One More Small Anniversary Celebration ~ Lemongrass-Crusted Salmon with a Watercress Coconut Sauce and 2000 Columbia Winery Peninsula

Spicy Salmon with Coconut Watercress SauceRob and I had our big wedding anniversary dinner celebration on Saturday of Labor Day weekend, which is the day of the week we got married. Our actual anniversary date fell in the middle of the week this year, but we couldn’t resist having a small, pared down celebration on the real date as well. We had lemongrass-crusted salmon with a watercress coconut sauce for dinner. Even though this salmon dish really was easy enough to make on a regular Tuesday, it was very delicious, and it felt like a dish fit for a special occasion. (Good thing, since I think this qualifies as a special occasion! 🙂 )

I was inspired once again by a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. I followed his recipe for the salmon crust, but I completely changed the sauce to make it my own. The original recipe used a cup of beurre blanc, but I replaced it with coconut milk. (It was a good use for the leftover milk from the cheesecake!) I don’t use a lot of butter in my cooking, and the coconut added an additional tropical element. It also mellowed the bitterness of the watercress nicely.

Lemongrass-Crusted Salmon with a Watercress Coconut Sauce

Based on a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood cookbook

Serves 2, with leftover sauce

Salmon and Lemongrass Crust:

2 salmon fillets, about 6 oz each

1 tablespoon minced lemongrass (white part only)

½ tablespoon minced garlic

½ tablespoon grated fresh ginger

½ tablespoon minced shallot

½ tablespoon shichimi

Watercress Coconut Sauce:

1 bunch watercress, stemmed (reserve 4 sprigs for garnish)

½ tablespoon ginger juice (fresh ginger squeezed through a garlic press)

½ cup coconut milk

Safflower, sunflower, or peanut oil for cooking

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine lemongrass, garlic, ginger, shallot, and shichimi in a bowl, and stir to blend. Set aside.

Bring a saucepan of water to a bowl. Place the watercress into a strainer, and when the water is bowling, pour over the watercress to wilt. Warm coconut milk. Combine watercress, milk and ginger juice in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until it is to your desired texture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Preheat a medium non-stick saucepan over medium high heat. Evenly coat one side of the salmon fillets with the crust mixture. Drizzle the fillets with a high heat cooking oil, such as safflower, sunflower, or peanut oil. Carefully transfer the salmon to the hot pan, crust side down. Sear until the crust is a little browned. Turn, and finish in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until baked to desired doneness.

To serve, plate the salmon crust side up. Spoon the sauce on the top or side of the salmon fillets. Garnish with reserved watercress leaves.

We paired our dinner with a bottle of 2000 Columbia Winery Peninsula red wine. We got married in 2000, and we had our wedding reception at Columbia Winery, so we bought a case of this wine several years ago.  We like to open a bottle on our anniversary every year. It is aging nicely, which I’ll take as a good sign for us! 😉

Funny note: It began to absolutely pour down rain by the end of our dinner. Luckily, we decided to eat inside with the French doors open once again, so we could enjoy the thunder and showers instead of scrambling inside for cover. 😉 This bottom photo was taken in the middle of the downpour. It was actually kind of fun! It was definitely an anniversary to remember!

2000 Peninsula Red Wine

Wedding Anniversary, Part 2 ~ Macadamia Nut and Panko Crusted Ono with Happy Rice

Macadamia and Panko Crusted OnoThe main course of our anniversary dinner was another recipe inspired by Roy’s Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. We had a macadamia nut and panko crusted ono fish, otherwise known as wahoo. (Wahoo! Sorry, couldn’t resist. 😉 ) It’s a Hawaiian fish with a dense but flaky texture, and a mild flavor. We also had a side dish of rice to accompany the fish. The cookbook calls this recipe Happy Rice. 🙂 So all in all, I’d say this is one of the happiest dishes I have ever made. 😉 Wahoo and Happy Rice!

We are lucky enough to have a Hawaiian fishmonger around Seattle called Tim’s Seafood in Kirkland. In addition to a wide selection of Northwest fish, he also gets fresh Hawaiian seafood. I had my choice of some beautiful fish for our dinner! He even makes his own poke.

I used coconut oil on the fish, and it gave it a subtle coconut flavor that was a nice compliment to the macadamia nuts. The original recipe used quite a bit of butter, but the coconut oil was a really nice alternative. This crust would work well with any firm white fish I think. The original recipe was for opakapaka, which I couldn’t find at the fish store that day, so I think any mild fish with a fairly firm texture would be lovely.

Macadamia Nut and Panko Crusted Ono with Happy Rice

Based on a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood

Serves 2, with leftover rice for later

Happy Rice:

1 cup Japanese short-grain rice

1 cup water

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon furikake, plus more for top

Macadamia and Panko Crusted Ono:

4 tablespoons macadamia nut halves

4 tablespoons coconut oil

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

2 6 oz fillets of ono

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To prepare rice:

Put the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water, until the water runs clear. Drain the rice and transfer to a bowl. Cover with fresh cold water, and let soak for 1 hour.

