green rice noodles with pesto and crunchy oven-fried fish fillet

IMG_0629.jpgRecently there have been a lot of recipes and tips for using ingredients already in the pantry and freezer. Call it quarantine cooking. It’s also a good idea not to waste food and use up what is there before it passes its Best By Date. This pesto recipe was a marvelous find for I never use up all the herbs and greens I buy. I can whiz all the leftover greens and freeze a batch for later use. And since I keep frozen fish fillets on hand, it’s a no-brainer to just bring out the panko breadcrumbs because I seldom have white bread in the house. I didn’t use the tartar sauce that came with the recipe, instead I had on hand some Thai chili-lime sauce. This being Lent, I paired the noodles with fish, but you could substitute grilled shrimp or chicken or pork tonkatsu. 

1 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
1 cup chopped basil
1 cup chopped parsley or spinach
1 cup chopped chives or arugula (rocket salad)
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1 Thai chile seeded and chopped (add seeds if you want more heat)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice bran oil or vegetable oil
2-4 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted
8 oz rice sticks (pad thai thickness)

In the workbowl of a food processor, add the greens, garlic, lime juice and zest, chile, olive oil, rice bran oil, and salt to taste. Process until pureed and emulsified.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and toast the sesame seeds until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Boil a large pot of water. Add the rice noodles and bring to a boil again. Cook 5-7 minutes or until the noodles are soft but pleasantly chewy.  Drain them in a colander and rinse in cold water. Drain. Pour the drained noodles in a large bowl and pour 1/3 of the pesto over them. Gently toss. Add more pesto to taste. Plate the noodles and top with toasted sesame seeds. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Note: The pesto freezes well if you’re not going to use it right away.

Crunchy Oven-Fried Fish (from America’s Test Kitchen)
Serves 4

4 haddock or cod fillets, 1 1/2 inch thick
Salt and pepper
4 slices white sandwich bread, torn into pieces (sub 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 minced shallot
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 eggs
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish (I used wasabi)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup plus 5 tablespoons flour

Tartar Sauce
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced capers
2 tablespoon sweet pepper relish
1 minced shallot
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Prepare to bake. Heat the oven to 350˚F. Put a rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

Make the crumb coating. In the bowl of a food processor, put the bread pieces, melted butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pulse 8×1 second bursts until you get a coarse crumb. Spread the crumbs in an ungreased rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes then put into a pie plate. Add 1/2 minced shallot and parsley. Mix well and set aside. Increase the oven heat to 425˚F.

Make the egg wash. In a large bowl, put the eggs, mayonnaise, horseradish, paprika, cayenne, and black pepper. Whisk until well combined. Add 5 tablespoons flour. Whisk until well combined. Scrape into a pie plate and set aside.

Dredge the fillets and bake. In a third pie plate, add 1/4 cup flour and set aside. Pat dry the fillets and salt and pepper them lightly. Dredge each fillet in the flour, then the egg wash, and finally the crumb coating. Pat generously with crumbs. Put on prepared rack. Bake 18-20 minutes or until the fish fillets reach an internal temperature of 140˚F.

Make the Tartar Sauce. While the fish is baking, make the sauce. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

brazilian fish and shrimp stew with pepper sauce and rice and peas


This fish and shrimp stew cooks up very quickly, and is light, piquant, and full of the fresh flavors of coconut milk and peppers, both sweet and hot. I served it with the coconut-flavored Jamaican rice and peas that I had put up in the freezer. Rice and peas is a robust accompaniment that holds its own with spicy main courses such as this stew.

Fish and Shrimp Stew/Moqueca (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

Pepper Sauce
2-8 Thai chili peppers, or to taste (pickled hot cherry peppers in original recipe)
1/2 small red onion, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Large pinch sugar or to taste
Salt to taste

1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
1 pound skinless white fish fillets about 1 inch thick, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces (e.g. cod)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1 small red onion, chopped coarsely
1 (14.5 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 leek, both white and green parts, sliced into thin rounds
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
Juice of 2-3 small limes, or to taste

Make the pepper sauce: Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Season with salt to taste and transfer to a separate bowl. Rinse out processor bowl.

