Simple and Scrumptious Pan-seared Salmon


Difficulty: Easy
Clean-up: Medium
Active Time: 15 min
Total Time: 15 min
Defrost: Overnight in refrigerator

Every once in a while, wild-caught Keta salmon goes on sale at my local supermarket for $1.99 per pound.  The only caveat is that you have to buy the whole fish.  My husband helps me cut it up into manageable chunks, and we freeze the salmon to use for later.  The head, tail, and fins can be used for Chinese fish-head soup.  The rest can be turned into fillets.

This recipe is incredibly simple and adapted from a recipe by America’s Test Kitchen.  When it comes out hot off the pan, the texture beats any salmon you can get at a restaurant. The only part I don’t like about cooking this is touching the raw fish (I’m squeamish!), so I make good use of my tongs.

Ingredients:

  • 2-4 salmon fillets
  • 1 Tbs. oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Lightly season salmon with salt and pepper.

  2. Heat oil in pan until it is smoking.

  3. Place salmon fillets in the pan, flesh side down (skin side up).  Let the fillets fry in the oil for 3-5 min (depending on the thickness of the fillets), until the you can see the meat cooked about half-way through and a crispy brown crust forms on the bottom.

  4. Flip the fillets and fry them skin side down for another 3-4 min.  Aim to take the fish out when the center of the fillet is still slightly translucent.  The heat will continue cooking it even after you take it out of the pan, so that by the time it reaches your plate, it will be tender, moist, and scrumptious!

Season:

  • According to the CUESA Seasonality Chart for Seafood, the peak season for Salmon in California is during the summer months (May to September).  However, I just pick it up whenever it is on sale.  For instance, Lent is a time of year when the supermarkets tend to place a lot of fish on sale.

Sustainability & Health:

  • The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch has a guide to what kinds of salmon to buy (in general, wild-caught salmon) and avoid (most farmed Atlantic salmon).
  • Salmon is very high in Omega-3 and low in mercury, according to this government guide (scroll down to Appendix 11).

Curry Salad Boat (Variations)


Difficulty: Easy
Clean-up: Medium
Active Time: 30 min
Total Time: 30 min.  Can also be prepared beforehand and chilled.

Here’s another one of my favorite hot-weather recipes. It’s nutritious, tastes great, and looks spectacular, so it is also great for entertaining friends. It also requires minimal cooking skill (mostly chopping) and absolutely no finesse. I use the recipe to recycle leftover meat or substitute whatever protein I have in the fridge or pantry. The recipe is very forgiving. I make this frequently throughout the summer.

Ingredients:

For the Boats:

  • 4 large avocados or 1 small cantaloupe

For the Salad:

  • For meat lovers: 1 lb. boneless cooked chicken or other cooked meat. For vegetarians: 1-2 cans beans or cooked lentils.
  • 2-3 stalks celery, finely minced
  • 2 apples
  • 1 bunch grapes
  • Plain yogurt
  • 1-2 tsp. curry powder
  • Salt
  • Optional (for extra kick):
    • 1/4 small onion, finely minced
    • 1 clove garlic, finely minced

Directions:

  1. Dice meat (if applicable) and apples.  Mince garlic, onion, and celery.  Cut grapes in half if large.

  2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Add 2-3 large spoonfuls of yogurt to cover the salad. Add curry powder and salt to taste.

  3. To form boats, cut avocados in half or cantaloupe into quarters. Remove seeds. Scoop salad into the boats and serve. Looks spectacular!

Cooking Tips:

  • To choose ripe avocados, find ones that are slightly soft to the touch, but not mushy.
  • To choose ripe cantaloupes, look for a warm color under the gray ridges and press on the “button” on the bottom of the fruit to see if there is some give. You can also hold the cantaloupe in one hand and strike it. The deeper and more resonant the sound, the more juicy it will be.
  • Here’s a good article on how to cook lentils, if you choose to use that as your protein.

Season:

1 Minute Exercise: Superman


Difficulty: Easy
Active Time: 1 minute

This might also be a yoga or pilates exercise. I know I did not make it up. But it is fun to channel Superman’s energy while doing it.

Equipment:

  • Timer (courtesy of my computer this time)
  • Yoga mat or blanket on the floor

Instructions:

  1. Set timer for 1 minute.
  2. Lie down on on your belly.
  3. Hold arms outstretched in front of you, lifting upper body slightly off the floor. At the same time, stretch legs straight behind you, lifting them slightly off the floor. You should look like Superman in flight. If you want, think brave Superman-like thoughts.
  4. Hold for a count of 12, then rest for a count of 3.
  5. Repeat until the timer sounds.

Muscles Used:

  • Core muscles

Calories Burned:

  • I think I should lose this category. I haven’t had a chance to figure out how to estimate this yet.

Reward for Self:

  • 1 super star!

Chinese Stir-fried Baby Bok Choy


Difficulty: Easy
Clean-up: Light
Active Time: 30 min
Total Time: 30 min

Here’s another easy and nutritious dish.  The worst part of this recipe is washing the bok choy, as it often needs several rinses to get rid of all the dirt. I used to find chopping the vegetable a real pain, until my mother-in-law showed me a quick and easy way to get the job done. I love to eat this vegetable but only buy it when I know I have time to cook it within a day or two, as it does not keep very well. When shopping for bok choy, I look at the stems for freshness (they should look juicy, not discolored or cracked) and also check out the leaves to see if they look green, healthy, and mostly whole.

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 bunches of baby bok choy
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 Tbs. oil
  • Oyster sauce (optional)

Directions:

  1. Wash bok choy thoroughly.  Cut into similarly-sized pieces.  See cooking tip below for my mother-in-law’s easy way to do this.
  2. Pour oil into wok and heat on high until oil begins to smoke.
  3. Drop garlic into the oil. The high heat of the oil will deep fry the garlic and release a strong garlic flavor that will permeate the vegetables.
  4. Immediately add bok choy and stir-fry until vegetables begin to cook (1-2 min). Add a splash of water if needed, if no water is coming out of the vegetables themselves. Cover wok with lid and simmer on medium heat.
  5. When vegetables start to become translucent but are not yet fully cooked (5-7 min), turn off the stove.  The vegetables will cook the rest of the way on their own.
  6. I sometimes like this dish with just the garlic flavor.  However, I often also add some oyster sauce to taste, about 1-2 Tbs, or 3-4 shakes of the oyster sauce bottle.

Cooking Tips:

  • My mother-in-law taught me a quick way to cut bok choy, mustard greens, and similarly-shaped small vegetables.  Using a paring knife, slice the vegetable length-wise from the bottom, through the stem.  Cut into quarters or sixths, depending on the thickness of the vegetable.  This saves the use of a chopping board and makes delightfully neat pieces.
  • I always had trouble with soggy over-cooked vegetables, until my good friend Carol taught me this little tip: always turn the heat off a wee bit early, before the vegetable is completely cooked.  Because the heat inside the vegetables will keep them cooking, by the time the dish makes it from the stove to the table the vegetables will be just right.

Season: