Honey Citrus Steamed Salmon

You might find this hard to believe, but I have never liked salmon. It’s strange because salmon is supposed to be the fish that pleases all pallets. Yet as I grew up and began to enjoy more and more kinds of seafood salmon has always remained at the bottom of my list – right next to sea urchin and raw oysters. Living in Japan gave my taste buds a whole new appreciation for fish of all kinds, both raw and cooked, and some of my favorite foods today include sashimi and cooked sea bream. Salmon however…is just…too fishy.

I had a revelation, though, shortly before I moved to Nova Scotia last year. My dad (a loyal salmon eater) prepared a few fish steaks in the oven one night using a new cedar plank he had received as a gift. Deciding I didn’t have anything to lose by giving them a shot, I served myself a small 3″-square helping…and ended up eating two more full-sized steaks. They were amazing! I wish I could share that recipe with you now, but I lack both the cedar plank and my father. Believe me, I’m working on it. In the mean time, I challenged myself to come up with a different salmon recipe that I could enjoy. Something ridiculously easy that I could whip up on a busy weeknight and with the possibility of leftovers.

Believe it or not, I have found my recipe. This dish is super easy to prepare (especially if you buy your fish already skinned), very customizable, and is easily scaled up or down. The lighter flavors are great for summer, but the meal is satisfying and stays with you throughout the day. Oh, and you’ve got a big omega-3 boost plus a load of vegetables. That doesn’t hurt either. 😉

Honey Citrus Salmon (glaze recipe sourced from here)

Ingredients:

4   ~6 oz. salmon steaks, skin removed

4   small zucchini, sliced into ¼” thick medallions

4   T   honey

3   T   fresh lime juice

2   T   fresh orange juice

1   T   fresh herbs of your choice*

1   T   EVOO

salt and pepper to taste

lemon wedges for garnish, if desired

* Note: I was feeling adventurous and used summer savory this time. I know it’s supposed to be used in red meat or rich poultry dishes, but it just smelled so good at the market I had to get some! Apparently, savory is frequently used in Atlantic Canada like sage is used elsewhere. Taking into account my past obsession with sage, I shouldn’t be surprised savory smells so amazing to me, haha.

Procedure:

1) Preheat oven at 400°F. In a small bowl, whisk together honey and juices to make a light glaze (I included a few pieces of orange pulp in mine, just to give it a few extra bursts of flavor), set aside. In a medium bowl toss zucchini medallions, EVOO, herbs, and seasoning until evenly coated.

2) Distribute prepared zucchini evenly among four large sheets of aluminum foil, mounding them no higher than 2 slices thick in the centers of each. Place salmon steaks on top of zucchini and then drizzle honey citrus glaze over the salmon. Add a pinch more of seasoning to the tops of salmon to finish.

3) Starting with the shorter edges first, gently but firmly roll up the foil around the salmon forming little packets. Be sure to leave plenty of room on top for the steam to collect. The packets a bit like calzones standing up on their edges. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until salmon easily flakes. Be careful when unwrapping the packets to check – the steam will be HOT! Serve immediately. Leftovers will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Beezer’s Notes:

I really do like this salmon; it does exactly what I want it to and tastes great to boot. The best surprise with this recipe, though, was Brad’s reaction: he has dubbed this my “best dinner ever”! I am stunned. I know he likes salmon in general, and this is a pretty tasty dish, but I didn’t think it was that good, haha. I’m going to compromise and give it 4 hearts. It’s not my favorite, but it’s now his so I must have done something right. 😉

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Zucchini Fritters

Ack, I know I know: it’s been several weeks since my last post and I’m sorry. With nicer weather I find myself spending more time outdoors during the daylight hours, which means making up for lost work-time in the evenings on my home computer. While having a more flexible schedule is great, my normal blog-time is more and more frequently being used for data-processing time. Now while I can’t show you what I’ve been working on with my research (unless you know Python it would look like gibberish to you anyway), I can catch you up to what I’ve been cooking. And baking. Wow, there’s been a lot of baking recently.

I was tempted to just post my most recent dessert achievement (sneak peak tweeted here), but was then afraid that I’d never get around to sharing all the dishes in between – it has happened before. So, you’ll just have to be patient for a bit. Honestly, it won’t be that bad. You should know me well enough by now to see that sweet treats are pretty darn frequent around here, for better or worse. It’s not a stretch to go from zucchini and non-fat Greek yogurt to sugar and butter…at least in my home, haha. Plus, these lovely fritters here are pan-fried so we’re compromising a bit, really.

Speaking of zucchini, have you seen NASA’s Diary of a Space Zucchini yet? I think it’s really cute and interesting. Creating a sustainable “green house in space” is key to the future of space-travel. Protein packs and dehydrated ice cream (do they still use that stuff??) can only get you so far and if we ever intend to go to Mars – an adventure I strongly feel we all should support (but that’s another story) – then a closed-loop ecological system is more than half the battle. Can you imagine how it would feel to be totally dependent on one humble garden? Well, humans have certainly done it before and many around the world are still doing it now. Also, the first crew of Biosphere 2 managed alright and even walked away with “enhanced immune systems” thanks to their “low-calorie, high nutrient diet”. It’s ironic how human advancement has led us back to a basic fundamental challenge: growing our own food.

I used Deb’s recipe almost exactly as she posted it, with the exception of the scallions and the yogurt. I honestly think scallions would be a better flavor here, but I had shallots I had to use up. Unless you strongly prefer one over the other, I’d follow her suggestion. I also had non-fat Greek yogurt to use up and found it perfectly tasty. Oh, by the way: HER BOOK IS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER! No, I did not hesitate for a second – for once Amazon.ca has what I want, haha.

Zucchini Fritters (via Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:

For the Fritters…

1   lb.   zucchini (about 2 medium)

1   t   salt, plus extra to taste

2   scallions, split lengthwise and thinly sliced

1   large egg, lightly beaten

freshly ground black pepper

½   C   AP flour

½   t   baking powder

Olive or other oil of your choice for frying*

* Note: You might want to keep smoking temperatures in mind when choosing your oil here. Not that I’m very experienced working with a variety of oils (I stick to my trusty EVOO and Canola, with sesame thrown in occasionally), but I found my olive oil smoked much sooner than I thought. I couldn’t get my pan up to a hot enough temperature to quickly brown the fritters and had to leave them for an extra bit of time in the oven to crisp up (see notes below). Just something to keep in mind.

For the Topping…

1   C   full-fat Greek yogurt or sour cream

1-2   T   lemon juice

¼   t   lemon zest

1 small minced or crushed clove or garlic

pinch of salt to taste

Procedure:

1) Preheat oven to 200°F, line a plate with paper towels, and prep a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Trim the ends off the zucchini and either grate on the largest holes of a box grater or shred in a food processor. In a large bowl, toss shredded zucchini with the teaspoon of salt and let sit for 10 minutes. This pre-salting technique – known as purging – is also what’s used in my Easy Roasted Eggplant post. The idea is to pull out excess moisture which is very helpful in preventing soggy fritters.

2) While zucchini sit, mix flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside. After the 10 minutes are up, drain the zucchini strands any way you prefer. Deb suggests pressing them up against the holes of a colander, wringing them out by hand, or twisting handfuls in a clean dishcloth. I used my (clean!) hands to make sure I got as much water out as I could. Give a dry strand a taste-test and see if you’d like to add more salt. Mine were fine as they were.

3) Return zucchini to the large bowl and add egg, scallions, pepper and mix well. Add the dry flour blend to the large bowl and stir batter until incorporated. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet heat 2 T of your oil of choice over Medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop scoops of your batter onto the skillet a few at a time and flatten gently with the back of a spatula. Cook until the bottoms are golden – about 3 or 4 minutes – before flipping to brown the other side. Remove fritters from pan and drain them on a paper towel-lined plate before placing them on the prepped baking sheet and into the warm oven. Repeat until all fritters are made.

4) While fritters finish “proofing” in the oven (I had to leave mine in for about 15 minutes to crisp up – see note above), whisk together all topping ingredients in a small bowl, reserving some lemon zest for garnish if you’d like. Once fritters are ready, serve immediately with generous dollops of topping and a pinch of zest.

