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Mar 28, 2015
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Just Five

Just Five: Asian-Lime Salmon

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015



Salmon is the one fish that everyone in my family gladly eats. I have no problem with this, as it’s frequently on sale and the health benefits are well documented (omega-3 bomb, anyone?). Until recently, the dish to beat in our home was Salmon with Pinot Noir Syrup, but lately, this Asian-lime salmon has slid into the No. 1 spot. I usually serve it flaked in a bowl filled with white or brown rice, edamame, shredded carrots and steamed broccoli or spinach. Only two salmon filets are needed for four of these bowls. For a more velvety sauce, you can stir in a slurry of 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water. Bookmark this recipe – you’ll use it all the time.


Asian-Lime Salmon
2 Servings

2 5-oz. skinless salmon fillets
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. minced garlic
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. maple syrup (or agave)
Half the zest and juice of 1 lime

● Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the salmon on a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle each fillet with salt and pepper and roast 10 minutes for medium-rare.
● Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a small saucepan over medium heat and saute the garlic 30 seconds. Whisk in the soy sauce, syrup, lime zest and lime juice and simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook 3 to 4 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken, stirring occasionally.
● Plate the salmon and drizzle it with the sauce.

Just Five: Buttermilk-Brined Pork Chops

Thursday, March 5th, 2015



Buttermilk is a problem child. I buy a full quart even though I need just a cup or so for a recipe, and then I’m stuck with the remaining three cups. I always put it in the refrigerator and vow to do something creative with it (Saturday pancakes! Homemade ranch dressing! Fluffy biscuits!), only to dump it out a week later.  That’s when I turned to the Internet, where I found buttermilk used in one of my favorite meat prep techniques, brining. Turns out, buttermilk is a perfect base for brine: its acidity and calcium break down the protein, making the meat tender and juicy.

I usually brine pork chops in a no-fail base of water, salt, syrup, mustard and herbs. but adding buttermilk changed everything. I sincerely have never made a juicier, more flavorful pork chop than this one. Use whatever seasoning you like in the brine (rosemary, thyme, juniper berries, citrus zest, garlic, red pepper flakes, etc.) and stock up. I’m buying buttermilk by the gallon, people!


Buttermilk-Brined Pork Chops
2 servings

1½ cups buttermilk
½ cup water
¼ cup kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ cup maple syrup (grade B)
2 Tbsp. whole-grain mustard
¼ cup torn fresh sage leaves
1 cup ice
2 bone-in, 1-inch-thick pork chops
1 Tbsp. olive oil

• In a medium saucepan, bring the buttermilk, water, salt, pepper, maple syrup, mustard and sage leaves to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve salt. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the ice and let the brine cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
• Place the pork chops into a large zip-top plastic bag and pour the brine over the meat. Seal and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
• Remove the pork chops from the brine and pat dry. Discard the brine.
• Drizzle the olive oil into a skillet over medium-high heat. Place the pork chops in the skillet and cook about 4 to 5 minutes, then flip and cook another 4 to 5 minutes, until the internal temperature is 145 degrees. Remove and let the meat rest 3 to 4 minutes before serving.

Just Five: Sweet Potato Soup with Ham

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015



This soup satisfies winter comfort food cravings without resorting to cheesy, heavy fare. Lighten things up with sweet potatoes, which marry well with salty ham and hot sauce. I’m a fan of Pickapeppa Hot Mango Sauce, available at Global Foods and Jay’s International, for its balance of sweet fruit and spicy kick. If you don’t have a sauce like this, mixing a little maple syrup or agave with a traditional hot sauce is a great substitute.

Most deli ham has just a little fat on it. Don’t trim it; the fat will render as it cooks to add flavor and salt to the soup. Not a meat-eater? Make the soup vegan with vegetable stock and swap the ham for a cup of frozen corn kernels to bulk up the soup.

Sweet Potato Soup with Ham
3 to 5 servings

3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 cup diced thick-sliced ham
1 leek, white parts only, finely chopped
Pinch kosher salt
4 cups chicken broth
3 to 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp. Pickapeppa Hot Mango Sauce

● In a large pot over medium-low heat, saute the ham until just brown, about 5 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.
● Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, the leeks and the salt to the pot and raise the heat to medium. Saute 3 to 5 minutes.
● Add the broth to the pot and scrape up any of the browned bits from the bottom. Add the sweet potatoes and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.
● Remove the pot from the heat. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth, or carefully puree in a blender, working in batches. Thin the soup with water as needed to achieve desired consistency. Stir in the hot sauce and the reserved ham. Serve with crusty bread.



Just Five: Tender Kale Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015



2014 was The Year of Kale, and everyone is over it  – except me. This beautiful dark green leaf is delicious when sauteed, braised, added to soups and stews or blitzed into juices. I never got the whole kale chip phenomenon, but I love that it brought so much attention to this misunderstood vegetable.

