Sunday, February 27, 2011

Grilled Maple Salmon with Ginger and Garlic

 I must have read about a million recipes on how to cook salmon. Of that million I’ve probably use about a thousand of those. Yes, I’m exaggerating a tad. But, I have cooked Salmon in many different styles, both purposely and experimental. Salmon is one of those things you acquire a taste for, at lest for me, I came to love it over time. My first Salmon steak experience was at my Aunt house, in Laguna Beach California. I can’t say I was overly thrilled to have it for a meal at age 12. I was more of a Mac and Cheese, Hamburger and Hot Dog kind of kid at the time.

My Aunt and Uncle in the 70’s were big into the Real Estate market in that part of California and of course they had many different hobbies. My Aunts hobby was food. She loved to Wine and Dine us when we came to visit in the summers. I blame a lot of my interest in food on her. It was amazing that she could make food I would normally dry heave at the very thought of eating, taste and look amazingly good and Salmon being one of those items that just didn’t look appealing to me. I recall her asking me if I like Tuna sandwiches, and of course I replied that I did. So she prepared some grilled Salmon all the while toasting some local French bread and making a simple garlic Aioli. She served it to me somewhat disguised. I ate it down!

My time cooking in kitchens I have prepared dish after dish of Salmon grilled, poached, steamed, baked and on a few occasions just cooked with citrus juices. My personal favorite is fresh Salmon grilled with just Salt, Pepper, and a bit of garlic, Simple, but yet delicious. But, I find that a lot of people want something infused into there Salmons taste like Sweet, savory, Salty, Nutty and Citrusy. I think the most popular taste was teriyaki. People recognized it and new they liked anything Teriyaki. Simply, I just marinated the Salmon in Teriyaki for a day and then grilled it when I needed it. When I turned the Salmon over it was a matter of brushing the top of the Salmon with the grill marks and sprinkling with sesame seeds. It seems to always have been a hit and we always ran out of Salmon before the end of the nightly service.

So lately, with Salmon being on my mind and also some of the dishes that my Sister in-law writes about using Maple Syrup, my cog and wheels have been thinking about uniting the two. I will admit I have not cooked with Maple Syrup to many times and I’m no expert by any standards, but it does have a distinct flavor and depending on the region the Maple Trees grows, will depend on the flavor of your Maple Syrup.

So here is my attempt to infuse Salmon and Maple Syrup. That almost sounds like the beginnings of a bad joke, “this Salmon walked into a Bar and sat next to a Maple tree……..” Ok, let’s not go there; instead let’s just move forward to the recipe. Here you go!

Grilled Maple Salmon with Ginger and Garlic

4 salmon fillets
1/3 cup orange juice – (Squeezed fresh)
1/3 cup maple syrup – (100% maple syrup, shoot for Vermont Maple Syrup)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
3 cloves minced garlic
Sesame seeds

In a bowl whisk the maple syrup, soy sauce, orange juice, ginger, and garlic. Then pour the marinade into a baking dish, place salmon in the marinade, and refrigerate covered for 24 hours.

Bring your grill up to med-high heat.

Grill Advice:
It’s very important to make sure you brush your grates clean once your grill is up to heat. After you brush them vigorously, let them sit a bit to burn off any residue prior to prepping your grates for the Salmon.

Going to Task:
Brush your grates with olive oil. If you feel the need, Season salmon fillets with a pinch of Sea salt (not too much since you’re using soy in the marinade) and pepper, then grill 3 minutes per side, only turning once. I know you want to poke and prod the little buggers but resist the urge!!!

When you turn your Salmon brush the grill marked top with your leftover marinade and then sprinkle the sesame seed on the top. Depending on how much you like Sesame seeds, just coat lightly or heavily.

Pull your Salmon of the grill and serve. No need for a resting time since the Salmon will keep cooking for a minute after you pull it off the grill. Salmon does not require a resting time as meat commonly does.

Personally, I think this would serve well on a bed of Bean and Alfalfa sprouts mixed with a little flat leaf Parsley. But that’s just my personal taste. Just go crazy with what you like.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

This past few weeks has been nuts! Were to find the time to sit down and allow myself to drift off into the world of memories, thoughts, and food? This past weekend I spent quality time in a kitchen with my 3 favorite things, Dessert, Coffee, and 1 on 1 Conversation with a good friend. He slung cup after cup of Coffee all the while I plated dessert after dessert severing 80 some people. The weekend prior to that, I made mad passionate love to several large bottles of Nyquil in order to defeat a nasty cold. So, I really haven’t felt up to writing until today.

