Monday, July 18, 2011

Grilled Salmon with Ginger and Sesame

I think this recipe is definitely one of my new favorites! The ginger adds a very unique dimension to the salmon that turned out to be quite delicious. Use more or less ginger depending on your preference. Personally, I love ginger, so I loaded up! I’ll probably add even more next time I make it.:-) Not only is this recipe very easy to make, it's really fun to show off when you’re having dinner guests!
While I usually prefer wild salmon, most wild caught is sockeye; which doesn’t work well with this recipe. I’ve found that the next best thing to wild is responsibly farmed salmon. While responsibly farmed salmon is not always as easy to find (depending on where you live), it is well worth the effort if you can locate a supplier in your area. If you have a Whole Foods within driving distance, even better! I recently made the very pleasant discovery that Whole Foods carries only responsibly farmed seafood.

Not only does Whole Foods prohibit preservatives such as sodium bisulfite, sodium tri-polyphosphate, and sodium metabisulfite in their seafood, they go above and beyond that. While there are a growing number of seafood standards out there, none are as strict as Whole Foods. They cover all the bases; from synthetic chemical use, feed, environmental contaminants, water quality, and pollution prevention, predator control and traceability. And this is just a subset of what their standards cover.

“There is no doubt that Whole Foods Market’s aquaculture standards are the strongest among all grocers. Producers who want to supply farmed salmon to Whole Foods Market must be dedicated to moving the salmon industry in the right direction. We are proud to be a part of that move.”
–Johan Andressen, Villa Organic, Norway

4 Salmon Fillets (6-8 oz. w/skin on)
Pickled Ginger (available in the Asian section of most grocery stores)
2 T Dijon mustard
3 T Brown Sugar or Succant
2 T Soy Sauce
1 t Sesame Oil
3 T Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine the mustard, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and olive oil along with a dash of fresh ground pepper. Set aside a small amount of the marinade to brush on top of the salmon before grilling. Also, remember to soak your skewers for at least 20 minutes to avoid burning. I forgot this step and as you’ll see, my skewers burned to a crisp!

Pour marinade over salmon and completely coat.

Turn skin side up and use a soft spatula to work the marinade underneath the filet. Allow to marinade at least 20-30 minutes.

Discard marinade and arrange salmon fillets skin side down and use a sharp knife to make slits crosswise in the flesh. Be careful not to cut through the skin.

Stuff each slit with as much ginger as you like.

Thread each fillet lengthwise to keep the ginger from falling out. One skewer is fine for a smaller fillet (this one was pretty big so I used two).

Brush remaining marinade on and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Lightly oil grill grates to prevent ginger from sticking and heat to med/high. Allow the fillets to rest while you’re waiting for the grill to get hot.

Place fillets on the grill skin side down (the skin will fall off when you turn them over).
Cook for about 3 minutes on each side. Keep in mind that the cook time will largely depend upon the heat of your grill.

Remove skewers and serve with a fresh salad or the side of your choice.
As always, take care and bon appetit!  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Caesar Salad with Homemade Dressing

As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing quite like a Caesar salad to make a meal complete! Nothing beats a Caesar salad with fresh romaine (not bagged), homemade dressing, freshly shredded parmesan cheese, and a few anchovies. The few extra steps it takes to cut and wash your own Romaine lettuce and make your own dressing are well worth the effort. Homemade salad dressing beats bottled salad dressing any day of the week and the health benefits are well worth the extra bit of effort.  Homemade trumps because bottled dressings are almost always made with cheap, low-quality oils that have been stripped of their nutrients and rendered rancid by high-temperature processing. In addition, bottled dressings typically include stabilizers, preservatives, MSG, and refined sweeteners. The extra-virgin olive oil in this recipe is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and supplies vitamin E along with a host of wonderful antioxidants.
Crisp romaine lettuce is highly nutritious and, believe it or not, is 17% protein with 7.7 grams per head! In addition, one head of romaine lettuce contains 44% RDA of Omega-3 essential fats and has more vitamin C than an orange.

