Salmon en Papillote

Main Dishes, Recipes

En papillote… sounds awfully fancy, doesn’t it? French for “in parchment,” this dish is exactly as it sounds – salmon fillets baked in a parchment pouch. It looks impressive for its simplicity of preparation, and best of all, the parchment packaging makes cleanup a breeze (yes, I know I sound like a Reynold’s foil commercial).

Quick & easy baked salmon

Quick & easy baked salmon en papillote

I think salmon and lemon are a classic combination, so why fix what isn’t broken? I went extra simple (only 4 ingredients!) with fresh lemon, butter, and a lemon pepper blend, but you could easily spruce this up with some fresh or dried dill, fresh lemon zest, or even a splash of white wine for flavor and moisture.

Ingredients:

2 fillets of salmon, skin-on, about 3-4 oz per fillet

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, sliced into two thin pats

1 lemon

1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning blend (or salt & pepper to taste)

Parchment paper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Tear out two large squares of parchment paper, about as long as the width of the roll. Arrange the squares like a compass, so that one of the points (i.e. the “southern” point) is pointing toward you. If desired, rinse the fillets and pat dry with a paper towel. Place each fillet skin side down on its own square of parchment, a bit south of the center.

Step 1: Cleaned fillet sprinkled with lemon pepper

Step 1: Cleaned fillet sprinkled with lemon pepper

Season with lemon pepper seasoning blend. If the blend does not include salt, sprinkle a bit on the fillet as well.

Step 2: Butter!

Step 2: Butter!

Top each fillet with a small pat of butter, for moisture and flavor.

Step 3: Fresh Lemon!

Step 3: Fresh Lemon!

Cut two thick slices from the lemon and set aside the rest for later. Layer the lemon slice over the butter.

Now to make the iconic en papillote pouches. Fold the north corner down to the match the south corner and enclose the fillet. Starting from one side, either east or west, fold over the newly created folded edge in small, tight, acute-angled folds. Be sure the folds overlap, working your way around to create a rough circle or semi-circle.

Step 4: Fold and set on a baking sheet

Step 4: Fold and set on a baking sheet

Set the pouches onto a baking sheet and stick into the preheated oven. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. The fillets will be a bit firm to the touch when they are ready.

Part of the fun is opening it up like a present, so I like to plate my salmon en papillote straight out of the oven. Garnish with fresh wedges from the reserved lemon. Cut or tear open the packet and dinner is served!

Voila!

Voila!

Salmon en papillote is also a great fuss-free dish for dinner parties. The pouches can be assembled in advance and kept in the refrigerator until dinnertime. Each guest receives a pre-portioned dinner that’s simple and delicious! Serve alongside steamed vegetables (or pictured above: blanched broccoli florets) or a rice pilaf.

Chicken Noodle Soup (Adorable Shapes Welcomed)

Main Dishes, Recipes

April Showers make me want to curl up in our cozy house with a hot bowl of comforting chicken noodle soup, especially since the aroma of chicken will likely lure at least one of our cats over to beg for a morsel. I’ll be honest, I used to be content to opening up a can of Campbell’s (the one with the star shapes was my favorite), but after making your own chicken soup, you can never really go back. This is the perfect recipe to use up random chicken parts – wings are great for both rendering the stock and shredding up to eat since they have a good bone-to-meat ratio, but you can also use a chicken carcass (perhaps after butchering your own chicken – my latest “thing”) paired with more meaty parts. I’ve even been known to muster up the effort to prepare this soup for myself while out sick, it’s that easy. Leftovers freeze well for a rainy day, but this small-batch recipe will serve about 4.

Chicken Noodle Soup (made even more fun with Hello Kitty Macaroni)

Chicken Noodle Soup (made even more fun with Hello Kitty shaped macaroni!)

Ingredients:

1 lb bone-in chicken (I used 10 wings)

1 tablespoon oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium onion, diced

3-4 carrots, diced or sliced

3-4 stalks of celery, sliced

5-6 cups of water

Dried bay leaves

Dried thyme

Salt & pepper

1 1-lb box of pasta, any shape

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and set aside. Start prepping your vegetables.

Sizzle sizzle!

Sizzle sizzle!

