Baked Salmon

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to be very challenged in the culinary department. Back when I was in college one of my favorite places to shop, especially when my parents were in town and taking me, was Costco. Although most of the items I’d purchase fell decidedly into the unhealthy category, there was one item I always had to have that was surprisingly nutritious. That item was the salmon fillets with basil pesto butter that are ready to bake. The butter and the seasonings combined with the fatty fish come out moist and taste SO divine. Given the lack of storage space in our 700 square foot apartment we rarely find a need to go to Costco anymore, so my basil pesto butter salmon cravings go unchecked. However, I buy salmon fillets locally quite frequently, and though I have not yet tried to make the basil pesto butter (though I JUST acquired a food processor last Christmas so I will have to try it soon), I have developed my own recipe for salmon that is a winner. It requires much less butter, it’s super simple, and the cleanup is ridiculously easy.

Baked Salmon with Butter and Seasoning

  • .75 lb salmon fillets, cut into 4 pieces (it’s best to use wild salmon, but organic farmed will do)
  • .5 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp basil
  • 1 tsp parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with Pam. Spread the 4 pieces of salmon out on the cookie sheet. Cut the butter into 4 slivers and place one sliver on top of each salmon piece and cover all pieces with the seasonings. Bake for 15 minutes, longer if the salmon is still visibly rare when you cut it open* (try another 3 minutes and check again). Serve with steamed vegetables and rice of your choice.

A tip: many fillets are much thicker on one side than the other. Try to cut the fillets so that you have thinner and thicker pieces, that way you can take out the thinner pieces first and let the thicker pieces cook a few more minutes – that way you don’t have overly dry or overly rare pieces!

Sun, Scandal, and Lobsterfest

In a nice change of pace from the snow and polar vortices, this weekend the sun came out to play and New York reached highs of 52 degrees. Alex and I took advantage of the warmth by spending Saturday afternoon walking around the city. We started with the flea market in Hell’s Kitchen (right by our old stomping grounds), then walked through the Village, Soho, and Tribeca back to our apartment, stopping through interesting shops along the way. Our cutest find was an Australian cafe called Pie Face, which has excellent coffee and mini savory pies topped with smiley faces. I wish they had one in our neighborhood, I’d be a regular. My evening was spent getting drunk and eating cheesy biscuits at the Times Square Red Lobster with friends. Eating at a chain restaurant in the most touristy part of the city was probably one of the least New York things we could have done and it was glorious. It’s nice to take a break from the small, crowded restaurants here where you inevitably hear the entire conversations of tables on either side of you. And come on, cheesy biscuits. For those of you who love those biscuits as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that you can make them at home using this mix (also available at Walmart). I made them during our law school reunion in the mountains last Labor Day, with extra cheese and butter, and they tasted just as good as the ones at Red Lobster itself.

Aside from some more light shopping on Sunday, I was a lazy bum. Alex and I have been watching Scandal on Netflix for the past two weeks and yesterday we had a full blown marathon. We’re approaching the end of Season 2, and I am amazed by how screwed up everyone’s lives got in the show so quickly. The series started off relatively benign and got pretty complicated by the end of the first season, but at this point it is beyond convoluted. I love it. I also love everything about Olivia Pope’s wardrobe. Ever since I started watching I’ve found myself wearing more extra long, delicate necklaces and pants, so apparently I’ve started channeling Olivia’s style. My envy of her looks doesn’t end at her clothes – I think Kerry Washington is one of the most beautiful actresses around. I know it’s a television drama, but seeing shows like Scandal and House of Cards really makes me wonder how crazy life is as a powerful politician in D.C.. Surely they cover up transgressions such as hiring prostitutes, but I wonder how commonplace it is to hide the really crazy crimes, like murders and election fraud. Probably much less so than they make it seem on the show. Anyway, I’m excited to get all caught up so I can watch new episodes as they air!

