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On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of aging high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, wealthy women) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Fish, on February 8th, 2016.

baked_salmon_honey_mustardOver the holidays, when my cousin Gary was visiting me, we both came down with bad colds (he caught it from me, I think), so there were about 4 days of the 10 he was here that we didn’t do anything at all. On New Year’s Day I finally decided I was well enough that I should cook a nice meal. Gary chose salmon.

As it happened, while I was watching hours and hours of TV, I decided to view Valerie Bertinelli’s Food Network show and she made this salmon. It was easy and she raved about it. It really wasn’t hard to make – at all – and makes a nice presentation. I like her show and am now recording it on my Tivo.

honey_mustard_saucesalmon_sauce_readySo, salmon steaks in hand, I made up the coating. It’s a combo of mayonnaise (she used low-fat, I used full because that’s what I had), Dijon mustard, and honey. Her recipe calls for a whole lot of honey, and I thought half was enough (and it was plenty sweet for me, so I’ve altered her recipe below). Half the mixture is set aside for serving (extra to dip into or pour over) and the other half is used to coat the salmon. Easy. Into a 375°F oven it went and baked for 6-7 minutes (don’t over bake it). Then you turn on the broiler (so put the fish into the right position for broiling even when you’re doing the baking portion of it). That takes another 5-7 minutes. As you can see from the photo, the collagen has begun to leak out of the flakes, meaning it’s almost past it’s prime. I try to be alert to that, but I didn’t peek into the oven until 6 minutes and it was done already. It all depends on the thickness of the salmon. Once out of the oven you garnish it with chives and serve. Dinner was on the table in less than half an hour.

What’s GOOD: how easy this is, and it’s very flavorful. Worth making for sure. I always have the ingredients on hand – except chives, perhaps, but as luck would have it I did have some for this. It could easily be Italian parsley or even cilantro to put on top, but the chives are a good match with salmon. There is a LOT of mustard in this recipe, but when it’s tempered with the mayo and honey, it loses its pungency somehow, but you can still notice it. In a nice way.

What’s NOT: not a thing. Easy, easy, easy.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click on link to open recipe)

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Baked Salmon with Honey Mustard Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Valerie Bertinelli’s Food Network show
Serving Size: 4

1 1/3 pounds salmon fillets — skin-on, 7-8 ounces each, cut into pieces
1/2 cup mayonnaise — may use low-fat
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons chives — finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a large baking sheet with a nonstick silicone liner, and lay the salmon, skin side down, on top. Set aside.
2. Combine the mayonnaise, mustard and honey in a medium bowl and stir to thoroughly combine. Reserve half of the sauce. Spoon the remaining sauce over the fish, spreading it evenly all over the top and sides of each fillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Roast just until the fish is opaque in the center, 6-7 minutes. Increase the oven to broil. Broil the fish for 6 to 7 minutes, but keep your eye on it to avoid overcooking. Garnish with chives and serve with the reserved sauce.
Per Serving: 417 Calories; 29g Fat (61.6% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 446mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Miscellaneous, on November 17th, 2015.

pistachio_crusted_salmon_apricot_glaze

You know when I tell you you have to make this. Yes. This. Soon. Fabulous.

Oh my goodness, this recipe is so good. I do love salmon, but it’s almost like chicken, in a way, since you can do so many different things with it – broil it, bake it, pan sauté it, or in this case it’s sautéed briefly, then baked for 6-8 minutes. And then served with this wonderful tangy, spicy apricot sauce/glaze. And with those pistachio nuts on top (with chives, parsley and a little oil to hold it together). Oh yes.

The sauce will keep several weeks. And, in fact, Phillis Carey talked about how good it is with chicken or halibut too. Phillis’ original recipe made half as much glaze, and my friend Cherrie and I, who attended Phillis’ class together, decided then and there that we’d make more of the sauce to use on other things, so I’ve increased the glaze part by 50% in the recipe below. We also thought a serving portion of the salmon could use just a bit more of the glaze than we had, so that’s another reason to make more.

So, the sauce can be made ahead by several weeks, as I mentioned, or the day before. Do give it some time to marry the flavors, though, if time permits. The salmon fillets are seared for a minute or so on each side, then placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Then you combine a tiny tetch of oil, the pistachios, parsley, chives and salt and pepper, and carefully pile it on top of the salmon. Into a 375° oven it goes and bakes for 6-8 minutes (depending on how thick the salmon is). Serve immediately! I promise – to raves! Easy. Good enough for a company meal, and not so hard that it couldn’t be made for a weeknight dinner. Especially if you made the glaze ahead of time.