Beezer’s Notes:

These bright green fritters are really fun to make and even more fun to eat. I wish mine had turned out a bit crispier – even their oven time didn’t make them as sturdy as I had been hoping for – but I’m confident that I simply need to heat the pan more, so next time I’ll use Canola oil. Their flavor certainly leaves no room for complaints and the lemon-garlic topping is just perfect. Ever since Greek yogurt won me over on the Black Bean Soup I’ve been wanting to use it as much as possible and this lemon-infused version would go well on so many things: potatoes, chips, tacos, enchiladas…you name it. Although we ate all of ours, Deb mentions these babies freeze well so you can be sure I’ll make extra next time to stock-pile. Anything that makes for even quicker dinners in the future is a winner in my book.

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥

Beezer’s Sloppy Joes

Phew, I’m so glad I can get back to thinking about food again! The semester hasn’t *quite* ended – I still have the final push these next few days – but I’ve had the time to thumb through a few cookbooks and make a grocery list in prep for Tuesday. Can you believe we haven’t been to the grocery store in nearly a month? Seriously, it got to the point where I only had time to eat things that came in convenient portable wrappers and my “breaks” meant simply changing work locations: from my office desk to home desk, to outdoor benches, to laptop in bed, to pillows on the floor…

I did manage to make one decent meal since I’ve last posted though and, believe it or not, it’s good enough to serve to others! My friend’s mother was up visiting from Colombia and in return for a lunch she had previously served me, I wanted to cook dinner for her and my friend. Asking what her mother liked, my friend simply replied “meat”…which – you probably know by now – isn’t really my strong point. I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m both picky with the meat I eat and also just pretty bad at preparing it. I’ve gotten better with chicken (bone-in dishes are foolproof!) but red meat not-so-much.

An additional challenge was that I wanted to make something stereotypically “American” for dinner and to do so without a grill is pretty tough. I finally decided to make Sloppy Joes: one of the first meals I ever learned to make for myself and have perfected to my taste without a recipe (gasp!). It filled the meat requirement and – if the mess, name, and portion size didn’t tip you off – is certainly American.

I’m always a bit apprehensive about sharing my personal recipes on this site just because, cooking beginner that I am, such recipes are always very simple. However, this is also a quick and easy dinner that my friend requested the recipe for so I figured I’d give it a shot. A quick note though: I make this the way I learned it: visually and with frequent taste-tests. I tried to gauge the amounts of ingredients the last time I made this so I could give you a better idea, but it really does just come down to preference…and a love for ketchup. 🙂

Beezer’s Sloppy Joes

* serves 4 hungry folks or 2 with plenty of leftovers *

Ingredients:

1   lb.   lean ground beef – preferably grass-fed

½   large white onion, finely chopped

2   cloves of garlic

1   T   unsalted butter

½   C   ketchup (roughly)

3   T   chili powder (roughly)

4   hamburger buns, well toasted

1   C   shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, if desired

Procedure:

1) Sweat onions and garlic with butter over Medium heat for a minute or two until fragrant but not browned. Add the beef and cook, stirring often to break up the meat into small chunks.

2) When the meat is no longer pink, add “first round” of ketchup and chili powder by roughly covering the surface area of the pan with both. Gently stir in the ketchup and spice completely and repeat. Do a taste-test after round #2 and see if you’d prefer another. I always add 3 rounds of ketchup and chili powder, but then again I really love ketchup.

3) Mound the meat mix on top of toasted buns (un-toasted buns will get soggy) and serve open-faced with shredded cheese on top. Serve immediately. Meat mix will keep in an airtight container for 3 days and also makes great closed sandwiches.

Beezer’s Notes:

I’m very happy to say the American Sloppy Joe dinner was a success! My friend’s mom claimed she really liked it (not being able to speak Spanish, I’m going to believe her) and my friend asked for the recipe, so my humble variation on this classic kid’s meal must have been decent at least. I, for one, would eat this multiple times a week if it were any healthier, haha. I’m a big fan of ground turkey over ground beef in most cases, but I actually have yet to try it here. I guess the nostalgia of this dish makes me want to stick to beef. How about you, did you ever eat Sloppy Joes as a kid? Any unique family variations? …or have you forsaken it as yet another gross, heavy American meal? 😉

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥    ♥

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