Asian Sesame Mashed Potatoes

I promise these are real mashed potatoes. They aren’t secretly pumpkin cupcakes or some bizarre looking vanilla cotton candy. It’s April 24th, not April 1st. There is, however, a surprise to these mashed potatoes. They don’t taste like any mashed potatoes you have ever had the pleasure of tasting. Sometimes expanding our tastebuds into unfamiliar territories is a good thing. This is one of those times.

When contemplating what to serve with Tuesday’s pacific halibut foil packets with shiitakes and snap peas I could only think of my two asian food standbys:  rice and noodles. Both seemed like fine, but very boring, options for a dish with a light and thin sauce. There was one comment on the original recipe that mentioned serving it with mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes and asian cuisine? It certainly seemed like an odd combination so of course I knew I had to try it.

The humble potato is pretty bland on its own and tends to take on whatever flavor profile it is intertwined with, usually butter, milk and salt for the purpose of mashed potatoes. Mimicking some of the asian flavors in the fish dish would, hopefully, provide the perfect complement. And it did! Success! These mashed potatoes were so uniquely tasty and I can’t wait to serve them with stir-fries, sesame chicken or even to jazz up a meal of simple grilled chicken.

I kept the side dish as healthy as one can when we’re talking about mashed potatoes by substituting Greek yogurt for the usual milk or cream. The potatoes are creamy with a strong nuttiness from the toasted sesame oil. Give it a shot and let your tastebuds venture into delicious unfamiliar territory.

Asian Sesame Mashed Potatoes
 
Yield: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
  • 4 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Directions
  1. Boil the potatoes in a large saucepan for 30 minutes, or until they are very tender. Drain the potatoes using a colander then place the cooked potatoes back in the pot.
  2. Mash the potatoes very well then add the Greek yogurt, butter, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Mash again until the potatoes are well mixed and fluffy. Adjust sesame oil, salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds on top and serve hot.

Recipe slightly adapted from myrecipes.

Pacific Halibut Foil Packets with Shiitakes & Snap Peas

Today is Earth Day! While I was brainstorming how Lemon & Mocha would celebrate Earth Day I determined that as delicious as cookies made to look like our green and blue planet might be they wouldn’t really capture the spirit of this environmental holiday. So, as cheesy as it sounds, I decided to make and share something that will have a minor impact on our environment. Certainly a very teeny minor impact, but an impact nonetheless.

It is rare that I cook fish in our house, mostly due to cost and Matt’s unfortunate high school homecoming incident with a salmon-scented outfit, but that’s a story for another day. Since I do not purchase much seafood I had never given the information about trying to purchase sustainable seafood much thought. When Matt and I were in Seattle last year we went on a food tour during which one segment the famous “fish guys” at Pike Place Market talked to the group about the importance of sustainable seafood.

Not all seafood is created equal. There are some seafood that are sourced from oceans or farms in a way that is negatively impacting the ecosystem and is not a viable long-term method for obtaining that seafood. By contrast, seafood that has been deemed sustainable is coming from sources that are not harming the seafood’s environment and they have the ability to maintain or even increase production of the seafood.

Would I want to live in a world where I couldn’t have a fresh rainbow roll, grilled salmon or shrimp scampi? No thank you! Not to mention the disastrous effect it could have on the surrounding ecosystems if more seafood were to become extinct. Now I’m not suggesting we all write letters to unsustainable fish farms and boycott restaurants that aren’t serving sustainable seafood. But if, as consumers, we all made some easy swaps during our weekly grocery trips from an overfished seafood to a good sustainable option then our individual very teeny minor impacts would grow into much stronger impacts.

You can discover what are the best sustainable seafood options for your region using these handy printable sustainable guides published by Seafood Watch.

