It is true. I am in a Mixed Diet Relationship.
I often get questions how Rob and I duke it out in the kitchen.
In my corner, I am the whole-foods vegan devoid of white flours and sugars.
At the opposite end, we have Rob, who will eat anything.
Thankfully, we actually don’t have segregated corners.
Before I met Rob, he was eating vegetarian at home. Actually, when Rob met me, I was eating a flexitarian diet (mainly vegetarian with occasional fish but I still ate meat, too). Rob had no clue what he was getting himself into, haha!
One of my friends who is vegan won’t allow any meat into his home. I am definitely not like that but I could see how dietary choices could definitely divide relationships. Thankfully both Rob and I are more accommodating, as well as our friends and families.
At home, Rob and I eat mostly the same stuff. Mostly vegan, although sometimes Rob eats yogurt and adds butter to his granola. There are some Rob-only ingredients, like the red and green curry pastes in the fridge (they include shrimp, so a definite no-go for me). There are some Janet-only foods, too, because Rob doesn’t really care for them- like my Amazing Grass for breakfast. For breakfast fruit, Rob gets the bananas and mangoes while I relish in berries. Rob loves spicy foods, so if cooking for himself, he usually increases the chilies. If cooking for both of us, they fall more into my own comfort zone (1/2 tsp Aleppo max!). Rob also has a sweet tooth and is pretty content to munch through the rare dessert that I make.
I think we’ve got things worked out pretty well in the kitchen, actually.
Rob eats out way more often than I do, which is where he gets his occasional fix of meat. If
we Rob cooks meat at home, it is for our guests. Rob’s last birthday party kind of had me in a tizzy because I didn’t want to cook meat. Rob couldn’t use the barbecue so grilling was out. Thankfully the slow cooker came to the rescue.
I still contend that while I don’t crave it, I probably miss fish the most. Here I am sharing a smoked salmon sushi pizza that I made for a party with mixed company. While traditional sushi can be finicky to make for a large crowd, making a casserole of sushi pizza is much quicker and easier.
I used the seasoned sushi rice from Yo Sushi and the sushi pizza recipe was modified from Bonnie Stern’s HeartSmart Cooking for Family and Friends. I ended up doubling the recipe to fit a 9″x13″ pan but I probably didn’t have to double it. It made a ton of food. My pieces were a bit big which necessitated using a knife and fork to eat, so next time I would opt for smaller bite-sized pieces, with overlapping cucumber slices.
I am still too shy to try a nontraditional raw take on this for a crowd. If I test-run it first, I may have more courage to try Ricki’s vegan sushi pizza next time.
As you can probably tell, I don’t cook many meals a second time. However, I have some tried-and-true recipes up my sleeve that I can whip up stress-free when entertaining.
Salmon teriyaki is my signature dish. It helps that it is easy to make and tastes sublime. The ingredient list is simple, but with authentic Asian ingredients. Shin-mirin is definitely worth scoping out because you can taste the difference. I had forgotten how good it was until I made it for Rob’s birthday celebration – for 12 people (oh my!). Thankfully salmon teriyaki doubles, triples, quadruples AND quintuples very well (provided you have enough trays to hold the salmon in the oven, hehe).
I figured 3 lb of salmon for 12 people would be adequate (4 oz per person x 12 = 3 lbs!) but suggested 4 lb in case anyone wanted seconds. Rob ended up buying 5 lbs (oh my!), so suffice it to say we had leftover salmon teriyaki. While it is wonderful warm straight from the oven, leftovers are good, too, if kept chilled (I find salmon gets rubbery when reheated).
Originally, we served the salmon with an edamame and arame salad (recipe to come) and a simple side of soba noodles tossed with toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice and sesame seeds, but I chose a different route for leftovers.
I surveyed my fridge and came up with this delectable salad. Baby spinach is the base, and it is topped with sliced bell pepper for some crunch, blueberries for tart-sweetness and green onions for a bit of zip. The salmon teriyaki (I had mine chilled, but warm would be great, too, if making it fresh) is plated on top and then balsamic vinegar is drizzled overtop. I was going to add toasted almonds, too, but forgot. By the time I remembered, I was already through half of the salad. The bell pepper conferred enough of a crunch so I didn’t miss it.
