Potato, Fennel and Smoked Salmon Hash

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I don’t know about you, but I’m still smarting a bit from the Super Bowl. Actually, I’m smarting a lot. At any rate, while the game was the least exciting Super Bowl I’ve ever watched, our pre-game dinner was pretty darn fabulous. Typically, I make a meal of foods representing both teams, and even if I’m only routing for one of those teams, we still make sure everyone is honored. This year’s menu went like this:

  • Grilled Ancho Chili Bison Steaks
  • Baked Anasazi beans with bacon
  • Potato, Fennel and Smoked Salmon Hash
  • Colorado Cowboy Cookies

If you ever have an opportunity to get bison strip steaks from Whole Foods, I highly recommend it. They are worth every penny. Steaks you can cut with a fork. Yum, yum and yum.

But on to Seattle. This dish was our Seattle representation and it was equally awesome (and a bit more budget friendly than the steaks). I would make this again for brunch and add an over easy egg to the top. Ohhhhhh, so delicious! And our leftovers were terrific warmed up for a second supper!

A note about smoked salmon: Most smoked salmon you find in the grocery is cold-smoked salmon, sliced very thin and usually served on bagels. You know what I’m talking about. For this dish, though, you want the hot-smoked variety. Hot-smoked salmon is  a thick fillet of fish smoked over a heat source. It is harder to find in a regular grocery (at least in North Carolina), but specialty grocers like Whole Foods carry a nice assortment.  We bought a maple smoked version produced in Alaska, and it was pretty phenomenal. Highly, highly recommend this.

Although my Denver Broncos completely tanked, we still had a great pre-game celebration that included some new recipes, so the evening wasn’t a total loss. Click HERE for last year’s Super Bowl menu!

Potato, Fennel and Smoked Salmon Hash (serves 6 as a side dish or 4 as an entree)

  • 1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cubed into 1″ or 1 1/2″ cubes
  • 3 tbsp. cooking oil (I used reserved bacon fat)
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 bulbs of fennel, cored and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
  • 1 package hot-smoked salmon, skin removed
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. In a stock pot, add the potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt and water to cover. Heat the water and boil the potatoes for 5 minutes or until just soft.
  2. Drain the potatoes and let sit while you prepare everything else.
  3. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil or bacon fat over medium heat.
  4. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until onion is translucent and soft.
  5. Add the sliced fennel and cook for about 5 minutes or until the fennel is soft. Add the fennel seeds, salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Remove the fennel/onion mixture to a bowl and set aside. Wipe the skillet clean.
  7. Add the remaining oil/bacon fat and heat over medium heat. Add the drained potatoes, and cook for about 10 minutes. You want the potatoes to be nice a browned with a little crust on them, so don’t stir the potatoes too often.
  8. Add the fennel mixture to the potatoes and stir well. Gently flake the salmon and add to the skillet. Cook until everything is heated through.
  9. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
  10. Serve immediately.
  11. For brunch or for a heartier supper, add a poached or fried egg to the top!

Fish with Fennel and Tomato

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This is an oldie, but a goodie! Just made this again this weekend and was reminded of how wonderful I few simple ingredients can be!

Someday, I am going to retire and move to Italy. In my mind, that retirement includes doing yoga on the sunny balcony of an apartment in Cinque Terre, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. And shopping in the weekly market to buy fresh cheese and produce and local olives, capers, tomatoes and fish. And socializing with the other local old people who gather at the market. That image often helps me get through the most stressful workdays and puts a smile on my face in the most tiresome meetings. It’s my mental happy place.

This recipe may become the tangible representation of my idyllic dream. A culinary happy place. With some fresh fish from Locals Seafood, local fennel, local tomatoes we froze whole over the summer and parsley and thyme from our garden, this is a quick, summertime winner. If you want to grill your fish, you could do that and make the sauce in a separate dish–easy!

Fish with Tomato and Fennel (4 servings)

  • 4 fish fillets (we used local Spanish Mackerel)
  • 1/4 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 6 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup unpitted olives (optional)
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian, flat leaf parsley
  • Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook without browning until it is soft (about 15 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the thyme and garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Stir well.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, olives and capers to the pan. Raise the heat a bit and cook until the mixture is thick, but not dry (about 15 minutes depending on how much liquid your tomatoes hold). Reserve and keep warm.
  4. Cook fish to your preference (I pan seared ours, but grilling would be great also).
  5. Plate the fish and top with the tomato and fennel sauce. Garnish with parsley.
  6. Pour yourself a glass of wine, inhale the delicious aroma and dream…

Using Spices to Improve Health

Can spices save your life?

That’s a bit dramatic, but there is a good deal of research on how spices can help us live a healthier life. As we experiment more with different recipes and different ways to cook, we have also expanded the variety of spices we use in the kitchen.

About a month ago, I started taking turmeric in capsule form as an anti-inflammatory to help with some osteoarthritis pain in my neck. I haven’t had a flare up since, but of course I don’t know if I can attribute that to the turmeric or just being more mindful of protecting my neck. Only time will tell there. But turmeric, as opposed to some of the powerful drugs on the market, has no side effects and certainly can’t hurt you, so I’m all for sticking with this plan!

Here is a list of 5 spices that we are trying to incorporate into our meals.

Cinnamon–I usually use cinnamon for toast or for sweetened baked goods, but cinnamon is actually good in many savory dishes as well. I’m thinking of trying it on sweet potato gnocchi, in chili, on rice or quinoa and as part of a rub for steak.

