It verges on embarrassing how many of my recipes come from an effort to use up one ingredient. Not the same ingredient every time, of course, I mean it’s not like I have an King Kong-sized jar of mayo I’m trying to get through…
…but there’s always one thing or another calling out to me from the fridge or pantry, “Uuuuuuuuse meeeeee! Uuuuuuse me or you’ll have to throw me awaaaaaay! And then I will haunt your dreeeeeeeams!” It may be that foil-topped can of chipotle peppers in adobo, that half-used bunch of cilantro, or, in the case of today’s recipe, a vacuum-sealed package of smoked salmon I grabbed on impulse when I saw it on a really good sale. I love smoked salmon in appetizers, but in the absence of any upcoming parties or other good excuses for appetizers, what the heck do you do with a hunk of smoked salmon?
Well, I’ll tell you what you do! You scour the internet for ways to insert it into a weeknight dinner! ….except… dang, it’s hard to find dinner recipes involving smoked salmon. The internet’s offering of smoked salmon appetizers stretches from here to Mars, but I think I think I would have gotten about the same number of results if I had Googled “Q-tips for Dinner” as “Smoked Salmon Dinner.” As I mentioned in December, I’m not above serving my family a hodgepodge of canapés for our evening meal, but I really wanted something a little heartier.
So it’s a good thing to know that, when faced with a dearth of options, you can make a QUICHE out of just about anything. And quiche, in my book, is a perfectly acceptable dinner. In fact, the idea of a quiche with a potato crust has been calling my name for quite some time, so this smoked salmon version with a crispy potato crust that eventually surfaced from the internet sounded like the ideal way to kill two birds with one stone. (Disclaimer: no birds were harmed in the making of this quiche.) The crispy, Cajun-spiced hashbrown crust turned out to be an excellent complement to the cooling flavors of salmon, cream cheese, dill, and leek …and a great way to use up smoked salmon, whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
P.S. While we’re on the subject, here are some other dinner-y, non-appetizer-y ideas for using up a hunk of smoked salmon, in case you ever find yourself in a similar predicament:
- Smoked salmon fettucine alfredo
- Smoked salmon chowder
- Salad with spinach, smoked salmon, and other toppings like avocado and mandarin oranges
- Potato latkes topped with herbed cream cheese and smoked salmon
Smoked Salmon Quiche with Crispy Potato Crust
(Adapted from Food Network)
For the crust:
3 1/4 cups frozen hashbrowns, thawed (microwave at 30-second intervals until thawed)
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
3/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
For the filling:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 leeks, halved and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. lemon juice
3/4 c. half and half
4 oz. smoked salmon, diced
2 Tbsp. fresh dill (or 2 tsp. dried)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 10-inch tart pan or pie plate. In a medium bowl, mix thawed hashbrowns, melted butter, spices, and Parmesan until hashbrowns are evenly coated. Press into the bottom and sides of the prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes.
- When crust comes out of the oven, lower the heat to 350 degrees. Let cool on a wire rack.
- In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
- In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, lemon juice, and leek-garlic mixture. Add eggs one at a time, stirring between each addition, then add half and half, smoked salmon, dill, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
- Pour evenly into baked hashbrown shell and bake 30 minutes or until the center is set. Cool 20 minutes. Serve warm or chilled.
When it comes to throwing parties, I have learned the following important lesson about food prep: if you try to make eight hot appetizers in the thirty minutes before a party, you are going to cry. Even if you’re fancy enough to have a dual oven, the scene will not be pretty. You may find yourself with teeth gnashed down to itty bitty nubs and clumps of your own hair clutched in your fists from all the teeth-gnashing and hair-tearing. It is, in a word, A-Big-Angry-Stress-Machine-That-Will-Not-Put-You-in-a-Party-Mood. And when throwing a party, this is not ideal. Trust me, I know from experience. Eleven years of throwing a large Christmas party for 30 people has taught me a few things, one being that trying to make several hot dishes immediately beforehand turns me into a raging maniac. Another being, make sure everyone takes their tacky White Elephant gifts home with them instead of leaving them at your house. (I am, of course, referring to the Toilet Tattoo Incident of 2012.)
This year, when planning our Christmas party menu, I decided I wanted to minimize the stress and keep all the teeth in my mouth and the hair on my head. (After all, I just had a root canal and crown that cost about as much as a swanky Alaskan cruise, so yeah, I’m keeping that baby.) The search was on: what tasty cold appetizers could I make ahead and simply pop out of the fridge come party time? I settled on these mango-lime crab wonton cups as one choice, since they were well reviewed on Food Network. And wow, am I glad I did. Not only were they easy and fun to make, but they’re pretty healthy, too! The filling of lime-laced mango, celery, and cilantro in a baked-not-fried wonton made for a whole-food combination my conscience gave me no trouble about serving (unlike my soon-to-be-blogged pumpkin cheesecake). Plus, our guests DEVOURED them! The entire group of guests had barely arrived before these things were 100% GONE. FINI. OVER AND OUT. So I think they were a winner on all fronts.
