Tag Archives: Baked

Baked salmon for a crowd

Whole lemon-roasted side of salmon. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Fancy? It sure is–and also the easiest dinner party main course I’ve ever made. Full stop.

I got the idea from a Bon Appetit video, and it’s stunning in its simplicity. Oil a baking sheet, and lay down a handful of lemon slices. Plop the salmon on top and scatter over more lemon slices. Pile a big bunch of chard or beet greens around the fish. Season everything with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes. Rest. Eat.

Other hunks of roast beast tend to get all the attention for an at-home feast: beef, pork, lamb, even chicken. But cooking an entire side of salmon is far faster and just as impressive. Unlike small fillets, which are prone to overcooking, a big piece of fish stays moist and flaky even if you let it linger in the oven a minute too long. And roasting greens along with the fish is the really genius bit. The top layer of greens gets crisp, the bottom layer gets tender, and you’ve got yourself a no-effort side dish.

I can’t think of another centerpiece meat dish that’s so easy to make, yet delivers such a big wow. The flavors are clean, fresh, and so, so lovely. (It’s hard to be mad at salmon, lemon, and olive oil together.) This is also a visually stunning presentation: the coral cushion of salmon with its lemon-slice buttons, wreathed with dark crispy-soft greens. I’m the world’s most inept food stylist, and yet I still draw “oohs” and “aahs” every time I bring the baking sheet to the table.

baked salmon chard 1

Salmon and greens, ready for the oven

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Chicken and vegetable baked pasta

The great low-FODMAP experiment continues. Despite talking a big game about cooking, I’m actually a pretty big takeout junkie. Now–curse that garlic!–a lot of my favorite restaurant dishes and prepared foods are suddenly off-limits. So, to satisfy my grab-and-go impulse, I’ve been doubling down on freezer meals.

This has been an opportunity to break out of my (tasty, but repetitive) freezer-cooking rut: beans, soups, stews, chili. A couple weeks ago, I started asking around for recipe ideas, and a friend suggested baked pasta. With a new go-to tomato sauce┬árecipe, it didn’t take long to put two and two together. From the fridge, I gathered a mishmash of cooked chicken, carrots, zucchini, bell pepper, dino kale, and provolone cheese. Together with a pound of brown rice pasta and a batch of homemade tomato sauce, these became one of the most delicious freezer meals I’ve ever made.

I love this just the way I made it: tender zucchini, sweet carrot, barely-wilted greens, tangy provolone cheese, and the occasional nugget of chicken. But baked pasta is perfect for cleaning out the fridge, so think of this recipe as a template. You can swap in another kind of cooked meat, or omit it altogether. Use whatever vegetables you like, or whatever’s in the fridge. In place of the provolone, try mozzarella, cheddar, smoked gouda, or a mix of cheeses–sliced or shredded, it’s up to you. Pretty much the only requirements here are pasta, tomato sauce, and a heap of grated Parmesan.

chicken veggie baked pasta

My lunch today–a pan of pasta, saucy and golden brown, baked straight from the freezer

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Potato, chorizo, and pepper frittata

I’ve been making a version of this frittata for years. And thanks to my friend Elly, I think I’ve finally hacked the technique.

It’s not a secret, certainly, that eggs + potatoes + peppers + sausage = phenomenal breakfast. Combine them in a frittata–a sort of chubby omelet or crustless quiche–and you get something deeply comforting and filling for fairly little effort. A frittata can be eaten warm or at room temperature, on a plate or on the go, for any meal of the day. I’ve done the potato-pepper-sausage thing more times than I can count, and it’s still my favorite frittata filling.

That said, I’ve had a dicey relationship with frittata for a while. The usual method I used is to cook the filling on the stove, then mix in the eggs and scramble them until they just start to set, then finish the whole thing under the broiler. It makes for a very pretty final product–golden brown on top, solidly firm all the way through–but I just didn’t like the texture. My frittatas always ended up grainy and tough, and the browned top tasted more bitter than delicious. For a long while I stopped making frittatas, because I was tired of laboring over delicious fillings only to wind up choking down a mass of crumbly egg.

Enter Elly and her genius technique. Instead of starting the eggs in a hot pan and finishing them under the broiler, she suggested cooking them all the way through in a moderate-hot oven. We went to the farmer’s market for ingredients: firm Spanish chorizo, golden potatoes, curly frying peppers, scallions. I started out the usual way, sauteing everything in an oven-safe skillet on the stove. Then, after sliding the pan off the heat and letting the filling cool for a second, Elly added the eggs and we slid the whole assembly into a 400-degree oven to bake. 15 minutes later, I pulled out a gorgeous golden egg-cake, puffed and set but not at all browned. It was tender and smooth all the way through, and the eggs had gently absorbed the flavors of pepper and potato and onion. That frittata got eaten so fast, I didn’t even have time to photograph the wedges on a plate. With a tangy spinach salad, it made for a glorious Sunday lunch.

