Saturday, April 25, 2009

Red Curry Salmon

I spent most of the day gardening-- clearing beds, pulling weeds, and planting flowers. At the end of the day my entire body hurts so I wanted a fairly easy dinner. In my world that means that Steven does part of it. We decided to make one of my favorite salmon dishes- red curry salmon. All I have to do is make the rub for the salmon, make the red curry sauces, and make the slaw. Steven makes the rice and grills the salmon. Tonight I also decided to stir fry some green beans.

This recipe seems complex at first but it is fairly easy. The most important thing about making the red curry sauce is to have everything ready before you start the sauce.

Red Curry Sauce

Take about a 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) of ginger root peeled and minced (it is really easy to peel ginger root with a spoon-- it works better than a knife) and 3-4 cloves of minced garlic and fry until golden in about 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add 3/4 teaspoon of coriander, 1 teaspoon of curry powder, 2 teaspoons (or more) of a Taste of Thai red curry paste, and 2 teaspoons of sweet paprika, and 1 teaspoon of cumin. Stir until fragrant. Add one can of light coconut milk, a small can of tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 3 tablespoons of brown sugar (adjust brown sugar to taste). Bring the sauce to a boil and keep warm.


I make a rub and grill the salmon on a cedar plank (actually I make the rub and Steven grills it). Sometimes I make a spicy rub-- tonight it was just salt (Kosher), pepper, and olive oil.


I like to make a coconut milk rice to go with the salmon but tonight I was too tired so we just had Basmati rice.


I like to have a little slaw on the side. It is really easy to make-- shred some cabbage in the food processor, add some cilantro, mint, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar and you have a nice slaw that will complement the salmon.

Green Beans

I think green beans go great with this meal. All I do is heat up some oil in a skillet, throw in some green beans, salt, back pepper, and red pepper, and cook them until they are al dente. Wonderful!!!!

Put it all together and garnish with peanuts and cilantro.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spinach Pesto

Spinach Pesto
The basil isn't ready to harvest yet, but I have a craving for pesto so I made spinach pesto, a wonderful substitute which can be made even in the dead of winter.

Spinach Pesto

Chop in the food processor 2-3 cloves of garlic and 1/3 cup (50 g) of toasted almonds (I was out of pine nuts but they work too).
The blended nuts and garlic
Add 1/2 cup (57 g) of grated Parmesan cheese and slowly add 1/4 cup (60 ml) of olive oil (most people use more but I like a thicker pesto and I add pasta water to thin it if I use it on pasta). At the end add the spinach leaves (or basil or parsley or cilantro or arugula or a mixture) and chop the mixture in the food processor.
Adding the spinach

 It takes about 2 1/2 cups of leaves. Finally add salt and pepper to taste.
The finished pesto
If you are using the pesto for pasta save some of the hot pasta water to thin the sauce. There are all kinds of uses for pesto. It is amazing on steak. Pesto sandwiches are one of summers great treats (fresh summer tomatoes between good bread smeared with pesto). I love putting pesto in my tomato sauces; it adds amazing flavor to a traditional sauce. I love pesto on fish and shrimp. It also makes a great sauce for pasta salad.

Last Saturday we went to the Sand Springs Herb Festival. It was a wonderful mix of food, plants, people, and dogs. I bought multiple types of basil-- sweet, African blue, Caesar, lime, lemon, purple, and Greek columnar. Basil is one of my favorite culinary herbs. Basil is originally native to Iran, Indian and tropical parts of Asia where it has been cultivated for 5,000 years. I was first introduced to basil in Italian foods but now I look forward to eating basil in some wonderful Asian dishes as well.
Spring Flowers in our Yard
A Perfect Spot for an Herb Garden
Sweet basil is used in Italian foods and has an clove scent because it contains the chemical eugenol (which is the same chemical as is found in cloves). The Caesar basil is slightly milder and I will use it with the sweet basil to make pestos. The lemon basil has a strong lemon scent and is popular in Indonesia (where it is called kemangi). The lemon and lime basil contain a chemical called citral which provides its scent. The African blue basil is one of the most cold-hardy of the basil plants. It has a camphor scent from the chemicals camphor and camphene. It does not go to seed, it is propagated by cuttings. The young leaves have a wonderfully mild taste. Purple basil has wonderful mild scent. Here is a link to what sounds like a wonderful recipe using purple basil: (Lobster tagliolini with purple basil). I think the purple basil has a spicier taste than sweet basil. Plus it is a beautiful addition to the garden. Greek columnar basil gets its name because it grows three to four feet tall but only ten inches wide, so it resembles a column. It has a stronger scent and taste than sweet basil with a hint of cinnamon and allspice. It is also referred to as Aussie Sweetie. The picture above (the triangle of dirt surrounded by monkey grass) is our new herb garden. As of today its home to big bunches of basil.

