Category Archives: Fish

Pan-Seared Salmon with Avocado Puree

When it comes to cooking, there are still many things I’m not very good at. Cooking any kind of protein in a pan on the stove without burning it tops the list. In fact, I tend to avoid any recipe that calls for doing so. A close second on my list of Things I’m Not Good At is creating a meal with ingredients I already have on hand. So when this meal, which tapped both skills, turned out to be a raging success I was completely blown away. Now, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t magically have fresh (or even frozen) salmon filets sitting around so I picked those up from Whole Foods. But everything else came right from my fridge. The avocado puree is the easiest thing in the world to make–it’s basically guac ingredients with a few tweaks–namely shallot instead of red onion and lemon juice instead of lime–tossed into a blender and whipped into a frenzy until silky smooth.

I realized that the number of salmon recipes I’ve posted here hardly reflects the frequency with which I eat it. I down salmon at least once, but usually twice a week. The thing is, I tend to keep it super simple: Season with salt & pepper and roast at 450 for 12 minutes then serve alongside something green. Booooorrrrrrring. But now that I’ve tried this method of pan-searing before sticking it into the oven there’s no going back. I loved the restaurant-worthy crust that forms on the top and the fact that you finish cooking it in the oven so there’s no risk of burning the outside while the inside is still raw (ugh, every stinking time!) (Sidenote: I blame my electric stove because this happens even at low temperatures. My new apartment (I move in August!) has a gas stove and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it! )

I served the salmon and avocado puree alongside quinoa and arugula topped with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon. In other words, it was a super healthy, whole-foods only meal packed with good-for-you fats that will be in heavy rotation here throughout these warm summer months.

Pan-Seared Salmon with Avocado Puree

Pan-Seared Salmon
Ingredients
2-4 6 oz salmon filets (FYI I only cooked two filets though the avocado puree recipe makes enough to accompany four.)
salt & pepper

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350. Heat a pan (cast-iron skillet works great) on medium. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Sear salmon on both sides for 3 minutes. Place on baking sheet, skin side down, and roast for 8-10 minutes until cooked through.

Avocado Puree
Ingredients
2 avocados, pitted, skin removed
1 jalapeno, sliced (keep seeds if you like it spicy, remove seeds for less spicy)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 shallot
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp kosher salt
black pepper

Preparation
Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Add water, a few tablespoons at a time, to thin out as needed. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Adapted from The Food Addicts 

Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw, Spiced Beans, and Guacamole

I recently wrote an article for a magazine about the science of food cravings. Without giving too much away, one of the many interesting things I learned was just how powerful cues in our environment are for triggering cravings. So while you might think that a desire to eat a certain food appeared out of nowhere it can almost always be traced back to something you recently saw, smelled, heard, felt, or thought even if you weren’t aware of it at the time. Since writing that article I’ve tried to become more attune to where my urges to eat certain foods originate. I’m not interested in controlling cravings (there’s no food that I consider to be off-limits or bad), but I think that understanding cravings is just another step toward building a stronger awareness of my body and mind.

So when I experienced a sudden and very clear urge to cook and eat fish tacos last week I was instantly able to trace it back to a conversation I’d had several days earlier with a friend from yoga teacher training. (Oh, by the way, I’m currently doing power yoga teacher training (!!!) which explains why I’ve been MIA from here and from my kitchen lately.) But I didn’t want to eat just any fish tacos–I wanted fish tacos that had multiple layers of flavors and textures (like what you’d find at a restaurant) and this meal provided exactly that. I like to say it’s a Paige Special since I pretty much winged it. I loosely based the recipe on one my sister and I came up with via e-mail last summer when I made tacos on the grill outside with mahi mahi. But this time I used tilapia because it was cheaper and cooks more quickly–perfect for after a full weekend of yoga classes and training when you’ve got one night to relax and a full DVR.

What I love about this recipe is that most of it’s homemade: I made my own spice rub for the fish, my own guac, my own slaw (though I started with a bag of chopped cabbage), and even my own spiced beans. One day I’d love to make my own tortillas, but for the sake of time I used store bought. This recipe allows for lots of leftovers so after the first night I skipped the tortilla altogether and piled everything on top of chopped romaine lettuce for a fish taco salad, which is one of my favorite things ever. Between the spices and the bright flavors of the cilantro and lime I felt like this meal was a little preview-taste of spring. I’ve started to realize just how endless the potential combinations are when it comes to fish tacos and I’ve already begun  dreaming up different combinations of fish, spices, and toppers.

P.S. If you find yourself randomly thinking about fish tacos during your day I’m pretty sure I know why.

Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw, Spiced Beans, and Guacamole 
Serves about 4

For the fish:
4 tilapia filets
extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
Flour tortillas

For the slaw:
8 oz package of shredded cabbage (it may say cole slaw on the label)
3-5 Tbsp mayonnaise
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

For the spiced beans:
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder

For the guac:
2-3 ripe avocados, remove pit and scoop out of skin
1/4 of a large red onion, chopped
1/4 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp kosher salt

Preparation

For the fish tacos:
Combine spices in a small bowl. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Pat fish dry. Brush one side with olive oil and sprinkle 1 tsp of spices evenly on each filet. Cook spiced-side down. Brush the opposite side with olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp of spices. Cook until slightly blackened about 3-5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and set aside. Using the end of a spatula or a knife, gently flake fish into small pieces.