What’s GOOD: everything about it – especially the glaze. It’s all good, and it’s also very easy.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open)

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Pistachio Crusted Salmon with Apricot Glaze

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, 10/15
Serving Size: 4

GLAZE:
12 dried apricot halves — quartered (use sulfured type)
1 cup apricot nectar — plus 2 tablespoons
6 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon Sriracha sauce — or other Asian chile sauce
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — minced
1 tablespoon shallots — minced
SALMON:
20 ounces salmon fillets — 4 pieces, 1 inch thick, 5-6 ounces each
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil — divided use
1/4 cup Italian parsley — chopped
2 tablespoons chives — chopped
1/2 cup pistachio nuts — toasted & chopped (or you can use walnuts or pecans)

NOTE: You probably will have some of the sauce left over – that’s a good thing – use it on other fish or chicken since it keeps several weeks.
1. SAUCE: Place ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to saucepan and simmer to thicken, if desired. (Will keep for several weeks, refrigerated.)
2. SALMON: Preheat oven to 375°. Season fish with salt and pepper. Heat 2 T. of oil in a large nonstick pan. Sear fish for one minute per side and then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
3. Toss remaining tablespoon of oil with parsley, chives and pistachios. Brush fish lightly with the apricot glaze. Spread pistachio mixture on top of the fish and bake 6-8 minutes, or until just cooked through. Serve drizzled with more apricot glaze and serve remaining sauce on the table.
Per Serving: 490 Calories; 23g Fat (41.6% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 125mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, on August 15th, 2015.

salmon_tomatoes_ginger_basil_pinenuts

An elegant preparation of salmon – good enough for serving to guests, but easy enough to do for a weeknight dinner. It has a few more steps than some, but it’s very do-able and it’s delicious.What you see above are 2 fillets – I saved the half for another meal.

With salmon defrosted in my refrigerator, and a limited number of things I could put with it, I did a search on google for salmon + tomatoes + ginger and up came a bunch of options, and the recipe here is what I made with it. I had to improvise just a little bit, and I thought pine nuts would be a nice addition. The original recipe came from Fine Cooking, but I made some alterations to the recipe. After putting an oiled spice rub on the fish, it’s pan-seared in oil. I used my instant-read thermometer for this.

Because I knew from reading the recipe that it would all come together quickly, I prepped everything in advance – chopping tomatoes, toasting the pine nuts, fresh basil leaf at hand, and I made a pot of green beans (simple prep with bacon) to go with it. So, once I started cooking it all came together quickly. I also made the rub – ground coriander, ground ginger, a bit of cayenne and a drizzle of oil so it will stick to the fish.

The salmon is cooked through to 135° (I used my Thermapen to make sure). The fish was removed, then you make the sauce. The tomatoes aren’t really cooked – they’re mostly just heated through, but you make the sauce with garlic and ginger. All that is scooped onto the top of the salmon, then you deglaze the pan with a little white wine (vermouth for me) and some chicken broth and a tiny bit of butter and that is poured over the salmon. Garnish with basil (or cilantro) and the toasted pine nuts. Done. I thought this was really good. It wasn’t hard to make, although you do have to do a bit of sous-chef stuff with the chopping and mincing.

What’s GOOD: This was really tasty – I liked the bit of heat in the rub (from the cayenne) and the ground coriander and ground ginger also gave it some depth of flavor. The sauce is very fresh tasting – there’s very little of it, actually – don’t go thinking this is a sauce-sauce. No. It’s just a tiny bit of liquid that’s very flavorful. I liked it a lot.

What’s NOT: really nothing – it takes a tiny bit more time than a quick pan-fry, though. Get someone else to help you with the chopping and mincing and it will come together quickly.

printer-friendly PDF – and – Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC)

Pan-Seared Salmon with Tomato & Ginger Sauce and Pine Nuts

Recipe By: Adapted from Fine Cooking magazine
Serving Size: 4

1/4 cup coriander seeds — ground medium-fine
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon canola oil
24 ounces salmon fillets — skin removed, cut into portions
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil — (for sauteing the fish)
SAUCE:
2 cloves garlic — minced
2 cups ripe tomatoes — seeded then chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons fresh ginger — grated
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil — or cilantro
1/4 cup pine nuts — toasted

1. In a small bowl, combine the coriander, ground ginger, and cayenne and mix with oil to make a paste. Pat the paste on both sides of the salmon fillets and season with salt and pepper.
2. Heat a 12-inch heavy-based skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining portion of oil and swirl to coat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the fillets and cook until the bottom is well browned and the bottom half of the fish becomes opaque, 3 to 4 min. Turn the fish and cook until browned on the second side and just cooked through, another 3 to 4 minutes. The fish should reach an internal temp of 135° if you want to use an instant read thermometer. Transfer to a warm platter.
3. Pour off all but a film of fat from the pan. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until slightly softened, about 2 min. Remove from the heat, toss in the ginger, and pour the tomatoes over the fish.
4. Put the pan over high heat. Add the wine and boil until reduced by half. Add the broth; boil until reduced by half again. Off the heat, swirl in the butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the salmon and tomatoes, sprinkle with the basil (or cilantro) and pine nuts, and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 417 Calories; 24g Fat (53.3% calories from fat); 38g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 104mg Cholesterol; 129mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Soups, on August 3rd, 2015.

salmon_moqueca

Yes, it’s summer. Yes, this was hot soup. May not be appealing to some, but it was a somewhat cooler evening and I was tired of the usual braised, broiled, steamed or grilled salmon. I had zucchini and a sweet potato, so I improvised with everything else.

