Sunday, February 26, 2006

Black Bean Salmon

OK, before I start out on how great this is, I want to send a serious THANK YOU out to our San Diego friend Charles who sent this to me in one of his comments on my food blog. He in turn, heard of the recipe through a local celebrity cook; the cooking guy. Below is a link to his site. Before departing from San Diego, I had heard of this guy. However, his show/segment on the news only showed late in the morning when I was well on my way to all kinds of mommy errands around town.

I had serious doubts that I would find black bean & garlic sauce at the commissary but luckily, I found it! The Yokosuka commissary really caters to the Filipino, Chinese, and Japanese crowd so it's great if you're willing to venture into the world of Asian cooking. Above is a picture of what black bean & garlic sauce looks like in the package.

This definitely has a sweet and sour feel to it and as simple to make as boiling water....well almost. If the reader hasn't been able to tell, I'm a real fan of minimal ingredients. It makes most dishes easier and in most cases, doesn't take or "confuse" the taste buds away from the natural flavors or the main ingredient. I used 2 large salmon fillets and saved some of the extra sauce for the stirfried Bok Choy that I served along side it. This is what I pulled off the cooking guy's site. Enjoy!

'Only three ingredients, but it tastes like fifty. The black bean & garlic sauce is available in the Asian aisle at any supermarket. Look for the Lee Kum Kee brand.'

4 tablespoons apricot preserves
2 tablespoons black bean & garlic sauce
4 salmon fillets

-Mix apricot and black bean in a small bowl and stir well
-Spoon some over each fillet
-Broil about 10-12 minutes, depending on thickness (remember, let your fillets sit for a minute or 2 before serving. They have the same trait as a steak; they cook a little more once they are out of the oven.)

He has some other recipes you may want to check out at

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Black Beans and Rice

OK, like most Moms not everything I make is a gourmet meal. I do like quick, easy, and yummy recipes that are healthy and feed the hungry masses. Here is a recipe that does just that. Not only is this "yummy", the ingredients make this a budget friendly meal as well(and vegetarian). I stared in awe as my 2 year old gobbled this up!

If you don't have red wine vinegar on had, you can also substitute with some left over red wine. The original recipe states that it serves 4-6. I say strictly 4. To make this even healthier, eat it with brown rice instead of white. Just remember to start it a little ahead of time as brown rice takes longer to cook!(about 45 minutes stovetop)

  • 2 tsp. kosher salt (or regular salt)
  • 2 1/2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups long grain rice
  • 2 medium cloves garlic (or 2 tsp. pre-chopped garlic)
  • 1 medium onion (1 cup)
  • 1 large green or red bell pepper chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 15 ounce cans of black beans
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar (or left over red wine)
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions (optional/ for garnish)

NOTE: If you're not using long grain rice suggested by the recipe discard 1 tsp. or salt and 1 1/2 tsp. of olive oil.

In a medium sauce pan bring to a boil 4 cups of water with 1 tsp. of salt and 1 1/2 tsp of the olive oil. Stir in rice, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.

In a large saucepan (or large deep skillet about 12-14" in diameter)satee the onion, garlic, and pepper for about 5 minutes. Add the beans, broth, vinegar, bay leaves, black pepper, cumin, and remaining salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes; remove the bay leaves. Spoon the beans over the rice and sprinkle with the scallions if desired. Serve warm.

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AKA my 28 day fix....For those of you who got that, I digress. These are fantastically decadent. For those of you who luv chocolate, this is for you. Super easy to whip up any old time. In fact just recently, the commissary has been re-stocked with white chocolate chips. Since my arrival here in Japan, I was waiting for that so I could make this.

If you don't have ramekins, try using small teacups or mugs that can withstand 400 degree oven heat. To melt the chocolate chips and butter together, I just throw them both in a Pyrex measuring cup and pop it in the microwave for several minutes while mixing the other ingredients together. If you can't find superfine sugar, try putting regular sugar in the food processor and process for several seconds. Viola you have superfine sugar. If for some reason, you are seriously jonesin' for these or don't have the time to pull our the Cusinart, you can use regular sugar. I've had it both ways. The superfine sugar does make it have a better texture but they both taste great.

Butter for Ramekins (or just use non-stick cooking spray)
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp. all purpose flour

Place a baking sheet in an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees. Butter four 2/3 cup ramekins and set aside. Using a microwave or double boiler, melt together the semisweet chocolate and butter. Set aside and cool. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, sugar, and flour. Add cooled chocolate mixture, and mix until blended. Fold in white chocolate chips. Divide mixture evenly among ramekins and place on a baking sheet. Bake until tops are shiney and chocolate beneath is hot and gooey. About 20 minutes. Place each ramekin on a small plate with spoon and serve.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Shrimp Bisque

I'm making this again tonight for dinner as it has become a family favorite. I got this recipe from one of my cook books, The Stuffed Cougar. I suppose it's a cook book that was "passed down" to me through marriage. It was originally Mike's Mother's book. It has been well loved it seems over the years. There is a list of committee members on the first page most of them, I imagine were mommy's and wives themselves. What better committee of people to put together a cook book?