For the slaw:
Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine. (It’s even better if you make it ahead of time and give it a chance to chill in the fridge before serving, but it’s not necessary)

For the beans:
Combine beans and spices in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until beans are heated through. Remove from heat.

For the guac:
Mash the avocado with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine until desired consistency (I like it super creamy.)

To assemble tacos spread a layer of guacamole in the middle of a heated tortilla. Top with beans, fish, and slaw.

Thai Shrimp Halibut Curry

So this awesome thing happened: I accidentally made Thai takeout. I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised. What did I expect when I decided to make a recipe called Thai Shrimp Halibut Curry? (Duh.) Well I didn’t expect it to taste like takeout, that’s for sure. There were several ingredients that I had only a little previous experience cooking with–red curry paste, fish sauce, and coconut milk–so I really wasn’t sure what kind of flavors the combo would yield. (The answer: Delicious, slightly creamy, Thai curry goodness.)

I wish I could say that I’ve been wanting to make this recipe ever since I spotted it in the April 2011 issue of Bon Appetit. While I receive–and devour–the magazine every month, I don’t remember seeing this recipe and I definitely didn’t tear it out. I sort of stumbled upon it earlier this week while searching Epicurious.com for a meal to make with the two frozen halibut filets I had in my freezer.

The one main change I’d make to this recipe (which I’ve included in the instructions below) is sauteing the shrimp in a pan for a few minutes before adding it to the saucy mixture. Although the shrimp cooks and turns pink the way the original recipe is written, I think that shrimp is so much better in taste and texture when it has a slight brown crust on the outside. A more minor change I made is adding crushed red pepper flakes. I read the reviews before making the recipe, and although most people raved about it several noted that it wasn’t spicy at all (kind of surprising for a Thai curry, right?) Since the spice-fiend (Robert) was coming for dinner I knew I had to kick the heat factor up a few notches. Judging from the fact that he didn’t touch the Sriracha sauce I provided on the side, I’d say it passed the test.

Thai Shrimp Halibut Curry

Ingredients:
3 limes
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup chopped shallots
1 large red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 Tbsp peeled, minced fresh ginger
2 1/2 tsp Thai red curry paste
13.5 oz can light coconut milk
1 Tbsp fish sauce
12-16 oz halibut fillets (thawed if frozen) cut into bite-sized pieces
10 oz peeled and deveined raw shrimp
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
Handful of unsalted roasted peanuts
Salt and pepper

Preparation 
Prepare the limes: Zest two limes to measure 1 1/2 tsp. Squeeze 2 tbsp juice from limes. Cut the third lime into wedges.

Heat vegetable oil in a big saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots, red pepper, and ginger and saute until peppers soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce, lime peel, and lime juice. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. At the same time, heat a small pan over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper and add to small pan, cooking until it turns pink and slightly brown on the outside. Add halibut to curry sauce. Return sauce to a simmer and cook until fish is is opaque, about 5 minutes. Add shrimp to sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in red pepper flakes and cilantro.

Serve with jasmine or basmati rice (FYI reviewers say it doesn’t pair well with brown rice), top with handful of peanuts and wedge of lime and cilantro for garnish.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com. 

Braised Kale, Oven-roasted Salmon & Roasted Cauliflower

In the kale world you’ve got a few different options. There’s curly kale. There’s lacitano (dinosaur) kale. And then there are other variations such as red leaf kale, and so on. Normally, I’m a curly girl all the way. The flavor is mild and the leaves seem to capture just the right amount of olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic when you roast it (by far the easiest cooking method when it comes to kale). But this week I grabbed dino kale. Mostly because I had no idea what to do with it and I like a challenge—especially in the kitchen.

(Lacitano/Dinosaur Kale)

Sure, I could roast it. But where’s the fun in that? I wanted to find a new way to cook something I had never made before. However, search after search I landed on this one word that sends shivers down my spine. Braised. There’s something about that word that makes me feel like I need a dozen degrees from the CIA, years of tutelage under Julia Child, and somehow I’d still never get it. I imagine a pork shoulder in a Le Creuset Dutch oven with shallots and a bottle of Bordeaux. So who am I, with my silly journalism degree, standing in my kitchen still sweaty from yoga, to be braising on a Wednesday night? Nobody, that’s who. I don’t even own an apron! I’m just a hungry yogi who wants her kale. So I searched. And I searched. And still, every blogger and cooking site was telling me to braise my effing dino kale. Ugh.

