Pan-Fried Red Trout Fillets with Mizuna-Mango-Manchego Salad & a Simple Mango Cocktail

After weeks of writing about Swedish food and travel adventures, it feels both strange and comforting to once again be blogging from our own kitchen! This is a meal that we made a few days after returning home, but it had to wait in line until now! My cousin Nikita came over to cook dinner with us and this is the menu we came up with together.

Red Trout is a delicious, mild fish that goes well with whatever seasoning you choose. We decided to pan fry the fillets in a skillet, marinated in a garlicky-lime concoction that Dustin threw together in the food processor. The salad was Nikita’s creation – I love fresh mizuna because of its mildly spicy flavor. The cubes of manchego cheese add great texture and earthy flavor to the salad. The mango provides the sweetness to offset the slightly spicy-citrusy dressing. We served the fish and the salad with simple steamed white rice. And don’t forget the cocktails – the combination of mango, lemonade, and ginger beer is really refreshing. Serve over ice and sip in the backyard before dinner!

Pan-Fried Red Trout Fillets with Citrus & Garlic

1/2 a white onion
4 cloves of garlic
zest of 2 small limes*
juice from 1 lemon
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 trout fillet per person

*We used lime zest because we needed the juice for our salad dressing. You could use the zest of the lemon in its place.

  • Combine the onion, garlic, lime zest, and lemon juice in a food processor, and process for about 5 seconds. While machine is running, add some olive oil until it becomes the consistency of a paste. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Spread the mixture over the trout fillets and place in a Ziplock bag to marinate for a bit.
  • When ready to cook, heat a pan or skillet over high heat. Add a little olive oil to coat the bottom. Remove fillets from bag and place in the pan skin side down.  Cook for about 3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes. Transfer to plates and serve with steamed rice and the delicious salad below.

    Mizuna-Mango-Manchego Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

    a few big handfuls of mizuna, washed and dried
    1 mango, cubed
    about 4 ounces of manchego cheese, cubed
    olive oil
    juice of 2 small limes
    cayanne pepper to taste
    paprika to taste
    salt & pepper to taste

    • Place the mizuna in a salad bowl. Add the cubes of mango and the manchego.
    • In a small jar or container with a tight-fitting lid, combine some olive oil, the lime juice, cayenne, paprika, and salt & pepper. Shake vigorously. Taste and adjust seasonings (and amount of oil, if needed).
    • Pour over salad and toss gently.

      Mango-Lemon-Ginger Cocktails:

      Mango Vodka (we used Absolut – it’s from Sweden! :))
      Ginger Beer

      • Fill a highball glass with ice. Add a shot of mango vodka. Top with lemonade and then ginger beer. Stir and serve. See? That was simple!

      Rosé Sangria with Guava & Pineapple

      We were tickled pink by the rosy hue and tropical taste of this sangria. It was refreshing and not too sweet; the perfect thing to sip in the backyard at our Mexican themed BBQ. Adding some light rum may kick the party up a notch or two, but goes nicely with the pineapple and guava flavors. Make sure you have a large enough pitcher in which to mix everything. I thought ours was big enough, but ended up having to sacrifice about 1/2 a cup of guava juice and some of the orange slices in order to fit everything! Oops. This recipe is from the June 2009 issue of Bon Appetit. Cheers, everyone!

      1 750-ml bottle rosé wine
      4 6-ounce cans pineapple juice
      2 11 1/2-ounce cans guava nectar
      4 cinnamon sticks
      2 cups 3/4-inch cubes fresh pineapple
      oranges, halved through stem end, thinly sliced crosswise
      Ice cubes

      • In a large pitcher, combine the first 5 ingredients. Mix well.
      • Set 12 orange slices aside for garnish; add remaining orange slices to pitcher.
      • Cover and chill at least 6 hours or overnight.
      • Fill glasses with ice. Add rum (if using). Pour sangria over the top and mix. Garnish with remaining orange slices and serve. Makes 12 servings.

        Say "I love you" with Coconut Hot Chocolate

        I originally intended to post this recipe around Valentine’s Day, but obviously that didn’t happen. Then I thought of saving it until next year, but I’m too impatient. Luckily the temperature has still been dipping into the low 40s in the evenings, therefore I deem hot chocolate still “in season.” I found this recipe in an article in the Food & Wine section of our local newspaper, in which a woman shared the story of her husband’s request for hot chocolate on Valentine’s Day. Since he couldn’t have dairy, soy milk, rice milk or even nut-milk, this proved to be a challenge for her! After several attempts at various recipes, this hot chocolate was born: rich and creamy with a nice bitterness from the cocoa. Served with some raspberries on the side, you have a decadent dessert for both you and the lactose-free friend/relative/sweetie/person in your life.

        Coconut Hot Chocolate for Two:

        2 TBS. unsweetened cocoa powder
        1 15-ounce can coconut milk
        1/4 cup dark brown sugar
        Pinch of kosher salt
        1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
        1 tsp. vanilla extract

        • Bring 1/3 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Whisk in the cocoa. Set aside.
        • In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk, brown sugar, and salt. Simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes.
        • Whisk in hot cocoa and chocolate until smooth. Stir in vanilla.
        • Pour into two mugs.
        • For an (optional) dairy-free topping: Beat 1 egg white with an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Add 3 TBS. of sugar (one tablespoon at a time) while the mixer is running. Continue to beat until egg white forms soft peaks and is shiny, about 5 minutes. Dollop onto mugs of hot chocolate.

        Chocolate-Guinness Cake & Black Velvet Cocktails

        This is the last cake I’ll be making for a while. No, it’s not what you’re thinking. I didn’t have a baking disaster that ended in tears. Quite the contrary. I enjoyed making this cake very much. The recipe was easy to follow, the ingredients simple, and I even got to drink the leftover stout while it was baking. No, the reason I won’t be making any more cakes for a while is that when we returned home last night from our corned beef eating-frenzy at my parents’ house, my two naughty cats had gotten into the dish drainer and chewed my silicone baking pan. Little holes are now all over the bottom and sides of the poor thing. Their intentions I’ll never know, but anyway I’m quite pissed about it. Now that I’ve vented to you about my pan, I must turn to the cake. It kicks ass. The Guinness Stout gives it a wonderful depth of flavor, sort of nutty and caramely. I’m usually not a fan of the ultra rich, death-by-chocolate sort of cakes, so this one was a nice surprise. Its complex flavor was pleasing both to my brother’s palate (the chocolate lover) and mine. Instead of the icing in the original recipe, I decided to finish it off with a dusting of powdered sugar in order to highlight the flavor of the cake itself. I should also note that the recipe below (halved from the original) fits in a 9-inch circle cake pan, but not my silicone one anymore, thanks to Arius and Jonas!

        Chocolate-Guinness Cake

        (From Smitten Kitchen, which was adapted from the September 2002 Bon Appetit. Original recipe from the Barrington Brewery in Barrington, MA)

        1 cup Guinness (or other stout)
        1 cup (2 sticks) butter (I always use salted)
        3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
        2 cups all purpose flour
        2 cups sugar
        1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
        3/4 teaspoon salt
        2 large eggs
        2/3 cup sour cream

        • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan and set aside.
        • Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to a simmer in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Let cool slightly.
        • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt until combined.
        • Using electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat until just combined. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on low speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.
        • Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer cake to rack; cool completely in the pan, then turn cake out onto serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with Black Velvets:

        Black Velvets

        If you’ve never heard of a Black Velvet, it’s worth trying, even if it’s just for the oddity of the sound of it. It’s a very intriguing combination of Guinness (or other stout) and sparkling wine (or champagne) which you’ll find to be both rich and effervescent. If you are patient and carefully poor the sparkling wine over the back of a spoon, you can get it to sit on top of the stout. If being the key word. We were too excited to dig into the cake to perfect the method! A little research taught me that this cocktail originated at the Brooks Club in London. It was served in 1861 when people were mourning the passing of Prince Albert.

        Guinness Stout
        Sparkling Wine

        • Fill a champagne flute half way with Guinness.
          • Gently pour the champagne over the back of a spoon so it runs down the sides of the glass and doesn’t mix with the beer. If it doesn’t work, don’t worry. Just enjoy the drink as it is!

