Soy-Ginger Glazed Salmon

I stole this soy-ginger glaze from a meatball recipe. Sorry, meatballs.

A few years ago, I made some glazed turkey meatballs for a New Year’s Eve get-together, and they didn’t stick around very long. One friend who rarely eats meat went bonkers over them. I’m telling you, it’s the glaze — what else could elevate a humble meatball to such heights?

But in my world this glaze belongs to salmon.

(Check out the salmon my mother reeled in from the Pacific — while rocking red lipstick, no less. I bet that guy was surprised to see her on the other end of the line.)

Caramelized Pumpkin Cake with Maple Syrup Sour Cream and Spiced Pecans

This recipe is all about technique: make the cake, freeze it, cut the cake into rectangles, roll the rectangles in sugar and cook the cakes on all sides in a hot skillet. The last part of the process is key because it caramelizes the outside of the cake, wrapping it in a thin, crispy layer of sugar while warming the inside.

We have the creative folks at Oxheart in Houston, Texas (via Bon Appétit) to thank for this brilliant technique.

Perfect Pan-Fried Mushrooms

When I learned to pan-fry mushrooms the Julia Child way, which I assume is the French way, I was a wee bit sad thinking back on all those soft, rubbery mushrooms I’d proudly cooked over the years.

Take it from Julia, if you want to experience a pan-seared mushroom in all of its intended glory, DON’T crowd the ‘shrooms. Piling them on top of each other renders them soft and lifeless. They need space to brown evenly, which helps them reach a deep, rich, meaty flavor.

Here’s how to do it…

Cheddar-Jalapeño Sour Cream Biscuits

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I couldn’t tell you exactly when I stopped ordering breakfast sandwiches through drive-through windows. It’s been a while. Years. But it certainly wasn’t during childhood when a fast food biscuit was a rare and welcome treat. Or during my single days in Nashville when, on the way to work, I rolled into a gas station every morning for a neon-pink muffin and some beef jerky, which I chased with a Red Bull. And I’ve already discussed my epic sugar intake during college and the vending machine diet that encompassed a year of my twenties – clearly, I was no foodie then, either.

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No, it was in the years that followed, I changed. I started cooking more. And reading more about health and diet. And as a family we made lifestyle changes for the better. Today, we eat very little processed food, although some days are better than others. We buy organic food as our budget allows. We cook the majority of our meals in our own kitchen. I guess you could say we’ve become boring responsible, healthy adults. Cheers to that! Pass the champagne! Whiskey! Anything!

Favorite Simple Roast Chicken

A couple years ago, I was doing an internet search for a Thomas Keller recipe – you know, looking for something time-consuming and overly complicated that would require grocery store scavenger hunts and a day’s worth of kitchen prep BUT in the end would be worth the effort and yield an incredible meal* – and I stumbled across Keller’s “Favorite Simple Roast Chicken.” I nearly clicked away, but the recipe had more than 500 reviews and over 95% of those who commented said they’d make it again.

Intrigued, I roasted a chicken the Thomas Keller way for our next family meal. This required patting down the chicken with paper towels, showering it with a light rainfall of salt and roasting it in a hot oven. The preparation was, as its name promised, incredibly easy.

As for taste? Our family agreed with the masses. It was excellent and later became the inspiration for the roast chicken legs and thighs recipe featured on this blog.  

Roasting the whole chicken per Keller’s technique gives you the same results as the legs and thighs recipe – crispy, crackly skin and tender meat with minimal kitchen effort – but in this adaptation, you get a gorgeous bird AND some fixin’s. Inspired by some of the comments on Epicurious, I place the chicken on a bed of diced carrots, potatoes and onions, which cook in the chicken fat while the bird roasts.

Salted Caramel Italian Meringue Buttercream

I’ve spoken in the past about the virtues of Italian meringue buttercream: silky, a dream for decorating, sweet but not overly so. Today, I give you salted caramel buttercream, which tastes every bit as decadent as it sounds.

I used salted caramel buttercream on a four-layer cake for my sister-in-law’s baby shower, and several friends said it was their favorite flavor yet. The layers were white velvet cake, my standard for non-chocolate layer cakes.

Maple Syrup-Roasted Tomatoes

Tomato candy. That’s more or less what these caramelized beauties are.

