking dish. The baking dish I popped into the oven and finished the fish at 375º F for about five minutes.

The fish was just cooked through, moist and delicious.

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A simple salad — romaine, tomato, radish, etc.

Our salad was definitely a family affair. Jeff contributed a perfect large Persian cucumber from his yard-garden, Joan added a bulb of fennel and a head of fresh romaine from her lettuce bed, and just that morning I’d gotten a few excellent tomatoes, celery, and radishes from the small but very inviting Milwaukie Farmer’s Market. At the market I also picked up some great local and organic goat-milk feta cheese. I whipped up a simple cider vinaigrette with some garlic, shallot, and a bit of minced fennel frond (and S&P, of course).

I (mostly) peeled, seeded, and chopped the cuke. I shaved the fennel and soaked it briefly in cold water to firm it up. I cut, soaked, and spun-dry the romaine. Cut the tomatoes, finely cut some celery, shaved some radishes, crumbled the sublime and creamy feta. I tossed everything together with some of the dressing. Basically a Greek-style salad with no olives or peppers, it was light and refreshing and complemented the fish perfectly.

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Potatoes fresh out of the ground are the best!

Dad dug up some potatoes from a mixed patch that yielded some good glossy reds, some Peruvian purples, and a few starchy Russet-style baker-types. After hosing them down, drying them off, and cutting the spuds down to similar sizes (think 3/4-inch thick cubes, about) I tossed them (in a big bowl) in melted butter and olive oil. Over the top I sprinkled generous amounts of kosher salt and cracked black pepper. I also threw in some minced herbs from Joan’s herb pots — fresh rosemary, a bit of fresh lavender, lemon thyme, marjoram, and parsley. A couple large cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped, completed the potato seasoning. I spread the taters in a roasting pan and cooked them at 400ºF for about 35 minutes, until the potatoes were browned and crisp on the edges but soft in the middle. I turned and tossed and moved the potatoes around a couple of times during the roasting to ensure even cooking.

Everyone loved the potatoes, and it’s a good thing I made a whole lot as we ended up eating them the next day as well! The dish wasn’t particularly hard to make or inventive. It’s  all about fresh potatoes. Fresh potatoes are heads above your typical grocery store spuds. They are moister, richer, earthier, and butterier. Just excellent. And according to Dad, pretty much toil-free as a home crop.

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Very simple sauteed green beans.

Earlier that day Joan had picked some green beans. I trimmed these and blanched them in boiling salted water for about four minutes until tender. I shocked them in a ice bath to stop the cooking and then then drained them very well. I cut the beans into two-to-three-inch lengths. About five minutes before dinner time I heat up a big sauté pan and lightly browned (over medium-high heat) some chopped onion and garlic in a combination of butter and olive oil. I threw in the beans and cooked them for another minute. I added a splash of white wine (New Zealand Sauv Blanc), stirred the beans, and served them.

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Excellent lemon-garlic fettucine with butter, parmesan, lemon zest, and fresh breadcrumbs.

At the Milwaukie Farmer’s Market I also picked up a pound of very good organic linguine infused with lemon and garlic. First step in making this dish was toasting some homemade fresh breadcrumbs. I cut the crust off of a chunk of stale baguette and then cut the interior of the bread into smaller pieces, about a half-inch in size. I put the bread into a food processor and pulsed it down into crumbs. I then sautéed the crumbs in butter and olive oil until nice-and-crunchy; I pulled the crumbs from the pan and held them until later.

I set up a pot of salted water to cook the pasta. I set up another big sauté pan and melted a generous plug of butter in a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Into the oils I added two cloves of coarsely garlic & once minced shallot. I cooked the garlic and shallot about a minute until softened and then turned off the gas. When the water boiled I cooked the noodles to al dente.

I drained the noodles but I retained a half-cup of the pasta-cooking liquid in a measuring cup. I put the hot drained linguine into the butter-olive oil mixture and tossed it well. I turned the heat up to high and added the cup of pasta-water. I threw in a handful of chopped red chard and about 5 basil leaves, which I tore up by hand. Over the noodles I added two tablespoons of lemon zest and the juice of one lemon. Using a pair of tongs I mixed the noodles to get everything together and then tested for seasoning. I added a bit of salt, a whole bunch of black pepper, and 1 cup of grated parmesan. I killed the heat, stirred the cheese in, and transferred the pasta to a big serving bowl. Finally, as a garnish, I topped the linguine with a big handful of toasted breadcrumbs. Voila! Garlic & lemon linguine with butter, chard, basil, parmesan & crisp breadcrumbs.