To cook the rice on the stovetop, place the drained rice in a saucepan and add 1 cup fresh water. Bring to boil, decrease heat, cover, and cook until the rice is soft and sticky and the water has just evaporated, about 15 minutes.

Combine the rice with ginger and furikake. Use small cookie cutters to form rice into compact shapes. Alternatively, dip your fingers in a bowl of slightly salted water to prevent the rice from sticking and mold 1 to 2 tablespoons of rice into triangles, cubes, or balls. Set aside and keep warm. Sprinkle the tops with more furikake.

To prepare fish:

In a food processor, pulse the nuts until they are cut into course pieces. Add the panko and oil, and pulse it all together until it is a thick paste, but still has some texture.

Coat one side of the ono with the paste. Preheat an oven-safe sauté pan over medium high heat, and when hot, place the ono in the pan, paste side down. Cook until golden, and then flip. Finish the fish in the oven. Cook until flaky, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Taste and say “Wahoo!!” OK, I have that out of my system now. 😉

Stay tuned for our Hawaiian dessert in the next entry!

Anniversary Dinner

Wedding Anniversary, Part 1 ~ Martini of Spicy Tuna Poke and Dragon Fruit Lychee Sparkling Wine Cocktails

Ahi Poke Martini

We celebrated our wedding anniversary this year with a special Hawaiian-style dinner. We love to explore foods from all around the world. For Valentine’s Day (also our engagement anniversary), we made a sushi dinner, so we decided to go with a twist on that theme for our wedding anniversary by making a few Japanese-influenced dishes from Hawaii. It was a summery meal from the land of endless summers!

The weather was not very Hawaiian-like for our celebration, though. Ha! (But it was very Seattle-like!) It was a little drizzly, and cooler than it usually is around our anniversary. We decided to use that opportunity to set the dinner table in a new place…We kicked open the French doors in the guest room, and ate inside overlooking a sea of candles and tiki torches. 🙂 Luckily it wasn’t too rainy, so the candles stayed lit. It was really beautiful!

I also found some sweet little printable paper orchids on They were free, very easy to assemble, and I think they added a fun tropical touch to our table.

Ahi Poke Martini

I based two of our dishes on recipes from a cookbook called Roy’s Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. Chef Roy Yamaguchi has several restaurants in Hawaii and the mainland, and this book is a nice collection of a few of his Hawaiian seafood recipes. It was hard to choose what I wanted to make! I may continue to explore the recipes throughout our anniversary month. 🙂

We started our meal with a classic ahi poke, one of our favorite Hawaiian dishes. 🙂 I loved the cookbook’s idea to serve it in layers in a martini glass, and then garnish with micro-greens, fish eggs, and thin strips of nori seaweed. I dressed the ahi much more lightly than the recipe called for. I used salmon roe instead of tobiko, because it’s local and also natural. I also doubled the avocado, since we love avocado. 🙂

Martini of Spicy Tuna Poke

Based on a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood cookbook

Serves 2 as an appetizer

6 oz center-cut ahi tuna, cut into ½ inch dice

¼ cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons sriracha

½ teaspoon fish sauce

A few micro-greens

¼ sheet nori, cut with scissors into thin strips

1 tablespoon salmon roe

1 avocado, cut into ½ inch dice

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine mayonnaise, sriracha, and fish sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Add as much or as little of the mixture to the ahi as you like. Stir to combine, and set aside.

Combine the avocado with the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Chill 2 martini glasses. Layer a few pieces of avocado in the bottom of the glass, then add a layer of ahi, another of avocado, and finish with a layer of ahi. Top with micro-greens, roe, and nori strips.

We also made fun dragon fruit and lychee sparkling wine cocktails to go with our first course. The dragon fruit added pretty little seeds and a very mild flavor, and the lychee gave the cocktail a nice sweetness. In a blender, I added a couple of slices of dragon fruit with about a ½ cup of lychee juice. Then I strained the mix, added a little to each champagne glass, and topped the juice with sparkling wine.

Stay tuned for the main course in my next entry!

Ahi Poke Martini

South Carolina Kind of Summer ~ Lowcountry Boil

I got hooked on a mystery that was set in South Carolina, and became fascinated with that part of the country. This summer, I continue to read more stories from that region. It’s an interesting and beautiful place that I have not had the pleasure of visiting in person (yet, it’s on my list now!) Reading feels like a kind of virtual vacation, though. 🙂 I am getting to know the place through the stories. I just started a beach read that is set on Sullivan’s Island in the Lowcountry called The Summer Girls. To celebrate that part of the state, I made a Lowcountry Boil, also known as Frogmore Stew. It is a simple one-pot seafood boil, but it feels festive and summery! It would be perfect for a summer party.

I used Trader Joe’s smoked andouille chicken sausage rather than a full-fledged pork sausage. I also used shelled shrimp for ease, but unshelled shrimp would be more authentic. Your choice. 🙂

Lowcountry Boil AKA Frogmore Stew

Based on a recipe from Southern Living magazine

5 quarts water

1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning

4 pounds small red potatoes

2 pounds chicken kielbasa, chicken andouille, or other hot smoked link chicken sausage, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

6 ears fresh corn, halved

4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp (or peeled and deveined shrimp for easier eating)

Old Bay seasoning, for serving

Cocktail sauce, for serving

Bring 5 quarts water and 1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning to a rolling boil in a large covered stockpot.

