Spice Marinated Roasted Salmon

Between the holiday gatherings and indulgences it is becoming increasingly more important to eat well whenever possible. I hate the thought of a “diet” as to me that triggers images of falling into the droning pit of Hell that is salad and cans of tuna.

The better antidote is to eat well AND eat healthily. Healthy for my heart, healthy for my hips, and healthy for my soul. We eat at least three times a day, and will do so for the rest of our lives. These are multiple opportunities a day to take the power to create your own best self. It’s also multiple opportunities a day to celebrate and enjoy. ENJOY!

This salmon dish is perfection. Easy to prepare and super kind to the heart and hips. I’m sure by now you don’t need me to tell you how good salmon is for you. Rich in omega 3’s- so good for keeping those blood vessels flexible and healthy. We don’t get nearly enough in most cases, and though taking a supplement can seem like a good idea, the power of food is far healthier- not to mention more delicious.

Roasting is a miracle to fish cooking. First off it’s virtually fool proof (I’ll teach you how), it minimizes the fish smell in the house that you get from stove top preparations, it requires less attention at the stove, and it’s super healthy. If you have any fears of preparing fish this can save you.

Not only that but roasted salmon is so moist, almost creamy in texture, that I promise you’ll fall in love. If you like your fish with a crusty skin, a quick sear in the pan on top of the stove does the trick. Then  simply toss your oven proof pan directly into the oven.

The spice marinade is where the fun is in making this dish. Quick toast some spices in a dry pan. This only takes a minute or two. When the kitchen fills with warm spicy goodness remove the pan immediately and set aside a minute to let the grains cool. Then simply mash them into a powder (or use a spice grinder), add a touch of oil and apply paste to the top of the fish. You can just let this sit for a bit while you set the rice to cooking for instance, or even marinate the fish do the night before and keep in the fridge until ready to roast.

The simple sauce is made with Greek yogurt with chopped fresh mint and cilantro. The combination added a bright fresh note that played against the depth of the rich fish and the spices.

What is also fantastic about this meal is it’s a wonderful thing to prepare for a group. The fish can be lined up on baking sheets and kept in the fridge. The rice can be made ahead of time and rewarmed, leaving just quick sautee of asparagus for last minute.

Spice Marinated  Roasted Salmon
serves 4

4 5oz pieces of fresh salmon
1T cumin seeds
1T caraway seeds
2t fennel seeds
1T white peppercorns
2T olive oil

3T finely minced fresh mint
3T finely minced fresh cilantro, including stems
1t olive oil
1c Greek yogurt
milk for thinning- if desired

In a dry frying pan place the spices over medium heat. Toast carefully until they begin to release their aromatics. Taking care not to burn. This will take just a minute or two.

Remove from the flame and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Place the spices into a mortar and pestle, or spice grinder, and reduce to a rough powder.

Stir in olive oil and salt and pepper, creating a paste.

Rinse and pat dry fish, then place skin side down onto a lined baking sheet. I use paper shopping bags to line my sheets, cut to size.

With fingers, spread the marinade paste over the entire top of the fish. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap and allow the flavors of the marinade to permeate the fish for a few minutes.

Preheat oven to 400˚

In a small bowl combine the herbs, yogurt, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

When the oven is ready set the fish into the center of the oven. The rule of thumb is ~10 minutes per inch of fish. After about 8 minutes I employ the poke method. I simply press down on the top of the fish. If it feels jiggly or resistant in the middle I give it more time. A minute or two later I’ll check again. The feel is one of give, not resistance.

When it comes to salmon you can err on the side of undercooking, and some people even prefer it. After you remove the fish from the oven it will continue to cook for another minute or so, so be brave and go for the sooner than the later.

Warm and Spicey Clam Broth with Cous Cous

The cool is coming in and already I am feeling the day’s light getting shorter. Aside from the childish pleasure of running out the door and not having to remember a sweater- I love the long days of golden light that we get in the summer months in the North, and I will really miss them.

I love the Fall though. More than anything, I truly enjoy the change. I am reminded every few months that no matter how much I desire it, change is happening. Life is a river. We are the river- and it’s joyous to embrace the flow. Have you ever swam against a strong current and then tried swimming with it? Going against is hard and you get nowhere fast- but going with nature’s flow makes one feel powerful and exhilarated. It’s hand over fist glory- Look at MEEEEEEEEEEEE!

My birthday is coming up soon. It’s a big one. One that makes a person usually take a few moments to evaluate. One often asks:  Is this where I expected I’d be at this point in my life? The answer is, I am always here. I am always in this moment right here, right where I am supposed to be. So decade markers mean nothing as I move forward into change, they simply just do not matter.

I used to resist change. I used to fight for the exact spot and location of where I wanted to be, and then hold onto it for dear life. I thought this was right and good- I also thought it was success.

I now think differently.

Change means growth. Change means lessons learned (hopefully). Change is life.

Besides, who really wants to complain?  Cooler days means it’s more fun to turn the oven on, or invest an afternoon in a roast. It’s also wonderful for a soup like this one- warm and spicy and easy to make. So perfect for sharing on a cloudy day when there is nowhere to go. Steaming bowls of broth, warm friends and glasses of crisp wine.

