Maple Sesame Salmon – 11/67

IMG_0304 IMG_0282

My little sister is officially more educated than I am. I mean, she was always on the fast track to becoming an adult before me. She had a job with a regular paycheck (and benefits) way before I did. She’s been a vegetarian since before it was cool. She actually knows how to (and enjoys) exercise. She sets her sights on what she wants to do and does it! Multiple half-marathons, check. Wants to go on vacation in a year? Buys her tickets healthily in advance and plans a sensible itinerary. MSW? Check. Sigh. I’ve officially worn matching socks without holes in them all week, so that’s a thing.

IMG_0273 IMG_0276

My parents hosted a little gathering to celebrate her achievement with close family and her grad school friends. A lovely bunch of pesca-vega-tarians. Toasts were made. The grads’ altruism and friendships were rightly lauded. We went on a still unnamed boat and ate lots of good food. The sun showed up after a long morning of rain. And then I watched my first ever game of thrones episode, the series finale. (Probably not the right time to start watching.)

IMG_0279 IMG_0289

I happily helped prep food the afternoon leading up to the party and was happy to learn my mom was planning to make one of the salmon recipes from my book. Alright sure I’ll check a recipe off the list! This fish was so easy to make, and it received rounds of compliments at the table. Paired really nicely with an orzo salad and grilled vegetables. A perfect first outside meal of the season. A perfect way to tip a hat to hard work and new beginnings.

IMG_0301

IMG_0303

Such a beautiful place to cook. And eat.

two years ago: garlicky tomato zoodles
(nothing of note in years one, three, or four)

Maple Sesame Salmon

thanks Mom! Note – this exact same recipe works really well with sweet potatoes replacing the salmon. Click here for details of this revelation!

2 lbs salmon cut into serving size pieces (my mom says “skin removed if you remember to ask at the fish counter”)
⅓ cup real maple syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
¼ cup sesame seeds (I did a mix of white and black)
Chopped scallions to serve (optional)

Combine maple syrup, soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic. Pour over fish fillets. We did this in a shallow baking dish; a ziplock bag would also work. Let marinate in the fridge for at least ten minutes, or up to 8-9 hours.

Preheat oven to 375F. (Update! My mom says she always does 425F, even though the recipe says otherwise.) 

Take fillets out of marinade, drip dry, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (keep the marinade!). Then, sprinkle fish all over with sesame seeds, pressing them in a bit to help stick. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the marinade into a small saucepan or skillet. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Serve salmon with thickened maple sauce and sprinkle of scallions.

IMG_0306

Advertisements

Tapado: Caribbean Coconut Fish and Plantain Soup

 

tapado-2

Somehow we ended up with a table-full of green plantains last night, which it turns out are NOT the ones you make yummy sweet fried plantains with. Is that common knowledge? I felt totally uninformed and unworthy of my food blogger status. Well, now I know (and so do you!).

The internet told me I could deep fry them, tostones style, or make a dough out of them and stuff them with meat or whatever, bolo style. All options sounded fine, but in a eureka moment, I remembered cooking with green plantains once (I think they were green bananas then, but I believe they can be used fairly interchangeably), at a very steamy cooking class in Livingston, Guatemala.

tapado-1

I got out my journal, go me for being obsessive about notebooking, and immediately found the recipe I jotted down after the class. It was a very simple affair, made of what was local and available, namely lots of coconuts and fresh fish, with very little else.

Livingston, Guatemala is totally different from the rest of the country. It’s a Garífuna enclave on the Carribean coast, where it is steamy, humid, and damn tropical. Almost all food has to be brought in by boat and is hence pretty pricey. Its budding tourism industry is one of the prime sources of income for the area, but there’s not much to do in the oppressive heat — despite being on the coast, the only nice beach is accessible only by boat and the hostel options are all of the dreaded “party” variety, where invariably some huge Australian dude has slept all day and now has 40s of beer taped to his hands and is challenging other dudes into pull-up contests. #yolo #traveltolearnaboutothercultures #ohmy.

tapado-3

Some enterprising folks at Rasta Mesa started a cooking class to teach us bumblers how to make the traditional and ubiquitous soup of the region, tapado. It was a laid-back, steamy afternoon, with children running around and intermittently (and impressively) playing drums. “Class” was in the loosest sense of the word — I got the feeling the instructors were just making themselves dinner and we were around to help chop some vegetables and maybe babysit. Which was totally fine with me. The experience was only tainted by the one hostelbro who decided to get over his hangover, leave the hostel for the first time, accompany us to class, and flirt with all the women present. Despite his presence, it was a tranquil and delicious afternoon that I’m glad has come back to me.

tapado-4Note on recipe: When we made this in Guatemala, we used small white fish, hacked into thirds, with their bones and eyeballs still intact. The versions I saw around town had all sorts of seafood; I decided to use just shrimp but use whatever you prefer. For a vegan meal, you could use roasted sweet potatoes or green pepper chunks instead of fish. If you don’t have access to green plantains, don’t use bananas or yellow plantains, they’re too sweet and soft. The green variety is not sweet at all — it’s very starchy. Try subbing potatoes or yuca.

one year ago: rice noodle salad with carrot-ginger dressing and unstuffed eggplant with yogurt sauce 
two years ago: kale Caesar salad and black bean mango corn salad
three years ago: easy rhubarb cake and roasted beets + greens with mint yogurt sauce

more Guatemalan food: rellenitos de plátano (for when you need to get rid of yellow plantains) and quichon de verduras (Mayan veggie stew) 

Tapado

adapted from cooking class at Rasta Mesa

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound raw shrimp (mine were tail-free but either way is fine)
Pinch each of: garlic powder, granulated onion powder, cayenne
Salt
1 onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (save the juices)
1 jalapeño, diced
2 cans full fat coconut milk
Small handful fresh basil leaves
2 green plantains, peeled and in bite-sized chunks
Juice from ½ a lime
Chopped basil and/or cilantro, to serve (optional, but nice)
Cooked white rice, to serve

Heat a big saute pan (for which you have a lid) over a high heat. Toss shrimp in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of oil, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and salt. Add to very hot pan and cook on each side for just 2-3 minutes, or until they just turn pink. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to same pan. Lower to medium heat. Add onion and a bit of salt, and scrape up any bits left by the shrimp. Cook onion for 3-4 minutes, or until it’s just turning translucent. Add tomatoes and their juices and jalapeño. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the onion and tomato have broken down and become somewhat jammy.

Add both cans of coconut milk, one can’s-worth of water, small handful whole basil leaves, the green plantains, and bunch of salt. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until plantains are totally cooked. Partially mash some of the plantains with the back of a wooden spoon to thicken the soup. Add lime juice and shrimp — cook for another 2 minutes or so until shrimp are reheated.

To serve, ladle into a bowl, add a spoonful of white rice, and sprinkle with fresh basil and cilantro.