Slow Baked Salmon and Spinach CousCous Salad

Slow Baked Salmon and Spinach Couscous Salad

We returned home from West Virginia late Monday night. It was a good trip. One of those trips you almost wish was a little less good…because then it wouldn’t hurt so much to say goodbye. My little sister and I are four years apart, and we’re now over one thousand miles away from each other. She’s one of the brightest, most loving and sacrificial people I know. I miss her more than words can convey.

Slow Baked Salmon and Spinach Couscous Salad

And so, as is custom around here, I’m baking and cooking to work through my sadness. There’s nothing quite as comforting to me as a clean kitchen and a refrigerator stocked with fresh produce. Give me a few hours…and I can work through most tangles of emotion.

Happily, these therapy sessions tend to be good for both my heart and my stomach. I’ve made quite a bit of salmon over the last few years, but I’ve finally hit on recipe gold. This salmon is slow baked, which means that my days of overcooking salmon are officially over. You’ll find that this method almost always guarantees an intensely moist and flavorful filet. I couldn’t stop rejoicing as we ate our way through dinner–I finally figured out how to do this!

Slow Baked Salmon and Spinach Couscous Salad

And then this simple couscous salad is packed full of good things: toasted pine nuts, feta cheese, roasted tomatoes, organic spinach….This simple spinach couscous salad was meant to serve at least four, but Ryan and I couldn’t resist going back for seconds and then thirds.

So if you’re finding your emotions running high this week, get into the kitchen and make this meal. Your heart and your stomach will thank you.

Slow Baked Salmon and Spinach Couscous Salad

Slow Baked Salmon

12-ounce fillet of salmon, skin on (or 6 ounces per person)
Finely grated zest of a lemon (1 loosely packed tablespoon)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
A generous pinch of flaky sea salt

Place a pan 1/2 full of water (I use a 8″ round cake tin) in the oven on the lower rack and preheat to 250°F. Lightly grease a baking pan. Place the filet of salmon on baking pan, skin side down. Brush olive oil on top. Sprinkle with sea salt and lemon zest.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Check for doneness at 20 minutes. Place a knife tip in the thickest part of the salmon and gently pry. If the salmon separates into flakes, it’s done. If not, return it to the bake for another five minutes.

Spinach Couscous Salad

One pound organic spinach

Four cups prepared couscous (about 2 cups uncooked)

1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

1 pint cherry tomatoes tossed in about 1 tablespoon olive oil

1 8 ounce package feta cheese

1/4 cup high quality olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread tomatoes (tossed in olive oil) on a baking sheet. Roast until they just begin to burst, about 20 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat spinach until it starts to wilt. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, gently toss together roasted tomatoes, wilted spinach, cooked couscous, toasted pine nuts, and feta cheese. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and honey. Pour over salad, toss again, and serve at room temperature.

 

In West Virginia

I’m spending time with my sweet sister in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia. Regular posting will resume on Wednesday!

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Little One Eats: Homemade Goldfish Crackers

Homemade Goldfish Crackers

MOLARS (also known as Monet’s worst enemy). Friends, we’ve had an exhausting, tear-filled week. Lulu is working on her one-year molars, and the battle’s been a particularly painful one (for her and for me). Last night, she woke up to nurse EIGHT times. I felt like I had tunneled back to newborn days…until I tried to heft her now 21 pound body across my own.

But along with molars, kisses. Yes, Lucy now knows how to kiss, and her sweet lips pressing and smacking against my cheek melt my heart every single time. So we take the good with the bad.

Speaking of good…these homemade goldfish crackers impressed everyone in my household. Even my sweet mom asked me to make her a batch after she tried a few (and my mom is not a big snacker). “You should sell these,” she said.

Homemade Goldfish Crackers

And if I had any spare time, maybe I would! But instead, I’m just going to share them with you. These goldfish crackers taste FAR better than the ones you can buy in the store. Real sharp cheddar cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, and dried herbs. The little ones and the older ones in your life will love them. I’m married to a jeweler, so with his tools it was easy for me to fashion a goldfish cutter out of a cheap and pliable circle fondant cuttter from my cake-decorating days. But really, these crackers taste just as good with or without the iconic shaping.

Homemade Goldfish Crackers

Homemade Goldfish Crackers

1 cup (4 ounces) finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup (2 1⁄8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (2 1⁄8 ounces) cake flour

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1 tablespoon cheese powder (this can be found at your local spice store)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Whisk together flours, herbs, salt, baking powder, and onion powder together in a large bowl. Fold in cheese and stir until evenly distributed and coated.

Add the milk and vegetable oil. Stir well and then knead in the bowl with your hands until a cohesive dough forms. It will be crumbly at first, but continue to press and knead the dough.

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Line two baking sheets with parchment papers.

Divide the dough into two pieces. Roll the dough as thin as possible, no more than 1/8-inch thick. Thin dough leads to crisp crackers. Stamp out cracker shapes with your cookie cutter of choice.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until the crackers are crispy and just turning golden at the edges. The timing will vary according to the size of your crackers.Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. These crackers will keep well for one week.

Goat Cheese, Walnut, and Honey Bruschetta: A Match Made in Heaven

Goat Cheese, Walnut, and Basil Bruschetta

This post is sponsored by Rioja Wine. The opinions are all my own.

Despite my husband’s best efforts, I will always prefer a glass of wine over beer. Maybe it has to do with my upbringing—my parents drink solely wine—but I imagine it has a lot more to do with the possibility of an outstanding food pairing. Good wines make for great meals.

When Honest Foods and Rioja wines asked me to create a recipe that would pair well with one of their lovely wines, I was thrilled. Rioja, a region in Spain, offers some of the best food wines in the world. They are beautifully balanced in their alcohol content and acidity and pair well with everything from fish to veggies to meats and cheeses. Of course, traditional Spanish tapas go beautifully with Rioja wines, but they pair with food from all over the world (you can find more inspiration here).

Goat Cheese, Walnut, and Basil Bruschetta

Unlike many other wine regions, winemakers in Rioja don’t rush their wines to market. They only release their wines when ready to drink, which means that you know your bottle is going to be great as soon as you pick it up.

And if I wasn’t already sold, wines from Rioja are a great value. I purchased this beautiful Vivanco Rose for under $15. It’s a purchase we’ll be making again and again.

This Rosado (rose) from Vivanco is an ideal summer wine. On a hot day, a glass is particularly refreshing. Never bitter and with just the right amount of fruit flavor. After sampling the wine, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. A simple and delicious goat cheese bruschetta featuring toasted walnuts, lemon basil, and local honey. Heaven in a glass. Heaven on a plate. If you’d like to find out more about Rioja wines and all the culinary possibilities they afford, be sure to look for this hashtag: #matchmadeinheaven

Goat Cheese, Walnut, and Basil Bruschetta Goat Cheese, Walnut and Honey Bruschetta

1 baguette, sliced into 2 inch slices

4 ounces soft goat cheese

1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

¼ cup basil leaves, chopped

¼ cup local honey

In a small bowl, gently mix goat cheese, walnuts, and basil leaves. Generously spoon mixture on top of baguette slices. Drizzle with honey and serve.

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Stay connected to your favorite wine region by joining the Rioja Wine mailing list. It’s fast and simple! Just click on the banner above and fill out the form. You’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win a festive wine dinner. Good luck! #riojabuzz

Favorite Apple Pie

Favorite Apple PieI can turn down a piece of chocolate cake, a bowl of ice-cream, or a cookie the size of my face without blinking. Most baked treats don’t tempt me (which I think allows me to bake as much as I do). I’d rather have a bowl of roasted vegetables or a thick piece of sourdough bread with melted cheddar. I’d rather enjoy the first piece of a slowly roasted chicken or a salmon taco with homemade salsa.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good dessert…but my standards are high. If it doesn’t come out of my own kitchen, it better be made with care. When we were in Paris, I ate my weight in pastries and desserts because they were astounding in their taste and presentation. But here in Colorado? Well, let’s just say I don’t order dessert often.

Favorite Apple PieBut while cakes and ice cream and cookies don’t tempt me, apple pie is another story. I’ve had a love affair with apple pie for as long as I can remember. It’s one of the few desserts my father enjoys, and his fondness for itmust have rubbed off on me at a young age. If I’m offered a slice of apple pie…well, there’s usually no turning back. My will-power is reduced to zero.

And it’s even worse when I make this apple pie. An all-butter crust encases thinly sliced apples that are tossed lightly with cinnamon and sugar. The smell of butter and flour and softening apples fills our house, and I’ve already set the plates on the table before it’s left its oven home. Everyone, yes everyone, should know how to make a good apple pie. And this, my friends, is one of the best. Believe me, my family makes apple pies month after month, year after year. We’ve had a long time to get the recipe right.

Favorite Apple Pie

Favorite Apple Pie

1 cup butter (2 standard sticks), chilled and cut into small pieces

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

6 tablespoons ice water

3 pounds granny smith apples (about 6 large, or 8 medium)

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons flour

1 egg, beaten

Using a food processor with the blade attachment, mix flour, tablespoon sugar, and salt together. Sprinkle chilled butter pieces on top of mixture. Pulse until pea-sized clumps form. Slowly pour water, tablespoon by tablespoon, over mixture while continuing to pulse. Once the dough starts to come together, stop adding water.

Turn dough out and form into two equally sized balls. Flatten balls into 5-6 inch wide discs. Wrap well with plastic and allow to chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove pie dough from refrigerator. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside. Peel, core, and thinly slice granny smith apples. Place apples in a large bowl and pour lemon juice over top. Add sugar-cinnamon mixture and gently stir until apples are evenly coated. Allow to sit while you roll out your pie dough.

On a well floured surface, roll out one disc of pie dough wide enough to cover the bottom and sides of your pie pan (about 10 inches in diameter). Carefully place pie dough in pan, making sure that all cracks are sealed and the round easily reaches up and slightly over the rim of the pie pan. Spoon apples into pan. You will have a huge heap of apples (this is good…apples shrink when they bake.) Repeat the same rolling out process with the remaining piece of pie dough. Carefully place pie dough on top of apples and seal edges of the bottom and top crust. Crimp as desired and brush some of the beaten egg over top crust. Place aluminum foil around edges of crust to prevent browning. Cut vents into top crust using a sharp knife.

Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until pie crust is a rich golden color and the juices from the apples are bubbling. Remove, allow to cool, and serve with a large scoop of ice cream.