Chickpea Waldorf Salad

In the time-honored but not terribly effective tradition of ignoring things in the hopes that they will just disappear, I have consciously not mentioned the weather lately.  We were hit with a snow storm in the second week of November, and due to unseasonably cold temperatures (highs in the mid-twenties instead of the typical mid-forties), the snow banks have stuck around.  On top of that, daylight savings time took away the last gasps of evening light, with the sun setting just as I leave work.  Psychologically, this is never an easy season for me, but this year my mid-winter slump is setting in two months early.

So instead of posting yet another soup recipe, or a new approach to roasting squash (there will be plenty of time for that in the months ahead), I’m going to write about salad.  Salads, particularly colorful ones, help me cope with the cold drabness of November (and December, January, February, and March).  Traditional, mayonnaise-laden Waldorf salad is the sort of thing I typically avoid, but this is not your grandmother’s Waldorf salad.  The yogurt dressing has a tangy spiciness, thanks to the addition of Dijon mustard and crushed red pepper (if you prefer your food mild, start with 1/8 teaspoon and add more to taste if desired).  The sweetness of the apple and grapes somewhat temper the spiciness of the the dressing, while chickpeas fill it out to an entrée.  Since you need to prepare the salad ahead of time anyway, it makes a nice workday lunch (it also keeps well–I made it on a Monday night and ate the last, still crisp portion for lunch on Friday).  Just be sure to keep the salad and spinach separate until serving.

Adapted from the Kitchn recipe by Andrea Bemis

Serves 4 as a light entrée

Ingredients:

Chickpea Waldorf Salad Ingredients

5.3 ounce container of non-fat plain Greek yogurt (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon pepper
15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
sweet, firm apple, such as Honeycrisp, Braeburn, or Gala, cored and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup red grapes
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
5 ounce container fresh spinach (about 4 cups), for serving

Whisk together the yogurt, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt, crushed red pepper, and pepper in a small bowl.

Chickpea Waldorf Salad Dressing

In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, celery, apple, grapes, onion, parsley, and walnuts.

Chickpea Waldorf Salad

Pour in dressing and toss until evenly coated.

Chill salad for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend and mellow and up to 5 days.  Serve over spinach.

Chickpea Waldorf Salad

Review: Sonora Grill

Since it’s tucked away from the central seating area, I’ve overlooked Sonora Grill’s Midtown Global Market stall on previous market visits.  But the slightly out of the way location is actually a plus, since the quiet dining area is conducive to relaxing conversation.  Likewise, although the menu is mostly made up of meat-based tacos and sandwiches, there is an intriguing vegetarian gem tucked under the “sides” section: the elote cilantro.

Elote Cilantro

Elote Cilantro

This vibrant dish is as appetizing to look at as it is to eat: bright yellow grilled corn, a vivid green cilantro aioli, auburn dollops of chipotle salsa, and a contrasting sprinkling of pale chihuahua cheese.  The corn that forms the base of the dish is lovely, the perfect balance of char and sweetness, while the punchy cilantro and chipotle sauces elevate it beyond your typical barbeque offering.  Meanwhile, the chihuahua cheese provides a mild tang that balances the sweetness and spice.  Although the side of Peruvian rice is somewhat nondescript, it’s a nice touch–it soaks up the excess cilantro aioli for later enjoyment, and fills out the dish into a light meal.

On your next trip to the Midtown Global Market, steal away from the hustle and bustle and try the Sonora Grill’s elote cilantro–corn on the cob has never tasted this good.

★★★ out of 4 (recommended)

If you go:

Sonora Grill
http://sonora-grill.com/
Midtown Global Market
920 E. Lake Street, Stall 126
Minneapolis, MN 55407
612-871-1900

*Additional full-service location with bar and weekend brunch menu located at 3300 E. Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55406

Sonora Grill on Urbanspoon

Mustard Dill Smashed Potatoes

As I’ve mentioned before, I briefly studied in Berlin during college.  Since then, I’ve been more diligent at keeping up with German cooking than maintaining my language skills–while spätzle is a weeknight dinner staple and there are usually Ritter Sport chocolate bars in the pantry, my verb conjugations are pretty rusty.  So when I decided to throw a dinner party last Sunday (November 9) to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, cooking up a bunch of German food was the main focus.  (If you want to learn more about the fall of wall, NPR did a great story about the man who actually opened the checkpoint.)