Cooking for one can definitely be a challenge. And most often I prefer to make something that will give me at least 2 dinners before I’m tired of it. I simply cannot make any more large quantity things that are frozen in smaller portions, as my freezer is full of them. Recently I made a chicken curry dish that I just love-love, and froze it in about 8 different sizes of ziploc bags. But that’s one that I crave quite frequently, so I agreed with my reasoning to make a big batch. I’m doing my level best to NOT buy more meat since I have a freezer full of meat in my garage.

This day, I’d defrosted a lovely salmon fillet but hadn’t decided what to do with it. Searching through my to-try file I ran across this recipe, from Food 52. It was a “community pick.” I don’t know exactly what that means in their vernacular, but the write-up about it – it’s Brazilian fish stew  – sounded intriguing. I didn’t exactly follow the recipe to the letter – as I mentioned above – I needed to improvise a bit. But I had the salmon, sweet potato, zucchini, part of a hot pepper, onion, a red and yellow bell pepper, garlic, coconut milk, canned tomatoes, cilantro and some fish stock. And fresh limes.

First you marinate the salmon (I cut it up into bite-sized pieces) in lime juice, EVOO, and salt. But only for 30-60 minutes (otherwise the lime juice would start to make ceviche!). That is set aside while you prep the other ingredients. That part didn’t take long. In a big skillet (with lid to use later) you start by sautéing the sweet potato in a bit of oil. As it takes on some caramelization, stir it around to cook it on all sides. I just stirred it several times – I was far too lazy to try to turn each little piece of potato. Perhaps my method of cooking this isn’t exactly true to the original recipe (or to the traditional Brazilian method) but because of some of my ingredients I had to improvise. I added the raw, chopped and sliced onion, and let the two items cook a bit. Then I added the garlic, tomatoes, some of the coconut milk, some fish stock. I covered the pan for about 5 minutes to let the potatoes cook. I had some already cooked zucchini and some cooked pasilla pepper (instead of the jalapeno or serrano), so that was added in at the end, but if you’re using fresh zucchini, add it in during this part so it steam-cooks. I used about half a can of chopped tomatoes, and had intended to use about half the can of coconut milk. Then I added in the marinated salmon and simply let those pieces sit on top of the stew. On the lid went and I allowed it to simmer for about 5 minutes. Into a bowl it went with some fresh minced cilantro on top and my dinner was done.

Afterwards, I realized that I had more than enough for another meal, so I added in the remaining coconut milk. I’ll save the remaining tomatoes for something else, because I thought it would make this too tomatoey. It will be heavy with the veggies and creamy broth rather than salmon, but there’s enough for another soup meal for me. I remember what the Food52 test kitchen person had mentioned, that they couldn’t wait to tell people they had to make this because it was SO flavorful. And yes, it really is. You might not think so because of the rather ordinary ingredients. It all comes together somehow. These Brazilians are onto something!

What’s GOOD: the whole bowl of soup was unctuous. That’s the best word I can come up with. Every bite was delicious – I particularly liked the sweet potato – just barely cooked through with a bit of form to it still. You don’t want to over cook the sweet potato. The coconut milk – well – I think it probably is the star of the dish, but you don’t realize it – it just provides a silkiness to the creamy brothy part. Altogether delicious, and I’d definitely make this again.

What’s NOT: not a single, solitary thing. This is a keeper. And it’s VERY easy.

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Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

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Salmon Moqueca

Recipe By: Adapted from Food 52, winner of “Community” Contest
Serving Size: 3

FISH & MARINADE:
1/2 pound salmon fillets — wild
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
STEW:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small sweet potato — peeled and diced
1/2 cup onion — peeled and roughly chopped
2 whole zucchini — chopped
1/2 cup canned tomatoes — undrained
1/2 cup green pepper — chopped (I didn’t use this, so it’s optional}
1/2 cup red bell pepper — chopped (I used red & yellow)
1 large garlic clove — minced
1/2 cup poblano chile — chopped, seeds removed
1/2 cup fish stock — or water
1/4 cup cilantro — chopped
12 ounces light coconut milk
2 tablespoons minced green onion — (bottom parts only) – for garnish
1/8 cup cilantro — chopped – for garnish
Sriracha sauce to taste

NOTES: If you don’t have a pasilla/poblano chile, you may use a jalapeno (half) or a small amount of serrano.
1. Place fish in a shallow non-reactive (non-metal) bowl. Add lime juice, salt and olive oil and set aside, in refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour (no longer or it will start to cook the fish).
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add diced sweet potato and cook for 10-15 minutes, adding a little water if needed so it doesn’t burn, until softened. Add zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, onion, green and red pepper and continue to cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes, again adding water to the pan, if needed. Add water or fish stock and stir in coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 2 to 3 minutes or until the sweet potato and vegetables are just cooked through.
3. Add fish and marinade and stir very gently. Put lid on pan and simmer over very low heat for 5-10 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Just before serving, stir in green onion and cilantro and garnish with more cilantro on top. Serve alone or over rice and pass Sriracha sauce for adding at the table.
Per Serving: 369 Calories; 19g Fat (45.2% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 42mg Cholesterol; 356mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, on March 8th, 2015.

halibut_provencal_potatoes

 White things are so difficult to photograph . . . the halibut is on the left, and potatoes on the right, with a little bonnet of sun-dried tomatoes providing a bit of color! No matter the bland look of it, the taste is what matters. That’s always what matters!

