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Main dishes

A Turkey Chili Story

Once upon a time there was chili and chili was good. Back then chili was always made with beef or pork for the meat component, and it was good. For many years all the people in the land ate of the usual beef and pork chili and all was well. Then one cold day came strangers to the world of chili and proclaimed that there are other meats that are good in it. These strange people put ground turkey in their chili much to the surprise of the beef and pork chili eaters. As if that wasn’t enough strangeness they would also use bison instead of the age old method of beef and pork to make matters more unsettling. The “old school” beef and pork chili eaters were upset by this oddness and said, “woe is thee who eateth the turkey or bison chili” and they refused to eat it. This did not bother the “new school” turkey and bison chili eaters, and they blended in as best as they could in the world of the “old school” crowd.

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Many years passed and the “old school” chili eaters had children who grew up alongside the children of the “new school” chili folk and in time they became friendly towards each other. It was bound to happen that one day the child of an old school chili eater was visiting his friend who’s parents were of the “new school”. It was cold and nasty outside and the “old school” child was invited to stay for dinner. Lo and behold the family served nothing for dinner but turkey chili. The “old school” child  thought it was better to eat of the strange turkey chili than go hungry and upset his hosts so he bravely tried this new chili. What a surprise to his taste buds this milder flavored meat had! It was delicious in a most agreeable manner and he ate much of this warm and satisfying bowl of hot red goodness. He couldn’t wait to go home and tell his parents about what was once thought of as sacrilege amongst chili eaters, was indeed quite tasty. He asked his hosts for the recipe to take to his parents so they too could sample this new chili. When he arrived home with chili smeared on his happy little face he told his parents of the wondrous chili at the “new school” chili eater’s home. He presented them with the recipe and the parents tried it and liked it. Soon all the land was rejoicing in the bliss of two new chili recipes and all was well in the land.

Today I share with you that amazing turkey chili recipe that brought peace and harmony to the land of chili eaters. May it keep you warm and happy.

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1/2 pound ground turkey

1 cup diced yellow onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes

1 15 oz can of tomato sauce

1 can of pinto beans

1 can of kidney beans

2 tablespoons paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a 6-8 quart pot add olive oil, onions and garlic, and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes stirring often.

Add garlic and continue cooking for 2 more minutes stirring often.

Add ground turkey, turn heat up to med-hi  and cook for 5 minutes stirring every 30 seconds until turkey is no longer pink.

Add rest of the ingredients, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook at a slow simmer for 20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes or so.

Chili is ready to eat after 20 minutes, but improves if cooked for 45 minutes, the last 25 minutes should be with the cover off. Like most chili recipes this one improves the next day.

Serves 4-6

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Spinach and Feta Tostadas

Spinach and Feta Cheese Tostadas

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Here we are in the first week of the New Year and I bet everyone is eating healthier thanks to resolutions made on New Year’s Day. If you are a little late to the health food party no worries as I have a delicious and easy recipe for you to try. I keep corn tortillas in the freezer most of the year because they are so versatile,quick and yummy. As long as you fry them in a healthy oil I think they are a great choice for eating better without much prep time. With the right ingredients you can make a full meal deal with them. I usually go vegetarian, but have been known to add a bit of leftover chicken on them if I have it on hand.

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In this latest creation of tostada magic I had some feta cheese in the fridge and a jar of sun-dried tomato pesto just waiting to appear on the table. I figured spinach would be a great choice of greens to complete the circle and into the kitchen I went for lunch. It took all of about fifteen minutes to make these spinach and feta tostadas and was deee-lish! Three of these cheesy circles of mouthwatering joy, with a side of avocado, were enough to satisfy my hunger. I probably could have eaten another but after all the high calorie goodness I had during the holidays I was glad to show some restraint.

ready for the oven

ready for the oven

Give it a try and see if you think this is a worthy recipe for you family and friends. Why you could even serve them for NFL playoff snacks if you wanted to, and if your teams wins they will taste even better!