Over the past several weeks I made myself a goal to read something other than food related articles, books, and blogs. So I made a few selections to read every day, such as a local forum called Lander Talks, The New York Times, and The LA Times. My favorite section of course is food and travel, but I made myself skip them with much complaining from my will power. I don’t really have much to say or report from reading world news, other than the world over all, is business as usual.

Locally speaking, there seems to always be some hot topics that stirs up the opinions of our local community. They never cease to impress and shock me, all at the same time. There was one topic that ignited a debate both pro and con about Equality in the State of Wyoming and the rights of the “Gay community” within this great state. Though I wasn’t willing to partake in this debate, I read both sides and was impressed with some of the responses, but also wasn’t so impressing was the wiliness for some to be vile and obtuse in there responses. Towards the end of the discussion I decided to offer up my opinion/thought (I got sucked in) and I posted the following:

“I often try and avoid getting sucked into no winner debates. Like this past weeks back and forth about being gay or not in the state of Wyoming. After 13 years of marriage to my loving wife who has humbled me over the years in both my opinions and my actions, I offer this word of advice: Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God."

After I posted that, I didn’t think much of it. To my shock, I opened my email the following day to find 38 new letters. My first reaction before opening any of them was “Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?” Only, to be very humbled that many thought the opinion to be refreshing and of good advice. A few of the emails went on explaining to me there viewpoints and what lead them to feel the way they felt. It was all very touching.

So here I sit on a Sunday morning, thinking to myself what I have learned from this past few weeks of NON food related reading? Well, simply this, I should stick to what I know and love and leave the politics and the moral judgments to a higher power. That reading things that truly don’t interest me, should be left to those that it does interest. And lastly, the real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

So, with all that said, I want to leave you with a recipe. The simple reason I leave you with this one, is because when I was giving the advice, “Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.” We were having a large bowl of it.

Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)


Beef Broth:
1 small onion, chopped
1 2-inch stick of ginger
2 pounds beef bones
12 cups water
6 star anise
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pound lean, tender beef

1 16-ounce package dry, flat rice noodles (pho)

3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
10 cilantro sprigs, finely chopped
1 cup bean sprouts
10 sprigs basil
10 sprigs fresh cilantro
fresh red or green Chile pepper, thinly sliced

Lime or lemon quarters
Fish sauce
Hoisin sauce
Hot Chile sauce

Broil onion and ginger until they look burned. Using back of knife, smash the ginger and set aside.

Wash beef bones, place in a large soup pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and immediately pour off this "first boiling" water and discard.

Add another 12 cups of fresh water and again bring to a boil. Skim off foam. Add the broiled onion and ginger, star anise, salt and sugar. Over medium-low heat, simmer for 30 minutes.

Slice raw beef into thin strips and set aside.

Remove bones from broth and strain out vegetables and seasonings.

Soak noodles in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain.

In a soup pot bring two quarts fresh water to a boil. Add drained noodles and cook seven minutes at a rolling boil, stirring occasionally until noodles are tender. Rinse noodles under cold running water and set aside.

Return the broth to a boil over high heat.

To serve:
Divide noodles among 4 to 6 large individual serving bowls. Arrange thinly sliced raw beef, scallions, onion, and cilantro on top. Pour boiling hot broth to cover noodles and serve immediately. The boiling broth will cook the thin slices of beef. Pho is always accompanied by bean sprouts, basil leaves, cilantro and Chile pepper. Serve with lime and lemon quarters, fish sauce, hoisin sauce and hot Chile sauce.

In closing, I want to thank those of you who sent me emails of kind words, and also say “I understand” to those of you who explained your view. I respect your opinions and I look forward to reading them in the future. GO 1st Amendment GO!


Monday, February 7, 2011

Impossible Becoming Possible

I may be a Millionaire, according to Publishers Clearing House! Lest that’s what the big letter told me in the mail lately! A million dollars a year for the rest of my life, and all my cares are washed away in a stream of paperwork and CPA audits. Wouldn’t that be wonderful to have that big van of people show up on your doorstep early in the morning before you’re showered or dressed? National TV camera waiting at the ready for you to answer the door, all the while your heading to the door ready to unload on, what you think is a dude who is trying to use a tissue box to open an opportunity to sell you a bottle of remarkable satin remover and a vacuum that is so powerful it will suck the air out of your house.

