Recipe: Teriyaki Glazed Salmon with Broccoli and “Yum Yum” Sauce

I always hear about how fish is really good for you and everyone should eat at least one serving of fish a week. I grew up with a British grandma who loved fish-and-chips, a Catholic father who occasionally subscribed to the “Fish on Friday” practice, and cousins who lived just a car ride away from the Maryland shore, but fish was never a big part of my diet. My mother used to make tuna noodle casserole (tuna salad to our family) in the summertime and we’d occasionally dine out at Red Lobster (fine dining as a young child), but fish was always, well, “fishy” to me; I mostly stuck to fried shrimp and the occasional crab cake, but that was about it. After college, while I was living back home in Pennsylvania, I took some culinary arts classes at the local community college and in one of the classes, we focused on different food groups each week. During one of my class periods, we focused on fish and seafood; when we sat down to eat, we had fried catfish, salmon topped with mango salsa, oven baked red snapper, shrimp scampi, and more—it was the perfect opportunity to try food I wouldn’t ordinarily be open to and it was the push I needed to delve into cooking and eating fish.

Last week, smack dab in the middle of our new and ongoing “eating healthy” lifestyle, I decided my boyfriend and I could use a little salmon–some heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids sounded like the perfect addition to our diet. Salmon is a hit-or-miss fish for me—certain types, like sockeye, are too “fishy” tasting while others seem to be made more for lox, sushi, and other cold dishes. I picked cheap yet tasty-looking salmon filets from my favorite local grocery store, hoping for a subtle flavor, and they were perfect. My boyfriend and I have been on an Asian flavor kick lately, and a quick visit to Pinterest gave me the result “teriyaki salmon” over and over again, so that’s what I aimed for.

Teriyaki Glazed Salmon with Broccoli

Serves: 2

Prep. time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

 

Ingredients

  • Approx. 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • Approx. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Approx. 1-2 tbsp. honey
  • Garlic powder
  • Approx. 1-2 tbsp. mirin or sherry
  • 2 salmon filets, skin on
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 bunch green onion, finely chopped
  • Vegetable or peanut oil

For Japanese “Yum Yum” dipping sauce:

  • Light mayonnaise
  • Water
  • Approx. 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • Approx. 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • Approx. 1 tsp. sugar
  • Approx. 1 tsp. tomato paste (or ketchup)
  • Approx. 1 tbsp. melted butter

 

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, mirin, and a pinch of garlic powder. Pour into a bag, add salmon to the bag, seal, and place in the fridge to marinate for 20-30 minutes.

Heat a little oil in a medium pan over medium high heat, then add the broccoli and green onion and cook until the broccoli is just starting to brown and crisp slightly. Reduce the heat, add a splash of soy sauce, a pinch of garlic powder, and a little chicken stock and keep the vegetables warm.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium high heat, then remove the salmon filets from the bag of marinade and place skin side up in the pan; reserve the marinade. When the salmon is browned, flip it over to cook the skin side. In the meantime, pour the marinade into a small pot and bring to a gentle boil. Once bubbling, whisk a little water-and-cornstarch mixture into the liquid and let it thicken to a shiny, semi-thick glaze. Brush some of the glaze on the salmon. The salmon, when done, should feel fairly firm when you press a finger down into it and should be lightly pink in the middle and pull easily away from the skin. Serve the salmon with the broccoli and add a drizzle of teriyaki glaze over the broccoli. If you’d like to add a creamy element to the dish, whisk together the ingredients for “Yum Yum” sauce: Add the dry ingredients to a small bowl, then add melted butter, tomato paste, and a little mayo and whisk together. Add a splash of cold water to thin the sauce, then taste—add more mayo to make more sauce and adjust seasoning as desired. Drizzle on the salmon and broccoli or serve as a dip.

