Salmon and Fennel with Ponzu Sauce

Salmon & Fennel with Ponzu Sauce

Ponzu is a light Japanese soy sauce combined with a touch of citrus. The citrus juice used is either yuzu (a small Japanese citrus fruit) or regular lemon. It is commonly used in Japanese cuisine as a marinade or dip for fish and meats. Ponzu is available in the Asian section of most supermarkets these days with Kikkoman being the most common brand. I use it frequently to marinate fish and chicken.

This recipe uses ponzu in both the brief marinade for the fish as well as the stir-fried fennel. The citrus in the ponzu is an amazing compliment to the licorice notes of the fennel and all three come together beautifully for a quick & easy dish that is something special.

Salmon is used here but any, firm, thick fish, skin on, works very well. I have also prepared the fish in a sauté pan but grilling is an excellent alternative. A green salad, a simple rice pilaf and crusty bread makes this a light, elegant meal.

2 six ounce fish filets, skin on
½ cup bottled ponzu sauce
1 fennel bulb, washed and sliced
2 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground coarse black pepper

Pat the fish filets dry with paper towels and place in a shallow dish. Pour the ponzu over the fish reserving 2 tablespoons and turn to coat. Marinate the fish for 15-20 minutes turning occasionally.

In one medium sauté pan melt one tablespoon butter over medium heat. Season the fish with black pepper. When the pan is hot add the fish skin side down and sauté till the skin is browned brushing lightly with additional ponzu. Turn and fry the other side, again brushing with additional ponzu and continue to cook till the fish is firm.

In another medium pan, melt the other tablespoon of butter over medium high heat and add the sliced fennel. Add the reserved 2 tablespoons of the ponzu sauce and stir fry just till the fennel becomes tender.

To serve plan the fennel on a plate, top with the cooked fish and garnish with a reserved sprig of the fennel top.

Serves 2

RM Seafood

A recent dinner at RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay was nothing short of memorable. The handsome and comfortable two story restaurant is located in Mandalay Place connecting the Luxor to Mandalay Bay. Each level of the restaurant features a totally different menu, both offer fascinating dining choices. We dined on the lower level and were offered a raw bar and sushi menu as well as the standard menu.

We started with the oyster sampler featuring six varieties of Atlantic and Pacific oysters that was Nirvana for oyster lovers. The jumbo lump crab cake appetizer served with a chipotle mayo and an addicting jicama salad was another winner. The rather high corkage charge ($35) discouraged us from bringing our favorite bottle but the substantial wine list has something for everyone and the citrusy Riesling we selected was perfect with both main courses, one a cioppino (a San Francisco style mixed seafood stew) served over calamari ring-shaped pasta ($35) and the other a luscious crab meat, cream and morel mushroom combo ($25) served topped with a Meyer lemon foam over cavatelli. Both dishes were hits. We loved our shared side dish of mac and cheese with BBQ pork ($12). Service was impeccable, even on a busy evening with a full house and a line outside the door. Our server was well informed, efficient and charming.

Chef Moonen was in the house on the evening we dined at RM Seafood and graciously sat with us while we waited for our appetizers. He’s profoundly passionate about his craft and very serious about spreading the word about sustainable fish & seafood sources but his energetic sense of humor and take on the world of the restaurant business are simply charming. Chef Moonen is very serious about seafood. It’s not enough that the fish and seafood served at RM Seafood prepared beautifully, it must also come from sustainable sources using eco-friendly fishing and farming methods. His current cookbook, “Fish Without a Doubt” touches on this philosophy. It’s a substantial and handsome cookbook that deserves a place in any serious cookbook collection.

RM Seafood
Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino
3930 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89119-1010
(702) 632-9300

Salmon Patties

These aren’t the dry salmon patties of my childhood made by my mother from canned salmon. To be honest, I liked those a lot because I loved ketchup and they were a great vehicle for the large amounts of ketchup I needed to lubricate them so I could swallow them. Once or twice a year I still get a craving for those things.

This salmon cake recipe more closely resembles the luscious crab cakes from Maryland and uses fresh salmon that has been precooked just until it can be flaked. It can be leftover salmon or salmon that has been poached, grilled or broiled specifically for this recipe.

These are fine enough that no sauce is needed, but a nice lemony hollandaise sauce goes well with them. They also make an outstanding sandwich when served on a fresh bakery bun, with a bit of shredded lettuce and some good homemade tartar sauce. Small ones make a nice appetizer topped with a bit of dill and sour cream. I have also made these substituting the salmon with other cooked and flaked fish-catfish and trout are particularly good.

1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless salmon, cooked and cooled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup fine fresh breadcrumbs plus ½ cup additional for dredging
4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup finely diced onion
½ tsp Old Bay seasoning
Oil for shallow frying

Sauté the onions in the butter till soft, set aside to cool. Roughly break the cooked and cooled salmon into a large mixing bowl and add the cooled onions and any butter remaining in the pan. Gently toss. Add the remaining ingredients gently combining.

Form into cakes the desired size and coat each side lightly with the remaining breadcrumbs. Heat oil over medium high heat and fry the patties on both sides till golden brown.

Makes 4-6 salmon cakes.

Mixed Berry Crumble

I love strawberries but get bored with strawberry shortcake and similar desserts using the berries raw. I’ve found that I like the taste and texture of strawberries that have been cooked, especially in pies, but when I don’t have time to fuss with pie crust, crumbles and fruit crisps are my next choice.

This fruit crumble goes together fast and can be doubled or tripled to feed a large crowd. During fruit season I make a large batch of the buttery crumb topping and freeze it in freezer bags (it‘s also the same streusel topping I use to top my muffins and banana bread). When I find a bargain on berries or other fruit it’s just a matter of putting the fruit in a baking dish, tossing a few handfuls of the topping over all and into the oven for a no-fuss fresh fruit dessert.

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup packed light-brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup finely chopped nuts
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
4-5 cups mixed berries (blueberries, sliced strawberries, raspberries, etc)
¼ cup cornstarch
1 cup granulated sugar

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugars, and salt. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until fine crumbs form, toss in the nuts. Using hands, squeeze together most of the mixture to form large clumps. Set aside.

In a bowl combine the berries, granulated sugar and corn starch, and mix to combine evenly. Pour into a lightly buttered 8 x 8 baking dish.

Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the berries and bake at 375 degrees F. for 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chinese Tea Eggs

Wondering what to do with all those hard boiled Easter eggs? I’ve been making this simple Chinese recipe for many years, even when I haven’t been trying to use up leftover eggs. Called Tea Eggs, hard boiled eggs with the shells gently cracked with the back of a spoon are steeped in a mixture of soy sauce and tea. The liquid colors the egg whites with a spider web pattern and imparts a subtle flavor that is much more interesting than a plain boiled egg. When refrigerated and cooled, the subtle flavor imparted from the liquid makes for some of the best deviled eggs and egg salad around.

Many recipes for Tea Eggs add Chinese star anise and cinnamon to the boiling liquid. When used they produce an egg that makes an interesting appetizer simply sliced in half and served as is or with a bit of Chinese hot mustard for dipping. I omit these flavorings if I intend to use my tea eggs for egg salad or deviled eggs. Use Chinese soy sauce for the best color. Japanese sauces such as Kikkoman have good flavor but the lighter color won’t produce the same dramatic pattern the darker Chinese sauces do.

This makes six eggs but is easily increased to accommodate as many egg as you have.

6 hard boiled eggs
1 cup Chinese soy sauce
4 cups water
2 star anise (optional)
2 tablespoons black tea (or 2 tea bags)
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns or whole black peppercorns(optional)
2 strips dried tangerine or mandarin orange peel (optional)

Using the back of the teaspoon, gently tap the eggshell to crack the shell all over. The more you tap, the more intricate the design. Do this with a delicate hand to keep the shell intact. Bring all of the ingredients to a boil. Add the eggs and immediately turn the heat to low. Simmer for 40 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover with a lid and let eggs steep for at least a few hours. Even better, place in a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and steep the eggs overnight, refrigerated. The longer you steep, the more flavorful and deeply marbled the tea eggs will be.

Peel the eggs when ready to serve revealing the marbled effect created from the steeping liquid. Use as you would plain hard boiled eggs.

Meatball Sandwiches

Growing up Italian American, we ate a lot of meatballs. Every Italian family has their own version of what they consider to be the perfect meatball. In our family we had a few versions of meatballs depending on what they were being used for. My grandmother never added dried herbs such as oregano or basil because in her opinion it made the meatballs bitter. And she never, ever used rosemary to her meatballs or pasta sauce reserving that only for roasted meats. She also never added onions or bell peppers, common in American style meatballs. She did however use a large amount of fresh Italian parsley in many of her recipes.

The following recipe was her basic meatball sandwich recipe. For pasta she used this recipe with the addition of two links of Italian sausage (sweet or mild) removed from the casing (½ lb of sausage if buying bulk sausage). Use a high quality ground chuck for best results, freshly ground. Note the step in the recipe removing some of the bread in the middle of the rolls. This is the trick to making a meatball sandwich that is easier to eat without the filling sliding out. Leftover meatballs freeze exceptionally well when packed in freezer bags along with any leftover sauce.

With this recipe and good bread the result will be a meatball sandwich as fine as the ones that made my grandmother famous.

1 ½ lbs lean ground beef
4 slices Italian bread, crusts trimmed off
½ cup milk
1 egg
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic mashed
½ tsp salt
¼ cup minced fresh Italian parsley
28 oz can plain tomato sauce (I like Hunts)
Italian style sub rolls or a French baguette
¾ lb sliced provolone cheese (regular or smoked)

Place the ground beef in a mixing bowl. Cut the bread into small cubes and place in a smaller bowl with the milk. Mix the bread & milk together till the bread disintegrates. Mash the garlic to a paste with the salt and add to the bread mixture along with the egg and pepper. Now add the entire bread mixture to the ground beef and with hands mix everything together well.

With wet hands form into meatballs the desired size and place in a baking pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees till lightly browned.

Pour the tomato sauce into the saucepan over low heat and carefully place each meatball into the sauce turning to coat with the sauce. Cook the meatballs over low heat uncovered for about 30 minutes.

To assemble the sandwiches slice the rolls or baguette in half. With fingers, gently pull out a bit of the soft bread in the middle of each side to form a shallow trench being careful to not tear all the through the bread. Place a the meatballs down the center of the roll, spoon a bit of sauce over the meatballs and top with slices of cheese. Place the sandwiches under a preheated broiler just long enough to melt the cheese and serve hot.

Recipe makes enough meatballs to feed 4-6 people depending on the thickness of the bread used.

Lemon Garlic Chicken Wings

This is simply a great chicken wing recipe. They can served right away and served warm or made ahead and served cold, perfect for entertaining. These have been baked but they’re even better grilled. I use this same marinade for marinating 1 inch cubes of boneless pork that I thread on skewers and grill outside.

2 ½ lb chicken wings
½ c lemon juice
3 crushed cloves fresh garlic
1 tb freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp salt
1 tbls light brown sugar
1 tsp dried rosemary
¼ c olive oil
6 whole cloves fresh garlic

Wash the wings well and pat dry. Place everything in a large zip lock bag or glass bowl and combine well. Refrigerate, covered for 1-2 hours turning a few times.

Remove from the marinade and place in a single layer in a large baking pan with sides. Spraying with a non cook spray will help with the clean up later. Place in a 350 degree oven and bake for 1 hour, turning once half way through, until golden brown.


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