Baked Salmon with Turmeric and Onions

Baked Salmon with Turmeric and Onions

This recipe is full of flavour thanks to the tasty blend of turmeric, hot mustard powder, and rice wine vinegar.  I have my mother-in-law to thank for introducing me to this delicious dish.  Her version involves pickling the onions, which really enhances the tastiness of this dish.  However, it’s a little time-consuming for weeknight cooking so I’ve simplified her recipe to create a throw-together weeknight version.

salmon prep1. Salmon marinade

I try to marinate the fish for at least 30 minutes while I prep my side dishes or putter around, but in a pinch, you can totally throw it in the oven right away.  The sauteed onions add some serious kick in the flavour department.  We have this with rice and simple sauteed vegetables to round out a simple home-cooked weeknight meal that’s light and healthy.  Bonus, turmeric has been linked to health benefits like liver detoxification and Alzheimer’s prevention.  Read more about it here.  Thanks to my mom-in-law for all her yummy home-cooked meals.  She’s super thoughtful and always makes our favourite meals when we are in town, and goes to great lengths to make sure I have lots of gluten-free options.  I’m pretty lucky.

1. onions in pan part 11. onions part 1

Indian Spiced Baked Salmon

This recipe is full of flavour thanks to the tasty blend of turmeric, hot mustard powder, and rice wine vinegar. I have my mother-in-law to thank for introducing me to this delicious dish. Her version involves pickling the onions, which really enhances the tastiness of this dish. However, it’s a little time-consuming for weeknight cooking so I’ve simplified her recipe to create a throw-together weeknight version.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Diet: Gluten Free
Keyword: corn-free, dairy-free, egg-free, fish & seafood, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, spicy, yeast-free
Servings: 2
Author: ness

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ teaspoon hot mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 ½ teaspoon rice vinegar or white vinegar
  • 2 salmon filets
  • Salt and pepper
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • ½ white onion (thinly sliced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • In a small bowl, combine mustard powder, turmeric and vinegar. Whisk together to create a paste. Place the salmon filets on a small tray or plate and spread a thin layer onto each salmon filet, about ¼ teaspoon each. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes up to 4 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degree. Place salmon on a foil-lined pan with coated with non-stick cooking spray (or thin layer of canola oil). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness and size of salmon.
  • Meanwhile, heat a non-stick wok or frying pan to medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons of canola oil to pan and add onions and garlic. Turn heat down to medium and sauté for 5 minutes or until onions are softened and golden brown and fragrant. Add remaining mustard paste to onions until onions are evenly coated, about 30 seconds (no longer as the spices will become bitter). Remove from heat. Divide onions and place on top of cooked salmon before serving.
Mexican Lamb Adobo

Mexican Lamb Adobo

Most of my recipes are fast, accessible, and light.  But every once in awhile, I like to enjoy a deeply rich meaty stick-to-your-ribs caveman type of meal.  The kind of meal that has you leaning back in your chair in a satisfied adobo sauce-induced stupor.

ancho guajillo pasilla

I used to live in the mecca for Mexican food in Scottsdale Arizona.  And instead of learning to cook great Mexican food, I went to great Mexican restaurants.  A lot.  Like all of them.  There wasn’t a nacho in sight that didn’t get eaten.  And in my non-stop eat-fest, I gained a true appreciation of how awesome and diverse Mexican food can be.

On a memorable visit to Sedona, D and I stopped in at one of my favourite Mexican restaurants, Elote Cafe, and after a three-hour wait and many margaritas later, we got to enjoy lamb adobo for the first time.  My mind was blown.  Meat so tender that it was falling off the bone, drenched in a sauce with a complex meld of flavours, a little smoky, sweet, sour, salty, perfect for being sopped up with corn tortillas.  Is your mouth watering yet?

Quickie about Sedona: Aside from Elote Cafe, Sedona is known for having 4 vortexes, these energy sources. Read more about it here.

adobo seasoningslamb shanks

After returning to Toronto and wanting to recreate some of those authentic Mexican meals, I wanted to make that lamb adobo from the Elote Cafe cookbook (the best Mexican cookbook bar none).  That’s when I realized I needed an education in chiles.

The recipe calls for three types: ancho, guajillo, and pasilla.  So off I went to my local market to the Latin specialty shop looking for fresh peppers, only to discover that the chiles I needed were actually dried.  The kind shop owners were eager to help me find my chiles, even writing down the names of the peppers on the little plastic bags so I’d be able to figure out which was which when I got home.

lamb with sauce part 1lamb in adobo part 2

If you live in Canada, you probably won’t find these chiles in your local grocery store.  I found this online store that ships all the chiles and spices needed for this recipe.  Once you hunt down the necessary ingredients, the process for making this braised dish is actually very simple.  Boil sauce ingredients and blend.  Brown the meat (the most important step), then add the sauce, cover and bake in a dutch oven for 2.5 to 3 hours.  Garnish with fresh cilantro and radishes, and enjoy with rice or corn tortillas, picked onions and a fresh salad.

