Archive for the ‘Sauce’ Category

Deliciously savory and simply to prepare.  This dish is perfect to use up the bounty of spring/summer basil for the pesto recipe, but storebought pesto is just dandy.  If you don’t typically toast your pine nuts or roast your garlic for homemade pesto, I recommend trying it once.  The flavors are completely transformed.  The original recipe calls for evaporated milk in the sauce, but we didn’t have any on hand.  Would be interested to see how the sweeter milk would fare.  Next time….

Salmon Pesto Pasta, from Crumbly Cookie

Serves 2-3


8 ounces pasta
12 ounces salmon
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
5 ounces milk or cream or evaporated milk
1/2 cup pesto (recipe follows or use store-bought)
Additional vegetables (I used spinach and broccoli), optional
grated parmesan, optional for serving


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; stir to separate pasta. Cook pasta until al dente; drain. Pour milk into empty pot and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2. Add cooked pasta to pot and stir to combine.
  2. Ajust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat broiler. Line a baking sheet or pan with aluminum foil. Season skinless side of salmon liberally with salt and pepper, sprinkle with zest, then rub with olive oil. Broil until salmon is no longer translucent and is firm when pressed, about 10 minutes. Remove from broiler and sprinkle with lemon juice. Use fork to flake into bite-sized pieces. Skin will stick to foil and can be discarded.
  3. Add salmon to pasta mixture and stir over medium heat until hot. Remove from heat and stir in basil and any vegetables, if adding.  Top with parmesan, if desired.

Pesto, adapted from Cooks Illustrated


Makes ½ cup

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted (or substitute almonds or walnuts)
5 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed thoroughly
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, Italian (optional)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch table salt
¼ cup (½ ounce) finely grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Toast nuts in small heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.
  2. Add the unpeeled garlic to empty skillet and toast until, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and the color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Let the garlic cool, then peel and add to food processor bowl.  (Alternately, you can also roast your garlic.)
  3. Place basil and parsley in heavy-duty, quart-size, zipper-lock bag; pound with flat side of meat pounder until all leaves are bruised.
  4. Process nuts and garlic until finely chopped. Add remaining ingredients except cheese; process until smooth, stopping as necessary to scrape down bowl with flexible spatula.
  5. Transfer mixture to small bowl, stir in cheese(s) and adjust salt. (Can be covered with a sheet of plastic wrap placed directly over the surface or filmed with oil and refrigerated up to 5 days.)

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This is an aromatic, well-balanced, and full-bodied sauce with picante red-chiles, mild fresh tomatoes, and sweet roasted garlic.  It is perfect for as a table sauce for grilled steak (and eggs) or, here, mixed with chunks of chicken and onion slices and served alongside rice or warm, soft tacos.  I know it looks unassuming, but it is packed with so much flavor you might just want to drink the sauce.  Unless you are Rice Kernel and turn your nose away from spice…. then you’re left with vegetables and chicken chunks with your choice of sauce =)

Roasted Tomato Chile Sauce, adapted from Rick Bayless

4 medium (about 1 ounce total) dried chiles guajillos, stemmed, seeded and deveined
2 cloves garlic, roasted (or raw)
1 ripe, large tomato, roasted (see Notes), peeled, cored and roughly chopped
½ canned chile chipotle, seeded (optional)
pinch of oregano
Salt, about ½ teaspoon
Drizzle of olive oil
Agave nectar, to taste

  1. The chiles and garlic: Tear the guajillo chiles into flat pieces, then toast them on a griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat, using a metal spatula to press them flat to the hot surface for a few seconds, then flipping and pressing again. Don’t burn – they will taste bitter.
  2. Blending the ingredients: Break the chiles into a dry blender jar, cover and blend on high until pulverized. Add the garlic, roasted tomato, optional chile chipotle and ¼ cup water or oil, then blend until very smooth.  Add oregano and agave nectar to taste.
  3. Finishing the sauce: Strain the sauce through a medium-mesh sieve into a small dish, then stir in a little more water, if necessary, to make a light, pourable consistency. Season with salt and let stand for ½ hour to let the flavors mingle.
  4. Use as table sauce or as a marinade for meats.

