Smoked Salmon and Cod Chowder

We eat a lot of salmon and cod because we live in Pacific Northwest.  We buy a whole sales box straight from the fish buyer twice a year, so I have some always available in my freezer and cook them frequently.  I try to cook them in various ways. We love eating salmon simply grilled or baked, but we tend to get bored with grilled/baked cod because cod is more plain tasting.  Over the years, I tried different ways to eat salmon and cod.  I should be posting more of those recipes here. There are a few really good ones that I want to post in the near future.  But for today I present chowder.  My all time favorite.

To make it a bit different than usual, sometime we smoke fish and make them into different dishes.  Smoking fish is so great and so fun because it preserves the fish really well and it's super easy to do.  We have a smoker but you don't even need a smoker.  Just have to be creative and use what you got around the kitchen like this for example.  You just need some sort of a stainless steel or metal container, aluminum foil, metal wire and wood chips. I love doing this in my backyard or while camping.  If you do it indoor, make sure the fan is turned on all the way up!  

Anyway we usually put a few different rubs on them, spicy one for the grown-ups, sweet one for the kids, hrby one for everyone.   

I often make fish cakes like crab cakes, salmon dip, and soup with left overs.  The chowder was almost better with smoked fish.  It's also slightly healthier version because I didn't use any bacon since there was that smoked flavor from the fish.  I do love bacon for the record.


Rustic Mushroom Soup with Prawns


Here is a dish with two of my favorite ingredients. I made it for my lunch the other day.  Often, I don't know what to cook.  I cook almost everyday, at least twice a day, but now and then I am totally lost. Sometimes I just don't have the inspiration for a menu.  That is when I find myself almost always making some kind of soup.  I love soup. Who doesn't love soup.  Soup is genius.

I eat a lot of leftovers for lunch.  But I don't always like to eat the same thing from the evening before.  It gets to be so boring.  So I give it a little twist and make them into soup.  You can do this with lots of different vegetable dishes.  Any roasted veggies, seafood, meat... Anything can be put in a soup and it can turn into an exciting meal.   

This time, I had some portobello mushrooms cooked with white wine sitting in the fridge.  I chopped some onions, celery and sautéed them.  Then I added some chicken broth, cream, left over mushrooms and a few chanterelles we harvested last year.   I simmered it for 15 minutes and then blended it together until it was smooth.  Then I poached some frozen prawns and added into the soup, which only took a few minutes. 

This was a very satisfying lunch and I only spent about 20 minutes making it.  

A little note. A short time ago I went to this amazing wheat research facility called Bread Lab in Mt. Vernon, North of Seattle.  I took photos for a book that was soon published in Japan called Bread Lab (the editors were so impressed by the place that they named the book after the facility).  Some images I took for the shoot will also be published in print and online for DIE ZEIT in Germany in their next issue.  Bread Lab is operated by Dr. Steve Jones under Washington State University and their research is focused on the growth and usage of local wheats  for culinary creations. They also grow 40,000 different kinds of wheat from all around the world for their research.  If you are interested in being educated about everything related to wheat and also what's happening with this gluten intolerance syndrome around the world, you will find more cutting edge information here.  


Congratulations to My Friend!

My friend Junko is the most multi-talented, hardworking, generous and humble person that I know.  She is a passionate baker and  patisserie.  She began working for Holly Smith at Cafe Juanita in Kirkland, WA about a year ago.  She already received a rising start award from Star Chefs 2015 in Seattle last December amongst many talented chefs like Brady Williams of Canlis, Marie Rutherford of The Whale Wins,  Edouardo Jordan of Salary to name a few.  She was also recently nominated as a semifinalist for the James Beard Award 2016.  Huge congratulations to her!  Thanks for your inspiration, friendship and support!
The photos are taken at the Star Chef events back in December. 


Last Minute Simple Shepard's Pie

I've been cooking mostly Japanese food lately since I came back from Japan a few weeks ago.  My friend came over in the morning yesterday and told me it was St. Patrick's Day.  We are not Irish and I guess I didn't really see anything online about it.  

Anyway, Happy St. Patrick's Day yesterday!  We happened to have bought tons of beef from a local organic farmer a couple weeks ago for the first time.  And we have about 100 pounds of all kinds of meat in our freezer.  

It was last minute but I used a pack of ground beef to try this awesome meat that I haven't eaten yet  and make a simple shepherd's pie.  I love shepherd's pie.  It's very easy to make and everyone loves it.  The extra bonus is that you can make balls out of the left overs, coat them with some panko and fry them to make delicious potato croquettes. Win, win.

The farmer's meat was lean and clean and it was the best tasting shepherd's pie I've ever made.  I also made it lighter by not using butter and cream. I say you don't need to buy expensive organic meat from grocery stores.  Do some online research and buy grass-fed clean organic beef for one-third of the price.  It's so worth it.  I took me almost no effort and we now have the best quality beef to last a year and saved lots of money.  


Arros Negre aka. Black Paella

Here's something I've never made before in my kitchen or anywhere else.  Arros negre.  
It's a paella like rice dish made with squid ink and it's a popular dish from Valencia and Catalan in Spain.  

 I was so excited when my client gave me a box of this squid ink broth to give it a try.  Some people are probably afraid of eating food covered with pure black ink.  I'm not one of those people.  I love spaghetti al nero di sepia - squid ink pasta for instance.  It's so goooood.. and it's fun-ny to eat; and something that makes your mouth and teeth blackish.   It would be a great ice breaker if you are at  dinner parties with strangers or even on a first date.   And guess what-- squid ink is good for our health according to a few sites including this one.  It gets better.  It's delicious. 

But I would be slightly intimidated if I had to make this with actual squid ink.  I'd be afraid of splashing it all over my kitchen.  I actually did splash the broth in a box all over the stove and myself.  It is indeed 100 percent black.

I highly recommend wearing an apron and go slowly when you pour the broth into the pan when you make this dish.

* In case you want to give it a go but have no idea where to go to get a whole squid with ink sack,  I'd ask seafood people at nearby grocery stores - the ones that actually sell whole fish and shellfish, or simply go online to buy it in a jar or box.  


Orange Cranberry Sauce and Happy Thanksgiving!


It's icey cold in Seattle and I'm starting some prep work for tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner.  This will be my second time hosting and cooking.   I'm trying to keep everything simple but AMAZING.

This cranberry sauce is very easy to make and the flavor is very fresh.  Canned cranberries are horrible in every way.  Please make you own.  This is so simple.  My kids can make this in 10 minutes.  

I'm not a big fan of eating meats with sweet fruity sauce myself to be honest.  But I might even have a few bites with this sauce tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving and Be Safe Everyone!


Honey Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Yogurt Sauce

It's getting cold in Seattle and definitely time for roasting.  I made these honey roasted carrots the other day.  It's simple, easy to make as you can imagine, but the flavor is insane.  We eat roasted vegetables often at our house.  It's Seattle. It's cold out.  Root vegetables grow well here.  And people here eat healthy things like roasted vegetables all the time.

Roasted veggies are great, but it can be dull and boring after a while if you just roast them with the usual olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. At least for me and my family.  It's also common to find carrots that aren't as sweet as they should be.  Adding honey is a good way to alter that.  The result also looks prettier and shinier from the caramelization.  

Yogurt goes very well with honey and makes the whole dish more festive. I love eating cold roasted veggies, but  this one is better to be eaten while it's hot in my opinion so that you can feel the little crunch from honey and the tangy yogurt melts nicely over the carrots.  

You might think it's too boring to serve roasted carrots for dinner, but who won't get excited about these roasted carrots ; )

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