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Salmon Burgers

 

There's something about a good burger that tickles my heart: a warm soft, crusty bun, a nice flavorful patty oozing with juicy goodness and that magical condiment that just brings it all together.  I've never really dappled with fish burgers. I mean I usually correlate a burger with a thick beef patty, the kind that melts in your mouth and makes your stomach smile on the inside but suprsingly, I found true love in a salmon burger this time.

I used this recipe I found through Food and Wine and made a couple modifications -- I made the aioli yogurt based to give it a healthier touch and the results were fantastic. The best part is, you can freeze the left over patties to use for later. Just simply defrost and sear them in a pan or you can even freeze cooked patties to save a little extra time.

 

 

 

 

 

Salmon Burgers

Recipe Type: Entree
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 3-4
Ingredients
  • Ingredients
  • 1 pound skinless center-cut salmon fillet, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce (3 crabs brand)
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • ½ tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs or panko
  • 3 hamburger buns, toasted
  • Lettuce, onion, tomato, sliced for burgers
  • avocado ailoi (see recipe below)
  • ——–
  • 2 Hass avocados
  • ⅓ cup yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 seeded serrano chile or unseeded jalapeño, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, pulse the chopped salmon about 10 times, or until minced. Scrape the salmon into a bowl. Mix the egg with the fish sauce, tabasco, garlic, shallot, ginger, lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, 1 tablespoon of the mint, ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Add the mixture to the salmon along with 1 cup of bread crumbs. Fold the salmon mixture together with a rubber spatula. With lightly oiled hands, pat the mixture into 4 burgers. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add salmon burgers to skillet and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until well browned but barely cooked in the center, about 7 minutes.
  3. Spread the Avocado Aioli on the rolls. Add the salmon burgers, top with lettuce, onion and tomato, close the sandwiches and serve.
  4. Avocado Aioli
  5. In a medium bowl, coarsely mash the avocados with a fork. Fold in the yogurt, basil, garlic, lemon juice, lime juice, chile and shallot. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

When fish is responsibly farm raised, it's a great way to go as it's a smart option to help deal with our current issues with over-fishing and usually comes at a lower price.  Be sure you do your research to find a good supplier. I used some Cooper River Salmon fillets I still had frozen from the peak of Summer and do feel free to experiment with other types of flaky fish like cod or mahi.

This recipe is also a great heart-healthy option for ones that are watching their cholesterol. Fish are rich in Omega-3 oils that are important for our cardiovascular and brain health and helps lower triglycerides in our blood. Food that tastes good and heals the body? I'm diggin it.

Eat well. Be mindful. Live Happy!

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho

With another year under the belt, life continues to serve unexpected surprises. The Age of Question seems to only deepen with time as I find myself slowly inching towards 30. Does anyone know when it becomes the Age of Answers? Summer has been kind to us here in Texas. With mild temperatures and ample rain, we've had an abundant harvest this year. Especially our tomatoes: Teardrops, Green Zebras, Brandywine and assorted Heirlooms -- Nature has been very kind and giving this season.

There's something intrinsically magical and pure about growing your own food -- though it takes countless hours of work, sweat and patience -- the pay off seems to nourish in more ways than one. You can literally find the beauty of life in a tomato.

To think what once laid as a dormant seed, given water, soil and light, it awakens and sprouts. And with time, care and a little homemade compost -- it grows into a healthy plant that flowers and ultimately produces the lusciously juicy fruit.

We often forget to appreciate these tiny miracles but they are constantly around us: growing, thriving, living as the World intended.

As with all great ingredients, I allow them the spotlight -- to showcase their wonder without all the flare and masking.

 

We'll start with a yellow tomato gazpacho which I adapted from Bon Appetit. Topped with creamy avocado chunks, thinly sliced purple onions, dotted with meaty cubes of heirloom and drizzled with a bright and bold cilantro oil -- this Summer soup celebrates the beauty of the season.