Add potatoes; return to a boil, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Add sausage and corn, and return to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add shrimp to stockpot; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain. Serve with Old Bay seasoning and cocktail sauce.

Winter Olympics ~ Smoked Salmon Blini

As the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are coming to a close, I wanted to try a Russian recipe to celebrate the occasion! I made blini with smoked salmon. 🙂

I used Ina Garten’s recipe as the base, but I made it a little healthier. I substituted the butter with Earth Balance, and used much less of it than the original recipe called for. Rather, I used a good non-stick pan, so the butter was unnecessary to keep the pancakes from sticking. I also used nonfat milk and reduced fat sour cream rather than the full fat versions.

Blini with Smoked Salmon

Based on a recipe from Ina Garten

1/3 cup buckwheat flour

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons nonfat milk

1 extra-large egg

2 tablespoons Earth Balance

1/2 pound smoked salmon, thinly sliced

1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream

Fresh dill sprig, for garnish

Combine both flours, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and 1 tablespoon of Earth Balance. Whisk the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Heat 1 tablespoon of the Earth Balance in a medium non-stick sauté pan and drop the batter into the hot skillet, 1 tablespoon at a time. Cook over medium-low heat until bubbles form on the top side of the blini, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook for 1 more minute, or until brown. Repeat with the remaining batter. Set aside.

To serve, top the blini with a piece of smoked salmon. Add a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of dill.

Blini are often served with caviar on top rather than the smoked salmon. That could be something to try for the Oscars next week! 🙂

Valentine Sushi Dinner ~ Miso Soup

Rob and I celebrated Valentine’s Day and our engagement anniversary all weekend, culminating with a fancy sushi dinner! I decided to try making miso soup from scratch to go with the dinner, since it is almost always served at Japanese sushi restaurants. I really had no idea how it was made or what went into it before I tried it at home. I just knew it was delicious! 😉 Now I have a whole new appreciation for it, so I thought I would share the recipe I used. It’s a traditional soup in Japan, but in my American kitchen, it was a new and exciting culinary adventure.

Since we were celebrating Valentine’s Day and to make the soup a little more special, I cut the tofu into heart shapes with a little cookie cutter. So cute! 🙂

Miso Soup

From Gourmet magazine

1/2 cup dried wakame (a type of seaweed)

1/4 cup shiro miso (white fermented-soybean paste)

6 cups Dashi (recipe follows)

1/2 pound soft tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion greens

Prepare wakame:
Combine wakame with warm water to cover by 1 inch and let stand 15 minutes, or until reconstituted. Drain in a sieve.

Make soup:
Stir together miso and 1/2 cup dashi in a bowl until smooth. Heat remaining dashi in a saucepan over moderately high heat until hot, then gently stir in tofu and reconstituted wakame. Simmer 1 minute and remove from heat. Immediately stir in miso mixture and scallion greens and serve.

Dashi (Japanese Sea Stock)

From Gourmet magazine

6 cups cold water

1 oz (30 grams) kombu (dried kelp), about 20 square inches

2 (5-gram) packages katsuo bushi (dried bonito flakes), about 1 cup

Bring cold water and kombu just to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Remove from heat and remove kombu. Sprinkle katsuo bushi over liquid; let stand 3 minutes and, if necessary, stir to make katsuo bushi sink. Pour through a cheesecloth-lined sieve or a coffee filter into a bowl.

For the sushi we enjoyed with the soup, I used this sushi rice recipe. If you are using a pot on the stovetop rather than a rice cooker, we thought it was a very good one. Along with the traditional rolls, we also made a couple of pieces in heart shapes. 🙂 To see how to do that, here is a little video. So fun!

We paired our dinner with a little sake, since that only seemed fitting! There is a Northwest sake maker in Oregon called Momokawa, and we had their Organic Junmai Ginjo with our sushi feast. I would highly recommend it. 🙂

幸せなバレンタインデー (Happy Valentine’s Day)!

Valentine Saturday ~ Crab Cake Breakfast

The leftover crab cakes make a really lovely breakfast in the morning. Just toast a whole-wheat English muffin for the base, place a reheated crab cake on top of that, and finish it off with a poached egg on top. Rob likes to put a little crispy prosciutto on his, as well. We are celebrating the whole Valentine weekend, so this was the perfect way to start the day after V-Day. 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day! ~ Crab Cakes

Happy Valentine’s Day!

We enjoyed a low key, but special dinner tonight. Since I worked later in the evening, we just made a couple of our favorite dishes that are easy to put together. My Valentine requested his favorite crab cakes, which I wrote about a few years ago. They always feel like a special occasion dish. That with a little filet mignon and a fennel salad, and we had a gourmet meal in about 30 minutes! It really didn’t take any longer than that.

