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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Smoked Salmon Dip

This is a great way to finish up any leftover home-smoked salmon you have, if you have any left over, that is.  Purchased smoked salmon works too!

Smoked Salmon Dip

2 cups shredded smoked salmon
1/4 cup finely minced red onion or shallot
Juice of 2 lemons
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
Tabasco sauce to taste

Mix all ingredients until well combined.  Smoked salmon is very salty, so no need to add extra salt. 

Serve with sliced baguettes, crackers, or veggie sticks.  This dip is even better after it's been refrigerated for a couple of hours to let the flavors meld. 

In the photo at the top of this post, the smoked salmon dip is served on flatbread crackers from Central Market, and sprinkled with a little Green Goddess dressing mix from Penzey's.

Smoked Salmon Recipe

Don't you love Alton Brown's show Good Eats on the Food Network?  He reaches out to my inner food geek with his brilliant analysis and explanations of the chemistry of food.  We recently tried his recipe for smoked salmon, and it's terrific.  It's sort of like a cross between the smoked salmon you get in the supermarket, which isn't truly smoked, but is actually cured, and warm smoked salmon that you make at home in your backyard smoker.

This should be made with salmon fillets with the skins on.  We purchased some beautiful salmon to prepare this recipe and didn't realize until we unpackaged it at home that it didn't have the skin.  I recommend using salmon with skin, or if you use skinless salmon reduce the amount of salt/sugar/peppercorn rub significantly because skinless salmon absorbs so much more of the rub.

So from Alton Brown's Good Eats on the Food Network, here's the recipe:

Smoked Salmon

1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns
2 large salmon fillets or sides, pin bones removed

In a bowl, mix together salt, sugar, brown sugar, and peppercorns.  Spread extra-wide aluminum foil a little longer than the length of the fish and top with an equally long layer of plastic wrap.  Sprinkle 1/3 of the rub onto the plastic.  Lay 1 side of the fish skin down onto the rub.  Sprinkle 1/3 of the rub onto the flesh of the salmon.  Place second side of salmon, flesh down, onto the first side.  Use the remaining rub to cover the skin on the top piece.  Fold plastic over to cover, then close edges of foil together and crimp tightly around the fish.

Place wrapped fish onto a plank or sheet pan and top with another plank or pan.  Weight with a heavy phone book or a brick or two and refrigerate for 12 hours.  Flip the fish over and refrigerate another 12 hours.  Some juice will leak out during the process, so make sure there's a place for the runoff to gather.

Unwrap fish and rinse off the cure with cold water.  Pat salmon with paper towels, then place in a cool, dry place (not thre refrigerator) until the surface of the fish is dry and matte-like, 1 to 3 hours depending on humidity.  A fan may be used to speed the process.

Smoke fish over smoldering hardwood chips or sawdust, keeping the temperature inside the smoker between 150 degrees F and 160 degrees F until the thickest part of the fish registers 150 degrees.  Serve immediately or cool to room temperature, wrap tightly, and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Serve with the traditional salmon accoutrements:  creme fraiche or sour cream, capers, diced hardboiled egg, diced red onion, fresh dill, thin lemon slices.

If you have any left over after a day or two, make smoked salmon dip.  That recipe is next.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mushroom, Leek, and Goat Cheese Phyllo Triangles

I'm experimenting with lots of little yummies lately.  I've always been partial to appetizers, tiny flavorful cuties.  Along the same lines, I like the "small bites" concept and hope to experiment a bit with that, and I also like the "deconstructed" concept, reducing familiar foods to their individual components and showcasing the ingredients.

Sometimes I get inspired by the idea of a food combination that I think will be really tasty and I'll Google search the ingredients I'm interested in until I find some recipes that seem promising, then combine components of the recipes, hoping to create the masterpiece that I envision.  Of course, sometimes my idea falls flat; however, sometimes my inspiration produces exactly what I hoped to achieve and it's scrumptious.

I wanted to create an unctious, crispy appetizer featuring assorted mushrooms, leeks, and goat cheese wrapped in crispy phyllo dough to serve at a recent birthday celebration.  I combined ideas from a couple of recipes and here's what I came up with.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it and I hope you will too ...

Mushroom, Leek, and Goat Cheese Phyllo Triangles

2 pounds assorted mushrooms (I used creminini, shiitake, and oyster)
Oive oil to coat pan
2 leeks
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
Healthy splash of sherry
8 ounces goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Phyllo dough (number of sheets needed will vary according to volume of filling, but phyllo is typically packed in two bags per box and you'll probably not quite use up one of the bags)
1 stick butter

Clean up mushrooms.  I know some people say to just brush them, but I prefer to gently rinse them.  It's up to you.  With a paring knife trim away the very ends of the mushroom stems.  The exception is the shiitakes.  Their stems are virtually inedible, so completely detach the stems from the shiitake caps.  (Remember to put your mushroom trimmings and all your other veggie trimmings into a ziplock bag and pop it into the freezer so that you can simmer up some veggie broth later.  It's liquid gold, I tell you.)  Roughly chop all the mushrooms.