Choose bright crisp heads of romaine lettuce; avoid bunches that have rust, holes or that are limp, wilted or yellowing. It is common to find romaine that has slight browning along the very edges of the outer leaves—this is okay as long as the rest of the head looks fresh and green. Just be sure to trim the brown edges off the outer leaves.

Romaine is highly perishable; I usually store it in the fridge in a Ziploc bag. Romaine will keep for up to five days if kept dry; if wet, it likely only last a couple days.

Whenever possible, choose organic romaine because conventionally grown lettuce is often high in pesticide residue.

You’ll notice that there aren’t any croutons on this salad. The reason for this is that I’m gluten intolerant. Please feel free to add croutons for a more authentic Caesar experience!

The salad dressing recipe is from Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions” Cookbook. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Caesar Dressing:

1 t Dijon mustard
1 T raw wine vinegar
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 T finely grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 egg yolk

2 anchovy filets

1 garlic clove, peeled and mashed


1 large head Romaine lettuce

4-6 anchovy filets

Cut off edges

Cut lettuce at approximately 1” intervals

Rinse well and be sure to inspect for any stowaway insects.
Dry lettuce completely with paper towels.

In the meantime combine all ingredients in a blender.

Store in an airtight jar for up to seven days.

Serve as a side salad, or feel free to beef it up and serve it as your main course.
Take care and, as always, bon appetit!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Grilled Strawberries

Summer fruit is one of the many reasons that I look forward to this season and every since I was a kid, strawberries have been one of my favorite summer fruits. Growing up in Southern California, I was lucky enough to have access to some of the best strawberries. Let’s face it, there’s not much about strawberries not to love! This recipe is super easy and I had a lot of fun making it.
While we all know that strawberries are delicious, they are also a nutritional powerhouse. First cultivated in ancient Rome, strawberries are now the most popular berry fruit in the world! Packed with vitamins, fiber, and particularly high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols, strawberries are a naturally low-calorie food. In fact, they are among the top 20 fruits in antioxidant capacity and are a good source of manganese and potassium.  One cup of strawberries contains over 13% of the RDA of dietary fiber, yet has only 43 calories. The dietary fiber in strawberries helps to regulate digestion and curbs overeating. Thanks to the vitamin C, folate, and flavonoids, strawberries are a delicious defense against potentially cancerous cells. If that weren’t enough, one cup of strawberries contains an incredible 136% of the RDA of vitamin C!

A few tips:
Be sure to soak your skewers in water for at least 20 minutes to avoid burning. If strawberries are straight from the fridge, set out on the counter and allow them to arrive at room temperature before preparing. Also, be sure to clean your grill grates well before making these. If you don't, the strawberries will end up tasting like whatever you grilled last (like a steak). I learned this the hard way!

1 lb. Strawberries (preferably organic)
1T Balsamic Vinegar (more if needed)
1 pinch (less that ¼ t Himalayan Sea Salt)

Succant (dried cane sugar), or any organic sugar you’d like. Use as much as you need to completely coat the berries.

First, preheat grill to Med/High. Wash and dry strawberries then cut the tops off.
Add Balsamic and sprinkle with salt
(start with 1T Balsamic and add more as needed to completely coat berries)
Use a large soft spatula to gently toss the strawberries. Be sure to cover every nook and cranny.
Roll individually in sugar

Thread skewers.
Grill for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Stay close to the grill so you can keep an eye on them; the cook time will depend largely on the heat of your grill and the size of the strawberries.

Remove promptly and serve immediately.
These are great right off the grill; not so great the next day..:)
I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!
Take care and, as always, bon appetit!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Truth About Salt

