Swimming with Fishes: An Easy Pan Sauteed Salmon and a Mediterranean Salad

I don't know why I hadn't made salmon this way before, but it's my go-to now! And the Greek salad isn't too shabby either.

I don’t know why I hadn’t made salmon this way before, but it’s my go-to now! And the Greek salad isn’t too shabby either.

Where does the week go? Our lives are so busy and full these days, no matter what endeavors and challenges are part of your day to day world. Some days we just need to be able to make something quick and delicious for dinner. This fits that bill.

All of the recent fish posts and recommendations to add more of it to your diet (the Mediterranean diet most recently), have caused me to develop a relentless craving for fish. We don’t have the sources for fresh and reasonably priced fish that we should in our city, but we do seem to always have fresh salmon available, and sometimes at an excellent price. This was the case this week and I wanted to try a simple preparation.

Enter Jacques Pépin and Julia Child’s fantastic cookbook, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, perhaps my most beloved and referred to cookbook of all time. Jacques’ singularly simple and quick preparation for salmon caught my eye, and it features just a few ingredients, some that I always have on hand. Of course best of all, it produces a truly spectacular and tasty end result…a crispy skinned fish, lightly seasoned, perfectly cooked and lovingly flavored with a little butter, lemon, onion and capers. I paired this with a Greek salad tossed with my homemade Mediterranean dressing/marinade and some rosemary roasted potatoes. Then I made it again with just the salad for a side because the fish is so rich. Either way, it’s perfect for a quick weeknight meal, for company, or for any night at all.

Perfectly cooked with a very crispy skin and rich, fresh flavor!

Perfectly cooked with a very crispy skin and rich, fresh flavor!

Pan Cooked Salmon (or try this with another fish of your choice)
As slightly adapted from Jacques Pépin’s original recipe
Makes 2 servings

2 – 6 oz. fillets of sustainable fresh salmon, skin on and scaled
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
3/4 cup red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons of capers, drained
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Optional fresh flat leaf parsley to garnish, if desired

Sprinkle both sides of the fish with a small amount of kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper. (Note: At this point, I would suggest turning on the fan over your stove unless you wish your house to smell of salmon for the next day…not that that’s a terrible thing.) Heat a non-stick skillet over high heat until it is quite hot. Put the salmon into the very hot, dry pan, skin side down. The heat will immediately crisp and shrink the salmon skin, and release it from the pan. Reduce the heat to medium high and cover, allowing the salmon to cook until it is just done and a knife inserted into the top will flake off the meat, but the fish is just barely cooked through inside, about 7 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet. Remove the fish from the pan with a long spatula and place it on the serving plates skin side up.

Wipe the pan out with a paper towel and return it to the stove top with medium low heat. Add the butter and the onions, and cook the onions for about 2 minutes. Add the capers and sauté for about 30 seconds, then swirl the lemon juice in and heat it through for just a few seconds. Pour the sizzling sauce over the top of the salmon fillets, dividing equally. Sprinkle with a little parsley for more color, if desired, and serve immediately with your favorite salad or side.

Betsy’s Easy Mediterranean Salad Dressing/Marinade
Makes a generous 1/2 cup, can be doubled

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients into a 1 cup mason jar. Screw on lid and shake vigorously. Use this to lightly dress a Greek salad (red onion, kalamata olives, tomato, cucumber and feta) or a green salad, or use for a marinade for pork, fish or chicken.

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Sharing More Cookies

cookies smI really am a cookie monster. From a food point of view, I consider myself to be much more of a savory person than a sweet one, but where cookies are concerned I become a little scary. This is why I only make them this time of year for the most part, because I plan to share them…you know, (ahem!) give them away as presents.

Brilliant! If only I could sing that well.

And since I only do this once a year, and as if all those cookies and goodies I mentioned in my last post Holiday Roundup weren’t enough, I just had to make a few more goodies this week.

crinkles2First off were these Chocolate Espresso Crinkle Cookies. I knew I had to try them the moment I saw Eva’s original recipe, and then Sawsan’s adaptation of Eva’s recipe that added some warm spices. I ended up making Sawsan’s version this time because I already had my biscotti, which have chocolate chips in them, and also because I was so curious about the addition of cardamom to the chocolate.

crinkles1Result: Amazing! The texture of these cookies isn’t to be missed…very much like a brownie. And the taste, well, let’s just say they didn’t last long enough to be given to very many folks! I’ll make these again. In fact, I’ll be adding them to my cookie line-up, so do check out the recipes on both these blogs for a truly chocolatey wonder of a good cookie.

Now on to a recipe from my family that I’d like to share with you today. This is an old fashioned recipe for Drop Sugar Cookies that my mom and her mother (Mamaw) made for years, and they almost always make an appearance around Christmas time.

flatten2flatten1Dropped onto the cookie sheet by the spoonful and then flattened with a glass, these cookies are thin with just the right amount of crisp. They have a lovely, buttery and light texture, and are just perfect for a snack with tea, cocoa, or alongside eggnog. You absolutely must let them brown around the edges a bit to caramelize the sugars, or they just won’t taste as good. And while I normally do not use shortening in baking if I can help it, these really must have the shortening in order to obtain the correct light texture. I know this for a fact, because I’ve tried substituting all butter and ended up with a flattened mess, ruining a lot of good ingredients and ending my efforts with an epic fail. Do not try that at home!

cookies3I seem to remember decorating these with my mom as a child, though I don’t recall if my grandmother ever decorated her sugar cookies. If you’re not in a decorating mood or it’s the wrong time of year, these do have a lovely coating of granulated sugar on them after all, so they can certainly stand alone. I like to use a few sprinkles for fun and sparkle—just to make them pop up and say “Happy Holidays!”

Drop Sugar Cookies
Makes about 5 1/2 dozen

Have all ingredients at room temperature:

2 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 Tablespoons milk
Additional granulated sugar for dipping

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Sift the flour, soda and salt together into a small bowl. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, egg, sugar and vanilla until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in the dry ingredients until the mixture is smooth. Blend in the milk. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet (I use a slipat). Flatten each teaspoon of dough with the bottom of a glass that has been dipped into the granulated sugar. (Can be decorated with sprinkles at this point if desired.) Bake for about 6-10 minutes, watching closely, until the edges are browned. These will keep for about 1 week stored in an airtight container.

Note: I use cane sugar, which is unbleached, so my cookies are a bit darker than the original. If you desire a more snowy-like appearance, use white granulated sugar in the cookie and for dipping the glass and pressing the cookies flat.

cookies2

Creamy Avocado Cucumber Soup, and…

Elegant and easy, this cold soup has been a staple in our house all summer long. Such a staple that I whirr it up in the blender at least every other week. We gobble it up in no time flat, and then want more and more. In fact, it’s been relegated to the status of something so simple and quick to make that it’s almost like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich…almost.

But it really deserves a bit more attention than it’s gotten thus far. I posted the base of this soup when I first started this blog, but since that time I’ve made it so often that I could make it in my sleep! And I think I’ve perfected it now. Continue reading

A Better BLT

Okay, maybe that’s an oxymoron! I mean, can a BLT really get ANY better that the original bacon, lettuce, tomato on white bread with mayo variety?

If you build it, I will come eat it!

I say, perhaps it can…at least for me.

It was literally only a couple of years ago that I finally got over my aversion to mayonnaise long enough to have a BLT with a teensy bit of that white stuff on it, and I actually enjoyed it. And that’s still the way I usually have it…tried and true. Until now. Continue reading