The best part is, this soup can be made ahead and would serve as the perfect starter for any Summer party. Feel free to serve in shot glasses or tiny bowls and always make sure you serve this soup ICE COLD. Your guests will thank you :)

If yellow tomatoes are not available to you, feel free to use red tear drops -- though the color will be different the flavors will still be wonderful. For those who aren't a fan of heat, leave out the chile but being the thrill-seeker that I am, I put a yellow thai chili from our garden and rest assured, it did the job.

As chiles vary in heat, always be sure to taste the spiciness level and adjust accordingly.

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho
Recipe Type: Appetizer
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 5 mins
Total time: 20 mins
Serves: 6
A chilled Summer soup that will leave you wanting more...
Ingredients
  • 1 3/4 pounds yellow tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber
  • 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeño chili with seeds, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
  • Garnish with cubes of avocado, thinly shaved onion and meaty cubes of heirloom tomato.
  • Cilantro Oil
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeño chili with seeds, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
Instructions
  1. Squeeze tomato juices and seeds into strainer set over bowl. Press on seeds to extract all juice. Chop tomatoes. Set aside 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, 1/4 cup cucumber, and 1/4 cup bell pepper.
  2. Combine remaining tomatoes, cucumber, and bell pepper in processor. Add tomato juices, onion, orange juice, oil, vinegar, garlic, and jalapeño; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer soup to bowl; add reserved vegetables. Cover and chill overnight.
  3. Divide soup among 6 bowls. Garnish and drizzle with cilantro oil.
  4. Cilantro Oil
  5. Combine all ingredients except water in processor. Puree until almost smooth. Transfer puree to fine strainer set over bowl. Using rubber spatula, press on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids in strainer. Whisk 1/4 cup water into mixture in bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewhisk before using.

 

 

 

Best Shrimp Fried Rice

Back in Elementary school I’d remember we had International Day, where students were asked to bring a dish from the country they were from.  Being Chinese, most of my friends assumed all we ate were eggrolls and fried rice and that we all knew some form of karate.   Not wanting to veer too far from stereotypes to risk confusion and so more people would like me, I decided to make Shrimp Fried Rice.

I cooked two pots of rice and was frying my eggs when my mother loomed into the kitchen -- “WHAT YOU DOING?” You see my mother has a thunderous voice, the kind that just shocks you right in the ear making your shoulder suddenly jolt up in pain. “Uhm...I’m making shrimp fried rice for International Day at school.” I continue to sauté my vegetables, feeling her lurking heavily over my shoulder.  She looked over at the pot of my freshly cooked rice and watched her brow wrinkle in distress: I’ve really gone and done it now, I’ve offended the Fried Rice Gods!  “How can you use that rice?  Must be OLD RICE, you cannot serve this, BU HAO!” And indeed it was bu hao, it sucked actually – I ended up with a goopy, soggy, pasty mess and safe to say, it was the worst fried rice ever.

You see--good thing you have mommy here to teach you how to make!” I ended up buying the Shrimp Fried Rice from General Chopsticks that day because what I made was honestly not edible.  That very weekend my mother taught me how to make the world’s BEST Shrimp Fried Rice, her secret? -- A sprinkle of chicken bouillon and white pepper at the very end.  So here it is, I’m passing on the love: My mother’s guide to Shrimp Fried Rice.

1.       Always use day old rice – make sure it is dry and not mushy and preferably cold.

2.      Fry all of your ingredients separately – shrimp, eggs, vegetables, rice, to avoid making just one gigantic clump and this ensures that all ingredients are cooked evenly.

3.      Use very hot heat and the right amount of oil, too little oil will break the rice apart, making it very sticky – for every 2 1/2 cups of rice I recommend using 2 tablespoons of oil.

