May 4th, 2012

More fish: Salmon with Cilantro & Pepita Pesto

Some food, no matter how delicious it is, just refuses to be pretty.  It’s like those girls who refuse to wear makeup because they want you to be attracted to their brains instead of their bodies and at first you think they’re one of those stuck-up feminists but then they turn out to be pretty cool when you get to know them.

This cilantro-pepita pesto is like that.  No matter how I styled it or photographed it, I just couldn’t get it to look…appetizing.  At first it looks kind of like something that would come out of a baby, but once you look past its icky green gloopiness and take a bite, you’ll find that it has a bright freshness from the cilantro, and a slight toasty richness from the pepitas.

Salmon with Cilantro and Pepita Pesto

Cilantro pesto is not photogenic. Neither is black rice.

Hiding underneath that green glop is a perfectly tender, juicy, seared salmon fillet.  I do love me some salmon pretty much any way I can get it, so I easily overlooked the crazy coloring of the cilantro pesto and dug in.  It really works well with the nuttiness of forbidden (black) rice, but I bet it would go well with my other fish side dish-standby: cous cous.  Or maybe some bruschetta on the side? At any rate, if you can get ahold of some pepitas (also known as hulled or shelled pumpkin seeds), I highly recommend you give this a try.

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April 10th, 2012

Whole Wheat Puff Pastry

Closeup of the Salmon and Rice in Puff Pastry - demonstrating the flaky pastry layers!

Would you look at that buttery flakiness??

Hello, dear ones! How did your Spring Holiday Time go? Between the Equinox, Easter, Passover, and forgive me for not knowing what else, the last few weeks have been busy for everyone, right? Full of family and the joy of new life.

I’ve been doing some necessary Spring cleaning in my home, and working on promoting my freelance business and finding work.  We have also had The Sprout at our house a lot more often lately, and while that’s pretty much the joy of my life, it’s very draining and time-consuming.  I still have to figure out how to balance work and home while working from home! :eek:

Because life is always so busy, you know how much I love my time savers.  However, this is not one of them.  Puff pastry is not something you make when you want a quick meal.  I suppose you could make it and freeze it, but I’ve never tried that.  Most I’ve done is make it a day ahead.

That being said, most of the time spent is inactive time, but it does require you to be nearby.  There’s the cutting, the rolling, and the surprisingly cathartic folding, but then there’s the waiting before you do it all over again.  And again.  And again.  You see, in order to have those beautiful, buttery layers, you have to actually make them by folding it over itself and rolling it out – multiple times.

But it is worth it.  Oh, is it worth it to have homemade puff pastry instead of paying an arm and a leg for store-bought which frankly, can’t even compare in taste.  Please throw out right now any notions you have of whole wheat things being more dense or tough than those made with white flour.  This puff pastry is made with slightly more whole wheat pastry flour than half all-purpose flour, keeping it tender, flaky, and still full of whole grains and that subtle nutty flavor.  If you prefer, you can switch the amounts of the flours.

There are so many things you could make with this!  You could make the previously-mentioned Salmon and Rice in Puff Pastry, or you could use it to cover a Chicken Pot Pie, or even make a rich dessert with it.

What are your favorite uses for puff pastry?

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April 5th, 2012

Naturally-Dyed Easter/Eostre Eggs

Eggs colored with turmeric, beet juice, and blueberries

Turmeric, beet juice, and blueberries give eggs a soft color and beautiful watercolor texture.

Decorating eggs was always one of my favorite Easter traditions as a kid.  I was never a huge fan of Easter baskets because they invariably had a huge chocolate bunny and lots of other chocolate-covered or filled concoctions, those mediocre colored marshmallow eggs, and a couple marshmallow Peeps.  The only part I liked were the Peeps.  In later years, a Reese’s egg was added which I liked because they have more peanut butter than chocolate.

But the egg decorating, oh that was fun.  What with those tricksey plastic wrappers, the paper stands that never stayed together, the vinegar-scented dyes, and don’t get me started on the flimsy wire dippers with hard-boiled eggs precariously balanced on top.  Egg decorating was serious business! I enjoyed it, but even as a kid my little hippie-brain I wondered about natural dyes, created from food and plant materials.  I never got to try it until last year, however.

