Category Seafood

Grilled Salmon

I am a big fan of “Debbie’s Salmon” — a recipe, named for the woman who gave it to my mother, that involves marinating the fish in a mixture of white wine, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. (I’ve written about this recipe before, and sometimes serve it over udon noodles with a soy-ginger sauce — a dish The Professor gave an A+.) I usually roast the fish, but last Friday The Cook’s mother served Debbie’s Salmon grilled.

And isn’t everything better grilled?

You can see the original recipe below the photos.

Debbie’s Salmon

Preheat oven to 500

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 T oil
2 cloves of garlic, mashed with salt
1 T minced ginger
2 T brown sugar

1 lb salmon, washed and dried and cut  into individual portions

Mix all of the ingredients for the sauce and pour over salmon to marinate for up to 30 minutes

Roast fish for 6-7 minutes, basting with the sauce once or twice. (If the sugar in the marinade starts to burn, lower the rack.)

food52’s Shrimp Burgers with Roasted Garlic-Orange Aioli

food52 (which, if you haven’t checked out yet, you really must) recently held a contest titled Your Best Use of Aioli. The winning entry was this recipe for Shrimp Burgers with Roasted Garlic-Orange Aioli, in which the aioli is used to bind the shrimp burgers and as a spread on the bun. I love shrimp, as does The Professor, so I had to try it.

While The Professor peeled and cleaned the shrimp, I made the aioli, beating the egg yolks continuously and oh-so-slowly pouring in the oil. Making aioli from scratch is certainly an arm work-out, though it’s not  as tricky as I thought it would be.

Then I started slicing and dicing. First the red pepper, then the shallots, the fennel, the fennel fronds, and the chives. The Professor had long since finished his cleaning job and headed up to his office to finish some reading when, finally, I I chopped the shrimp.

He returned while I was forming the burger patties, saying, “These burgers sure aren’t fast, huh?”

“Well a recipe always takes longer the first time you try it,” I countered. But he was right.

The end result was perfectly tasty — the flavor was subtle but recognizably shrimp-y, with hints of licorice and orange that upped the interesting-factor. But the burgers weren’t so mouthwateringly delicious that they justified the effort or the cost. (I’d used wild pink shrimp from Key West that sells for $15 a pound).

The Professor also suggested that the brioche buns I’d served the burgers with might be getting in the way of the subtle flavors. “These might be tastier served more like crab cakes,” he suggested.

The Professor gave them a B, saying he’d be happy to have the shrimp burgers — or cakes — now and again. And I guess I’m glad he didn’t ask me to make them again next week!

Fresh Corn Salad with Chipotle Sauce

Yesterday I set out to make stuffed poblano peppers in chipotle sauce — and ended up with a corn salad. What can I say … my peppers didn’t cooperate, a mad dash to the grocery produced no more poblanos, and so The Cook played inventor. But let me start from the beginning.

As you may recall, the poblanos are stuffed with quinoa, black beans, corn, and mushrooms. I’d made the dish once before and earned a B+. I was hoping my second effort would produce an A. To improve my chances, I planned to serve it with the popular creamed corn.

I roasted the poblano peppers, peeled them, and then cut a small slit in the side in order to scrape the seeds out. I don’t know if it was me or the poblanos, but my seed-removal efforts left the peppers with multiple rips and, I realized, in a truly un-stuffable state.

So I improvised. I cut the kernels off of the cob. I diced some red pepper, some shitake mushrooms, and one of the poblanos; minced some garlic and sliced a shallot. While those ingredients were sauteing, I followed the very easy recipe for the chipotle sauce: puree one clove of garlic, one chipotle pepper, salt and water in a food processor; add cilantro and pulse once. I served the corn salad with roasted salmon, drizzling both with chipotle sauce.

