Coriander and Fennel Baked Salmon

Hidden Freezer Treasure
My freezer, while being useful, is a place where a food hoarder like myself (but it was on sale!) can stow away many treats for a rainy day.  I went downstairs the other day to find a small pool of water on the ground in front of the freezer.  Slight wave a panic and nausea as I imagined my treasures thawing and dying a slow painful death.  This cannot be.  We quickly sprung into action.  My husband went to buy bags of ice and I did some triage of the freezer contents.   Several garbage bags later (no judgements please), we had whittled down the contents of the freezer to three coolers packed with ice.  During the adventure I found a side of salmon that was the result of our fishing trip to BC a couple of years ago.  I decided to make it for supper today after a great camping weekend - some clean eating after a weekend of mild debauchery.

Pin boned and trimmed

The preparation for this dish is simple.

Coriander and Fennel Salmon - serves 6

1 side of pacific salmon, skin on (see note below)
1 tb olive oil

Coriander & Fennel Rub:
1 tb coriander seed
1 tb fennel seed
1 tb coarse salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp grated lemon zest

Fennel and coriander seeds

Liberally season the fish - select how coarse you want the mixture

To prepare the salmon, I removed it from the shrink wrap,  then removed the pin bones, trimmed some of the belly fat off (chef's treat for later), rinsed it off (to remove any errant scales) and patted it dry with a clean kitchen towel.

Next, in a mortar and pestle (or electric spice grinder), grind all the rub ingredients together to a coarse texture and set aside.  Rub the olive oil onto the salmon then sprinkle all the rub onto the fish and lightly press to make sure it adheres to the surface of the fish.  Let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  Then, take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking to let it come closer to room temperature - this helps to ensure more even cooking.

Preheat the oven to 425F and cook the fish for about 4 minutes per inch.  You can use a thermometer to check - the temperature should be about 145F.  This side of salmon took 8 minutes.

Note:  Yes, you can use Atlantic salmon, and it can be skinless.  I decided to leave the skin on as it provides a little extra moisture during cooking.

Served over spaghettini sautéed with spinach, tomato, onion, garlic and anchovies.
The salmon was cooked as I like it - moist and delicious.  Each bite provided a little pop of fennel or coriander, delectable notes of lemon and liquorice.  I don't like the taste of liquorice, but it works so well with the salmon and the coriander.   A keeper.  As an aside, the salmon showed no signs of degradation.  It was as fresh as the day we caught it.

P.S.:  Everything that was packed in ice survived (for three days) and so did our freezer.  We've just given it some room to breath.  Now, to resist a good sale...

Making Paprika

Banana peppers at various stages of ripeness.  The runty one was picked to save it from the frost.
Don't you love it when someone has a great idea - that really means work for you?  I actually didn't mind...this time.  My husband has become somewhat of a green thumb when it comes to pepper plants.  This year he grew Serrano, jalapeño, sweet green peppers, Trinidadian seasoning peppers and banana peppers.  The idea was for us (me) to make paprika.  Why not?  Most of the hard work is preparing the peppers for dehydrating.  I accepted the challenge.

My husband left the banana peppers on the vine until they were red and these are what we used for the paprika.  I used a total of seven peppers in all.

First step, wash the peppers and dry with a towel.  Split the peppers in half and remove the ribs and seeds.

Next, I rigged up an indoor smoker (a pot with a colander inside so the smoke could envelope the peppers) and smoked the peppers for about an hour.  I recently acquired a Smoking Gun and it came in very handy.

After the peppers were smoked, I put them into a 200F oven for 12 hours (I am getting a dehydrator for the next time).  The peppers went from a bright red to a deep blood red colour.  Beautiful.

I put them in the Vitamix and after a few seconds in the blender we observed a paprika tornado inside.  Experiment = success.

Ground to a fine powder.  The resulting powder was a deep reddish brown and delicious.

The yield on this was about two tablespoons of paprika with a slightly smoky scent and intense pepper flavour.  I Will definitely make more next season.  Now I need to do some research on the perfect recipe to showcase the paprika.  Good call Dale :-)

Maui - The Return

After a long haul (YOW->YWG->YYC->OGG), we arrived a little weary, but generally in good spirits.  Thanks to Air Canada's (points redemption ticket) routing, we were able to spend some time visiting with my brother in Calgary.  We made a pit stop for some delicious roti and curry goat at his favourite local spot, then back to the airport for the last leg.