Many people balk at kale in its raw form: too tough and stringy. Instead of gnawing on it for five minutes, try a little tenderness beforehand. Massage that kale. You heard me. Get in there and really work it over. Roll it between your hands; squeeze it like a stress ball; beat it up. Massaging kale breaks down its tough cellulose; you will actually see and feel the change in the texture. The kale will feel softer than before and will taste much less bitter. Doesn’t a good massage have that effect on us all?

Tender Kale Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing
3 to 5 servings

1 avocado, pit removed and peeled
3 Tbsp. lemon juice, divided
1 Tbsp. vinegar-based hot sauce (like Tabasco or Cholula)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ tsp. kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 cups chopped lacinato kale, stems removed (about 1 bunch)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

• In the bowl of a food processor or blender, puree the avocado, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and the hot sauce until combined. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt and with the machine running, pour in the olive oil until smooth, adding a few tablespoons of water as needed to reach a thick but pourable consistency. Set aside.
• Place the kale in a large serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of black pepper and the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Use clean hands to massage the leaves 2 to 3 minutes, until the kale is slightly darker green and feels softer.
• Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Add the cherry tomatoes and serve.

Just Five: Carrot-Orange Salad with Harissa

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015



I was introduced to harissa, a spicy North African chili paste, when I first devoured Ben Poremba’s Moroccan Shredded Carrot Salad at Olio. Since then, this spicy aromatic salad has been on my list of inspirational Just Five dishes for a long time.

Harissa is made from ground chilis, garlic and aromatic spices that is as versatile as it is pungent and nuanced. It’s great on anything from eggs and meat to flavoring soups and stews and is available at most international grocery stores or specialty food shops (or try making your own harissa with this recipe).

The original salad uses cilantro and mint, but I opted to cut the cilantro since a number of people have a scientifically proven aversion to the stuff. I also bulked it up a bit with a handful of arugula and used multicolored carrots for a fun pop of color.


Carrot-Orange Salad with Harissa
Inspired by a recipe from Olio’s Ben Poremba
4 servings

2 oranges
2 cups shredded carrots (about 4 carrots)
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp. harissa
Pinch kosher salt
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups arugula or mixed greens

• Supreme 1 orange by peeling and removing the pith with a sharp knife and then slicing between the membranes. Add the orange sections to a large bowl. Slice the other orange in half and supreme 1 half in the same manner as before, adding the segments to the bowl.
• Toss the shredded carrots and mint in the bowl with the oranges. Set aside.
• Juice the remaining orange half in a small bowl and whisk together with the harissa and a pinch of salt. Continue whisking and drizzle the olive oil into the dressing until emulsified. Pour the dressing over the carrot and orange mixture and toss to coat.
• Place a handful of arugula into 4 plates and divide the carrot salad evenly between the plates. Drizzle any remaining dressing over the salads and serve.



Just Five: Chicken Thighs with Butternut Squash and Sage

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015



It is a truth universally acknowledged that chicken thighs are always better than chicken breasts. They don’t dry out like breasts can, and dark meat has more flavor. This dish celebrates the thigh in all its glory – in less than 30 minutes.

Since this column limits me to just a few ingredients, I get creative to get the most out of each. Fried sage leaves are a perfect example. They provide a fun garnish and crunch to the finished dish, and they also infuse the cooking oil with wonderful herbaceous flavor. Instead of deglazing the pan with wine or chicken stock, I added acid and a hint of sweetness with apple cider vinegar to complement the butternut squash.

Chicken Thighs with Butternut Squash and Sage
4 to 6 servings

3 Tbsp. olive oil
10 whole fresh sage leaves, divided
6 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup thinly sliced shallots
2 cups butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
½ cup apple cider vinegar

• Add the olive oil to a large skillet and place over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add 6 sage leaves and fry until crisp, about 1 minute. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Set aside.
• Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and place skin-side down in the pan. Cook 8 minutes, then flip and cook another 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.
• Add the butternut squash and stir to coat, cooking about 4 minutes. Lower the heat to medium if the squash browns too quickly.
• Chop the remaining 4 sage leaves and add to the skillet, along with the shallots. Saute 1 minute, then deglaze the pan with the apple cider vinegar, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet.
• Push the squash to the side and return the thighs skin-side up and any collected juices to the pan. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until a thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 165 degrees. Plate and garnish with 1 fried sage leaf on each thigh. Serve immediately.

Just Five: Carrot Juice-Poached Halibut

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014



Poaching is a simple, forgiving way to prepare fish. The poaching liquid infuses the fillet with flavor and prevents it from drying out. Although water or wine is traditional, I decided have some fun and play with carrot juice.

This dish was either going to be way too weird for my family or gobbled up in a flash. As I served plates of bright orange fish, I was not overly confident. I gave them the usual Just Five speech: “I don’t know if this is going to be awesome or just weird, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be bad.”

Surprisingly, it was delicious! The carrot juice is sweet without cloying, the ginger adds a bit of heat and the shallots provide the savory note. I love combining ginger and cilantro, but if that controversial herb fills you with dread, try mixing together three parts chopped arugula and one part chopped fresh mint.


