Sizzling Hot Shrimp

You can control the amount of chili that you add to this dish, but we recommend adding enough to make you sweat. In this cold weather, it feels better. This dish is based on a recipe for shrimp pil-pil that I recently came across in a Rachael Ray Magazine. It originates from Spain where it’s eaten as a fiery tapas dish.

1/2 lb. of shrimp, shells removed (tails left intact), and de-veined
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp. paprika (preferably smoked)
1/2 a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
about 1 TBS. chopped fresh parsley.

  • In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, crushed red pepper, paprika, and chipotle pepper and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring frequently.
  • Season the shrimp with salt. Add to the skillet and cook until done, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped parsley.
  • Serve in bowls, along with some crusty bread and cold beer. Serves 2.

Tuna & White Bean Salad with Pesto Crostini

I spent a few hours on Christmas day sitting in front of the fireplace with my new 12 Best Foods Cookbook. Now that we’re back in Japan, it’s been a fun challenge to think of new recipes that use these foods. Of course before we got the book we used tomatoes, broccoli, blueberries, onions, walnuts, sweet potatoes, soy, oatmeal, black beans, salmon, spinach, and chocolate (some more than others), but now we have some extra motivation to eat healthier in 2008. Since onions are most beneficial eaten raw, I wanted to incorporate them into a vinaigrettey tuna salad. Adapted from the

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 TBS. extra virgin olive oil
2 cans of tuna, drained (in Japan, they’re only 80 grams each)
1/2 a red onion, sliced
a handful of chopped fresh basil
1 TBS. fresh lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste

  • Combine the beans and olive oil in a large bowl and mix well.
  • Add the tuna, onions, basil, lemon juice and salt and pepper; mix to combine.
  • Serve with toasted baguette slices with a dollop of pesto. Serves 2.

Coriander-Cumin Salmon with Sauteed Green Beans & Mushrooms

We finally made it back to Japan after spending 4 “lovely” days at the San Francisco airport trying to get on a plane after the 1st one was canceled due to torrential rain in California. At least after the whole ordeal we got to experience business class for the 1st (and probably last) time in our lives.

Anyway, thrown together in a jet-lagged state, this healthy meal started our new semester off on the right foot.

  • Remove the bones from 3 salmon steaks. Season the skinless sides liberally with salt, pepper, garlic power, coriander and cumin.
  • Heat about 2 TBS. of olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the salmon steaks and cook for about 3 minutes. Flip and cook skin-side down for about 2 minutes more.
  • Trim the ends off a bunch of green beans and slice some button mushrooms. Heat 1 TBS. of butter over medium heat until it foams. Add the mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes until beginning to brown. Add the green beans, season with salt & pepper, and continue to cook, stirring frequently for 5-7 minutes (we love crunchy green beans. If you want to blanch them first, feel free). Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, turn off the heat and serve.

We ate our salmon and green beans alongside of rice pilaf, accompanied by a bottle of Nagano Chardonnay.

Seared Spicy Tuna with Honey-Soy Glaze

Once again we picked up a pristine steak of tuna from the sashimi section, but this time with no recipe in mind; just the intention to wing it. This meal had so many different flavors going on: sweet, spicy and salty. What’s not to like?

  • Season a tuna steak on both sides with salt and pepper, and a generous amount of chili pepper flakes.

  • In a small bowl whisk together about 1 to 1 and 1/2 TBS. soy sauce, 1/2 tsp. mirin (a sweet Japanese rice wine — looked for a variety called “honmirin” for the best quality), 3 TBS. honey, 1 tsp. sesame oil, and 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds. We eyeballed the measurements, so that’s a general guideline! Taste and adjust to your liking.
  • Preheat your broiler. Then heat a TBS. of sesame oil in a frying pan until very hot. Add the steak and sear on 1 side for about 30 seconds. Remove from frying pan and place seared-side-down on a baking sheet lined with foil. Spoon the honey-soy mixture on top of the tuna and broil for 1-2 minutes until the top looks beautifully glazed.

We served the tuna on a bed of homemade potato chips (thin potato slices fried in vegetable oil and seasoned with salt and garlic powder)…

and some sliced cucumbers and onions marinated in rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and thinly sliced chilies.

Lastly, we opened a bottle of sake that one of my students had given us months ago as a gift.

