Monthly Archives: November 2012

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Smoked salmon and onion quinoa, a taste of home and here

Happy belated Thanksgiving! I spent the holiday at home, in a city a tad outside of Seattle, Wash. Though my hometown has seen new buildings constructed, old shops close and in our own cul-de-sac, neighbors moving in and out, it’s still very much my same, much-loved home. My Thanksgiving was spent stuffing my face with stuffing, turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and green beans. Imagine only a slightly more classy Thanksgiving edition of chubby bunny. But now I’m back in the Midwest, likely five pounds heavier (five pounds of guilt or joy, the jury’s out), so I’m trying to restore my diet to 1) one that consists of a normal, healthy quantity of food and 2) one that is a bit more balanced.

I love carbs. I love bread. And I could also watch this movie every day.

After coming home early this week, I found myself still a bit homesick for the Pacific Northwest. So when I saw some smoked salmon at the grocery store, I swallowed the inflated Midwestern price and brought it. Hot smoked salmon — a happy middle ground between deliciously extreme salmon candy and lox — is an instant taste of home. One of my Mom’s perennial dinner dishes is a simple smoked salmon and onion pasta, which she learned to make after staying with a friend in Italy and after bringing some SeaBear smoked salmon as a gift for their hospitality. Apparently when you present an Italian a slightly foreign-looking meat, they throw it into some pasta. Great tactic, excellent recipe.

But for as much I as I love my pasta and bread, I’m also a bit tired of refined carbohydrates right now (or at least until my next holiday trip home!). As such, I turned to quinoa, a grain alternative I only first started eating when I came to Illinois for college. So tonight, I’ve married foods from two places and times in my past: smoked salmon and onion (home) quinoa (school).

Smoked salmon and onion quinoa

1 cup quinoa (dry)
1 large yellow onion
3/4 lb. hot smoked salmon (but quite honestly, the more the merrier)
3 tbsp olive oil (a generous splash)
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, just a pinch

Rinse quinoa thoroughly before throwing it into a large saucepan on a stove. Add two cups of water and bring quinoa and water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, coarsely dice onion into approximately one inch pieces. Bring a pan up to medium-high heat and cook onion pieces and olive oil together until onion pieces are evenly softened but not yet burnt nor beginning to carmelize. Add a generous pinch or two of salt and a smaller, single pinch of black pepper. Reduce heat to a low setting. Peel off skin of salmon and break smoked salmon into bite-sized chunks over the onions. Stir salmon and onions together at low heat. If you sample this now, it will be very salty, but trust me, it will balance out with the quinoa. When ready, fluff quinoa with a fork before adding the salmon and onion to the quinoa. Stir and serve immediately.

I ate mine with some steamed broccoli. On a mission to to eat more vegetables.

An afternoon in Baltimore, Md.

Baltimore harbor

Last weekend, I took a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit some friends. We ended up spending the Saturday in Baltimore, Md. at the National Aquarium, which is hands down the best aquarium I’ve ever visited. And it ended up being the case that this afternoon was the most documented portion of my trip (you present the girl some cute creatures and hasty attempts to snap some photos will obviously follow).

Moray

Fish

Jelly fish

More jelly fish

We spent the morning at the National Aquarium and after a couple of hours of looking at fish, we were in the mood for seafood (a possibly unintentional assertion of the dominion of man). After some trekking around the harbor, we ended up at the Thames Street Oyster House in Fell’s Point where we split a platter of oysters on ice and I ate The Best Crab Cake. The previous holder of this title was a crab cake generously stuffed with bread crumbs and questionable quantities of true crab. But this was all crab. Amazing.

Crab cake

It came neatly in this little bun, but soon fell apart in a delicious mess when I picked it up. That toothpick there is no fashion statement. There was some pureed squash and coleslaw on the side too.

And then there was more walking around Fell’s Point, more harbor and a bit more National Aquarium. Baltimore is a quirky, fun place.

Fell's Point

Boat in harbor

All with wonderful company.

Friends

Taking a crack at the Momofuku Milk Bar crack pie

Momofuku Milk Bar crack pie

When I visited New York City in high school, I saw so many sights: Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, the U.N. and a couple of college campuses. But I didn’t stop at any of David Chang’s restaurants, and if presented the chance to visit today, I’d definitely allot time for trips to Noodle Bar and Milk Bar.

My first foray with Momofuku was a few years ago when a friend treated me to pork-belly buns (which initiated my obsession with pork belly), fried apple pies and sour cream ice cream from the legendary Momofuku cookbook. He worked tirelessly in the kitchen for days in preparation for our Momofuku meal, and I won’t lie when I say that the iconic birch cookbook soon became synonymous with “impossibly difficult recipes” for me (though, check out Momofuku for Two for one woman’s courageous campaign through the cookbook).

Last year, a friend brought a crack pie from Milk Bar to the newsroom. He loved it so much when he ate it in New York that he ferried one back home to Chicago, and he generously shared the remainder with all of us, curious to understand what he was going on and on about. It was densely rich, buttery-vanilla and borderline overwhelmingly-sweet, but so incredibly satisfying. When I saw the recipe for crack pie on Bon Appetit, it seemed approachable enough to take a crack at.

Crack pie, from the Momofuku Milk Bar via Bon Appetit

For the oat cookie crust
9 tbsp (1 stick plus 1 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
5 1/2 tbsp (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover a baking sheet with buttered parchment paper. Beat together butter, brown sugar, sugar in a mixing bowl. Add egg and continue to beat mixture. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well-mixed. Pour oat mix over parchment paper and spread thin. Bake for 17-18 minutes and cool completely.

Crumble oat cookie and add melted butter and brown sugar. Add enough butter until the mix will hold own shape. Fill the sides and bottoms of a 9-inch glass pie dish with oat crumble.

For the filling
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tbsp nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
6 1/2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk brown sugar, sugar, milk powder and salt together until well-mixed. Add the following ingredients one-by-one and make sure mix is well-mixed before adding the subsequent ingredient: butter, cream, yolks, vanilla. Pour mix into oat cookie crust. Bake at 30 minutes and then reduce temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for another 20 minutes. The filling will be markedly dark. Center should jiggle.

Cool on counter for a few hours and then leave in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight. Top with powdered sugar the next day. Eat cold and resist the temptation to eat it all at once, your stomach will regret it (think: butter).

Speaking of New York, here are some ways to help the city out post Hurricane Sandy.