Don’t forget, this is another option for leftover salmon teriyaki: Salmon Teriyaki Miso Soup with Udon and Spinach.
This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Yasmeen from Health Nut, to this week’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for blueberries and to this month’s Monthly Mingle featuring pink foods.
I love fish. Especially salmon. I prefer fish baked until just barely cooked through and many of my recipes include salmon baked with different glazes, like teriyaki or maple, or soaked in white wine and wrapped in phyllo dough. It is a very simple way to keep the moisture within the salmon, and up its flavour with the glaze.
I knew pomegranate and salmon paired well together, but I wanted to try something with a stronger, tarter glaze. When I spotted a Pomegranate-Glazed Salmon in The Breakaway Cook by Eric Gower, I knew this was exactly what I was searching for. The salmon fillets are baked with both olive oil and pomegranate molasses. Once it emerges from the oven, a lemon-maple sauce is drizzled over top. This sweet lemony accent, combined with the tart pomegranate glaze was everything I could have hoped for with my salmon. Eric suggests using chives to top the salmon, but fresh basil was a good, if not better, substitute.
I still enjoy my salmon teriyaki recipe, but found the flavours more complex here. I really enjoyed it. My mom preferred it to the maple salmon, which is more salty from the soy sauce and sweet from the maple syrup. Once she picks up a bottle of pomegranate molasses, she may make this her new go-to fish recipe. :) I definitely plan on making this again.
On the same day I had my flat tire, complete with 2 exploded inner tubes while trying to repair it, I had this for dinner.
Having a couple of lackluster dishes the week before, I was a bit uneasy about trying a new recipe.
But I had a hankering for fish and wanted to try it with my new favourite ingredient, pomegranate molasses. Plus, there was the bonus of roasted eggplant, with this Georgian recipe I spotted in The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert.
The original recipe suggested rainbow trout, but my love for salmon won that battle.
The dish was not what I expected but it was delicious. At first, I was hoping for something with a sharp tanginess from the pomegranate molasses, but this was mellow. The pomegranate flavour was mainly in the eggplant, which sopped up the basting liquid. The salmon was nice and flakey, but not infused with much pomegranate flavour. It was there, only subtly. But once you wrapped the salmon in some pomegranate roasted eggplant, this is where you made magic. Eating the two together is where you get the merriment of the flavours, the contrast of textures and simply a great meal. It made my inner tube worries melt away…
This is another super simple show-stopper of a dish (even simpler than the sinfully delicious mushroom bourguignon) but you need a bit of advance prep. Or in my case, the 5 day miso marinade was perfect when I spotted black cod on sale but already had my meals planned for the beginning of the week. Once you buy fish, you need to cook it soon. But you can wait a bit while it marinades in miso.
This is the popular Black Cod with Miso, made famous by Nobu. I was excited to try it at home after I had it at an overpriced Toronto restaurant, since it was darn tasty. Incredibly tasty! Flaky, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth fish with a sweet and salty miso sauce. Absolutely heavenly. I knew I could recreate heaven in my kitchen, so off I went.
I ended up skipping the the step to grill the fish, and ended up baking the fish for around 20 minutes. The fish was really good but not as mouth-watering as what I had at the Spice Route. I suppose that is why you pay $23 for the teeniest piece of fish. Next time, I will try to follow the recipe a bit more closely to see if that helps lock in the juices. Don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious (and pleased even fish haters), I just know it can be better. I am salivating just thinking about the next time. :)
I recently read What We Eat When We Eat Alone by husband and wife team Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin. If you haven’t heard about it, definitely watch this youtube video promo here. The premise of the book was to figure out what people eat when they only have to cook for themselves – they may be single or rather when their usual partner(s) in crime are away.
