Jul 122013

salmon and potato casserole

It’s the middle of the Nine Days that culminate in the fast of Tisha B’Av. Discounting Shabbat meals and the fast itself, that’s six days of no meat or chicken. A week of meatless days on the Jewish calendar means lots of fish, like red mullet in chermoulah and grains. More vegetables than usual. More eggs in creative ways, and er, well, more fish.

Yesterday I was shopping in a hurry. The family was going to need dinner in about an hour, but I was in the middle of a project that needed all my attention. I didn’t want to spend lots of time chopping, stirring, and hovering obsessively over the stove as I usually do.

What, oh what would dinner be?

A package of salmon fillets caught my eye as I trundled past with my shopping cart – I snatched it up, thinking, salmon cooks quickly and everyone likes it.

Back home, a damp, chilly package of salmon fillets thawing out on the kitchen counter.  Me, suddenly empty of ideas, looking around the kitchen. My cookware said: put it in a clay pot and let the oven do the work.

My pots and pans often provide the answer to What’s For Dinner. There’s more on my theory of Pot/Food-Vision Syndrome on this post. Which happens to be a recipe for spicy brown beans, also appropriate for the Nine Days.

But back to dinner, and the salmon. I couldn’t cook the salmon just bare. There had to be potatoes and onions and herbs and tomatoes, at least. And plenty of lemon. So this is what I did.

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Oct 252011

image-slow-cooked-salmonIt never crossed my mind to slow-cook fish until I stood contemplating a fillet of salmon. I needed to be doing other things and wanted to put it on the fire and walk away from for a while.  Then my eye fell on my tagra, a clay vessel typical of Moroccan Berber cooking

I love cooking in clay pots. My beans are never so tasty as when they’re simmered for hours in a clay pot I keep only for them. My mother, brought up in Nicaragua, says that when she was young, there were no other kinds of pots but clay. People went to the open-air market, where a vendor displayed a variety of clay pots on a blanket placed on the ground, and bought as needed. Maybe my love of clay cooking vessels is a throwback to the taste of Nicaraguan cooking of almost 100 years ago.

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Jul 152010

Black Beans

Observant Jews refrain from meat and wine for the first nine days of the month of Av, culminating in the fast of  Tisha B’Av – a catastrophic date in the Jewish calendar. This year, the Nine Days began on Sunday evening, July 11th. Tisha B’Av will start on the evening of Monday, July 19th.

Several readers have written me privately, asking for vegetarian recipes appropriate for these days. (On Shabbat we are allowed to rejoice and eat meat and drink wine.)  So for these last five or so days of mourning, here are four simple meatless ideas. Adjust servings to the size of your family, of course.

Vegetable-Stuffed Potatoes. Serves 4.  Bake 4 potatoes. While they’re baking, steam a small head of broccoli or cauliflower. When the potatoes are cooked through, allow them to cool, then split them in half and remove the flesh. Leave the jackets intact. Mash the cooked potato flesh with cream cheese and plenty of chopped chives; add the chopped, steamed vegetable and salt/pepper/paprika to taste.  Stuff this mixture back into the potato jackets, piling it high. Dot the surface of the potatoes with butter, sparingly. Put the stuffed potatoes back in the oven for 15 minutes to re-heat; serve.

Salmon In Foil. Serves  4. Make a foil square big enough for 4 salmon fillets or steaks to sit on without crowding. Drizzle olive oil over the foil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the salmon on the foil. Squeeze a lemon over the fish. Dust it with salt, pepper, and cumin. Slice a tomato thickly and place the slices on top of the fish. Salt the tomato slices lightly. Chop a good handful of parsley, chives, or cilantro, and scatter the herbs over the fish. Drizzle all with olive oil.

Place another foil square over the fish and pinch all sides of both squares together, creating a package. Bake the fish at 350°F – 180°C for 30 minutes. Remove the package from the oven – carefully, it might leak hot juices. Allow the fish to sit for 10 minutes before opening the package and serving.

Curried Lentils, Rice, and Spicy Yogurt Sauce. Serves 6. Rinse 1 cup of rice and cook it up your favorite way. Cook 1 cup lentils in salted water, with 1 bay leaf and 1 peeled garlic clove, for 30 minutes or until they’re cooked through but still firm. (Cook them covered.) Drain them, but reserve any cooking water. Remove the bay leaf and cooked garlic clove.