Carrot Juice-Poached Halibut
4 servings

2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup thinly sliced shallots
2 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
3 cups carrot juice*
4 6-oz. skinless halibut fillets
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• In a large skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute 3 minutes, until softened. Add the ginger and cook until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
• Pour in the carrot juice and bring to a simmer. Add the halibut fillets to the pan and cover. Reduce the heat to low and poach until 4 to 5 minutes, until cooked through.
• Uncover and carefully remove the fish to the serving platter. Bring the carrot broth to a boil over medium-high heat, reducing the liquid slightly, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon some of the broth over the fish and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

*Bolthouse Farms carrot juice is available at most supermarkets.

Just Five: Pork Medallions with Pears

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014



Garam masala  tastes like winter to me. This heady spice blend includes cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, cumin and brings immediate, comforting warmth to a dish. Here, I spiced pork tenderloin medallions with this aromatic blend, then turned my attention to the accompanying sauce. While pork and apples are a long-standing culinary marriage (What ‘70s kid doesn’t remember Peter Brady’s Bogart-inflected “Pork chops… and applesauce!”),  pears are delicious seasonal alternative – especially when paired with marsala.

Pork Medallions with Pears
4 servings

1 1.75- to 2-lbs. pork tenderloin
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. garam masala
2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup thinly sliced shallots
2 pears, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup marsala wine

• Slice the pork tenderloin into 8 even medallions and season generously with salt, pepper and garam masala.
• Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the medallions 2 minutes, then flip and sear 2 minutes more. Remove and set aside.
• Add the shallots to the skillet and saute 2 to 3 minutes, then add the pears and saute another 2 minutes. Return the pork to the skillet, along with any juices that accumulated on the plate. Add the marsala wine and cover, reducing the heat to medium-low, and simmer 3 minutes. Flip and simmer, covered, another 2 minutes. Divide evenly among 4 plates and serve.

Just Five: Tortilla-Crusted Fish Nuggets

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014



My pescetarian daughter just dove into swim season at school. Before she left for her first practice, she had a very specific request: “I’m going to need protein. Can you please make fish tonight with some kind of yummy sauce?” Challenge accepted!

I immediately decided to make classic panko-crusted white fish with a mayo-and-something or sour cream-and-something sauce I’d figure out later. But when the time came to start assembling dinner, I found my pantry severely lacking in panko. Staring out at a cold, dark night packed with rush-hour traffic, there was no way I was venturing to the grocery store. It was time to get creative.

My eyes fell upon a bag of tortilla chips – salty, crushable tortilla chips. Brilliant! A little lime and chili powder, and dinner just fell into place. The dish was ready as soon as my chlorine-perfumed daughter entered the house. Since I barely managed to snap a photo of these nuggets before my swimmer devoured them, it’s safe to say I’ll be making them again soon.


Tortilla-Crusted Fish Nuggets with Spicy Dipping Sauce
3 to 4 servings

½ cup sour cream
3 Tbsp. lime juice, divided
1½ tsp. chili powder, divided
2 cups ground tortilla chips (about 5 cups whole chips)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Kosher salt to taste
1 lb. cod, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
Canola oil for frying

• To make the dipping sauce, mix together the sour cream, 1 tablespoon lime juice and ½ teaspoon chili powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
• In a shallow pan or bowl, season the ground tortilla chips with the remaining 1 teaspoon chili powder and pepper. Taste and add salt if needed.
• In a medium bowl, toss the cod with the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice, then roll them in the ground tortilla chips, pressing the crumbs onto the fish to coat on all sides.
• Meanwhile, fill a deep skillet with about 1-inch of canola oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot enough to fry (test by dropping a pinch of ground tortilla chips into the oil; if it bubbles, the oil is ready), carefully fry about 6 nuggets at a time, cooking on all sides until browned, about 1 minute per side. Use a slotted spoon to remove them to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with the remaining nuggets. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.


Just Five: Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014



Although pho ga is my go-to Asian dish in colder weather, I recently tried the ramen at Hiro Asian Kitchen, which is all about the porky goodness. Slices of pork belly float in a clear pork broth with bok choy and bits of the most delicious ground pork I’ve ever had. The excitement sent me home with inspiration.

It’s difficult to replicate Asian dishes with just five ingredients, but Chinese five-spice is a nice cheat. Made up of star anise, cinnamon, fennel, cloves and Szechwan pepper, it’s a powerhouse that’s heavy on the aromatics and offers a little bit of heat, too.

This simple lettuce wrap is a light and satisfying lunch or dinner, and it can be made with any ground protein: pork, beef, turkey or tofu. Try adding shredded carrots, cilantro, hot sauce or sesame oil for additional flavor and texture if you like. Cook up a little coconut rice to serve with it, and you’ll have dinner in 10 minutes or less.


Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps
2 to 3 servings

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. ground pork
1 Tbsp. Chinese five-spice
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
6 leaves Boston or butter lettuce
¼ cup chopped green onion

• Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground pork and break up with a wooden spoon and cook until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Season with the Chinese five spice and soy sauce and toss until the five spice is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
• Spoon about 1/3 cup of the pork into each lettuce leaf and top with chopped green onion. Serve immediately.




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