It was an interesting glimpse into how people indulge while treating themselves, or rather how they don’t treat themselves while alone. Some forage through the fridge and whip up a simple dish and others scout out foods their partners usually do not like. Others spend that extra mile to make a dish they know they will love. Everyone has a different relationship with food.
There are recipes sprinkled throughout the book, as people shared their solo suppers, and I thought it would be fun to share some of my own guilty pleasures that I love to eat when dining solo. I was surprised at the responses in the book, but mine are equally as varied, depending on my mood, energy and taste.
I suppose my guiltiest pleasures were cultivated while in university, when I really had to learn how to cook for myself. The best recipes stood the test of time and this one is a keeper. Originally found as a sandwich recipe on Allrecipes.com, I have converted it to a dip. It is a savoury tuna salad sandwich deconstructed, with tuna, mustard, pesto and garlic. I serve it with cucumbers, carrots, pita wedges, etc, or if no one is watching, I may just eat it with a spoon. :)
This weekend I wandered over to Kortright Centre for Conservation for their Maple Syrup Festival. But before I tell you all about maple syrup, let me tell you about the marvelous sustainable house they built last year.
I took a tour of the million-dollar modular house that is hopefully to encourage consumers to ask for more sustainable housing. It boasts ecological sustainability for the Greater Toronto Area, including thick/recycled/light insulation (the house cinder blocks are built with cement mixed with wood chips), recycled water (grey water for the toilets, etc), and energy production through solar power (it sells all its energy for 80 cents and then buys what it needs for 10 cents!). It even had a machine to monitor instantaneous use of energy in the house, akin to the energy monitors in hybrid cars. Just knowing you save money by tuning off the lights (or not quickly accelerating with a car) is bound to change your behaviour, irregardless of efficiency. Despite (or in spite of) its practicality, the house was also gorgeous, but modular in a cookie cutter suburban design.
After a tour of these houses, I was off to see a gyrfalcon, the world’s largest falcon. In this case, she had escaped from her owner in Pennsylvania, and unfortunately became trapped in some nets in downtown Toronto before being adopted by the Kortright Centre.
And then, the real highlight was the sugarbush trail to see how maple syrup was made by pioneers and also by modern folk, along with tasty samples along the way. Sugar maples (and less likely silver maples) are used to make syrup through their sap (water and sugar) which is stored in their roots during the winter. During the spring, you can tap into the tree and siphon off the sap. The older the tree, the more you can tap. Earlier in the season, there is a higher sugar content (3%) and as it is distilled (water boiled off) you get syrup which is 66% sugar. Because of the higher sugar content from the early season, less time is required for distilling, so there is less caramelizing of the sugar and you get lighter maple syrup. It has a less distinctive maple flavour but is highly prized by cooks and chefs. Later in the season, you need to roast the syrup longer, so it is more caramelized, and hence darker. The darkest maple syrup is sold to food companies. Mid-range syrup (“medium”) is what most consumers buy from stores for pancake topping, etc.
Canada produces 85% of the world’s maple syrup and of that, 80% comes from Quebec. After enjoying a pancake meal complete with pure maple syrup, and a quick hike through the beautiful trails, I snatched some local maple syrup to take home, as I have been experimenting with more recipes using maple syrup. This is one such recipe.
Adapted from Closet Cooking (who has a host of other scintillating maple recipes that I am eager to try), this is a very easy salmon dish that is similar to salmon teriyaki but doesn’t require as many Japanese ingredients. It is sweet and salty and the marinade bakes on top of the fish, coating it so it remains light and moist. Delicious, simple and healthy, how could you not like it?
This is one of those stalker-like posts, but with a purely good reason. This month Tried and Tasted is scouring recipes at Closet Cooking! Before I started my own blog, I was a loyal follower of Closet Cooking. Kevin, who also hails from Toronto, cooks with very creative ingredients and always has tasty posts. I have always wanted to take a peak into his “closet kitchen” to see his cupboards, as he whips up such imaginative meals… and how does he manage to eat all this food (he has almost daily posts!)?? Furthermore, he shares a similar love of Japanese cuisine, so there is no shortage of inspirational recipes, including tons of fish recipes that look both tasty and easy, including Maple Salmon, Misoyaki Salmon, and Broiled Halibut with Orange and Miso Glaze. I love how Kevin includes alternative recipes when he is faced with left-overs, so with my leftover salmon teriyaki, I thought his Salmon Noodle Soup (which I rechristened Salmon Teriyaki Miso Soup with Udon and Spinach) would be perfect.