Make the stew: Toss shrimp and fish with garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Set aside.

Process onion, tomatoes and their juice, and 1/4 cup cilantro in food processor until finely chopped and mixture has texture of pureed salsa, about 30 seconds.

Heat oil in large Dutch pot over medium high heat until shimmering. Add red and green peppers and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add onion-tomato mixture, leeks, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until puree has reduced and thickened slightly, 3-5 minutes. Pot should not be dry.

Increase heat to high, stir in coconut milk, and bring to a boil. Mixture should be bubbling over the entire surface. Add shrimp and fish with lime juice, and stir to evenly distribute seafood. Make sure all pieces are submerged in liquid. Cover pot and remove from heat. Let stand until shrimp and fish are opaque and just cooked through, 15 minutes.

If desired, gently stir in 2 tablespoons pepper sauce. Be careful not to break up the fish too much. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice, passing the remaining pepper sauce separately.

Cook’s Note: I did not add the pepper sauce to the stew, instead, I served it at the table with the remaining chopped cilantro.

How to cure codfish at home

IMG_1595 (2).jpg
Home-Cured Salted Codfish

Salted codfish or bacalao is essential to Jamaican dishes like Ackee and Saltfish and Saltfish Fritters. It goes without saying that bacalao for home cooking is difficult to come by in Bangkok. So I found the directions for curing codfish on The Spruce Eats. I couldn’t find sea salt in large quantities for curing. I did find it eventually, but only after I had bought 5 kg of iodized table salt (43 baht at Makro). I found frozen codfish fillets, also at Makro, for 160 baht. So for 200 baht (about US$6.00) I can make my own bacalao as compared to buying it for US$12.00 per pound. I also read online that curing fish with iodized table salt might brown the fish and give it a bitter taste. But I decided to try it anyway with just 2 fillets. To my surprise, they came out just fine. Here’s how I did it:

2 frozen codfish fillets, thawed
Sea salt (I used iodized table salt but a medium grain sea salt or kosher salt is recommended)

Special equipment
9×13 inch glass dish (can use stainless steel. Do not use plastic)
Wire rack
Rimmed baking tray

Rinse and thoroughly pat dry the thawed fillets. Spread a 1/2 inch layer of salt in the bottom of the dish. Place the fish fillets in a single layer on top of the salt, making sure they are not touching. Cover completely with another layer of salt.

Cook’s Note: The Spruce Eats allows that a second layer of fish can be added on top of the first layer. Make sure the second layer is completely covered in salt.

Cover the dish loosely with a clean kitchen towel to absorb odors, and place the whole thing in the refrigerator for 48 hours. The fillets will give off a fishy smell but will not smell spoiled. After 48 hours, the fillets were dry, even flatter from the loss of moisture, had lost about 25% of their length and about 10-15% of their width. Discard the salt.

Rinse the fillets and pat dry with a clean dish towel. Wrap each fillet individually in cheesecloth and set them in a single layer on the wire rack set on top of the baking tray or dish. Return to the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks to dry and stiffen up.

After 1 week, the fillets became dry and stiff. There was no moisture or smell because the salt had drawn away all the water from the fillets. The cheesecloth remained dry the whole week. The fillets turned white and stiff.

Wrap each fillet in waxed paper and then in foil. Label and date. Store in the refrigerator 3 months or up to 1 year in the freezer.

Before cooking you need to remove the excess salt. Soak the fillets in water for 24 hours, changing the water at least twice. My mother always boiled a piece of salted codfish for 3-5 minutes to remove the salt.

To test the result, I then cooked one of the fillets with tomatoes, onion, and ackee. The saltfish was too thin, I think, and lacked the “meatiness” necessary for the dish. It wasn’t bitter at all. The next time I cure fish, I will use a thicker fillet, and experiment with a different whitefish such as pollock, haddock, or flounder.


