Thursday, January 28, 2010

Basil Pesto with Feta Cheese


Basil pesto is very easy to make, and there is no cooking required. It is very tasty and makes a great pasta sauce, but it can also use used with chicken, sandwiches, etc. Traditionally, pesto is made with Parmesan cheese. I make my pesto exclusively with feta or sheeps cheese.


Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves

2 cups fresh basil leaves

1 cup olive oil

1 cup feta cheese

salt to taste


Place all the ingredients in your blender in the order listed and blend together. You can change the measures depending on how you like your sauce. Taste it before adding salt. Some feta can be pretty strong and you may not need any salt.


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Grow your own basil! Its easy! If you are into cooking, it is convenient to have fresh herbs handy. If you need a couple of basil or mint leaves, it is hardly worthy a trip to the supermarket to buy several twigs for about $5. The flavor can hardly compare to that of dried herbs. I've been growing my own herbs for several years now. I grew them in various climates- Virginia, Arizona and California. Herbs are easy to cultivate and you can harvest them any time you need them. They can be grown in pots or in the ground. They will last until the first frost, but you can extend their growing season if you plant them indoors.




Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Salmon- High in Protein, Low in Saturated Fat



Eating right can be easy! Here is another seafood post. I've been making lots of salmon these days as it is quick and easy to make, and also good for your health.

There are so many benefits to eating salmon. First of all, salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for our bodies to function. As our bodies do not produce these fatty acids, we need to supplement our diet with food that contains them, such as salmon. Even a farm raised salmon is rich in omega-3 acids, however it is much safer to eat wild salmon as it contains less contaminants such as Mercury, or PCB.

Also, salmon is very easy to prepare and it tastes good just by itself, you do not need to go crazy with spices. It can be grilled, fried, broiled, or baked. The only trick to cooking salmon is not overcooking it as it would dry out.

Lastly, salmon is a big fish, and it has large bones that are easily picked out, meaning it is not such a workout to eat as it is with fresh water fish.

Salmon is readily available at any supermarket, and it is quite cheap for what it has to offer!


Ingredients:

salmon fillet
oil
4 potatoes
1 carrot
2 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp milk
salt and pepper
1/2 red onion, sliced
4 shiitake mushrooms, sliced


Peel potatoes and carrot and cook in water for about 1 hour. The carrot is not necessary for the mashed potatoes, but it gives it a nice color that goes well with salmon.



Check the potatoes with a fork to see if they are done on the inside. When the potatoes are done place them in a mixing bowl together with the carrot and mash while still hot. I usually warm up the bowl with hot water beforehand to maintain the temperature. Add salt and pepper to taste, melted butter and warm milk and continue to mash until you get desired consistency. If you are using a Kitchen Aid mixer like I do, you can take out the flat beater at this point and use the whipping attachment to whip and fluff mashed potatoes. They are really good like that.


While the potatoes are cooking, fry your salmon fillet in a hot oil for just about 3-5 minutes per side (depending on the size of the fillet). When your salmon is done, take it out of the frying pan and wrap in foil to keep warm.

Then add onions and mushrooms into the same oil and saute until they become soft. This should take about 5 minutes.


Serve hot. Try to time everything so that it would all be done around the same time.




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Friday, January 22, 2010

Sarma ala Nataša (Serbian = Сарма)



Sarma originates from Turkey, however it is common in many other countries that were under the Ottoman Empire, one of them being Serbia, and other former republics of Yugoslavia. The name itself means "wrapping" in Turkish.

Sarma is one of the most common winter Serbian dishes. There is a verity of leaves that can be used for wrapping, such as sour cabbage leaves, collard greens, chard, or grape leaves. Stuffing for sarma rolls is ground meet simmered with onions. Sarmas in Serbia are slow cooked in water and lard and are covered with smoked pork. They are eaten with yogurt and bread. We love our sarmas and eat them for special occasions as well as for every day meals.



Ingredients:


1 large red onion, shopped finely

1 lb ground beef

2 cups rice, washed
1 carrot, shredded

20 collard green leaves

salt and pepper

2 tbsp flour

1 tsp paprika

4 tbsp oil

water

yogurt



Stew chopped onions for 15 minutes in a little bit of water, add ground beef, rice and oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. If needed add more water as rice will absorb most of it. Add shredded carrot and continue to stew for another 20-25 minutes (total time should be about 40-45 minutes).



While the fill is stewing, wash collard greens.


Boil water in a large pot and remove from heat. Place leaves into the hot water and allow to soak for 45 minutes. Then take the leaves out of the water and use the stewed fill to make sarma rolls. Save this water for later use.