Spinach and Feta Cheese Tostadas

4 cups fresh spinach 2-3 corn tortillas

6 corn or flour tortillas

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon garlic infused olive oil, or regular olive oil

3 tablespoons sun-dried tomato pesto, or tomato salsa

2/3 cup feta cheese crumbles

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Fry the tortillas in a sauté pan with 1 tablespoon oil on medium high for about 1 1/2 minutes each side then drain on paper towels. You don’t need to brown them much.

In the same sauté pan, or a bigger one wilt the spinach in 1 teaspoon oil stirring often for 2 minutes on medium heat. Add a bit of salt and pepper if you like.

Spread the sun-dried tomato pesto on the flour tortillas, about 1 1/2 teaspoon each.

Top with spinach, then feta cheese.

Bake for 5 minutes on a rack.

Serve with a side of sliced avocado and a bit of the pesto, or salsa.

Serves two but is easily doubled.

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Chicken Breast with Mushrooms and Sherry

 

Are We There Yet?

Each year many of us find ourselves just about done with the feasting and drinking scene that dominates our American culture this time of year. Starting with Thanksgiving we pig out in the name of tradition and it is good! Then comes the Christmas parties, and family gatherings before Christmas where we indulge some more. When Christmas rolls around we get food gifts of hams and chocolate, scotch and champagne and who knows what else. The Christmas feast is a lovely affair of roast goose, baked ham, prime rib or some other very special food with all the trimmings we don’t eat often. Don’t forget the amazing dessert this time of year! Pecan pie is a favorite, as well as pumpkin pie. A side of whipped cream is a must with either of the aforementioned delicious desserts. Maybe just a taste of eggnog splashed with a spot of brandy wouldn’t hurt? You get the picture. We eat well in this country and outdo ourselves during the Thanksgiving to New Years Days stretch. With New Year’s Eve comes the big drinking fest for many of us. Finally we stretch out in front of the tv to rest on New Year’s Day now that we are at the end of the holiday splurge and feeling stuffed like a tick on a fat hound dog.

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Come January second we need a break from all of this good stuff! Bring on the gym memberships and the New Year’s resolutions, Get off the couch and take the dog or kids for a walk to burn off some of the seasons excesses. It’s all for naught if you don’t eat healthy for a while, and that is where I come in. You need healthy, easy to prepare recipes that don’t interfere with all that exercise you are going to be engaged in for the rest of the year, according to your resolution.

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To start, here is a tasty dish that should take you no more than twenty minutes to prepare using non-processed whole foods. To top it off if you email me with the types of foods you like and want recipes for  I’ll send you five custom choices to get your New Year off to a good start. Let me know if you lean towards gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, low fat or low sugar and I’ll send you a list of five original recipes to help you make healthy choices for the New Year free of charge for the first ten readers. Also let me know how many minutes of prep time and cook time you want to stay within and chances are I can find recipes that fit the bill from my database of almost two hundred FastandFuriousCook.com originals. After all, life is short enough. Why make it shorter by eating and drinking too much unhealthy food and drinks?

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Chicken Breast with Mushrooms and Sherry

1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1-2 cloves of fresh garlic sliced thin

1/4 cup diced bell pepper

1/4 cup diced yellow or white onion

1 skinless chicken breast

8 oz white mushrooms sliced

2 tablespoon sliced green onions

2 teaspoons Spike seasoning salt

8-12 cherry tomatoes cut in half

1- 2  tablespoons sherry

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Cut the chicken breast across in thin slices and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in sauté pan and add garlic, bell peppers and yellow onion. Cook on medium heat for 3 minutes stirring often.

Add mushrooms and continue cooking until most of the moisture is cooked out of mushrooms, about 8-10 minutes stirring every minute or less. Set mushroom mix aside.

Add remaining olive oil to the sauté pan and cook the chicken breast on medium high heat for 2 minutes then flip each piece and cook for two more minutes.