Mike was in charge of the main course: bratwurst from our local butcher shop, simmered in beer.  Meanwhile, I made a batch of braised red cabbage beforehand–it reheated marvelously in the microwave–and baked one of my all-time favorite breads, pretzel rolls.  I also wanted to serve a more substantial vegetarian side dish, so I adapted a recipe for vegan German potato salad to make mustard dill smashed potatoes.  I wish that I could tell you that the smashed potatoes were an intentional representation of the smashing of the Berlin Wall.  Actually, I went upstairs to fold some laundry, and by the time I returned, my potatoes has passed the al dente phase and were on their way to mush.  I mixed them up with the vinaigrette anyway, and ended up with a bright, herbal version of chunky mashed potatoes.

Fall of the Wall Dinner

Fall of the Wall Dinner: Mustard Dill Smashed Potatoes, Pretzel Rolls, Bratwurst, Braised Red Cabbage, and German beer

For dessert, I served some of my favorite German candies: the nut-free varieties of Ritter Sport minis and Haribo Happy Cola gummis (both purchased at Cost Plus World Market).

Fall of the Wall Dessert

Dessert: Ritter Sport chocolate, Haribo cola gummis, and Berlin kitsch

Mustard Dill Smashed Potatoes

Inspired by the Hello Natural Vegan German Potato Salad recipe by Lindsey Johnson

Ingredients:

Mustard Dill Smashed Potatoes

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper, to taste
3 green onions, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and bring to boil.  Simmer until very tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain.

Meanwhile, whisk the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, and dill together in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Mix in the prepared potatoes, using the spoon to break up any large chunks.  Mix in the green onions and season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

Mustard Dill Smashed Potatoes

Can be made ahead of time and reheated before serving.

Miso Ginger Sweet Potato Soup

As a somewhat anxious child, what I looked forward to most about becoming a grown up was feeling capable.  I viewed adulthood as a gleaming bastion of competence and efficiency, and I looked forward to the day when I would be initiated into the ways of knowledge and wisdom, never to feel uncertain again.

But as the milestones of adulthood came and went–high school graduation, college graduation, full-time employment, marriage, home ownership–I came to realize two things.  First, there unfortunately is no epiphany of adulthood in which you suddenly know how to negotiate for a better car insurance rate or deftly handle a toxic co-worker.  Second, the adults who seemed so competent to my childhood self actually had no clue.  They were just making it up as they went along, and the institutions they were responsible for (university departments, law firms, banks, important federal government programs) were held together with the equivalent of chewing gum and baling wire.  Being an adult made me feel just as uncertain as I always had, maybe even more so since the stakes were higher.

However, the consolation prize of adulthood is that I occasionally have moments of confidence beyond anything my ten-year-old self imagined, moments when I look the messy chaos of the world straight in the eye and say, “I’ve got this.”  A few of these moments are glorious, red letter days: the first time I ran 5K or the day we paid off our mortgage.  Most of them are more modest victories: skillfully navigating through a new city, making lefse, or finally finding a pair of black dress pants that strikes the right balance between professional and alluring.  And sometimes an “aha” moment of adulthood is something as ordinary as a pot of soup.

I made this soup recipe from the Kitchn so that I could use some leftover miso paste from seared salmon with miso sauce and also because as I needed move beyond my roasted sweet potato rut.  I had modest hopes as I chopped up the sweet potatoes and ginger, but when I uncovered the pot after the soup was done simmering, I knew I had something special.  The first thing that hits you is the ginger, but then the other flavors deepen it out: an earthy sweetness, a fermented saltiness, a slightly roasted note.  You could ladle this soup into trendy little square bowls, garnish it with a refined sprinkling of herbs, and serve it to your most discerning guests.  Or you can have it for dinner on a Saturday night, and when you see your husband’s eyes widen in appreciation as he tastes his first spoonful, you can think to yourself, “This adult thing?  I’ve got this.”