Portuguese fish stew


It’s after the holidays yet we’re still eating out, celebrating the new year with friends and family who have come to visit. Not so good for one’s waistline! I found this recipe in my collection from the Food Network and adapted it here. It turned out to be lightly spiced and filling without being heavy, perfect for a light dinner after a heavy lunch.

Portuguese Fish Stew (adapted from Food Network)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons pimenton dulce (Spanish paprika) or smoked paprika
1 small onion thinly sliced
1/2 medium yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2-1 cup water
2 pounds white fish, cut into 1 inch chunks
Salt and pepper
Slices of multigrain bread, lightly toasted

Heat oil in a large saucepan or wok over medium-high heat. Add bay leaves and paprika, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add onion, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until the peppers are slightly softened.

Add 1/2 cup water and reduce heat to medium-low. If you think the stew needs more water, add up to a 1/2 cup more. In a large bowl, season the fish chunks with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Nestle the fish chunks on top of the tomato-pepper mixture. Cover and simmer 5-7 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through. Spoon into bowls and sprinkle the top with the remaining cilantro. Serve each bowl with a slice of bread.

fish fillets in lemon-ginger sauce


1 pound white fish fillets
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 lemon
1 large lime
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 teaspoons sugar
salt and pepper to taste
5 ounces spinach, washed and trimmed
1/4 cup water
Basmati rice, optional

Rinse then dry the fillets on paper towels. Cut each fillet in half.Cut half the lemon and half the lime into thin rounds. Juice the lemon and lime. Grate the ginger.

In a small bowl put the juice, lemon and lime rounds, ginger and sugar. Combine and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Sauté the fillets until they are just cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side. It’s cooked when the fish turns opaque. Add the lemon-lime mixture and gently combine. Taste and adjust seasoning.

In a large dish, place the spinach and water. Microwave on high heat for about 2 minutes or until the spinach is just wilted. Place the fish and sauce on top of the spinach. Serve with basmati rice, if desired.

the fourth of july paella

fourth of july paella

The Fourth of July Paella (really, The Minimalist’s Paella)
Everybody is blogging red white and blue today but not me. I’m so oppositional. It’s also hot and muggy, temperatures in the upper eighties in NY, and what do I decide to cook but The Minimalist’s Paella from The Essential NY Times Cook Book, that requires nothing less than a 500˚F oven. The temperature in the kitchen rose to ninety-six! It was worth it. Called The Minimalist’s Paella, this dish is so simple, with just four main ingredients: rice, broth, shrimp and chorizo. I added the peeled shrimp shells to the broth to flavor it. The slight shrimp flavor it added to the broth was delicate. As the rice absorbed the water in the hot oven, it became crusty without being burnt at the edges, and the chorizo was toasted without being charred.

Prep time: 30 minutes (those shrimp take time to peel and devein!)
Cook time: 20 minutes
Resting: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

1 pound shrimp-in-the-shell (I used medium shrimp but I think jumbo shrimp would be outstanding!)
4 cups chicken broth
pinch of saffron
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups Arborio rice (no substitutions!)
12 oz chorizo, mild or hot
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped scallion and cilantro, for garnish

Preheat oven 500˚F. While it is heating, peel the shrimp and save the shells. Devein the shrimp and set aside. Slice the chorizo on the bias and set aside.

In a small pot add the chicken broth. I used chicken stock paste because it’s more convenient. It tends to be salty so I only used half the recommended amount. Add the shrimp shells and saffron to the chicken broth. Let it come to a simmer. Strain the broth and discard the shells. Set aside the broth. The broth will be a pale yellow color from the saffron.

In a large oven-proof Dutch oven, heat the oil and when it is hot, add the onions. Cook until nearly transparent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir occasionally. Cook the rice until it looks shiny, about 1-2 minutes. Add the broth, shrimp, and chorizo. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook’s Note: Arborio rice’s unique property is the ability to quickly absorb liquid whether it is cooked on the stove top for a risotto or in the oven for The Minimalist’s Paella. Because of this,  I do not recommend any other rice substitutions for this dish.