Are you drowning in tomatoes? Or are you pouting like I am that your tomato vines are now singing their swan song? According to my friend, Amanda, who lives in Indianapolis, the Midwest is overrun by tomatoes at the moment. In an email, she writes,

I’ve never seen so many tomato recipes in my inbox or on facebook. Neighbors are learning to can. There are random tomatoes on my porch from neighbors who can’t make another pot of roasted tomato soup. Nobody wants salsa anymore. The kids are on my case to pick the ripe ones. I can’t keep up. I have decided it is good for the earth to leave overly ripe ones in the garden to rot and provide seeds for next year.

For those of you with an abundance of tomatoes, please allow me to cram a few more submissions into your already overflowing recipe box, including a lovely tomato tart – with goat cheese and honey! — to showcase get rid of your garden surplus.

Mushroom Salad With Pistachio Puree And Radishes Two Ways

This is not your average salad. And not just because it looks like some kind of whimsical Alice in Wonderland creation with its half-moons (baby bellas), pretty green dots and petals (pistachios and microgreens) and pink shoots (pickled radishes).

I’ve featured only two salads on this blog in its 15 months of existence, as I figure the traditional formula is out there a thousand times over: greens + cheese + nut, maybe + fruit, maybe + dressing. I’m not knocking salad recipes — I scour the internet for good ones all the time — just saying I probably won’t add to the discussion very often.

Today I’m breaking that rule. Because a salad with mushrooms, pistachios (two ways) and radishes (two ways) on one plate? Worth discussing.

This salad comes from Chef David Chang of Momofuku fame. The first time I made it, I bought all the ingredients before doing any internet research. This was inadvertently a good move because had I read the reviews, I may not have made it. “Fell flat” seems to be the expression of choice. Some admitted to taking a few flopped liberties with the recipe, while others complained the pistachio purée’s consistency was too watery. I’ve never had an issue with the purée, but I use more braised pistachios than the recipe calls for, so maybe that’s the trick.

After making this salad a half dozen times, my final review is that it works — all parts play off of each other beautifully. I’ve never made or eaten anything like it.

Pasta With Lemon Cream And Shrimp

I’ve procrastinated to the point that I’m sharing an Olympics-inspired recipe after the Olympics are over.  Sorry. But it’s fitting because this recipe is inspired in part by a memorable meal I had in Greece the week after the 2004 Athens Olympics ended.

In my sportswriting heyday, I worked a few contract gigs for NBC’s website, www.nbcolympics.com. I was first hired as a fact-checker during the 2000 Sydney Games as part of a crew based in San Francisco. I fact-checked incoming copy from Sydney and wrote dozens, hundreds, MILLIONS of athlete bios.

It should be noted that in 2000 the internet was still a relatively new media tool. NBC’s first Olympics website, staffed by a mere handful of people, debuted just four years prior at the Atlanta Games. Because my primary job was to verify facts, many of which could be verified online (e.g. Roger went to ABC high school, Bobbee indeed spells her name with two Es), I became a whiz at utilizing search engines to find what I wanted and quickly. I more or less had the same responsibility at Sports Illustrated during the summer of 1999. By the time the Sydney Olympics ended, I had logged hours upon hours searching and tracking down all kinds of facts on the internet. Today, I imagine most folks are relatively good at this but in 2000, I was an unlikely expert at scrounging up all kinds of information on the internet. This made me the go-to person in my circle of friends for tracking down old flames, researching ex-girlfriends, etc. If it was out there, I could find it. Now everyone’s a pro (or scoping Facebook for what they need), and my internet search stalking requests from friends have dwindled to zero.

Following the Sydney Olympics, I worked as a copy editor for the 2002 Salt Lake Games and as the tennis and softball web producer for the 2004 Athens Games.

(On my way to a tennis match wearing the bazillion required credentials)

(On the job)

Maque Choux

While no one is certain of its exact roots or the derivative of its name, maque choux is believed to be of southern Louisiana heritage and influenced by Native American culture.

I’ve seen it called “smothered corn” – an apt description when it comes to this particular recipe, which calls for various degrees of smothering.

First things first, the corn is coated in toasted sesame oil before it’s transferred to a hot oven for roasting.

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