Steal This: Broiled Sockeye Salmon with Citrus Glaze

Don’t let another night go by without trying this salmon recipe from Alton Brown.

Thanks Alton Brown! Your broiled and glazed salmon YUUUUUUMMMMMMM! It is the best way I’ve found to make salmon, especially those huge (expensive) slabs. It is so easy and it turns FISH into CANDY! Even my kids like it.

The Deets

1 side, skin-on, sockeye salmon, 1 1/2 to 2 pounds, pin bones removed
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Position a rack in the oven 3 inches from the broiler. Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil and place the salmon on the pan.

Place the sugar, zest, salt, and pepper into the bowl of a small food processor and process for 1 minute or until well combined. Evenly spread the mixture onto the salmon and allow to sit for 45 minutes, at room temperature.

Turn the oven on to the high broiler setting for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, place the salmon into the oven and broil for 6 to 8 minutes or until the thickest part of the fish reaches an internal temperature of 131 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the salmon from the oven and allow to rest, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes.

Tips

I don’t find it necessary to grind the citrus rub. Maybe I’m missing something crucial, but I don’t want to lug out (and then clean out) the food processor for this recipe, which is otherwise blissfully low maintenance. I simply mix the rub together and spread it out. The salmon is incredible, even without this step.

As the salmon sits, you might notice some juices running out the side. I worried about this at first, but it isn’t a big deal. Just keep going.

The only sad part (for me) is losing the skin. I love crispy salmon skin. However, the rub can be used on any salmon cut and the salmon can be cooked in a pan on the stove, skin side first. The results are a little different—you don’t get that candied effect, but the fish is still very delicious.

Nina Simone and virtue

Are you a Nina Simone fan? If not (or even if you are) I have to urge you to listen to her song, “The Other Woman.”

It is heartbreak, breath-take, and surprise all wrapped in a poem of piano and lyrical delivery. Here:

I started thinking about this song as I contemplated the idea of virtue. Note: if you didn’t just listen to the song in its entirety a few times, this won’t make much sense. (It might not make sense anyway.)

Here is how it started. I went food shopping the other day and filled my cart near to brim with green vegetables. I needed them, don’t get me wrong, but I also felt very “good” buying these things. I felt virtuous.

And I thought about how I might seem to others. Nowhere near perfect, I’m sure, as the woman “Who finds time to manicure her nails.” But certainly something of a virtuous ideal: e.g., that my recipes are full of veggies and I’m always totally prepared.

And then the week happened. And we’ve been taking a few shortcuts this week (eating out; going for pre-made meals), because the truth is, I have a lot on my mind and I haven’t felt like cooking. So now that virtue is turning into something else.

In fact, the only virtue I’d consistently give myself is a willingness to charge through, even when I’m unsure of my skill. And while I fully recognize my skill may be lacking, I’m confident of my creativity and I’m confident of ability to roll with an idea and see if I can make it better.

Something will happen. It might not be magic every time. It might never be Nina Simone. Then again, there isn’t enough Nina Simone in the world anyway.

Seriously, who else could possibly end a song with a lick of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush,” and have it feel like the only possible outcome?

It is official. I have an addiction to Dollar Tree

I’m not proud. I started to go to Dollar Tree becuase I got into acrylic pouring and needed some paints. I knew they had low cost acrylics there. But then I saw that they had small canvases, too. THEN, in the pictures aisle, I found a ton of pressboard shadow boxes that were larger than the canvases. So I got a bunch of those (little did I know they wouldn’t have more). Then I found two (just 2) plain wooden die cut flower boards.

That’s when I started to realize just how special and insidious Dollar Tree is. They will have really cute things. For a dollar. Then, those things will be gone. Some of them are much higher quality than you would normally find for a dollar, and unlike the 99C Store, everything IS ACTUALLY ONE DOLLAR.

I’ve always gone there for stickers and note pads. Now I go there first for everything. And I watch Dollar Tree DIYs on YouTube… and then I shame watch Dollar Tree Hauls on YouTube. I’m literally fighting the urge right now to go watch one.

With almost everything available online these days, Dollar Tree full fills that hunter/gatherer, get-it-before-its-gone psychological need we have. The fact that some of it might be crap, but a lot of it is pretty cool (in the way that anything a suburban mom does is “cool.”)

So let’s talk about what is in the picture. Because despite my self-deprecation, I’m completely un-ironically enjoying this stuff. The top left: come on…its all about coffee! And it has teal green accents (my favorite color). The companion to that sign is the coffee scented candle seen in the middle, with a coffee lid on it. It really smells like a delicious coffee. I put these by our coffee machine.

Doubling down on the teal, I have two shadow boxes. The small one, “Lead with Love” is currently on my desk. The Mermaid one accompanies some large shells my husband is displaying on our garden window.

In front, to the left is that beautiful aqua container… I wish I’d gotten more, but I didn’t really have a use for it when I bought it. I just loved the color. Right now, it is holding those craft jewel ribbons, plus some other rolls of ribbon I had. I hope to do something more with that soon.

In the middle, you have that textured glass jar. This is a candle holder that I sprayed with mirror finish on the inside to give it a mercury glass effect. It fit a random solar light I had nearly perfectly, so that has become a little shelf light. On the front it says “Home Made.” I need to pick up another one before they are gone.

The plain glass mason jar and the note pad are self explanatory—although I am super pleased that this note pad has not one but two magnet strips on the back for extra security. And finally, the purple vase is one I made myself with acrylic pouring. The glass vase is a staple at Dollar Tree, so I don’t have to worry about them running out.

Are you a Dollar Tree addict too?

Esprit de l’escalier.

This is why I like to write. I always think of the perfect thing to say, five minutes after it is valuable to do so.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

I went on a job interview yesterday. After several years of freelance work, I’m looking to transition away from journalism and toward teaching. In many ways, this feels like it was always my path. Every part of my job that I have loved involved speaking to people and sharing their stories, with the goal of educating others. What I don’t get in freelancing is a social working environment. There is no one to share ideas or commiserate except the dogs, who love to interrupt my live interviews by barking.

And so, I decided to switch and find a way to do the things I love most more often, in a dynamic and rich environment. Of course, I do also love some of the solitary work. Reading, painting, cooking — I enjoy all these activities on my own. But I also love to perform and collaborate. So when I work, I like people around. I am the definition of an introverted extrovert…or an extroverted introvert.

Ok, before this turns into a LiveJournal entry, let me get to the point.

For those of you who might not know, L’esprit de l’escalier translates into “staircase wit.” It’s that sharp thing you think to say as you leave the party. My life is full of those moments. Of speechifying a take down to someone who was rude, or re-answering an interview question.

In this case, the question was: Is it more important that you respect the students or that the students respect you.

I’d love your responses. Your ideas. Here is approximately what I said:

“Oh that’s easy, it is must more important that I respect the students. You have to be authentic and trustworthy. At the end of the day, it is about their experiences, not mine.”

So that’s somewhat true…but I didn’t go far enough. I should have also said: Respect is mutual, but as the adult it is my responsibility to offer respect first, and lead by example.

Thank you for letting me get out my esprit de l’escalier. What would you have said?

Five things I needed with a new baby. And the one thing I didn’t.

There are a ton of advice articles online about baby stuff. Here’s what I found the most useful.

My little girl, one month old

If I’m being honest, the first 6 months of my daughter’s life are a blur. I have very little short term memory of the events of that time. I remember long days and interrupted nights in which I marveled at her while she slept, breastfed until I was raw, and endlessly negotiated whether to sleep, shower, eat, or spend time with my son or husband.

Through it all, I had support from spouse, parents, siblings, and friends. I’m really lucky. What I didn’t have was a ton of extra money. So this post is to help other moms by sharing the items of real value that made those first 6 months survivable.

A really perfect nursing pillow (2 of ’em).

A My Brest Friend nursing pillow was a hand-me-down from an experienced mom during my first pregnancy. Unlike other nursing pillows, it isn’t a multitasker. You really can’t use it to prop the baby up or work on tummy time. The cover, although removable, can be somewhat complex to take off and put back on again.