Bake 20-25 minutes, uncovered. The liquid should be absorbed and the paella will be dry on top. Stir, and let rest 10 minutes before serving. Garnish each plate with scallion and cilantro. I served the paella with a minimalist’s accompaniment, quartered avocado pear.

grilled mirin teriyaki salmon

grilled mirin teriyaki salmon

We’ve been exploring Chinatown in Flushing, New York. We take the 7 train from 42nd Street Times Square all the way to the end of the line, Main Street-Flushing, where we found a dimsum restaurant called Asian Jewels Seafood that serves it Hong Kong style, that is, from steam pushcarts. This is our second Sunday in Flushing, and what we’ve seen so far of this Chinatown includes blocks of restaurants, Chinese apothecaries, little snack shops, bakeries, cafes, and supermarkets. There are no souvenir shops selling I [heart] New York t-shirts or fake watches, purses, and pirated DVDs. It is not as touristy as Chinatown, Manhattan. Today we discovered the huge J-Mart on Roosevelt Avenue in the New World Mall. As you walk in, fresh fruit and vegetables line the aisles to welcome you,  and against the long wall, a row of fresh seafood to tempt you. We splurged on fresh fish, like this salmon @$6.99 a pound. We bought three pounds. I like to be around people who take their food seriously.

Grilled Mirin Teriyaki Salmon

Prep time: 15 minutes
Marinating time: 2 hours
Grill time: 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons ginger, grated
2-3 tablespoons garlic, pressed in a garlic press (about 4 large cloves)
1/2 -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets


In a small bowl, mix all marinade ingredients. Set aside.

Prepare the salmon. Rinse and scrape the skin to be sure no scales remain. Cut into four equal portions and place in an 8-inch pan. Pour the marinade all over and turn the pieces several times. Leave it skin-side up in the marinade and refrigerate 2 hours.

Remove from the marinade and grill at once. If you wish,  reserve the marinade and heat it on the stove until it is simmering. Keep it hot for pouring over the grilled salmon. It is not too salty as some marinades tend to be. In fact, it is salty, sour, and sweet, not spicy at all, and I had added a teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

I grilled these fillets in the George Foreman indoor grill. Depending on the thickness, it takes 3-5 minutes per piece or until each fillet reaches an internal temperature of 145˚F. The skin came out crisp and charred. Delicious. Pour a little bit of the hot sauce on the salmon.

Serving suggestions: mashed cauliflower, Tennessee-style mustard cole slaw, and sautéed spinach with pepper and sea salt.

grilled salmon in teriyaki marinade with mirin

grilled salmon in teriyaki marinade with mirin

新年快乐 xin nian kuai le! Happy Chinese New Year!

If we were in Thailand, the Chinese community would celebrate new year’s eve (Saturday) sampling  every kind of meat to ensure that in the coming year, no one goes hungry. For millenia, the Chinese have been obsessed with food, and I admit that’s one thing I’ve inherited. Perhaps that’s one reason why I blog about food! I certainly spend most of my budget on food. And having salmon (@7.00 per pound) on such a special occasion is indeed a splurge.

I found this on Simply Recipes–I was looking for something quick and easy, of course.There were four marinades but I chose this one because of the flavors: ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and mirin. You can’t go wrong with these. I’ve adjusted the measurements to taste.

Grilled Salmon in Teriyaki Marinade with Mirin

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets
1/4-1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 mirin or seasoned rice vinegar
2 heaping tablespoons brown sugar
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, zested
1 scallion minced fine
2 tablespoons canola oil
Red pepper flakes, optional
Cooking spray

Wash and pat dry the fillets with paper towels. Slice each fillet into 1 1/2 inch strips by following the grain. I got 6 strips from 1 1/2 pounds of salmon fillets. Set aside. Prepare a shallow baking tray by covering it with a thick layer of aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray. This will make clean up easier. Set aside the baking tray.