While there may be more difficult ways to create shrimp bisque, this recipe is both easy and delicious. There is a typo of sorts in the directions. It calls to pour the cream/milk in 2 times. I'll record it how it appears on the recipe below however, I usually will pour the milk in with the broth and then at the last minute put the lemon zest in. This prevents the lemon zest from getting bitter. For my taste it's a bit salty so, I use caution when adding the salt. It may have to do with the salty chicken broth that I use. Because Josh is still drinking whole milk, I use this in the bisque instead of light cream.

Finally, Barbara thank you so much for handing this down to Michael. I'm looking forward to using many more recipes in this book.

  • 3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
  • 1 Tbsp. onion, grated
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • Dash of Pepper
  • 1 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup minced shrimp
  • 1 Tbsp. minced parsley
  • 2/3 cup light cream or top milk
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest

Melt butter in saucepan, and cook onion until golden, stirring occasionally. Add flour and seasonings; blend. Add milk and broth gradually, while stirring constantly on low heat. Mix in shrimp and parsley, cook 10 minutes. Add cream and lemon rind, reheat. Serves 2 as a main course & 4-6 as a first course.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Strawberry-Ginger Tisane

No picture for this one yet. It is pretty though. Just tried this from my Cooking 1-2-3 book by Rozanne Gold. It's strawberry season here in Japan so, what better time to try?! I'd have to say it's got an interesting taste. I would have never thought to pair Ginger with Strawberries. The ginger adds quite a "bite" at the end. I've heard that it's healthy to drink Ginger tea when you have a tummy ache and it helps with digestion. In fact many Japanese meals include some pickled ginger on the side. I tried it hot originally but Mike and I agree that it would definitely taste better cold. Give it a try and let me know what you think! A lot of the cooking utensils can be supstituted into bowls or regular pots if like me, you don't have a collection of teapots in lying around in your kitchen.

1 pint very ripe strawberries
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3-inch piece fresh ginger

Wash berries and remove stems. Put berries and sugar in bowl of a food processor. Process until almost smooth. Transfer strawberry puree to a large teapot. (I used just a regular pot.)

Put 4 cups cold water in a saucepan. Peel ginger, cut into think slicesand add to water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into teapot. Cover teapot and let sit for 10 minutes. Pour through a tea strainer.

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Mozzarella in Carrozza

Like the picture? I'll try to include them in the recipe when I can. I got this idea from my girlfriend Aime's site. She just started up a recipe page and has been teaching Japanese women American style cooking for a while now.

This is basically an Italian version of a Grilled Cheese Sandwhich. Except for it's way better and it's way more fattening. I tried this today for lunch and couldn't help but think of devious additions to make to this sandwhich. For instance, placing pepperoni in with the cheese? Hmmmm.......the perfect food for watching the Superbowl. Very similar to a cheese stick. This hands down is an Italian-ooooey-gooooey-masterpiece.

6 slices of white bread, (the cheaper and softer the better) crusts removed
1 fist-sized ball mozzarella, cut into approx. 1/4-inch slices, then strips
1/2 cup whole milk
3 heaping tablespoons of all purpose flour
1 egg
salt and pepper
olive oil (not extra-virgin) for frying

Make sandwiches out of the bread and mozzarella, leaving a little margin aroudn the edges unfilled with cheese, and press the edges together with your fingers to help seal. (One of the advantages of soft white bread is that it is easily smushed together.) Pour the milk into the one soup bowl, the flour into another, and beat the egg with salt and pepper in another. Warm the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Dunk the sanwiches briefly, one by one, in the milk, then dredge in teh flour, then dip in the beaten egg. Fry in hot oil on each side till crisp and golden and remove to a paper towl. Cut in half and apple to face! Great with marinara sauce.
Serves 2.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Bourbon Pepper Steak is a fantastic resource for recipes. It's great for searching under any ingredient. Just type in a search and you'll get hundreds of recipes to browse through. I got this one from It's fairly simple but has a sophisticated taste to it. I've used different cuts of meat than New York cut strip steaks so, feel free to experiment! I also don't have a cast iron skillet yet so I just use my little non stick one and it dose the trick. It's a great way to use up that extra little bit of wine left over from the night before.