Salt is essential for the survival of all living creatures, including us humans!  The bad news is that commonly used table salt is highly refined which makes it extremely unhealthy and toxic. The table salt and cooking salt found in most homes, restaurants, and all processed foods, is empty of any nutritional value. It is lacking in the precious trace minerals that make salt good for us. After processing, salt is basically sodium chloride which is an unnatural chemical.  Commonly sold table salt is composed of 97.5% sodium chloride and 2.5% other chemicals like iodine and sugar. Table salt is also dried at more than 1,200° Fahrenheit; the excessive heat destroys many of the natural chemical structures that occur naturally in salt. In order for our body to metabolize this chemical table salt, it must waste tremendous amounts of energy to try to keep the body at an optimum fluid balance. This creates an unnecessary burdening of the elimination systems in the body. When we ingest this type of salt, our body cannot dispose of it in a natural, healthy way. This can lead to inflammation of the tissues, water retention and high blood pressure over time. Studies show that for each gram of table salt that your system cannot process, your body will use over twenty times the amount of cellular water to neutralize the sodium chloride in chemically-treated salt. Over-consumption of table salt causes many untold health problems.

What our body really needs is natural pure salt! Natural salt is needed to regulate the water content in our body.  This is the reason that I always use Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt in my recipes.

But what about high blood pressure? Yes, it is true that salt causes high blood pressure. However, it is the toxic table salt that is the culprit—not natural salts like Celtic and Himalayan.

Celtic Sea Salt is the naturally moist salt harvested from the Atlantic seawater off the coast of Brittany, France.  This type of salt is harvested using the Celtic method of wooden rakes allowing no metal to touch the salt. It is naturally air and sun-dried in clay ponds and gathered with wooden tools to preserve its living enzymes.  Because it is unrefined, it contains all of the 84 beneficial live elements found in sea water, with no chemical and preservatives nor any other additives. Among the live minerals and trace elements found in Celtic sea salt are iodine, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc. The 84 trace minerals provide the necessary nutrients and protect the body from the harshness of sodium chloride that we consume from commercial salt. The appropriate magnesium content ensures that unused sodium is quickly and completely eliminated from the body through the kidneys to prevent harm. Celtic sea salt has tremendous healing virtues that have the exact opposite effects of refined salt.  It helps to balance out and nourish our body with minerals that our body lacks.  Celtic sea salt has been shown to actually normalize blood pressure.

Next up is Himalayan Salt! Himalayan salt is far superior to traditional iodized salt. Himalayan salt is a pure form of salt, untouched by many of the toxins and pollutants that pervade other forms of salt. Himalayan salt contains the same 84 natural minerals and elements found in the human body. There are many health benefits of Himalayan salt. First, it helps control the water levels within the body, regulating them for proper functioning. It also promotes increased absorption capacities of food within the intestinal tract. Choosing to use Himalayan Salt as an alternative can have a big impact on your total health and well-being.

Both Celtic Sea Salt and Himalayan Salt are available in most health food stores. Some larger grocery chains are starting to carry Celtic Salt, but if you can’t find it in your area, there are several online retailers that carry both salts.

If you’re accustomed to using table salt, you’ll notice the difference in taste immediately. Both salts are rich in flavor and you’ll only need to use a fraction in your recipes. Typically I use about half the amount of salt that most recipes call for because a little goes a long way!

Take care and, as always, Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Grilled Steak Kabobs with Mango

I’ve recently acquired an obsession with Mangoes. I mean, seriously, I can’t get enough of them! I’ve tried them in several recipes and then it crossed my mind that they’d probably be super yummy served warm. Hmmm…this curiosity inspired me to try adding them to a grilled recipe. I wasn’t sure how they’d turn out, so I’m very pleased to say they turned out great! The medley of red peppers, red onions, mangoes, and top sirloin turned out to be quite a treat.

As if being delicious weren’t enough, this tasty fruit has lots of health benefits too! Mangoes are very beneficial for the tummy because its enzymes help aid in digestion.  Mangos are also high in soluble dietary fiber which helps to lower serum cholesterol levels.

