Head north to Alaska: King Salmon with Lemon and Rosemary

salmon3My husband went to Alaska and left me alone with all 19 children (I really have 3. but they are loud. and messy. )

He travels on a regular basis, so I am used to flying solo for multiple days in a row. However, there was something about Alaska that made this stint as a single parent seem particularly adventurous.

It is not like PHL has hourly flights to Sitka, Alaska.

Anyway, Mike left. Caught a whole lot of fish. Then returned. And a couple days later, this arrived on my doorstep:

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A cooler filled with 39 pounds of king salmon and halibut and rockfish (the hand belongs to one of the children. It was not shipped with the fish).

My husband can go to Alaska anytime he wants.

Typically I am a roll-up-your-sleeves-I-can-cook-anything kinda girl. But I was a little daunted by this beautiful fish. Mike and his fishing buddies caught it–what if I ceremoniously screwed it up?

We didn’t eat dinner until 8 p.m because I was staring at the fish willing it to magically explain how it would like to be cooked. After hours of googling, I settled on aEmerile Lagasse recipe for Foil Wrapped Side of Salmon with lemon, rosemary, garlic and shallots.

It was magnificent and simple.

I had to quickly scale the piece of salmon (which I did with the back side of a knife).

And then I popped into the oven for 20 minutes and out popped perfection:

salmon1

And it was so easy! (All I had to do was send my husband to Alaska! )

Here is the recipe. I think you could any type of salmon and have a fantastic and quick dinner. King salmon has a nice firm, meaty texture, different than the Atlantic farm-raised salmon that is so readily available.

And don’t be afraid of the skin–it peels off right after cooking with zero effort.

I served it with some lemon rice and the last of the spring peas.

If there were any leftovers, the salmon would be perfect on top of a spinach salad or with a little mayo on a crusty roll.

I’ve got 38.5 lbs of fish left and I really, really don’t want to share.

Coming soon: Halibut Fish Tacos, Grilled Salmon and rockfish (whatever this is. . ..) 

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Snowed-in: Macaroni and Cheese


I absolutely adore a good snowstorm. Snowstorms are the perfect opportunity to pause and be home.
Unfortunately, the latest snowstorm hit as we were about to depart for a week in Texas; stranding us at home with relatively empty cupboards.
Okay, so there is always something to toss together or grab from the freezer in my house–but, another fab thing about snowstorms is the opportunity to cook something comforting and hearty.

I gathered the ingredients for this creamy, italian-esque macaroni and cheese from my pantry and some odds and ends in the refrigerator. Perfect for a snowy day or any day when you want to pretend to be snowed in and hide out at home.

The Goods

1 lb of penne (or whatever pasta shape you’ve got)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 1/2 canfuls of water
2 cups mozzarella cheese shreds
1 cup cheddar cheese shreds
1 tablespoon dried garlic seasoning (I used Tastefully Simple’s Garlic Garlic)
Non-stick cooking spray
Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

For the topping:
1 cup chopped grape tomatoes OR small can of chopped tomatoes, drained
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (I always have a basil plant on my kitchen windowsill–it is a life saver!)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt/pepper

Grated locatelli or parmesan cheese

The Work

Preheat oven to 350F

Boil water and prepare pasta according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking make cheese sauce by mixing mushroom soup, water (use the can to measure water), cheese and garlic in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until cheese melts.

Spray a 9×12 casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Drain and add cooked pasta. Pour in cheese sauce and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with a thin dusting of breadcrumbs. Then, spray the top with cooking spray.

Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

While it is baking, prepare the topping. Mix tomatoes, garlic, basil, vinegar and oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Top finished macaroni and cheese with tomato mixture and a heaping spoonful of locatelli cheese.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Dill

Kristine, with Oscar, my nephew and  muse. 

This recipe is from my dear and crazy friend Kristine. We used to work together at CBRE in the marketing department. I think we ate lunch together every day for at least a year–enjoying all the fantastic food that Center City has to offer. 

I love this side–especially the beautiful Fall colors of the carrots and parsnips. Pop these in the oven about 15 minutes before your Turkey is finished. The dish will cook while your turkey rests and waits for carving!