Since the crab cakes are one of our favorite dishes, I will reprint the recipe here. They are worth repeating! 🙂

Dungeness Crab Cakes

Based on a recipe from Sunset magazine

1 pound cooked and shelled Dungeness crab meat

1/4 cup finely diced celery

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 large egg

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

1 1/4 cups panko, divided

Preheat your oven to 475 F. Make sure your crab doesn’t have any hidden bits of shell mixed in before you begin. In a large bowl, mix the celery, chives, mayonnaise, egg, mustard, and hot sauce with a fork. Then add the crab and 1/4 cup panko. Stir gently until everything is well blended.

Place the remaining 1 cup of panko in a shallow bowl. Shape the crab mixture into cakes. (I usually get about 6 or 7 large cakes, but make them the size you prefer. Whatever size you choose, they should be about 1/2 inch thick.) Place each cake in the panko and coat on all sides. Press gently to make sure the crumbs stick. Lay the panko-covered cakes slightly apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (You can make them up to this point earlier in the day. Just cover the pan lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.)

Bake until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve immediately.

I gave Rob a bottle of wine from a new Washington winery called Result of a Crush. He was nice enough to share it with me. 😉 It was a perfect wine for Valentine’s Day!  Delicious, too. 🙂

New Year’s Eve ~ Paella Mixta

Almost every New Year’s Eve, we get together with some dear friends of ours and ring in the new year together. We usually pick a theme for our evening. This year we chose to try some Spanish dishes. They made a delicious mushroom tapas-style dish and flan for dessert (and also made sure we had some Spanish wine to pair with our meal!) We brought paella with chicken, clams and shrimp to the party. It’s a recipe I’d like to keep in my arsenal, since it was fairly easy and delicious! It has a little something for everyone.

I substituted the chicken thighs with boneless and skinless chicken breasts. I also used only half of the sausage that the recipe called for, but double the seafood. I used the gas stovetop at our friends’ house instead of the grill, as well, since it was chilly and rainy outside! 😉 Other than that, I followed the recipe fairly closely.

It’s the perfect party dish!

Paella Mixta (Paella with Seafood and Meat)

Based on a recipe from Chow

2 medium, ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces)

32 large shrimp (about 24 ounces), peeled and deveined

1 ¼ teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón dulce)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 ounces Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, as needed

1 medium yellow onion, small dice

2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 large pinch saffron threads

2 cups paella rice (about 1 pound), sometimes labeled bomba or Valencia

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the shrimp and chicken

4 cups (1 quart) low-sodium chicken broth

32 mussels, Manila clams, or a combination, scrubbed

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

1 medium lemon, cut into 8 wedges, for serving

Core and halve the tomatoes. Grate the flesh side of each half on the large holes of a box grater set over a medium bowl, stopping when you get to the skin. Discard the skins. You should have about 3/4 cup of tomato pulp and juice; set aside.

Place the shrimp in a medium bowl, add 3/4 teaspoon of the paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and refrigerate.

Place the chicken in a medium bowl and season generously with salt and pepper; set aside.

Heat stovetop on high heat. Place a 15-inch paella pan on the stovetop, and heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add the chorizo to the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is starting to brown and the fat is rendered, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chorizo to a large bowl; set aside.

There should be a thin layer of rendered fat in the pan. If there’s not enough, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the seasoned chicken to the pan in a single layer, and sear, stirring occasionally, until both sides of the chicken pieces are golden brown, about 6 minutes total. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the bowl with the chorizo; set aside.

Add the onion to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed so that the onions don’t burn. Add the garlic, remaining paprika, and saffron, stir to combine, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the reserved tomato pulp and juice and cook until the mixture has slightly darkened in color, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and measured salt and stir to coat in the tomato mixture.

Add the broth and stir to combine. Arrange the rice mixture in an even layer. Distribute the reserved chorizo and chicken over the rice, adding any accumulated juices from the bowl. (Do not stir the rice from this point on.)

Bring the mixture to a lively simmer. Continue to simmer, checking occasionally, until the rice grains have swelled, most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 12 minutes.

Arrange the reserved shrimp and the shellfish (hinge-side down) in the rice, nestling them slightly. Cook until the shellfish have opened, the shrimp are just cooked through, and the rice is tender but still al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Before serving the paella, discard any unopened shellfish and sprinkle the dish with the parsley. Serve with the lemon wedges.

Halloween Dinner ~ Pumpkin Shrimp Curry

I made a pumpkin shrimp curry dish for dinner this Halloween. It is definitely one I’ll keep in my recipe archives to make again and again this fall. The pumpkin and butternut squash with a little bit of spice made it the perfect dish for my favorite autumn holiday. 🙂 Yummy and festive!

The recipe is originally from Bon Appétit magazine. I substituted light coconut milk instead of regular, and brown rice instead of white, but otherwise followed the recipe pretty closely.

