Asian Salmon with Sauteed Carrots and Leeks

Since we’ve been trying to eat healthier, we’ve found that making healthy foods doesn’t mean skimping on flavor. The recipe for Asian style salmon from The New American Plate is a perfect example. It’s got all the great flavors that you would find in many Asian dishes without frying or using other unhealthy cooking methods.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1/2 cup soy sauce (the recipe calls for reduced sodium, but if you have “regular” on hand, that will work too)
– 1/4 cup lemon juice
– 1 tbsp Chinese hot mustard
– 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice
– 1 lb salmon (4 fillets)
– canola oil
– 2 small carrots, julienned
– 1 leek (white part only), julienned
– 1 cup chicken broth
– 1 tsp sesame oil
– 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

This recipe is really easy, but be prepared to wait about an hour while the salmon marinades before you do any cooking. Combine 1/4 cup of the soy sauce, the lemon juice, mustard and five-spice powder in a resealable plastic bag. Mix together, then add the salmon fillets. Coat well and let marinade in the refrigerator for an hour, turning once.

Preheat the broiler (if your broiler is built in to your oven, make sure to put a baking sheet inside to warm it as well).

Meanwhile, heat a skillet on the oil over medium-high heat and saute the carrots and leeks until tender, about five minutes. Add the broth, the remaining soy sauce and the sesame oil and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed, 10 or 15 minutes. The salmon will take about 10 minutes per inch of thickness, so you can probably start it right after adding the liquid to the pan. Place the fillets on the heated baking sheet (or broiler pan) four inches from the heat and cook until it begins to flake apart, 10 to 15 minutes based on the thickness.

This was seriously one of the easiest meals to make. It only took 15 minutes (minus the marinading time) and you wouldn’t even know it…it tasted like we slaved over the stove for hours. All the flavors of the soy sauce, five-spice and mustard really penetrated the meat of the salmon. The veggies stayed nice a crunchy, but also had great Asian flavors. We also cooked up some plain white rice, which made it feel like we were really in a Chinese restaurant. This dish is for sure a do-over…especially for us since we love Chinese food.

You can find the recipe in The New American Plate Cookbook, which I highly recommend. Every recipe we have made from this book has been really tasty, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re all really good for you!

Pan Fried Halibut

There’s really only so many ways you can cook fish, but I find that the application and the sauce make all the difference in the world. Since Billy is trying some fish for the first time lately, I’ve been trying to come up with some ways to make the “fish” taste less noticeable. In my opinion, sauce is one of the best ways to do that.

Last week, we drenched a nice piece of halibut in some flour than seared/fried it in a pan over medium-high heat. This created a nice crust without being too unhealthy, plus it was the perfect vehicle for a nice lemon butter sauce. The halibut took about 15 minutes to cook all the way through, but it was a pretty thick fillet. We let each side get a nice brown color to it before flipping.

Here’s what you’ll need for the sauce:
– 2 tbsp butter
– 1 shallot, diced
– 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
– salt and pepper
– 1/2 cup white wine
– the juice of 1/2 a lemon
– about 1/4 cup heavy cream

This is a really simple sauce, and it’s great on any kind of fish (we also like to put it on rice or quinoa for a little extra flavor). Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the shallots the the pan and saute until they start to turn translucent, about two minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and let it and the shallots sweat out and cook through. Season with salt and pepper. Next, add the wine and lemon juice to the pan, bring to a simmer and let it reduce by half, about five minutes. Finally, add the cream to the pan, a little at a time (you might not use the entire quarter-cup). I usually let the cream mix in with everything and decide by how the sauce looks whether or not I want to add more. And…that’s it! Spoon the sauce over the fish and you’re good to go!

The crust on the halibut was awesome. It gave the outside of the fish a perfect crunch, but also helped keep the fish nice and moist inside. The sauce really complimented the fish well, giving it the perfect amount of lemon flavor as well as a little texture and crunch from the shallot. We decided to give quinoa another shot, and this time it turned out really good. We used a full two cups of chicken stock to cook it, rather than half stock-half water like last time (thanks for the tip, Jenn!). It’s a great alternative to rice, and also soaked up the sauce really well…definitely a good combination!

Smoked Salmon

Well, sort of. Over the weekend, we found this smoke box attachment type thing made for a regular gas or charcoal grill that basically gives you all the great flavors of smoked food without the smoker. (There are other ways of doing this, such as cooking your food directly on a wood plank, but we had never seen a box made for wood chips.) The box is pretty small, about 10 inches long and one or two inches deep, but it fits right in between the burners on a gas grill. You fill it with wood chips that have been soaked for at least 30 minutes, set it on a pre-heated grill and let it heat up until the chips start to smoke. It’s really simple to use and the salmon came out extra delicious.

We used apple wood for our Atlantic salmon fillet (at the recommendation of Bobby Flay). We soaked the chips for 30 minutes in a cup with another cup set on top to hold them down. While the chips were soaking, we seasoned the salmon with salt, pepper, garlic powder and lemon zest and rubbed in a thin layer of olive oil so the fillet wouldn’t stick to the grill. Billy pre-heated the grill, I drained the wood chips and put them in an even layer in the smoke box then placed the box in between two burners on the grill. With the grill closed, the wood chips began to heat up and started smoke away. After about 10 minutes we could smell the apply goodness…it was time to put the salmon on the grill! Billy put the salmon, skin side down, on the grill, closed the top and let the smoke box do its thing.

When the salmon was about half-way cooked, Billy quickly flipped it (have to get those perfect grill marks!) then shut the grill again in order to keep as much smoke in the grill as possible.

The fish was amazing. It was cooked perfectly, thanks to Billy of course, and had a subtle smoked flavor. Conclusion about the smoke box experiment: awesome deliciousness! We thought that maybe letting the food cook low and slow may give it more of a traditional smoked flavor, but the box is perfect for infusing food with a great smoky flavor. We served the salmon with grilled zucchini and quinoa (instead of rice or potatoes).

This was also our first time trying quinoa. It was…interesting. The texture was pretty close to rice, but it had a small bite to it. It didn’t have much flavor on it’s own, but we tried to boost it up with some salt, pepper, chili powder and lemon zest. Definitely will be using it again, but will need more flavoring ideas…anybody have some they’d like to pass along?