how i eat: last week in dinners (7/6 – 7/10)

Sunday: Thai Salad

thai salad

I try to have a salad for dinner at least once a week. I always put shredded chicken in it to make it more hearty, but this time I wanted to omit the meat. The peanut dressing for this was amazing! It was the best part. I changed up the original recipe because there were ingredients I didn’t have: rice noodles, radishes, red cabbage and green onions. I instead added edamame, avocado, subbed red for green cabbage and added more chickpeas. Overall, I found the salad kind of unexciting and it was probably because of the missing ingredients. The fried egg was a good touch though. Next time, I’d like to try it with the rice noodles. I’d also like to try roasting the chickpeas to add more flavor and crunch. Surprisingly, Bob thought differently and said, “Now this is a salad I can eat!” Not the reaction I was expecting, but I’m glad he dug it so much.

Monday: 12-Minute Chicken and Broccoli with Jasmine Rice

chicken and broccoli

Bob has been known to complain that we never order in Chinese. It’s true. For as long as we’ve lived together, I’ve only ordered Chinese once for us and even that was too much. It’s one of those things I really have to be in the mood for, which funnily enough, I never am. Let it be known, we’re talking American Chinese food here. So I compromise by making something that’s close to what he’d order at a Chinese restaurant, which is some variation of chicken & broccoli. The recipe is so easy and it comes together rather quickly. I really liked it and it reminded me of a stir-fry I make sometimes. The chicken was a little dry though, even with lots of sauce on it. It may have something to do with their cube shape because I’ve made stir-fries with short thin slices of chicken and had no problems with dryness. Either way, next time I’m going to replace the meat with mushrooms. I think they’d be even better in this and the meal as a whole would be much cheaper too ($2-$3 for 8 oz. of mushrooms versus $6 per lb. for skinless chicken breasts).

Tuesday: Summer Orzo Salad

summer pasta salad

I’ve been playing around with this recipe a lot and what’s great is that it’s the kind of meal that you can do that with and almost anything will work. I’ve slow-roasted the cherry tomatoes, which gives it a nice depth of flavor. I’ve used a mix of arugula, spinach and parsley. I’ve added sauteed garlic. I’ve made this with and without chicken. I’ve added little slivers of sun-dried tomatoes for tanginess. When it comes to pasta salad (or for anything that isn’t a baked good, for that matter), I don’t usually adhere to any strict measurements. This is a great base recipe. The one step I find unnecessary is cooking the orzo in chicken broth. I just salted the water as I usually do and the results were still tasty as ever. You’re getting plenty of flavor from the ingredients and the dressing!

I consider this the ideal work lunch, since you don’t even need to heat it up. No waiting on line for the microwave! Fellow office workers, you feel me on this, right?! I just take it out from the fridge about 30 minutes before I’m going to eat, so it can lose the cold edge before I dig in. Doesn’t get any easier!

Wednesday: Wild Salmon, Mushrooms in White Wine & Garlic Sauce and Roasted Potatoes

salmon and mushrooms

This was my favorite meal this week! I love love love salmon. The mushrooms are good too and what’s even better is that they call for white wine. Which means I get to have a glass of wine while I cook. It just makes the dinner-making process more…luxurious.

These days, I like pan-frying salmon over baking it because it cooks off the slimy subcutaneous fat (or at least, it makes the texture of it not so slimy). I learned the perfect technique for cooking salmon, thanks to Serious Eats. They break it down so well and they point out all the ways it can go wrong and how to prevent them. But since that’s going to take some time for you to read, I’ll give you the condensed version here (along with some safety instructions because, trust me, you’re going to need it).

Easy Pan-Fried Salmon (adapted from Serious Eats: The Food Lab)
serves 2

1 lb. wild salmon filet 
3 tablespoons of oil
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedge (optional)
Parsley, for garnish (optional)

Pat your salmon dry with paper towels.
Salt the fish generously.
Pour the oil in a pan and set heat to medium-high.
When oil starts to sizzle, place the fish skin side down in the pan.
Drop the temperature slightly.
It may start to curl up in and if it does, just hold it down for a bit with a spatula. Make sure to have on long pot-holders to protect yourself from the spitting oil.
Partially cover the pan with a lid to keep the oil from spitting everywhere (or prepare for your stovetop to be covered in fish grease!)
Leave in the pan for 6 minutes. My time is 6 minutes exactly, but yours might be a minute or two off depending on how hot your pan gets.
Lift the fish with a  spatula gently (don’t forget those gloves/pot-holders!). If it comes out easily, it’s ready to be flipped. If it gives some resistance, i.e. the skin is still sticking to the pan, give it another minute or two. It’s not ready to be flipped yet.
Once flipped, leave alone for about 1-3 minutes. Err on the side of more time, if you like the salmon a little more cooked. I think 2 to 2 1/2 minutes is perfect. It will be cooked through, but still very tender and moist on the inside.
Season with a squeeze of a lemon wedge and a little black pepper. Garnish with parsley, if desired.
Serve immediately.

Let’s not forget the mushrooms! I actually do the mushrooms first because those can be easily heated up in the pan again, if it gets a little cold while waiting for the other food to cook. Of course, if you’re a good multitasker, you can make this and the salmon simultaneously.

I prefer to use cremini mushrooms, but you can use white too. If the white ones are on sale, I’ll usually go for those. Can’t pass up a good sale.

Mushrooms with White Wine and Garlic
serves 2

8 oz. sliced cremini or white mushrooms
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
7 garlic cloves crushed and/or minced (I love garlic so I use a lot. You can use 2-3 cloves if you don’t like a strong garlic flavor)
1/4 cup dry white wine
Pinch of salt and pepper

Heat olive oil on medium in pan. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.
Add the mushrooms and toss around with salt and pepper for a few seconds. Then (and this is a big one!) leave them be. Don’t move them for about 4-5 minutes. You want them to be nice and golden and caramelized and the only way to do that is to not mess with them.
Stir again for a few seconds. Then leave for another 3-4 minutes.
Add the wine and cover the pan until the wine completely cooks down. This will take about 3-5 minutes, so keep an eye on it. If you cook it too long, the mushroom and garlic will stick to the pan and you’ll need to add a little more wine (or water) to scrape up the bottom.

Thursday: Yebeg Alecha at Meske

yebeg alecha

samra and nelida

That’s Samra on the left, schooling us on Ethiopian food. ↑

Oh wait, did I say the salmon was my favorite meal of the week? I changed my mind. It’s this one! Let me explain. I usually don’t go out to eat during the week. But my friend Samra, who was born in Ethiopia, has been trying to get me and our other friend Nelida to eat Ethiopian food for the longest time and so we finally made a date to go to Meske in Hell’s Kitchen. Samra said it’s the best Ethiopian in the city. I have no basis for comparison, but—dare I say?— yes it is the best! I loved it. I ordered yebeg alecha, which is lamb marinated in butter and then sauteed with ginger, curry and garlic all on top of injera, a spongey-type bread.  It was so delicious, as were the other meals (we all dipped into eachother’s food). I loved eating with my hands and trying new flavors and having Samra tell me what was what. And the honey wine! We drank two bottles of it and it still wasn’t enough. Good good times.

If you’re in NY and looking for something different, try Meske. I plan on going a few more times and perhaps adding it to my To Eat tab, if it’s consistenly great. I’m sure it will be 😉

And check out the first post in my How I Eat series: Last Week in Dinners (6/15 – 6/20)

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