Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden Salsa

Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden SalsaSwimmin’ with the Fishes
Anytime the weather turns sunny and a smidge warmer, I tend to start eating more fish. Maybe it’s the looming promise of bathing suit season but at the first signs of spring, I feel the need to eat a bit lighter.

To say that I dramatically increase my fish intake would be a stretch. It’s a relative thing because I’m not a big lover of fish. I tend to gravitate more towards a cheeseburger.

When I do make fish, I like to go simple with a lot of flavor. That may sound contradictory but let me explain. If I had to pick my favorite fish recipe it would be this one, Salmon Roasted in Butter. It’s so quick to make and with some really fresh Salmon—it melts in your mouth.  One cannot live on Salmon alone, though. It would be boring.
Next best way to make fish? Grill it.

Next best way to make fish? Grill it.

Not all fish does well on the grill. But, Tuna is one of them. Because they are hearty and firm, Tuna steaks are perfect for the grill, and are a great alternative to red meat. They even work well as a burger (for those times when you crave a burger but have to be good). And it happens more than you think…

I usually just brush on some olive oil and sprinkle the steaks with a little salt and pepper. If I want to brighten the flavor up a bit I will top them with mango salsa or even better, with real salsa.

Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden Salsa
Adapted from Rick Bayless

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Bahia-Style Fish Stew

Bahia-Style Fish StewHer Name Is Rio

The Olympics start this week. I am excited to watch, but I admit to not being as excited as in previous Olympic years. Maybe it’s the controversy surrounding the games, or maybe I’m just tired…but I’m just not as into it.

Doesn’t mean I won’t go with a theme—it’s tradition, after all. We gotta have the food of the host country while watching the Opening Ceremonies. There are Brazilian dishes that I love (see this post for two versions of Brazilian Feijoada and Caipirinhas). There aren’t too many that I make with any regularity, because despite being introduced to some great dishes, Brazilian food still remains a bit of a mystery to me. Also, until recently, it has been challenging to find all of the ingredients. The good news is that has changed.

One of the first Brazilian dishes I ever made was this Bahia-style Fish Stew. My husband ate so much he made himself sick. It’s definitely tasty, though don’t expect to find it on the Olympic training tables, ‘cause it will blow your diet. It would, however, be a great way to celebrate the Olympic spirit Rio style.

Bahia-Style Fish Stew
Serves 2-4

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Plancha Salmon with Chimicurri

Plancha SalmonThe North American Female

When it comes to the Dad lottery, I hit the jackpot twice. I was lucky enough to have a father who thought my sister and I could do anything we wanted, and did everything he could to make sure we had the opportunities to try. We have no greater champion than our Dad (except Mom). That was my first Jackpot.

Because of his example, I knew exactly what I was looking for in a husband and father for my own kids—and I found him. My second jackpot. Our kids are very lucky because they have someone who loves them beyond measure, and especially just loves to hang out with them. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the same thing, but it’s just a different bond. Of course, it helps that he is still a child himself. In fact I am very sure that in some ways he never progressed past the age of thirteen…his mind works like theirs does. The stuff that they do that drives me bananas, he is equally skilled at, and most of what he does to get the kids laughing comes at my expense. It’s their favorite sport…

Case in point, my husband does these voices that crack the kids up. He’s got a whole battery of personalities. He even has a “Rocket” voice that imitates our Basset Hound. Of course, now we all use it…

The best voice was created out of boredom when we went on our trip to Yellowstone. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you The North American Female.

I was getting ready to go out, and I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth, and the rest of them were sitting on the bed opposite the bathroom door watching me get ready, like I was part of a zoo. As I was going about my routine, I heard this questionable British accent coming from the other room…and a lot of giggling.

I remember as a kid watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on Sunday nights at my grandmothers. There was always a narrator explaining what was happening on the screen usually a lioness stalking a gazelle. (Strangely, that is how my husband explains our courtship. Go figure.) Turns out my husband was  a Wild Kingdom fan as well; this voice was a cross between the Wild Kingdom guy and the guys who do color commentary for the British Premier league…(GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL!!!!!)