4.      Pre-marinating the shrimp makes all the difference in the world.

5.      Always taste your rice the very last minute and adjust seasonings accordingly.

Recipe for the Best Shrimp Fried Rice:

(Serves 2-3; Prep Time: 15 minutes Total Cooking Time: 40 minutes)

Shrimp

  • 1 cup shrimp
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • ¼ cup Shao Xing Cooking Wine
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • ½ cup vegetable oil

--------

  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
  • ¼ cup white onion, chopped
  • ½ cup frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 ½ cups of cold, day old rice
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon Chicken Bouillon
  • A pinch of white pepper (and salt if needed.)
  • ½ cup green scallions, finely chopped

Marinate the shrimp with shrimp, cornstarch, cooking wine, soy sauce and white pepper.  The oil will be for later use.  Refrigerate the shrimp for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, gently break apart the rice into small clumps using your hands and set aside.  Chop the onion, green onion and scramble your eggs.

Set a metal strainer and a bowl aside to catch the excess oil from cooking the shrimp.  Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok at high heat until the oil just begins to smoke.  Add the shrimp mixture and quickly sauté the shrimp, making sure all surfaces of the shrimp hits the hot oil.  Cook for about 1 ½ -2 minutes or until shrimp are almost cooked through (the surfaces will turn entirely pink), turn off heat and allow shrimp to cook the rest of the way for an additional minute.  Strain shrimp through strainer and set aside and save the oil for the rice.

In the same skillet or wok, heat a tablespoon of the reserved oil over medium high heat until hot.  Sautee onions for 2 minutes and then add the frozen vegetables.  Add another tablespoon of oil and add the rice.  Gently break up the rice with the vegetable mixture by shaking the skillet or wok, or moving it around with a heat-proof spoon.  Add the soy sauce and mix thoroughly and then add the shrimp.  Sprinkle with chicken bouillon and a pinch of white pepper, taste and salt accordingly.  When ready to serve, sprinkle finely chopped green scallions to add a burst of freshness.

Roasted Tomato Soup

I remember the first time I met Collin.  It was at my friend’s party and I was 20 at the time.  I decided to drive up to Dallas and visit my good friend, Mr. H to celebrate the annual TX/OU game. He raved to me that I'd love his roommate: tall, blonde, blue eyes, six-pack abs -- yep that sounds like my type! However, first impression I didn't think he was all that and a bag of chips, to be honest I found him to be quite rude. There he was standing outside with a muscle shirt on with some dirty ripped jeans, holding a beer in one hand and rubbing his abs with the other -- who the hell was this guy? Sup, my name is Collin.

He extended his ab rubbing hand towards me, I raised my brow at him. Hi, I'm Joy.

And that was pretty much the end of our conversation. He turned around to laugh at his friend's dirty joke as his cup of beer sloshed inches away from my new stiletto shoes. What a dick. Little did I know the seemingly self-absorbed meathead with the cut off shirt would be my future husband. Who would've thunk it?

The weekend ended up being pretty much uneventful. Oh yes, he helped me set up my wireless internet and that's how we actually started to talk afterwards because he had added his screen name to my buddy list. But there was one thing I couldn't get over...he was just so so cute with his blue eyes (and abs). Call me shallow but ladies, he had it going on. So one day I decided to message him, you know, just to say "Hello" again and the rest? Well you know how it goes.

I fell deeply and madly in love with the tall blonde boy with the blue eyes and abs. After months of online conversations, ab boy turned out to be quite easily one of the funniest, caring and most eccentric guys I've ever met. He liked to do impressions and often made goofy jokes, he always helped me with my Physics homework (because that shit is impossible), he was an Electrical Engineer major and spent most of his time building underwater submarines, he shopped at the local Chinatown market because he enjoyed buying the gigantic one pound box of WuMu noodles for a shocking deal of $2.99 – what can I say? I knew this was love.