Cooler weather is also wonderful for snuggle lovely sweaters- and really, don’t you just love that feeling when the air nips and your sweater keeps you warm and toasty? I just have to remember now to pull one down from the shelf and take it with me.

A small lesson learned. (hopefully)

Spicey Clam Broth with Cous Cous
any small clam will work in this dish from vongole, to cherry stones. If you’re not a fan of clams, you can substitute shrimp or fish filets too.
serves 2
1T Olive Oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
generous pinch of red chili flakes
1c rough chopped tomatoes
3c of mild vegetable broth or chicken broth
.33c whole wheat cous cous 
2 dozen cherrystone clams
Cilantro to garnish
S&P to taste
In large sauce pan warm the oil and gently sautee the garlic. After 2 minutes add the tomatoes and chili flakes. Cook until the tomatoes are wilted but still juicy-about 3 minutes.
Add in the broth and bring to the boil. Add the cous cous and gently boil for 15 minutes.
Add the scrubbed clean clams and cover the pot. Allow to cook for another 4-5 minutes until the clams are open. Turn off from heat and allow to stand for 2-3 minutes.
Serve into shallow bowls and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.
***This dish is wonderful with a Viognier or a light Chardonnay***

Saffron Aioli Oil Lobster with Creamy Basil Pasta

I’ve been reading all summer about the bountiful harvest of Maine lobsters- and it’s been killing me. Since I’ve been on the road so much, I haven’t had the chance to get my hands on any!!! Finally….Finally! I had the time and logistics to make a purchase.

Since last summer I’ve been hankering for a lobster roll. One of the magazines around here did a story on the best lobster rolls in NYC and it’s been on my mind ever since. Sure- we can get lobsters all year round- but it, well…. just didn’t seem right to eat a lobster roll without leaves on the trees.

So on Saturday I was in the neighborhood of my favorite fish monger and for cheap, chose me a beauty, and lugged him home.
But the crazy thing is that when I finally got home I didn’t want a lobster roll- I wanted something schmancier. Not sure why exactly, I guess because I thought this lobster was just so beautiful I wanted to do him justice. I shouldn’t get like that, I mean, I’ve steamed and eaten a boatload of lobster in my days- maybe because it was just the two of us?
I steamed him up the night before and let the whole thing chill overnight. Meanwhile I mulled over my options.
Lobster is a rich meat and needs a substantial sauce to go with it. The classic melted butter is case in point. I thought about making a handmade mayonnaise which I could make tangy and ethereal, almost like a sabayon- and that lead me to aioli- which lead me to an oil, rather than a mayonnaise.

I mashed up a clove of garlic and crushed in a healthy pinch of saffron, then drizzled in just a small bit of olive oil and made a gorgeous orange-y yellow paste. Then I added a bit more oil, and a pinch of salt, and let it rest a bit to mellow.
To accompany the earthy and low tone lobster, I made a fine linguini, tossed in some fresh chopped basil, a healthy grind of black pepper and a dollop of mascarpone. A little bit of pasta water added in spoon by spoon was all it needed to make a creamy sauce. It had the strength to partner with the lobster and the basil added the top note of freshness that the plate needed.

Can I tell you what? This-dish-is-DEEEEELICIOUS! The kind of delicious that you want to bang on neighbor’s doors and make them take a bite. The kind of delicious that you should really be planning an evening around it- especially a romantic one.

The kitchen smelled of saffron and garlic, and the always alluring, basil- and then the taste Oooooohhh…. sensual on all levels.

Now go grab a lobster- and your lover- and make a memorable meal. Then please, please, write me back and tell you about it. My love is 1500 miles away right now- I would appreciate the vicarious thrill.

Saffron Aioli Lobster and Creamy Basil Linguini
serves 2
2- 1.25-1.5# lobsters
1 clove fresh garlic
generous pinch of saffron
.25 c olive oil
5oz fine linguini- dried
3T fine chopped fresh basil
3T mascarpone or creme fraiche
reserved pasta water (put aside a cup, you won’t need it all)
I served my lobster cool/room temperature, but this can me made hot and just keep a bowl of the aioli oil on the side for dipping.
To be just a little humane, I put my lobster in the freezer for about an hour to lull him to never never land. I get a little freaky about active lobsters being plunked into a pot. 
In a large pot with a lid, bring 1.5″ of water to the boil. Add the lobster and cover the pot. Steam for 7 then turn off the heat and let sit for 2 more mins. DO NOT overcook your lobster. I find this method of gentle cooking at the end yields more tender meat and prevents over cooking.
Remove the lobsters and let cool a few minutes before breaking apart.
In a pestle, crush a clove of garlic into a rough paste, add the saffron, a T or so of oil and salt and pound into a creamy paste. Then add remaining oil and stir to combine. Allow to sit for at least 20 mins.
For the pasta- cook the pasta to al dente, approximately 7 minutes, drain- reserving a cup of cooking water, rinse quickly and toss with a glug of olive oil.
In a large bowl put the mascarpone and basil, S&P and enough pasta water to mix it all into a creamy sauce. Then simply toss in the pasta.