I considered adjusting the recipe, to substitute more easily accessible ingredients for the chiles, but I decided to keep the recipe as legit as possible and keep my adaptations to a minimum.  Sure you can swap out the dried chiles for chile powders, or swap out the lamb for your favourite cut of meat, but I figure that will happen anyway.  Recipes always have a way of morphing and evolving in different kitchens.  I love how friends and readers who try my recipes add little tweaks here and there to suit their taste buds – your comments are great so please keep them coming.

PS – That is our friend Donkey, a mini pinata that we like to put out on our table whenever we enjoy Mexican food.  He’s totally kitschy and silly but he makes everyone smile.   Well, him and the lamb adobo.

plated lamb adobo close up

Mexican Lamb Adobo

Most of my recipes are fast, accessible, and light. But every once in awhile, I like to enjoy a deeply rich meaty stick-to-your-ribs caveman type of meal. The kind of meal that has you leaning back in your chair in a satisfied adobo sauce-induced stupor.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican, Tex-Mex
Diet: Gluten Free
Keyword: egg-free, gluten-free, lamb, meat, nut-free, soy-free, spicy, tacos, tortilla
Servings: 4
Author: ness

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 Lamb shanks (seasoned with salt and pepper)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • Adobo Sauce:
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 4 cups orange juice
  • 3 dried ancho chiles (rinsed, stems and seeds removed)
  • 2 guajillo chiles (rinsed, stems and seeds removed)
  • 1 pasilla negro chile (rinsed, stems and seeds removed)
  • one 3" stick of cinnamon
  • 2 teasspoons fresh ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • Garnishes
  • Radishes and fresh cilantro
  • Pickled Onions
  • 1 cup red onions (thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Place a medium sauce pan on medium high heat. Add garlic and toast until browned. Add remaining adobo sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for about 10 minutes, when chiles are softened. Remove bay leaves and cinnamon stick and set aside. Cool slightly and puree until smooth.
  • Combine all pickled onion ingredients together and set aside until lamb is ready, about 2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large dutch oven on medium high heat, add canola oil. Add lamb shanks and brown all over, about 10 minutes. Be patient as this is the most important step. When they are well-browned, add adobo sauce and reserved bay leaves and cinnamon. Cover and bake for 2.5 to 3 hours (depending on the size of your shanks), turning the shanks after 1 hour. The shanks are done when the meat is falling off the bone and fork tender. Skim some of the excess cooking fat from the surface of the gravy with a spoon before serving. Garnish with fresh cilantro, radishes, and pickled onions and serve with rice and/or corn tortillas.
Recipe adapted from Elote Cafe Cookbook
Five-Spice Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Five-Spice Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Chinese New Year is this weekend and I’m new year prep mode.  Unlike its January 1st counterpart, which is basically about a countdown followed by new years resolutions, Chinese New Year feels so much more celebratory.  Typically, the weeks leading up to the new year involves cleaning and de-cluttering, so you can start the new year fresh.  By throwing out the trash or the bad luck, you make room for good luck to enter your life.

lettuce condiments

Every year, my grandma treats the whole family to dinner at a Chinese restaurant (at last count, that would be about 25 to 30 of us that live in town, including her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids).  It’s the one time of year that all the amazing cooks in my family don’t actually have to cook (and mess up the kitchen) and can relax and enjoy the festivities instead.

old fam pic

Classic Family Pic: Doesn’t my grandma look so young to have that many grandkids? Five grandkids are missing from the pic because they weren’t born yet. That’s my dad holding me in his lap on the far right.

After dinner, we all go to my parents house where the little ones get red envelopes with lucky money and then we start gambling. I have fond memories of all of us squishing around the table to play blackjack, which is the first card game we all learned to play.  My dad is usually the dealer, with his ‘family house rules’ and we have a great time heckling him.  And yes the eating continues here too. Usually fried shrimp chips, coffee, and clementines.  Savoury, caffeinated, and sweet.

asian chicken done

For this recipe, the five-spice powder gives the chicken a distinctly Asian flavour and isn’t actually hot spicy, more earthy and aromatic.  The heat factor comes from the Thai bird chilis in the marinade and the toppings.  Be careful, sometimes those little guys can be brutally spicy.  I always de-seed before adding to the marinade to give it some kick, without being too overpowering.