Five years later, my love for ab boy just keeps growing day by day. Granted I've now downgraded his abs to a cute little smushy belly, he swears to me he's bringing it back this year for our wedding. It doesn't matter to me though -- abs or no abs he's won my heart forever. He’s the perfect fit for me, like PB&J or peas and carrots or cheese and crackers!! (can you tell I’m hungry?) I count my blessings every day that somehow in this vast world I was able to find my one and while some may call young love naive, I can guarantee this is the man I will spend the rest of my life with. (He eats chicken feet and pig ears for christsake what more could a Chinese girl ask for??)

I'll cut this love shpeal short, I'm sure the faint-hearted are puking from this mushy love declaration and can barely contain their mangled expressions of agony so I’ll spare you, for now.  It’s just that he made me the most wonderful heart-shaped blueberry pancakes with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice this morning since we were stuck at home due to the Ice Storm in Dallas.  Anyways, just enjoy this Roasted Tomato Soup.   It has a nice kick and like all things in life, everything is better when you add a little spice to it ;) (ya know what I’m saaaayin?).

Ingredients for Roasted Tomato Soup: (serves 4-6)

Prep time: 10 minutes; Total cooking time: 1 hour

  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes
  • 7 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs, optional
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes and garlic cloves onto a baking tray lined with foil. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.

Remove roasted tomatoes and garlic from the oven and set aside.  In a large pot melt the butter at medium high heat.  Once it is bubbling add the diced onion, carrots and cayenne.  Saute until onions are translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add 3/4 of the chicken stock, bay leaves, and roasted garlic and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third.

Wash and dry herbs and add as a garnish when ready to serve. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to low heat, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining chicken stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish in bowl with fresh herbs and crostini if preferred.

Moroccan Carrot Soup

Back in March, Collin and I purchased our very first home together.  It was ragged, beaten down and was practically obliterated by termites.  The woman who owned the house before us lived here for over 40 years and never did a single update.  I want you to imagine that -- original wall paper and carpet, stove tops and ovens from back in the 70s, we even found a hoover vacuum cleaner back from the the 60s, and not to mention that the doors and walls had deeply yellowed with age.  It was just plain awful.

But together we saw something in this house: potential.  We knew with a little lot of hard work, we could make this into something liveable, something beautiful, something we'd be proud to call our very first home.  Finally now after 6 months, we've finished: new walls, new kitchen, new paint, new floors...the list goes on forever.  And let me tell you, it's freaking fantastic.  As a way to celebrate our achievements, I've decided to throw a housewarming party this Saturday -- complete with a roast pig, a keg, and plenty of food but most importantly sharing our new home with our family and friends.

In many ways this house has become representative of my personal struggles these past couple of years.  Since graduating college two years ago it has been a challenge to figure out what direction I wanted to take in my life, especially career wise.  At my lowest point, I felt like this house the way we first found it: dark, in shambles, and completely unorganized.  However, with time, ample searching, commitment and hard work I've found my niche in cooking, photography and piano and slowly but surely I'm begining to feel myself flourish.  I wouldn't be here if Collin didn't notice my potential and continued to push me to strive for my dreams, what once seemed like an impossible feat has now become my gorgeous reality.

We completed the very last project, the deck earlier this week and we couldn't contain our excitement and wanted to put it to use right away. I made this hearty, comforting to the soul bowl of Moroccan Carrot Soup to perfectly compliment our cool Fall nights we've recently been having (finally Texas!!!!).  We spread out a blanket, lit a few candles and basked in the aromas of cumin and fresh wood as we had our soup in silence.  Collin laid back on the blanket, closed his eyes and let out a huge long sigh -- "I can't believe we live here, we have the best house in the world."

Indeed we do my love, indeed we do.

From Epicurious

Ingredients for Moroccan Carrot Soup:(serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 1 pound large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 2/3 cups)
  • 2 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt, stirred to loosen
  • Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes. Mix in carrots. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir cumin seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes; cool. Finely grind in spice mill.

    Remove soup from heat. Puree in batches in blender until smooth. Return to same pan. Whisk in honey, lemon juice, and allspice. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle yogurt over; sprinkle generously with cumin.