Adapted from the Kitchn recipe by Faith Durand

Ingredients:

Miso Ginger Sweet Potato Soup Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 inch by 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced (about 6 tablespoons)
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 7 cups)
3 tablespoons white miso
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup whole milk
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add oil and tilt to coat evenly.  Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until ginger is fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add the sweet potatoes and miso and cook, stirring constantly, until sweet potatoes are coated with miso.  Add broth and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until sweet potatoes are soft, about 25 minutes.

Remove soup from heat and carefully puree in a blender.  Return soup to Dutch oven.  Whisk in milk and warm over medium heat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Miso Ginger Sweet Potato Soup

Sockeye Salmon Cakes

I attended the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC), held September 19-21, 2014 in Seattle.  In exchange for registering for the conference at the discounted blogger rate, I agreed to write three posts about the conference.  Additionally, as a sponsor of the conference, Bristol Bay Sockeye provided salmon appetizers to attendees.  The content of this post and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

Occasionally I toy with the idea of becoming a true vegetarian (for the past few years, my diet has been about 90% vegetarian).  Eliminating poultry would be easy, since that would just mean swapping out chicken broth for vegetable broth.  Beef, venison, and pork would be little trickier, since I have a soft spot for the occasional batch of corned beef and cabbage, French onion soup, venison stew, and split pea soup with ham.  But my true line in the sand is salmon.  Smoked salmon is one of my desert island foods (the others are French bread and apples).  I can singlehandedly eat a pound of lox, and salmon is my go-to entrée at not-so-vegetarian-friendly restaurants.

So obviously, the food highlight of the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle last September was the opening reception sponsored by Bristol Bay Sockeye, with a whole buffet’s worth of sustainably sourced salmon appetizers.  They were also handing out sockeye salmon recipes, one of which I’ve adapted below.

Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon Appetizers

Bristol Bay Sockeye appetizers at 2014 International Food Blogger Conference

If you’ve never encountered canned sockeye salmon, a word of warning: you need to pick out pieces of skin and vertebrae before you can start cooking.  Although this can be a bit time consuming, the flavor of the sockeye makes it worth the effort.  These salmon cakes are enhanced by a traditional Scandinavian pairing of dill and mustard, while panko (Japanese bread crumbs) crisp up to form the bottoms of the cakes.

Adapted from the recipe provided by Barton Seaver to Bristol Bay Sockeye

Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as an entree

Ingredients:

14.75 ounce can sockeye salmon
1/4 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
lemon wedges, for serving

Drain the salmon and remove skin and large bones.  Flake into a small bowl.

Flaked Sockeye Salmon

Add the panko, dill, mayonnaise, and mustard and mix until well-combined.  Season with salt to taste.

Sockeye Salmon Mixture

Form the salmon mixture into 4 equal patties, about 1 inch thick and 3 inches in diameter.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

Sockeye Salmon Patties

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt butter in a medium oven-safe skillet over medium-low heat.  Tilt skillet to evenly coat with butter.  Gently place the patties in the skillet and cook undisturbed until edges are lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Place skillet in oven and bake until tops of the cakes are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Sockeye Salmon Cakes

Review: Russian Tea House

A meal at St. Paul’s Russian Tea House takes a bit of planning: the restaurant’s winter hours are 11 am to 3 pm, Fridays and Saturdays.  It’s a casual operation–you get your food at the counter on the first floor from the very friendly owner, and then carry your tray up the narrow staircase to the dining room on the second floor.  The cozy space in a former house is decorated with photos of Russia, original woodwork, and a gas fireplace, while the bathroom features the only claw-foot bathtub I have come across in a public restroom.