Place sarma rolls vertically in a pot and make sure you fill the whole pot so that they don't fall over and unwrap. Use the leftover water from the steaming of the leaves to almost cover sarms rolls in the pot.


Slow cook sarmas on low heat for 3 hours. When the sarmas are done cooking, brown some flower in oil and add a teaspoon of paprika.



Serve with yogurt.



Also see sarma made out of sour cabbage rolls.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Salmon with Okra




Almost any veggies go well with salmon steaks. After eating okra with steamed fish in Jamaica, I was inspired to try to make it. I've never made okra before. I tried to look up some recipes online, but they all had some ingredients I didn't want to use. I decided to try and make up my very own okra recipe, and it turned out great.

Eating this steamed fish in Jamaica, I wondered where the slimy sauce comes from. Finally, while cutting, and then cooking okra, I realized that it's okra itself that is somewhat slimy, and that I can maintain its sauce if I don't dry it out during cooking (adding water and lemon help with that).


Ingredients:

2 salmon steaks

3 Tbsp red wine

1 lb okra, cut into 3-4 pieces each

1/4 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 cup water

juice from 1 lemon

oil
salt and pepper
2 cups of white rice


Set the rice to cook in your rice cooker while you prepare the rest of the meal.



Place salmon steaks into a plate or a tray for marinating. Sprinkle some salt (or seasoning mix) and red wine. Turn over a couple of times to make sure both sides are covered.



While the salmon stakes are marinating, prepare the ingredients for okra.


Saute onion, garlic and peppers for a couple of minutes. Add okra and simmer for 5 minutes. Add water and lemon juice and cook covered for another 5-10 minutes. You can add more water if it starts to dry out.



Now you can start cooking your salmon. That takes the least amount of time. Heat a little bit of oil on the frying pan. Fry salmon steaks on high heat for about 2 minutes per side for 0.5in steak.

By now the rice should be cooked and if timed it right, you can enjoy a nice hot meal.


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I always wondered what the difference is between a $20 rice cooker form Walmart and a $200 one from Japan. I did fine with a cheap one for a while, then I got a Zojirushi one and I love it. I got this rice cooker used, since they are really expensive. They cook longer that the cheap versions, and have options for many kinds of rice, which comes in handy if you want to make sushi rice or brown rice. The rice comes out very nice and uniformelly cooked. Zojirushi rice cookers have this goofy music at the beginning and at the end of the cooking session thats just plane silly!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fried Rice with Chicken and Shiitake Mushrooms



I make fried rice often, and it's really a full meal when you add chicken, mushrooms and veggies. This is quick and easy to make, and it makes great lunch leftovers that you can take to work the next day.


Ingredients:

3 cups of white rice
1 chicken breast, cut into about 1/2 in cubes
4-5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 clove garlic, minced
1 carrot, sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 tsp minced ginger
4 Tbsp oil
4 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
salt to taste
pinch of sugar


First, set the rice to cook in your rice cooker, while you cut up the veggies. Heat the oil in the large wok, then add the chicken breast. When it browns, which should take only a few minutes, you can add the veggies. Fry all together for about 5 minutes. At this point, add salt and a dash of sugar.


It should look something like this when it's done frying (picture below). Don't over cook, or the veggies will disintegrate and form a sauce.



When the veggies have desired consistency, add cooked white rice and stir. Make sure you stir well, so that the veggies don't burn in the bottom of the wok. Also, during the stirring, the rice will continue to cook and get the flavors from the oil and veggies.



Sprinkle rice vinegar and stir well. Then add soy sauce and stir again for a couple of minutes. You may turn off the burner now. Your fried rice is ready.



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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Baked Salmon with Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes- recipe by Aleksandar Mastilović


Starting a new life in a new country (even a new continent!) is never easy, as there are many habits and practices related to one’s previous place of residence that have to be altered or even completely abandoned. One such thing is man’s taste for food, and fortunately trying out new food concepts and tasting new kinds of food proved to be a passion of mine that I discovered when I came to California.

Being a mixture of western and eastern culture, and having such a huge treasury of sea food that is Pacific Ocean, California gave me a mind-boggling number of tastes I haven’t experienced ever before. Since back home we don’t have access to the sea, sea food is considered a rare (and expensive) commodity, and is definitely not a part of local cuisine. Naturally, one of the things that astonished me most in Cali was the abundance of sea food, and sections of tuna, salmon, crabs, lobsters and others are to date sections I’m most frequently visiting in supermarkets. My favorite fish in icy racks is definitely salmon– rich and simple taste and ease of preparing embodies my food preference in its generous meat.