Add mushroom mix, Spike, green onions and tomatoes cooking for 3 more minutes. Add sherry and serve.

Goes well with mashed sweet potatoes and steamed green beans.

Serves two, but is easily doubled.

 

Note:

Make sure the chicken is dried off with a paper towel to prevent splattering and sticking while sautéing.

Can be tossed with your favorite pasta too.

Cut olive oil to just two teaspoons if you want it low fat.

Chicken breast with mushrooms and sherry

Chicken breast with mushrooms and sherry

Salmon Rice Bowl

East Meets West

I love salmon rice bowls! On my most recent trip to Japan I paid extra attention to the food. From the restaurants, cafes, street foods, and even on the ANA Airline flight home I took mental notes of Japanese cuisine at its best. Japanese food is significantly healthier than American food overall. On the flight back from Tokyo to Chicago at lunch I noticed the calorie difference in our two choices of entree. The American style lunch featured braised beef with sides, and the Japanese style lunch featured grilled fish on rice with sides. The American lunch came in at about 1,250 calories while the Japanese lunch came in around 670.

IMG_0342I’ve been to Japan many times and have seen few fat people. They do have more incidences of stomach cancer, but overall their health is better than Americans. They eat less meat and fat than we do and get more exercise. I decided I would come up with some Japanese American fusion type recipes to share with those of you looking to eat lighter, or those who would like to explore Japanese foods.

Example at hotel free breakfast of the day's offering

Example at hotel free breakfast of the day.

In my first two or three trips to Japan I had a hard time eating the breakfast that typical locals ate. We usually stayed at hotels, hot springs resorts, and with my wife’s family there. The typical breakfast offered steamed rice, grilled or baked fish, steamed dumplings, shredded cabbage, several types of Japanese pickles, undercooked eggs(yuk!), miso soup, some sort of bread, and fruit.

I started taking granola on trips to Japan so I knew I’d have something I could eat for breakfast. On this trip something strange happened. We ate at restaurants or hotel buffets and I found I liked quite a few of the foods on the breakfast buffets unlike previous trips. Especially the fish and rice with strange vegetable side dishes. Remember the song “I think I’m turning Japanese”? I wondered after eating and liking so many of the dishes I usually wouldn’t have eaten at breakfast if I was. After eating fish on rice at three different places I decided to conjure up my own fish and rice bowl to share with you, my dear readers. This would be a lunch bowl, not breakfast. I’ve been cooking Asian dishes for over forty years. Some authentic, some blended East meets West style. Today I share with you my love of salmon, and brown rice. This simple, and very healthy dish takes no more than ten minutes to make, and uses ingredients that are easily found. If you have a rice maker get your rice cooking an hour or more before lunch time as this is one fast dish, but rice is not. Unless you do the microwave rice thing. Does anyone really buy that crap?

Three simple ingredients

Three simple ingredients

With the holidays upon us why not try this healthy salmon rice bowl before the new year resolution period? This salmon bowl is good hot or cold. If you have access to a good Asian grocery store, you can buy Bonito flakes, and rice sprinkles to enhance the flavor of the rice. If you can find unagi sauce(eel sauce) all the better. I tested it with Kikkoman BBQ Sauce brushed on, which worked well. I was  figuring it is easy to find, but have used unagi sauce for years on salmon with better results. If you have the time you can even marinate the salmon in my recipe:http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/teryaki-salmon-skewers-on-brown-rice/, for about forty-five minutes. This rice bowl goes well with a side of Asian style salad, or green salad with Asian sesame dressing. So here’s to eating better and healthier before and after the New Year.

slice the salmon like this

slice the salmon like this

Salmon Rice Bowl

1 pound salmon filet, preferably Alaska salmon

1/4 cup thin sliced green onion rings, the green part

1/4 cup unagi sauce or Kikkoman BBQ sauce

Preheat oven to 350

Sliced the salmon horizontally at an angle in 1/2 inch pieces

Rub with oil, or use a spray oil to prevent sticking

Place on rack near the top of oven and change heat to broil.