The good:
2 pounds carrots, unpeeled
4 pounds parsnips, peeled
6 Tbsps. good olive oil
2 Tbsps. Melted butter
2 Tbsps. kosher salt
3 tsps. freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsps. minced fresh dill (you can use more or less, depending upon your love of dill)
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
If the parsnips and carrots are very thick, cut them in half lengthwise. Slice each diagonally in 1-inch-thick slices. The vegetables will shrink while cooking, so don’t make the pieces too small. Place the cut vegetables on a roasting pan. Add the olive oil, butter, salt, and pepper and toss well. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until the largest piece is fork-tender, tossing occasionally. Sprinkle with dill and serve hot. (yields 8 servings)

Nana’s Fabulous Stuffing

The original recipe

My Aunt Ginny reminded me that I come from a heritage of Thanksgiving stuffing.  While I still believe there is absolutely no shame in Stove Top (or canned cranberry sauce or pre-made gourmet side dishes); my heart yearns to make homemade, moist and carb-tastic stuffing. The best part of this recipe is that is so easy and with a little dramatic flair, you can make it spectacular!

Every year I make this recipe–straight from my Nana’s recipe box. There are four different variations that I have made:
1. The recipe, straight up
2. The recipe plus mushrooms to make: Wild Mushroom Stuffing
3. The recipe plus sausage to make: Sweet and Savory Sausage Stuffing
4. The recipe plus bacon and oysters to make: Oyster Stuffing

Pick your favorite or come up with another addition–it is so yummy, you might just make it year round!

Nana’s Fabulous Stuffing-the straight up version
1/2 lb of butter (Nana’s says or margarine, but I feel margarine is criminal)
1/2 cup minced onion

Me and my Nana, November 1977

12 cups cubes of bread (you have two options: grab a loaf of italian bread and cut it up the night before. or buy a bag of bread cubes in the stuffing aisle)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 cup celery diced
4-6 Tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup of milk (my favorite) or stock-turkey/chicken
1 egg

Melt butter. Add onion & simmer until it is partly cooked. Add chopped celery and cook until nearly tender. Add salt, pepper, parsley and poultry seasoning. Blend well and add bread cubes.
Beat egg into milk or stock. Add egg/liquid mixture to stuffing. Stuff your turkey and/or spread into a buttered casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes (covered) and an additional 30 minutes uncovered, until heated through.

Variations
For Wild Mushroom Stuffing:Stir in 2 cups of sliced, mixed mushrooms (white, shitake, oyster, whatever you love) with onions. Follow the rest of the recipe

For Sweet and Savory Sausage Stuffing: Brown 12 oz of bulk sausage. Drain, but reserve 1 tablespoon of drippings in pan. Melt butter in drippings and follow recipe. Before adding the egg/liquid mixture, stir in browned sausage. Bake as directed. 


For Oyster Stuffing: Brown 1/2 pound of chopped bacon. Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon of drippings in pan. Melt butter in drippings and follow recipe. Before adding the egg/liquid mixture, stir in 1/2 cup chopped oysters.  Bake as directed. 

Brine it, baste it, behold it: My Favorite Turkey-Part 2

Okay, so if you’ve brined your Turkey, you are so ready for Part 2.  If you choose not to brine, you can still follow this portion of the recipe.

The morning of Thanksgiving, remove your turkey from the brine, pat it dry with paper towels and let it stand at room temperature for 2 hours. My Mother, the public health nut, always panics when the turkey is sitting out and I have to restrict her access to the kitchen; but trust me, the 2 hours is okay. The turkey skin dries a little, the turkey warms up and it all plays into the fabulous end result.

With “drying”, cooking and post cooking standing time, you will need to allow 6 1/2 hours to get your bird ready to eat.

Ingredients
Brined Turkey
2 sticks of unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup of butter, softened
1 cup of white wine, I typically use a pinot grigio
Stuffing–if you stuff your bird OR if you prefer stuffing separate, one onion, halved
Large piece or two of cheesecloth

1. After your bird warms for 2 hours, preheat your oven to 425F.
2. Stir together melted butter and wine in a large bowl. Fold cheesecloth so that it is big enough to cover most of your turkey. Immerse the cheese cloth in butter mixture and soak it for a few minutes.
3. Place the turkey, breast side up on rack set in a roasting pan. Season the cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff with your stuffing OR onion. Tie the legs together with twine. Fold neck flap under and then rub the turkey with softened butter. Season the outside with salt and pepper.
4. Remove cheesecloth from butter mixture and wring out. Lay cheesecloth over turkey. Reserve butter mixture.
5. Place turkey, legs first in oven. Roast 30 minutes and baste the cheesecloth with reserved wine and butter mixture. Reduce temperature to 350F
6. Roast and brushing every 30 minutes for another 2 1/2 hours.
7. Remove cheesecloth and baste with pan juices until a temperature reads 180F, about an hour.
8. Transfer to a plate or cutting board. Let turkey stand at least 30 minutes before carving.