Now, even though holiday party season is over, I’d be happy to make these again for any gathering or potluck…especially since it’s the New Year and like everyone else, my thoughts are trained a little more on healthy eating. Happy New Year!
Mango Lime Crab Wontons
Adapted from Food Network
For the wonton cups:
18 wonton wrappers
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
For the dressing:
1 tsp. lime zest
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
For the crab filling:
1/2 lb. lump crab meat (I even got away with a 6 oz. can of crab)
1 stalk celery, finely diced
heaping 1/2 c. mango, diced
1/4 c. green onions, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat bottom and sides of 18 mini muffin tin cups (1.5 12-cup tins or 2 9-cup tins) with cooking spray. Press one wonton wrapper in the bottom of each mini muffin well to make a cup shape–you will probably have to make it overlap on itself a bit. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake 8-10 minutes or until crisp. Remove from tins and let cool.
- Make the dressing: in a medium bowl, combine lime juice, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Whisk in olive oil.
- Make the filling: to the dressing, add crab meat, celery, mango, green onions, and cilantro. Toss the whole thing until well combined.
- Fill wonton cups with crab mixture. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 24 hours before serving.
Serves 4-6 as an appetizer.
Yesterday on my A Love Letter to Food Facebook page, I got a notification that read something like this: “You haven’t posted anything in five days. That means your followers haven’t heard from you in almost a week! Post now!!! (Or your readers will start to riot in the streets! Or jump off of bridges! Or you’ll be forever cast upon the trash heap of their minds!)” I may have embellished that last part. But it really kinda stressed me out. Like social media pressure has become the new peer pressure…and it’s not even from real people–it’s just a Facebook robot. “Keeping up with the blogging Joneses.” Thaaaaaaaanks, Facebook.
Anyway, this post is not a response to that nudge. (Or maybe, subconsciously, it is?) I’ve been wanting to share this summery risotto recipe for awhile. I knew it was good when my husband suggested I create a sidebar on the blog called “Husband-Approved Favorites” and put this on it. The man doesn’t even like shrimp and he literally ate the leftovers of this for breakfast. I was shocked. But I had to agree it was delicious–the mix of corn, tomato, and basil offering the flavor package of summer in a bowl. (The good kind of summer, like running-through-the-sprinklers-with-a-4th-of July-parade-rolling-by, not the get-me-out-of-this-face-melting-inferno kind we experience in Phoenix.)
So perhaps the timing of posting this risotto now is serendipitous, because it reminds me in the wake of Facebook robot peer pressure that, like risotto, good things take time. I’ve been on a blogging roll last month, but it’s probably not sustainable. I’m never going to be the kind of food blogger who posts five times a week. (Let’s face it, I can’t get my family to NOT eat that many things long enough to take pictures of them.) As much as I enjoy food blogging, I’m not ready for it to take over my life. There are more important things in life than giving to the pressures of Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter/OtherFoodBloggersAreCoolerThanYou.com. I can stand to go five days without posting on Facebook, and so can my (small group of) readers. So thanks for reading, whoever you may be, and give this recipe a try when you’re feeling summery–in a good way.
Tomato-Corn Risotto with Shrimp
6 c. vegetable broth, low-sodium preferred
2 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 c. arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 1/2 c. frozen corn, thawed
1 1/2 c. grape tomatoes, quartered
3 Tbsp. fresh basil, chiffonaded
1 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1. In a saucepan, heat vegetable broth over medium-low heat until warm.
2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté about 3 minutes until translucent. Add rice and stir to coat with the butter. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute.
3. Ladle about 2 c. of the warmed broth into the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed, about 3-5 minutes. Continue ladling broth into rice mixture about 3/4 c. at a time, cooking 3-5 minutes after each addition and continuing to stir occasionally, until liquid is absorbed. Add corn and shrimp to the skillet with the final addition of broth.
4. While the rice is simmering, combine grape tomatoes, olive oil, basil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
5. After final addition of broth is absorbed, add Parmesan and cream to the skillet and stir until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and fold in the tomato-basil mixture. Top with any additional basil and serve immediately.
Earlier this week, our family returned from a little vacation (or, more aptly named, a “family trip”–hard to call it a vacation until the kids are a bit older) to the charming city of Avalon on Catalina Island. For four days we soaked up what the island has to offer, including a ferry ride from Long Beach,
trips to the beach,
a glass-bottom boat tour,
exploring around the historic Avalon Casino,
and climbing the steep staircases around the city to take in some beautiful views from above.
After returning from this trip, I feel unusually motivated to make positive changes in my life. It’s like a mini New Year’s Day. I suddenly want to clean my house from floor to ceiling, take a math placement test I’ve been putting off for my nutrition degree, and start a fundraising campaign to buy a new play structure for our church’s religious education center. (Calm the heck down, right?) And certainly after all the vacation eating–ice cream, margaritas, giant burritos, and a probably ill-advised stop at Carl’s Jr.–I’ve definitely felt the desire to get back to “normal” eating habits, i.e. healthy eating habits.