 

Cook’s Commentary

Teriyaki sauce is so simple and so perfect—it’s sweet, it’s salty, and it’s somehow meaty too. When cooked down into a gooey glaze, it adds this lip-smacking quality to the salmon, already flavored with the thinned out marinade version of the sauce, and that deep brown color is just stunning. Broccoli is a great, simple side for this dish, and the green onion adds a little pop of flavor to it. I added a bamboo flavored rice to add a little more volume to the dish, but a side of quinoa or brown rice would work just as well, or keep it light and stick to veggies only. This salmon had a light, fresh flavor that shined through the umami goodness of the teriyaki and made for a healthy, filling meal.

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Recipe: Baked Lobster Tails with Broccolini and Cheddar Cheese Polenta

Lobster Tail with Polenta and Broccolini

Serves: 2-4

Prep. time: 10-20 minutes

Cooking time: Approx. 30 minutes

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Ingredients

For the lobster tails:

  • Salted butter
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • 2-4 lobster tails, cleaned
  • ½ – 1 package (2-4 servings) instant polenta
  • 1-2 bunches broccolini, stems cleaned and ends removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Chicken stock
  • 4-6 strips of bacon
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 bunches green onion/scallions
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon juice
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Sharp cheddar cheese (Cracker Barrel Vermont White Cheddar is lovely), shredded
  • Heavy cream/milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400*F. Steam or parboil the broccolini to get it a little tender, then set aside. Measure out the liquid for the polenta (I usually use all chicken stock or half chicken stock and half water instead of all water—chicken stock adds flavor) and pour into a large pot and start to heat it. Cook the bacon strips in a nonstick pan until crispy, then remove them to drain on paper towels and reserve a few tablespoons of the bacon fat. Cut a slit down the underside or back of the lobster tails to expose the meat (cut a chunk of shell out to expose more meat, if desired). Melt salted butter for the lobster tails, blend in the seasoning, and drizzle onto the meat of the lobster tails. Place the tails, uncut shell side down, on a piece of foil, wrap the foil around them, place them on a baking sheet, then place in the oven. Cook for 10-20 minutes, until the meat is white and tender. While the lobster is cooking, heat up the reserved bacon fat with a little butter and olive oil over medium heat, then add the green onion and broccolini and season with salt and pepper—cook until tender, then keep warm over low heat. Instant polenta generally takes 3-5 minutes to cook, so start to cook this when the lobster is just about finished. Pour the polenta into the boiling chicken stock (or water) and cook according to package instructions. When done, reduce the heat to medium-low, slowly stir in the shredded cheddar, add a splash of milk or heavy cream and a chunk of salted butter, and season (garlic powder, salt, and pepper) to taste. Keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the lobster is done, remove it from the oven and unwrap it. Carefully remove the flesh from the shell and plate it atop the creamy polenta and tender broccolini on a plate or in a large, wide bowl.

Cook’s Commentary

This is an easy to make meal that feels like a dish from a fancy downtown restaurant. Lobster has this sort of savory-sweetness that is much more delicate than the flavors of shrimp and other shell-fish, and cooking it in melted butter and seasoning lightly flavors it. Polenta is delicious on its own, but adding cheese to it brings it up to a whole different level and turns it into the ultimate comfort food. Broccolini is like slimmer, dainty broccoli and combined with the sharp, oniony taste of the scallions, it adds much-needed color and lightness to this dish. This dish is very easy and quick to make and will impress anyone from a significant other to a guest from out-of town.

Recipe: Beer-and-Butter “Low Country Boil”

Ingredients

  • Red potatoes, cut into small chunks*
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2-4 ears of corn, peeled, silk removed, and cut into chunks
  • Butter (salted is preferable)
  • 1 bottle of lager beer**
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Dried parsley
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Pam spray
  • Shrimp, peeled and deveined***

*Use your judgement when figuring out how many to cut up. For my boyfriend and I, I cut up about 5-6 medium potatoes.

**I recommend lagers, red ales, or golden ales. DO NOT use something cheap, like Bud or Coors. You’re looking for something with good flavor (but nothing too overpowering).

