Macaroni & Cheese and Foil Baked Salmon (Guest post by my two daughters, again…)

20130907_183825

As I posted on the last blog post, I am smoothly, but slowly recovering from my hysterectomy surgery.  I feel very fortunate to have my 14 and 13 year old daughters take care of me the past few weeks, but they are starting back with their new school year tomorrow!!!  Never have I felt so sad and the feeling of making up some lame excuses to keep them home with me is very tempting… granted, all for selfish reasons.

Last night my daughters cooked Macaroni & Cheese and Foil Baked Salmon (both Giada De Laurentiis’ recipes) and they were absolutely divine!! They were both interested in cooking and baking, but I have seen their confidence grow cooking in the kitchen in the last month.  Well, let me have my daughters tell you about it:

AAfter that chicken jambalaya stunt, I felt a little more confident and willing to try more recipes. I like macaroni and cheese but making it from scratch was a first for me, so I decided on that. And then salmon is my favorite fish (self-explanatory). We started with the macaroni and cheese and used up all the milk in the house. The salmon was all right too, but I was a bit squeamish because I was never comfortable with handling animal protein. But they both turned out fine (actually, more than fine) and I overstuffed myself at the dinner table. I will definitely make the macaroni and cheese again, but salmon is up in the air because I am not a fan of handling meat. But experience is how we all learn, I guess.

JWe’re back! This time my sister and I made Mac and Cheese and Foil Baked Salmon. Luckily, nobody in my family is allergic to anything in these recipes, so we didn’t have to change anything or find different recipes like last time. This time cooking was fairly easy, maybe because the recipes were simple or because I’m getting more comfortable in the kitchen. The Mac and Cheese was pretty straightforward. Noodles + cheesy saucy goodness = majestic heavenly magic. It was  gooey on the inside while the edges were crispy. I believe that there’s no such thing as too much cheese, and this recipe just proves my point. It went very well with the Foil Baked Salmon. The salmon with the tomatoes and onions (the recipe actually called for shallots but we didn’t have any so we just used onions) tasted just as magnificent as the mac and cheese. I will most definitely be making this again, and soon. I think I’ll have to revisit this recipe often to fuel my new cheesy, fishy addiction. Really though, if I haven’t made it clear yet, it’s so fantastical that you’ll have dreams about it so I advise you to double the recipe so you can have some more the next day and relive the dream.  Okay, maybe I’m getting a little carried away. As you can tell, I get very emotional when it comes to food. Maybe I should stop talking now.

Macaroni and Cheese:

6 servings:

  • Butter, for greasing dish
  • 12 ounces wide egg noodles
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for pasta water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (packed) grated Fontina
  • 3/4 cup (packed) finely grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup (packed) grated mozzarella
  • 4 ounces cooked ham, diced, optional
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

**Ham was omitted from our recipe.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Butter a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Drain well, but do not rinse.

Whisk the cream, milk, flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in large bowl to blend. Stir in 1 cup Fontina, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/2 cup mozzarella, ham, if using, and parsley. Add the noodles and toss to coat. Transfer the noodle mixture to the prepared baking dish. Toss the remaining 1 cup Fontina, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 1/4 cup mozzarella in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the noodle mixture. Bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheese melts and begins to brown on top, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Foil Baked Salmon:

4 servings:

  • 4 (5 ounces each) salmon fillets
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped, or 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, drained
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Sprinkle salmon with 2 teaspoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir the tomatoes, shallots, 2 tablespoons of oil, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

Place a salmon fillet, oiled side down, atop a sheet of foil. Wrap the ends of the foil to form a spiral shape. Spoon the tomato mixture over the salmon. Fold the sides of the foil over the fish and tomato mixture, covering completely; seal the packets closed. Place the foil packet on a heavy large baking sheet. Repeat until all of the salmon have been individually wrapped in foil and placed on the baking sheet. Bake until the salmon is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Using a large metal spatula, transfer the foil packets to plates and serve.

mac&cheese

mac&cheese&foiledsalmon

Gravlaks (Gravlax)

I feel rested during this Thanksgiving holiday since I didn’t have to host or cook for Thanksgiving.  My family took me out to eat and I was able to just enjoy the food and think of other “pertinent” issues, such as coming up with my Christmas treats recipe list for this blog, going to different ethnic supermarkets, and oh yeah, I need to catch up on the shows I missed on TV!!

We love smoked salmon at my house; we love it on bagels, with rice and nori (dried laver), in salad, on crackers, and just about anything!  As of late, I have been buying my smoked salmon at a Russian supermarket.  Being around smoked salmon (a lot) reminded me that I have a gravlaks recipe from my late father-in-law (who was half Finnish).  I started going through my recipe files and found it!!  I acquired this recipe from my father-in-law many years ago after tasting his awesome gravlaks. 

