Thursday, March 25, 2010

Banana Leaf-Steamed Salmon with Citrus Pesto

I kinda hate bananas. I can't really explain it. Can't stand the smell...even hate banana Runts.

Banana leaves, however, have no banana-ish flavor and are great for steaming fish. For some reason, steaming a piece of fish inside a banana leaf seals in moisture and flavor. It's like magic. If you can't find banana leaves, don't worry about it at all. You can steam inside parchment paper just as easily.

I don't like bananas but I do like pesto! I have this very distinct memory of going to see the most recent Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightly and even though I loved that movie, having to keep reminding myself to stop thinking about possible pesto combinations and to just watch the movie! (This is what goes on inside the mind of a food blogger, I suppose).

I came up with this pesto for fish because I do not like the combination of cheese and seafood, in general. This has a lot of flavor and only uses one Tablespoon of olive oil for the whole batch. You'll have lots left over, which you could use with chicken or pork, or you could add some more vinegar and olive oil to it and make it into a really fantastic and interesting vinaigrette.

1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
3 cups loosely-packed basil leaves
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 orange, half zested, both sides juiced
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for salmon
salt and pepper
2 6-0z. pieces wild salmon
2 banana leaves (or two sheets of parchment paper 1-ft each in length)
1/2 lb. green beans or haricot verts

1. Combine walnuts, basil, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, orange zest, orange juice, vinegar, Tablespoon olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse to desired texture.

2. Prepare steamer. If you don't own an electric steamer, put a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil (you will need a steaming basket and a lid).

3. Prepare the salmon. Place each salmon filet in the middle of the banana leaf or parchment.

4.Drizzle sparingly with olive oil, generously salt and pepper. Fold one side of the leaf (closest to you) over the salmon. Fold both sides (on either side of the filet) in, like a burrito. Then flip the salmon filet one or two times until it resembles a little package.

5. Place 'banana leaf packages' in the steamer and steam for 8-15 minutes depending on thickness. (Usually fish needs 10 minutes per inch of thickness.)

6. Steam green beans after you have taken the salmon packets out, for 4 minutes.

7. Serve the salmon in the banana leaf, unwrapped with a dollop of pesto, alongside the green beans.

Serves 2.

Printable version here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chicken-Apple Burgers

Some days, the cooking mood just strikes me. I said to my husband this morning, "I want to go to the farmer's market and then the grocery store and then just cook all day." He said, "OK," being the accomadating and wonderful guy that he is. And cook all day I did. First, I made a white chicken stock. Then I made a brown chicken stock using the white chicken stock (a tip I picked up from Tom Colicchio's book Think Like a Chef.) Then onto some homemade granola, and finally to my dinner, these chicken-apple burgers.

All of the recipes on this site are original unless specified otherwise. It is the reason that sometimes there is a week or even a two-week lapse between recipe posts. I have to not only have time, come up with a recipe, and try it-- but I have to like it so much that I put my Haute Health seal of approval on it so that my readers will never try one of my recipes and think, "Well, that was so-so." Of course our tastes might differ, but for me to post a recipe, I have to think, "YES. This is a good one."

A couple weeks ago, I tried a butterflied turkey breast, stuffed with blanched asparagus, lemon rind, and goat cheese. Sounds good, right? Yeahhhh....not so much.

Anyway, the point of this story is that when I tried this out tonight, I did a little dance around the kitchen after my first taste. And then after my first burger, I had another one. They're that good.

Note: I use 1 Tablespoon of butter to cook 4 turkey burgers, so I still qualify this as an 'angelic' recipe. If you are really watching your saturated fat, though, you can use just olive oil or even just cooking spray.

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
2 stalks celery, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 cup white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc (could use chicken stock here)
1 lb. ground chicken
1 container fat-free plain yogurt
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 whole wheat buns (optional)

1. In a nonstick skillet, heat teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, apple, and celery. Sweat for 3-4 four minutes, stirring often. Add wine (or broth) and reduce heat to medium-low until wine is evaporated and mixture is soft. Scrape contents onto a small plate and let cool completely.