My nephew is totally the Golden Child in his Chinese New Year outfit. Look at those delicious cheeks!

My niece and my dog Pucci dressed up for Chinese New Year in 2012. Cuteness overload.

Honestly, this batch of chilis was so spicy, we picked them off the wraps after the photos were taken because they were melting our faces off (the ones in the marinade were perfect).  But if you like heat, go for it.  You can always leave them on the side and let your guests garnish as they please.

lettuce wraps rice noodles
lettuce wraps with chicken
lettuce wraps with carrots
asian lettuce wraps top view

This recipe for lettuce wraps is a hybrid of many different food loves: chili chicken, Peking duck (the second course), and Vietnamese cool rolls.  Over the holidays, I watched Jamie Oliver create something similar on TV, though he start plopping on raw tofu and lost me, but I loved his Asian fusion approach.  This would be a great meal to put out for a crowd and it’s fun and festive to eat no matter what time of year.  An Asian taco of sorts.  And like all tacos, make sure to have lots of napkins on hand.

Wishing everyone a New Year full of happiness, health, prosperity and lots of good luck. 

cousins with headpieces

Here’s a more recent pic of some of us hamming it up in headpieces my sister brought back from her trip to China. So cute!

PS – I used a julienne peeler to get those pretty shreds of carrot.

lettuce wraps on platter

Five-Spice Chicken Lettuce Wraps

This recipe for lettuce wraps is a hybrid of many different food loves: chili chicken, Peking duck (the second course), and Vietnamese cool rolls.
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: Asian
Diet: Gluten Free
Keyword: chicken, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, noodles, pasta, rice & grains, poultry, spicy, tacos
Servings: 4 as a main
Author: ness

INGREDIENTS

Five-Spice Chicken

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (trimmed of fat and cut into 1" pieces)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder
  • 1 to 2 Thai bird chilis (de-seeded and finely minced)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro/coriander
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • canola oil for frying

Lettuce Wraps and Garnishes

  • 2 heads of iceberg lettuce
  • 2 stalks green onion (finely sliced)
  • 1 medium carrot (julienned)
  • 1/4 cucumber (cut into matchsticks)
  • Handful fresh cilantro/coriander leaves
  • 2 cups cooked rice noodles (cooked according to package instructions)
  • Gluten-free hoisin sauce
  • Sesame seeds (optional)
  • 2 to 3 Thai bird chilis (finely sliced (optional))

INSTRUCTIONS

  • In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients for chicken except canola oil and stir to combine. Cover and marinate in fridge for 30 minutes up to 2 hours.
  • Prepare lettuce wraps. Carefully peel away leaves of lettuce from the head, trying not to tear the leaves, and trim excess ends with kitchen shears. Wash and dry lettuce leaves, and place on platter.
  • In large non-stick frying pan over medium high heat, add one tablespoon canola oil. Add half of the chicken to pan and let cook for 2 minutes or until browned. Flip chicken over and cook other side for another 2 minutes or until cooked through and no longer pink inside. Remove chicken and place on paper towel lined plate. Wipe any brown bits from pan with a clean paper towel and add pan back to heat. Add one tablespoon canola oil and cook remaining chicken.
  • Assemble wraps. Place about 1 to 2 ounces of rice noodles inside each lettuce wrap, followed by carrots, cucumber, and chicken. Add remaining garnishes and serve.
Golden Curry

Golden Curry

How do you get through dinners through the work week? Takeout? Frozen TV dinners? Meals from scratch? I tend to rely on all of the above since I’m not a huge fan of leftovers (exception is yam mein and pizza). Hubby D likes making a big batch Sunday night meal and reheating leftovers during the week, which admittedly cuts down on clean up and cooking.  So with that game plan in place, it’s essential to get find meals that taste great as leftovers, and fast and easy curry is the perfect meal.

Curry veg

Some people think of curry as  ‘spicy’ with burn-your-face-off type of heat rather than ‘full of flavour and aromatics’.  There are so many curries in the world, spices and stews, and every region, culture, and family has their own unique way of preparing it.  My family is from India and Pakistan, so our flavours and heat levels  are a derrative of those spice-and-heat loving cultures.  My mom makes a hearty and healthy vegetable curry with cauliflower, potato, and carrots while my aunts are known for their in-your- face spicy beef curry.  As for me, I like to make Thai curries at home by my new fave is this golden curry that is mild yet full of flavour.

diced chicken in pot raw
diced chicken onions

This curry is super easy to whip up and gets better as you re-heat it during the week.  You can also freeze it and whip it out whenever you feel like some savoury comfort food.  An added benefit of this dish is how cost-effective it is.  Living gluten-free can rack up a serious grocery bill so finding healthy meals that don’t cost a fortune  is a good way to balance the budget.  Serve with some basmati rice and enjoy on a Sunday and all through the week. 