The Canadian Rockies from the plane
I was able to capture a couple of really stellar shots of the Rockies as we flew over.  It was pure luck really.  I had the blinds closed (glare was interfering with me catching up on Scandal on my tablet), and just decided to open them to see where we were.  The sight that lay below us was truly amazing.  I quickly grabbed my phone (yes, you can still take pictures when your phone is in airplane mode) and snapped a couple of quick pics.

The seven hour flight from Calgary to Maui went pretty fast.  I was able to get about three hours sleep, which helped with the groggy factor - seeing that we had about a 45 minute drive ahead of us, to our hotel.  This time we are staying at the Westin Ka'anapali just north of Lahaina.  Studio villa with kitchenette and laundry facilities (which enabled us to fly with only carry on luggage).

Our first day was a full one.  We stayed up late (6 hr time difference between Maui and Ottawa) to enable us acclimating to the time change more quickly.  We got up at 6:30 and went for a walk along the beach.  There is a beautiful boardwalk which follows along the beach.  We made it as far as the Castaway Cafe, for a delicious breakfast.  I enjoyed the Huevos Rancheros with a generous serving of pinto beans delightfully peppered with crumbled chorizo sausage.  (Bonus - saw a whale breaching in the distance during breakfast)

Later that morning, we decided to check out Napili Bay - just north of where we are staying.  An acquaintance on Twitter suggested we go to The Sea House.  After a couple of turns, we found it and walked over to investigate.  We took a server's advice and decided to return for Happy Hour later that afternoon.  The eats that were on offer for Happy Hour did not disappoint.  (I will include those details in a separate post).

We went the Fish Market afterwards to get something to prepare for dinner.  Once again the fish on offer were so beautiful.  And once again, I was tempted to snatch something right out of the case for a nibble.  We decided on the Opah (Moonfish) this time.  I also bought some garlic infused oil to grill it with.  A quick trip to the Times Supermarket completed our afternoon errands.

The sun put on a spectacular display at closing time.  A truly remarkable sunset on this day.  I almost missed it, as I was feeling lazy and didn't feel like leaving the couch.  However, the call of the conch shell roused me from my lethargy and I was rewarded with quite a show (close to sunset at this hotel, the conch shell is sounded and tiki torches around the property are lit by handsome young men in Polynesian garb).

Our grilled opah was accompanied with a sauté of snow peas, Maui onion and oyster mushrooms.  The texture of the opah was very good.  We enjoyed the fish grilled medium (thanks to the use of several community gas grills on the property) which was seasoned with the garlic infused oil, salt and pepper.  I also grilled a couple pieces of garlic oil brushed ciabatta bread as well.

Enjoying Mai Tai's at the Sea House Bar - great view
Napili Bay
 Day 1 - A+

Double D's Bar-B-Q Truck - Stittsville, ON

1016 Carp Road, Stittsville, ON

I answered the call of the smoke which lured me.  While driving through Stittsville on our way to our favourite Italian for lunch, wafts of hickory smoke caught my attention.  I glanced out the window and saw the 'Open' sign.  Yes.  Time for hubby to try the Double D's truck.  We found an ATM, turned around and parked.  The smell of the smoking meat was intoxicating (I really need to get back to Memphis sometime).

We placed our orders and patiently waited for the goodness to appear in the window.  We enjoyed a nice chat with Dean (owner) while we waited.  I ordered the brisket, pit beans and s'mac and cheese and Dale ordered the pulled pork sandwich and beans (in hindsight I should have had him order some s'mac and cheese which I could scarf down eat later.)  We drove to a nearby parking lot and let the feasting begin.  We were not disappointed.  The brisket was meltingly tender and delicious.  Perfect blend of seasonings, not drowned in sauce - just the good stuff.  Nice bark on the outside, smoke ring of truth and flavour, flavour, flavour.  (My mouth is watering as I type this actually).  The s'mac and cheese was also quite delectable (how can four different kinds of cheese be wrong?).  The beans were also just divine.  Good texture, nice addition of the pulled pork and other aromatics.  I love beans and these did not disappoint.

This truck has been open since last September and my friend LB and I stopped by there soon after they opened (a few weeks after that she brought me some beans and mac as a hostess gift - awesome!).  I had not been back since and now wonder why I waited so long?  Summer is coming (finally!) and Ottawa can shed it's heavy coat and start enjoying some good, authentic, Southern-style BBQ.

You can find Double D's menu on Facebook  and follow them on Twitter for updates on when they are open.  Thanks for keeping it real guys!

Double D's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Tomato Lentil Soup

Tomato Lentil Soup

It's January, which means it's usually time when I officially get back on track after the holiday season (which starts usually December 1st and involves a month of various fetes, food and fun.  Time to pay the piper.