          Fresh Cranberry & Mint Sauce (and other Thanksgiving tales)

          Once upon a time there was a condiment that not only went well with turkey, but could also be drunk as a cocktail. Seriously. The tartness of the cranberries, and the burst of citrus and mint would be even better with champagne or rum. This is how it works:

          In a food processor, simply place a big handful of fresh cranberries. Add half of a whole tangerine (yes, peel and all) that you’ve cut into several pieces. Add a few tablespoons of maple syrup (you can always taste and add more later). Add a handful of fresh mint leaves. Pulse for a few seconds at a time until its consistency makes you happy. Taste. Add some more maple syrup if it’s too tart. Before serving, stir in some grapefruit segments and any extra juice. Serve as a condiment with turkey (or other meat). Or place mixture in the bottom of champagne flutes and fill with champagne to the top, or make a cranberry version of a mojito!

          On our Thanksgiving table this year we had cranberry sauce 3 ways. This was obviously one of them. My brother made a spicy cranberry sauce that had been simmered with some rocoto peppers. And my mom made a sweet cranberry sauce that was studded with pomegranate seeds.

          Instead of place cards on our Thanksgiving table, my brother and I collected fresh figs from my parents’ fig tree outside. I wrote everyone’s names using a silver permanent marker and used them as “place figs.”

          To get the Thanksgiving festivities underway, we tasted the second batch of my brother Lars’s beer — this time a Scottish Ale — and oh my gosh it was so good!

          Look at that beautiful foam on top!

          And it tasted so delicious with the spiced nuts and a cheese plate.

          I swear the food was extra-delicious this year, probably because this was our first “real” Thanksgiving in two years. You may remember last year when we were living in Japan, we had to roast a chicken breast in lieu of turkey. Here are the beautifully golden turkeys that were slow cooked in the smoker all afternoon.

          The smokiness complimented the corn-bread and chorizo stuffing that my mom made, using the recipe in the 2008 November issue of Gourmet. The stuffing on the right was made with cubes of focaccia with bits of roasted lemon that gave bursts of flavor with every bite.

          Yes, I fit a ridiculous amount of food on my plate. But I had to try a little of everything, clockwise from top: smoked turkey (dark meat, please!) with gravy, roasted beet salad with mustard vinaigrette, arugula salad, stuffing with roasted lemon, corn-bread and chorizo stuffing, sautéed sliced brussel sprouts with garlic and bacon, creamed pearl onions with thyme, roasted butternut squash with sage, and last (but not least) Lars’s garlic mashed potatoes.

          Good thing I saved room for dessert, because we had an entire line of pies to choose from that my Uncle Rick made: Chocolate cream, coconut cream, pumpkin, and pecan. And yes, I had a (small) slice of each. They were exquisite!!

          We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

          Summer Blues

          We love Pepsi’s limited edition flavors in Japan. Last year it was cucumbers, and this year it’s pineapples and lemons! The color entices you and gives you a sudden desire to go swimming. The name and label evoke strolling barefoot along sandy beaches with a Mai Tai. Too bad when you open it, it tastes like gummy bears in liquid form. That’s a good thing if you like gummy bears. Dustin says it’s “fruity and delicious”. I think it’s too sweet, not as refreshing as iced cucumbers, and doesn’t remind me at all of my last Hawaiian vacation. But if you come across it and are curious … Kanpai!

          A Birthday Dinner at the Tree House

          We have the best of both worlds up in the Santa Cruz Mountains: Ten minutes from the ocean, yet surrounded by beautiful, stately redwood trees. My cousin Nikita turned 21 on August 11th, so we had a family birthday dinner at my parent’s place; aptly named “The Tree House.” These are some of the highlights.

          Ginger Martinis

          • First, make a ginger syrup: Put 1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup water, and 1/2 cup chopped fresh ginger in a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
          • Strain the mixture, add a little lime (or lemon) juice to taste and then chill.
          • For each drink, use a jigger of gin and the same amount of ginger syrup, and some more lime juice.
          • Shake with ice and pour into glasses. Top off with some ginger beer (or ginger ale).
          • Drop a piece of crystallized ginger into the bottom of each class. Kanpai!