The first evening we were back, I decided we needed a mega-healthy dinner to counteract some of the vacation’s excesses. (Did I mention the two boxes of Girl Scout cookies that somehow stowed away in our snack bag for the drive?) Bring on the fiber! the vitamins! the omega-3 fatty acids! All those things not found in Girl Scout cookies and Carl’s Jr. onion rings! I’d been eyeing some recipes for Greek-style tilapia for awhile, but ended up winging it to create my own version that fit my craving for something healthy and flavorful.
Being from the Southwest, it’s probably hard-wired into my system to turn anything with diced tomatoes into a kind of salsa. I started off by combining tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, and some other Mediterranean staples to make a Greek-style pico de gallo:
Spread over tilapia fillets, this zesty mixture complemented the fish’s mild flavor nicely. Served with orzo and accompanied by a green vegetable, it made a flavorful meal packed with nutrients that will be easy to whip up on a weeknight in the future. And yes, I promise there’s fish under there in the picture…I just happened to like the Greek salsa…a lot.
Zesty Greek Tilapia with Orzo
A Love Letter to Food Original
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 2.25 oz. can sliced olives, drained
2 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 green onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
scant 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
black pepper to taste
5 medium tilapia fillets (about 15 oz.)
8 oz. oz. orzo pasta
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, mix tomatoes, olives, feta, green onion, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, and salt. Season with pepper.
3. Spray a 9 x 13″ baking pan with cooking spray and place tilapia fillets evenly in the pan. Spread the tomato mixture on top of the fish to cover.
4. Bake about 15 minutes or until the tilapia flakes easily with a fork.
5. Meanwhile, cook the orzo according to package directions. Serve tilapia over orzo.
We’ve all heard by now that we’re supposed to eat more fish. The positive effects of its fatty acids on brain health, reducing risk of heart disease, and reducing inflammation are well established. Not to mention all those studies about the longevity of the Okinawans, who eat three servings of seafood a day on average and have more centenarians than any other people group on the planet. Whoa, whoa, whoa–three servings a day? Like breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Or maybe snack? I’m not sure how I feel about cracking open some Alaskan crab legs for my afternoon pick-me-up–although “Alaskan crab legs” is an anagram for “Large Basal Snack.” And, incidentally, “Ransacks a Leg Lab.” Coincidence? I don’t think so. So, okay, maybe crab legs for snack. But breakfast? I’ve got nothing. I’ll bet you there’s some food blogger out there who has gorgeous naturally-lit photographs of a superfood salmon-kale-peanut-butter-protein-powder smoothie all the healthy cool kids eat for breakfast these days, but whipping up a fish smoothie just isn’t my thing. So for my purposes, let’s stick with seafood at lunch and dinner.
These salmon burgers with their delicious zesty-herby sauce would be equally at home on your lunch or dinner table. They’re hands-down the best salmon burgers I’ve ever had: light, crispy, seasoned with an excellent combination of herbs, and–perhaps most importantly–containing a hefty dose of those helpful omega-3 fatty acids (especially if the salmon is wild-caught, not farmed). While it may seem counterintuitive if you’re a fish lover to stuff a pound of beautiful salmon fillet into the grinding jaws of a food processor, rest assured that the finished product is worth it. And if you’re not a fish lover, these burgers just may be a great way to trick yourself into upping your salmon consumption. So go ahead, give those Okinawans a run for their money and add some fish to your diet in a tasty way. Just, you know, maybe three times a week, not three times a day.
Salmon Burgers with Lemon Tarragon Mayo
(Adapted from The Cleaner Plate Club by Beth Bader and Ali Benjamin)
For Salmon Burgers:
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. canola oil, divided
1 shallot, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
1/2-2/3 c. Panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. fresh tarragon (or 2 tsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
zest of 1 lemon
fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb. salmon, boned, skinned, rinsed, and patted dry
4 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted
For Lemon-Tarragon Mayo:
1/4 c. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped (or 2 tsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1. Heat 1 tsp. canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, Add the shallot and green onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Reserve the skillet and scrape the shallots and onions into a medium bowl. Add 1/2 c. Panko, tarragon, parsley, Dijon, salt, and lemon zest to the bowl, as well as a few grinds fresh-ground black pepper.
2. In a food processor, pulse half the salmon until it begins to look like a paste. Add the crumb mixture and pulse again a few times until well combined. Add remaining half of the salmon and pulse until the mixture looks like you could easily form it into patties. If it still looks too wet, add more Panko until you reach a desirable consistency. Form into 4 patties and set aside.
3. Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. canola oil over medium-high heat in the large skillet you used for the onions. Add the salmon patties and cook for 4 minutes on each side.
4. Meanwhile, make the lemon-tarragon mayo: in a small bowl, combine all ingredients until well blended.
5. Serve salmon burgers on toasted hamburger buns, topped with mayo and any other fixings you like!