Maybe it was just relief that my poblano plans hadn’t ended in disaster, but I thought the corn salad was delicious. Next time (and by “next time” I mean tomorrow) I’ll add another shallot and perhaps some more mushrooms. And I might toss the corn salad in the chipotle sauce, treating it more like a dressing, But for a first-time, by-the-seat-of-my-pants effort, I was pleased.

Of course, what *you* want to know is what The Professor thought. Well, he liked it. He thought the corn salad could have been warmer. And that, while the salmon was cooked perfectly, it wasn’t the best piece of fish.

“The corn salad might pair better with a white fish,” he added. “We haven’t had halibut in a while.”

Given the quality of the salmon and the adjustments I want to make to the recipe, I didn’t ask for a grade. But look for one soon.

Shrimp Tacos — The Professor Gives an A!!!

It took months, if not years, of trial and error to come up with this recipe for shrimp tacos — a recipe that earned an A from The Professor! (In the pescatarian category, of course.) And finally I am ready to share it.

But first, let me recognize the recipe that started me down this culinary path: An article in Sunset magazine (which was then under the creative direction of my dear friend, Paul Donald, who is now doing this) titled “Tostadas in no time: Fish makes a quick and healthy Cal-Mex meal.” The original recipe called for halibut and a yogurt-lime sauce.

I always served them as tacos rather than tostadas, using heated but still flexible corn or flour tortillas.

I used halibut until I realized that it was just plain dumb to buy an expensive fish with a subtle flavor and then drown it, so to speak, in a spicy sauce. I tried buying a less expensive white fish, which helped my bank account but did nothing for the flavor. Then I tried shrimp, which I buy frozen at roughly the same cost-per-pound as fresh cod but which holds its own against the other strong flavors in the taco.

Then I added black beans, replaced the lime-yogurt sauce with a more flavorful chipotle sauce and upgraded the cabbage slaw by adding carrots and cilantro and by warming the mixture just a bit.

The result earned an A. “The combination of flavors and textures makes the dish interesting and very tasty,” said The Professor. “It’s so tasty that I always eat a bit too much.”

I will say, this is not a recipe for a weeknight. Especially if you don’t have The Professor to clean and grill the shrimp for you. But it is delicious, especially when you cook the shrimp on an outdoor grill, which seals in the juices better than a stove-top grill-pan. The beans add warmth and substance to the dish, while the cabbage slaw adds crisp fresh flavor and crunch. And finally, the chipotle sauce adds heat.

With that said … here is the recipe!

Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Serves 2 – 3 (IOW, what I prepare for The Professor, my toddler, and me)


shrimp (I calculate 2-3 shrimp per taco and 2-4 tacos per person)

olive oil


corn tortillas (again, 2-4 per person)

2 cups finely shredded cabbage

1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

lime juice to taste

1 can of black beans

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

2 T mayonnaise

2 T adobo sauce

salt to taste


De-vein and clean the shrimp, and toss with olive oil and your spices of choice. Set aside.

For the sauce, stir the yogurt, mayonnaise, adobo sauce, and salt together.

Open and drain the can of beans. Chop the garlic and heat a saute pan on medium. When it is warm, add the oil. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds, making sure not to let the garlic burn. Add the beans, a half cup of water or stock and turn the flame to medium-low. Once the beans are warmed, crush them with the back of a wooden spoon or use an immersion blender. Add more liquid if needed and then adjust the seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and fresh cilantro. Turn the flame off  or to low, and put the lid on.

Shred the cabbage and carrots (it’s faster to use a Cuisinart, though I have also shredded cabbage with a knife and the carrots with a cheese grater — the side of the classic four-sided grater with the largest holes)

Mix the shredded cabbage and carrots together with salt. In a small pan with olive oil, saute the mixture until it’s warm but still crisp. Remove from heat and add lime juice and 1 T or more of the chopped cilantro to taste.

Heat the tortillas on a griddle or in the oven and then wrap in aluminum foil.

Grill the shrimp. The Professor heats the grill to 500 degrees and cooks the shrimp 2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second. When it comes to grilling, there is no sure-fire perfect cooking time. It all depends on the number and size of the shrimp being cooked, and the size and heat of your grill. But The Professor never cooks the shrimp for more than 4 minutes.