Pumpkin Shrimp Curry

Based on a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup sliced onion

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 plum tomato, chopped

1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée

2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup unsweetened light coconut milk

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup butternut squash, diced and roasted (toss the cubes with olive oil and salt, and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until tender)

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Steamed brown rice


Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and ginger; sauté until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic; cook for 1 minute. Stir in plum tomato and pumpkin purée; cook, stirring frequently, until pumpkin is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add vegetable broth, coconut milk, curry powder, and cayenne pepper; simmer for 20 minutes. Add butternut squash, shrimp, and lime juice. Simmer until shrimp are cooked and squash is warm. Serve with a side of rice and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

Afternoon Anniversary Tea ~ Earl Grey Tea Smoked Salmon

Our 13th wedding anniversary falls on Labor Day this year, so we are celebrating the whole holiday weekend! The traditional gift for the 13th year is lace, which led me to think about lacy afternoon teas. So, first stop, England! Virtually at least. 😉 I made a couple of little tea sandwiches and a couple of little desserts for the start and finish of our meal. I decided to add a more substantial main course in the middle for my sweetie, though. 🙂 I found a really interesting recipe from a British Pub called The Wellington Arms for a tea smoked salmon. I have to say, I was really intrigued, but also a little nervous that it might involve a few fire trucks. 😉 But I’m happy to report, no fire alarms or fire trucks, and it is one of the most exciting recipes I’ve tried in a while! Now I would like to smoke more things! Vegetables, eggs, cheese, chicken…The possibilities are endless. The types of tea to try are also plentiful. I used Earl Grey to stay with the British theme, but I’m excited to try different kinds for different flavors. I hope you’ll give this technique a go sometime. I think you’ll like it. 🙂

Tea Smoked Salmon

Based on a recipe from The Wellington Arms

Serves 2

For the fish:

2 fillets fresh wild salmon, about 6 oz each

Decaffeinated Earl Grey tea from 8 tea bags (approximately)

½ cup white rice (approximately)

1 tablespoon sugar (approximately)

Canola oil, or other high heat oil

Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons Earth Balance

1 teaspoon capers, rinsed

Squeeze of lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350

Line an old pan that you are not very fond of with 2 layers of heavy duty tin foil, making sure there is plenty of extra overhanging to wrap around your lid. Form it to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the tea, rice and sugar in the bottom of the pan and combine.

Place a cake rack in the pan, and oil it with a high heat oil, such as canola. Place the fish skin-side down on top of the rack. Cover the pan with a lid. (It doesn’t need to fit tightly. I found that glass was nice because I could see my progress without removing the lid.) Wrap the excess tin foil up and around the lid to make sure there is a tight seal. This will keep almost all of the smoke inside of the pan. Put the pan on the stove and heat on high until smoking. Cook for about 8 minutes until the salmon is well infused with the smoke flavor. The top of the salmon will become a little dark. Remove the lid outside to avoid smoking your kitchen.

If you have thin fillets, they may be cooked through at this point. If they are still undercooked, place them in the preheated oven until they are done to your liking.

In the meantime, place the Earth Balance and capers in a saucepan and melt over medium heat. When they are melted and warm, add a squeeze of lemon juice and combine.

Serve the salmon with a spoonful of sauce over the top.

I found a few videos that helped me visualize how to do this technique before I tried it. One that is similar to the way I did it (only with wood chips instead of tea and without the lid) can be found here.

The small dishes we had with our afternoon tea were also lovely, and worth a try. I will keep these recipes in my collection. 🙂 We had chicken salad tea sandwiches with smoked almonds and smoked turkey tea sandwiches with arugula mayonnaise. I just replaced the regular mayonnaise in both of them with the reduced fat variety and I used a tender whole wheat bread instead of white, but I followed the recipes otherwise.

For dessert I made mini apple treacle tarts. Now I want to watch an episode of Downton Abbey! 😉 I wonder if they were as good as Mrs. Patmore’s? I actually substituted the butter completely with Earth Balance, and it worked beautifully. I just baked them for much less time than the big tart called for. I also made coconut oatmeal lace cookies. Again, I completely substituted the butter with Earth Balance, and they were delicious!

Next stop, Italy! We are planning to make ravioli and an Italian meal for our anniversary day. 🙂 Stay tuned….


First Day of Summer ~ Calamari in a Zingy Tomato Sauce

We have a romantic little Italian restaurant in Seattle underneath Pike Place Market called Il Bistro that has one of our favorite calamari dishes in the city. They serve it in a tomato sauce instead of frying it, as most places do. Since we can’t go downtown everyday, I worked on replicating the dish at home to enjoy on our patio on warm summer nights. I finally made a version that is fairly close to the flavors at the restaurant, and I’d like to share it with you! 🙂

We enjoyed it on the first day of summer, outside with a glass of wine.

Calamari in a Zingy Tomato Sauce

1 lb calamari (I buy pre-cleaned, pre-sliced, frozen calamari to make this nice and easy. Just put as many as you would like in a bowl of cold water to thaw quickly.)

1 14.5 oz can tomatoes

2 oz can anchovies in oil, drained

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small shallot, minced

¼ cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

15 medium sized green olives

1 tablespoon capers (I use the kind packed in brine rather than salt)

Salt and pepper to taste (I recommend you wait until everything is blended to add very much seasoning, since the other ingredients have a lot of salt. It is easier to tell if you need more after everything is blended together.)

Rustic bread slices, for serving

Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan, and add the garlic and shallot. Cook until fragrant. Stir in the remaining ingredients, except for the calamari (or bread.) Heat through, until it just begins to boil. Then place everything into a blender and pulse until smooth. Adjust the seasoning to your liking. Pour everything back into the pan. Bring to a boil again, and add the calamari. Cook until the calamari turn opaque, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Serve in a big bowl with sliced bread for dipping into the sauce.

