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Month: August 2016

Blackened Salmon Fish Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa and Watermelon Radishes

Blackened Salmon Fish Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa and Watermelon Radishes

My blackened salmon fish tacos with tomatillo salsa and watermelon radishes hit just the right spot for culinary happiness this time of year.  I’ve been thinking about cooking salmon for a while now.  Salmon is one of those foods that only I eat in our household.  Clay is convinced that salmon is just too fishy – I, on the other hand, am a fan.  In the past year, I’ve been playing around with salmon recipes that are lunch friendly.  In other words, they either don’t need to be heated up in the microwave or they can be heated up very quickly so that I don’t leave the break room smelling like fish.

I decided the way to go with the salmon this time was to spice it up, blacken it, and serve it with tangy tomatillo salsa.  My original plan was to serve these with a bit of shredded red cabbage.  However, as we were wandering the produce section of Whole Foods, I remembered that Whole Foods has a variety of spicy radishes that are in season right now, including watermelon radishes.  Watermelon radishes are about the size of a small turnip, have a pale green skin and are intensely pink (like a watermelon) on the inside.

interior watermelon radish watermelon radish slices

They are a type of daikon radish, so can tend toward spicy, though not overwhelmingly so.   I happened to have extra lime on hand, so sliced half of the radish into sticks and doused it in half a lime and a bit of salt.  The result was divine – the lime brings out the sweetness in the radish and the spicy compliments the salsa.  If you can’t track down watermelon radishes, red cabbage would definitely do to add the crunchy note to these fish tacos.

Just for fun this week, I also took some photos of how I packaged the components for these for my lunch.  I wanted to get everything into one dish, but the corn tortillas were just a bit too big, so they ended up in a plastic bag.  Here’s the sequence of how everything got stacked, as well as what assembly at my desk looked like:

salsa and watermelon radishes salsa and watermelon radishes covered

parchment paper to separate salmon blackened salmon

salmon fish taco office assembly salmon fish taco in action

And the final product looking pretty:

blackened salmon tacos with tomatillo salsa and watermelon radish with watermelon radish on the side

Blackened Salmon Fish Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa and Watermelon Radishes
Serves 2
Makes 6 Tacos

Blackened Salmon
1 pound salmon
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon coriander

Preheat the broiler.  Place the salmon skin-side down on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil.  Combine all spices in a small bowl and stir well.  Spoon the spice mixture evenly over the salmon and pat into the skin.  Broil the salmon for 15-20 minutes or until the fish is flaky throughout.

Tomatillo Salsa
6 tomatillos, skins removed
1 small pepper (jalapeno or similar)
Juice from 1 lime
½ red onion
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped finely
½ teaspoon salt

Dice the tomatillos, pepper, and red onion into small pieces.  Add the lime, cilantro and salt and combine.  Set aside.

Assembling the Tacos
Blackened Salmon, flaked into small pieces and pin bones and skin removed
Tomatillo Salsa
1 watermelon radish or ½ head of red cabbage
Juice from ½ lime
½ teaspoon salt
6 corn tortillas

Chop the watermelon radish into matchstick size pieces or chop up the red cabbage.  Combine either vegetable with the juice from the lime and the salt.

Warm up the corn tortillas for a few seconds in a microwave or for a few minutes in an oven set to the lowest temperature.

Divide the blackened salmon among the six tortillas. Place the watermelon radish or cabbage over the salmon and then spoon tomatillo salsa over both.  Enjoy!

Peach Sangria

Peach Sangria

I found some of the largest peaches I’ve encountered in quite some time at Whole Foods this past week, so of course, had to immediately chop up one of them to make peach sangria.  This is the sangria I’ve been waiting for all summer long – simple, quick and easy to make, and very, very easy to drink, especially after work on a Friday.

I made this with peach brandy, largely because I couldn’t find peach schnapps.  Unlike many peach flavored things, the brandy had a nice, authentic peach taste which complimented the white wine.  I can imagine that this would also be great served with tapas.  It’s equally good for a lazy late summer weekend spent lounging around reading a book.