At the price of halibut these days, this dish will/should be a special treat. Unless you live in Alaska, perhaps, and have friends or family who give you some of their catch. Interestingly enough, when my DH and I visited Alaska some years ago ( that one a driving trip) halibut was on the menus of course, but I won’t say it was inexpensive. Surprising. So, if you’re halibut-averse, make this with salmon or sea bass, or even cod. It’ll still taste wonderful. It’s the sauce that makes this anyway.

Although this recipe was designed to be done in a slow cooker, I’m not even giving you that part because it was way too over-cooked, according to my friend Cherrie, who prepared it recently. At the class with Diane Phillips, she prepared this on the stove top since there wasn’t time to do it in a slow cooker. The flavors were wonderful – the fish with it’s wonderful texture, but it’s the sauce. The sauce, indeed!

What’s in it? – a bunch of different flavors – lemon zest and juice, garlic, paprika, herbes de Provence, sun dried tomatoes and capers. And some olive oil. Not all that difficult. I had to hunt for my herbes de Provence and it’s ancient, so I think I need to buy some new. Remember, herbs in a combo mix don’t hold their flavor for more than a few months.

The unusual thing about this preparation is the bed of Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into big bite-sized cubes on the bottom. You carefully lay the halibut on top of the potatoes and gently simmer it – or bake it in the oven until the fish has cooked through. The potatoes are partially cooked first, then you add the fish. And the fish doesn’t take long (about 10 minutes on the stove top and about 10-15 minutes in a 400° oven, depending on the thickness of the fish.

There’s no question this dish would make a lovely company dinner – just make a green veg (do make something colorful since the fish and potatoes aren’t full of color). You could make a salad, but it wouldn’t be strictly necessary.

What’s GOOD: the flavors/sauce are foremost. It’s also very easy to make, albeit expensive if you do use halibut. Well worth it, though.

What’s NOT: can’t think of anything I didn’t like about it.

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Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Halibut Provencal on a bed of Yukon Gold Potatoes

Recipe By: Diane Phillips, cookbook author and instructor
Serving Size: 8

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
zest of two lemons
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 garlic cloves — minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed — drained
1/2 cup capers — drained
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes — peeled and diced
36 ounces halibut fillets — in 6 equal pieces
1/2 cup Italian parsley — finely chopped

1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, herbes de Provence, sun-dried tomatoes and capers and set aside.
2. In a deep skillet (big enough to hold all the fish in one layer) and arrange the potatoes in the bottom.
3. Preheat oven to 400°.
4. Drizzle some of the lemon sauce mixture over the potatoes and toss to coat the potatoes.
5. Bake the potatoes for 20 minutes, covered, then remove. Arrange the halibut over the potatoes and pour the remaining sauce over the halibut.
6. Cover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. The fish will be opaque in the center and the potatoes will be tender.
7. Taste the sauce – if it has too much acidity, add just a little bit of salt.
8. Arrange the fish on a serving dish, surround with the potatoes and spoon some of the sauce over the fish. Garnish with the chopped parsley before serving. STOVE TOP: Prepare through step 4, using a bit more of the sauce. Simmer potatoes over low heat for about 15 minutes. They should be nearly tender. Add fish and the remaining sauce, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until fish flakes apart easily with a fork. Plate and garnish the fish.
Per Serving: 328 Calories; 17g Fat (48.5% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 41mg Cholesterol; 570mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Fish, on February 12th, 2015.

shrimp_pesto_salsa_vere

 

Kind of a messy and drippy platter, huh? Yes, it was! However, the sauce it’s sitting in it scrumptious, and you can make the sauce ahead a few hours, then all you have to do is broil the shrimp and you have an appetizer all ready! You could also serve this – I think – on pasta. There was ample of the salsa verde (see the plate is almost swimming in it) so it could easy baste a nice mound of linguine. For sure, once you serve this, save all that goop on the plate and use it with the leftovers.

It used to be that “pesto” had only one meaning. Basil. But really the word doesn’t have to mean basil. It can be nuts, or almost any kind of a paste/sauce. Although we think of pesto as purely Italian in origin, it actually originated in India. The Italians adopted it as their own, and once they mixed it with garlic, pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, well, a match made in heaven. BUT, this is not about that kind of pesto. Salsa Verde and pesto have many similarities.

Salsa Verde (green sauce) could be a combo of so many things – herbs or even greens like kale. The phrase, salsa verde, can be French, Italian or Spanish. Here in Southern California, even English-speaking people know salsa and verde. In this recipe the green part comes from parsley, basil and cilantro in a combination, with parsley predominating. Then this one has toasted blanched almonds in it (not pine nuts, as in pesto), some garlic and red chili flakes, a jot of white wine vinegar to give it some zip, and then oil to hold it all together. Easy to make, and it surely will keep in the refrigerator for a day – but don’t add the vinegar until just before serving – it will dull all the lovely green in the sauce. After a day the cilantro will start to disintegrate, so I’d use it up fairly quick-like.