One note: in order to really pull this off well, your skillet must be both oven-safe and nonstick. I used a stainless steel skillet, and while the frittata did come out with some effort, it left behind a heckuva mess. If you don’t have an appropriate skillet, I’d suggest sauteing the filling first, then finishing the frittata in a generously greased or parchment-lined 9×13 baking dish. The cooking time may be slightly different this way, so keep an eye on it.

potato chorizo pepper frittata

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Crisp-topped baked peaches

It’s two years to the day since I moved into this apartment. Two years. And I only just found out we have a peach tree.

A couple weeks ago, my landlord knocked down an old fence in the backyard, and there it was. Not a big tree, and maybe a little scrawny, but baubled like a Christmas tree with small yellow peaches. My neighbor Jess and I greedily picked as many as we could reach, and squirreled them away. I ate a fair number of them standing over the sink, but then this blog post popped up in my email. So I made baked peaches. And oh my goodness.

These were easily my dream summer dessert. For starters, the simplicity is stunning: pitted peaches, topped with a crumbly mix of nuts and brown sugar and butter, baked until they’re soft and caramelized. The only real work involved is pitting peaches and chopping nuts. No peeling, no dicing, no flour, no oats. But even beyond that, this is one of those odd alchemical recipes whose ingredients turn into something more than their sum. The peaches become tender but hold onto their skins, and the sugar-bound nuts give the flesh of the fruit a deep resinous sweetness. Each peach half is its own self-contained portion, just intense enough and sweet enough to satisfy. We ate our peaches with plain Greek yogurt, which was just about perfect: a shock of dairy coolness against the hot sweet fruit and crumbly nuts.

You could easily do this with nectarines instead of peaches; choosing freestone fruits will make pitting and halving much easier. The most important thing is color: use yellow peaches or nectarines, not white ones. You want that faint sourness and light pucker from the yellow fruit, to balance the treacly sugar and fatty nuts. Plus, the yellow flesh looks heartbreakingly pretty in the pan.

crisp-topped baked peaches

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Baked feta in tomato sauce

I am not a very good photographer. I just don’t have It, that thing that allows people to capture the essence of their subject in a photograph. Most of the time I’m at peace with this. But sometimes it frustrates me.

For example. I made baked feta in tomato sauce. There’s a photo of it in this post. This photo does absolutely nothing to illustrate how delicious that baked feta was. What looks like a few unidentified bits and bobs floating in a pool of tomato sauce is, in reality, one of the most mouth-watering things I’ve made in quite some time. It’s a one-two-three salty sucker punch of feta, olives, and capers, tickled with Mediterranean seasonings and swaddled in tomato sauce. Feta is one of those cheeses that doesn’t really melt under heat, but holds its shape until prodded, then slumps into a creamy cloudlike mass. Bake it for a while, especially in a pungent tomato sauce base like this, and it’s perfect for smearing on crusty bread or crackers.

I got the idea for this from Emmy’s comment on my tomato sauce post. She mentioned it offhand, and gave no details. But it lodged itself in my head, and when the first of the year’s sheep’s milk feta came available at my local farmer’s market, I decided to give it a whirl. It’s an indulgence, this cheese–expensive, and worth every penny. I love the slight acrid muskiness it has, a clear reminder that it came from an animal. But really, any reasonably good-quality feta would do just fine here. It’s the salt and the lush texture that you want, muscling out from under the acid-sweet tomato sauce.

Just on its own, as a dip for bread or crackers, this is pretty phenomenal. But to make it a bit more of a substantial treat–say, for a Mother’s Day brunch–crack four eggs over the top before adding the shallot rings and oil. The egg yolks will set to a creamy, not-quite-runny consistency, and you can then mash the whole thing together with a fork or hunks of bread. I’m actually salivating just thinking about it.

baked feta in tomato sauce

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Baked tofu and vegetable egg rolls

Well. Seems like everything else this year, Christmas snuck up on me from behind, tapped me on the shoulder, and darted away. I was busy eating egg rolls. I hope that’s a good enough excuse.

To be honest, I needed these egg rolls. The past few days have been exhilarating, and overwhelming, and about three different kinds of emotional. Two of my dearest friends from college got married–to each other, no less–and so I spent the weekend in Virginia with our closest cadre of friends, drinking too much and staying up too late and feeling deeply, radiantly happy every time I looked into their faces. We’re all scattered across the country now, and when we all saw each other it was as if no time had passed. And yet. There are weddings now, and graduate degrees, and careers forming, and the slow realization that we’re settling into places and identities without each other. This process of cutting a path through the thicket of adulthood, knowing that I’m doing it so far away from many of the people I love, is starting to become very real.

So I came home and made egg rolls for Christmas. The recipe is an odd one, out of a stained and dog-eared old cookbook on my parents’ kitchen shelf, written by an American woman intent on introducing Chinese Buddhist vegetarian cooking to the masses. The filling is a cornstarch-thickened melange of carrot and celery and baked tofu, chunky and chewy and rather unlike any other egg roll I’ve ever had. My family has made these egg rolls, in one form or another, since I was a preteen, and so they taste familiar to me, and soothing, and comfortable. Now, on my own, I’ve adjusted the flavors in marginal ways, changing an ingredient or two to suit my tastes and compensating for errors in the original directions. But I haven’t strayed too far. In at least one aspect, I keep coming back to where I’ve been.

Belated Merry Christmas, everyone.

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