***I used a bag of frozen shrimp—you just thaw them under cold water, pop off the tails, and they’re ready to go.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400*F and spray a large baking dish with Pam. Add the red potatoes, red onion, and corn to the pan. Sprinkle with Old Bay (or similar) seasoning, dried parsley, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and add just a dash of crushed red pepper flakes, then toss to coat (add more seasoning and toss again, if desired—I did). Pour approx. ¾ of the bottle of beer over the dish, then sprinkle small chunks of butter on top of the mixture. Lightly spray the top of the mixture with Pam and place in the oven to cook for approx. 40 minutes. As it’s cooking, you may find that you need to increase the temperature (up to 450*F, but no higher) or increase or even reduce the cooking time. When determining if it’s finished and ready to eat, you’re looking for the red potatoes to be fork tender (i.e. you can easily poke them with a fork, or better yet, you can easily slice them with a knife), the onions and corn will be tender, and some of the beer will have cooked down.

Now, while the veggie mixture is cooking, heat a medium nonstick skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook until they just start to shrink a bit and get some color. Add the remaining beer, some butter, Old Bay, salt, pepper, parsley, and garlic powder. You’re looking to create a buttery, light brown, semi-thick sauce (you don’t want a watery beer mixture—you want to cook down the liquid to get a thicker sauce); enough to not only coat the shrimp but create some excess to pour into the veggie dish. Once done, take the shrimp off of the heat and set aside until the veggies are in their last 10 minutes or so of cooking. Take the veggies out of the oven for just a minute and pour the shrimp and sauce mixture evenly over the top, then place back in the oven for the remaining time. The finished dish should have a decent amount of beer and butter swirled together at the bottom of the pan (this mixture is incredibly flavorful and also helps keep the veggies and shrimp nice and moist). Serve on a plate, or in a bowl if you’re looking to have more sauce on/in your dish and add a sprinkling of Old Bay and dried parsley, if desired.

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Cook’s Comments

This dish is probably in my top 5 for things I’ve made over the years. The combination of beer and butter should go down in the books alongside mint and chocolate, Oreos and milk, and salt and pepper.  It’s spicy, buttery, savory, and rich, and the pop of flavor from the Old Bay really brightens the dish. Cutting the corn into chunks can get a bit tricky, because you really need to eat this dish with a fork, but it’s kind of impossible to eat corn like that…so, feel free to cook the corn up separately and just pour some of the sauce over it at the end (or, just do what my boyfriend and I did and dig in…do that awkward switch from forks to fingers and don’t worry about it). Feel free to experiment with beers a bit. Do not use a crappy beer like Natural Light or Keystone…the beer imparts great flavor, so you need a lager (or perhaps a lighter red or brown ale) in this dish. I’ve used Sam Adams Boston Lager and Ghost River Golden Ale (from Memphis!), and you could always try a favorite craft brew. You might even be able to experiment with a hard cider or
apple ale if you’re feeling adventurous—the apple flavor could pair well with the dish (though, I’d recommend sticking to beer the first time out).

Recipe: Lobster Ravioli in a Vodka Cream Sauce

I got the chance to spend this past week with Sara, my best friend from college—she found a reasonably-priced flight and flew up to my home in Pennsylvania for a visit. We spent time in Pittsburgh, visiting museums and eating some fantastic meals, and we also spent time at home, watching movies (including a guilty pleasure, You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks) and even doing a little cooking. I showed her some basics, like mincing garlic and cutting basil in chiffonade, and hopefully didn’t drive her nuts by hovering over her while she performed said basics. One thing she said she really wanted to try was making homemade pasta with my pasta rolling machine, so I got the bright idea to make ravioli, because that’s the one attachment (for raviolini, actually) on the pasta machine that I hadn’t tried out yet. That idea turned into Lobster Ravioli in a Vodka Cream Sauce (with a little inspiration from here and here) that took at least three hours to make and resulted in some not-so-attractive but oh-so-tasty raviolini (basically, miniature ravioli). Now, if you want to go the easy route, buy pre-made lobster ravioli and skip ahead to the vodka cream sauce part of the recipe. If you want to go for the glory and make the ravioli by hand, I recommend looking up methods for cutting them by hand, because I’ve tried that way before and I’m betting it’s a lot faster and less messy than the machine (though, keep in mind, this was our first time using this attachment, so it was bound to take a little longer than if I’d tried to do it before).