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I’ve spoken of my husband’s fondness for noodles and our general enthusiasm for vegetables.  (Heck, the latter is what this journal is premised upon.)  But hot noodles in May (even in the temperate  Bay Area) don’t always whet the appetite or seem appropriate for dining on the patio.  So when I happened upon this colorful cold noodle recipe on Orangette, I began to salivate. 

The original recipe comes from The Greens Cookbook, a compilation of recipes from the famed San Francisco restaurant that pioneered vegetarian cuisine.  Known for using fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices from cuisines around the world, their dishes are vibrant and savory.  And this recipe does not disappoint.  The noodles are dressed with sesame oil, soy sauce, red pepper oil, a touch of sugar, and unexpected balsamic vinegar.  Robust and savory, the silky noodles are contrasted with ribbons of refreshing snow peas, vibrant julienned carrots, and crispy clean mung bean sprouts.  A flavor and textural explosion, it is perfect for a leisurely summer dinner. 

FHE asked that I tell you he and Rice Kernel slurped up every last noodle.  And that his bowl could have used some more red pepper oil.  There, hun.

Asian-Inspired Noodle Salad with Crispy Vegetables, adapted from The Greens Cookbook, via Orangette

For the dressing and the noodles
5 Tbs toasted sesame oil
7 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs sugar
1-2 tsp salt
1 Tbs red pepper oil
8-10 scallions, thinly sliced into rounds
3 Tbs cilantro, chopped
1 lb fresh Chinese egg noodles (like Orangette, I used spaghetti; please forgive the lack of authenticity)

For the vegetable garnishes
Reserved dressing
1 cup snow peas, strings removed
½ lb mung bean sprouts
3 Tbs sesame seeds, toasted in a skillet until lightly colored
1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
Cilantro leaves


  1. Begin by making the dressing.  Combine all the dressing ingredients (except the noodles, of course) in a bowl, and stir them together until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Bring a large pot of (unsalted) water to a boil, and add the noodles.  Cook until done but not overly soft (slightly before al dente); then immediately pour them into a colander to remove excess water.  Transfer the noodles to a large bowl and pour half of it over the cooked noodles, tossing to distribute the dressing evenly.  Set aside the remaining dressing.  If the noodles aren’t to be used for a while, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate to allow the flavors to develop.
  3. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the snow peas, and cook them until they are bright green, about 20-30 seconds. Remove them with tongs or a strainer, and rinse them with cool water.  Cut them into long, thin strips, and set them aside.  Next, put the sprouts into the boiling water, and allow them to cook for about 30 seconds.  Pour them into a colander, rinse them with cold water, and lay them on a layer of paper towels to dry.
  4. If the noodles have been refrigerated, allow them to come to room temperature; then toss them with reserved dressing, as well as half of the sesame seeds.  Mound them in a wide bowl or on a platter, and distribute the snow peas, mung bean sprouts, and carrots over them. Garnish with the remaining sesame seeds and a few branches of cilantro.  Once served, guests can toss the noodles and vegetables together to thoroughly mingle the textures and flavors.

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I thought long about whether I should post a recipe for Mother’s Day.  I figured anything you prepare (or buy) for a Mom in your life is thoughtful and appreciated and I probably don’t have anything out of the ordinary to help mark the occasion.  But I came across a lovely cheesecake that made me think of my Mom.  If you don’t fancy a story, scroll to the end and you’ll find a beautifully pink, slightly healthier, and oh-so-light-and-delicious triple strawberry cheesecake.  More than sharing the recipe though, I felt it was important to leave a story for Rice Kernel to read when he gets (much) older.

