Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Guest Post: Asian Inspired Salmon Dinner from Jared

My husband, Jared, is an excellent cook. It's one of the reasons why I fell in love with him. He often makes us delicious meals, which I rarely post about because I feel bad not being able to post the recipe... and Jared very, very rarely uses any kind of recipe when he cooks. He is the master of making things up out of his head. However, he's recently decided to start sharing some of his knowledge with us here on my little blog by writing up some of his meals. Enjoy!

From leftovers to a restaurant quality meal in 15 minutes....

Over the years, Katrina has referenced my love of cooking. And I do love it, finding the creative process of crafting healthy,exciting dinners to be very satisfying. I have toyed with the idea of keeping a casual food blog, but as my lovely wife has pointed out, it might be frustrating because I am an "intuitive cook", not measuring ingredients, throwing together whatever feels right, and often not even tasting my creations before they are served. This process makes it challenging to record how I make my meals; sometimes I can't remember how I make a particular dish until I try again. But as an experiment, I thought I would start writing a guest post here and there about meals we enjoyed. My ideal cookbook would contain principles as well as recipes--what kinds of flavors and seasonings go together, how to prepare different types of food, etc. This flexible approach would allow one recipe to teach you how to cook a class of foods, instead of a single dish.

I mostly wanted to record this meal because it made such a pretty picture. :-)

Dinner came together in several steps. We had some leftover quinoa (one of the most perfect foods ever), and so I made a little lunch out of it. I cubed a small yam, then boiled it on medium heat, keeping water just covering the yams. When the yams started getting soft I put 1/2 cube of vegetable bouillon in. I put in two cans of garbanzo beans, drained, as well as the leftover quinoa, about 2-2 1/2 cups cooked. I mixed everything together, adding a few tablespoons of light soy sauce (I would have used Braggs Liquid Aminos if I had some on hand). I left the dish this way for Asher to eat, and added a bit of hot sauce to ours, which made it nice.

We were talking about what to make for dinner, and Katrina suggested salmon. This is how I often cook, picking one ingredient or idea and then building a meal around it. I asked her whether she wanted salmon and potatoes or salmon and rice, with a more Asian approach. We had bok choy that we needed to eat, so we picked rice. But instead of making rice, I decided to just use the leftovers from lunch. One of my favorite things to do is to transform leftovers into interesting variations. So here are the elements of the meal:


The two elements of cooking fish such as salmon are cooking it and flavoring it. If you are using frozen (Costco has wonderful individually packaged salmon steaks), the way you thaw it also affects the outcome. I like my salmon with a golden, crispy outside and tender, flaky, and moist interior. I didn't mean to do this, but the inside of the salmon was just a bit frozen still when I started cooking it, which ended up turning out very nicely. I put some olive oil and a bit of vegan butter in a HOT saucepan, and swished around the sizzling oil and butter. I then put the salmon steaks pretty side down, and covered them (if the fish is completely thawed I don't cover it). I sprinkled a bit of powdered ginger on the tops. I waited a few minutes and flipped them over, then poured a mixture of hot sauce and orange juice (about 1 Tbsp hot sauce and 3 Tbsp orange juice) over the salmon steaks, then covered them again. How long to cook each side is something you get a feel for, but you want the flesh to be completely opaque and the outside golden brown. The fact that the insides were not completely thawed allowed the outsides to get a gorgeous and crispy golden brown while keeping the insides tender.


I wanted each of the elements of the meal to complement the others, so I kept the flavor of the veggies light. I enjoy bok choy because it combines a radishy flavor with the flavor of the greens. I sliced two carrots into thin rectangles, and started those cooking in a bit of vegetable oil (you could also use wok oil, or olive oil). I put some ginger on those and splashed some rice vinegar on them after they cooked a bit. I cut up the bok choy and stirred that in. I turned off the veggies, because I didn't want them to overcook.. timing everything so all the dishes are finished at the same time takes practice, as we know. When I turned them back on I added some light soy sauce (why anyone would ever need full sodium soy sauce is beyond me, and I like Braggs even more ever since we discovered it a few months ago), as well as some more ginger. When it was nearly finished, I sprinkled on some sesame oil (you don't want to burn sesame oil). Bok choy really does not need to cook long at all; I would have cooked it a touch less than I did tonight.

Quinoa Pilaf

I took the leftover quinoa-garbanzo bean-yam dish and wanted to jazz it up a bit. So I sprinkled on some Indian Curry we got at an Asian Market, put in a heaping spoonful of coconut milk, and put it back on the heat. I also threw in a bit of coconut water we had in the fridge, but didn't need to. When it was almost done I squirted on some lime juice.

I wanted to make it look pretty, so shaped the quinoa into domes, garnished the salmon with some clementine segments, put a few leaves of cilantro on the pilaf, and placed some sliced tomatoes on the side. The finished product looks pretty enough to be in a restaurant (with a taste to match; you will need to take my word for it), but I literally threw it together in about 15 minutes! The quinoa dish ended up being a bit spicy on its own, but everything together tasted great.

As a side note, we eat fish rarely, which ends up being about every other month at most.

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