The shrimp – use any size you want, really – are tossed with a spice mix. You can use your own combination or you can buy such mixtures at most grocery stores. Paul Prudhomme has one in the spice aisle. See my notes down below in the directions about a spice combo you can make up yourself. The raw shrimp is then coated with some oil and broiled. You could serve these warm – I think I’d like them warm – but do let them cool a bit right out of the broiler because shrimp can burn your mouth if you really served it immediately. This came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter a couple of months ago.

What’s GOOD: it’s all about the sauce. The salsa verde. It’s really, really delicious. Easy to make – just make sure you have blanched almonds. I don’t stock those in my pantry, but Trader Joe’s usually has them. The blanched part means they have no skins on them at all. And they’ve been cooked (and normally salted). Each shrimp made one really tasty bite, I’ll tell you! And remember to save the left over sauce and use it on pasta or rice.

What’s NOT: not a thing – loved this one.

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Shrimp with Pesto-Style Salsa Verde

Recipe By: Salsa Verde recipe from Fine Cooking; combo from Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 6

SHRIMP:
24 medium shrimp — (raw) about 2 inches long, tails removed
2 teaspoons spice mix for fish (your choice – or make up your own)
2 tablespoons olive oil
SALSA VERDE PASTE:
1/4 cup blanched almonds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Italian parsley — packed
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves — packed
1/2 cup fresh cilantro — packed
2 medium cloves garlic — coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

NOTES: If you don’t have a fish-type spice mix, make your own using ground ginger (more of this than the other ingredients), ground coriander, paprika, salt, ground cumin and freshly ground black pepper.
1. SALSA: Heat the oven to 400ºF. Spread the almonds in a pie pan and toast the almonds in the oven until lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
2. Place toasted almonds, parsley, basil, the cilantro, garlic, chile flakes, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a blender or food processor. With the machine on, gradually pour the olive oil into the feed tube and process until the mixture becomes a thick purée. Add more oil as needed to make it just barely fluid. The salsa verde may be made to this point a day ahead and refrigerated. (DO NOT ADD VINEGAR YET.)
4. Return the salsa verde to room temperature, if chilled, and stir in the vinegar just before serving to prevent discoloration.
5. SHRIMP: Toss the shrimp with spice mixture and olive oil. Place on foil lined baking sheet and broil until tender (don’t over cook them!). Cool to just room temperature. If there are juices on the pan, pour that into the salsa verde for added flavor.
6. Toss the shrimp with the salsa verde and pour out onto a serving platter and serve with toothpicks. You could also make a dinner meal with this – serve over pasta, or with rice on the plate – in which case plate the shrimp on top of the rice.
Per Serving (nutrition is inaccurate as you will not use all the salsa): 266 Calories; 26g Fat (86.7% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 36mg Cholesterol; 43mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Miscellaneous, on November 7th, 2014.

tarragon_sauce_salmon

My friend Cherrie called me recently and said, “I fixed your salmon with tarragon sauce last night.” My mind went blank. Salmon with tarragon sauce?  “Are you sure it was my recipe,” I said? Yes, indeed, she even had my MasterCook print-out that said it was from Gourmet Magazine back in the 1990s. Hmmm. It took me awhile, but I found it in my recipe collection – a search revealed it was under “tarragon” not “salmon.” Obviously I haven’t fixed it in a loooooong time!

Cherrie was nice enough to give me some of it, as it makes a bunch – enough for 8 servings, and there are only two of them. I had it the other night on a nice piece of steamed salmon, along with Brussels sprouts I cooked in garlic, onion and a dash of maple syrup stirred in at the last minute, and some really ripe Plumato tomato slices. A lovely dinner, and a really tasty sauce. I think the sauce could go on chicken also, but it’s ideal for fish. (See, I am cooking a little bit, and my foot managed with me standing at the counter for about 15 minutes. That’s progress.)

In my notes, it says salmon is the best fish for it, and the recipe suggested placing a pool of the sauce on a plate and then adding the salmon on top. I chose not to do it that way – thought being on top would make it more photogenic. The original recipe called for mayo, but at the time I made this, back in the 90s, I was into using lower fat stuff – so you can use your own judgment – full fat or low fat, but don’t use nonfat mayo, okay? What is does require is a bunch of tarragon – 2 bunches. That’s a LOT. It also contains chives, shallot, parsley, rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar and a bit of Dijon. That’s it. Easy to make. And since Cherrie gave this to me a week ago, it obviously keeps awhile. But eventually fresh herbs will begin to disintegrate and get oozy, so do use it within a few days if you can. I think Cherrie told me she didn’t quite have enough mayo, so she substituted a little bit of yogurt, which should be just fine.