Peach Sangria with Carafe

Peach Sangria
Serves 4

¼ cup peach brandy or peach schnapps
1 large peach (or 2 small ones)
1 lemon
1 bottle fruity white wine (Pinot Grigio or Gewurztraminer or Riesling)

Slice the peach into wedges.  Slice the lemon into thin rounds.  Add all ingredients to a pitcher or carafe and stir.  Refrigerate for at least two hours to let all the flavors meld.


Beet Ravioli in Wonton Wrappers

Beet Ravioli in Wonton Wrappers

This beet ravioli in wonton wrappers demonstrates my truce with beets.  I know I’m not the only one who was forced to eat beets as a kid and found the absolutely revolting.  It wasn’t until Clay and I joined a CSA when we lived in Southern Oregon that I even realized that beets come in more varieties than the boiled-to-death red kind.  I also discovered through that experience that beets can be very versatile – they can be used in chocolate dishes (which masks the intense mineral flavor pretty well); they can be sliced thinly and eaten raw; and then can be baked into beet chips.  They can also be part of many pasta dishes – from gnocchi to orecchiette to ravioli.

I used salt roasted beets with rosemary from Alexandra Cooks as the base for this recipe.  The rosemary gives this a heavy hit of flavor.  The recipe itself is fairly quick to put together, not counting the time it takes to roast the beets.  I strongly advise cooking just a few of the ravioli at a time, as they can be a bit fragile and you don’t want to lose all of the beet filling.  While the beet ravioli in wonton wrappers can be sauced with pesto or another pasta sauce, I’m fond of serving them with a drizzle of olive oil, a handful of walnuts, and some freshly grated parmesan.

just beets

beets in salt prebake

beet ravioli filling

beet ravioli with one filled

beet ravioli with wonton wrappers up close

Beet Ravioli in Wonton Wrappers
Serves 4

2 large beets, roasted or boiled (link to how to salt roast beets here)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
18 wonton wrappers

With a potato masher or fork, mash the beets until they become a smooth mix.  Add the grated parmesan cheese and mix well.

Place 9 wonton wrappers on a flat surface.  Place 1 tablespoon of the beet filling in the center of a wonton.  Repeat with the remaining beet filling and wontons.

Place a small bowl of water next to your work area.  Have 9 more wonton wrappers nearby. Using your finger, moisten a ¼ inch around the edge of a wonton.  Take a second wonton wrapper and place it over the wonton/beet filling.  Press around the edges to ensure a good seal.  Continue with the remaining wontons/beet filling.

When you are done, you can either freeze the ravioli or cook immediately.  Bring a saucepan of water to a boil.  Drop each ravioli into the water gently – cook no more than four at a time to avoid them sticking together or leaking.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Remove from the boiling water.

These can be served with pesto or with other pasta sauces.  I’m a fan of drizzling with a little olive oil, tossing on a few walnuts and grating a little bit of parmesan over the top.

Fig and Prosciutto Salad with Creamy Parmesan Dressing

Fig and Prosciutto Salad with Creamy Parmesan Dressing

I decided to play with some sweet and salty this week in this fig and prosciutto salad with creamy parmesan dressing.  We had three outrageously hot days here in the PNW followed by two very cool days.  All of these ups and downs in the weather are screaming fall is coming – break out the pumpkin spice!  Even my recipes this week are starting to move into fall flavors (just a little).  Figs are a late summer fruit here in the PNW and I would buy them by the pounds if it were economically reasonable – I’m that much of a fig fan.  Fortunately, I found a reasonably priced tray of figs at Trader Joe’s, so bought them, of course.  The figs that weren’t immediately devoured as a late in the day snack went into this salad.

One of my fondest memories of living in Tularosa, New Mexico was the fig trees.  We had two on the property we were renting – one small fig tree that produced large purple figs and one larger tree that produced an abundance of small green figs.  I would delight in laying in the hammock under the four giant pecan trees in the backyard and occasionally picking a fig.  When we finally land again someplace where we have a yard that’s our own, fig trees will be one of the first things I plant.  There is something just luscious about the firm skin of the fig and the bright pink interior with its little crunchy seeds.

fig salad with figs 2

Fig and Prosciutto Salad with Creamy Parmesan Dressing
Serves 4

Creamy Parmesan Dressing
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a jar and place a lid on tightly.  Shake vigorously until all the ingredients are combined.