Cinnamon has been shown to boost our ability to process glucose and maintain even blood sugar levels. It also has been shown to help with cardiovascular risk factors, including diabetes. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine studied the effects of cinnamon on individuals with type 2 diabetes and found that it substantially lowered blood sugar levels over a placebo within two months. Apparently, cinnamon may also offer benefits against cancer, yeast infections, cholesterol problems and food poisoning.

For best results, don’t use the 2-year-old jar of cinnamon in your pantry (I tell myself), buy the quills and grind them using a spice grinder or a nutmeg grater. Ceylon cinnamon in jars is supposedly the highest quality for pre-ground cinnamon.

Turmeric–Turmeric has been one of those mystery spices to me. While I use curry powder in cooking, I never owned a bottle of straight up turmeric, which is often used in curry powder mixes. Now, though, I am all on board the turmeric train. This Indian spice is packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory powers that apparently protect and heal every major organ of the body. They key compound in turmeric is curcumin, which prevents inflammation that, in turn, causes other health problems. In fact, it has been shown to be as effective as anti-inflammatory medications (including Celebrex) without the side effects. It also shows indications for treating skin diseases like psoriasis and eczema.

Tumeric is the only readily available form of curcumin. It is a root and apparently difficult to grind, so pre-ground powders are the best source. Tumeric from the allepy region of India has twice as much curcumin as turmeric from other areas of India.

Here is how we plan to use more turmeric: soups and stews, on stir fried vegetables, in chili, melted into butter and poured onto vegetables, in egg and chicken salad.

Coriander–Coriander is the seed pod of the cilantro plant. It tastes completely different though. I haven’t warmed up to cilantro yet, but coriander is lovely. The healing power of coriander comes from two oils in the coriander seed that are powerful antioxidants.

Coriander is a powerhouse when it comes to treating digestive ailments, including irritable bowel syndrome. A study in Digestive Diseases and Sciences found that when compared with a placebo, those taking a coriander treatment experienced three times the improvement in their IBS symptoms of pain and bloating. Apparently, coriander acts as an antispasmodic, relaxing the muscles in the digestive system and calming the bowel and colon. It also has indications for helping with diabetes, eczema, high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Here is how we plan to use more coriander seeds: in our favorite broccoli and shrimp dish, in meat rubs, soups, stews, and in roasted vegetables like cauliflower.

Fennel–I’m one of those weird people who loves the black jelly beans at Easter. I love licorice or anything with that flavor profile, so fennel is just wonderful. I don’t cook with fresh fennel though, and that might be something I try this spring. The chemical anethol, present in fennel seeds, is a recognized phyto-estrogen, and fennel seeds in tea or in food are highly effective in addressing menstrual cramping. Fennel apparently also alleviates colic in babies and addresses arthritis and colitis.

Fennel seeds are more effective than ground fennel, which loses potency after 6 months.

While I am alone in my love of licorice, we will add fennel seeds to our diet in making sausage or sausage ragout sauces, and to our Italian type seasoning blends to go on tomatoes, in tomato sauce and with olives.

Ginger–Ginger has been long known for its digestive healing properties, but I didn’t realize that it also helps with motion sickness. In a University of Michigan study, volunteers subjected themselves to a spinning chair, and were spun until they were nauseous. They were later given 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of ginger and in subsequent tests, they took longer to become nauseous. Note to self: take ginger before getting on the teacup ride at Disney.

Fresh ginger is more effective than dried, powdered ginger. Knobs of fresh ginger will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or indefinitely in the freezer.

We can add more ginger to our diet by using it in stir fry, using it in salad dressing, and as a tenderizer for meat. I also love it pickled with sushi.

So, yay, 5 easy ways to boost our healthy living while cooking and put a little variety into our dishes. I love all these ideas, but turmeric is definitely the most compelling little health booster I’ve seen. I’m on the lookout for recipes!

Fish with Tomato and Fennel

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Someday, I am going to retire and move to Italy. In my mind, that retirement includes doing yoga on the sunny balcony of an apartment in Cinque Terre, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. And shopping in the weekly market to buy fresh cheese and produce and local olives, capers, tomatoes and fish. And socializing with the other local old people who gather at the market. That image often helps me get through the most stressful workdays and puts a smile on my face in the most tiresome meetings. It’s my mental happy place.

I found this recipe today in the New York Times and it may become the tangible representation of my idyllic dream. A culinary happy place. With some fresh fish from Locals Seafood, local fennel, local tomatoes we froze whole over the summer and some organic olives and capers, I think this will be a winner. When we canned and froze tomatoes over the summer, I envisioned being able to coax a bit of summer in the dead of winter and this may do just the trick. For Tom, I will leave off the olives (actually, I will add them to my plate :-)) so we can both be happy. Will post photos of the final product!

Fish with Tomato and Fennel (4 servings)

  • 4 fish fillets (I’m using NC striped bass)
  • 1/4 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 6 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup unpitted olives
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian, flat leaf parsley
  • Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook without browning until it is soft (about 15 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the thyme and garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Stir well.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, olives and capers to the pan. Raise the heat a bit and cook until the mixture is thick, but not dry (about 15 minutes depending on how much liquid your tomatoes hold). Reserve and keep warm.
  4. Cook fish to your preference (I will pan sear these babies).
  5. Plate the fish and top with the tomato and fennel sauce. Garnish with parsley.
  6. Pour yourself a glass of wine, inhale the delicious aroma and dream…
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