Easter Dinner ~ Farfalle “Butterfly” Pasta with Smoked Salmon and Neufchâtel

Happy Easter!

I wanted to make something special but simple for our Easter dinner, since I didn’t have a lot of time to put it together today. I found a pasta recipe from that fit the bill. I made a couple of minor changes, but stayed pretty close to the original recipe. I replaced the cream cheese with Neufchâtel to reduce the fat. I also diced the onion and sautéed it in a separate pan before adding it to the mix, since I’m not wild about the flavor of raw onion. This is really simple enough for a weeknight, so I’ll keep it in my collection of quick and delicious recipes. 🙂

Farfalle Pasta with Smoked Salmon and Neufchâtel

Adapted from

12 ounces farfalle (butterfly pasta), preferably whole wheat

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1 small red onion, diced

Olive oil

2 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup fresh dill, coarsely chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed

2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

4 ounces smoked salmon, flaked into bite-size pieces

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.

Meanwhile, sauté onion in olive oil in a separate pan until slightly caramelized.

Drain pasta, and return to pot.

Add onion, cream cheese, dill, capers, and salmon to pasta. Toss, adding reserved pasta water a little at a time to create a thin sauce that coats farfalle (you may not need all the water). Season lightly with salt and pepper. Serve.

Farfalle means “butterflies” in Italian, so I stayed with that theme and decorated the table with little butterflies! They seem so springy and cheerful. I found a website called that has a lot of cute and free printable clipart. I have decorated our meals with their artwork on several occasions this year. I hope you’ll check it out! Very festive, and did I mention, free? 🙂 I want to give a big thank you to that website for brightening our table! For this meal, I added butterflies to our bouquet of tulips and wine glasses (by taping them to skewers), and I also laid them around the table.

Valentine’s Day Dinner, Part 2 ~ Lobster Ravioli with Warm Lobster Vinaigrette

The second ravioli course that we made for our romantic Valentine’s Day dinner was lobster ravioli with warm lobster vinaigrette. The recipe is from the chef at Corton restaurant in New York City, so it was our second stop on our virtual trip to NYC. I could almost see Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan on top of the Empire State Building in the movie Sleepless in Seattle. 😉

The spices in the vinaigrette are a truly unique combination, and I would have never thought to put them together myself. It has a lot of Asian elements along with French and Indian. I found what I needed at Market Spice in Pike Place Market, which is always an adventure! If they don’t have a spice, I likely won’t find it in Seattle.

I followed the recipe closely, and I would highly recommend it for a special occasion. It is time consuming, but we thought it was well worth it. It made us appreciate what high end restaurants go through for one dish :).

Lobster Ravioli with Warm Lobster Vinaigrette

From Corton chef Paul Liebrandt

1 (1 1/2 pound) lobster

1 cup white-wine vinegar

1 cup dry white wine

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 bay leaves

10 black peppercorns

1/2 lemon, sliced

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Pinch of madras curry powder

1/2 large egg white

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 piece lemongrass, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

8 kaffir lime leaves

6 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

3 star anise

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Pinch of espelette pepper

Pasta Dough (recipe follows)

All-purpose flour, for work surface (or ’00’)

1 large egg yolk, beaten

Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Fill a large pot with 32 cups water. Add vinegar, white wine, carrots, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and lemon; bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. Add lobster headfirst. Cook for three minutes. Remove lobster from pot and remove claws. Return claws to pot and continue to cook 8 minutes more. Immediately transfer lobster to ice-water bath to cool; drain.

Remove meat from lobster, reserving shells. Cut lobster meat into 1/4-inch pieces and transfer to a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add curry powder and egg white; stir to combine. Using a teaspoon, form twelve 1-inch balls of lobster mixture and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet; transfer to refrigerator uncovered, until well chilled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Chop reserved shells into equal size pieces. Place olive oil and chopped shells in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until liquid has evaporated from shells. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking until shells are bright red, but not sizzling, about 10 minutes. Add lemongrass, shallot, kaffir lime leaves, cardamom, ginger, and star anise. Increase heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Add enough water to just cover; cook until liquid is reduced by two-thirds, stirring occasionally.

Strain mixture into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer, pressing down on solids to release liquids. Discard solids and return liquid to skillet. Cook over low heat until liquid is reduced and slightly syrupy, 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in extra-virgin olive oil, lime juice, and esplette; vinaigrette will look broken. Keep warm.

Set the rollers of a hand-crank or electric pasta machine at their widest opening. Unwrap dough; flatten with the palms of your hands and run it once through the machine. Fold the dough in thirds like a letter and run through the machine again.

Now change the rollers of the pasta machine to the next decreasing setting; roll dough through machine twice. Keep rolling the sheet through the machine two times on each decreasing setting until you have rolled it through the last (thinnest) setting.

Cut sheet in half crosswise and place on a lightly floured surface. Using a 2 3/4-inch round cutter, cut out 24 rounds of pasta, covering cut pasta with plastic wrap as you work.