Fig and Prosciutto Salad
One head of romaine lettuce, chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces
16 – 20 figs, each split in half.
4 slices of prosciutto
Creamy Parmesan Dressing

Divide the lettuce, figs, and prosciutto amongst four bowls or plates.  Drizzle a tablespoon or two of dressing over each.


Peach Sage Bellinis

Peach Sage Bellinis

As late summer progresses, I start thinking about fall flavors and a quintessential fall flavor for me is sage.  Sage is harbinger of cooler nights and warmer meals, as well as an herb that signals Thanksgiving.  I planted a sage plant at the start of the season and it has been busy under the cover of the chives, producing lots and lots of leaves.  I’ve been looking and it and thinking, what do I do with you?  And then I get distracted by the basil and the lemon verbena and the over-abundant chocolate mint.  At the same time, I’ve been immersing myself in as much summer reading as possible – devouring the books in the Eve Dallas series by JD Robb.  I got hooked on these earlier this summer because they counted in a reading challenge as a romance set in the future.  These combine elements of romance with detective novels and they are set in the 2060s, so why not?  It’s been a great series to read back-to-back.  All of this to say that in one of the books, Peach Bellinis are mentioned several times over. 

So I had peaches, Peach Bellinis and sage all on the mind at once.  I ran across a recipe for sage and peach infused water, so I thought – if you can infuse water with those flavors, why not mix them in a cocktail? Thus, the Peach Sage Bellini was created. 

All and all, I have to say I was pretty pleased with the result.  The Prosecco I used is one that is available at Trader Joe’s for $4.99.  I love it because it is light and fruity, but also because it has a screw top and I don’t have to scare myself or the dog trying to open up a cork that’s under pressure.  These are lovely to enjoy in these last days of summer, especially with a good book in hand.

peach sage bellini 2

Peach Sage Bellini
Serves 2

Sage Infused Simple Syrup
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water
6-8 sage leaves

Peach Sage Bellini
1 very ripe peach
½ of a lemon
2 tablespoons sage infused simple syrup
1 bottle of Prosecco

For the Sage Infused Simple Syrup
Combine the water, sugar and sage leaves in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Set aside and steep the sage for at least an hour (longer will produce a stronger flavor).

For the Bellinis
Chop the peach into small chunks.  Squeeze the lemon over it and add two tablespoons of simple syrup.  Mash the peach.  Refrigerate for half an hour. 

Divide the peach mixture into two champagne flutes.  Pour the Prosecco over the  peach mixture and enjoy!

Zucchini Coconut Cashew Muffins

Zucchini Coconut Cashew Muffins

I find that I can produce some interesting results in baking when I find that I’m missing ingredients.  This was very much the case with these zucchini coconut cashew muffins.  I started out thinking I was going to make lemon zucchini muffins, but then realized my only lemon had gone into a cocktail earlier in the weekend.  At that point, I thought it might be a good idea to check the rest of my ingredient list, and realized that I was very short the amount of olive oil I’d planned to use.  Fortunately, in 80 degree heat, the coconut oil that was lurking in the back of the pantry was very much melted and thus, very easy to use.  I had unsweetened flaked coconut and cashews, so these went from being lemon zucchini muffins to being zucchini coconut cashew muffins. 

I think the change worked out just fine – these are lovely with a cup of coffee in the morning or with afternoon tea.  The whole cashews lend a nice bit of chewiness to the muffins.  I can imagine these might also be good with a little cream cheese frosting.  With any luck, my yellow zucchini plant will decide to try to produce at least one or two more zucchinis before the season is over (now that I’ve stopped plucking all of its blossoms) and I can make these again. 

zucchini coconut cashew muffins

Zucchini Coconut Cashew Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1 ¾ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup coconut oil (melted)
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
½ cup whole cashews
2 cups grated zucchini

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 12 muffin cups with muffin liners.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour through brown sugar) in a medium sized bowl.  Add the eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, and vanilla and mix until the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Stir in the coconut, cashews and zucchini. 

Fill each muffin cup about half way full.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.