Despite appearances, this is not a tutu.

But– for nursing, it is the only pillow I found that really helped me with baby positioning, prevented back pain, didn’t slip, and made me feel comfortable while I nursed. I’m not too proud to admit I wore it around the house like a tutu on some days, throwing it on, then pouring myself a coffee and grabbing a snack before settling in for a feeding session.

I also found the pocket perfect for holding a container of nipple balm, a water bottle, and even better for sneaking candy.

We have a two-story house, and it was helpful to have one for upstairs and one for downstairs. I also made sure to have at lease one extra clean cover, for quick changes during spit ups.

Although I got one as a hand-me-down for my first born, that one did not last. The foam tore. However, once I asked for it, a few friends were able to pass their old ones (still in good condition) to me.

Cooling soothing breast pads

My daughter was not a gentle nurser. She pulled, still suckling as she pulled away, she dug her claws into my skin, and sometimes refused to detach. I tried a few different types of gel breast pads. They kept me going when all I wanted to do was quit.

Sweet relief.

The ones that I liked best were the ones first given to me by the hospital staff. I preferred the Ameda ComfortGel Pads because they weren’t sticky (some of the pads on the market stick like glue) and because I could wear one pair for a few days. Rinsing them out in icy water actually made them better.

Now when I hear a friend is pregnant, I add a set of these to the care package.

Nipple butter

Good for lots of stuff.

You might start to notice a theme. My boobs really hurt. But Earth Mama Nipple Butter was for more than just the nips. It smells like coco butter, so it’s really nice to put on. I used it as lip balm for me and my son (he gets bad chapped lips in the winter) as well as elbow and hand lotion. It even worked as a diaper cream one day when the regular stuff had fallen behind the changing table and I couldn’t find it.

A “place” to put the baby in every room.

This one isn’t a product per se, but is more a philosophy of living with an infant. Every room, including the bathroom (or right outside the bathroom) can be improved if there is a designated space to put the baby down. Napping pillows, bouncer seats, rockers— all these make life a little easier for a new mom. They can be on the floor, but bonus points if they don’t require mom to bend down. Of course, always consider safety first.

We kept some of these items from when my son was little, but a few extra donations from other moms eager to clean out their garages came in handy.

Sleep and play jumpers

Rainbows are a must for any baby.

Easy on, easy off—sleep and play jumpers are the best. Choose the ones that close with a zipper and cover the baby’s feet. These are still the main clothing choice everyday and into the night. My son also insisted we buy some in his size. I sorta wish they had them for me too.

What I didn’t need.

Anything new–except a car seat. That’s right folks, beg, borrow, or steal. OK, I did have to order the breast pads and the nipple cream… and diapers and diaper cream. And a few really adorable bows. Ok, yeah, you still have to buy a lot.

Which is why you should take advantage anything that you don’t have to buy. Borrow or reuse a crib and plastic mattresses, accept sturdy strollers, and as many receiving and swaddling blankets you can get.

Hope you are able to find everything you need. And here’s hoping your newbies sleep through the night as soon as possible.

Sausage and blue cheese stuffed mushrooms.

or “What to do when you have a lot of little leftovers.”

This is just a little post because we’ve been overwhelmed with holiday BBQs. When we got home from a weekend full of meat-heavy meals, hubby said he just wanted something light. I took the opportunity to unload some leftovers. Here is what I used:

10 Mushroom caps
1 cup sweet Italian sausage crumbles
3/4 cup pizza sauce
1 pkg blue cheese crumbles
1/2 cup leftover wilted spinach
Fresh grated parmesan
Plain breadcrumbs

To make the mushrooms, I arranged the caps in a container and sprinkled them with salt. Then I mixed together the sausage, cheese, and spinach. I put heaping spoonfuls of the mixture into the mushrooms and topped them with parmesan and breadcrumbs. Into the oven they went at 350F for 25 minutes.

Super simple and a decent Sunday evening meal.

Stuffed mushrooms are great for getting rid of fridge ingredients. In this case, we had had a make-your-own pizza night earlier in the week. I had planned to make stuffed mushrooms for a party, but it turned out we didn’t need another side dish.

7 mistakes you are making in the kitchen, as told by Pineapple Chicken.

We all make mistakes. In novice cooking, there are plenty of pitfalls that can ruin a dish. But there are also ways to avoid these mistakes. Here we’ll look at some common mistakes and easy fixes that will help you produce beautiful and tasty food. We’ll use a pineapple chicken stir fry as our inspiration. But first, the recipe.

Ingredients

1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite sized pieces.
1/2 large onion, diced small
1/2 fresh pineapple, cut into bite sized pieces
1 package (8 oz) snow peas, snap peas or green beans
1/2 cup cashews
1 cup stir fry sauce (recipe in link)
1 cup plus cornstarch with 1 teaspoon each salt/pepper (to taste)
2 tbls cornstarch(divided)
up to 2 cups water
Optional: Additional veggies, water chestnuts, baby corn

1-2 cups uncooked rice
1 tablespoon butter

Instructions

Once the chicken is cut as uniformly as possible, let it drain and pat dry. Coat the pieces in 1 cup of cornstarch, mixed with salt and pepper. Be sure every chicken piece is dry to the touch, adding more cornstarch if necessary, 1/4 cup at a time.
In a hot skillet, add the chicken in one layer. Cook on high until chicken is dark golden and crispy.
Meanwhile, follow instructions for rice, adding a tablespoon of butter to pot or rice cooker.
Remove chicken and add onions. Cook onions until translucent on medium heat (about 10 mintues). Turn heat back up to high and add pineapple. Cook pineapple until color brightens, and pieces are lightly caramelized.
Meanwhile make a slurry of 2 tbls of cornstarch and 1 cup of water. Turn heat to medium low and add soy sauce mixture to the pan, followed by the cornstarch slurry. Add snow peas and cashews. Mix to coat ingredients in sauce, cooking on low until liquid thickens. Add another cup of water as needed to thin out sauce.
Serve over rice.

Mistakes

You don’t taking advantage of “what looks good” when you go shopping.

To everything there is a season. For example, my original plan for this recipe was to do orange chicken. At the market however, I passed by a gorgeous, golden ripe pineapple that smelled like heaven. The best part about cooking is being driven by what looks good, what season you are in. One of the reasons I love the farmers market is that it provides a rich education on when to expect certain fruits and vegetables, as well as an opportunity to experiment. I’ve never made pineapple chicken before. But I know the basics of technique and felt comfortable enough to wing it.

You don’t mirepoix.

Prepping is key. Spend the first 20 minutes gathering everything you need: pre-measure all your ingredients, wash and chop fruits and veggies, then chop everything else you need in the size you need it. These are my brand new bowls so I wanted to use them, but usually I save clear plastic soup containers from the market and use those for my mirepoix.


One other note: Time is precious, so prep your ingredients in a particular order. Cut fruits and veggies first, then meats. That way, you don’t have use a different cutting board or spend extra time washing the same cutting board.

Place everything you need next to your stove top, as close as possible in the order you will be cooking. Stir fry in particular is a wait, wait, wait, hurry GO! kind of food.

You don’t flavor your rice.

Rice deserves flavor, just as any other starch. Just a tablespoon of butter will give you great flavor. I particularly like using it in the rice cooker, because you also get a little crispy rice at the bottom of the pan.

Who doesn’t like crispy rice?

You overcrowd the pan.

I’ve covered this before, but it is essential to choose a pan that allows food to breathe. Crowded chicken will steam instead of crisp. Sure the food is edible, but really, you are better than that.

You cook food at the wrong heat.

Some meats should sear. Some fruits and veggies should too. Others get better the longer they cook. But sauces can quickly burn, and other vegetables lose crunch and flavor (not to mention nutrients) when cooked at heats that are too high. Get to know your range and find out which foods like it “hot” and which ones like it “not.”

You don’t cook ingredients long enough or you move the food in the pan too much.