Our First Rose this Spring
I also bought several tomato plants, eight lavender plants, leeks, Japanese eggplant, pineapple mint, orange mint, ajwain, wild zanter oregano, oregano thyme, rosemary, society garlic, and a variety of lettuces. Later on this spring/summer I will be harvesting and making recipes with them.

It will take a lot of work to turn this into a garden

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Shortbread pan
I love shortbread. I even have shortbread pans. Shortbread is amazingly easy to make and homemade shortbread is 1000 times better than store bought. The recipe I use makes not one but two pans of cookies. Double yum! I prefer the traditional plain shortbread. I have made all kinds of variations but always return to the traditional.
Shortbread originated in Scotland and was made with oats. It is traditionally a Christmas cookie, but I make and eat it all year round. The shortbread I make is crisp and light. Sometimes I use it as a pie crust or the basis for a bar cookie.
It is critical that you use a high quality butter and vanilla. When you have a cookie recipe that only has 6 ingredients, the quality of each ingredient makes a difference. When I make my own vanilla I use it in this recipe. I also try to use a high quality flour like Bob's Red Mill or King Arthur.

Shortbread Recipe
1 Cup (227g) of Unsalted Butter,  Softened
1 Tsp of Salt
1/4 Cup (28g) of Powdered Sugar
1/2 Cup (100g) of Granulated Sugar
1 Tsp (or more) of Vanilla
2 1/3 Cups (280g) of Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Preheat the oven to 300 F/149C/ Gas Mark 2. Lightly grease 2 shortbread pans or two 9-inch (23 cm) round cake pans.
Creaming the butter and sugars together
In a medium size bowl. Beat together the butter, sugar, salt, sugars and vanilla (I usually just pour a small pour of vanilla). Once they are mixed, slowly add in the flour. The dough will be stiff.
Divide the dough in half and spread into the pans. Smooth the surface with your hands or the bottom of a glass. Prick the dough with a fork.
The shortbread is ready for the oven
Bake the shortbread for 35 to 40 minutes, until it is golden brown around the edges. Remove the pans from the oven and run a knife around the edges. Let it cool 5 minutes and then turn the shortbread onto a clean working surface. Do not wait, but immediately cut the shortbread into 12 pieces. If you wait until it cools, it will crumble.

Finished shortbread - round pan
Finished shortbread- shortbread pan

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian wedding soup
I really want to be out planting, but it is a rare cold day in April in Oklahoma. It is supposed to freeze so I have to wait to plant. Instead I am making Italian Wedding Soup or Minestra Maritata. Historically it has nothing to do with weddings but is the marriage of meat and vegetables. It is the perfect soup for a cold day.

My mother made wedding soup for special occasions while I was growing up and I did not have the appreciation for the soup that I do now. It does take awhile to make (in part because I make my chicken broth from scratch). I think it makes a big difference with this soup (I always think that
homemade chicken broth make a difference and is worth the extra time).

All the ingredients for a great broth
Chicken Broth

To make the chicken broth, I take chicken quarters (I really like Smart Chicken) and cover them with chicken broth and water. I throw in some celery, onion, carrots, garlic, salt, pepper, and cook for about 45 minutes then remove the chicken, celery onion and carrots from the broth. The chicken can be used in another recipe.

The meatballs are ready for the soup

  • 2 lbs (1 kg) of Beef (or a mixture of beef and pork)
  • 2 Slices of White Bread with Crust Soaked in 3/4 Cup (180 ml) of Milk
  • 1 Large Egg, Beaten
  • 1-2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Tsp of Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp of Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup (57g) Parmesan Cheese, Grated
  • 1/3 Cup  (20 g) Flat Leaf Parsley, Chopped
Mix all of the ingredients together and shape into meatballs (use about 1 1/2 teaspoons- it should be about the size of a large pecan). Some people bake their meatballs before adding them to the soup so that they brown. I don't but you certainly can. (Trust me on the milk soaked bread). I use about half of the recipe in the soup and the remainder I bake (at 400 F/ 204 C for 20 minutes turning once-- these meatballs should be the size of a large walnut) and use in other recipes or freeze.

The Soup

At last it is time to make the soup. Into the chicken broth I add a package of frozen chopped spinach, 1/3 cup (20 g) of chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley, and the meatballs. At this point you may want to add more salt and pepper. Simmer until the spinach and meatballs are cooked about 8-10 minutes. In a separate bowl whisk two eggs and 1/2 cup  (57 g) of Parmesan cheese. Stir the soup in a circular motion and slowly add the egg cheese mixture to the moving soup. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper and serve. You can always add more shredded Parmesan cheese to the top of the soup (I do).
Enjoy the soup and stay warm.