A few notes, first, about Japanese ingredients in Toronto. There are many Asian markets in Toronto, some larger than others. This is a continuation from my post about soy sauce, mirin, and sake. My favourite stores (for price, variety and high turnover) are T&T and BestWin, but J-Town is also worth a trek up north. It is worth looking into smaller stores, because some carry Japanese ingredients, including tiny mom-and-pop shops like D&Y Market. I have learned a few things about brands, so here are my recommendations:
Dashi – Dashi is the traditional soup stock of Japan, in both vegetarian and fish options. I have made it homemade, but sometimes I find it easier to use powder (Ajinomoto makes a good dashi). It is a fairly common brand and should be found at most Asian markets, including PAT and T&T.
Miso – Miso is a salty paste made from fermented soybeans (also rice or barley). Miso soups are fairly common and easy to make but miso can also be used for sauces, spreads, for meat, etc. There are many different kinds of miso, and not all are interchangeable, so it is worthwhile figuring things out as red misos are more salty, white misos less so. Maki at Just Hungry has a great primer on miso. I usually buy mine at T&T, but it is widely available and can be found in well-stocked grocery stores like Metro, Loblaws, etc. Basically, I look to see if it is white or red miso. I store it in the refrigerator.
Shiitake mushrooms – Shiitake are Japan’s most famous mushroom, but also hails from China. Known for its meaty, woody aroma, they are widely used in Japanese cuisine. They can be bought fresh or dried. Look for mushrooms that are whole. Dried mushrooms can be kept indefinitively if stored in a cool, dark place. They need to be rehydrated for 20-30 minutes with water, before use. When looking for Asian mushrooms, there is no contest, you have to go to an Asian market. You can find them in the typical Sobeys, Loblaws, etc, but they are incredibly expensive. At T&T, BestWin and in Chinatown they are much more reasonably priced. I think at T&T I have seen fresh shiitake mushrooms for $2-3/lb. When looking for dried, I have found them in the same stores. They can be called shiitake, or flower mushrooms and winter mushrooms (from there Chinese names).
Udon – Udon are the thick, chewy Japanese noodles made from wheat flour. When I returned from Japan, I almost thought I was deprived of great udon when I tried the fresh stuff. I learned, though, that frozen is the way to go. I have tried the black package of Sanuki udon from T&T and love it. I plan to make udon from scratch one day, but until then, this stuff is great. Sanuki udon means it comes from a specific prefecture in Japan (Kagawa) and are chewier, thicker noodles (my favourite!).
Now onto the soup: It was wonderful. Japanese cuisine is all about balancing salty, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy and the sweet teriyaki worked wonderfully with the salty miso, meaty mushrooms and bitter/spicy green onions. I will now plan to make excess salmon teriyaki just so I can make this soup!! Delicious! :D
When I go to a restaurant, I usually like to order stuff at restaurants that I can’t make at home.. because I know I can make it better. Salmon teriyaki is one of those dishes, especially when you go to the cheaper Japanese restos. It can be anywhere from charred, blackened, dry and ooky sweet. But it is really easy to make at home, so now I don’t even bother with it when I go out.
First of all, I combined recipes from numerous sources, including many of Kimiko Barber’s cookbooks (The Japanese Kitchen, Yo Sushi, Japanese Pure and Simple), where each had different ratios for her teriyaki sauce. I like this ratio of soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar (3:3:3:1), although each portion can be changed depending on tastes. I found this recipe to create a light, flaky, tender salmon with a sweet glaze. There is enough teriyaki sauce for more than the salmon (the recipe can be halved, as long as you keep the same ratios). We drizzled it over spinach as a side salad and it was incredible. The sauce can keep for up to 2 months in the fridge.