What’s GOOD: it’s really easy to make – providing you’ve got tarragon. I don’t seem to have much luck raising tarragon in my kitchen garden. Don’t know why, so I usually have to buy it. You will need 3/4 of a cup of loosely measured tarragon leaves if you make this batch for 8 servings.

What’s NOT: nothing other than it tastes much better if allowed to sit for a few hours (chilled).

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Tarragon Sauce for Salmon

Recipe By: Adapted from a Gourmet Magazine recipe, July 1998
Serving Size: 8

2 bunches fresh tarragon — (to measure 3/4 cup of loose leaves)
1 bunch chives — loosely chopped
2 large shallot — chopped and blanched
1/4 cup Italian parsley — loosely chopped
1 cup mayonnaise — may use some low fat if preferred, or substitute some yogurt
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Pick off the tarragon leaves to measure about 3/4 cup without packing them down. Wash and drain briefly. Add to the bowl of a food processor along with the chives, parsley and shallot. Pulse until those ingredients are finely minced. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
2. Add all the remaining ingredients (except salt and pepper) and pulse until smooth. Taste it and season with salt and pepper. Chill the mixture for a few hours, if possible.
3. Allow sauce to warm up (at room temp) for about 20 minutes before serving. You may spoon it onto a plate and place the fish on top, or the other way around. Garnish the fish with a sprig of Italian parsley.
Per Serving: 202 Calories; 23g Fat (97.0% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 10mg Cholesterol; 173mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Grilling, on September 8th, 2014.

grilled_shrimp_polenta_cakes_corn_salsa

Don’t be confused that this is shrimp and grits. It has similarities, but it isn’t. The polenta is made ahead and cut into squares (the big shrimp at the top center is sitting on a square polenta cake), but this is a very soft cake with corn in it. Then you make this great corn and green chile salsa to go with it, and with the grilled shrimp. Delish.

Another winner of a recipe from my recent Phillis Carey class that was all about corn. There is a bit of prep to this recipe – you do have to make the polenta ahead of time – an hour or so. It’s a soft, creamy polenta that’s poured into a flat pan and allowed to set. Sort of. It’s still soft, so when it comes time to grill the polenta squares,  you must be very gentle – use a nice thin spatula to pick up the squares then gently place them in a big skillet, or on a flat grill. Then there’s the corn and green chile salsa. Not hard to make, but you do want to grill the pasilla (poblano) pepper and chop it up. You do want to grill the corn, just barely, and mince up the red onion. The shrimp does get marinated briefly in a lime-juice mixture and grilled. So you do have to do some work with each of the three elements. But much of it can be done ahead. If you have someone to do the grilling (the corn first, early, then the shrimp at the last minute) that helps, while you gently brown the polenta cakes just before plating everything.

poblano_peppersPoblano chiles have a unique flavor. It’s a deep, earthy flavor that I love. As I’m writing this I just had lunch at California Pizza Kitchen and I ordered their stuffed poblano chile. Delicious. If you’re not used to buying them, it’s so worth it for this dish. Photo at right came from www.specialtyproduce.com

What’s GOOD: the combo of the corn salsa (and particularly the roasted poblano chile in it), polenta cake and the shrimp – a little bit of each in every bite. Well, just delicious. I think the lime juice contributes a lot to the flavor. It would make a beautiful company dinner – might be a bit much for a weeknight dinner unless you feel like doing a bit more work than usual. It’s all worth it, though. A great dish.

What’s NOT: only thing I can think of is the time it takes to make it all, but that’s it. Flavors are wonderful.

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Grilled Shrimp and Polenta Cakes with Grilled Corn and Green Chile Salsa

Recipe By: From a Phillis Carey cooking class, 8/2014
Serving Size: 4

SHRIMP:
12 extra large shrimp — cleaned, tails on
1/4 cup grapeseed oil — or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cilantro — chopped
1 clove garlic — minced
POLENTA CAKES WITH CORN:
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil — or vegetable oil, plus a bit more for cooking the cakes
1 cup onion — finely diced
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup yellow cornmeal — or polenta Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 ears of corn — perfectly grilled (with grill marks) kernels removed
RELISH:
6 ears of corn — perfectly grilled (with grill marks) kernels removed
2 whole poblano peppers — roasted, peeled, seeded, diced
1 small red onion — finely diced
2 whole limes — juiced
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup grapeseed oil — or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cilantro — finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. SHRIMP: Place shrimp in a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes (MAXIMUM). Remove from marinade and thread shrimp on banboo skewers which have been soaked in water for 30 minutes. Grill shrimp 3-4 minutes per side. Remove shrimp from skewers and keep warm.
2. POLENTA CAKES: (Do this several hours ahead if possible.) Oil the bottom and sides of a 9×11 inch baking pan (if you have a nonstick pan, use it)
and set aside. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the wine and cook until completely reduced.
3. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal, stirring so it doesn’t clump and cook until it begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat to medium, switch to a spatula or wooden spoon and continue cooking, stirring often, until the mixture is smooth and soft, about 8 minutes. If the mixture becomes too thick, stir in some water, but it should be a pourable consistency.
4. Stir in the grilled corn kernels and pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly (it will be thin). Cool to room temp, then cover and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. May be made a day ahead. Cut the polenta cakes into 4-inch squares.
5. RELISH: Combine the grilled corn, diced chiles, onion, lime juice, honey, oil and cilantro in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let the relish sit at room temp for at least 30 minutes before serving. It can be made up to 8 hours ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temp before serving.
6. FINAL PREP: To cook the polenta cakes, heat a stove-top grill or griddle over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Brush the cakes on both sides with oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook the cakes until golden brown (still on medium heat) until they just barely get golden brown and very slightly charred on each side, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Remove to hot serving plates and top each cake with shrimp and some of the relish.
OPTIONS: Add some grated cheddar cheese to the polenta cakes, or Cotija cheese. You may also make the polenta soft, keeping it pourable as you make it and pour some onto each plate then add the shrimp and relish.
Per Serving: 747 Calories; 40g Fat (44.2% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 87g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 32mg Cholesterol; 109mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, on June 20th, 2014.