Russian Tea House Menu

Russian Tea House Menu

Potato Vereniki

Potato Vereniki

The menu is short, but features a few vegetarian selections.  The potato vereniki are a doughier cousin of ravioli, stuffed with pureed potatoes and a hint of cheese and topped with caramelized onions and sour cream.  I ordered the sour cream on the side and ended up not using much–I wanted to focus on the lovely combination of sweet onions and earthy potatoes.

Borscht

Borscht

The dark orange borscht seems to have more sauerkraut than beets, but flavor-wise, that was just fine.  Combined with the dill, the sauerkraut gave the soup a tangy quality reminiscent of pickles, while beans and potatoes add a filling touch.

Pel'meni Two Ways

Pel’meni Two Ways

The pel’meni, dumplings stuffed with beef, can be ordered with hot mustard, balsamic vinegar, or in a bowl of chicken broth, with an optional dollop of sour cream.  If you can’t decide, you can split your order and have pel’meni two ways.  Topped with a horseradish-laced mustard, the slight spiciness of the filling is accentuated.  In the chicken broth, the pel’meni are mellower, while the broth itself is so infused with a hearty chicken flavor that I kept expecting to find stray shreds of roasted chicken.

Chocolate Poppy Seed Roll

Chocolate Poppy Seed Roll

The chocolate poppy seed roll is served warm after a brief zap in the microwave.  The center of the roll is perfect, melting semi-sweet chocolate chips in a tender dough, but unfortunately the edges were over-baked and dry.

The food at the Russian Tea House is the sort of cuisine that I imagine a Russian grandma making: warm and nourishing, quietly confident in itself without relying on fancy presentations or novel ingredients.  When the weather is cold and gray, in St. Paul or Moscow, dumplings and borscht make for the perfect midday respite.

★★★ out of 4 (recommended)

If you go:

Russian Tea House
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Russian-Tea-House/191899097497921
1758 University Avenue W
St. Paul, MN 55104
651-646-4144

Russian Piroshki & Tea House on Urbanspoon

Cranberry-Orange Bread

My pet peeve this time of year is Christmas creep.  It was bad enough in prior years when Christmas displays started showing up in the few weeks before Thanksgiving, but this year Target was stocking holiday lights in September (they were next to the school supplies), and Macy’s was putting up festive sweater displays in early October.  I like candy canes and tinsel as much as the next person, but a two month long commercialized extravaganza of a season fraught with stress, expectations, and mountains of sugar is just more than I can handle.

So Mike and I have made a vow to not participate in the Christmas industrial complex until after Thanksgiving.  There are exceptions for eggnog, since Mike inexplicably loves the stuff, and for Christmas gifts, provided they are not specifically holiday themed.  So, if Mike wanted to buy me a black fleece headband to keep my ears toasty while I run, that would be acceptable (hint, hint, honey) but a red-and-green striped elf hat reading “Ho ho ho” across the front would be out (on so many levels).  The vow also extends to food: since Caribou Coffee started hawking pumpkin beverages in August, I imagine the season of gingerbread lattes and peppermint mochas will be upon us before Thanksgiving.  And although our local grocery store is already stocking mint chocolate Nestle morsels and candied fruit, my baking is going to be fall-themed for the next four weeks.  Up first: cranberry bread, in an effort to use some of the cranberries that have been stashed in my freezer since last year.  The cranberry bread recipe from Beard on Bread was one of my favorites from my Brooks Bakes Bread project, so I decided to try the cranberry-orange variation for after-service treats this Sunday.

The original recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of orange zest.  My orange was the lamest one I’ve ever come across, zest-wise, and several minutes of concentrated grating effort yielded only a teaspoon of orange zest.  The finished bread still had a subtle citrus flavor, but if you want more a more pronounced punch of orange, use more zest.  Finally, this recipe makes a fairly substantial loaf of bread, sized more for a potluck than a family of four, so consider freezing half of it for later.

Adapted from the Cranberry Quick Bread recipe from Beard on Bread, by James Beard

Ingredients:

Cranberry-Orange Bread Ingredients

juice of one orange (about 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup milk, adjusted as needed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon orange zest, or use up to 3 tablespoons for a more intense orange flavor
1 1/4 fresh or frozen cranberries, halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease the short sides of a 9×5 loaf pan and line with a piece of wax paper large enough to completely cover the both long sides and the bottom of the pan.