Some days it’s difficult for me to imagine myself as a Mom.  I’m a fairly free-range parent.  I strive to be consistently strict on certain things but, with a toddler, our days are carefree with laughter and play.  At heart, I’m much more a child than I am a mother.  So when Mother’s Day comes around, my thoughts inevitably shift to my Mom and my M.O.M. (“my other mom,” aka my mother-in-law).

It sounds cliche, but my mother was my best friend.  Was, I say, because she passed away when I was 19.  The selfish part of me still hurts that she’s not around today – that she couldn’t see me through college, graduate school, marriage, and the birth of my son.  With every passing Mother’s Day, her birthday, and the anniversary of her death, my anger softens and I feel blessed that I had 19 more years than other children have with their mothers.

To me, my mother will always be perfect.  She grew up with means, but lived a selfless and humble life.  She taught me to be grateful, to be patient, to be generous, and to love.  She had a soft temperament and never raised her voice.  Through years of school, violin lessons, piano lessons, swimming lessons, etc. she taught me to work hard, but always worried more that I was enjoying what I was doing and getting enough sleep.  She trusted me and, in turn, she was always my confidant.  I can’t describe how I felt when she passed.  Suffice to say, I cried myself to sleep for many nights, for many years.  But with her passing, I gained another mom.

My M.O.M.  “My other Mom.”  My mother-in-law.  I rarely introduce her as my mother-in-law because, for over a decade, she has been my Mom.  My two Moms shared a friendship for a few years, as my husband and I attended high school together.  And I know that wherever my mother may be today, she is grateful my M.O.M. is in my life. 

In a period of my life where I was mourning, learning to love, and becoming a young woman, my M.O.M. was a breath of sunshine.  Throughout college, she was my penpal – we exchanged long emails almost weekly.  We connected easily and left no rock unturned in our correspondence.  Carefree at heart, she made me laugh and taught me to enjoy the little things in life.   We had lunch dates when I returned from college, shopping trips, and movie dates.  When my husband and I became engaged, I leaned on her during our year-long wedding planning.  Although we were cities apart, we shared the experience together.  From dress shopping to venue selection, to wedding planner interviews, food tastings, flower viewings, linen decisions, cake tastings, makeup/hair trials, invitations, party favors, and yet more rounds of menu tasting… I felt so fortunate to have her.  My husband was involved but it didn’t feel right without her motherly perspective.  On the day of the wedding, my bridesmaids went off to the salon for hair, makeup, and nails.  The salon came to me.  And M.O.M.  She was the only person I needed before my walk down the aisle.

Years later, when my son was born, my M.O.M. cared for me in ways only a mother can.  She and my Dad spent alternating weekdays with me, making certain I was rested and fed and just keeping me company.  In her calm, never overbearing demeanor, she stocked me with the essentials she knew a new mother would need.  I will never thank her enough for the emotional and physical help she provided in that first year. 

These days, I see my M.O.M. a couple times a week.  Every Sunday we have a family lunch or dinner.  We catch up on gossip and life.  Inevitably Rice Kernel will tell his grandmother to stop talking to me… that we talk too much and that we should focus on playing with him.  My M.O.M. and I laugh and shake our heads.  But, really, I can only hope that Rice Kernel and I will have the depth of relationship and love that I had with my mom and continue to share with my M.O.M. 

So to all the Moms –  a heartfelt Happy Mother’s Day. 

On a lighter note.  This is a strawberry cheesecake.  Not a plain cheesecake topped with strawberries.  And not a plain cheesecake with a swirl of strawberry puree.  Fresh strawberries are infused throughout this cheesecake – in the base, with an extra swirl of fresh puree, and with sliced fruit perched atop the lovely pink cake.  (For serious strawberry afficionados, consider making extra puree or strawberry coulis to drizzle atop the cheesecake.)  I’m crazy about this cake.  So crazy Rice Kernel and I had to eat some warm from the oven.  (In case you’re curious, it’s warm and mousse-like.)  Tall, light, creamy, and full of freshness, it will make any strawberry lover swoon. 