In a large pot, heat the oil and saute the garlic until just barely browned. Add the chicken and sear on all sides.

Veg-tastic!

Veg-tastic!

Toss in the onions and let them sweat a bit, just a few minutes. Add in the rest of the vegetables and pour in the water. Bring to a boil.

Mmm soup..

Mmm soup..

Add in the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam that may form.

Cook according to package instructions, and what a cute package it is!

Cook according to package instructions, and what a cute package it is!

As the broth is simmering, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and rinse and set aside.

Ta-da! Soup is ready.

Ta-da! Soup is ready.

When ready to serve, spoon some pasta into a bowl and ladle the soup over it. If you’re packing up leftovers, it is best to store the noodles separately from the broth, otherwise the pasta will absorb extra liquid and turn to mush.

For the days when you feel under the weather, we hope this chicken noodle soup brings some comfort and smiles :]

Caprese-Inspired Pasta

Main Dishes, Recipes

I was pretty proud of this dish. I’ll be honest, I gave myself a little pat on the back for coming up with this super duper simple-but-creative recipe to utilize some fresh cherry tomatoes gifted to us by one of the guys at work. But shortly after I started writing this entry I googled “caprese pasta,” and as it turns out, I was not the first to think of this wonderful creation. Darn. That burst my bubble a little but no matter – I still hope you will enjoy our take on caprese pasta!

The finished product – buon appetito!

Caprese, in case you haven’t ordered it at a ristorante recently, is typically a cold appetizer of tomato slices, mozzarella, and basil arranged in colorful layers and drizzled with a good olive oil (and sometimes balsamic vinegar as well). After seeing the beautiful bright red ripeness of the homegrown tomatoes, I knew we wanted to cook them minimally if at all.

Aren’t they beautiful?

At the farmer’s market, we found an artisanal cheese maker who sold a stunning fresh burrata and we had to get some to pair with the tomatoes. We are also excited to use the meyer lemon oil we recently purchased from Global Gardens in Los Olivos to replenish our pantry. Finally, I snipped a few leaves off our little basil plant, the first of our hopeful herb garden. What follows is a surprisingly easy recipe for a refreshing entree that tastes like summer. (I know it’s fall, but summer doesn’t have to be over yet!)

Ingredients:

1/2 lb dried pasta (we used Barilla spaghetti but feel free to use shapes or whole wheat or gluten-alternatives)

10 cherry tomatoes or a couple of larger tomatoes, diced

1-2 tablespoons olive oil (highly recommend meyer lemon infused olive oil if you have it!)

A handful of fresh basil leaves

2 oz burrata or fresh mozzarella

Salt and pepper to taste

First cook the pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, prep your tomatoes.

Prepped tomatoes

When the pasta is done, drain the water but do not rinse.

In a skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil and add the diced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Saute the tomatoes for about 3 minutes, or just until the juices are released and the pan starts to look “saucy”.

Tomatoes workin’ up a sweat!

Add the pasta and toss to coat. Taste and season again if needed.

Toss, toss!

Take the pan off the heat and divide into dishes. Finish with a drizzle of meyer lemon infused olive oil, dots of burrata, and a chiffonade of basil. Serves two hungry carb-lovers. Buon appetito!

Comfort Food: Nui Xao (Stir Fried Macaroni)

Main Dishes, Recipes, Side Dishes

Growing up, one of my favorite one-pot-wonders was tomato stir fried macaroni. Just the aroma of the pasta tossed in tomato paste with garlic and onions brings to mind memories of watching my mom stir fry a quick, hearty meal. The base is similar to Vietnamese tomato rice (com do), and the add-ins can vary from ground beef to chopped shrimp to ground shrimp. The shrimp is my personal favorite, but using ground beef can give it a Hamburger Helper-like flavor (in the good, no-frills, comfort food sort of way). Leftovers keep well and the recipe below will make 4-5 servings — for us that’s a dinner and a lunch per person!

Looking for a quick recipe for dinner? Look no further!

The finished product

Ingredients:

1 1-lb box of pasta, any shape (we like elbows and shells.. shapes that don’t fall apart too easily)

1 tbsp garlic, minced

2 tbsp olive oil (omit if using ground beef)

Choice of protein: 1/2 lb ground beef or 1/2 lb shrimp, chopped or minced/ground

1 cup onions, chopped

2 tsp tomato paste, or more as needed

Garlic salt (or regular salt)

Black pepper to taste

Maggi or soy sauce

Boil a pot of water and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and shock the pasta. I know the hardcore Italians would frown upon the rinsing of pasta, but it keeps the noodles from overcooking while prepping the proteins and ensures that the pasta won’t break apart when it comes time to stir frying.

Rinsed macaroni

In the same pot, start your protein. If using ground beef, cook it in the pan (without oil) on medium-high heat with the garlic and onions; season with salt (or garlic salt) and pepper. Drain off some of the fat when all of the meat has turned from pink to brown. If using shrimp, first clean, peel, and de-vein. Then either chop into small pieces or finely mince until ground. Season with salt (or garlic salt) and pepper. Heat olive oil in a pan with some garlic and sweat the onions. When they are nearly translucent, add the shrimp and cook until they turn from gray to pinkish white. Alternatively, you could omit the protein for a vegetarian side dish; just start your pan with oil, garlic, and onions.

Add the pasta. Stir in the tomato paste, and mix well to evenly incorporate. Add more as needed. I like to sprinkle a bit of Maggi over the pasta and give it a quick toss prior to serving and let each person season their own portions to taste. If you have the time or patience, turn the heat up a bit higher and let the tomato-y pasta brown a bit. :) It doesn’t turn quite as crispy as com do would, but it adds an interesting texture to the few pieces that darken up.

I make mine with extra tomato paste :)

Voila! A quick and easy dinner in minutes (after waiting for the water to boil, of course). Just serve it up and enjoy!

Ready to nom!

Edamame Fried Rice

Main Dishes, Recipes, Side Dishes

Some days we get to go out and splurge on decadent dinners, but most days we’re just a couple of recent college grads who want to sit down to some homemade comfort food after a long day at work. For us, fried rice is one of these comfort dishes that always comes through for us with a satisfying meal when we’re pressed for time. Recently, I started added edamame to my fried rice. It was a weird change since, as a child, I didn’t even like peas in my fried rice and I would spend the first five minutes in front of my bowl carefully extracting each pea one by one with my chopsticks. But for whatever reason, I love adding edamame to my fried rice, and Trader Joe’s sells them already shelled and frozen, making life that much easier. Edamame, or green immature soybeans, are a great way of kicking up a plain ol’ fried rice with some beautiful bright green color and a nice crunchy texture, not to mention the high protein and fiber content! Martin doesn’t like the change in texture, so sometimes I just add some to my portion, or if I have leftovers, I’ll toss in a handful of edamame straight out of the freezer and heat them up together in the microwave.

Voila! The Finished Product

Without further ado, here is the recipe for making this ovo-vegetarian (that is, vegetarian + eggs) dish that you could serve as a side dish or eat on its own as a hearty, well-balanced entree.

Ingredients:

3 cups of cooked white jasmine rice (see our com do entry for notes about the type of rice and prep method)

2 eggs, 3 if you like your fried rice extra egg-y

1 cup of edamame, shelled and parboiled (or the pre-shelled ones straight out of the freezer)

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

Olive Oil

Garlic Salt

Black Pepper

Maggi, soy sauce, or other soy-based seasoning sauces (we like Golden Mountain)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or wok (you’ll want lots of room to mix and toss the rice around) on medium-high heat. Saute the garlic and onions until softened and almost translucent. Add the edamame. You’re mostly looking to “defrost” them if using frozen, but I ended up browning mine a bit and it tasted pretty good with a nice nutty flavor.

Sauteed onions, garlic, and edamame

Pile on the rice and crack the eggs on top. Stir vigorously to coat so that everything is a nice golden color.

That’s Martin stirring vigorously.

Season to taste with some garlic salt, black pepper, and soy sauce of choice. If you like your rice a bit crispy, crank the heat up to high and let the rice sit for a few minutes, stirring occasionally just enough to prevent burning but not too frequently so it will have a chance to brown. Serves 4.

Bon appetit!

Let us know how it goes! We hope you’ll add this recipe to your weeknight dinner rotation.