Prepared Pan

Measure the orange juice in a 2-cup measuring cup.  Add enough milk to measure 1 1/4 total of the orange juice and milk mixture.

Combine the sugar and eggs in a medium bowl and mix until smooth.  Add the prepared orange juice and milk mixture and melted butter and stir until combined.  Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and mix until just combined.  Batter will be lumpy.  Fold in the orange zest and cranberries and mix just until cranberries are evenly distributed.

Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Cranberry-Orange Bread Before Baking

Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Cranberry-Orange Bread

Wrap leftover bread tightly in aluminum foil and store in refrigerator.

Wheat Germ and Sunflower Bread

There are Sundays when what I really want to do is make bread.  This is typically an hours-long process that involves poring over my cookbooks to find an engaging new recipe, kneading the dough until I can feel that it’s ready, letting the dough rise, shaping it into fancy braided loaves if I’m feeling particularly ambitious or plain ones if not, and letting the dough rise some more before finally baking it.  And then there are Sundays when mostly, what I really want to do is just eat bread.  Last weekend featured one of those Sundays.  Between religious services, taking advantage of the glorious fall weather for a run in the park, chopping up vegetables and ham for a batch of split pea soup, and making my monthly trip to the co-op for bulk whole grains and sustainable tuna, the whole Zen-bread thing wasn’t going to happen.  But since split pea soup is one of those meals that is simply incomplete without a loaf of warm homemade bread, I turned to the the “Stir-and-Pour Breads” chapter of Bea Ojakangas’ Great Whole Grain Breads.  Wheat Germ and Sunflower Bread fit the bill: simple, hearty, and less than 90 minutes of combined prep, rising, and baking time.

This recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour, which gives the bread a fluffier, lighter texture that I thought possible in a mostly whole-grain loaf (I tracked down the flour in the bulk bins at the co-op).  Be sure not to leave off the sunflower seeds and wheat germ–as the recipe title suggests, they are the key ingredients that provide a satisfyingly hearty flavor and a nice crunch.

Adapted from Great Whole Grain Breads by Bea Ojakangas

Ingredients:

Wheat Germ and Sunflower Bread Ingredients

1 cup warm water (approximately 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon wheat germ

Combine water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and let sit until yeast has swollen and small bubbles appear on the liquid’s surface (about five minutes).  Stir in the oil and salt.  Add the flours and stir 50 times, making sure to incorporate all of the flour by scraping the sides of the bowl.  A soft, sticky dough will form.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Pour the dough onto the prepared baking sheet.  With wet hands, pat the dough into a circle approximately 1/2 inch thick and 9 inches in diameter.  Re-wet hands if dough starts to stick to them.

Loaf before rising

Let loaf rise until slightly puffy, about 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Loaf after rising

Using a pastry brush, brush loaf with water and sprinkle with sunflower seeds and wheat germ.

Loaf before baking

Bake loaf until the top is well-browned and crusty, about 20 minutes.

Wheat Germ and Sunflower Bread

Cut into wedges to serve.  Although this bread is best the day it’s made, you can store the completely cooled bread in an airtight container at room temperature.

Wheat Germ and Sunflower Bread

Review: Hans’ Bakery

If Anoka’s Main Street looks a little empty on Saturday morning, it’s because everyone is at Hans’ Bakery on Fifth Avenue.  A reincarnation of the beloved bakery founded in 1973 by German immigrants Hans and Traudy Birkner, Hans’ is usually bustling with senior citizens lingering over coffee, hockey moms grabbing breakfast to go, groups of teenagers splitting boxes of doughnuts, and very happy icing-covered toddlers.