Prepare the leeks.  Look at your leeks and find the point where the leaves start "branching out."  Cut just below that branch-off spot and toss the upper, darker-colored leafy leek parts into your veggie freezer bag.  Trim away the root ends from the leeks.  Cut the leeks into quarters lengthwise.  Put them in a very large bowl of cold water and separate them into individual leaves.  Rinse very well, draining the water and refilling the bowl as necessary.  Leeks can be very sandy and you need to be sure to clean out all the grit.  Clean very, very well.

After draining the leaks, slice them very thin.  Coat a large nonstick saute pan with olive oil.  Heat to medium.  Add leeks to pan, sprinkle with a couple healthy pinches of kosher salt (to help draw the moisture out of the leeks), and sweat until softened but not browned.  Remove leeks to a sieve or collander placed over a mixing bowl.  Place a bowl over the leeks in the sieve or collander and weight it down with a heavy can from your pantry to press the extra moisture out of the leeks.

While leeks are draining, again coat your saute pan with olive oil.  Add chopped mushrooms to pan and sprinkle with a couple healthy pinches of kosher salt to help draw the moisture out of the mushrooms.  Saute until the mushrooms are cooked through.  Add a couple healthy splashes of sherry  and several grinds of black pepper and continue cooking until all the sherry is absorbed.  Remove from heat and add the fresh thyme.

Cool the cooked mushrooms a little, then transfer to a food processor and pulse to a coarse puree.  Scrape the puree into a medium mixing bowl, add leeks, and add goat cheese.  Mix well.  Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.   Melt the stick of butter in the microwave or in a small pan over very low heat.  Don't let the butter get hot.  Prepare a couple of baking sheets or cookie sheets by wrapping them with aluminum foil for easy cleanup later.

Lay one sheet of the phyllo on a clean work surface.  (I use my kitchen counter.  I clean it well with antibacterial wipes, then clean away any soap residue with a damp paper towel, then dry with a dry paper towel.)  Keep the rest of the phyllo covered with damp paper towels.  Using a silicone brush or a pastry brush, brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter.  Cut it lengthwise into 3 long, even strips.  Place 1 level tablespoon of the filling in a corner of one of the strips, about 1/2 inch from the top.  Fold the corner down to form a triangle.  Continue folding the triangle onto itself, across and down, until you have a neat phyllo triangle.

Two tips:  Using a "cookie scoop" makes measuring a tablespoon of filling easier.  If you've ever folded an American flag Boy Scout style, that's the technique you want to use to fold the phyllo into triangles.  It's also the same technique you used in junior high when you made little paper triangle footballs that you thumped over the student in front of you in class to "score" a touchdown.

Place the triangles on the baking sheet or cookie sheet.  Brush the top of the triangles with some of the melted butter and bake for about 20 minutes, or until browned and crisp.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.

This recipe is pretty simple, but produces an elegant little pastry.  I hope you'll give it a try.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Baked Stuffed Shrimp With Remoulade Style Sauce

These shrimp make a very tasty tapas-style appetizer.

Technique:  when you devein the shrimp, then cut all the way through the middle of the shrimp, so that you leave a hole in the middle, then you can lay the shrimp out flat on a baking dish with the body of the shrimp lying nice and flat and the tail facing up for a pretty presentation.  You can then "stuff" the body of the shrimp without the stuffing falling out of the shrimp.

Baked Stuffed Shrimp

25 fairly large shrimp, heads removed and shells removed except for last segment and tail, deveined and cut as described above
1/4 cup red bell pepper, very small dice
1 Korean pepper, very small dice (if you don't have Korean pepper available, just increase the amount of red bell pepper a bit)
1/2 cup shallots, very small dice
2 tablespoons garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
zest of 1 lemon (Meyer lemon if available) (use a microplane)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon paprika (if you use only red bell pepper, then use Hungary half-sharp paprika; if you use a combination of red bell pepper and Korean pepper, then use regular paprika)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup panko crumbs

Mix all ingredients with a fork.  Place the prepared shrimp on a baking sheet.  Scoop up the filling with a standard teaspoon, press it slightly with your hand into a ball, and place on a shrimp.  Continue until each shrimp is "stuffed."  Make sure each shrimp tail curves up and over the stuffing for a pretty presentation.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, until shrimp are pink and stuffing is golden brown.  Serve with remoulade style sauce.

Remoulade Style Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon (Meyer lemon if available)
1/3 cup spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 tablespoons shallot, very small dice
2 tablespoons capers, rough chopped
splash of port wine vinegar or red wine vinegar
splash of Tabasco sauce

Mix ingredients well and serve with baked stuffed shrimp or any other seafood.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I Love This Store!