Working with 2 pasta rounds at a time (and keeping remaining pieces covered while working), brush 1 round with egg yolk and place 1 ball of lobster filling in the center. Lay second round directly on top and press edges together to seal. Repeat process with remaining pasta rounds and filling.

Bring a large pot of water to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. Add raviolis, taking care not to overcrowd and working in batches if necessary, cook for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, rewarm vinaigrette, if necessary.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer ravioli to warm serving plates or bowls; top each with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette and serve immediately.


Pasta Dough

From Corton chef Paul Liebrandt

(Makes enough for 12 (2-inch-round) raviolis)

3 large egg yolks

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons ’00’, flour plus more for work surface

In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and eggs; add olive oil and whisk until slightly emulsified. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse for 5 seconds. Add flour and pulse until a cohesive ball of dough forms, about 30 seconds.

Remove dough from food processor. Add a pinch of flour to work surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes. Wrap with plastic wrap and let rest in a cool place 2 hours before using.

Happy wedding anniversary ~ Part 1 ~ Dungeness Crab Ravioli

We celebrated our wedding anniversary this year with pasta! Last week Rob and I took a cooking class at Sur La Table about making homemade pasta, and afterwards we bought a pasta machine as a gift to each other. The traditional anniversary gift for 12 years of marriage is silk, so we thought making silky pasta would be fitting! 😉

We both love crab, so we made a Dungeness crab filling to go in our homemade ravioli. I found a good recipe on to base our dish. I used lightened ricotta instead of the whole milk variety, and I used Earth Balance instead of butter for the sauce. We also used a little more crab than the recipe called for, since we love crab :). We replaced the wonton wrappers in her recipe with fresh pasta dough that we rolled and cut out. The recipe for the dough is on a previous entry that I wrote last spring, and it can be found here.

Crab Ravioli with Lemony Sauce

Based on a recipe from

For the filling:

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 1/2 cups lump crabmeat, such as Dungeness

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

For the pasta:

Fresh Pasta Dough

Rice flour preferably, or the type of flour you used to make the dough (either all-purpose or 00)

For the sauce:

1 stick Earth Balance

2 teaspoons lemon peel, very finely chopped, plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Make the filling: Mix together ricotta, crabmeat, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and the red-pepper flakes.

Make the ravioli: Cut your pasta sheets into squares with a pizza cutter, about 2 inches wide. Mound 1 teaspoon crab filling in the center of each hand cut piece of pasta. Brush edges of the pasta square with water, and top each with another square. Press edges to seal. Transfer to a baking sheet covered with rice flour (preferably) or the type of flour used to make the dough, and lightly dust the ravioli with the flour to keep them from sticking.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in 2 batches, cook ravioli until they rise to the top, 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: Melt 4 tablespoons Earth Balance in a large skillet over medium heat. Transfer first batch of cooked ravioli to the skillet using a slotted spoon, along with about 2 tablespoons cooking liquid. Add 1 teaspoon chopped lemon peel and 1 teaspoon juice, and swirl to combine. Transfer to plates.

Repeat with second batch of ravioli.

They sound like a lot of work, but when you have two people working together in the kitchen, they go surprisingly quickly. It’s a fun project! I hope you’ll give them a try :).

Poolside Snack ~ Smoked Salmon Dip with Celery

We have been thoroughly enjoying our little pool this summer :). Even when it’s too chilly to put my feet in, I like to sit beside the water with a magazine (or my blog!) since it makes me feel like I am on a little vacation at home. I am soaking up all of the summertime sunshine I can!

I made a little salmon dip to nibble on these warm summer days. The original recipe came from I reduced the mayonnaise a tad, and I replaced the cream cheese with Neufchatel. I also served this creamy rich dip with celery stalks instead of bagel chips, since that is a little more bikini friendly :).

Smoked Salmon Dip

Adapted from

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

4 ounces Neufchatel cheese

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon red onion, diced small

1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish

2 ounces plus 2 more ounces smoked salmon, crumbled

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Celery, for serving

In a food processor, combine mayonnaise, Neufchatel, capers, red onion, lemon juice, horseradish, and 2 ounces smoked salmon. Process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in remaining 2 ounces smoked salmon. Top with fresh parsley and serve with celery.

I was inspired to pair this recipe with Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon….The perfect poolside wine!

Seafood for Seafair Weekend ~ Halibut with Summer Vegetable Ragout

It’s Seafair weekend in Seattle! Our neighborhood transforms into a big party filled with boats on Lake Washington, the Blue Angels flying overhead, hydroplane races and a wakeboard competition. After taking in some of the festivities during the day, we decided to celebrate Seafair Saturday night in our own back yard, our way :).

I made halibut with a summer vegetable ragout to compliment the sea theme of the weekend. The recipe was based on one I had at a private event at Sur La Table. I replaced the butter with Earth Balance and I added more vegetables to the mix than the original recipe called for. It’s really more of an idea than a recipe, so just add the vegetables and herbs that you like and that are in season.