Summer Squash and Goat Cheese Tart

Summer Squash and Goat Cheese Tart

I’m sure my readers have noticed me waxing rapturous about most vegetables that come my way, particularly throughout the summer time.  The only summer veggie that I have a very indifferent relationship with is summer squash.  I attribute it to the fact that summer squash has a propensity to become slimy when cooked, which is a texture I just can’t stand in food.  That said, I really enjoy cooking with squash blossom flowers, and with that in mind, planted a summer squash plant about mid-way through the growing season this year.  My logic was that it just wouldn’t produce fruit – I’d be diligent about plucking the flowers and using them.

Try as one might, it’s hard to be a prurient guardian of a vegetable’s chastity.  My summer squash defied me and set out squash anyway.  It turns out I had a yellow zucchini on my hands.  I picked it before it became a giant and grabbed one of the smaller ones that was starting to grow, too.  I decided finding a way to cook it very minimally would be the way to go, so sliced off about sixteen thin slices and set them aside for this goat cheese summer squash tart (the remainder was grated and made into zucchini coconut cashew muffins – recipe to come).  It turned out so well that I almost regret not having more summer squash on the way.  I’m already starting to envision planting several zucchini next year, thus starting a cycle of vegetable love and loathing all over again.

zucchini goat cheese tart prebake zucchini goat cheese tart4

Summer Squash and Goat Cheese Tart
Serves 4

1 recipe rough puff pastry
1 very small zucchini or other summer squash
2 ounces goat cheese
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup walnut pieces (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Slice the zucchini into thin slices – you should have at least sixteen slices.

Roll out the rough puff pastry into a square that is 8 inches by 8 inches.  Divide into four squares that are 4 inches by 4 inches.  Place the squares on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.

Place the zucchini slices in the middle of each square, 4 slices to a square.  Divide the thyme leaves, goat cheese, and walnuts (if using) over the zucchini.  You can fold up the sides of each square to create a border or use any leftover strips of puff pastry to do the same.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the puff pastry is a light golden brown.

Rough Puff Pastry

Rough Puff Pastry

I’ve been an avid watcher of The Great British Baking Show for the past two seasons.  It’s been this avid watching that finally gave me the courage to try my hand at puff pastry.  I decided to start off with trying rough puff pastry, largely because I really like saying rough puff pastry.  I also like the allure of the quick and easy.  I’ve wanted to make various things with puff pastry, but every time I buy it at the grocery store, it gets tossed in the freezer, things happen, and next thing I know, it’s a year later and I have puff pastry with a serious case of freezer burn.  I figured if I made my own, I’d use it right away and could also make it in a batch the size I needed.

Of course, the day I decided I needed it (based on the size of the summer squash I was eyeing to make into a savory tart), it was 85 degrees in the PNW.  I’ve been lamenting the lack of a summer the last few weeks, and now I think I’m going to be lamenting the return of summer with a vengeance the next few weeks.   I did discover that you can make rough puff pastry when it’s very hot – you just have to be diligent about letting it rest in the freezer to keep the butter from melting between turns.  I also gave it a full ninety minute rest in the refrigerator after I was done turning it, and it was just fine.

I realize I need to be better about taking photos between steps.  At the very least, I will try to provide an in-depth set of instructions below.  That said, here’s what the rough puff looks like when it’s been mixed and after it’s gone through the turning process.

rough puff mixed rough puff final fold

Rough Puff Pastry
Makes a small batch – I was able to get four 4 inch by 4 inch squares out of this.  It could easily be doubled.

1 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons cold butter
1/3 cup cold water

Mix the flour and salt in a medium sized bowl.  Grate the butter into the flour/salt mixture.  Stir until the butter is well coated with the flour.  Make a small well in the middle and add the water.  Mix until all the flour/butter/salt mixture is incorporated into the water.  Gently knead the mixture until you have a shaggy dough – don’t over knead or over mix.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.  Roll out a rectangle about 8 inches by 4 inches.  Fold the dough letter style – the top third comes down and the bottom third comes up.  Turn ¼ turn.  This is the first turn. Roll out again into a rectangle about 8 inches by 4 inches.  Fold the dough again – top third comes down, bottom third comes up.   This is the second turn.  Do this process (roll, fold) at least two more times.  Work fairly quickly – the butter shouldn’t start to melt all over your surface.  If it starts to get too soft, throw the dough into the freezer between turns and let it firm up a bit.