By the time all was said and done we had pee-ed our pants laughing, and I had mascara running down my face—because it’s just plain difficult to apply anything to your face with a running color commentary. It remains to this day one of my favorite memories of the four of them.

In honor of Father’s day and childlike fathers everywhere, I picked this week’s recipe from the cookbook I bought while we were in Yellowstone. It’s called Open Range by Jay Bentley and Patrick Dillon, and it includes a great group of recipes from Big Sky country. We ate well on that trip including some fantastic Salmon….

Plancha Salmon with Chimicurri
Serves 4
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Salmon Skewers à la Amy

Salmon skewersSpring Broken

We had a great Spring Break: we saw Boston, we saw Gettysburg, we saw D.C. It was ten days of non-stop activity—and now, I hurt. I think we must have walked at least 20 miles. (That may or may not be an exaggeration). We saw some really amazing things, but our feet and legs are paying the price…and we’re still on east coast time.

I am looking a mountain of laundry in the face; I’ve no energy to even bother with it. And don’t even get me started on cooking dinner. The problem with dinner is that we over-indulged while away, so it’s time to start eating better. Simple and healthy is the mantra for this week. Last night we grilled salmon. It’s easy, it’s versatile, it’s healthy, and its tasty anytime, but especially mid-week.

There are many recipes out there for Salmon Skewers, and this is my own take. You can do teriyaki, blackened (Cajun) style, miso glazed…whatever floats your boat. Same goes for whatever you choose to thread in between the pieces of salmon or you could go full on protein and just do the salmon.

My favorite version is the one below that uses the Napa Valley Spice Rub from Whole Spice that we carry here at the store. (Check out our Spice Section.) Great for warm weather dinners!

Salmon Skewers à la Amy
Serves 4 Read more…

New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam ChowderHot Dogs & History

When planning Spring Break vacations, most people think sun and surf. I admit that a comfy spot on a beach with a Piña Colada does sound pretty good right about now, but at this point of our lives, my family is playing beat the clock when it comes to the traditional family vacation.

Right now, my kids are still alright with being seen in public with us—we don’t know how long it is going to last before we are subject to a lot of eye rolling and sulking in the corner. We are by no means cool in their eyes, however we are least okay enough that they aren’t embarrassed…much. (We don’t make it easy on them.) This year we are trading in the warm weather and sand for Boston and our Nation’s Capital, with a few side trips.

First stop is Boston for a little history, a little chowdah, and the chance to pour some tea in the harbor. (The boys can’t wait. Apparently tossing tea into the water is cool.) Anyone who has been reading these posts knows how baseball-crazy my family is, so of course, no trip to Boston would be complete without seeing Fenway and the Green Monster. We are going, but the Sox are still in spring training. My boys convinced us that we should drive to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. (Sure! Why not? It’s only a four-and-a-half hour ride…in good weather.)

From Cooperstown its south to Gettysburg, PA, a place I have wanted to go for a long time, and a must-see for anyone who can. As a History major, this was my one side trip demand. My kids have told me that they are okay if I geek out, which is good ‘cause it will happen whether I have their permission or not.

After that it is on to the crazy adventure that is Washington DC. Last time I visited was in 8th grade when Dinosaurs roamed the earth.

It should be a fun trip,, I know there will be some funny stories and I hope a lot of good memories. Below is a delicious recipe for clam chowder. The original calls for salt pork. I prefer the smokiness of bacon ’cause everything is better with bacon, so that’s how I make it.

New England Clam Chowder
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Clam Chowder with Root Vegetables and Thyme

Clam ChowderUnder the Boardwalk…Down By The Sea

When I was a kid we had family friends with a vacation home in Santa Cruz, so we would stay with them during the summer. It was great. We would wake up and hit the beach, then hit the Boardwalk and ride the roller coasters ‘till we puked. Of course it’s possible that the roller coasters were not to blame. It’s possible that it could have been the amount of food (and sugar) that we ate.