Today I’ll give you a very simple salmon fillet recipe that will hopefully result in a very rich and tasteful meal.


Ingredients:

2lbs of salmon fillet (greasy and meaty are good words here)
4 potatoes
10 Brussels sprouts
2 lemons
1-2 garlic cloves
parsley
black pepper
seasoning salt


First, preheat the oven to 450F and while it heats up place the fillet on a pre greased baking dish. Make a number of small but deep cuts in the fillet with your knife, and fill those cuts with garlic slices.


Squeeze half of lemon over the fish, and here you’ll probably want a lot of juice to end up in the slices together with garlic.


Throw some seasoning salt, pepper and lemon slices over salmon and you’ve prepared the fish for cooking. Fish should stay like this at least 10 minutes, to soak up the lemon juice and the spices, and by that time your oven will probably be ready. Bake for 15 minutes.


Cook the potatoes and Brussels sprouts for 30 minutes. Then arrange on the pate together with salmon. Cut the potatoes in slices and sprinkle olive oil and parsley flakes. If you have some fresh parsley, you can use it to decorate.




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Monday, January 11, 2010

Salmon Pasta Sauce



Ingredients:

1lb salmon fillet

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

1 cup whipping cream

butter

salt and pepper


Cut your salmon fillet into about 1 in cubes.


Heat the butter in the frying pan and stir in onions and garlic. Saute for a couple of minutes, then add salmon. Stir for a couple of more minutes until it tunes pink on the outside, but don't overcook. Add the whipping cream and cover. As the salmon cooks, it will fall apart easier and you will be able to mash it into the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pasta.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Chicken in Shiitake Mushroom Sauce



I invented this recipe as I was trying to think of something to cook for a Christmas party. I went to the supermarket and impulsively bought several things that looked good, without a real plan whether they can be cooked together or not. Don't worry, I didn't combine everything I bought that day. Here is what I used.


Ingredients:

5 chicken quarters

1/2 lbs shiitake mushrooms

2 carrots
1 red onion

4 Tbsp soy sauce

1/2 cup cooking wine

oil

seasoning mix


This would make enough food for about 8 people. If you don't plan to cook for a party, you can use thighs with skin and bones instead of the quarters. Accordingly reduce the quantities of the other ingredients.


Cover the chicken quarters with your favorite seasoning mix. If you don't use seasoning mix, you can combine salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, and a bit of sugar. Sprinkle with a little bit of oil. You don't need much oil here, because as the chicken cooks, it will release the fat from the skin. Bake at 350F for an hour or little longer turning once or twice to make sure it browns on both sides.



While the chicken is baking, slice the onion, mushrooms and carrots. Saute them in oil for a few minutes. Then add soy sauce and wine. Continue cooking over medium heat for another couple of minutes.



Arrange the baked chicken in a baking dish and cover it with the sauce. Cook in the oven, covered, at 350F for another 15-20 minutes.



Serve over white rice.


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Get a good heavy baking dish, that will last you a lifetime.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Local Fruit- Jamaican Food Experience



Jamaica was once called the "land of wood and water". With its rivers, waterfalls, mountains, and fertile plains, it produces various sorts of exotic fruits. The fruit vendors can be seen not only at the farmers market, but also on the beach, next to the roads, parking lots, etc.

Here is a street banana vendor in downtown Negril. Note the wooden stick that is used here to prop the trunk door open.



Negril farmers market is conveniently located next to Juici Patties. We picked up some small bananas, mango and a papaya. The nice lady pealed them and cut them up for us.


Ackee-
Ackee is commonly used in many Jamaican dishes, including meat dishes, omelets, etc. It grows on trees, so it is virtually free. The fruit must ripen on the tree, which causes the pods to open. Only the white parts are eatable and the black seeds are discarded. Also, this fruit must be cleaned and cooked properly, otherwise it can be poisonous. When prepared properly, ackee has high nutritional value and is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin A, zinc, and protein.
If you would like to see some dishes that contain ackee, please click here.



Here are a pineapple that we saw at the Mayfield falls.



On the way back from Mayfiled falls we saw this guy (picture below) selling fruit next to the road. We stopped and I ordered a coconut. Jackie asked the guy to first hold the basket on his head so that we could take a photo. Cool! Then he cut my coconut and stuck a straw in it. It was refreshing, except it was not easy to drink since the road had too many pot holes.



More coconuts sold at the street stand.


Coconuts sold at the parking lot on the way to the beach:



Banana tree

Curry root- really smells like curry!