While there are only 5 ingredients, and simple to make, it can be daunting as the ingredients are not pantry staples (unless you cook Japanese regularly). I highly encourage you to try this simple dish, so for those in Toronto, this is where I shop:
Soy sauce – I like Japanese soy sauce, which tends to run a bit sweeter, but also best for Japanese dishes. Furthermore, there are different kinds of Japanese soy sauce – regular dark, light, reduced-sodium and tamari. Light is only light in colour if you don’t want to discolor a dish. I typically buy regular dark or reduced-sodium and prefer Yamasa and Kikkoman, which aren’t that expensive. They can be found at any Asian market, including T&T, BestWin and J-Town. Shops in Chinatown should have it too.
Mirin – Mirin is a sweet rice wine, used as a sweetener and to add a glossy shine to foods. There are a few types of mirin, including aji-mirin (“mirin taste”) and mirin-fu chomiryo (“a kind of mirin”) as well as hon-mirin (“true mirin”). Hon-mirin has simpler ingredients; true hon-mirin has alcohol and no salt, and shio-mirin has alcohol with 1.5% salt. The difference is the alcoholic content. Shin-mirin (“new mirin”) has less than 1% alcohol, but still has the same flavour. Whereas the aji-mirin or mirin style sweet cooking seasoning has an ingredient list that starts with corn syrup and 8 other ingredients. I was only able to find aji-mirin at T&T and even J-Town, but found shin-mirin (basically look at the ingredient list- water, rice, koji (aspergillus oryzae) and sea salt) at Whole Foods and Noah’s. I think P.A.T. might also carry shin-mirin, and it looks like hon-mirin is impossible to find in Toronto. I’d love to know if anyone has found it elsewhere, and cheaper. I store my mirin in the refrigerator once opened.
Sake – Sake is a Japanese rice wine. I mistakenly bought a cooking sake from T&T, but I think it was just a mislabeled chinese cooking wine. Now I go to the LCBO to get sake. There is a bigger bottle, cheaper on the per mL basis which is what I get (Gekkeikan, 750mL). I store it in the refrigerator and it lasts pretty long.
Salmon – There are different kinds of salmon, but from a sustainability point-of-view wild Pacific salmon is the best way to go as per SeaChoice. I don’t know what T&T carries, likely Atlantic farmed, as the price is always reasonable ($6-7/lb).
I had a few blunders in the kitchen last week, so much so that when I was hosting a dinner party at my apartment, I decided to forego new recipes and serve a tried-and-true quick and easy, tasty dish: Salmon Fillet Wrapped in Phyllo Pastry. Despite sounding incredibly French, I actually got the recipe from a wonderful Japanese cookbook, The Japanese Kitchen by Kimiko Barber. Barber explains that the phyllo dough is a substitute for yuba sheets, which can be hard to find in North America.
The trick for this kind of dish is to use thick pieces of salmon so that the fish cooks the same length of time it takes to bake the phyllo dough.
This salmon is incredibly tasty and great for a spiffy meal on a weekday as it bakes up quickly. I figured working with phyllo could be pretty fool-proof, but as I learned, not when you forget to thaw it beforehand. We had the phyllo overtop the oven, hoping to thaw it faster, and still had to deal with holes as we were incredibly inpatient and ripped it apart. The holes can be easily hidden, though. We ended up eating dessert first (Cranberry Buckle with Vanilla Crumb), which stole the show, in my opinion.
I saw this super easy recipe for cajun spiced salmon in Real Simple magazine (paper copy). Take a filet of salmon (I used wild, but Atlantic farmed would be fine also), shake on some cajun spices (I just used a President’s Choice grinder mix – I had to grind it rather than take a pinch and press it in, but it was ok anyway) and 10 minutes later you have a salmon dinner. I ate it with steamed swiss chard which I doused with a bit of olive oil and lemon juice also. It was quite good and tied me over for well over 5 hours.
Here are some pics, before and after: