Monday, February 16, 2015

Flat Iron Steak with Chimichurri

Flat iron steak is a great alternative to the more expensive cuts of beef.  When sliced thinly, and topped with my favorite chimichurri sauce, it's called delicious.  I served this with thinly sliced roasted sweet and white potatoes and grilled baby bok choy, sprinkled with lemon juice and garlic salt. Pare this with a good cabernet and you've got yourself some dinner!

3 lbs flat iron steak, generously seasoned with salt and pepper. If you really want a treat, and don't mind paying more, use black truffle salt.

Grill to your favorite temperature.  My family doesn't like it very red, so I cooked this to a temperature of 155 degrees.

Chimichurri (or green sauce)
2 tomatillos
2 jalapeño peppers
1/2 cup cilantro (measured when tightly packed)
1/2 cup parsley
2 cloves raw garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt 

Slice jalapeños in half, lengthwise. Place face down on a cooking sheet or small grilling rack.  Broil jalapeños and tomatillos under oven broiler until they begin to blacken.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Place all ingredients, including cooled peppers and tomatillos in a food processor and blend until all ingredients form a thick sauce.  Add a little more olive oil if it's too thick.  The sauce is best when very fresh, but it will stay for up to three days if you store it in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

Dietary considerations: 
Gluten Free
Whole30 compliant

Crab Cakes for Fat Tuesday

For a recent dinner party, we decided to do a Mardi Gras theme in honor of the upcoming Fat Tuesday celebration.  Granted, most of us in the Northwest are completely unfamiliar with the New Orleans Mardi Gras traditions, much less the food, so we all did research and picked out a different dish to bring.  I chose crab cakes.  I love crab cakes, and I order them any chance I get when I see them on a menu, but I have never made my own.  So, this little adventure brought me to look at many different recipes and left me extremely confused as every recipe was so different from one to the next.  Some called for milk, others called for eggs, some used fresh bread crumbs, others were dried or panko style.   My biggest worry was having them fall apart if they didn't have the right texture to hold them together.  Since I was going to use gluten free bread crumbs, it was especially important that there was some other binding agent in them.  These turned out perfect and not one fell apart.

These usually are served with some kind of remoulade, or cream based sauce, but I just liked them plain to really taste the crab.  Emeril Lagasse's recipe looked really good if you want a nice sauce to add to this dish.  

1 T butter (I use Earth Balance non-dairy butter)
1 red pepper, finely diced
1 shallot, finely diced
2 green onions; diced (just the white and lighter green parts)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 T chopped fresh oregano
1 T chopped fresh thyme
3 Lemons, 1 juiced and 2 cut into wedges for serving
2 eggs
1 lb lump crab meat
1 cup dried bread crumbs* 
2 T cajun style spice such as Old Bay, Zataran's or Big Easy
1/4-1/2 cup olive or canola oil

*I used one box of Glutino's gluten free vegetable crackers, ground up in my food processor

Heat butter in a skillet, add diced pepper, shallot, green onion and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes or until softened.

Add eggs to large mixing bowl and whisk.  Juice one of the lemons and add lemon juice to the whisked eggs.  Add lump crab meat, cooked vegetables and fresh herbs to lemon and egg mixture. Blend together with a fork.  

In a separate bowl, mix together bread crumbs and cajun seasoning. Add seasoned bread crumbs to the crab meat  mixture and blend.

Lay a sheet of parchment or wax paper on a cookie sheet.  Form patties from crab mixture and lay on cookie sheet.  Place in refrigerator for at least an hour to allow crab cakes to become firm to better hold their shape before cooking.

Heat oil in a skillet.  Make sure you have enough for about 1/4 of an inch deep to cover the entire pan.  Oil is ready when a drop of water added makes a sizzling noise.  Cook a few crab cakes at a time, allowing enough room to easily turn them over with a spatula.  Cook each side for approximately 3 minutes.  An easy way to turn them is to use two spatulas; one to lift it up and tip it over and the other to catch it and gently lay it back down in the oil.  This method will prevent any oil splashes and not break your crab cakes.

Remove crab cakes and place on paper towels in a large baking dish to allow excess oil to drain. Continue cooking a few cakes at a time, until finished.

Serve with lemon wedges and a remoulade sauce if desired.

Dietary considerations:
These were made to accommodate one both gluten free and dairy free guests.  If those aren't a concern for you, you can use regular butter and any dried or panko bread crumb.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lomo Saltado (Beef and onions with french fries)

Yep, those are french fries and that's what I love about this dish.  Put a potato on anything and I'll eat it.  My husband says it's the Irish blood in me. I just think it's good taste. I first had this dish at a little hotel villa in the south of Chile in Patagonia and immediately fell in love with it.  I never tried to make it, though until I started ordering it as my main go to item on the menu of a small Mexican/Peruvian restaurant in our neighborhood.  I've never actually looked up a recipe for Lomo, and I guess I should, but this one I just went with my tastebuds.  I'm sure it's not anywhere near an authentic Peruvian or Chilean style dish, but the Chilean in my house thinks it's pretty good.

1 bag crinkle cut fries
2 pounds flat iron steak (you could use any steak, I suppose, but this cut is great for this dish)
2 T olive oil
1 large yellow sweet onion
6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
1 large bunch bok choy or 5-6 bunches of baby bok choy; chopped
3 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
Ground black pepper to taste
2 large avocados, sliced

Heat oven to 400 degrees and cook french fries until crispy.

While fries are cooking, mix spices together and generously cover steak.  Grill steak to medium.
I use a lot of black pepper on this one but I think pepper is a pretty personal taste, so I'm not going to advise you one way or the other on that one.  I didn't used to put pepper on anything, and now I tend to overdue it a bit.

While steak is cooking, cut onion into generously sized wedges and sauté with garlic with olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.

When meat is done, let sit for 5-6 minutes to let heat dissipate and allow juices to settle.  Slice meat into thin slices.  Add slices to the onion and garlic mixture and cook together until blended and meat is at a temperature that you like.

Add chopped bok choy and tomatoes to the meat and onion mixture.  Cover and steam for 3-4 minutes.  Mix together.  Taste and add additional salt pepper as needed.

Serve and top with french fries and sliced avocados.

Other variations that I've seen substitute red onion for the yellow.
Potato variations can include any kind of french fry cut you like or potatoes cut into wedges.  On a busy weeknight with soccer and theatre with the kids, the easiness of a frozen bag of fried from the freezer is appealing to me.
I've made this the day after a big barbecue with the leftover meat.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


Cioppino (pronounced cha-pee-no) --this is garlic, seafood, and savory yummy flavors in a bowl. 
Don't forget a good crusty garlic bread for dipping! I had always enjoyed a good cioppino in Italian restaurants and had never tried making my own until I found a recipe in the Portland Palate that looked fairly easy.  

Shellfish used to scare me to cook with.  How do you know if it's any good? How do you cook it? I've learned  a lot since those days and I have to say shellfish is about the lowest maintenance protein I can think of (next to beans).  I'll add some definite no-no's and a few hints about cooking shellfish just in case you're new to trying it.  If you're an expert, then feel free to add your comments below and let me know your secrets! 

You may be tempted to substitute the fresh herbs for the dried variety.  I encourage you to splurge and buy the fresh ones if you don't grow your own.  It truly does make the broth. 

This recipe is a variation of the original Portland Palate recipe I tried many years ago.  I like way more garlic and try to not use canned goods in my cooking.  Buon appetito!

2 T olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
10 cloves garlic- yep, I do mean 10.  I used 7 in this recipe and my hubby told me it didn't have enough.
1 green bell pepper, diced with seeds and membrane removed
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp minced fresh oregano 
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
1/4 cup chopped green onion
32 oz box seafood or vegetable broth
32 oz box chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup red wine
2 pounds live clams
2 pounds live mussels
1 pound raw shrimp, shells and tail removed
6 oz. fresh salmon fillet, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 13 oz. package of thin spaghetti
Crusty yummy garlic bread-- I use ciabatta from my local bakery


Heat olive oil in large stock pot.  Add chopped onion and garlic and suaté until onion is translucent and garlic aroma fills your kitchen!

Add chopped green pepper and stir.  Cook 2 minutes.  Add herbs and green onion, and continue sautéing for additional 3-4 minutes or until fully blended.  

Add chicken broth, seafood broth and tomato sauce and bay leaves.  Bring to slight boil and then reduce to simmer. Cover and continue simmering for at least one hour and up to three hours.  You may need to add more broth if the liquid reduces too much.  Your pot should be about 2/3 full of broth in order to hold all the seafood.  You can also cook the broth the day before and refrigerated overnight if you will be short on time the day you are going to serve it.  The last step with the seafood takes less than 30 minutes.

Rinse the clams and mussels by fully submerging them in cold water in a large bowl.  Let them soak for a good 30 minutes to allow all the sand to fully seep out of the shells.  Nobody wants to bite into a gritty grain of sand. Drain and rinse again. If there are any open shells, squeeze them shut and let go. If they close on their own, they are still alive and good to go.  If they don't stay shut, they are no good.  Discard!

About 30 minutes before serving, heat a large saucepan or pot of water to cook spaghetti.