By the time we finally finished cooking, I was too hungry to go find my “plating” plate, so the “Poppies in Blue” will have to do

Serves: 4-6 (depends on the size and amount of ravioli/raviolini)
Prep. time: 10 minutes for the sauce; anywhere from 1-3 hours to make the ravioli (dough comes together in 10 minutes, and 30 minutes to rest, then the ravioli will take at least an hour to roll out and form)
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes for the sauce; 5 minutes for each batch of ravioli
Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients
For the sauce

  • Extra virgin olive oil, enough to lightly coat the bottom of a pan
  • Approx. 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 shallots, minced
  • 1 cup vodka (you don’t need to use the good stuff, since you’re cooking it)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28-32 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Fresh basil, chiffonade cut, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Italian seasoning, to taste

For the ravioli

  • 1/2 stick (2 oz.) unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. shallots, minced
  • Approx. 16 oz. pre-cooked lobster meat (I used frozen, pre-cooked langostino lobster)
  • 4 oz. cooked crab meat (I used the crab meat you can find on the same shelf as canned tuna)
  • 2 oz. Cognac 
  • 1/2-1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tbsp. chives, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Pasta dough, double batch, rested for 30 minutes (see recipe here; double the recipe)

Directions
Heat the butter for the ravioli in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for a few minutes, until fragrant. Add the lobster, crab meat, and chives and cook for a few minutes, then add the Cognac and cook until it’s been reduced by about 1/2 to 3/4 (you only want a little liquid in the pan). Pour the mixture into a food processor and pulse to chop the mixture (only pulse a few times—you just want to break up the pieces of lobster, but you don’t want to turn the mixture into a puree). Pour the mixture back into the bowl and set aside to cool. Once cool, add in the desired amount of ricotta and season with salt and pepper. Now, the tricky part…if you’re using a pasta machine with a ravioli attachment, follow the instructions for use (it’ll likely involve threading dough into the attachment, adding filling, rolling out sheets of ravioli, then pulling apart the ravioli sheets into squares). If you’re cutting them by hand, look up instructions (they’ll likely say to lay out rolled-out dough on a flat surface, place a dollop of filling a few inches apart in straight lines down the dough, then lay a sheet of dough on top, press around each filling mound, and cut into ravioli shapes). Either way, you will need to make sure you have large, rolled out pieces of dough before you start forming and cutting. (I apologize for not offering more information, but I was using a machine and followed its instructions to make my ravioli). Once the ravioli are formed and cut, spread them out on a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with a clean towel to keep them from getting dried out.
In a large, deep pan, heat the olive oil and butter for the vodka sauce over medium heat. Add in garlic and shallots and cook for a few minutes, until lightly fragrant. Add the vodka and cook until it’s been reduced by half, then add the chicken stock and tomatoes. Turn up the heat and cook until it just starts to boil, then reduce heat to low. Slowly whisk in the heavy cream, and continue to keep the sauce warm.
Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot. Cook the ravioli in batches, for 5 minutes each. Rather than drain the pot, refill, and wait for it to boil all over again, just pull the ravioli out with a slotted spoon and continue to use the same batch of boiling water. Transfer the cooked ravioli from the spoon into the sauce. Once all of the ravioli is cooked and added to the sauce, it’s finished. Serve with grated Italian cheese and a sprinkling of fresh basil.

