Maple Sesame Salmon – 11/67

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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Soy-Dashi Simmered Kabocha Squash (Kabocha No Nimono)

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One of my favorite parts about living in New York City is strolling the streets, iced tea in hand, scanning new restaurant menus, popping into little stores, and debating if I should actually buy something this time around. I especially love little delis and specialty grocery stores that cater to another country’s staples. Every time I’m around St. Marks Place in Alphabet City, I have to pick up a bag of my beloved Bamba (peanut butter cheetoh-like snacks!) at the Israeli store Holyland Market (and then force whoever I’m with to share). And when on 1st Ave, I without-fail pick up a bag of the deep-fried curly-q cumin seed crackers I fell in love with in Delhi at the little store underneath the two competing Christmas light Indian restaurants (y’all New Yorkers know what I’m talking about, right?).

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Another favorite is a stroll thru Sunrise Mart, although I don’t yet have a go-to snack in this Japanese wonderland. Usually I get cheap noodles, a rice ball, or something mochi-related. This time around, I was curious about the instant dashi soup mixes. Dashi is soup base, made from simmering kombu (a thick kind of seaweed) with bonito fish flakes. I’ve never made my own, but I’ve long thought it a great option for my pescatarian lifestyle.

So I bought this!

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A google search once I was home told me I got the no MSG brand (sweet!) and that everyone disagreed about how much soup powder you’re supposed to use per cup of boiling water. I ended up using almost one of the pouches, which was about a  teaspoon and a half, with my two cups of boiling water. The powder, or really it was more like tiny pellets, dissolved immediately. A little fishy but fairly subtle. I deem this a nice (and cheap!) flavorful base for soups or simmered veggies like this.

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Also, I am obviously no expert on Japanese food — my recipe was based on reading about 12 similar ones online. My squash definitely fell apart more than I had hoped for but we loved the flavor and scarfed it down regardless. It can be served warm or cold, but I greatly prefer the warmed up version. (And I’ll update you all in a couple months about what this dish is really like in Japan after my trip in November!)

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one year ago (okay fine, last August): maple blueberry beets with balsamic and mint
two years ago: 
roasted radish, blistered pepper, and olive pizza

Soy-Dashi Simmered Kabocha Squash (Kabocha No Nimono)

Adapted primarily from pickled plum 

½ a kabocha squash (abt 1.25 lbs)
2 c dashi (2 cups water plus 1 packet seasoning) (or sub veg broth)
½ tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin (though I believe you can substitute sake)

First, prep your squash. Peel some of the skin off (with a paring knife or powerful peeler). It’s fine to eat it, but peeling just some gives a nice texture change. Cut squash into roughly 1-inch cubes (more or less bite-sized).

Next, get out a heavy saucepan you have a lid for. If making dashi, bring water to a boil; add seasoning packet and stir to dissolve. Add squash pieces and return to a boil. If not making dashi, bring veg broth and squash to a boil.  Turn temperature to a slow simmer and cover pan halfway. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add sugar, soy sauce, and mirin and continue simmering for another 10 minutes, uncovered. At this point, squash should be very tender, but hopefully not falling apart. If you’d like a more syrupy sauce, remove squash pieces and continue simmering dashi mixture until it thickens, 3-5 more minutes.

Serve with rice or as a side to any Japanese-style dish. (We ate it with an udon-miso-tofu-mushroom soupy situation. Yum!)

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