Cook for three minutes then remove from oven to brush topside with sauce.

Broil two to three more minutes.

Remove from oven and brush both sides.

Arrange salmon on top of rice and sprinkle with green onions.

I like to have soy sauce at the table ready to add as needed.

Serves four.

broil on rack

broil on rack

Note:

There are several type of rice toppings available in most grocery store Asian sections. I like several of them including bonito flakes, seaweed and sesame seed combinations, and Nori Komi Furikake.

Serve with an Asian salad like my Asian Broccoli and Bell Pepper Salad:

http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/asian-broccoli-salad/

Unagi sauce is the better choice if you can find it.

Unagi sauce is the better choice if you can find it.

Sweet Potato Hash

One person’s idea of fast meal preparation is different from another’s. Many of you use your microwave oven often and I use mine about once a year. Without the use  of a  microwave to speed things up fast meal prep is a bit more difficult but doable. For example, take the humble crockpot. Many recipes for a crockpot meal take less than ten minutes to prep and when you get home just like magic you have a house that smells like mom has been in the kitchen cooking all day and it is ready to eat!

 

Stir fried meals are quick and easy if you buy your veggies and meats already cut up and ready for the wok. You would also have to have leftover rice to make this method fast or, god forbid use microwaved heat-and-eat rice. Overall a stir fry meal is healthy and fast.

 

bi-colored sweet potato hash

bi-colored sweet potato hash

 

You can take a steak or chicken breast that has been pounded out real thin and it cooks in five to six minutes on the grill or in a frying pan. With some steamed fresh or frozen veggies and a salad you have a winning combination that if seasoned right should taste great. Blackened catfish, salmon or tilapia also cook very fast due to the high heat used in the blackening method.

All of these should take about ten minutes which I believe most of us would consider a fast meal.

 

With all these types of fast cooking I believe you can eat well without going to the aid of frozen dinners, or eating too many canned foods. Life is too short to eat crap food! With that in mind I’ll share a fairly quick breakfast meal that even though it takes about twenty minutes it’s delicious and healthy. No recipe needed on this one that I’ll call Southwestern Sweet Potato Hash.

the humble sweet potato

the humble sweet potato

Just get about one sweet potato per two persons peeling and cutting it into bite sized bits. Put it into a pot and cover with water. Add a bit of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer until just about tender. While it’s simmering cut up bell peppers(or jalapeños if you like it hot), and onions. Sauté them in a bit of olive oil on low while the spuds are cooking.

 

If the onions and peppers are soft before the potatoes remove them to a plate. When the spuds are done drain them and add to the pan the onions and peppers were in with a bit more oil. Cook for about eight minutes stirring/flipping every three or so minutes. About five minutes into this add back to the pan the onion and green peppers. If you like add a few tablespoons of cooked and drained black beans. At this time add some ground cumin, paprika, and Lawrey’s Seasoning salt. Just before serving adjust salt and pepper if needed.

 

Your breakfast is just about ready now and if you want you can cook up some over easy or scrambled eggs to go with it. You might even want to add some grated cheese on top of the hash. Serve with a side of avocado slices and salsa. This filling and healthy breakfast was made from scratch by you in less than twenty minutes and is better than just about any breakfast joint’s food. Give it a try and let me know how your version turned out in the comments section. If I get more than ten comments on this one I’ll give away a $50 Whole Foods gift card to a winner chosen at random. If you don’t have a Whole Foods nearby I’ll change it to a local grocery store gift card.

Simple Butternut Squash Soup

IMG_6425I love fall in North America! The weather is great and all sorts of seasonal veggies and fruits crowd farm stands across our nation. Butternut squash is abundant now and is getting almost as popular as kale.  Butternut squash is versatile as well as delicious. It’s weird looking back on my life as a confirmed squash hater. That is until just about ten years ago. Part of that affliction was from not finding or trying many a tasty recipe for this wonderful food. There are so many recipes available for this funny looking squash variety. With butternut squash you can make a lovely salad with walnuts and kale, mash it like mashed potatoes, or make many great tasting soups with it.