Once you’ve turned and rolled at least four times, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for at least an hour to rest.

I’ll be featuring various ways to use rough puff pastry over the next several months.  This summer squash and goat cheese tart is the first one.

Fig Bourbon Sour

Fig Bourbon Sour

As August progresses, I’m doing my best to get my fill of all the summer fruit I can: particularly if I can add that fruit to a cocktail like this Fig Bourbon Sour. I’m not a fan of overly sweet drinks, so the tangy sharp lemon, offset by the sweet fresh fig is my idea of refreshing on a Friday afternoon after a long week.

I absolutely love figs. I have very fond memories of living in Tularosa, New Mexico and picking figs off the tree in our backyard, as well as doing the occasional urban foraging for figs in trees that were on abandoned properties in the area. While I enjoy cooking with figs, I also think they are spectacular served fresh or minimally altered, as in this case where they are slightly muddled with the bourbon.

I also accidently bought Wild Turkey Honey Bourbon back on the 4th of July for sauce for some crockpot ribs. I find that I really like it though, as the honey adds the hint of sweetness I don’t mind in my drink.

fig bourbon sour 2 fig bourbon sour

Fig Bourbon Sour
Serves 1

2 ounces honey bourbon (I used Wild Turkey’s Honey Bourbon – alternatively, you could use unflavored bourbon and add honey to taste)
3 ounces lemon juice
2 figs, split in half
Soda water

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the figs and honey bourbon until figs are thoroughly smashed. Add lemon juice, ice and shake vigorously. Strain, add more ice, and top with soda water.

Nectarine Coffee Cake Muffins

Nectarine Coffee Cake Muffins

These Nectarine Coffee Cake Muffins feel a little like I’m starting to grasp at the very last of summer.  We’ve had such a very mild summer here in the PNW – yesterday, when I made these muffins, my cat temperature barometer, our thirteen-year-old calico, was on the couch, thoroughly covered with my shawl.  In fact, all of the kitties this weekend were saying that winter is coming – there was a lot of cat piling together on the couch with tails wrapped over noses.  Even the dog spent some time on the couch with me first thing in the morning, snuggled up under a blanket.

If winter is right around the corner, I’m highly motivated to take advantage of the bounty of the summer season and do a lot of cooking with the likes of peaches and nectarines.  Nectarines are one of my favorite fruits – I like the fact they have smooth skins (I’m not a huge fan of peach fuzzies).  Nectarines also bring back happy memories of doing u-pick in my last town in the PNW: the farm where I would do the majority of my u-pick had the most luscious nectarines and while I often went to pick canning quantities, the nectarines were the fruit that were least likely to make it into a jar.

These muffins are fairly quick and easy to make.  The nectarine slice on the top gives them a hint of cobbler taste, with plenty of coffee cake crunch from the crumb topping.  These are ideal for enjoying a morning’s sunshine on the patio with a cup of coffee.

nectarine coffee cake muffin prebake

nectarine coffee cake muffin with nectarines

Nectarine Coffee Cake Muffins
Makes 12

Coffee Cake Muffins Crumb Topping
¼ cup butter, melted
¾ cup flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Coffee Cake Muffins
¾ cup butter
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 large nectarine, sliced into twelve thin pieces

Coffee Cake Muffins Crumb Topping

Add all ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.  The flour should be completed blended.  Set aside.

Coffee Cake Muffins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Cream the butter and the sugar until it is fluffy.  Add the eggs and mix.  Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix again.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add the dry ingredient mixture to the wet, about ¼ cup at a time until all is incorporated.

Line 12 muffin cups with muffin cup liners.  Spoon about a quarter cup of the muffin mixture into each cup.  Spoon the coffee cake muffin crumb mixture over the top of each muffin and place a nectarine slice on top of each.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle of the coffee cake muffins comes out clean.

I’m delighted to share this recipe as an Afternoon Tea Time Treats.  Please check out the hosts of Tea Time Treats: Jo’s Kitchen, Travels for Taste, and Lavender and Lovage.  These are three of my absolute favorite blogs – so do go look.

Tea Time Treats