In a skillet, fry 1 medium chopped onion, one small bell pepper and one medium chopped carrot in olive oil or butter. When the vegetables are tender, add 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1- 1/2  teaspoon curry powder, and salt/pepper to taste. Stir and cook a few minutes; long enough for the vegetables to take on the seasonings. Add the lentils to the skillet. Stir and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of the cooking water if the dish seems dry.

In a bowl, mix unflavored white yogurt with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, 1 small crushed clove of garlic, 1 small, finely chopped cucumber, and salt to taste.

Serve the lentils and rice separately, with hard-boiled eggs and the yogurt sauce on the side.

Black Beans. Follow this link to black beans. Serve them with rice, couscous, or bulgur.

May we soon know Tisha B’Av as a day of rejoicing.

Mar 242010

orange-glazed salmon and stuffed tomatoes

Salmon and orange, there’s an interesting combination for you. It makes a change from gefilte fish at the Seder table, if you want to depart from the old-fashioned Eastern European tradition.

And just in time for warmer weather,  tomatoes are bouncing back from the winter doldrums, looking fat and juicily red. If you’re looking for a dairy menu to serve during Passover week, try the cheese-stuffed ones below. Both recipes are fast and easy, with few ingredients. To round out the dish, try the garlicky potatoes I made the other night.

Orange-Glazed Salmon Fillets

Adapted from AllRecipes.com

serves 4


4 salmon fillets – about 1 kilo – 2 lbs.
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 -1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground ginger root – or 1 teaspoon powdered
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar –  or use another vinegar if balsamic isn’t available for Passover


1. Preheat oven 400 ° F – 200 ° C.

2. Cook the orange juice over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. When it’s reduced to half and thick, stir the vinegar and ginger  into it.

4. Have a baking pan ready and lined with baking paper. Put the salmon fillets down on it, skin side down. Sprinkle the flesh with salt and pepper. Pour 1/4 cup of the orange juice over the fillets.

5. Bake the  salmon 10 minutes.

6. Drizzle the rest of the juice over the fillets and continue baking 10 to 15 minutes. When the flesh breaks off in rosy flakes, it’s done.

7. Remove the salmon to a warm platter, or cover it and keep it warm on the stove top. Now reduce the roasting juices by letting them cook another 5 minutes at the oven’s highest temperature. When the juices are thick, spoon them out and spread them over the fish.


This dish is good cold too, if you have leftovers.

Cheese-Stuffed Tomatoes

adapted from Al-HaShulchan’s Sukkot 2009 Magazine

Serves 4

Roast tomatoes stuffed with cheese


4 large tomatoes

1/2 cup feta or other salty, medium-firm white cheese

1/2 cup any blue-veined cheese

1 long green onion (scallion)

8 black olives, pitted and halved

2 tablespoons matzah meal

a pinch each of salt and pepper

a pinch of dried thyme or oregano, or any dried herb of choice

1 tablespoon olive oil


Preheat the oven to 350° F – 180° C.

1. Cut the tomatoes in half, from the stem end down. Squeeze out the seeds and gel. Place them, cut side up, on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

2. Chop the cheeses into dice and mix them up.

3. Chop the scallion and mix it into the cheeses.

4. Stuff the cavities of the tomatoes with the cheese.

5. Place 2 halves of olives on top of each tomato.

6. Mix the matzah meal with the salt, pepper, and dried herb. Sprinkle this over the tops of the tomatoes.

7. Drizzle the olive oil over all.

Roast for 30 minutes. There will be some liquid on the bottom – spoon it over the tops of the tomatoes when you serve.

Feb 252009

Let me think out loud here. Last Thursday was the last time I shopped.  I have been trying to become more conscious of over-shopping and over-cooking for some time, so I patted myself on the back when I saw no weekend leftovers. Then on Sunday I saw this challenge on eGullet, and I jumped in.

We’ve been managing fine with very few new purchases, all this week.  I deliberately didn’t tell my husband about the challenge till today. Neither he, our daughter, or my Mom, who eats with us most days of the week, has noticed any difference in the quantity or quality of the food I serve. I’m the one who’s been racking her brains, but hey – I chose this.

