a totally blog-worthy dinner

At least in pictures.

How I managed this when I didn’t even leave school until after 5:30, I don’t know.

Lemony Kale Salad

Cedar-Plank Grilled Salmon with Mango-Kiwi Salsa

Whole-wheat Spaghetti with Mint Pesto (can’t remember where I found the recipe…)

(Actually, I do.  I assembled the mango-kiwi salsa the night before and the mint pesto was some I had in the freezer from earlier this summer.)

As we don’t have a grill at the moment, I had to broil the salmon.  Andrew loved it–I did it dry (no olive oil because I was lazy) with salt and pepper on top under the broiler from probably less than 8 minutes or so–it created a crust on the top and it was lovely!

Andrew didn’t love the salsa, so I didn’t keep the recipe, but it was pretty good.  I have leftover salsa, so I think I might mix it with some plain yogurt and use it to dip crackers or something.

The kale salad was yummy, and they give a couple variations on it (at least the magazine did), so I’m planning to try another one on Thursday with our Vegetarian Moussaka!

a balsamic kind of night

I may have outdone myself tonight.  At least with what little resources I have available here in the hotel.

(Photos courtesy of Andrew)

I made Ina’s herb-roasted salmon from her How Easy is That? cookbook.  It’s basically salmon coated in chopped scallions, parsley and dill.  YUM.  It was incredibly fresh and light.  A very thin drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice allowed the herbs to stick, and it was roasted with a little white wine.  I LOVE things cooked with wine.  I love being able to smell and taste just a hint of it.

For once, I didn’t overcook the salmon.  I’ll be honest; I like my salmon on the ‘done’ side.  So does Andrew.  I probably could have cooked it longer, but I didn’t want to turn it into rubber.  There is a fine line between slightly done and WAY overdone.

I threw together some balsamic vinegar and olive oil-marinated tomatoes and onions.  Growing up, my mom would thickly slice tomatoes and Vidalia onions and bathe them in a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Ah, the memories.  I don’t have any shallow dishes here, and all I had were red onions, so I went with what I had.

Until this afternoon, I’d been using the balsamic drizzling syrup my mom got me in Italy for all my balsamic needs.  While running errands on Main Street today, I popped into Tuscany On Main for a bottle of the good stuff.  It was so neat to be able to actually sample the different vinegars–you can definitely tell a difference between the various kinds.  Of the three regular balsamic vinegars (among COUNTLESS herb and fruit-infused vinegars and oils), I sprang for the ultra-premium “Cask 25” variety.  (At only $12.99 I would hardly consider it that much of a splurge, but I felt fancy getting the top-of-the-line!)  It’s been aged for 25 years in the barrel (obviously) and has distinct notes of wine, like port and madiera.  The Cask 10 was lighter and fruiter and I didn’t prefer it.  The Premium was more like what you’d find in the grocery store.  Both the Cask 10 and 25’s were visibly thicker and syrupy.  Needless to say, I had fun using it for dinner tonight!

I had about 5 ounces of orzo hanging around, so I found a recipe in my Foster’s Market cookbook for a dish with grilled veggies, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and greens.  It was lightly dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar.  Because I love my husband, I kept the grilled portobello mushrooms and mozzarella on the side and only added them to my half.

Andrew really liked it!  I served it all with a glass of Leonard Oakes’ Blanc d’Orleans wine, which I found in Reed’s Liquors this afternoon.  I walked in and asked for a recommendation of a New York wine.  It’s a little drier than Andrew and I are used to, but I liked it very much.  The bottle says it’s “gooseberry, honeysuckle, grapefruit and melon. Slate and straw and subtle spice.  Crisp, complex and completely refreshing.”  I wanted something that would go with our salmon tonight, our chicken tomorrow and our quinoa Thursday, and I think I chose well.  I also got a glowing recommendation for a local Riesling that I’ll be picking up next time we need one.

We had just enough leftover (dinner, not the wine) for me to have lunch tomorrow–yay!

Tomorrow morning I’m blending a banana into my beet smoothie to sweeten it up and make it more “breakfast-y.”  It’s my pilates/yoga and kickboxing day, which means a big breakfast!

collards…for the last time (at least while we’re in the hotel)

I whipped up a pretty snazzy dinner (if I do say so myself) last night for us.

I roasted salmon (in the toaster oven!) with salmon seasoning, made Southern-style collards (Wegman’s was out of smoked ham hocks, so I bought a smoked ham steak and cut it up) and warmed some of Great Harvest’s Rosemary and Olive bread for dipping.

We finished off our last bottle of what we call the “blue wine.”  It’s a German Riesling we found at the Class Six on base in Ohio.  They stopped carrying it shortly before we left; I’ll have to look for it here.  It’s a very fruity, very sweet, crisp wine we both like.  I don’t prefer to drink rieslings with dinner (too sweet), but Andrew loves them, and since there are only two of us and we don’t drink wine with dinner that often, it’s slim pickins’ sometimes.  Whatever is open is what we get.  Interestingly enough, the name of the wine is “Burg (which means “castle” in German) Layer.”  Isn’t that funny?  It’s a sign, I just know it.

This was the third time in about two weeks I’ve made collards.  I bought them at the farmer’s market and they came two per bundle.  All I can say is–a bundle is BIG.  It took up half a shelf in our small fridge for days.  I used it first to make Cuisine at Home’s “Succotash Fried Rice,” which is a southern take on traditional fried rice.  Instead of peas and carrots and scallions, it has lima beans, red pepper, onion and tabasco.  I served that with pan-fried cod.  Andrew liked the rice–a victory!  Then, I sauteed some up in a little chicken stock with a splash of vinegar at the end and served that with Caribbean Jerk chicken.  The chicken was pretty spicy and the collards were only OK; Andrew is not a huge fan.  OK, he’s not really a fan at all.

Let’s just saw he’s been whining and complaining for the last week about eating collards.

So, last night, I decided that I needed to make collards “for real.”  As in, the Southern-style, sweet, hammy, salty version.  (Andrew likes to say I’m from the South since I’ve lived in a bunch of Southern states a few times and spent almost all my life south of the Mason Dixon line–a stark contrast to his lifetime spent in snowy western New York.)  As I said, Wegman’s was out of ham hocks when I went the other day, so I made do with a cut-up ham steak and threw it and the remaining chopped collards into a pot to simmer for about an hour.  I used Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Salmon Seasoning for the fish, wrapped it in foil and roasted it for about 30 minutes.  I LOVE that salmon seasoning.  While I enjoy making much of what I use from scratch, it’s great in a pinch and gives salmon what I call a “steak house flavor.”  Not that it tastes like steak; it just reminds me of the kind of thing you could get on the menu at a nice restaurant–something complex and flavorful that I couldn’t necessarily recreate at home easily.

ANYWAY…long story short, Andrew ended the meal saying, “Those collards weren’t too bad.”  Another victory!

The only downside to cooking in the hotel?  There is absolutely NO ventilation, which means the smell of whatever I make lingers.  A lot.  Currently we’re getting sweet/smoky/fishy wiffs every time we enter the place after being gone for awhile.  If only I could bake a pie in here…