Despite being labor-intensive (if you make the ravioli from scratch), this really is a delicious and surprisingly light dish. The ravioli are flavorful little pouches of meaty lobster and creamy ricotta and the vodka sauce, with the fresh taste of tomatoes and just a hint of the vodka, is the perfect choice for the pasta.

Recipe: Sesame Seared Tuna with Udon Noodles

My social calendar kind of exploded last week, leaving little time to cook. I spent Wednesday evening out with friends for gourmet burgers, french fries with truffle oil cheese sauce (amazing!), and spiked milkshakes at BRGR in Pittsburgh, followed by some low-key bar-hopping in the South Side. On Friday, I spent most of my day in the car, driving down to Knoxville, TN, and enjoyed a long weekend there with my boyfriend and two close friends—we kayaked, went tubing, watched movies, and enjoyed some great food along the way (including delicious dishes and beer from a British pub called The Crowne and Goose). I got home from my trip down south yesterday and was back on duty for dinner tonight, being given the task to make something for my dad that he and I would like, but that my mom wouldn’t feel bad about missing (she had to go to an event tonight and she hates to miss out on my cooking). My dad and I are big fans of seared tuna—beautiful golden brown on the outside, perfectly pink on the inside, served warm—and I love to make this sesame-seared tuna and udon noodle dish for the two of us (adapted from here and here) when my mom can’t make it to dinner (she’s more of a “tuna cooked all the way” kind of person).

Serves: 4
Prep. time: 20-30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

For the tuna:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. mirin (Japanese sweet wine; cooking sherry works as well)
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 2 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • Wasabi paste
  • 4, 6 oz. tuna steaks (the high the quality, the better)
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds (I use toasted seeds)
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

For the udon noodles:

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh ginger root, minced or grated (I actually use a zester to finely grate it)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 3 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 dash hot pepper sauce
  • 1 green bell pepper, julienned (thinly sliced)
  • 1 orange bell pepper, julienned (thinly sliced)
  • 4 green onions, minced (grocery stores sell them in small bunches, so I just use a whole bunch. Be sure to use the whites and only a little of the green above it—that’s where all the flavor is)
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1, 7 oz. package udon noodles (I use dry noodles, not fresh)

Directions 
For the tuna: In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, mirin (or cooking sherry), honey, and sesame oil and whisk together with a fork. Divide into two equal parts, then stir the rice vinegar into one part and set it aside as a dipping sauce (divide into four small bowls so each person gets their own). Put the tuna steaks in the bowl with the remaining mixture let them marinate while you prepare the other ingredients (be sure to turn them over so the sauce gets all over them). Spread the sesame seeds out on a paper plate and press the tuna steaks into the sesame seeds to coat both sides and the edges. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat until very hot. Place steaks in the skillet and sear for about 30 seconds to 2 minutes on each side. Serve with the dipping sauce and wasabi paste. The tuna should be cooked through just slightly, and remain pink on the inside—sear it for a short amount of time if you want it mostly raw on the inside.

For the udon noodles: In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, peanut oil, sesame oil, and hot pepper sauce. Close the lid and shake vigorously to mix the sauce. Set aside to let the flavors blend, shaking occasionally to mix it (the oils will separate if they sit too long). Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the udon noodles, cooking until tender, about 7 minutes (follow the package instructions for best results). Drain and return to pot. In the meantime, in a microwave-safe bowl, combine the pepper slices and minced green onion. Heat in the microwave until warm, but still crisp, about 1&1/2 to 2 minutes. Add to the noodles and pour the sauce over everything, tossing to coat it all. Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds.

The marinade for the udon noodles is packed with great Asian flavors, like soy sauce and ginger, which makes it incredibly flavorful. The crunchy peppers and green onion add texture and a bright pop of color to the soft noodles too. If you get good quality tuna, it will slice like butter and melt in your mouth when properly cooked, and it’s absolutely delicious. Feel free to mix up what color bell peppers you use and consider grilling the tuna for a deeper flavor.