Are you someone who tries a new food not in spite of the fact that you've never had it before, but because you've never had it before?  Do you buy something at the grocery simply because you don't have a clue what it tastes like so you want to take it home and start Google searching for recipes to use it?  Well, then, ethnic groceries will ignite your foodie flame!  I've always been a pretty adventurous eater, and since marrying my darling hubby I've tried tons of new foods.  He's a great inspiration because he's lived in so many places and is so knowledgeable about the culture of food and he also likes to try new things.  It's really fun to "discover" food finds in restaurants and stores.

I love, love, love shopping in all kinds of ethnic grocery stores.  I love the exotic ingredients they stock, I love the fragrances, I love the product labels in foreign languages, I love the people watching, and I love the prices.  A trip to a really good ethnic market is like a vacation to me.  I'm so blessed to live here smack-dab in the middle of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex where I have easy access to stores catering to cultures from all over the world.

One of my all-time favorite Mexican groceries is the Carnival Food Store located at 3460 Webb Chapel Extension  in Dallas.  Here's a sampling of the "booty" from my last visit there:

Yes, the item at the bottom left of the pic is a bag of the famous and elusive Camellia red kidney beans.  I hate to share my secret source, but I feel it's my duty as a food-lover :)  They not only carry the Camellia red kidney beans, they also carry two or three other varieties of Camellia brand beans.  And yes, I think these beans are deserving of the hype.  They seem to be very fresh and tender.

I'm really fond of Goya brand items.  Their products are consistently good quality and reasonably priced.  Goya olive oil is the everyday olive oil of choice in our kitchen.  We especially enjoy the Goya chorizo, which is the Spanish-style cured type chorizo rather than the Mexican-style fresh type chorizo.  It's so good and so inexpensive.  Carnival is the only place I can always count on finding the Goya chorizo.  Do you think they laugh at me after I leave the check-out line for buying 10-15 packages of chorizo?

I was surprised to find Cento San Marzano tomatoes at Carnival.  Pretty cool.  Not to mention that Carnival and many other ethnic groceries have true butcher counters with cuts of meat you can't find at your local Kroger or Tom Thumb, and they usually have really good pre-marinated meat for the grill:  chicken fajita, beef fajita, ribs.

I enjoy the opportunity to practice my extremely limited, extremely weak Spanish at Carnival or any Mexican market, but I haven't been to a Mexican market in the Metroplex where the employees didn't speak English, so don't be intimidated by any perceived language barrier.

Why I'll Never Be A Great Gardener

For one thing, I let my herbs flower and go to seed.  You're really not supposed to do that because you end up with "leggy" plants instead of nice leafy plants.  But they're so pretty when they flower and it's really cool if you end up with "volunteers," my grandmother's term for plants that self seed from the previous year.

Parsley In Bloom

I also can't stand to remove the really cute critters from my herbs.  The caterpillars that turn into Monarch butterflies love parsley.  How could I possibly begrudge this little cutie-pie a yummy snack?

Monarch Caterpillar Feasting On Flat-Leaf Parsley

It's kinda funny, a few weeks ago there was a group of monarch caterpillars on the curly parsley.  The current caterpillar gang is only eating the flat-leaf parsley.  I guess even caterpillars have their favorite restaurants.

Kid-Friendly Wheat Bread (Kid Tested and Kid Approved)

My almost-11-year-old stepdaughter, Morgan, and I made this recipe last weekend.  We don't have a stand mixer, so we mixed the dough with a spoon until it got too stiff to mix and then kneaded it by hand.  We decided that kneading dough not only makes good bread but it could also be a healthy way to work out frustration!

Look at Morgan bake!  You go, girl!!!

The recipe is from Susan K. at  Link:


1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 (.25 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk, room temperature


  1. Measure the water into a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer and stir in 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add 1 cup of the all-purpose flour and 3 cups of whole wheat flour to the bowl along with the brown sugar, salt, vegetable oil and milk. Mix on low speed to blend ingredients. Continue to mix on medium speed, adding the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough clings to the hook and cleans the sides of the bowl. You may not need to add all of the flour. Mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Oil the bowl and turn the dough to coat. Cover loosely and set aside to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  3. Punch down the dough and place on a floured surface. Divide into two equal portions and use a rolling pin to roll each one into a rectangle that is about 16x8 inches. Be sure to press out all of the air bubbles. Roll the rectangles into loaves and pinch the seam together.
  4. Place loaves seam side down into greased 9x5 inch loaf pans. Cut a few slits across the top of each loaf using a sharp serrated knife. Set aside to rise until your finger leaves a dimple when you press into a loaf, 30 to 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  5. Bake the loaves for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until loaves are deep brown. Remove from pans to cool on a wire rack.

Next time we'll be sure to brush off more of the flour so the loaves will be prettier.  Other than that we wouldn't alter a thing about the recipe.  It's yummy!!!