I am trying to create some recipes that are under 250 calories for the days of the week we are doing a light fast (600 calories for the day).  I have based the calorie counts on details on the packages of items themselves, and when that is not possible, I have an app that counts calories.  (I use LoseIt)

Here is a soup I made yesterday, for lunch this week.  I punched up the flavour by using fresh ground whole spices and used beef broth instead of chicken.  If you're not adding fat to the recipe, you need to compensate somehow or it is going to be bland.  And let's face it, I am already on calorie restriction, and am prone to get hangry, so why would I want to torture myself with bland food?  This recipe will make 24 oz of soup.  I divided this recipe into three 8oz portions.  

Calories per 8oz serving 150 calories
Yield 24 oz of soup (450 calories for entire recipe)

1 large tomato, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 c red lentils
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 cups of beef broth
Vegetable cooking spray (2 second spray)

-Heat a medium sized pot over medium high heat.
-When pot is hot, spray with vegetable cooking spray.
-Saute the onions for about 1 minute.
-Add tomatoes, fennel and cumin then lower heat to medium and cook them for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring (note 1)
-Stir in lentils then add the broth (you can substitute vegetable or chicken stock or water then adjust the calories accordingly).
-Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on (note 2)
-Add salt and pepper and adjust seasonings

Note 1:  cooking the tomatoes this long will develop flavour, don't rush it. If you find it sticking, add a splash of water.
Note 2:  lid on so as not to evaporate too much of the liquid.  If your simmer is faster than mine was, add a bit of water to get the consistency you want.

Bon appetit!

Nana's Rullupylsa - Update 2013

Lamb belly ready for butchering
(Updated from the original post Nana's Rullupylsa)

We decided to go a little more traditional this year with the Rullupylsa.  I was able to source some fresh lamb flank (belly) from a butcher here in Ottawa.  I felt confident enough in my butchering skills to attempt the task myself - plus, I get to have the bones for some stock making on a chilly day.  They were relatively easy to butcher - the four bellies with the ribs attached took me about 40 minutes - I'm sure it would have been quicker with a more skilled hand, but I think I did an adequate job.  Chef J. Leblanc (my instructor) would have been impressed.

We also experimented by deviating from our usual beef flank steak to a beef flap steak.  It is a more tender cut, just above the flank, with more visible marbling and connective tissue.  From there we pretty much followed the recipe that my friend's Nana passed down to her, with a few tweaks.  Below is the original recipe with changes noted.

The rullupylsa produced this year was delicious.  The beef flap steak yielded a more tender sausage.  The lamb belly, having more fat than the beef flank, yielded a sausage that was tender, succulent and exquisite.  It was soft and the fatty layers really absorbed the spices (we added more this year).  We also tweaked the brine to a more typical 2:1 ratio of salt to sugar.  In a nutshell?  Absolutely will make it with lamb again.
After brining, rinsed, covered with cold water and ready to boil

The Recipe:
3 pounds beef flank steak 4 lamb belly (about 10 lbs with ribs attached)
2 tablespoons table salt
1/4 teaspoon saltpetre
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper  1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves   1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 large or 2 small onions
- Grate onion fine and sprinkle on meat
- Add rest of ingredients
- Roll and tie as tight as possible
- Place meat in the brine and place in a cold place
- After 1 week, boil meat in fresh water for about 2 hours, until meat is tender
- After 7 - 10 days, remove meat from the brine, rinse with cold water, then place in a large oven proof roasting pan/pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil on the stove.
- Once boiling, place in a preheated 325F oven and simmer gently for 2 hours.
- Press meat as heavy as possible
- Cool the meat and place into box used for pressing, or pressed between two cutting boards with sufficient weight on top.  If using this method, wrap the meat in plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out.

- Instead of using clamps on the box this year, we put two 25 lbs weights on the box and put the box in a cooler in the garage.  After 2 days, we removed it from the brine, unwrapped it and it was ready for samples.  I feel the texture was better and the sausage not as dry, from not being pressed as tight or as long as last time.
2 quarts water
1 scant cup coarse salt
1/4 cup brown sugar  1 cup of brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons saltpetre
- Boil gently for 20 minutes
- Allow to cool completely before placing meat in brine

Beef Rullupylsa

You could feel the unctuousness of the lamb meat when you bit into it - it went very well with some dark rye bread (traditional is molasses bread) and butter.  A couple of gherkins aided in cutting through the fat and enhanced the overall experience.  The rest of the rullupylsa has been carefully squirrelled away in our freezer for Christmas entertaining.