Eggs blown out and dyed with onion skins

Onion skins give eggs a beautiful brown marbling

I never got around to posting about it, but those colored eggs up there? The Sprout and I made them last year.  This year we experimented with wrapping the egg shells (I blew out the eggs beforehand) in onion skins, then boiling them for 15 minutes.  It created that lovely marbling.  I have to say, I am completely enamored of these earthy eggs.

Why dye/color eggs with food rather than coloring kits or food coloring? Well one reason is to avoid the chemicals.  This appeals to me because I try to keep as few chemicals as possible in our home.  Another reason, and my main attraction is to do things as they’ve been done for hundreds of years.  Why use chemicals when you don’t have to? I like to create the things I use, and egg decorating is no exception! I guess you could say I just find it fun! :wink:

Closer shot of onion skin-dyed eggs

The instructions for dying eggs with onion skins can be found over at Instructables, along with instructions for other naturally-dyed eggs.  Boulder Locavore also has a great tutorial on naturally-dying eggs.  Wikihow taught me how to blow out eggs.

Now tell me: have you already decorated your Easter eggs this year? If not, are you going to, and how do you plan to do it?

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February 26th, 2012

Salmon and Rice in Puff Pastry

Salmon in Puff Pastry with Rice - uncut with a side of spinach and pasta

How freaking rich does that look?


You know, for someone who doesn’t like fish much, I sure post a lot of fish recipes.

But this one has been in my “food photos” folder for a looooong time and it’s about time I shared it.  I’ve really only made it once but it was pretty dang good and just look at that pastry! It came out so perfectly I had to photograph it! Besides, it’s salmon and I really love salmon, so it’s ok.

When I saw this recipe in the Bon Appétit Cookbook, I was beside myself.  Salmon.  Rice+mushroom+leeks.  Puff pastry.  HELLO dinner! The only thing I changed was to omit the dill sauce because I don’t like dill.  Since I would rather not copy an exact recipe, you can find it here: Salmon and Rice Wrapped in Puff Pastry with Dill Sauce.  I ignored their recommendation to serve with caviar and lemon vodka and instead had sautéed spinach with lemon and garlic and pasta with sundried tomato pesto on the side.  It was a very carbohydrate-heavy meal, but sometimes you just want to load up on carbs, ya know?

What are your favorite side dishes for fish? I usually serve it with rice or cous cous and spinach or corn, but I need some more ideas! Please share!


February 17th, 2012

Irish Cream Truffles

Irish Cream Truffles

Creamy, buttery, boozy. Everything a candy should be.

Happy belated Valentine’s Day, my dears! I hope you had a wonderful day with your loved ones.

It’s been a very crazy time, lately.  January was so full of stuff going on, it just blew right by me, and to be honest, I’m glad for it.  February seems to be doing the same; although this time it’s for better reasons.  I’m making more progress with my Graphic Design business, and we’ve been working on redecorating the apartment.  It feels good to be accomplishing things we’ve been wanting for a couple years now.

Something else I’ve always wanted to do and never been able to accomplish satisfactorily, is give chocolates to my love.  In Japan, the Valentine’s Day tradition is that women give chocolates to the men in their lives (special ones for a special man, and “obligation” chocolate for the others that isn’t usually as nice, but makes them feel thought of).  I like this idea.  It’s much more simple and seems less shallow than Western traditions, but few men in my life know of it or understand it.

The Grump, who used to live in Japan, knows of the tradition but is rather apathetic toward chocolate so he never wanted any from me.  Then sometime in January, I learned that he actually likes white chocolate.  Having thought white chocolate, like all sweet things, fell into the same category of disdain, I gave up on getting to give homemade chocolate on Valentine’s Day.  Giving a Valentine’s gift was lumped into the same thought as receiving one: not going to happen.

But armed with this new found knowledge and a fantastic recipe for Irish Cream truffles made once upon a time with a friend, I was able to go through the excitement of making homemade truffles.  The first step is to choose a good chocolate bar: true white chocolate is not chocolate per se as it has no cacao, but it does have cocoa butter – beware cheap brands that lack this crucial element, replacing it with “flavor.”  Bleh.  After that, it’s really ridiculously easy to make!

I hope you like these truffles.  I am not a fan of white chocolate, but these are just so creamy and buttery that I can’t resist them for too long! Valentine’s Day may be past us this year, but I’m sure you can find an excuse to make a batch of these.

Beaucoup d’amour

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