greek_style_mahi

Do you like mahi mahi?  If you can find it, this is a really delicious way to fix it. Lemon pieces (that’s what’s on top there, the scorched part that you don’t eat) give good flavor and the really good feta and yogurt mixture that’s on top. Like a tartar sauce except it’s got mint, dill and lemon zest and juice in it.

I do like mahi, and yet I don’t see it everywhere. More often on restaurant menus than in the fish market. I don’t much like to buy frozen fish – I’m sure it’s available frozen in the regular supermarkets, but I generally don’t buy supermarket fish. Period. It could be that mahi is only available frozen anyway (you know the label: previously frozen). I don’t know.

In any case, this recipe, the last fish recipe from the class with Phillis Carey, which is just loaded with flavor, is easy to make. You need fresh lemons, Greek full-fat yogurt, sheep’s milk Feta, fresh mint and fresh dill.

This fish is cooked in a broiler method, but you put the rack way, way low in your oven. The fish cooks without you having to turn it over mid-way through. While the broiler heats up, mix up the yogurt stuff (Greek yogurt, sheep’s milk Feta, mint, dill, lemon zest and juice). That’s spread all over the mahi fillets (do spread it all the way to the edges), then you top it with the drizzle of olive oil. Then the thinly sliced lemon halves (seeds removed) are gently nestled into the yogurt. Try to make it flat – any unevenness will scorch the lemon unevenly (obviously). It’s also good to have mahi mahi pieces that are about the same thickness – thinner pieces will cook a lot faster.

Serve the fish with the scorched lemon – but most people will probably set it aside. It can be eaten if you want to. But do make this. It’s good! Serve with rice. If you want, make some extra sauce and serve it to dollop on top of the rice for extra flavor. It’s yogurt, remember, not sour cream.

What’s GOOD: it’s EASY for sure. But you do need to have the ingredients on hand – I never have fresh dill (can’t seem to grow it now matter what I do). I always have sheep’s milk Feta because I use it in salads. And lemons, always. Mint from my garden. Yep. Easy. Just find the mahi and buy dill. The flavor is great – love the creamy sauce and the tart thing going on with it.
What’s NOT: just the finding of mahi mahi, maybe. Easy dinner!

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Greek-Style Mahi Mahi with Feta Yogurt Topping

Recipe By:From a Phillis Carey cooking class, 2014
Serving Size: 4

24 ounces mahi mahi fillets — (4 pieces,1 1/2 inches thick)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or mayonnaise if preferred
1/4 cup feta cheese — crumbled
3 tablespoons fresh mint — chopped
2 tablespoons fresh dill — chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
8 slices lemon — sliced super thin
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons Italian parsley — minced (garnish)

Note: if you don’t mind the extra calories, make a bit more of the sauce because the SAUCE is what makes this dish. Any extra can be dolloped on top of the rice.
1. Preheat broiler with rack in the lower third of the oven. Line the bottom of a broiler pan with foil and well oil the top. Set fish on pan and season with salt and pepper.
2. Whisk together yogurt, feta, herbs, and lemon zest and juice and spread over top of fish – reaching all the corners. Remove all seeds from the lemon slices, then place 2 lemon slices (slightly overlapping but as flat as you can make them) on center of each fillet. Drizzle lemon slices with 2 teaspoons oil.
3. Broil fish 8 inches from heat until just cooked through, 10 to 14 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. The lemon slices will get some burned marks. Serve with the lemon slices, although most people won’t eat them. Garnish with finely minced Italian parsley, if desired.
Per Serving: 111 Calories; 8g Fat (46.6% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 14mg Cholesterol; 120mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, on June 13th, 2014.

salmon_sumac_fennel_tomato_slaw

Most of the time I have salmon in the freezer, so when I need it, it can be defrosted in a jiffy and dinner can be ready a couple of hours later. This is a one-dish meal, really. It has protein (the salmon), vegetables (the fennel in the slaw), fruit (the tomatoes) and a bit of carbs from the bread crumb crust on top. I served it with sautéed spinach and that was dinner. I could have served it with a carb side like pilaf or a piece of toasted cheese bread perhaps.