You open the door, and BOOM! Your life is transformed. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I will be the first to admit that I fantasize about that situation. All the dreams of opening a Bistro would finally come true. Our dreams of traveling the world and experiencing culture and food would be a reality. Our children wouldn’t have to be limited on education choices. Our retirement would become instantaneous.

*END DREAM* Enter reality!

Statistics for winning the PCH is the following: 1 in 1,505,000,000

I have to laugh, because deep down, like every other person in the US, I think I’m that one! I think it’s important to have that little child like faith in the impossible. It’s funny because deep down I really do believe in the impossible. I see it happen all over the world day after day. I see people who should not have survived, survive! I see people beat the odds financially. I see people cured from cancer when just a few months ago the Doctor deemed them terminal. The imposable is possible.

My father played the California lotto religiously, buying his ticket every week right up to the time when Prostate cancer killed him. He believed in the impossible. He once told me this, “We adopted you and your sister, even though at that time adoption seemed impossible. But it happened. It happened twice, once with your sister, then again with you.”

I once believed I would never find someone to marry. I just didn’t think that person I dreamed about existed. Well, I was wrong. I’ve been happily married for 13 years and have two children. Once again the impossible became the possible.

Dreaming is good. Realizing your dream is good as well. Keep yourself attached to reality and let it bookmark your path in this world. I think the great people of the world had those impossible dreams, and many of them made those dreams reality against all the odds.

So I leave you with this thought. If it seems impossible to do, do it. Your dreams may become the possible.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Artichoke Soup

 Wonderful Wyoming weather can inspire one to do many things. For example, hiking into the deep dark wilderness that is and always has been, void of human habitation. Maybe, Climbing Wind River Peek or even better, scaling the Tetons and calling home on your cell phone. The Wyoming winters also inspire many activities such as ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and for some ice skating. Lately with the temps outside dipping to 30 to 20 degrees BELOW zero, I’m only inspired to do one thing, Make soup.

I’ve know dozen upon dozen of people locally and all over the states that do these activities week to week. Personally, I love winter photography. I love to stroll around un-noticed shooting picture after picture. Of course, while walking around town and there neighborhoods in the dead of winter inspires me to crave something hot like soup, or in my children’s case, a cup of hot Atole.

All soups starts with a basic stock. I live by the golden rule of “If your Stock is good, your soup will be great.” So firstly let’s start with a Chicken stock. The following recipe is from one of my cookbooks by Charlie trotter.

Because I love Mister Trotters cook books sooooooo much here are a few of them:
Charlie Trotter'sLessons in Excellence from Charlie TrotterCharlie Trotter's Meat and GameHome Cooking with Charlie Trotter (Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection)Charlie Trotter's SeafoodCharlie Trotter Cooks at Home

Chicken stock
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 4 hours and 45 minutes
Yield: 2 quarts

6 pounds chicken bones
3 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped carrots
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped leeks
1 tablespoon whole white peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Place all the ingredients in a large stockpot and cover three-fourths of the way with cold water (about 2 gallons).

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and slowly simmer for 4 hours, skimming every 30 minutes to remove the impurities that rise to the surface.

Strain and continue to cook over medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes or until reduced down to about 2 quarts.

For many years I made my soup stocks with bouillon chicken base. It was fast and easy. But it lacked depth in flavor. After learning how to make stocks and perfecting them over time, also accompanied by finding good recipes, like Charlie trotters, my soups and sauces started to become more flavorful and more complex in flavor.

Artichoke Soup

8 large globe artichokes
2 quarts Chicken stock (see above)
1 bunch parsley stems
⅓ cup olive oil
4 stems fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 chili pepper
1 bunch mint
1 bunch parsley, blanched

Trim artichokes; remove leaves until you reach hearts. Remove thistles and place hearts in large stockpot. Over medium-low heat, stew hearts with 1 quart stock, parsley stems, olive oil, thyme, bay leaf and chili pepper about 45 minutes or until tender. Strain through fine mesh sieve and discard parsley stems, thyme, bay leaf and chili pepper. Purée hearts with mint and blanched parsley until smooth. Adjust consistency with remaining stock.

Serve Hot!

After a while of thinking about soup and stock recipes that would be easy to recreate in your own kitchen on many levels, I had finally decided with the above. Truthfully, there really isn’t a short road to making a good soup if you doing it from scratch. Stocks take time to make. End result will always be delicious and flavorful.