Salmon Cakes

When I’m planning the week’s menu, I usually include one or two easy dinners for weekdays when I’m too tired from work (or kids or some combination thereof) to cook. One of my go-to easy meals is pre-made crab cakes, served with a spicy aioli and salad.

I started serving crab cakes semi-regularly when we lived within walking distance of Savenor’s Market, the gourmet grocery store known for being Julia Child’s favorite butcher. I was a sleep-deprived new mother, and a stroller over to Savenor’s for that night’s dinner seemed eminently more doable than a drive to the grocery store, with the car seat and longer-term menu-planning that required.

In my sleepless new-mom state, I also rationalized the cost. But as the months and then years passed, I started to feel a bit guilty about spending $4.99 per crab cake. So I’ve started experimenting with less expensive options.

I began with a recipe for Fast Fish Cakes that I found in The Gastrokid Cookbook. The original recipe called for flaked cooked white fish, but I’ve been using canned wild salmon, which is less expensive than fresh fish, can be stored in the pantry until needed, and delivers more healthy Omega-3s. I’ve also been tweaking the amounts and added a few ingredients.

I wouldn’t say that my version is a hit with Ella (maybe I need to dial up the bread crumbs, and dial down the herbs) but The Professor likes it. My next step is to make a batch and freeze them, to see how they fair as an easy thaw-and-cook meal.

In the meantime, here’s the recipe:

Fast Salmon Cakes


2 cups canned salmon (or other cooked fish)

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

1/2 cup finely chopped scallions

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3+/- tablespoons mustard

3+/- tablespoons mayonnaise



1 egg


Set the egg aside.

In a large bowl, mix the other ingredients together and adjust the flavors to your liking. I love mustard and dislike mayonnaise, so I add an extra tablespoon of Guildens, for instance. If you dislike scallions, decrease the amount or omit entirely, though you might want to add an herb you like in its place. In any case, adjust the flavors and seasonings of the mixture before you add the egg.

When you are happy with the flavor, add the beaten egg and mix.

Form into two-inch patties.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the salmon cakes. Cook until golden on the bottom (a few minutes) and then flip. When the second side is cooked, remove from the pan and lay on some paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

Serve with aioli, salad, and a side dish. I’ve paired the salmon cakes with potatoes (sometimes frozen potato wedges) or, as pictured here, with spicy roasted cauliflower


Simple, Delicious Salmon

Cooking fish can be tricky. It’s easy to worry about under-cooking it and then over-cook it by  mistake. We cook some kind of seafood at least once a week, and yet so often I hesitate to say that the fish is done. I’ll offer my tips for cooking fish well in a later post. For now I want to share a recipe for salmon that is simple, delicious, and truly idiot-proof.

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 T oil
2 cloves of garlic, mashed with salt
1 T minced ginger
2 T brown sugar

1 lb salmon, washed and dried

Mix all of the ingredients for the sauce and pour over salmon to marinate

Roast fish for about 10 minutes, basting with the sauce once or twice. (If the sugar in the marinade starts to burn, lower the rack.) And voila!

The marinade keeps the fish so moist that even if you over-cook it a bit, it never tastes dry. Last night, as you can see from the photo, I served it over Udon Noodles with Soy-ginger sauce, a preparation that earned an A from The Professor.

For a heart-warming winter meal, serve the salmon on a bed of leek and pea risotto. In the summer, I’ve served the salmon alongside Israeli couscous and grilled asparagus. For a lighter meal, it would be delicious served with a spinach salad.

I love this salmon recipe because it’s simple to prepare, offers myriad meal options, and it is endlessly forgiving — which makes it great for dinner parties or even family dinners with multiple elements. I know that the salmon can sit while the pasta cooks a few more minutes or the asparagus is grilled or the guests are herded to the table and that it will still taste good.