I was nearly ready to abandon the hunt, preheat my oven to 450 and get my roast on when I decided to actually read a recipe for braised kale. You know what? Not so difficult. In fact, I’ve done it before and had no idea I was braising. Fancy, huh? Basically, it involves caramelizing onions (i.e. cooking them on the stove in olive oil slightly longer than normal, but without burning them), dumping in your kale, a little chicken stock, and letting it steam. Not rocket science. No apron required. When braising kale, you can let it, achem, braise (steam, really), for as long as 20 minutes until it gets really wilted. I, however, was famished from my search and the trauma of braising (j/k it was super easy) so I only allowed it to steam for about five minutes. The result? It had a great consistency with just the slightest crunch left in the leaves. I topped my braised kale with oven-roasted salmon and served it alongside roasted cauliflower seasoned with salt, pepper, and paprika. Voila:

Braised Kale, Oven-roasted Salmon & Roasted Cauliflower
All recipes serve one hungry yogi with some veggies leftover. Increase accordingly.

Braised Kale
Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped
1 bunch lacitano kale
½-1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper

Preparation
To prepare kale, remove ends of stems (you can leave the stem that runs up the leaf – just remove the really tough stem that runs beyond it.) Roll into cigar shape and slice into bite-sized pieces.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until golden, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add kale, about ½ cup broth, cover and simmer. If the kale has absorbed all of the liquid in just a few minutes and it’s not completely wilted, add a little more broth, cover and continue to simmer until desired wiltedness (anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes). Season with salt and pepper.

Oven-roasted Salmon
Ingredients
5 oz salmon filet
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tsp dried thyme

Preparation
Preheat oven to 450. Place salmon skin side down on foil-lined baking sheet. Pat fish dry with paper towel. Brush with olive oil until lightly covered. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook for 12 minutes.

Roasted Cauliflower
Ingredients
1 head cauliflower
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
olive oil
salt, pepper, paprika (a few tsp)

Preparation
Preheat oven to 450. Chop cauliflower into bite-sized pieces. In a bowl, combine the cauliflower, garlic, just enough olive oil to coat, salt, pepper, and paprika and toss. Spread the cauliflower on a baking sheet* and bake for about 40 minutes until browned.

*If you have trouble getting your roasted veggies to brown, your baking sheet may be to blame. Many non-stick baking sheets make this difficult to do. Solution: Line your baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with Pam before roasting veggies.

Fish & Summer Veggie Packets

Lately, the moment I walk into Whole Foods (which, by no accident, puts me directly in the produce section) my eyes dart around to the butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and apples. I want to race around the store Supermarket-Sweep style and pile my cart with these cozy fall foods that make me feel like home. But this week, something different happened. My eyes lingered longingly on the zucchini…and the tomatoes…and the peppers. Summer. Was I ready to abandon it so soon? The weather sure hasn’t. With temps back up in the mid-70’s here in Chicago, it has felt more like June than September. Standing somewhere in the confusion between the corn and the pears, I had a moment of clarity: I was going to ditch the meals I had planned for this week and make one last goodbye-to-summer dinner.

I picked up whatever veggies appealed to me most. Yellow squash. Cherry tomatoes. Sugar snap peas. Yellow and orange bell peppers. Mushrooms. Broccolini (a recent obsession). Many of them were local, too (Wisconsin and Indiana if that counts). It made me feel a little better about what I was doing, knowing that the crops in my region were still offering whatever remained of the crisp taste of summer.

When I got home, I still didn’t know what I was going to make. A salad sounded too obvious, plus I had had one for lunch. Stir-fry? Made that on Friday. What’s something that would pair nicely with this bounty of veggies while allowing the clean flavors to soak up the spotlight? I got it—fish! Mild, flaky white fish. I opened the freezer: cod and halibut. Score!

Cod

Halibut

The rest, I suppose, unfolded from there. I decided to make packets – layering the veggies (first flavoring them with olive oil, lemon juice, white wine, salt and pepper), then the fish, and topping it with lemon slices. (Added bonus: Using foil means minimal cleanup.) Honestly, I wasn’t even sure I’d share the result here because when I completely make up a recipe the outcome tends to be edible, but questionable. (Cooking has never been intuitive for me.) But this time was different. So different. I achieved exactly what I was hoping for: A meal that tasted like the middle of August. One last time.

Fish & Summer Veggie Packets
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 orange bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 bunch broccolini, remove ends (and throw away), cut into bite-sized pieces
1-2 cups sugar snap peas, remove ends
1 cup white button mushrooms, cut into thin slices
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 Tbsp olive il
1/2 cup dry white white (such as chardonnay)
2 lemons
salt & pepper
4 filets (4 to 6 oz each) of flaky white fish such as cod, halibut, or trout (thaw if frozen)
four slices of foil

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400.
Place all cut veggies in a bowl. Add olive oil, white wine, juice of 1/2 a lemon, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Starting with one slice of foil, place a pile of veggies in the middle. Top with one fish filet. Season filet with salt and pepper and top with two lemon slices. Fold into a packet. Repeat with the remaining pieces of foil. Place two packets each on two baking sheets and bake for about 20 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Using a spatula, transfer fish and veggies to a bowl and pour juices that have collected on top.