Brine it, baste it, behold it: My Favorite Turkey-Part 1

Behold it!

This my favorite roast Turkey recipe. It has its roots in Martha Stewart (who I think should adopt me) and in my own brand of cooking alchemy.  This year will be my sixth year roasting this juicy, golden yummy piece of Thanksgiving heaven.

The brine has simple ingredients. The turkey is basted in butter and wine as it roasts–it is picture perfect and tastes beautifully as well.

Plan on ordering a fresh turkey from a local farm in early November. Or picking up your frozen turkey from the grocery store a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Pickings can be slim in the days right before the big day. A good rule of thumb is to provide 1 1/2 -2 pounds of turkey per person. If your turkey is frozen, start defrosting it early and allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey.

Some things you need before you dive in–a brining bag or a super large stock pot that your turkey plus brine can fit in; space in your fridge for stock pot; cheese cloth; a roasting pan with a raised rack;  a silicon oven safe brush and a meat thermometer.



Brine it

Brine it!

Brining results in moist, flavorful meat. It works, apparently, through reverse osmosis and diffusion. I could pretend to fully understand this (this is why Nana needed Granddad and my Uncle Allan–for these techie issues), but I just know it works and the meat is tender, juicy and yummy. Cooks Illustrated has a fabulous explanation; just don’t get caught up in the fears of non-crispy skin–we will get to that later.

You will make the brine on Wednesday morning, let it cool, and then put the turkey in the brine and refrigerate until Thanksgiving morning.

Here’s what you need:

  • Your turkey–I usually get a 15-18 pounder. This recipe will work for more or less weight.; remove the giblets, save if you are into that and keep the tag from the turkey that lists the weight
  • 3 cups coarse salt
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 2 medium onions, skins on, washed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, leaves on, coarsely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Couple sprigs fresh thyme
  • Handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
Grab your enormous stock pot and put all ingredients (EXCEPT FOR THE TURKEY) in with 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from heat, let the brine cool completely. 
Grab your bird and place the turkey breast first into the stock pot (or toss the whole caboodle in a brining bag) with the brine and cover (use the lid or plastic wrap). Place everything in the fridge for up to 24 hours. 

Kitchen Quickie: Key West BLT

Lily, 13 months old in Key West (not in a bar).

When Lily was a baby, Mike and I went to Key West. I clearly remember our first meal–in a bar on Duval Street with, well, our baby. It was ridiculous. But we were hungry after a long day of travel and bar food fit our appetites. I ordered this amazing Shrimp BLT–it was perfect–a Key West spin on a classic.

This makes a great lunch and takes just a few minutes to pull together. Since I am a bit of a food diva, I love that this meal is a little extra special–who wants a plain jane sandwich?!  I always seem to have some shrimp in my freezer that I can defrost under cold running water quickly.

The recipe makes one sandwich–you can up size it to accommodate your crowd!


Ingredients:
Crusty bread (try sour dough or something else fun)
6 medium shrimp, defrosted, peeled and tails removed
1/2 of one lime
Kosher salt
Black pepper
2 slices of uncured turkey bacon
3 thick slices of beefsteak tomato or other slicing tomato (I used an heirloom yellow beefsteak)
4 leaves of romaine or leafy green lettuce
Mayo

Put it together:
1. In a grill pan or skillet, cook bacon. Crack some black pepper over top of bacon (makes it yummy!)
2.  Toss raw shrimp with the juice of the lime, kosher salt and pepper. Grill/sauteed shrimp along side bacon, about 3 minutes a side, until cooked through.
3. Toast the bread. Smear each slice of bread with mayo, top with a slice of lettuce, tomato slices (sprinkle with kosher salt), pile on shrimp and bacon.
 4. Cut in half. Grab a beer. And enjoy!

In Season: Squash Ravioli in Sage Brown Butter


I first laid eyes on the Kitchen Aid mixer pasta maker attachment when Mike and I were registering for wedding gifts. Frankly, it frightened me. I had visions of mangled pasta dough in a rainbow of colors stuck to the ceiling–a nightmarish scene in which the cat and I were entangled in sticky, inedible dough. There was flour everywhere and well, no one was going to eat homemade pasta anytime soon.