When I am out of salmon as a staple in the freezer, I go to Costco and buy one of the big slabs of farm raised salmon. If you’re a Costco member, you probably get the monthly magazine they send out. I’ve learned to read some of the articles in the magazine – because they often give some very definitive information about their products. One time it was about the salmon. I’d gone off of it for awhile because of everything I’d read about farm-raised salmon – about the pens the salmon are raised in, how they are so packed in they can hardly move, eating their own detritus. Yuck. But then I read the article and learned that Costco’s salmon are raised differently – larger pens, the salmon aren’t so stressed, they eat well and they’re healthy. So I was reassured that eating Costco’s farm-raised salmon was not so bad for us. I love their farm-raised salmon – they’re big for one thing, and I think the flavor is delicious.

So, I buy the big slabs, cut them into portions. I used to vacuum seal them into 2-piece servings, but now that I’m a family of one (oh, that is so painful to even write that) I vacuum pack it in single portions. When I’m ready to eat salmon, I merely remove the package(s) and plunge it into a big bowl of cold tap water, put a big bowl on top, add something heavy to the center of the bowl to weight down the salmon below the water level and let it sit that way for about an hour. It might take longer if you have thicker pieces. That’s it. Easy.

So, on to this recipe. It originates from a cookbook called Artichoke to Za’atar: Modern Middle Eastern Food. The unique characteristics of this recipe are: (1) sumac in both the breading and the salad; (2) fennel seeds in the breading; and (3) a fresh fennel salad. If you don’t have sumac in your pantry, it’s worth buying it – it adds a citrusy note to anything you use it with – it’s a dark red color. I like sumac and you’ll find it used throughout the Middle East in their cooking.

This isn’t quite a 30-minute meal, but it won’t take much more than that. The breading is only placed on the top of the salmon. You make the salad – fresh fennel cut thinly into rings and pieces, shallots, fresh mint and parsley, a thinly sliced tomato, dried mint, lemon juice and olive oil plus that special bit of sumac. The bread crumb mixture can be whizzed up in the food processor (that’s what I did): sumac, fennel seeds, lemon zest and a bit of fresh (white) bread. You could use whole wheat bread, but I wouldn’t try using a hearty multi-grain bread – it would confuse the flavors, I think. When you have a leftover piece of baguette or a country loaf, or even sourdough, wrap it in a couple of layers of foil, then in a plastic bag and it would be perfect for this crumb mixture.

The salmon pieces are lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and sautéed for just a short-short time to get the pieces golden brown (but definitely not cooked through). You want to do that part in a skillet, but one that can go into a very hot oven (not all handles can get that hot). You gently mound the crumb mixture on top of the salmon and it goes into the oven for about 3 minutes or so – the crumb topping will get a bit golden and it cooks the salmon through. Do test it to make sure it’s just barely done. Once removed from the oven you tent it with foil and allow it to sit for 3-4 minutes. In that time mix up the salad and place it on the serving plate in about the same shape as the fish pieces, then the salmon is carefully placed on top of the slaw. Serve immediately!

What’s GOOD: I loved the flavors of the sumac, mint and dried mint. Big time. And the fennel seeds too. Fresh fennel bulb is a favorite of mine too – for some it’s a bit out of the ordinary –  it would make a lovely company meal, no doubt. I had a dinner guest that night. We both loved this preparation. The fennel salad is so refreshing, especially with the sliced tomatoes. Loved that combination too.

What’s NOT: there is a bit of preparation – the breading mixture and the salad. None of it is difficult, but it will take a few minutes to do it all.

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Salmon with Sumac and Fennel Crumbs

Recipe By: Artichoke to Za’atar by Greg and Lucy Malouf
Serving Size: 4

CRUMB MIXTURE:
1 tablespoon sumac
1 tablespoon fennel seeds — roasted and crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest — from about 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
SALMON:
24 ounces salmon fillets — cut into 4 pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
FENNEL-MINT SALAD:
1 medium fennel bulb
2 shallots — very finely diced
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup fresh parsley
1 whole ripe tomato — deseeded and sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried mint flakes
1/4 cup lemon juice
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sumac
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to its maximum heat (but not in broil mode). Mix sumac, fennel seeds and lemon zest with bread crumbs and set aside.
2. Lightly season the salmon. In a heavy-based, ovenproof pan, heat the olive oil and saute the salmon pieces for 30-40 seconds, moving constantly so they don’t stick. Turn and saute for a further 30 seconds.
3. Remove the pan from the heat, brush each salmon fillet with the mustard, and sprinkle over a 1/4 inch layer of the crumbing mix, packing it on neatly.
4. Place the pan on the top shelf of the oven and cook for 3 minutes for medium rare, or longer as desired. Remove from the oven and allow to rest in a warm spot for 4-5 minutes.
5. To make the fennel-mint salad, place all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and toss together. Divide the salad onto plates and top with a piece of salmon. Serve.
Per Serving: 495 Calories; 34g Fat (60.8% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 89mg Cholesterol; 334mg Sodium.

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