Hans' Bakery

Clockwise from upper left: Beesting; chocolate old fashioned doughnut; maple glazed raised doughnut; maple glazed cinnamon roll

Hans’ specialties are gargantuan Texas doughnuts–quite literally the size of a child’s head–and the Beehive, a cake-sized pastry filled with custard and topped with a dusting of powdered sugar and sliced almonds.  If you just want a sample, there are also individually-sized Beestings.  The Beesting is certainly unique–the slightly-tough exterior and bready interior is reminiscent of a dinner roll, and the pastry is sliced completely in half with custard spread on sandwich-style.  This design makes the Beesting difficult to eat, since all of the custard keeps oozing out the end.  Since it’s a Hans’ classic, it was worth trying once, but on future visits I’ll focus on my favorite items: the doughnuts.

The old-fashioned doughnuts are ideal for those who relish the crusty ends of a loaf of French bread.  They’re best when drizzled with a thick chocolate icing, sweet but not so much so that you overlook the hearty, crusty doughnut underneath.  The raised doughnuts, on the other hand, are as light and ethereal as anything that’s taken a dip in a fryer can be.  If it’s available, try the maple glazed version, an interesting change of pace from the standard classic glazed.

In addition to doughnuts, Hans’ offerings include a rotating selection of cookies, brownies, cupcakes, turnovers, and cinnamon rolls.  The maple-glazed cinnamon roll is a favorite of Mike’s: generously proportioned, the maple glaze on top complements the warm notes of cinnamon within.

Although Hans’ Bakery focuses on the basics–a maple-bacon long John is the sole trendy offering–sometimes a classic doughnut and a cup of decent coffee is exactly what you’re looking for.  And based on the crowds, that’s what the population of Anoka is looking for too.  The latest version of Hans’ Bakery is deservedly well on its way to becoming a local institution, just like its predecessor.

★★★ out of 4 (recommended)

If you go:

Hans’ Bakery
http://www.hans-bakery.com/
1423 5th Avenue
Anoka, MN 55303
763-421-4200

Hans' Bakery on Urbanspoon

Seared Salmon with Miso Sauce

Based on a perusal of my recent posts, it appears that I’ve taken to subsisting on restaurant meals and pumpkin baked goods.  But fortunately (or unfortunately, since the pumpkin oatmeal cookies were pretty darn tasty), I’m still cooking.  I just haven’t been making anything blog-worthy.  There have been lots of recipe repeats from previous years: ravioli with apples and walnuts, spinach and leek bean soup, savory roasted sweet potatoes, mushroom barley risotto, and Thai butternut squash soup.  Meanwhile, the new recipes I’ve been trying keep falling short: the slightly-scorched sockeye salmon cakes that tasted great, but need some further refining of technique; the Japanese-inspired dish that involved lots of running around to find soba noodles and miso, only to yield a disappointingly mediocre result; the kimchee stew that needed more of a punch; and the roasted delicata squash salad that didn’t quite happen since I got lazy and just ate the squash plain.

But finally I found a hit in in the form of an easy weeknight salmon recipe, and as an added bonus it used up some of the leftover miso from my Japanese noodle dish experiment.  Miso is a thick paste made from fermented soybeans, similar in texture to chilled cookie dough.  It mostly tastes salty, with an earthy, fermented kick at the end.  I tracked down miso at Whole Foods, in the refrigerated section with the tofu and meat alternatives.

White Miso

White miso close up

The mellow flavor of the salmon makes it a pleasing backdrop for the assertive miso sauce, and a side of honey glazed brussels sprouts further balanced out the saltiness of the sauce.

Adapted from the Real Simple recipe by Dawn Perry

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Seared Salmon with Miso Sauce Ingredients

1 1/2 tablespoons white miso
2 1/2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 4-ounce salmon filets
salt
pepper
crushed red pepper

Combine the miso, 1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil, vinegar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons water in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add remaining 1 teaspoon canola oil and tilt to evenly coat bottom of skillet.  Place the salmon filets in the skillet, skin side up if applicable, and cook for 2 1/2 minutes.   Flip filets over and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Continue cooking until filets are opaque throughout, about another 2 1/2 minutes.

To serve, pour miso sauce over salmon and sprinkle with crushed red pepper.

Seared Salmon with Miso Sauce