2. Combine chicken, yogurt, and cooled apple mixture. Stir until combined. Score with fingers into four equal sections. Wipe out pan with paper towel and return to skillet. Turn on stove to medium-high heat and add butter and teaspoon oil. Working quickly, make four patties. Salt and pepper one side and then add that side to the skillet. Salt and pepper the other side in the skillet. When one side is browned, flip carefully (they will be loose). Turn heat to medium-low and cover to finish cooking, 5-7 minutes or until juices run clear.

Serve on whole wheat buns or over lettuce, as shown in the picture above.

Serves 4.


Printable version here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Red Snapper with Suzy's Sorta-Gremolata

When I hear the word "Snapper," I think about camp. In 6th grade, I was at a girl scout camp in Wisconsin where there was all sorts of wild life all around, especially in the summertime. Every day, the girls and I would pass this big turtle and look at it. We were told that it was a snapper and not to get too close. Well, one day after a courage-inducing meal of pancakes or something, the bravest girl in our troupe, Nicole, took a stick and gingerly approached the turtle. It tolerated her waving and poking of the stick for a while, and just as we were about to be convinced that it was not, indeed, a snapper, that big-ass turtle lurched viciously in her direction. You can imagine the screaming that ensued. I'm sure all canine ears within a 2-mile radius perked up a little. We all hauled it back to the campsite. I probably dug into a secret stash of Samoas, knowing myself at that age. (Fat kids tend to go one or two ways: Stay fat or get into fitness....but I digress...). I will never again hear the word snapper without thinking of that day and our near-death experience at Camp Singing Hills.

I wonder if red snappers have that same sneaky face, like a decrepit mean ancient person. Ah, I don't really care. I quite like how the fish tastes, and I buy it in cute little filets that look nothing like a fish. Or a turtle, for that matter.

Anyways, this is your dish if you have 15 minutes to make a delicious and easy meal for dinner. It takes less time than a frozen pizza. Do yourself right and try this for dinner this week. Then eat as many Samoas as you like.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 large handful walnut halves/pieces, chopped
1 heaping Tablespoon lemon zest (from 1 lemon-juice after zesting)
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
pinch red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons dried cranberries
4 red snapper filets
salt and pepper
olive oil
4 cups arugula

1. Preheat broiler.

2. In a nonstick pan, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and walnuts, and toast, stirring continuously, until light brown. Take off heat and put the walnut-breadcrumb mixture in a small bowl. Add the lemon zest, parsley, basil, and cranberries. Stir. Set aside.

3. Wipe out pan. Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan and put back over flame. Turn heat to medium-high. Salt and pepper the fish and add to the skillet. (May need to do this in two batches). Cook on one side for 2 minutes, flip. Cook for another minute or two depending on thickness of fish, then pile the breadcrumb mixture on the fish and transfer to the oven. DO NOT LEAVE! Breadcrumbs burn quickly, so watch with the oven door ajar. You want the breadcrumbs to toast to a nice deep brown but not to burn. (Less than a minute). Remove pan from oven and set aside.

4. Drizzle the lemon juice over the arugula and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Add a small pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, toss, and distribute among plates. Plate the fish carefully (you might need two spatulas for this).


Serves 4.

Printable version here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Zucchini-Mint Soup

I love to cut zucchini. I could cut zucchini all day. No, this is not a euphamism. Have you ever tried it? It's so fun. OK, so I might be kind of a food dork, but something about the way the knife goes through this vegetable just makes me very happy. The contrast of the dark green skin to the milky white flesh....OK, I'm gonna stop right there. This is getting weird. I just like it. Don't judge me.