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Peeling a butternut squash is not for just anyone. It’s about as easy as giving a cat a bath and just as dangerous. Luckily most grocery stores sell peeled and cubed butternut squash. This no doubt will save many a home cook a visit to the emergency room. When you buy it already peeled and cubed you can make a soup like this one in minutes! You can also tweak it in many ways to suit your taste. You can add carrots, chili powder, garlic, turmeric, or your choice of herbs to make this personalized. You could also make it with the simple healthy ingredients listed here and have a great soup made from scratch.

 

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Give this fall soup a try soon and see if you agree with me that it’s a keeper. To celebrate fall harvest I am giving a way to two lucky readers some of my heirloom Strawberry Popcorn. This yummy little corn was grown organically with no chemicals or sprays of any kind and produced over a hundred cute little red ears. I have already tested a batch on my stove and pronounce it yummy. To enter this giveaway leave a comment on what your favorite way to season popcorn is and good luck to all who enter.

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Simply Delicious Butternut Squash Soup

 

4 cups butternut squash cut into about one inch cubes, about 19 ounces

1 teaspoon better than bouillon chicken base, see note

1 cup milk, either coconut or cows milk

salt and pepper to taste

 

Cover squash with water in a 2 quart pot and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and add chicken base.

Cook for ten minutes or until soft.

Drain off about one cup of the liquid and reserve it.

Add the milk and blend with either a table top blender or immersion blender until smooth.

Add some of the reserved cooking liquid if needed for a thinner soup.

Season with salt and pepper and serve with a sprinkle of sweet Hungarian paprika.

Serves four

 

 

Note:

If you want a vegan style soup use a vegetable bullion cube in place of the chicken base.

Curry powder( one teaspoon) is a nice spice blend to add to this soup for an exotic flavor.

 

Chicken w/Shallots Under 20 Minutes

I’ve been a known hater of microwave ovens for years. Why you might ask? It’s because I have seen many a food item destroyed in the microwave, and they are over used in many homes and some restaurants. As for the argument they change the molecular properties of foods and make those foods harmful to our bodies, I’m not a scientist so who really knows? What I do know is I may not be quite as fast in preparing meals without a microwave, but I’m sure the quality and health benefits are better with my conventional way of cooking. If you can’t part with your microwave that’s fine with me, but consider other fast options here on my blog because I believe your food will taste better if spared the micro-zapping torture.

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I’m a busy guy at home with many responsibilities like most of you. It’s very important to me that we eat well, and that I spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. It helps that I worked in over thirty restaurants in my chef career where I learned many ways of preparing foods in an environment where time is of the essence. It wasn’t until I walked away from professional cooking that I truly started to develop ways to speed things up in my home kitchen to share with you. My idea of a quick dinner is total prep/cooking time of twenty minutes or less. Almost all of the meals I cook at home are twenty to thirty minutes or less and I use very few convenience items.

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Today I want to give an example of a meal you can do in about twenty minutes that tastes great and uses whole natural foods. This chicken recipe cooks quick due to the thickness of the chicken breast and if you time things right the other two items will be done at the same time. Here are the dishes and how it flows:

succotash (lima beans and corn)
sautéed mushrooms
chicken breast with shallots

Start the lima beans cooking in enough salted water to cover plus an inch more. If you don’t like lima beans go with steamed green beans and toss them with a few cherry tomatoes cut in half during the last minute of cooking.

Start the sliced mushrooms sautéing on medium heat, if using onions start them first and add mushrooms two minutes later. If these get done way before the rest just turn off the heat until the other dishes catch up, then reheat for a minute or two.

Follow the recipe in this post for the chicken breast starting it after the mushrooms and lima beans are cooking.

Twelve minutes or so after the lima beans have been cooking add as much corn as lima beans to the pot. At this point it only takes two-three minutes to finish cooking and it can wait up to five minutes for the other two dishes to be done without hurting it a bit.