Strawberry Cheesecake, adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Tall and Creamy Cheesecake from Baking: From my Home to Yours (via The Way the Cookie Crumbles)

Rice Kernel's request: I want the BIGGEST strawberry!

1½ cups graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or Earth Balance, melted

4 (8-ounce) packages reduced fat cream cheese or Neufchatel, at room temperature
1⅓ cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup strawberry puree, divided


  1. Place washed and hulled strawberries in a blender (about 1½ cups whole) and puree until smooth.  Place through a fine sieve to remove seeds.
  2. For the crust:  Spray the bottom of a springform pan with nonstick spray.  Either grind the graham crackers with a food processor or place them in a ziptop bag and crush with a rolling pin.  Add sugar, salt, and butter to the crumbs and stir until evenly mixed.  Press the crumbs into an even layer covering the bottom of the prepared pan.  Put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the crust for 7-10 minutes, until fragrant.  Let cool on a wire rack, then wrap the bottom of the pan in foil.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  4. For the cheesecake:  With a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese at medium-low speed until smooth.  Add the sugar and salt; continue mixing for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and creamy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs one a time, mixing just until each one is incorporated. Mix in ½ cup of the strawberry puree.
  5. Pour the batter onto the cooled crust.  Spoon the remaining strawberry puree over the batter and use a butter knife to gently swirl it.  Place the wrapped springform pan into roasting pan; pour the hot water into the roasting pan.
  6. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon; let the cheesecake set in the water bath for another hour.  Remove the cheesecake from the hot water and let it come to room temperature on a cooling rack.  When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours.

Strawberry Coulis


2 cups quartered hulled strawberries (about 12 ounces)
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice


  1. Combine strawberries, water, sugar and lemon juice in blender. Purée until very smooth. 
  2. Press through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. 
  3. Cover and refrigerate until cold.

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Sake-Steamed Chicken

Steamed chicken may not make your mouth water like the fried or roasted variety – not until you make this dish, that is.  One of the easiest dishes, sake steaming makes the chicken aromatic, flavorful, and tender.  The hardest part of the dish is waiting:  after steaming the chicken, the key is cool it to room temperature (give or take) inside the pot.  This way it will retain its succulence.  If you pull it out of the pot and cut it up immediately, you’ll end up with dry chicken.  Patience is key. 

To me, the best part of this dish is the ginger scallion sauce.  Mildly spicy and wonderfully savory and aromatic, it is delicious on rice alone.  Or noodles.  Or the chicken.  Which is finger-licking good.  Without the grease.

Sake-Steamed Chicken, adapted from Harris Salad via New York Times

Ingredients for Chicken

    1 3 1/2 pound organic chicken, rinsed and patted dry
    1 1/2 cups dry sake (any inexpensive brand will suffice)
    3 thinly sliced scallions
    2 tbsp sesame seeds, preferably black
    Kosher salt

Ingredients for Citrus Soy Dipping Sauce

    2 tbsp soy sauce
    2 tbsp orange juice
    2 tsp rice vinegar
    1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
    1 1/2 tsp mirin or sweet sherry
    1 tbsp chopped ginger root
    1 large garlic clove, minced

Ingredients for Ginger Scallion Sauce

    1 cup thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites; from 1 large bunch)
    1/2 cup finely minced, peeled fresh ginger (I use a grater)
    1/8 cup oil (I use olive oil, but you can use canola, grapeseed, vegetable, etc.)
    1 tsp Kosher salt, or more to taste


  1. Place a steamer basket in the bottom of a large stockpot (I’ve used my Creuset or a wok).  Pour in equal amounts of sake and water, enough to reach the bottom of the steamer basket.  Bring to a boil.
  2. Generously salt the chicken inside and out; set breast side up in the steamer basket.  Reduce the heat to low and cover.  Steam the chicken until the juices just run clear when pierced with a knife, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours.  Turn off the heat and allow to cool for about 20 minutes within the pot.  To serve, carve and set pieces on a platter.  Spoon some of the sauce over the meat and sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.
  3. Citrus Sauce:  In a small bowl whisk together the soy sauce, orange juice, rice vinegar, lemon juice, mirin, ginger and garlic.
  4. Ginger Scallion Sauce: Heat oil in a small pan.  When warm (but not smoking), carefully place scallions and ginger.  Cook 2-3 minutes, until ginger has lost a bit of its bite and scallions are wilted.  Remove from heat and season to taste with salt.