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Sitting down to a fine meal with fine people (clockwise from left): Jeff, Bennet, Regina, me, Vivian, Joan. (Missing from this photo: Dad, who took the pic, and my sister-in-law Kate, who had to work.)

Jeff brought some homemade beer (pretty yummy!) and we also drank lemonade and one of my personal faves — Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc (pretty decent and relatively cheap NZ white). For dessert we had this delicious crostata made from organic nectarines and a partially whole-wheat crust, which came out a tiny bit tough. I made a basic pate brisée but I think I screwed up the proportions of fat-to-flour. C’est la vie. Even the best of us screw up from time to time. Best of all, we topped off the crostata with vanilla ice cream from Graeter’s out of Cincinnati. Good, ole-fashioned iced cream.

Seriously, is there anything better than good food and family? Well, the view helped too. And the wine.

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Fresh nectarine crostata. Yummy!

Smoked Salmon Hash

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This morning I made a lovely and simple breakfast hash with some excellent local smoked salmon.

My father has a small potato patch and he dug up a few very fresh, waxy, red-skinned potatoes. In a small pot I covered the potatoes with cold water and boiled them until fork-tender. I drained the taters and when they were cool enough to handle I peeled them, mostly. I left on about 20% of the skin for a little texture. Next I cubed them roughly and set them aside.

I cut up half of a small onion into a large dice. I also chopped up one celery stalk, a small piece of fennel bulb, and one very large garlic clove. I then minced a little rosemary, some lemon thyme, some parsley, and a tiny fistful of celery leaf. I broke up a big handful of smoked salmon into flakey chunks; this was hot-smoked “kippered” salmon, as opposed to lox or nova, although you could use pretty much any type of salmon you wanted. Or you could use smoked trout or cooked lobster meat or big chunks of crispy bacon if you wanted to.

Into a hot skillet I swirled about three tablespoons of olive oil and added a tablespoon of butter. I threw in the onions, celery, and fennel. I added a big pinch of kosher salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. I sauteed all that over medium high heat until just barely browned and then added the potatoes. I stirred the ingredients together until well-combined and let the potatoes brown on one side until crispy and golden. I stirred in the salmon and the herbs and cooked for about five minutes over high. I checked for seasoning, added a bit more salt, and then killed the heat.

It was ready to eat. And it was yummy! Fried up a couple of farm-fresh eggs and had a fantastic brekkie.

Summer Ceviche (Omnivorous Video Number Two!)

Light and refreshing summer ceviche!

Recipe For Summer Ceviche

You will need:

  • 1/2 pound halibut, cut into a large dice
  • lime juice to cover fish, from one large lime
  • 1/3 pound cooked fresh Dungeness crab meat (or any other crab meat)
  • 1/3 pound poached shrimp, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup chopped avocado
  • 1 roma tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 large jalapeño, minced (seeded if you don’t want it too hot)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 generous tablespoon (plus more if you want) extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of half a lime
  • tortilla chips & cerveza

Now do this:

I use halibut for this recipe because it’s widely available and neutral in flavor, but you can use pretty much any fish you want — red snapper, grouper, sea bass, even salmon if you like. I prefer white-fleshed fish with a low oil content for ceviche; I wouldn’t use tuna or other fatty fish as the flavor can be quite assertive (and not in a good way).

Put the diced halibut in a non-reactive bowl (not aluminum, basically) and cover with lime juice. Pop it in the fridge for 3 hours. Take it out and mix with all other ingredients, except chips and beer, duh!

Allow the ceviche to rest, refrigerated, for one hour. Or eat it immediately; it’s up to you!

Thanks for watching and thanks for reading.

Mario’s Restaurante in Jaco

He's OMNIVOROUS!

My step-cousin Carrie owns a condo in Jaco and she was kind enough to let Regina and me stay there while we were vacationing in Costa Rica. Jaco is a bit touristy, populated partly by a boisterous population of American expats and frequently flooded with tourists from all over Central, South, and North America. It’s pretty noisy at night down the main drag with all manner of cars and people and stray dogs and cars pumping music — much like any other tourist-centric beach town in any corner of the world. Regina and I were happy that the condo lay on the northern end of town, away from the clamor and drunken revelers. It was quiet where we were, conducive to relaxation and a restful type of vacationing.

When we travel Regina and I try to hunt down the local grub; it’s generally more honest, more affordable, and more representative of the locale and the people who live there. You’ll  see I posted a few other recommendations for restaurants in Jaco, if you find yourself in Costa Rica some day. Those are places Regina and I ferreted out on our own.

Excellent, garlicky langostinas!