By now the chicken breast has been flipped and is almost done.

Get your platters if serving family style ready, or get dinner plates ready for dishing up.

Plate up the finished items and garnish with sliced fresh tomatoes.

All this should be easily done in twenty minutes, and you have an attractive healthy meal that tastes great. If you don’t want to use chicken the recipe works well with pork loin too. You could substitute beef, omit the thyme and use Lawrey’s Seasoning Salt instead with good results. The options are many, but I hope you get the picture of a quick healthy meal without taking up too much of your precious time at home. Please feel free to comment on, and share this recipe.

sautéing the shallots

sautéing the shallots

Sautéed Chicken Breast with Shallots

2 skinless, boneless chicken breast
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Using a meat tenderizing hammer pound out the chicken breast to a thickness of one half inch or less.
Sprinkle thyme, salt and pepper on the chicken then dredge in the flour.
In a sauté pan on medium heat add half the oil and cook the shallots for three minutes, stirring often.
Remove shallots from pan and set aside.
Turn the heat up to medium and add the rest of the olive oil and chicken breast.
Cook for six minutes then flip and cook for five minutes or until chicken reads 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.
Add shallots to the hot sauté pan and cook for a minute or two then top the chicken breast with them.
Serves two but is easily doubled or tripled to serve more.

Note:
Not all chicken breast are the same thickness. Modern intensive raised chicken breast are twice the size of traditionally raised chickens and require a bit more pounding with the meat tenderizing hammer. I prefer the smaller traditional chickens.

To speed things up a bit I’ll take a piece of aluminum foil and set it on top of the sauté pan loosely to reflect the heat. Don’t use a tight fitting lid as that would trap in steam and make the chicken breast tough.

This dish goes well with sautéed mushrooms and succotash for side dishes.

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Fresh Tarragon with Pasta

Summer Herbs

The leaves are turning color on the cherry trees across the street from my house and falling rapidly. It’s funny how the cherry trees are one of the first to bloom and stand out in the spring and now again in the fall they are vying for attention again ahead of the other trees. Dog and I walk under them daily and get an occasional decorative leaf or two falling on us while we walk. Soon there will be other trees and bushes joining the rush to fall season.

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For now I’m still happily maintaining my garden and picking lots of tomatoes and hot peppers even though fall approaches. Most of my tomato plants are done for the year, but there are a couple of unknown heirlooms producing well. That’s the beauty of planting many types of tomatoes, you get to pick some throughout the season.

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With this abundance of  great tasting tomatoes I’ve been coming up with new ways to eat them. I have them with breakfast some mornings, especially if I’m eating eggs, and I also slice them up just for a snack at all times of the day. I’ve made, and posted gazpacho soup, gobs of salsa for chips and dip, and canned a bunch of diced tomatoes.

 

I figure I have two or three more weeks of tomato harvesting before I have to count on the local farms for fresh tomatoes. My herbs however will produce into October and beyond. One year I had fresh herbs right through November! As a chef it’s awesome to have a great little herb garden out back. For most of my life I lived in cold climates and had to resort to grocery stores for almost all my fresh herb needs.

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With my tarragon plant starting to look just a bit old I decided to start using more fresh tarragon. I made a fresh tarragon salad dressing this week and for today’s post decided to share with you a tarragon pasta dish that takes less than 20 minutes start to finish. If you don’t like tarragon just substitute fresh basil for this side dish and enjoy just the same.

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Fresh Tarragon with Pasta

12 ounces pasta of your choice, I like fettucine for this dish

2 1/2 quarts of water

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons oil

8 ounces sliced white mushrooms

1 bell pepper diced, green, yellow, or red

1/2 yellow onion sliced

1 clove garlic minced

1 heaping tablespoon fresh tarragon minced

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Start pasta water, and salt boiling on high heat to get a head start. Cook according to directions on package.

In a sauté pan on medium heat cook onions, peppers and garlic for three to five minutes stirring often.

