Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Veggie Tales

Kale and Pepper Stir-Fry with Orange-Ginger Salmon
My book club is currently reading Michael Pollan's Cooked. Pollan, I will point out, is a very engaging writer and, so far, the book has been an enjoyable read. His central thesis, lamenting the apparently dying kitchen arts, however, is absolutely preaching to the choir of our food-obsessed club. I have very little interest in consuming bad food, and I find so much "fast food" is simply "bad food." I like to take the time and care to cook a good meal I know will taste good. I want to eat good food, and honestly, what I cook at home usually tastes better (and is less expensive and healthier) than I would typically get eating out. So why bother? There's a great line from one of my favorite movies, Ratatouille, uttered by the menacing food critic, Anton Ego to Linguini: "I don't like food - I love it! And if I don't love it, I don't swallow." So rarely does a fictional character capture my feelings so precisely. I absolutely LOVE food, but I am not going to bother ingesting crap just because it's there when there are so many delicious and nourishing options I can easily make myself. Does this way of life come with challenges? Sure. It takes planning each week and a willingness to give oneself over to the delightful rhythms, sights, smells, and textures of the time in the kitchen. I have come to find food-planning and preparation relaxing, a welcomed stress-relief at the end of a day. I look forward to it. Preparing dinner for me and my husband while sipping a glass of wine and listening to music is bliss. I see this "work" or "chore" as a expression of creativity and love for my family. But I am realistic - I get it. Really. I work a more-than full-time job, my schedule can be erratic and demanding (especially when I'm directing), there are always meetings, chores, laundry, animals to take care of, and errands to run. Spending hours each evening simmering complicated sauces or slow-roasting a juicy cut of meat would be lovely . . . but that simply isn't an option for "everyday" cooking. Many evenings things need to be fast and easy. But that doesn't mean defrosting a microwavable lasagne or ordering a pizza. Enter . . . the stir-fry. Packed with veggies and quality protein, versatile, and FAST. Stir-fry is so easily tailored to one's taste and dietary needs - a little lime juice and fish sauce and it's Thai-style or heavier on the ginger and more soy sauce, it's got a Chinese flair. It's whatever you want it to be! Tonight's Orange Salmon with Sesame Kale came together simply because those were the fresh ingredients I happened to have in my fridge. As far as creating a go-to stir-fry arsenal, check out the Asian section of your supermarket and do a little experimenting. Swapping one ingredient for another is a perfect way to keep your pallet engaged - just keep elements within the same flavor-realm - acid for acid or aromatic for aromatic. Prefer rice to buckwheat noodles? Go there! Don't like salmon? Try chicken instead, you crazy maverick! The point is to have fun and to satisfy your appetite! Yum.

- 2 6-7 oz. salmon fillets
- salt and pepper
- juice from one orange
- 3 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
- 1 Tbsp. grated garlic
- 1 Tbsp. grated ginger
- 1 tsp. hot Chinese mustard
- 1/2 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. cooking sherry
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
- 6 c. chopped fresh kale
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 bunch green onions, trimmed and roughly chopped
- 3 oz. soba noodles, cooked and drained, lightly rinsed in cold water
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/2 avocado, peeled and sliced
- 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, grated ginger, grated garlic, mustard, Sriracha, and olive oil. Season salmon filets on both sides with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Lay fillets side-by-side in a shallow dish and cover with orange juice mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in refrigerator for 20 minutes - 2 hours.

While the fillets marinate, chop remaining veggies and cook noodles. Rinse noodles in cold water and set aside. Whisk together 1 Tbsp. cooking sherry and remaining soy sauce and set aside.

After fillets have marinated adequately heat 1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil over medium-high heat in two separate, heavy pans. (This takes a little coordination, but it is possible to cook two things at once.)

In one pan combine garlic, jalapeno, and pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add chopped red bell pepper and stir over heat until pepper begins to soften slightly. Add kale and soy sauce-sherry mixture to the pan and cover with a lid. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until the kale is bright green and slightly tender. Remove from heat, toss with cooked noodles and sesame oil. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place salmon fillets in second pan, reserving marinade. Sear until a slight crust appears on outside of fish, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove fillets to a plate, turn up heat and add remaining sherry to the pan. Deglaze pan by scraping up bits with a wooden spoon. Splash reserved marinade into the hot pan and mix together to make a very quick pan sauce. Remove from heat.

Divide veggies and noodles between two plates and lay a piece of salmon over each. Pour pan sauce over fillets and garnish plate with avocado slices and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. So, so good!

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