You’ve spent the time to get to know your cook top and the ingredients. But now you can’t stop fiddling. Take a look at this chicken piece. That is the result of about 10 minutes of cooking on high. It is just barely starting to get the right color. I cooked it another 10 minutes.

Likewise, let onions go for at least 10 minutes. They are just getting to the point of translucency. This is when I add the pineapple. But don’t go too fast at this point.

And don’t move it around too much. Just let it be. Take a look at side by side images of the pineapple. I turned these after about 5 minutes. They look beautiful and the onions continued to gain color.

You cook other ingredients too long.

Delicate herbs, thin veggies, nuts really need just a little heat to brighten their colors and get a little tender. Respect your ingredients and they will reward you with ultimate flavor.

A saucy minx.

The best homemade stir fry sauce to keep in your fridge.

Looks like I need to make more…

Today I’m introducing you to my favorite sauce. It’s one I make myself and keep in my fridge at all times. I can also add to it easily and often do when I have the right ingredients on hand.

This is a basic sauce, but it makes my life easier to have it premixed and ready to go when I’m making stir fry.

The one issue I have is that I really don’t measure. I go by taste on this one. But I’ll try to give you approximations so that you can make this at home, and adjust to your liking.

Ingredients

The secret sauce! Not pictured: scallions (I didn’t have any), rice wine vinegar.
  1. Soy sauce (about 1 cup)
  2. Honey (about 1/4 cup)
  3. Finely grated ginger (1 tablespoon or to taste)
  4. 2-3 cloves of finely grated or crushed garlic (about 1 tablespoon)
  5. 1-2 stalks chopped scallions
  6. Thai fish sauce (a teaspoon or to taste)
  7. Rice or white wine vinegar (a teaspoon or to taste)
  8. Optional: Shichimi—a red chili pepper blend (1/8 teaspoon)

Variations

With a simple adjustment, this sauce base is a great replacement for teriyaki sauce (with far fewer preservatives). All you need to do is measure out 1/4 cup of the sauce, add 1 cup water, the juice from an orange or lemon, and 1/4 cup brown sugar into a pan over medium heat. Add a cornstarch slurry of 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 1/4 water and cook for about 5 minutes.

Another quick adjustment makes it a great dipping sauce for gyoza. Measure out a few tablespoons of the sauce, add an equal amount of rice wine vinegar and a few drops of sesame oil, as well as a few extra splashes of fish oil. The dipping sauce is light and tangy—perfect for the dumplings.

You can experiment with spices. I really like shichimi, but it would be great with chili oil—or even a packet of the chili flakes that come with pizza delivery if that’s what you have on hand.

A few tips

As I mentioned, I add to this sauce whenever its convenient. For example, when I buy a bunch of green onions at the market for a recipe, there are always leftover stalks. Sometimes I can use those during the week, but other times, I might not get to them. If they are looking a little limp (but are free of mold) I’ll trim any questionable parts, chop up the good parts and throw it in the jar. Because the main ingredients are soy sauce, honey, and vinegar, the onions are pickled. The ginger and garlic are likewise preserved.

Speaking of ginger, whenever I buy ginger root, I slice it up and keep it in my freezer. It stays pretty hearty and can be used in to make ginger tea, smoothies, lemonade, curd, or in this sauce whenever it is needed. The garlic can also be frozen (or stored in oil), but my husband grows garlic in our herb garden, so we have a pretty good supply on hand.

If you don’t have fish sauce, you can omit it… but its sooooooo good, I think you’ll want to add it. It adds a layer of umami flavor that makes the sauce irresistible. A small bottle will last for years.

Do you have a secret sauce? Let me know!

Can we talk about shortbread?

There is no better cookie than shortbread. Fight me.

Almond-flour shortbread with orange zest on my mom’s luncheon china. Too much butter.

From make, to bake, to take no other cookie beats shortbread. It is the three ingredient wonder that makes you look like you know what you are doing. They work for every holiday, as well as appreciation gifts, and are easy to make gluten free (although they are never sugar free or fat free…sorry).