Add sliced mushrooms and cook for another eight to ten minutes.

If pasta is done it is time to add  most of the tarragon to the mushroom mixture and cook for just one minute on medium heat stirring. Save a bit of tarragon for a garnish.

Arrange pasta on serving platter or bowl and top with mushroom mixture.

Sprinkle a bit of the leftover tarragon on top and garnish the sides with fresh tomato wedges.

Serves four as a side and two as a main dish.

 

The Biggest State

I’m home and back in the groove after another great  trip to Alaska. It was forty years ago that I first set foot in “The Great Land” on Kodiak Island as a seaman apprentice in the US Coast Guard. Little did I know back then that Alaska is habit forming.

Pink Salmon

Pink Salmon

My sister, brother and wife have all heard the siren call too. They are part of almost every trip up north going back many years. What is the draw you might ask? Alaska is bigger than you can imagine with its over two million lakes, more coastline than the rest of the U.S., more than 100,000 glaciers, 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the U.S. and a whole lot of salmon to catch and eat. Alaska casts a spell on all who come. If it wasn’t for the bugs, cold weather, and hours of darkness in the winter the place would be as crowded as California.

There is something for just about anyone’s interest in a place this big. Fishing is one of the most sought after activities, and cruising. You can take a helicopter ride to a glacier and walk in ice if you like. Renting kayaks is another popular option in many parts of Alaska, or four wheel drive ATV’s. Maybe a day cruise on a nature themed trip in the Kenai Fijords National Park is up your alley where you will probably see humpback whales, puffins, Dall Sheep, Dall Porpoises, more seabirds than you can imagine, Steller Sea Lions, glaciers, and maybe even killer whales. Float planes are a lot of fun and a great way of getting around in this water world. Lake Hood in Anchorage is the world’s largest float plane base just a short walk from the main airport where you can watch the float planes take off and land.

 

a blue sky day for fishing

a blue sky day for fishing

What about the food in Alaska? For an Alaskan meal try the famous halibut fish and chips at the Inlet View Restaurant in Ninilchik. If fish isn’t your favorite try reindeer sausage  with eggs for breakfast at many Alaskan restaurants. A tourist favorite is Alaskan smoked salmon and Ed’s Kasilof Seafoods in Soldotna is a great place to sample and buy the smoked treats. If you get a chance to try spot shrimp or side stripped shrimp, but don’t miss out on these sweet and tender morsels from the southeast and south central waters. For a meal or happy hour break Lands End in Homer has the best view of any restaurant I know of in Alaska. It looks out on the blue-green waters of Kachemak Bay and three glaciers are visible from the Homer Spit where Lands End sits.

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On most of our trips we stay at a cabin and do most of our own cooking. Salmon is on the menu often and one night’s grilled salmon might become salmon salad sandwiches the next day, or salmon and rice. On this latest trip I made up a new dish that was so good I decided to share it with you all. It’s a fast one that is perfect for our busy fishing schedule at the cabin. When the fish are running we would rather be fishing than spending much time in the kitchen. This dish uses leftover rice and what ever fresh salmon you can get, though I’m partial to fresh pink salmon for this dish. It takes just 15-20 start to finish so try it and see if you like it as much as I do.

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Cajun Salmon and Rice

 

8 ounces fresh pink salmon, or what ever is available. See note.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/3 cup diced red bell pepper, optional

1/3 cup diced green bell pepper

1/3 cup diced yellow onion

3-4 teaspoons blackening seasoning, see note

3 cups cooked brown or white rice

 

Skin and trim fat off a salmon filet then cut into one inch cubes.

Sauté onion and peppers in a large sauté pan on medium high heat for five minutes stirring often.

Add salmon and cook for three more minutes stirring often.

Add rice and seasoning being sure to bust up any clumps of rice. Cook three more minutes.

Serves two but is easily doubled.

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Note:

Fresh pink salmon is best for this dish, but silver salmon or atlantic salmon will do.