          Marinated Shrimp Skewers

          olive oil
          a few cloves of chopped garlic
          a few sprigs of chopped fresh rosemary
          a dash or two of Tabasco sauce
          a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce
          shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left intact
          special equipment: skewers (if using bamboo skewers, soak in water before grilling)

          • Combine all ingredients (except shrimp) in a microwave-safe liquid measuring cup (adjust ingredients depending on amount of shrimp). Microwave until bubbly, about a minute. Assemble shrimp skewers and pour marinade over them. Grill.

          Polenta with Gorgonzola & Mascarpone Cheese

          • Prepare the polenta according to package instructions, stirring until it thickens.
          • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine equal parts Gorgonzola and Mascarpone cheese. Microwave until they’re soft enough to combine.
          • When polenta has thickened, spoon onto plates and top with a dollop of cheese mixture.

          Peach, Fresh Mozzarella & Mint Salad

          • On each serving plate put a few slices of fresh Mozzarella, a few mint leaves, and a few slices of peach.
          • Lightly dress with white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a sprinkle of cumin.

          Just Peachy!

          A fresh peach is the epitome of summer. Tonight’s menu was inspired by 1) the white peach (finally in season!) and 2) an item on our wedding reception menu, Casablanca Restaurant‘s fried brie. Although they serve theirs with jalapeño jelly, we enjoyed ours with a white peach salsa. We drank the Bellinis with the fried brie and crostini as a “happy hour” before we prepared the salmon and corn. 


          Fried Brie on Crostini
          Baked Salmon with white peach salsa
          Corn on the cob

          For the Salsa:

          2 white peaches, diced
          juice of 1/2 a lime
          1/4 cup diced red onion
          1/2 of a diced red bell pepper
          (If fresh jalapeños were available in Japan, I would have added one too!)

          • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate about 1 hour to let the flavors mingle.

          For the Crostini:

          1/2 a baguette cut into 1/4 inch slices
          Olive oil

          • Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes until crispy and brown.

          For the Fried Brie:

          1 6-8 oz. wheel of brie, cut into wedges
          1 egg, beaten
          salt & pepper
          1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
          vegetable oil, enough to fill pan to a depth of 1 & 1/2 inches

          • Cut brie into wedges (Japan individually wraps everything, seriously, including the cheese triangles seen in the picture. So we didn’t have to cut anything). The wedges shouldn’t be any bigger than your crostini.
          • In a small bowl beat an egg with some salt and pepper. Place the bread crumbs on a plate.
          • Dip each piece of cheese into the egg and coat with breadcrumbs. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
          • Fry in vegetable oil over medium-high heat, until golden, turning occasionally, about 3 minutes.  Drain on paper towels. Serve on crostini with peach salsa. Serves about 4 as an appetizer.

          For the Salmon:

          2 salmon fillets
          olive oil
          salt & pepper

          • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
          • Place salmon fillets in an oiled, shallow baking dish. Season salmon with salt, pepper, rosemary, and dot with butter.
          • Bake 10-15 minutes or until done. Serve with peach salsa and corn on the cob.

          For the Bellinis:

          2 white peaches, pureed
          good sparkling wine (we used Italian Prosecco)

          • Fill the bottoms of 2 flutes with about 2 Tablespoons of peach puree.
          • Top with Prosecco.

          Thirsty? How ’bout quenching your thirst with some ice cold cucumbers!

          It’s a special time to live in Japan. In order to cope with the summer heat and humidity, Pepsi has released “Pepsi Ice Cucumber,” a limited edition green-colored soda that is only available in Japan! Oh boy! The verdict? It tastes nothing like regular Pepsi, but it really does taste like cucumbers. Sort of creepy, but oddly … refreshing! Unfortunately, it reminds me of the cucumber-melon flavored lotion I used to buy from Bath & Body Works when I was in Jr. High School. According to a recent news article (AP):

          The soft drink, which hit stores here on Tuesday, doesn’t actually have any cucumber in it — but has been artificially flavored to resemble “the refreshing taste of a fresh cucumber,” said Aya Takemoto, spokeswoman of Japan’s Pepsi distributor, Suntory Ltd.

          Well, don’t you associate “refreshing” with “cucumber“?