Put the rest of the ingredients into a large bowl or a shallow pan. Dip the salmon strips in the marinade, turning to coat thoroughly. Let stand in the marinade 20 minutes. Put the strips on the prepared tray skin side up.

You can grill these strips on a barbecue or simply broil them as I did. It took 3 minutes in my broiler to blacken the skin to a delicate crisp. Gently turn the fillets and broil for an additional minute.

I served the grilled salmon with coconut kale and green bean medley. The green bean medley is an old favorite from the Betty Crocker cookbook. I’ve forgotten the exact recipe and I now make it with whatever I have on hand. This time around, I’m using the method I used to cook the baby bok choy last night.

Green Bean Medley

1 pound green beans, trimmed
1 pound small carrots, sliced diagonally
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cup of baby bella mushrooms (can use shiitake or button mushrooms)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, zested
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons oil

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the garlic, onions,  and ginger and cook until fragrant. Add enough chicken stock to cover the bottom of the pan, scraping up the bits of garlic and ginger. Cook the carrots first. After a minute, add the  green beans and the mushrooms. Cook until tender, about 3 minutes.

curry-flavor shrimp with sesame rice

Curried Shrimp wth Sesame Rice

It’s been so cold that I decided to cook something hearty but quick and easy. I found this recipe for Sesame Rice Salad in the South Beach Diet cookbook, the blue cover. Since then, I’ve adapted it in some form or another depending on the vegetables I have on hand. One thing I won’t swap is the asparagus. It must have asparagus! Bright green, cooked asparagus is such a pretty contrast in this dish. Though the rice and shrimp are spicy, the crisp-tender asparagus cools the mouth.

Curry-Flavor Shrimp with Sesame Rice

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

20 medium shrimp, shelled and deveined, washed and patted dry with paper towels
2 teaspoons curry powder (I recommend Montego, the Jamaican curry powder)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3 cups cooked brown rice, room temperature
8 stalks asparagus, cut in thirds
1/2 cup frozen edamame
1/2 cup frozen sweet peas
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
cooking spray
2 scallions sliced thin on the diagonal
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced fine
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Red pepper flakes, to taste, optional
salt and pepper

Season the shrimp with curry powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Set aside.

Boil a saucepan of water, lightly salted. Add the asparagus and cook until bright green. Remove from the heat at once, drain, and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.

Spray cooking spray in a large skillet. Heat the skillet until a drop of water sizzles on the surface. Add the shrimp and cook on one side until no longer pink, 1 minute. Turn and cook on the other side, 1 minute.

Add the frozen edamame and peas to the hot skillet and cook until they are heated through, scraping up the browned bits or fond on the bottom. Add the rice and the cooked asparagus. Toss to combine. In a small bowl, mix the canola oil, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Whisk until the mixture emulsifies. Pour over the rice and toss lightly. Add the scallions, cilantro and sesame seeds. Toss lightly. Add red pepper flakes, if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve warm or at room temperature.

grilled shrimp tacos with green apple salsa

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Green Apple Salsa (adapted from

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup sliced green onions
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 minced Thai chile pepper
8 (6-inch) whole wheat tortillas (recommend: Toufouyan Soft Wheat Tacos)
1 ounce crumbled queso blanco
Tomato Salsa, optional

1. Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons lime juice, cumin, paprika, and red pepper in a small bowl. Combine shrimp and spice mixture in a zip-top plastic bag, and seal. Let stand 15 minutes.

2. Combine 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, 2 teaspoons juice, onions, 1/8 teaspoon salt, rind, apple, and jalapeño; toss.

3. Remove shrimp from bag; discard marinade. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Arrange half of shrimp in pan; grill 2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining shrimp. Toast the tortillas in grill pan, if desired.

4. Place 2 tortillas on each of 4 plates, and divide shrimp evenly among tortillas. Divide salsa evenly among tacos, and top with queso blanco. Pop it under the broiler to slightly melt the cheese. Serve with Tomato Salsa, if desired.