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We made a last-minute decision to spend the weekend in Lake Tahoe.  With some leftover vegetables and grilled chicken to get through, I picked cilantro from the garden to tossed together a quick (warm or cold) pasta salad.  

Cilantro is an ideal springtime superfood.  Its remarkable components have shown the potential to help promote detoxification, reduce high blood sugar, and lower levels of cholesterol.  Health benefits aside, this light and tangy vinaigrette is delicious paired with a salad and versatile enough to use as a marinade or a sauce for pasta, poultry, steak, shrimp, firm fish (like tuna), eggs, or roasted/steamed vegetables.  (Really, anything.)  For a quick dinner, we placed raw spinach, tomatoes, chopped carrots, bell peppers, corn, and grilled chicken in a bowl, topped it with hot gemelli, and tossed everything with the vinaigrette.  The heat from the pasta will wilt the vegetables and soak up the dressing. 

I know there are legions of cilantro haters.  I’ve heard it called the “most loathsome garnish of our time.”  Dramatic, I think, because I adore the herb.  Even if you don’t enjoy cilantro as much as I do, I hope you’ll give this a try.  You will be surprised how refreshing this flavorful, slightly sweet dressing tastes.  It’s springtime in a bowl!

Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

Vegetable Gemelli dressed with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

Simply mix the following ingredients:

    2 tbsp fresh lime juice
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1/2 tsp agave nectar or honey
    1/2 tsp kosher salt
    2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
    1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
    1/2 jalapeno, diced and seeded (optional)

Leftover dressing will keep refrigerated for up to a week.

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Salmon “Bulgogi”

Salmon and cod are mainstays in our home and not just because of their myriad health benefits.  Fish cures my inevitable dinner crankies: “what should I cook tonight?”  With some simple seasonings, I can pull together a respectable meal in the same time it takes to fry up frozen potstickers and broccoli (it happens).

Recently, I came across an Epicurious recipe for salmon “bulgogi.”  Bulgogi is a popular Korean beef dish marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, and other seasonings.  Here, the salmon is substituted for the sirloin.  The marinade is appetizingly savory, with a bite and a kick from the rice wine and aromatics.  It stands up beautifully to the richness of the fish – and is a great all-around dipping sauce.

After an afternoon spent digging weeds and remulching part of our yard, this is the perfect quick supper entree.  We paired it with rice and sauteed vegetables tonight.  But, with some planning, it could be part of a colorful trifecta of pink salmon, purple potatoes, and roasted green asparagus!

Salmon “Bulgogi”

Ingredients, adapted from Epicurious

    2 large garlic cloves, minced
    1/3 cup chopped green onions
    1/4 cup reduced-sodium light soy sauce
    1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
    1 3/4-inch cube peeled fresh ginger
    2 teaspoons agave nectar (or honey or sugar)
    1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
    pinch of red pepper flakes
    3 6-ounce center cut Salmon filets
    olive oil


  1. Combine the first 8 ingredients. Arrange salmon in a baking dish.  Spoon marinade over.  Let marinate 5 minutes and up to 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Arrange fish, with some marinade still clinging, on rimmed baking sheet.  Transfer any marinade in dish to small saucepan.  Roast fish until just opaque in center, about 8 minutes.  Bring marinade in saucepan to boil; glaze fish before serving.
  3. You can also prepare the fish on the stove; cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5-8 minutes.   

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