There are an amazing number of dining opportunities at the boardwalk. From fried chicken to deep fried Twinkies—you can pretty much get whatever heat attack on stick or sugar bomb you desire. For me, I always liked the old time candy shops like Marini’s. salt water taffy, caramel apples and fudge. Those were my favorite food groups. Corn dogs are another good choice…and bowls of clam chowder on cooler nights.

My family is headed down to the boardwalk this weekend for, you guessed it, more baseball. There is no way we would go to Santa Cruz and not go to the boardwalk. What kind of parent would I be, after all, if I didn’t introduce my kids to the wonders of chocolate dipped bacon and the Giant Dipper? It’s going to be a good time out…

One thing we will be avoiding? The water. Maybe because this week was Shark Week on Discovery Channel. or maybe because of the recent beach closures due to Great White shark activity near Capitola, you will not find this chick frolicking in the surf. Thank you, no. I’ll hang back on the beach with my bacon. Mega Shark can get his own.

Clam Chowder with Root Vegetables and Thyme
Adapted from Taste Food Blog Read more…

Classic Ensenada Fish Tacos

Fish TacosEaster South Of The Border
As you read this, it is entirely possible (and most likely) that I am pool-side, slathered in SPF 5000, and sucking down margaritas like water. If I am not, it is because I am stuffing my face with fish tacos, while sucking down margaritas like water.

Vacations are always fun and relaxing, but I think we are looking forward to this one even more. We are just that tired. (I am including the kids in that statement. After all of the standards testing, they’re just done.)

The five of us are looking forward to a week of great weather and doing absolutely nothing. Normally, when we plan a trip we all throw out ideas for activities. When asked what everyone wanted to do this time around, the overwhelming response was “drool”. I am so on board with that.

There may be a snorkeling trip along the way, and I am pretty sure there will be some jewelry shopping with my daughter, but one thing I know for certain is there will be good food. How do I know this? Because when you don’t give me your input or opinion on such matters, you do so at your own peril. I have made all of the reservations at the places I want to try!

¡Hasta la vista!, baby…

Classic Ensenada Fish Tacos
Adapted from Rick Bayless
Tacos de Pescado “Clasicos de Ensenada”
From Season 8, Mexico—One Plate at a Time
Servings: 12 tacos, enough to serve 4 people Read more…

Cornmeal-Crusted Crayfish Pies

Crawfish PiesHavin’ Fun On The Bayou…

It’s that time again. This week is the annual Chef of The Month Dinner that I have cooked for the past three years as a prize for our school auction.

The first year I was an uber excited over-achiever and all about making the entire meal from my garden. Well, except for the pork. (I’m not about to raise actual pigs. I have three who live with me, and I accuse them of being raised in a barn. That’s good enough.)

Last year was an elaborate Moroccan feast. I may have gone over board on. (Seriously? I poached pears and made the bread from scratch. ‘Nuff said.) I thought it was awesome but I am also a bit of a nut when it comes to Moroccan food. I made too many dishes in my attempt to make others enjoy the cuisine as much as I do and I killed myself doing it. I drooled in the corner for a week.

This year I’m keeping it within the continental U.S., and I’m not going as crazy. I’m makin ’em take a trip down on the bayou. This close to Thanksgiving, I want something that they aren’t going to eat again in the next few weeks. I figure cajun is a good way to go for a satisfying Fall meal.

I consider any gumbo to be comfort food, and there are so many different kinds to choose from. When I think of cajun cuisine this is the first thing that comes to mind, so I had to do it. I am going with the less traditional Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo.

Pecans are big all over the South, but Louisiana is crazy for them. So, I am making a Caramel-Pecan tart that is almost better than my Grandmother-in-Law’s Pecan Pie. Almost. She’s from Louisiana, she knows her pecans and she makes a MEAN Pecan pie.