Halibut with Summer Vegetable Ragout

Serves 2

1 cup leeks, thinly sliced

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

2 cups summer squash, diced

1/2 cup peas

2 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon each of fresh thyme and oregano, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

2 4-oz halibut filets

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Place a large sauté pan on low heat, and add the Earth Balance. Once melted, add the leeks and fennel, and sweat until almost tender. Then add the peas and the summer squash. Cook until the squash is done to your liking. Off the heat, add the lemon zest and fresh herbs. Blend well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In the meantime, place the halibut filets on a tin foil lined baking sheet. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the halibut flakes with a fork.

We paired our dinner with Wyland Cabernet Sauvignon from Laguna Canyon Winery. It has a beautiful picture of dolphins on the label, which is why I thought it was the perfect choice for this sea inspired meal.


The Bungalow ~ Poisson Cru

I can’t put down the new book by Sarah Jio called The Bungalow. I would highly recommend it if you are looking for your next summery book to read at the beach (as long as you don’t have anything else on your calendar to do, since it is a page-turner! ;)) The story starts in Seattle in the 1940s, but it quickly moves to Bora Bora. I feel as if I am on a trip to that part of the world when I open the pages!

The story inspired me to research dishes from French Polynesia, and I stumbled upon one called Poisson Cru, which means “raw fish” in French. The way I like to travel (virtually or in reality) is to make and sample foods from different places. Since I can’t make it to Bora Bora this week, this is something I could enjoy in my own back yard in Seattle with the tiki torches burning. 🙂 I think a mai tai would be the perfect accompaniment!

Poisson Cru


(6 appetizers or 4 entrees)

1 pound very fresh high-grade ahi tuna, diced in neat 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 cup coconut milk (I used light coconut milk)

1/2 cup diced peeled and seeded cucumber

4 to 5 scallions, green and white portions, split lengthwise and minced

1 fresh hot small green or red chile, seeded and minced, optional

Several tablespoons shredded coconut, optional

3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

Freshly ground pepper

1 medium tomato, seeded and squeezed to eliminate liquid, diced

Combine in a medium bowl the tuna, lime juice, coconut milk, cucumber, scallions, optional chile and coconut, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour. Mix in the tomato and serve right away.

An Easy Weeknight Dish ~ Curried Salmon Cakes

One of the recipes that I go back to again and again for a quick, easy and inexpensive meal is this one for curried salmon cakes. It is a refreshing blend of curry and apples, which is a little unexpected and a little exotic for a weeknight meal :). The recipe originally came from Sunset magazine. It is full of healthy ingredients, so I follow it pretty closely. I am just passing it along, since it’s one of my favorites :).

Curried Salmon Cakes

From Sunset magazine

2 large eggs

2 pouches (about 7 oz. each) boned, skinned pink salmon, or 1 can (about 15 oz.) red or pink salmon, drained, skin removed (make sure it is wild salmon vs. farmed)

1/2 cup finely chopped apple

1/4 cup dried bread crumbs (I use panko)

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1. Beat eggs with a fork. Add salmon and break up. Stir in apple, bread crumbs, onions, mayonnaise, curry powder, paprika, and pepper. Shape into four cakes (3/4 in. thick); place on a piece of plastic wrap.

2. Set a 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add oil, then salmon cakes. Cook until well browned on the bottom, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn cakes over and cook until browned on the other side, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

I served these with a simple salad and quinoa pilaf. Yum!

Giada De Laurentiis ~ Broiled Salmon with Herb Mustard Glaze

When I first began to get into cooking, I spent a lot of time watching shows like Everyday Italian and Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. They taught me the basics and inspired me to try many of the recipes on my own. I still make a few of the dishes on a semi-regular basis, since a handful found their way to becoming old favorites at our house.

I have the opportunity to meet Giada De Laurentiis this week at a book signing event for her new cookbook entitled Weeknights with Giada. I also had the chance to take a class at Sur La Table last week that explored a few of those new recipes.

So, to stick with that theme, I decided to pull out one of my old favorites from Everyday Italian for dinner this evening. It is really quick and really healthy. Not to mention, really delicious with the whole grain mustard on the flaky salmon :). On a beautiful day like today, I wanted to get dinner on the table in under a half an hour so we could spend more time outside. It’s time to eat al fresco again!

As a side note, if you do not have a mini-food processor, you can just chop the garlic and herbs very finely with a chef’s knife and then mix them with the remaining ingredients.

Broiled Salmon with Herb Mustard Glaze

From Everyday Italian

2 garlic cloves

3/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

3/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon dry white wine

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

Nonstick olive oil cooking spray

6 (6 to 8-ounce) salmon fillets

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 lemon wedges

In a mini food processor, combine garlic, rosemary, thyme, wine, oil, Dijon mustard, and 1 tablespoon of whole-grain mustard. Grind the mustard sauce until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of whole-grain mustard to the sauce and stir to combine. Set aside mustard sauce.

Preheat the broiler. Line a heavy rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with nonstick spray. Arrange the salmon fillets on the baking sheet and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Broil for 2 minutes. Spoon the mustard sauce over the fillets. Continue broiling until the fillets are just cooked through and golden brown, about 5 minutes longer.

Transfer the fillets to plates and serve with lemon wedges.