Pacific Halibut Foil Packets with Shiitakes & Snap Peas
 
Yield: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 4-ounce skinless pacific halibut fillets, or whatever light fish is sustainable for your region
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 6 thin lemon slices
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 ounces sugar snap peas, strings removed and sliced on the diagonal about three or four times each.
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Tear off two large pieces of tin foil that will easily encase each fillet of fish. If you aren’t using non-stick foil, lightly spray the foil with cooking spray before laying down the piece of fish. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Spread 1 tablespoon of butter onto each fillet then top each fillet with three slices of lemon. Turn in the sides of the foil then close the top before tightly sealing it into a little foil packet. Place the foil packets on a baking dish and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.
  3. Meanwhile heat the remaining two tablespoons of butter over medium heat, swirling frequently, until it turns golden brown in color, about 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add the sliced peas, as well as 1 tablespoon of water, and cook for about 4 minutes. The peas should be bright green.
  5. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, then add the toasted sesame seeds.
  6. To serve, lay the halibut fillets on a serving dish or individual plates, top with some of the liquid from the foil packet, then top with the shiitake and pea stir-fry.

Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking.

Pumpkin Risotto with Roast Asparagus

As excited as I am for the light and fresh ingredients of spring, I will definitely miss the cozy meals and rich flavors of winter. I decided to create a dish that would be a farewell to winter, as well as a welcoming hello to spring, if it ever decides to show itself up here in New England.

This pumpkin risotto with roast asparagus is creamy, robust and bright. The pumpkin flavor makes an appearance without overpowering the dish and the crisp asparagus complements the texture of the risotto. Now I’m about to get all product placement on you, but you’re used to my obsessive ravings by now. It is duly noted and acknowledged that I have an outrageous infatuation with food that has blessed me the ability to spout for hours about the topic. It is not limited to ingredients and meals, but also extends to restaurants, cooking methods, food science and news, appliances, food trucks, tableware and the occasional Costco sample discussion.

One of my absolute favorite appliances, courtesy of my stepmom, is my Breville Risotto Plus. What is this contraption you ask? Well the real question is, what isn’t it? Well actually it’s not a lot of things because an appliance can only be so many things out of the realm of all things, so lets stick to the original question.

This beauty is a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, saute-er and a risotto maker. You can cook brown rice while your broccoli is steaming. You can saute onions and garlic for a slow cooker meal without getting a second pan dirty. You can make risotto without constantly adding liquid and stirring. I’ll let that soak in for a second.

So Risotto Plus or no Risotto Plus, you should make this creamy risotto today and experience the flavors of winter and spring coming together.

Pumpkin Risotto with Roast Asparagus
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1¾ cups Aborio (risotto rice)
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 3 cups hot vegetable stock
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup fresh grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. reheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat melt the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until hot. Add the shallots and crushed garlic. Cook until the shallots have softened, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes. Stir in the white wine, cover and let simmer until the wine has mostly been absorbed, about 5-6 minutes.
  4. Stir in 1 cup of the hot vegetable stock and let simmer until the liquid is mostly absorbed, stirring frequently. Repeat with the second and third cups of hot vegetable stock. When the third cup has been mostly, but not completely absorbed by the rice, stir in the pumpkin puree. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted then season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. While the risotto is cooking, roast the asparagus. Remove the thick ends of the asparagus, cutting or snapping the bottom inch or two off each spear. Lay the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with the other tablespoon of olive, then season with salt, pepper, and the Italian seasoning. Roast until the asparagus are tender, yet still firm, about 10 minutes. Cut each spear into thirds or fourths, depending on the length, for serving.
  6. To serve, top each bowl of risotto with some cut asparagus spears and freshly grated Parmesan.
Notes
*If you are using the Breville Risotto Plus, follow these simple changes. Instead of sautéing the shallots and garlics in a large pot, sauté them in the Risotto Plus on the sauté setting. Then, don’t complete step 4. Instead, after the wine has been absorbed, stir in the vegetable stock, which does not have to be hot, and the pumpkin puree. Cover with the lid and turn the risotto setting on. When it switches to warm, about 20-30 minutes later, stir in the Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper to taste, then continue onto step 5.
*Use whatever white wine you have on hand for the recipe. I usually recommend to not use your best white wine, but still one that you wouldn’t mind drinking a glass of.