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Isaga: Further Adventures in Costa Rican Local Grub

This little "langostica" was fresh, cheap, and delish.

In our ongoing quest for local cheap eats, Regina and I keep our eyes peeled for places with a line out the door. Walking the streets of Jaco, Costa Rica last week we stopped at innumerable restaurants on the main drag to check out menus; it was a mixed bag, for sure. Mostly tourist traps with surprisingly high prices or bizarre mish-mashed menus featuring a combination of Costa Rican fare with, let’s say, Greek salad or anchovy pizza. And yeah, sure, I like Greek salad and anchovy pizza, but paying $40 for it while we’re in a foreign land seems a little strange. Also, given that most of the touristy places seemed near-empty on a Friday evening wasn’t heartening. Strolling half a block off the main drag we found the very-packed and lively Isaga, which had at least fifteen people waiting in line out front. They were all locals, by the look of the them. Suddenly our spirits lifted!

Creamy seafood "chowder" is packed full of mariscos!

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Costa Rica Casado

At the moment I’m traveling in Costa Rica with Regina on our belated honeymoon. The day is nearly spent and the Pacific surf rushes and sighs outside the window of our rental condo in Jaco. I can nearly taste the sea it’s so close, and as I post this I take a final few sips of five-year aged rum. Sweet, deep, delicious.

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This place, although touristy, has a real magic to it, and I’m dearly glad to have some time off and to be far away from work, from my real life, from Los Angeles. Two days in and my tan is developing nicely. I’m relaxed, my mind is clear (except for the happy fuzz imparted by the rum), and Regina lies next to me, slumbering happily. Still, being a techie geek as well as a chef means that even in a foreign land I have the means to share with you, loyal readers, my meals and my musings. iPad, wifi, and WordPress app. Huzzah!

Wherever we travel Regina and I query the locals and ask for food recommendations. No gringo food, no pizza, no bullshit sushi, and lord-help-me-now no fucking Kentucky Fried Chicken! The blender-wielding bartender at a tacky resort down the beach that apparently caters to a less-inquisitive clientele gave us a quizzical look when we reiterated the “no-gringo food” part of our travel-food creed, as if sussing us for intestinal fortitude. After a bit of prodding he gave up the name of El Rustico, a locals joint known for their Casado, which is like a cheap-and-easy working man’s buffet lunch. It’s down the main drag, maybe nine or ten blocks, turn right at the Pancho Villa restaurant, he says, you’ll see it.

En route we stopped and bought a pretty amazing agua fresca of sandilla (fresh watermelon juice) which we quaffed as we strolled the dusty main street of Jaco, dodging necklace hawkers, grown men on kids’ bikes, and mongrel dogs lazing on the sidewalk. It was still early, the street wasn’t yet crowded, the heat hadn’t yet peaked. We’d only flown in the previous night, arriving too late to explore and frankly too exhausted to do anything but shower and flop. This would be our first meal in Costa Rica. We were starving.

We found El Rustico adjacent to a desultory surfer-and-expat camping area, virtually empty but for two friendly dogs begging through the chainlink fence for scraps. The place was as casual as can be, but immaculate and inviting. The open-air dining room was almost filled with some thirty customers, not an obvious tourist or gringo among them. We waited but briefly before getting to the buffet. Rice, beans, chicken wings, fried fish, some sort of pork ribs, beef stew of some kind, shrimp, several salads, fried ripe plantains — a small but representative array of Costa Rican casual fare. A couple of colorful agua frescas in those self-circulating lemonade dispensers. A cooler case of sodas and bottled water.

We ordered a huge plate to share, plus two ice-cold bottles of water. The fried fish (probably snapper) was absolutely dynamite — crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside, very fresh and mild, excellent. We doused it with a little Lizano Salsa (the national all-purpose condiment like a slightly sweet A-1 sauce) and squeezed over it a bit of limon, an orange-fleshed and green-skinned sour lemon. Just delish. The chicken wings were also excellent, great crust, super-tender and moist. Miraculously neither the fish nor the wings were remotely greasy. And the rice and beans were perfect, the macaroni salad fair but tasty. By far our favorite dish was the picadillo, stewed minced zucchini with a bit of onion and garlic. So sweet and delicious, it was absolutely superb and positively addictive.

The one monstrous plate of food and our bottled water: nine bucks. Deal!

As we were leaving El Rustico a line of twenty or more people was queued up for this delicious buffet; a good sign of quality if ever I saw one. This was our first meal in Costa Rica. And it was a winner! More to come, lovely reader.

As they say here, “Pura Vida!”