Be sure and get the tail half of the filet to insure there are little or no bones.

 

If you don’t have blackening seasoning on hand here is a simple recipe for it.

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/4 teaspoon ground black or white pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper, optional

done in eleven minutes!

done in eleven minutes!

Visitors

When I was a child my somewhat eccentric parents invited foreign exchange students staying at Buckly Airforce Base east of Denver for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Why they were staying there I don’t know, but I remember going to the base to pick them up. Through this exchange I met someone from the Phillipines, and Nigeria. There were one or two others but I forget where they were from. The guy from the Phillipines showed my mom how to make adobo which we all liked very much, and instilled a love for the dish that has lasted a lifetime.  The meat of choice was doves as dove season was the previous month and we had many of the tasty birds in the freezer.

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The guy from Nigeria was interesting because of his family. My mom casually asked at dinner, “what does your father do”, and the answer was, “he is the ruler” which shocked my mother. It’s not every day you have someone for dinner who’s father is the king of a country so that gave my parents something to talk about for years to come. For me the guy was fun because he indulged me with some archery in our backyard as I had just received my first bow and arrow set for Christmas that day. Apparently I thought at that young age, I think I was eleven years old at the time, that men from Africa knew how to shoot an arrow. Pretty funny in retrospect as we were both rather bad at it.

 

Over the last twenty years my wife and I have had only one foreign  house guest and he was a chaperone from Japan assigned to a bunch of middle school aged kids visiting Denver. It was fun and I would have liked to do more hosting. In June of this year I saw a home made sign announcing “20 Spanish students need host families” and called after getting approval from my wife. We ended up with a great kid from Burgos, Spain who at the ripe old age of sixteen speaks very good English and is a great addition to our household.

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Turns out he is a natural cook. Even though his mother does almost all the cooking in his home I found out that he has significant talent in the kitchen. His first homework involving food was to prepare an American dish for a competition in class on Tuesday. I helped him select the dish to prepare and he made shepherds pie with virtually no help from me. Then that night he cooked us two traditional Spanish dishes for dinner. He made a Spanish tortilla and a gazpacho soup. For those of you who have never had a Spanish tortilla it’s nothing like what we see in Mexican restaurants. A Spanish tortilla has potatoes, onion and eggs in it and looks like an omelet.

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Both dishes Manuel made for us were excellent but I really liked the gazpacho, and since I have a lot of tomatoes getting ripe lately I wanted to make another batch the next day. Manuel didn’t use a recipe but I took notes and tried to copy his gazpacho. The results were good but it took some more testing to come up with the recipe I share with you here. It’s fast and simple as well as healthy. If you have an abundance of garden tomatoes like I do it’s a great way to use them up. With these hot summer day upon us give this a try and see if you agree with me that this is one great Spanish cold soup.

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Gazpacho Soup with Heirloom Tomatoes

 

3 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into quarters

1/2 yellow onion chopped, about 1/2 cup

1 cup peeled and diced cucumber with seeds removed

1 cup diced green bell pepper

1 medium sized apple peeled and diced

1 clove garlic minced

5 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 tablespoons good quality apple cider vinegar, I like Bragg’s brand best

1 slice of bread cubed, about 1 cup

1 teaspoon salt

 

Soak bread in water for five or more minutes to soften. Drain water off before adding to the blender.

If using a blender instead of a food processor put tomatoes in first to facilitate faster blending. Then add rest of the ingredients.

If it won’t all fit blend for thirty to sixty seconds and add rest of ingredients.

Blend thoroughly for two to three minutes, depending on the strength of your blender. There should not be anything larger than a sesame seed for best results.

Best if chilled for and hour or two, but can be eaten right away if needed.

Serves eight.

 

Note:

I tested this with both a blender and a food processor. The food processor I have held all the ingredients but was a bit slower to blend thoroughly. The blender did a good job blending but didn’t hold all the ingredients at once and I had to add the rest after a minute of blending reduced the volume.

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