Yesterday I did buy some stuff, as noted before. Let’s see: bag of carrots,2 artichokes, 2 liters of milk, a dozen eggs. Tomorrow I’ll have to add: 2 kilos of flour for bread, one kg. of turkey or a  chicken, cucumbers, tomatoes, more milk to get us through till Sunday. I don’t think I’ll need anything else. Very small shopping for a family of 4 (including Mom), isn’t it? Fortunately we were well stocked with detergent, toilet paper, bath soap, etc. This is because I do buy these things in bulk. I make a special trip to the discount supermarket about once every two weeks for them.

If I were to run out of any of those, I’d just go and buy it. The no-shopping challenge doesn’t require that we go without the essentials of civilized life.

This experiment is teaching me that my needs are smaller than I thought. I can buy less and feed my family very well. My cooking emphasizes fresh ingredients, bought a little at a time over the week. I can do this because I live in a small country where farms and dairies are very close to the markets. And food, relative to US prices, is not expensive. I think that to reduce my grocery bill, I don’t need to change my buying pattern, just eliminate over-stocking. I’ll try to total up the cost of my exceptional purchases in the summing-up, next Sunday.

So for today’s meals.

Husband loves his meat, so although The Little One and I prefer vegetarian/dairy, I cook poultry or meat about three times a week. There was no chicken or turkey of any kind around today, and I was feeling a little anxious. But wait! In the freezer there were several pieces of raw chicken taken off birds I’d cooked previously. Knowing that we never eat a whole big chicken in one go, I took off thighs and wings and froze them, rather than have to deal with leftovers later. Stock, I thought. But there was enough for a meal. So, although I usually make this dish with an entire chicken, I made a small Arroz Con Pollo – Latin American rice with chicken.

With the chicken pieces, I made a soup. One onion, one long carrot, one celery stalk, one dried Shiitake mushroom, two cloves of garlic, two halves of dried tomato. Dried tomato, because there are only two fresh ones left.  A little salt. Left the soup simmering for about an hour while I did other things.

When the soup was ready, I infused some saffron in it, as in the rice I served with Fish In Coconut Milk.

Next step: a sofrito of  onion, red bell pepper and garlic in the pot for Arroz con Pollo. Salt. Added the rice and toasted it a little. Removed the chicken from the soup, added it to the sofrito. After a few minutes, the saffron-infused soup was ready to be added. The rice in arroz con pollo should be softer than plain rice. My mother taught me to use three times as much liquid as rice for it, whereas a plain rice dish uses only two.

The finished dish…

The Little One and I eat more fish meals than Husband, so I went shopping in the freezer again. A package of salmon steaks came to hand. On the eGullet forum, a member contributed a recipe –  skewered fish and chicken glazed with a Japanese sauce. It looked easy and delicious, so I copied it, using only fish. Here’s my variation.

Broiled Salmon Skewers with Quasi-Japanese Sauce

Serves 2 – can easily be doubled or tripled


2 Salmon steaks

1/2 cup sweet wine – the recipe calls for Mirin, a sweet rice wine, but I used a semi-sweet mead

1 Tblsp. soy sauce

1 Tblsp. honey

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 tsp. minced ginger root

2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

1 Tblsp. sesame oil, or other oil (not olive)


First, have ready 4 skewers. If you’re using wooden ones, it helps to soak them in cold water for 10 minutes or more, to keep them from burning in the broiler.

Then, make the sauce.

1. Put the wine, soy sauce and honey into a wok or deep skillet. Light a high flame under it and start stirring. Get it to boil and then lower the flame, stirring the while. You want the liquid to reduce to about half, but not evaporate away.

2. Add the lemon juice, ginger, crushed garlic, and sesame oil. Cook another 5 minutes. Turn the flame off and let it rest.

3. Cut each salmon steak into chunks. Put the chunks into the somewhat cool sauce and let them marinate about 5 minutes. Turn the chunks over a few times to let them soak the sauce up.

4. Thread the salmon chunks onto the skewers, turning the skin side up to let it char deliciously under the grill.

5. Broil for 10 minutes, skin side up, then 5 more minutes on the other side.

6. While the salmon is broiling, go back to the sauce. Boil it down to almost a syrup. There should be only 3 or 4 tablespoons left when you’re done. Glaze the salmon with this, and save any left over to spoon onto the fish at the table.

The side dish is quinoa with mallows.

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