Crawfish Pie is a no-brainer. It is just SO Louisiana. Hank Williams even sang about it. Since November is our Month of Pie, I am sharing the recipe as a savory alternative to the obvious.
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Crab and Corn Pies with Corn Crab Sauce

Crab and Corn Pies Kickin’ It Up A Notch
I have been a fan of Cajun food from the first time I tried it. I was introduced to Cajun cuisine during the 80s when it was considered something new and exciting—though the food and flavors had been around for quite some time. Cajun cuisine soon became wildly popular, and it seemed like everyone had a blackened version of something.

I distinctly remember watching Paul Prudhomme and The Great Chefs of New Orleans repeatedly on PBS, while my mouth watered at the liberal use of butter, sausage and cayenne. It was during this time (at least in my mind. It could have been earlier.) that my mother started making dinners that had a decidedly “Nawlins” flavor to them like her Barbequed Shrimp.

I was dying to eat the foods that I saw being created on the TV screen in their native habitat, and had visions of eating my way through the lauded restaurants and cafes of New Orleans. Still do. Alas, that one remains an entry on my bucket list. It will happen.

In those days, Paul Prudhomme was “The Man”. He made a name for himself while cooking at Commander’s Palace. But it was his series of cookbooks and TV shows that introduced signature dishes like blackened redfish and turtle soup to people outside Louisiana, and started a craving for all things Cajun . As popular as Prudhomme was, the undisputed champion of Cajun cuisine has to be Emeril Legasse.

Before “kicking it up a notch” and throwing a little “Bam” into things on the Food Network, Emeril was making some really great food at Commander’s Palace, and eventually moved on to  his own restaurant, Emeril’s. His first cookbook The New New Orleans Cooking introduced cooks to a contemporary version of classic Cajun cuisine and launched an empire.

This weekend my cookbook club is having our cookbook dinner and we’ve been cooking from The New New Orleans. The food in the book is great but for me, it has been more fun to go back and see, taste, and remember the recipes that I wanted to try as a kid.

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Trout Meunière

Yellowstone River Goin’ Fishin’? Yup…

You cannot catch trout with dry breeches.
~Spanish Proverb

As you read this post, I am wearing waders (It’s a real good look.), thigh deep in the Yellowstone River—fly fishing for trout. Before you get too impressed, let me say that I am not a fly fisherman. My first and only encounter with the sport (?) occurred right after college when my then boyfriend tried to teach me the art of the cast in my driveway (’cause doesn’t everyone do that?). I never got it right, but it did make for some serious comedy. And for 5 minutes I was an awesome girlfriend.

Fast forward a few years. (Actually it’s almost 20, but I refuse to wrap my mind around that.) Here I am again trying to figure this whole thing out. The best part is we are in Yellowstone, which has been on my bucket list since I studied Geology and Volcanology at the U of O. (Geek alert! Obviously that career didn’t pan out.)

Despite visions of Chevy Chase and his station wagon (or maybe because of it) we decided to load up the kids and the car, and experience a real family vacation complete with plenty of whining, bathroom stops, and “Will you stop touching me!”. It’s all worth it because good or bad this will be a trip that we will remember for years to come.

Below is a favorite recipe for Trout Meunière from James Peterson’s cookbook Fish & Shellfish. This book is another one of those must haves for any cook’s library. It is a great reference for cooking anything and everything that comes from the water. I have included his intro…seems appropriate.

Trout Meunière
I must have been four or five when my mother took me and my brothers into the mountains of California for a week of camping. We’d pitch a tent big enough for the whole family, and my mother would be up at dawn, rod and reel in hand, to fish for our breakfast. The trout would end up sizzling in bacon fat over an open fire. No trout has ever again tasted quite the same, but this recipe is for me as close as it gets.
~James Peterson

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