Saturday, March 15, 2008


(Okay, if your appetite doesn't run to seafood, you can enjoy this week's offering on chicken.)

The Spring salmon run is almost here in the Northwest! Am I a fanatic fisherwoman? Well, no, but my husband and son are, and when they start hyping up for the salmon run, I celebrate in my own way by getting my creative juices running toward some new twists for enjoying their catch.

Mind you, I can have a wonderful time along with my men out on the boat, anticipating that rush when the hit comes; and yes, I have caught a few beauties of my own, but my addiction very definitely includes the part after they're cleaned, filleted and delivered to the kitchen. Last week, I started practicing on a beautiful fillet of Copper River Sockeye salmon (caught at the local fish counter) and received a response from my fellow diners that was enthusiastic enough to prompt us to share it with all of you.

My personal preference in preparation, is one that doesn't smother the delicate deliciousness of the fish itself, but is simple and compliments the natural goodness that is already there. I think the smoky flavor of this recipe sets it apart from some of the other favorites I have traditionally used for our table. While I used this basting marinade on salmon, I'm sure it would be equally good on halibut or whatever your favorite might be (yes, even chicken!). It can be used when grilling, baking, etc. So, get ready and start looking for good buys on yummy, healthy fresh fish, or encourage your fisherman to get his gear and start indulging the hunter/gatherer instinct so you can fire up your grill or oven for a dining delight.

Smokey Basting Marinade for Salmon
Makes 4 servings

It is important to remember that when baking or grilling fish, overbaking will produce a drier, less tender result, so keep a careful watch to avoid this.

Juice of one lemon (about ¼ cup)

2 tsp. Olive oil

¼ tsp dried dill weed

2 tsp spicy brown or Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ tsp coarsely ground pepper

3/4 tsp seasoning salt (my favorite is Johnny's Seasoning)

½ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp. liquid smoke

Whisk or blend all ingredients together. Set aside one tablespoon of the marinade. You can adjust the salt before brushing the fish, but remember, especially if grilling, that a lot of the marinade will roll off with the juices in the cooking process and justifies a little more of the saltiness than if it were merely a dressing. (Check to stir it well to make sure that salt hasn't settled to the bottom of the mixing dish, which would make it too salty with the final basting.)Place 4 servings of salmon or other fish on a plate or in a baking dish and brush (or spoon on) one side generously with the marinade. Bake or grill until about half done; turn carefully and baste the other side. If there is skin on the under side, remove the skin after turning and before basting. Continue baking until done to your liking. Apply the reserved marinade before serving with a clean brush or spoon. ENJOY!

Monday, March 3, 2008

35,000 Feet and!

Let me give you a little behind the scenes peek at writing a food blog: We (Alice and Janelle) get to participate in what has now become a weekly ritual. This is when we get to sit down together [which is more accurately descibed as a long-distance telephone conversation]; then we get to tuck a napkin around our necks, sit down at the table with knife and fork at the ready, and decide what's on the menu, the weekly blog menu. There are some out there who wouldn't think much of this. But from our perspective this is what we call fun. Loads of fun. We hum and haw over what to spotlight next. How about a salad? A main dish? Slippery noodles or something soupy? Bread, appetizer, anyone? Food nerds is what we are. I'm comfortable with that. I'm willing to bet there are more than a few who would gladly join us at this table. Please do.

For every recipe that makes its way onto the blogging superhighway there are oodles that are waving their little paper hands and begging for the chance to step forward and take a bow. We just tell them to please be patient. We really are hard at work on the book and will give them their due as soon as we can. Until then, we continue our weekly appointment sometimes with an old favorite, sometimes with an entirely new creation - whatever strikes our fancy or hits us square in the belly at the moment. Yeah, that's sounds about right.

This week we'll start our introduction by talking about the merits of falling, as in, falling into a bowl of whipped cream or falling into the clouds. Since I was a kid the clouds outside an airplane window, so close you feel like you could reach out and squeeze them, prompted a daydream that I really could sneak out of my seat, take a merry little step outside, and lo and behold fall dreamily onto a cloud, bopping here and there in my vast white world and greeting other star-eyed daydreamers. I didn't envision falling through this cloud, mind you, that wouldn't be any sort of daydream to remember. No, these clouds were buoyant and pillowy, beckoning and friendly.

These many years later I've found a daydream I could actually fall through and proceed to giggle all the way to the end. So, picture this: fall [needn't be from an airplane] into a dish of whipped cream, followed by thick creamy pudding, bumping softly against anchors of golden banana here and there on the way down (this is a leisurely fall, so no bumps or scrapes to be had), and landing with a cinnamon-and-sugar thud onto a snickerdoodle landing strip. There is no need to keep arms and legs inside at all times. In fact, flail, paddle, heck, do the hokey pokey as you proceed ever downward, and don't forget to lick your fingers before you come to a full and complete stop.

Banana Cream with a Soft Snickerdoodle Crust
[the jury is still out on what to name this - suggestions welcome!]
Makes 12 generous servings.

This dessert can be cut in half and assembled in an 8 x 8 inch baking dish for a smaller crowd.

Cookie layer:

2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c butter substitute, room temperature (Benecol, Smart Balance, etc.)
1/2 c sugar, plus 1 T
6 T egg substitute
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of the 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Mix flour, baking soda, and salt together in bowl. In separate bowl, mix butter substitute, ½ cup of the sugar, egg substitute, and vanilla until well combined; pour into flour mixture and mix thoroughly. Press evenly into bottom of baking dish. Toss the cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar together and sprinkle evenly over dough. Bake in center rack of oven for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Crust can be made a day ahead and covered until ready to use if desired.

Pudding Layer:

1 8-oz pkg nonfat cream cheese, softened
2 cups nonfat milk
2 cups nonfat half and half
2 large boxes instant vanilla pudding
2 to 3 bananas, sliced
1 8-oz tub nonfat whipped topping

At serving time you can garnish this with any or all of the following: Additional banana slices, 1/2 cup chopped nuts, or nonfat caramel ice cream topping drizzled over top.

In a mixing bowl combine the pudding mix and fat-free half and half. Beat for two minutes until mixture starts to thicken. Allow to sit for five minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate mixing bowl beat cream cheese until smooth. With an electric mixer or a whisk add the pudding mixture to the cream cheese in three additions, mixing vigorously after each so no lumps remain. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble.

Assembly: Because bananas have a tendency to go brown after being peeled, this is best served within two to three hours of assembling. However, if you happen to have some left over the next day, it is still quite delicious.

Spread about one third of the pudding mixture over the cooled crust. Cover with sliced bananas and then spread with remaining pudding. Spread all of the whipped topping over the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate till ready to serve. Prior to serving, you may choose garnish as described above.