The base recipe is 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, 3 parts flour. So if you are going for a couple dozen (depending on size), here is what you might use:

1/2 cup sugar (bakers sugar is best, but use what you got)
1 cup SALTED butter (room temperature– 65F-69F).
2 cups flour

Cream the butter and sugar, mix in any flavorings, add the flour and mix until it is dough. Refrigerate or freeze for an hour and bake at 375F for about 10-12 minutes.

Wham! Yep, that’s it. From there, you have endless options and ways to fiddle, but you’ll almost always maintain that ratio of 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, 3 parts flour.

I assume you have questions.

Why salted butter?

Oh hell yeah. You’ll notice I did not add salt. For one, I wanted to be cool and say that you can make something delicious with three ingredients. Just let me have this moment.

But you can add salt. If you use unsalted butter you’ll want to add 3/4 of a teaspoon. And if you like salty cookies, add fancy salt on top of the cookie before you bake it.

Seriously, give salted butter a try. I know it isn’t canon. I just really like the flavor. Check out Alison Roman’s Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread for a mind-blowing shortbread experience.

Why is your room temperature so specific?

Butter plays differently at different temperatures. Cold butter yields flakiness, which is why you use cold butter for pie crust and biscuits. For cookies, the goal is crumbliness. Room temperature butter is usually about 71F, but I live in an area that can reach triple digit temperatures in the summer. Plus I find that butter warms as you work it. I like the results best if I start at slightly cooler than room temperature. If your butter gets warmer, you will likely see a little more spread in the final cookie, but by all means bake them and eat them gleefully.

Why refrigerate or freeze?

What I like about this recipe is that the cookies get better the more the dough has time to fully integrate. Plus, it gives you options. I’ve made the dough on a weekend and baked up half a dozen in my toaster oven during the week for dessert. The dough will stay safe wrapped in parchment and cling wrap for a week in the fridge, and up to a month in the freezer.

In truth, we should start making nearly all our cookies this way. There is no need to buy cookie dough from the store when you can make it exactly how you want it and have it ready at a moment’s notice.

What size should I make the cookies?

Slice-and-bake shortbread is perfect for a quick cookie snack.

I’ve found that a tablespoon makes a really nice sized cookie. It bakes quickly and balances the richness. Depending on your customization, some cookies might spread, but in general, shortbread holds shape really well. Roll them into balls to get a half moon shape, or keep them in the same shape the scooper makes for a slightly flatter result.

Alternatively, roll the dough into a log before it is refrigerated and slice-and-bake. NOTE: For a really pretty finish brush the logs with a beaten egg and coat them in demerara or sanding sugar before slicing.

If you want to roll them out to cut into shapes, be gentle. Pat them into a flat disk and refrigerate. Then roll the dough out as lightly as possible.

How can I customize?

Nearly any way you see fit. Add a couple teaspoons of vanilla or almond extract. Add a tablespoon of citrus zest; a tablespoon of lavender or rosemary. A cup of chopped walnuts or pecans make a tasty cookie. You can also play around with the flour, substituting almond flour to make the cookies gluten free. Or replace about 1/3 of a cup of flour with cocoa powder to make chocolate shortbread. And 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in the flour can yield a tender/crisp texture that is amazing.

One key thing is to look up at least one recipe when your are planning a substitution. Substitutions might call for slight ratio changes as well. For example, when I use almond flour I cut back on the butter by 4 tablespoon (using the ratio measurements I mentioned above). Almond flour has a bit of fat in it and is more moist than normal flour. I get a lot of spread with that cookie if I put in too much butter. Do I still devour them? Yes, yes I do.

I also prefer shortbread for decorated holiday cookies, precisely because they hold shape better than sugar cookies. A simple icing of lemon or orange juice and powdered sugar mixed with seasonally appropriate colors allows you to pipe or flood beautiful cookies like a champ.

And now for the best part!

Mine, all mine.

Here’s the real secret. Kids don’t really like shortbread as much as adults do. My son will even pass up shortbreads with chocolate chip. It’s an adult cookie. It’s a subtle cookie. That means when I bake them, I don’t have to hide them. And that makes mommy a smart cookie.