Recipe adapted from the manual for the Breville Risotto Plus.

Crispy Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Asparagus has always been one of my favorite vegetables, even when I was a picky little kid. Everyone always loves the tops, which for some reason are my least favorite part. My dad doesn’t like the stems so sometimes we swap. Just like how Matt’s favorite Starburst are the red and orange, while mine are the yellow and pink. You can’t force these things. Only fate can cause the food stars to perfectly align.

My favorite way to cook asparagus is to roast them. It is incredibly simple and I am all about ease of preparation, especially on weeknights, but more importantly roast asparagus are delicious. They are tender, yet crunchy, have a slight char, and they soak up all the flavor from the olive oil and seasonings.

You might be nodding your head and thinking, “Yeah, roast asparagus are the best! They are so tasty there’s nothing in the world that could make them taste even more awesome!” But, my friends, you need to go one step further.

Prosciutto. Salty, delicate prosciutto makes everything better. Especially when it’s blanketing a spear of roast asparagus. I’ve had prosciutto wrapped asparagus a variety of ways, but I’m really digging this crispy version. The prosciutto is wrapped on the raw asparagus before being broiled to crispy perfection.

Served warm or cold, these are right on par for your next gathering this spring. Easy to make and so tasty everyone will be fighting over vegetables. What’s better than that?

Crispy Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Place an oven rack about 5-6 inches below the heating element then preheat the oven to broil.
  2. Lay the asparagus on a baking sheet then toss with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Wrap each stalk of asparagus with a slice of prosciutto. Take 1 piece of prosciutto and wrap it tightly around the asparagus stalk in an upward spiral starting at the bottom of the stalk. Repeat for the rest of the asparagus.
  4. Spread the wrapped asparagus out on the baking sheet so that none of them are touching each other. Broil the asparagus for 3 minutes, flip the asparagus, then broil for 3 more minutes. The prosciutto should be crisped and lightly browned.

Recipe from CHOW.

Pineapple Bread Pudding

This past Thanksgiving there was a baked spiral ham that was served with pineapple bread pudding. At first I was nervous as I’ve always had bread pudding exclusively as a dessert. Two servings later I was completely hooked.

Bread pudding as a side dish? Sure it sounds strange, but one bite and you will be saying, “I can’t believe I ever ate baked ham without this!” Except it will sound like, “Om nom nom nom,” because when something is this delicious you don’t have time for things like manners and not talking with your mouth full. But try to keep it classy, you don’t want grandma giving you the stink eye at the dinner table.

This is the best recipe I have made in a while and I make a lot of recipes. As a lover of sweetness, carbs and all things delicious this pineapple bread pudding was right up my alley. I chose to use challah bread for this recipe because there is a richness and subtle sweetness about challah bread that is a result of its higher egg and butter content, which stands up perfectly with the pineapple.

I am at a loss as to how else to describe this amazing dish because just thinking about this pineapple bread pudding is making my head cloudy with desire. So lets just get right to it.

I could eat the entire baking dish of this bread pudding. I can’t think of anything I would rather eat with baked ham. I think it also might be good as dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Go make this now.

Pineapple Bread Pudding
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ loaf challah bread, about 5 thick slices
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Cube the challah bread into 1” pieces. You should have enough pieces to fill a 9” x 9” baking dish. Place the bread in a large bowl and let sit uncovered for at least an hour. You want the bread to get a little stale so that it stays firm when you add the liquid.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly spray a 2 quart baking dish and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and then combine with the can of crushed pineapple, melted butter and sugar. Once combined carefully mix in the bread cubes until coated. Spoon the entire contents of the bowl into the prepared baking dish.
  4. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown.

Recipe from All Recipes.