potato carrrots in curry
curry white bowl

Golden Curry Recipe

My family is from India and Pakistan, so our flavours and heat levels are a derrative of those spice-and-heat loving cultures. My mom makes a hearty and healthy vegetable curry with cauliflower, potato, and carrots while my aunts are known for their in-your- face spicy beef curry. As for me, I like to make Thai curries at home by my new fave is this golden curry that is mild yet full of flavour.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Asian, Indian
Diet: Gluten Free
Keyword: chicken, corn-free, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, mushrooms, nut-free, poultry, soy-free, spicy, yeast-free
Servings: 6
Author: ness

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 chicken thighs (diced)
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 3 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder (I used 1 tsp hot Balinese curry powder and 3 tsp regular curry powder)
  • 4 teaspoons fresh coriander/cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Heat large cast iron pot or deep sided frying pan on medium-high heat. Add oil and chicken and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to combine.
  • Add mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to combine. Add carrots and potatoes and curry powder and stir until all ingredients are evenly coated with curry seasoning.
  • Add chicken stock and stir, scraping up any brown bits stuck to bottom of pot. Lower heat and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Garnish with coriander and serve with rice or bread.
Jerk Chicken Tacos with Sweet Mango Pepper Salsa

Jerk Chicken Tacos with Sweet Mango Pepper Salsa

*Jerk Alert* These are not your typical tacos.  I heard about this amazingly unusual food truck in LA that does Korean BBQ tacos (think short rib tacos and kimchi quesadillas) and a lightbulb went off.  Tacos, like pizza and sandwiches, can be topped with just about anything.  So I started making tandoori chicken tacos with raita yogurt sauce with tomato and cucumber salsa.  And then I combined spicy jerk chicken and some sweet mango salsa to create a tropical-inspired taco.  Sort of like going to Jamaica and Mexico all in one bite. 

jerk taco close up

Juicy marinated meat baked off easily in the oven and fresh salsa on top of a soft corn tortilla is all kinds of yummy and is easy enough to whip up during the week.  I buy my jerk seasoning in a jar and marinate overnight if possible, or in a pinch, just coat the chicken thighs in the sauce before baking.  While the chicken is in the oven, I get my dice on and prepare the salsa and in about 30 minutes, dinner is done.  A summertime meal that almost makes me feel like I’m on vacation.  Almost.

PS – Jerk sauce can be super spicy so reduce or add as much as you like.  Also, I fully admit that this is by no means the traditional way to cook jerk.  But then again, this isn’t really a traditional taco.  Keep calm and taco on.

jerk chicken taco trio

Jerk Chicken Tacos with Sweet Mango Pepper Salsa

Juicy marinated meat baked off easily in the oven and fresh salsa on top of a soft corn tortilla is all kinds of yummy and is easy enough to whip up during the week.
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican, Tex-Mex
Diet: Gluten Free
Keyword: chicken, corn, dairy-free, gluten-free, poultry, soy-free, spicy, tacos, tomato, tortilla, vegetables, yeast-free
Servings: 4
Author: ness

INGREDIENTS

Jerk Chicken

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (trimmed of fat, rinsed and dried)
  • 1 Tbsp jerk chicken marinade (I used Grace brand)
  • 1 tsp canola oil

Sweet Mango Pepper Salsa

  • 1/2 large mango (finely diced)
  • 1/2 sweet pepper (yellow or red, finely diced)
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (cut into quarters)
  • 3 Tbsp red or Spanish onion (finely diced)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro (finely chopped)
  • juice of half a lime
  • pinch salt

Tacos & Garnishes

  • Soft corn tortillas (2 to 3 per person)
  • Corn tortilla chips
  • Lime wedges
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Hot sauce

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. I a medium bowl, add chicken, jerk sauce, and oil and toss to evenly coat chicken. Marinate for 30 minutes up to overnight. Lay chicken flat in foil-lined baking dish and bake for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Let rest five minutes before slicing.
  • While chicken is baking, prepare salsa and set aside. Heat a small frying pan to medium heat and add tortillas to warm through. Once tortillas is heated, store on a plate lined with clean dish towel and cover, or add to tortilla warmer. Continue until all tortillas are warmed. Serve chicken, salsa, and tortillas with lime wedges, shredded lettuce, corn chips, and hot sauces.
Jerk sauce can be super spicy so reduce or add as much as you like. Also, I fully admit that this is by no means the traditional way to cook jerk. But then again, this isn't really a traditional taco. Keep calm and taco on.
Links: Tortilla warmer

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