4 (8-ounce) New York cut strip steaks, trimmed of all visible fat
4 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns (more if desired)
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon pure olive oil
1/4 cup good Kentucky bourbon
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 brown stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Coat the steaks with the cracked pepper and season with salt. Place the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet and heat 1 minute before adding the steaks. Cook over medium heat 3 minutes on each side for medium rare. Remove the steak to warm serving plates. Drain the excess fat from the pan and carefully add the bourbon, away from the heat. Reduce the heat to low and reduce the bourbon until the pan is nearly dry. Add the red wine, raise the hat to medium and reduce to half. Add the brown stock, bring to a boil, cook 6 minutes and "finish" by swirling the butter into the sauce. Remove from the heat and divide the sauce among the steaks.

Roasted Asparagus

Growing up in the valley of central California (Sacramento), we had a ton of harvest type festivals. Including an Asparagus festival. My mother is a regular every year at this festival still. It's such a big event that, when Mike and I got married, the festival was going on after our big day. As we departed on our honeymoon, Mike's parents still had some time in the Great capital city with my parents before taking the plane back to Virginia. So, my parents and his decided to go to the asparagus festival. What better time to bond than over a steaming plate of asparagus? Actually it's a really great festival with a lot of other things besides asparagus.

Asparagus is one of those vegetables you either love or hate. Mike hates Asparagus....Especially when I dip it mayonnaise. For those of you unfamiliar with my husbands dislikes, mayonnaise is at the top of that list. At any rate, for the sake of saving face in front of our son, Mike will stomach the occasional asparagus if it is cooked in this way. (with NO mayonnaise)

I'm unfamiliar as to how many people this would serve. If you are using Japanese style asparagus, keep a sharp eye while you are roasting so as not to burn the little tender things! I just recently cooked this with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar supplied by our friends in Italy. Thank you so much for the great care package!

1 pound fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a roasting pan toss the asparagus with the olive oil and vinegar until coated. Spread asparagus out in a single layer, if possible. Roast asparagus for 10 minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Snap Beans Gremolata

I believe that it's part of a mother's duty to get something "green" on the dinner table every night. By "green", I mean any kind of vegitable excluding, potatoes and corn! Over the last 2 years of being a mother, it's been a tough job to come up with new recipes for veggies that were low fat and still tasted great. (no broccoli covered in Velveta!) Believe me, I'm not perfect. We still have lots of days where Mac & Cheese and Hot Dogs are on the menu. I try my best...hey, we're all human.

I found this recipe in Woman's Day Magazine. (In fact, I stole the pages from my mothers magazine copy! SHHHHH!) It sounds more exotic than it really is. If you can't find yellow wax beans, don't fret. This works well with strait green beans. I've substituted in the recipe loads of times. From switching fresh parsley to dried , using bottled lemon juice, using limes instead of lemons. The results have always worked well. I don't love green beans but, they are healthy and this recipe helps them go down a little easier for the whole family. I usually don't add the zest of the lemon as it tends to be a little too lemony for our taste.

Watch the beans while you boil them and test one out 5 minutes into the cooking process. It can be tricky getting them to your liking.

12 oz each green beans & yellow wax beans
1/2 finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1 Tabspoon each grated lemon peel, lemon juice, olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 pods)
1/2 teaspoon each salt & pepper

Boil beans 7-8 minutes until tender (NOT SOGGY). In a bowl mix remaining ingredients. Add hot beans & serve.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Maple-Glazed Salmon Steaks

This is super easy and has such a different flavor. I took this recipe from one of my favorite books Cooking 1-2-3 by Rozanne Gold. In this book, all the recipes contain only 3 ingredients. (excluding of course, water, salt & pepper.) Although it may sound easy, many of the recipes are very involved. This one, however is not. The only note that I have is that you don't have to use skin-on salmon steaks. Although, the excess fat contained in the skin does help keep the fish moist and it's very easy to seperate the skin from the fish. I've also substituted maple syrup for honey. The honey burns a little more but has the same feel to it. This recipe definitely has some sweet and sour inspiration to it. 9-ounce salmon steaks are pretty hefty servings. The quantity of meat can be taken down with the same outcome!

4 thick 9-ounce salmon steaks, skin on
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
4 limes

Remove any small bones from the fish using tweezers. Place maple syrup in a small bowl. Grate rind of 1 lime to get 1 teaspoon zest. Cut 2-3 limes in half and squeeze to get 1/4 cup juice. Whisk maple syrup, lime juice, and zest together with a large pinch of salt. Place salmon in a shallow casserole and pur maple-lime marinade over fish. Let marinate at room temperature for 1 hour, turning fish several times.

Preheat broiler.

Place salmon on a broiler pan or rimmed baking sheet, reserving excess marinade in a small skillet. Broil for about 5 minutes, until fish is golden brown and cooked to desired doneness. Be careful not to overcook; fish should remain moist. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Reduce marinade over high heat until syrupy, adding a little more lime juice to taste. Using a pastry brush, brush reduced marinade over fish. Serve with wedges or thin slices of lime on top.