Crisp Salmon with the Kitten’s Parsley & Lemony Potato “Chips”

Japan isn’t really known for its wide open spaces, and our balcony is no exception. Nonetheless, it’s our only place to enjoy the fresh (?) city air. So we recently cleaned out the junk that was being stored there by the last tenants, bought some planters, and plated some herbs — basil, parsley, and sage — as well as some other pretty flowering plants. Now our little balcony is much more welcoming and a good place to enjoy a beer on a warm evening (what’s left of them in October, that is — warm evenings, not beer)

Unfortunately (and for no apparent reason), the location of the parsley plant is Arius’ favorite place to curl up and take a nap. I’ve managed to salvage most of the leaves, but I think it’s been sit on one too many times. He hasn’t touched the basil though. It’s grown about a foot in a week!

Crisp Salmon

(adapted from Cooking Light):

2 salmon fillets, about 1 inch thick
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp. instant minced onion
(I used garlic powder instead)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. olive oil
fresh parsley, stolen from the cat, washed, and chopped for garnish

  • Combine panko, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, and pepper in a shallow bowl (I didn’t measure the spices; just did a few shakes of each).
  • Sprinkle salmon fillets with salt, then dredge in panko mixture.
  • Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon to pan and fry until outside is light brown and crispy, and inside is done (a few minutes per side).
  • Garnish with fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon.

Lemony Potato “Chips”

2 medium potatoes, cut into slices
olive oil to coat bottom of pan
1 small clove of garlic, chopped
salt & pepper

fresh lemon juice

  • Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and sauté until just starting to turn golden. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Add the sliced potatoes (in a single layer, in 2 batches if necessary), and fry until potatoes are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, turning once

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.

Nostalgic Greek Salmon

Nothing beats the simplicity of fresh salmon, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and sweet basil, tied together with the flavors of lemon, olive oil, and oregano. This was the perfect light summer dinner. We intended to make it with shrimp, but when we found that our grocery store was sold out, we had to make a plan B, which turned out to be salmon. We were quite pleased to find a new way to enjoy salmon that evoked memories of sitting at a seaside table in Oia, Santorini on our honeymoon, watching the sun set behind the caldera.

2 salmon fillets

olive oil
salt & pepper
cherry tomatoes, halved
feta cheese, broken into small pieces
a few basil leave, torn
lemon juice (we used about 1/2 of a lemon)
splash of white wine + more to drink of course!

  • Rub the salmon with olive oil and season both sides with salt, pepper, and oregano.
  • Put about 2 TBS of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, cook the salmon until done, a few minutes per side. Transfer salmon to plates. Turn the heat down to low.
  • Add the tomatoes, feta, basil, wine, and a few squeezes of lemon juice to the pan. Toss everything together until the tomatoes start to burst.  Spoon on top of the salmon, and enjoy with a glass of white wine, and if possible, a view 🙂

    Seared Wasabi-Sesame Tuna with Avocado Cream and Maple Soy Sauce

    We laughed at ourselves as we picked out the tuna in the supermarket today. We got it from the section that sells top-quality fish for sashimi, bite-size slices of fish, eaten raw with only soy sauce and wasabi. We predicted that we were the only people in the store who were buying that fish with the intention to cook it; the outside at least. I think it would have offended the sushi chefs in the back. Oh well. We saw this Asian-fusion recipe in the Readers’ Favorite section of the April 2007 Bon Appetit. The two sauces that accompany the tuna – avocado and maple soy sauce – are brilliant together. It sounds exotic, but it was actually easy to make! It’s meant as an appetizer, but we ate it as a light meal with cucumber salad, bread, and Japanese Beer. East meets West, sort of. This recipe has been featured on

    For the Tuna:

    2 tuna steaks
    wasabi (as much as you want … how adventurous are you feeling tonight?)
    1/4 cup sesame seeds
    3 TBS. canola oil for frying

    • Rub both sides of the tuna steaks with wasabi. Don’t touch your eyes (just kidding).
    • Pour the sesame seeds onto a plate. Press both sides of the tuna into the sesame seeds.
    • Heat the oil over high heat. When it’s hot, sear the steaks, about 20 seconds each side.
    • Slice the steaks into 1/2 inch slices. The middle should be nice and rare!

    For the Maple Soy Sauce:

    2 TBS. soy sauce
    2 TBS. maple syrup

    • Combine the soy sauce and the maple syrup in a small saucepan.
    • Boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is reduced to half, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

    For the Avocado Sauce:

    1 avocado
    2 tsp. lemon juice
    2 TBS. water
    1 TBS olive oil

    • Puree all ingredients, then pour into a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

    To Assemble the Dish:

    • On your plates, spread some avocado sauce in a circle, place the tuna slices in the middle, and drizzle the maple soy sauce on top.