Seven years later and I am still without my pasta maker attachment–so a good Nana-in-training must improvise. For this ravioli recipe, you just need a package of won ton wrappers. For about $3 or less, you can get 50 of these handy little squares of dough that are perfect for wontons, dumplings and of course, homemade ravioli.
For the filling, I made use of squash puree from our Galeux d’Eysines squash. You can use any winter squash you like from butternut to pumpkin. You could even skip the fresh puree and use a can of pumpkin puree (although it won’t taste as fresh!).
And the best part: you can make a bunch quickly and freeze it–it cooks up in a few minutes and makes it a great meal to bank in your freezer. This recipe yielded about 30 ravioli.
Ingredients:
1 large egg
1/4 cup romano cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
pinch of nutmeg
Salt/Pepper
60 won ton wrappers (which is about 2 packages)
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of fresh, chopped sage leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Steps to yumminess
1. Place squash puree, egg, romano and ricotta cheese and nutmeg in a food processor. Process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Make your ravioli, filling each with 1 heaping tablespoon of squash filling. Follow directions here (Ravioli making 101). Freeze ravioli (flat) for at least 30 minutes. You can leave any ravioli that you don’t intend to cook in the freezer.
3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add ravioli and cook until it floats-about 3 minutes. Keep an eye on it–the ravioli will explode if you overcook.
4. While ravioli is cooking, melt butter over high heat (in a large pan). Add sage and cook until butter begins to brown and sizzle. Remove pan from heat, whisk in balsamic vinegar.
5. Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove ravioli from cooking water and place directly into brown butter sauce. Serve immediately.
A fab side for Squash Ravioli: I died and went to Rouge Salad.

Techniques: Homemade Ravioli 101

Making homemade ravioli can be super fast and super impressive using store bought won ton wrappers. These handy little packages of dough squares are inexpensive.
Here are step by step instructions on filling your own, homemade ravioli.
1. Grab your won ton wrappers, a couple cookie sheets, a small bowl of water, parchment paper and the filling of your choice.
2. Line each cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment paper. Lay out won ton wrappers in a single, non-overlapping (no touching!).
3. Then add a scoop of your filling–typically about 1 tablespoon-2 tablespoons a wrapper. Place the filling right in the center of the wrapper.
4. Moisten a finger tip with a small amount of water. Draw a line on water on the outside edge of each won ton wrapper. Just do a couple at a time (you don’t want the water to dry out before you top it!
5. Then place another won ton wrapper on top, smoothing the edges right up to the filling. Try to gently smooth out any air. Moisten your finger tip again and trace along the outside of the top won ton, to seal. Continue until all raviolis are filled and sealed.
6. Place cookie sheet of completed raviolis in freezer for at least 30 minutes–the longer the better. When raviolis are frozen, you can remove from cookie sheet to cook in boiling water (3-4 minutes until floating and remove with slotted spoon) OR freeze on cookie sheet overnight and then place in freezer bags for a future meal.

Kitchen Quickie: I died and went to Rouge Salad

Back in college, Mike worked at the swanky and marvelous restaurant Rouge on Rittenhouse Square. Mike learned so much about food and I got to partake in amazing, gourmet meals. One of my favorite dishes: the Bibb and Endive salad. This salad was topped with crunchy, spicy cashews and creamy roquefort cheese. It is simple and yet tastes complex and well, to quote Lily, “fancy!”


My version of this salad pulls together in less than 5 minutes! It is a quick and sophisticated side dish–perfect for Fall meals and for company. Instead of cashews, I use pre-packaged sweet and spicy pecans from Trader Joes. I love these pecans–they retail for $3.99 in South Jersey and really add a wow to the salad. You can find various sweet/spicy nuts at your local grocery store if there is not a Trader Joes nearby.


Ingredients:
  • Spring Mix (I love the versions of pre-bagged spring mix that include fresh herbs. Trader Joes has a version as does Earth’s Best Organic)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Sweet and Spicy Pecans (from Trader Joes or substitute something you find locally!)
  • Gorgonzola cheese (or you can use plain jane bleu cheese. Not a fan of the bleus, try feta)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette or, if you want to be super fancy, truffle oil and balsamic vinegar

Pile a generous handful of Spring Mix onto your salad plate. Top with a sprinkling of cranberries, pecans and cheese. Drizzle about 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinaigrette on top OR drizzle with truffle oil and balsamic vinegar. Salt/Pepper to taste.