BC - The Final Chapter

After 16 hours on the road in BC (with an overnight stop in Prince George), we arrived in Prince Rupert.  It was unbelievably and unseasonably warm - about 28C.  Not quite what I was expecting...ahem, but sometimes you gotta roll with it.  We arrived at the home of our gracious hosts, had a couple of cocktails, dinner, then bed as there was going to be a long day following.

After a restful night sleep, we were up bright and early - fishing waits for no one!  We drove down to the docks and boarded our ride out to our adventure.  The bay here is a very large body of water - very.  It took us over an hour just to get out of it to get to The Spot - where our Captain, John, liked to fish.
Prince Rupert Harbour
We were here to fish for salmon - three types in these waters:  Chinook/Spring/King salmon, Coho salmon and Sockeye.  We were most likely to catch Chinook or Coho on this trip (June).  Sally (navigator/co-captain) had our licenses ready to record our catches.

At 6am the water was very still and the views were truly spectacular.  I had dressed in layers, not quite knowing what to expect while I was out as sea.  One must remember that it is called fishing, not catching - so the wait was on.  Our first bite (about 4 hours later) got things going.  However, according to Captain John, it was too small to keep.  It should be noted that John's wife Sally admonished us for throwing back our first catch - 'You always keep the first one!'  In hindsight, she may have been right.

I am going to be honest.  Fishing is boring.  Don't get me wrong, I had a great time on the water enjoying the scenery, the sea air, the conversation and camaraderie of my companions.  It is fun - just don't go out there expecting 'Wicked Tuna' and a 600 lb catch.  The fish we eventually caught were between 5 - 6 lbs.  My husband caught the only halibut in the group.  At the end of the first day, we caught lots of Rock fish - most of which we threw back.  A couple of small ones were saved for feeding the Bald Eagles - which was actually pretty cool.  Our captain would spot the eagle, bang on the side of the boat with the gaff, wait for the eagle to fly towards us, then toss the (now inert) Rock fish into the water.  It was quite spectacular seeing this magnificent bird swoop down and scoop the fish out of the water.  Very cool.
Best shot of the bunch

We got back home around 9pm, had dinner and some brief conversation, then I fell into bed.  Best night sleep I have had in years - sea air does wonders!

The next day was not as long - only about 9 hours to finish up our catching.  We ended up with 5 salmon and 1 halibut.  John processed the fish as they were caught (gutting) then on the way back filleted them all - ready to be sealed for the freezer.  My friend's Nana, upon hearing of our limited success, 'sent the word out' and we were gifted a beautiful Spring salmon to add to our haul.  When it was all said and done, we had about 30 lbs of fish.  This was very pleasing and worth the early mornings and chilly temps on the water.  Although, our hosts said that we didn't fare as well as others who had come before - during the same time of year.  I am just happy that we were able to come home with something.  Memories of an expensive trip fishing in Bequia (2009) and the boys (plus my girlfriend TP) came back with nothing.  The captain tried his best, but to no avail.  No worries as LB and I had a wonderful afternoon.  A 'secret' trip to Mac's for some conch fritters, rum punch and lobster pizza - then back to our house for some swimming and Boney M on the stereo.  It was my favourite afternoon of the trip and cheaper.  The 'Others' found out about our secret lunch only a couple of years ago...

Now, the challenge before us was getting that fish back to Vancouver (16 hours drive remember) and home, still frozen.  Thankfully, we were not with novices and they had a plan.  We were able to purchase a fair-sized Styrofoam cooler at the local mini-mart in Prince Rupert, pack our vacuum sealed fish in ice and head out on the road.

We stopped in Prince George again on the way back.  We almost didn't have a place to stay as there was a conference in town taking up most of the accommodation.  A call to AMEX Travel yielded us a room at the Econolodge.  It was clean - that's all I will say about it.  The guy at the front desk was helpful though, when he recommended a local Indian - Dana Mandi - restaurant for dinner, which was within walking distance.  (More on that in another blog - but I will say it was the best Indian food that I have had in a very long time).

We were pleased that our fish made it safely in that cooler all the way back to Vancouver, where it spent the night in a freezer.  For packing it, we did our usual ritual.  Thermal bags and lots of laundry around it.  Once again, success as the fish made it home safely - where some of it still resides.  We have enjoyed a couple of sides of the salmon so far.  I am saving the rest for a rainy day.

The bait

Various types of rockfish (rockies)
Yelloweye rockfish - this one our captain kept - good eating.