    For the Cucumber Salad:

    2 cucumbers (1 if they’re large)
    rice vinegar
    salt & pepper
    chili pepper

    • Slice the cucumbers and place in a small bowl. Add the other ingredients, tasting as you go, until you find the perfect combination of tangy and sweet.

    Lemon-Butter-Garlic Shrimp with Rice Pilaf

    I refuse to eat things that have eyes. The fish section in our grocery store is plentiful (as one would expect in a country that’s surrounded by water), but when everything is looking at me, it creeps me out!! When we were in Greece for our honeymoon, I was equally disturbed when I ordered grilled shrimp and they came whole! The shrimp for this dinner, luckily, didn’t have eyes when we bought them. This recipe is really quick, about 5 minutes for the shrimp and 15 for the rice pilaf. It’s a good weekday meal. Oh, and Dustin gets the credit for this one. He made it up. I just made the rice. We also made some spinach as our vegetable accompaniment: just sautéed with some olive oil, lemon juice, some raisins and a dash of nutmeg. (But we didn’t take a picture of it!)

    What we drank: From France, La Poule Blanche 2004 from Sacha Lichine Vins Sans Frontieres

    For the Rice Pilaf:

    3/4 cup rice, uncooked
    1 1/2 cups of chicken broth, heated to almost boiling
    1 TBS butter or olive oil
    1 bayleaf
    salt and pepper

    • Melt the butter in a pan that can be covered.
    • Add the rice and stir until coated with butter for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the bay leaf. Turn the heat down to low and add the hot chicken broth. Cover the pan.
    • Cook for about 15 minutes or until rice is tender and the broth is absorbed. Season again if needed and serve alongside the shrimp.

    For the Shrimp:

    18 medium-sized shrimp, shelled and devained
    1 1/2 TBS of butter
    juice of 1 lemon
    1 clove of garlic, chopped
    a splash of white wine
    chili pepper (to taste)
    salt & pepper (to taste)

    • In a frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the garlic. Cook until it’s fragrant and light brown. Add the shrimp, the lemon juice, the wine, and the chili powder and salt and pepper. Cook until shrimp turns pink.
    • Remove shrimp from pan. Return the pan to the stove and turn up the heat. Reduce the sauce, stirring continuously for 2-4 minutes. Poor over the shrimp.

    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.

    Eat with Caution: Poisonous Blowfish

    (Photo from
    “I want to eat fugu, but I don’t want to die.”

    This old Japanese folk song pretty much sums up our feelings going into this culinary experience:

    Fugu means “river pig,” or in Western Japan it’s sometimes called fuku, meaning “to blow” or oddly enough “luck” (you’ll need it!). This lethal blowfish can only be prepared by licensed chefs, but don’t worry. Only 14 people died from blowfish poisoning between 2002 and 2006. Even small amounts of poison can cause a tingling feeling on the tongue, something that we didn’t experience, but we heard is desired by some adventurous Japanese eaters. Nonetheless, it is a culinary delight in Japan, not for its taste (it’s a little bland), but for its fame. And it was something we most definitely had to try before leaving Japan! A typical fugu meal can cost about 10,000 -20,000 yen ($100 – $200) per person. The students who took us out to the restaurant, therefore, were more than hospitable! This is what we ate:

    Fugu-sashi: Thinly sliced raw fugu. Served with ponzu dipping sauce (a citrus-y soy sauce).

    A salad made with the raw skin of the fugu, fugu meat, green onions and a light citrus dressing.

    Fugu Kara-age: Floured and deep fried and sprinkled with lemon (this was my personal favorite)!

    Fugu-chiri: Fugu, cabbage, tofu, onions, and mushrooms simmered in broth. Served with ponzu dipping sauce.

    After we had eaten all of the fugu and veggies out of the soup pot (and were extremely full I might add), the waitress came to our table, added raw egg, salt and rice to the pot, and served us yet another course garnished with nori (seaweed) and green onions!

    This lovely (and excessive) meal was accompanied by a special drink made of sake, lemon, and honey, and of course some good ‘ole Japanese beer, Asahi Super Dry. Luckily, we weren’t offered the traditional Fugu Hire-zake drink, where a grilled fugu fin is put into a hot sake drink. Not sure if I could have handled that one … I don’t mix my fish with my alcohol.