So, anyways, I'm always happy when this vegetable comes into season. Though it's pretty much always available, I prefer to buy things in season because 1) it's 'greener' as it hasn't been flown in from some South American country; 2) it's more delicious because it's fresh; and 3)it's good to support local farmers when we can. Plus we went to our favorite local restaurant, Piccolo, the other night and had a really delicious zucchini soup for an appetizer and I wanted it again. But of course I have to put my Suzy twist on it--healthier and more interesting (if I can swing it)! This soup is almost fat-free. It uses one Tablespoon of olive oil (the heathy kind) for the whole pot which will make four good-sized servings of soup. Then I added mint and lemon to really liven it up. It will just taste better, not necessarily minty. I asked my husband, "Can you taste the secret ingredient?" "," he replied. "Are you sure? It's in there..." but, alas, he was already lost in whatever TV show I was forcing him to watch (probably Biggest Loser. I love that show soooooo much). I didn't press the issue but believe me, it's in there and it adds something. That 'je ne sais quoi,' if you will. Je ne said what? Exactly.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 medium zucchini, rinsed and roughly chopped
2-3 cups low-sodium organic chicken broth
1 heaping Tablespoon mint leaves, sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
a few shots Tabasco (optional)
salt and pepper

1. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add garlic and onion. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Sautee until soft and, about 10 minutes. Stir often. (Do not burn the garlic or you will have to start over.)

2. Add zucchini and sautee until they start to get soft and slightly brown, 5 minutes or so. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.

3. Add chicken broth to cover. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 15 minutes or until zucchini is very soft.

4. Turn off heat, add mint, and blend using immersion blender. (If you don't have one, you can use a blender but do in many batches as hot soup will expand in the blender.) When thoroughly blended, add the lemon juice and adjust salt to taste. (I found it needed a couple more pinches of will know when it's properly salted because the soup will sort of come alive but not taste 'salty'.) Add tobasco to taste, stir.

Serves 4.

Printable version here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pineapple Stuffed Chicken Breast

It's March 2nd. The holidays are a couple months behind us now, and I have been noticing more and more of my friends becoming homesick during this long stretch between family visits. Though we surely do not miss the stress of shopping, wrapping, decorating, entertaining, and all the rest that the holiday season requires, we do miss that warm fuzzy feeling of holiday time. At least I do...(If you're reading this, Mom or Mom-in-law, hugs...)

For most of us, the holidays are associated with certain types of foods. I know that I can count on my mother-in-law's homemade ravioli and rich, warm sticky toffee pudding cake for Christmas Eve. For Christmas morning, it's Belgian waffles with whipped cream and strawberries. Then for Christmas dinner, my mother's perfectly cooked beef filet, spinach gratin, macaroni and cheese, and for dessert, a trifle of raspberries, pound cake, creme anglaise, toffee, and chocolate. Ohhh, yeeeeaaahhhhh. Of course, we cannot eat this way year-round. We really shouldn't ever eat this way, but, hey, you gotta live, right!?

I know for a lot of people, a big, juicy ham tiled with slices of pineapple and decorated with cherries and cloves ring in the holidays. There is something so heart-warming to think of the cook of the house pulling a plump, pineapple-y ham out of the oven. The salt of the ham plays cheerfully with the sweetness of the pineapple. The juicy crackle of the skin gives way to the tender meat underneath.

So, I created this dish as an homage to the holiday ham...lightened up for pre-swimsuit season and sped up for weeknight practicality. I hope that you will eat this and get a moment of the warm fuzzies. Enjoy!

2 1-inch thick rings pineapple, cut in half
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon canola oil
fresh pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices prosciutto
1 Tablespoon canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, and teaspoon canola oil. Place pineapple in an oven-proof dish and pour vinegar mixture over. Toss to coat.

2. When oven is preheated, roast pineapple for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool completely. (Can be made a day ahead up to this point).

3. Make a pocket in each chicken breast by slicing horizontally through the middle, making sure not to cut all the way through. When pineapple is cooled, stuff each chicken breast with a pineapple slice (cut pineapple lengthwise if needed).

4. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken breast, then wrap each breast with a slice of prosciutto.

Put an oven-proof sautee pan over medium-high heat with the remaining canola oil. When oil is hot, put chicken breasts in the pan and do not move them. When the prosciutto is crisp, it will release from the pan. At this point, flip the chicken breasts over and put entire pan into the oven.

5. Roast the chicken breasts until cooked through, about 10 minutes. (Juices will run clear).

Serve alongside steamed green beans for a "holiday" meal any day of the week.

Printable version here.