Gravlaks is different from smoked salmon.  First of all, gravlaks aren’t smoked;  they are “cured” with salt and sugar (and in my version with the additional alcohol).  Gravlaks originated from the Nordic countries, and each country has their own version of gravlaks.   According to Wikipedia : During the Middle Ages, gravlax was made by fishermen, who salted the salmon and lightly fermented it by burying it in the sand above the high-tide line. The word gravlax comes from the Scandinavian word grav, which literally means “grave” or “to dig” (in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch and Estonian), and lax (or laks), which means “salmon”, thus gravlax means “buried salmon”.

IMG_5325

I will write down the recipe verbatim as told by my late father-in-law:

Serves 20-

1 salmon fillet with skin (can cut in half; I sometimes use the thick end for dinner and use the tail half for Gravlaks).  We bought a 2 pound salmon fillet.

1 teaspoon white pepper, (looks pretty than black pepper)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
4 ounces cognac
2 ounces sherry, (more if desired.  I don’t measure, just pore some on.  Sweet Sherry works fine). 
4 teaspoons fresh dill, (I don’t see why you can’t use dry dill). 
Chopped capers and finely chopped onions for serving, but not necessary.

** I substituted cognac for vodka, and sherry for rum.  I did use fresh dill, I personally think it makes a difference. 

Lay fish skin side down on a platter or a large dish deep enough to hold liquid (sugar and salt will liquefy). 

In a separate bowl, combine salt, sugar, and pepper.  Rub this mixture evenly over fish.  Drizzle booze and sprinkle dill. 
IMG_5308

Cover fish with wax paper and place with heavy platter over fish.  Place weight over platter and refrigerate 24 hours, basting three times with liquid.
IMG_5309

Gravlaks will keep 2 weeks in fridge (I have had it keep up to 3 weeks).  I baste every other day if not used the next day, in fact, I have never used it with only one day of basting. 

IMG_5319
(I “cured” the salmon for about 2 days)

To serve, place skin side down (I do it in the same dish, but you can put it on a separate dish).  Scrape away dill and slice thin on the diagonal (like flank steak).  Detach from skin. 
IMG_5320

Serve with something like Finn Crisp or thinly cut dark or rye bread.  You can use mild type onion and capers if you wish, but for myself I don’t bother. 

IMG_5324
(I served on thin rusk toast and whole grain crackers – both bought at the Russian market.  I spread a thin layer of cream cheese, layer of gravlaks, thinly sliced cucumber, dollop of Greek style caviar spread, and fresh dill.)

IMG_5323

My opinion:  Just reading through my father-in-laws recipe made me chuckle a bit.  I pictured him talking exactly like he wrote this and made me miss him a bit. 

Love gravlaks!!  If you like smoked salmon you will like gravlaks!  I think this is a very economical and easy way of making your own gravlaks.  Great smoked salmon substitute and equally good tasting!! 

Grilled Salmon “Yuan” Style, Tofu with Ricotta Cheese, and Apple & Radish Dressed with Miso Mayonnaise

I am so very relieved right now!!  I thought my computer has reached the end of its lifespan (because it died on me the past Friday).  Fortunately, my cousin was able to fix the computer for me over the weekend and I feel like I have my life line back.  Very very thankful for family member who specializes in computer and who can revive my computer back to life!! 

So, I cooked this Japanese style dinner Friday night as I was mourning for my computer.  I needed something comforting that reminded me of my childhood (growing up in Japan).  You might be wondering what is “Yuan” style?  I know the simple answer, but don’t ask me where this Chinese sounding name came from.  Basically, Yuan style is a very popular Japanese grilling style, mainly using “yuzu” (which is a golf size citrus fruit used in Japanese cooking), soy sauce, and mirin (Japanese sweet condiment derived from rice wine).  I made 3 different recipes for the dinner, but you can cook one or two or all three!!  The recipes are from Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking.

IMG_5304

Grilled Salmon “Yuan” Style: serves 4

1/4 cup sake (you can use dry sherry)
1/4 cup mirin (you can buy this at any Asian markets)
1/2 cup soy sauce
half a yuzu, lemon, or lime sliced
4 x 1/4 pound salmon fillets, each cut into 3 pieces, bones removed
sudachi or lemon/lime, to taste

In a large dish mix the sake, mirin, soy sauce and yuzu, and marinate the salmon for at least 3-4 hours. 

**It could be a bit difficult to find yuzu, but you can buy the yuzu essential juice at a Japanese market or online.  I mixed in about 1/2 teaspoon into the marinade mixture.  If you can’t find any of these, don’t worry, just use lemon or lime. 
IMG_5288
I used sliced limes and placed them on top of salmon pieces to marinate.
IMG_5287

Remove the salmon from the marinade.  Place under a hot grill until just cooked.  Serve with wedges of sudachi or lemon/lime. 

Tofu with Ricotta Cheese: serves 4

1-1/3 cups soft/silken tofu
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 Tablespoon mirin
1/2 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
5 shiso leaves or mix of fresh basil and mint
dried fish flakes (katsuo bushi) and toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

IMG_5303

Chill the tofu thoroughly before taking it out of the package, then drain it and place in a serving dish.

To make the sauce: lightly mix the soy sauce, superfine sugar and mirin in a small, heat-resistant container.  Microwave on medium for about 3 minutes without covering, then leave to stand for a few minutes before adding the freshly grated ginger (OR, you can just use a small saucepan and heat on top of the stovetop). 