Chicken tortilla soup

It’s no secret that both Alex and I love Mexican food. Unfortunately for both of us I tend to be pretty snobby abut the quality of Mexican food here in New York. There is amazing food of almost every ethnicity here – Italian, Japanese, Greek, you name it – but I just haven’t been able to find good, authentic Mexican done the way it is back in California. Not to say that I haven’t found decent tacos and burritos here, but they usually leave me feeling a bit disappointed. I miss the quesadillas at Taqueria Ramiro & Sons in my hometown of Alameda, where we used to go for lunch in high school, and the Mission-style burritos at El Farolito in San Francisco, which I tried for the first time a few years ago. In college there was Freebirds for nachos at 2am and Super Cuca’s for a California burrito or nachos, either at 2am or hungover the next morning. And whenever I head to LA to visit my UCSB friends we hit up Don Antonio’s for tacos and margs.

As a result, we don’t usually go to Mexican restaurants when we eat out. Instead I cook a lot of Mexican-inspired dishes during the week. Not that I can claim my Mexican cooking to be super authentic, but at least I can keep my meals light and cheap when I’m making them at home, and they do as good of a job of satisfying my cravings as eating it out in NY. My favorite is making tacos, mainly because they are easy and can take any kind of meat, but I decided to switch it up a bit this week and bust out my crockpot to make some chicken tortilla soup. Given the continuing nasty weather I thought it would be a nice, comforting choice.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • ~1 lb boneless & skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can diced tomatos (peeled), undrained
  • 1 can diced tomatos with green chiles (RoTel), undrained
  • 1 can yellow corn, drained
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 2 jalopeno, seeds and spines removed, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 32 oz organic chicken broth (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • Juice of one lime (I had one that looked like it was on steroids so I only used half)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • .5 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tsp Adobo seasoning (find this in the ethnic foods section of grocery stores)
  • 1.5 tsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 of chili powder
  • Tiny pinches of salt and pepper
  • Pinch of oregano

Put all ingredients into your crockpot and stir well. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Garnish with warmed corn tortilla stripes, shredded cheese, sour cream, and sliced avocado. Yum!

Fast organic food

The title of the post may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s not. Today I am sharing my love for foods by Amy’s Kitchen. Ever since I moved out on my own completely, i.e. also out of the dorms my first year at UCSB, because that lifestyle came with a meal plan, I’ve had an unfortunate penchant for frozen food. During my college years I sustained myself on a diet of hot pockets, dino buddy chicken nuggets, and beer purchased in bulk from Costco. So gross looking back at it. It wasn’t until maybe my last year in Santa Barbara that I started to utilize the kitchen, mostly still making frozen meals, except that I upgraded to items from Trader Joe’s and using a pan or oven to heat them up instead of the microwave.

In law school I finally learned some fundamentals. I was partly inspired by one of my roommates from 1L year (law school’s first year) who was from Alabama and an amazing cook – she was always whipping up one casserole or another for dinner and the kitchen smelled fantastic. Sometimes she cooked for the house and sometimes for her and her boyfriend at the time. I had just started seeing Alex and I thought it would be nice to be able to occasionally make dinner for the two of us without having to worry about ruining something basic like pasta. Yes, I once managed to boil a bunch of spaghetti into one giant tube. Another infamous incident at the Sueno house in SB was when I burned an omelette and ate it anyway, pretending it tasted fine, after being made fun of by my roommates. So I slowly began to learn to make the basics, and today I make most of the meals in our household. Even more surprising, now that I know more of what I’m doing I really enjoy cooking!

Of course cooking takes time and sometimes I don’t have much of that to spare or I’m just too tired. Incidentally, my other 1L roommate introduced me to Amy’s pizza pockets. I love anything and everything pizza-inspired, so when I smelled these as her dinner one night I was intrigued. I tried one and I was hooked! Organic, pizza-flavored, and in a smaller portion? Perfect. In New Orleans the easiest place to find Amy’s dishes was Whole Foods, but here in New York several of the grocery stores around me have a wide variety. I regularly have their pizza pockets and burritos, and more recently I’ve tried some of their other offerings like tamales, pad thai, chili, and mac and cheese. All have been delicious and satisfying. I’m not the type of girl who can eat a salad and be fine for another 6 hours, so I especially love these as a lunch option. The portions are a little heartier than some other “healthy” meals like Lean Cuisine, but still small enough that they fit well into my diet even when I’m really watching what I eat. Also, the ingredients are organic and the meals are made without preservatives. The one downside is that they can be a little pricey but hey, you are what you eat.