If at all possible, choose grass fed beef if the option is available to you. Why? Grass-fed is more nutritious and tasty! Also, switching from grain-fed to grass-fed meat is simply returning to a diet that is most in harmony with our physiology. One of the major benefits of raising animals on pasture is that their products are healthier for you. The old saying “you are what you eat” is true for animals as well!  Every cell and system of the human body functions better when we eat products from animals raised on grass. Grass-fed beef is naturally leaner than grain-fed beef and is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. In addition, grass-fed beef is loaded with natural minerals and vitamins. Beef, in its natural grass-fed state, is a health food of the highest order. If you’re not convinced, that’s okay. Try this; purchase both and do a side-by-side comparison. If this doesn’t win you over, please let me know!
1 lb. Top Sirloin (the lb. is not an exact measurement; I probably used about ¾ of a lb.)
1 Ripe Mango
1 Small Red Pepper
1 Small Red Onion
2 T Olive Oil
1 T Soy Sauce
1 T Dijon Mustard
1 T Balsamic Vinegar
2 T Red Wine
1 t Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan Pink Salt
¼ Fresh Ground Pepper
Combine the last seven ingredients into a large bowl (this will be your marinade and glaze). Mix well and set aside enough of the marinade to brush kabobs.
Cut the steak into 1” cubes and place in the bowl and marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Peel and cut mango into 1” cubes (they won’t be perfect—that’s okay)

Core red pepper and cut into 1” squares

Cut onion into 1” squarish chunks and keep the layers intact

Thread the skewers

Brush on marinade and sprinkle with fresh pepper. In the meantime, heat the grill to med/high and allow the kabobs to rest while you're waiting for the grill to get hot.

Grill kabobs for 2-3 minutes on each side if you'd prefer medium rare (shorten or lengthen the cook time to suit your taste). Keep in mind that the cook time will largely depend on the heat of your grill.

Serve with a fresh salad or the side of your choice
As always, bon appetit!  

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mango Salsa

I absolutely love Mangoes! They are so delicious and easy to work into recipes. This salsa is very easy to make and can be used as a relish for seafood dishes or served as a side dish.

As if being delicious weren’t enough, this tasty fruit has lots of health benefits too! Mangoes are very beneficial for the tummy because its enzymes help aid in digestion. Mangos are also high in soluble dietary fiber which helps to lower serum cholesterol levels. Some of the many health benefits of cucumbers include their high water content (about 95%), their fiber-rich skin and their levels of potassium and manganese, which help regulate blood pressure and help promote nutrient functions. The silica in cucumber is an essential component of healthy connective tissue, which includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone. Jalapeno peppers aid in weight loss; these peppers contain a chemical known as capsaicin. Capsaicin aids in weight loss by helping your body burn calories and fat. So embrace that hot feeling! Lime has an irresistible scent which waters the mouth and the compounds found in this fruit stimulate the digestive system and increase secretion of digestive juices.

1 Ripe Mango
½ Cup peeled and diced cucumber (approximately 1 small or ¾ med. cucumber)
¼ Cup red onion diced (about ½ of a small red onion)
2 T + 1t Fresh squeezed lime juice
1/3 Cup finely chopped cilantro
1 small jalapeno pepper (yields about 1 heaping tablespoon)
½ t organic cane sugar
¼ t Himalayan pink sea salt or Celtic sea salt

Combine all ingredients and gently stir with a spatula. Avoid using a spoon or fork to stir the ingredients because this can mush the mangos. If possible, make the salsa a few hours in advance and allow it set in the fridge for a few hours, this will allow the flavor to develop nicely.


If you can’t find ripe mangos at the grocery store, simply ripen them on your countertop. Don’t allow them to become overripe because they will be too mushy and difficult to handle.  I recommend purchasing two because, as I’ve learned, you’ll probably want to nibble on the mango as you’re slicing it…just sayin. This also leaves you room for error if you end up with too many oddly shaped chunks.

The recipe itself is super easy. The most time consuming task is chopping the cilantro, because you’ll want to carefully remove all the stems and discard any nasty looking leaves. The Whole Foods market I frequent usually has chopped cilantro leaves on the salad bar.  If your local grocery store has this option it is a huge time saver! If not, it is still well worth the effort to chop your own cilantro.

Also, keep in mind that the measurements for the cucumber, red onion, jalapeno, and cilantro need not be exact. I usually end up with a heaping measurement of all of the above. After you make it once, you’ll have a better feel for which ingredients you’d like more (or less) of.