Once broth is fully simmered and all flavors have completely filled your house, add the clams.  Cook for approximately 5 minutes before adding the rest of the seafood.  The clams will take the longest out of the seafood and you want to avoid having the shrimp turn too chewy.  Add the mussels, shrimp and salmon.

Add pasta to pot of boiling water.

Cook cioppino for approximately 15 minutes at a low rolling boil or until shells open up.  The salmon should turn opaque, the shrimp should be bright pink and all of the clams and mussels should have opened.  Discard any unopened stubborn shells.  These should not be eaten.

Put scoop of pasta in bottom of  large soup bowl.  Add cioppino on top and serve with that awesomely flavored garlic bread for good dipping.

Don't forget the wine!  We opened a nice bottle of Viu Manent Carmenére that was to die for. 

Dietary considerations:
Dairy free- use a dairy free butter garlic spread for the bread
Gluten free- use gluten free pasta or skip it all together; the soup stands on its own quite well
Whole30- omit the wine and serve without pasta and bread

Friday, February 6, 2015

Lime Wine Spritzer or un Tincho

Un tincho is an Argentinian drink that's so simple to make!  Great for a hot summer night, a party drink or a pairing with some fish tacos.  It's the hot cocktail in Buenos Aires. 

New Age white wine can be found in most grocery stores. I've found it at all but one of the larger chains in my area.  It has a little bubble to it and makes this drink perfect. 

Simply serve over crushed ice, and add a squeeze of lime.  Don't be afraid to be a little generous with the lime. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Leftover Salmon and Shrimp Pasta

I got home at 5:45 pm and had no idea what we were going to eat for dinner.  I opened the fridge and found one cooked leftover salmon filet from last night's dinner.  That is not going to feed 4 of us.  In the freezer I spotted a 2 lb bag of frozen shrimp that was half full, a half pound of bacon and some peas.  Voila!  Dinner was starting to form in my head.  Forty minutes later, we we were sitting down to a new dish that is somewhere between a pasta carbonara and a penne marinara. 

1/2 pound bacon
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups frozen peas
1 pound uncooked shrimp (remove shell and tails)
4 tomatoes (or two cups), diced
1/2 cup dry sherry or white wine
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
6 oz. salmon filet (cooked)
1 lb box uncooked penne pasta
1/2 lemon

Place large pot of water on stove top to boil for pasta.

Slice bacon into small bite size pieces.  This works best when it is half frozen-- less greasy and much easier to slice.  Cook in a large pan until pieces begin to crisp.  Drain half of the bacon grease, leaving bacon and rest of grease in pan.  Add garlic and saute 2-3 minutes.

Add frozen peas and shrimp.  Saute until shrimp begins to turn pink.

Add diced tomatoes, sherry, red pepper flakes and black pepper.  Heat until mixture to a slight boil and simmer for 4-6 minutes.

Add pasta to pot once it has been brought to a full boil.  Cook for 7-9 minutes or until cooked al dente.  Drain.

Break cooked salmon filet into large chunks and add to shrimp and tomato mixture.  Stir and blend together.  Squeeze juice of lemon over mixture.

Serve shrimp and salmon mixture over top of pasta.

This dish was a quick way to use leftover salmon and stretch it to feed a family.  If you are starting from scratch,  line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, place the salmon on the sheet, sprinkle with a little lemon juice and cook at 350 degrees for approximately 12-15 minutes.

Substitute peas for a variety of green vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, or fresh spinach.

Dietary considerations:
Gluten free: use gluten free pasta
Dairy free

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mango Avocado Dipping Good

5 avocados, mashed (or use hand processor or chopper*)
1/2 red onion, diced
1 mango chopped in large chunks
1 jalapeño pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Juice from 1 small lime
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp hot sauce (optional, but I highly recommend it)

Mix it all together.  It's that simple.  I topped my dish with a couple of lime and mango slices and a little sprig of cilantro for show.  Don't expect the "presentation" to last after the first dip. 

Makes approximately 3 cups.  Serve with your favorite tortilla or pita chips.

*I have one of those hand cranked food processors that I picked up at a cooking demo somewhere along the line.  This thing makes the absolute best guacamole and salsa.  You just put everything in at once and start to crank the handle.  It doesn't pulverize the ingredients and you don't get the over-juiced results that an automatic processor will produce.  It also takes literally seconds to blend and process all the ingredients.  

My handheld processor is so old that the logo is rubbed off the side, and I don't remember what brand it is.  This looks somewhat like mine.  If you ever see one, I highly recommend picking it up.

Dietary Considerations:
Nothing to adjust here!
  • Vegan Friendly
  • Dairy Free
  • Gluten Free