Place the ricotta cheese on top of the tofu and sprinkle with the shredded shiso leaves, dried fish flakes and sesame seeds.  Finally pour over the warm saue and serve immediately. 

Apple & Radish Dressed with Miso Mayonnaise: serves 4

For the miso mayonnaise

2 teaspoons saikyo miso (this is a specialty miso from Kyoto; you can substitute by mixing 2 teaspoons of white miso with a little of superfine sugar)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
**I also added about 1 Tablespoon of ground sesame seeds

2-1/2 Tablespoons shelled walnuts (I omitted this due to allergy issues)
3/4 cup red apple
salt
2-1/2 cups radish
**I also added chopped baby spinach and sliced cucumbers

IMG_5300

In a bowl, combine the miso, mayonnaise and rice vinegar. 
Cook the walnuts uncovered in a microwave on very low heat for 1-1/2 minutes.  Leave to cool and roughly chop.

Wash the apple complete with skin.  Cut into 4 wedges, removing the core, then slice each wedge into 1/10 inch thick pieces.  Add a little salt to a bowl of water and soak the apple in the mixture to keep it from discoloring.  Slice the radishes into 1/10 inch thick round pieces. 
Just before serving, drain the apple and pat dry.  Then dress the apple and radish with the miso mayonnaise sauce.  Arrange in a serving bowl and sprinkle the walnut pieces on top. 

My opinion:  2 words for me :  Comfort food.    Salmon tasted like a very traditional grilled Japanese salmon, always loved the taste!  My oldest daughter devoured this salmon!  Great with hot steaming rice!! – please be sure to use the short grain rice!!

Tofu was another traditional home cooked tofu recipe, I love the ginger sauce with fish flakes!  I do have to say it’s an acquired taste;  if you’re not used to the texture of very soft tofu, or eating fish flakes, this will be very foreign to you, however, I highly encourage you to try before making a quick judgement! Ricotta cheese is an odd combination at first.  It adds more sweet smoothness to the taste, however, I prefer this tofu dish without the ricotta cheese. 

Salad is another Japanese style salad which reminds me of home.  I was very content after the end of this dinner (even though my heart still ached for my computer).  Now that my computer has a little longer shelf life, I can look back to this dinner with more fondness!!!

Fish Kali Mirch and Mixed Veg/Fruit Salad

A while back ago I went to our local Tiffin with a friend.  She ordered Fish Kali Mirch (black peppercorn) and I fell in love.  This is my feeble attempt recreating this recipe.  I found a recipe for it, but I adjusted some measurements and added few ingredients. 
IMG_1865
3 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped
6 fish fillets (I used Tilapia)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tablespoon coarsely crushed black peppercorns
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 Tablespoons gram flour (chickpea flour)
chaat masala (you can get this at your local Indian grocery, or make it your own)

Cut fish into bite size pieces and marinate them in crushed peppercorns, lemon juice, salt, cumin and turmeric for about 15 minutes. 
Carefully add the gram flour to the fix marinade and gently blend it in, making sure that the fish get coated well with this mixture. 
Heat the oil and fry the fish for 5-6 minutes on medium heat.
Sprinkle with chaat masala and serve with mango chutney and/or coriander chutney (mint chutney is also good). 
My opinion: Even though I cooked this myself, I have to say I really enjoyed this dish!!  It didn’t quite come out the same as the restaurant version, however, I equally liked this taste.  The black peppercorns aren’t overwhelming, when you bite into the fish, you can almost taste the layers of different spices.  Chaat masala adds a very nice kick to it!

The next dish was purely created with the leftover veggies I had in my frig.  I wanted something fresh to accompany the fish (which is deep fried – sort of). 
IMG_1855
1 beet, peeled and diced
3-4 Kirby cucumbers, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
assortment of fruits – papaya, pineapple, mango, apple and pear – diced
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 – 1 teaspoon chaat masala (adjust to your taste)
chopped cilantro

Dice all the fruits and veggies into approximately 1 inch cubes and set them aside.
In a large bow, add the yogurt, salt and chaat masala and mix them well – add the fruits and veggies and mix well. 
Right before serving, add the cilantro. 

My opinion: Fresh, fresh fresh!!  The blend of veggies and fruits, plus yogurt and chaat masala just hit the spot!!  This is a keeper recipe for us!

Update:
Here is the recipe for chaat masala: this will make about 500g

3/4 cup cumin seeds
2/3 cup black peppercorns
5 Tablespoons black salt
2-2/3 cups dry mint leaves
3 teaspoons ajwain seeds
2 teaspoons asafoetida
1 teaspoon tartaric acid
1-1/3 cups amchoor
3-1/2 Tablespoons salt
4 Tablespoons ground ginger
4 Tablespoons yellow chilli powder

Put all the ingredients, except for amchoor, salt, ground ginger and yellow chilli powder, in a spice grinder and grind to make a fine powder.   Transfer to a clean, dry bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Sieve and store in a sterilized, dry and airtight container.