Posts Tagged ‘dinner’

Growing up half Vietnamese and half Chinese, many family dinners revolved around fish and vegetable dishes straight from the motherland.  Mom’s creations were always simple, fresh and super delicious.  She never had a recipe for any of them.  Not one.  They were all passed down through word of mouth and simple observation from my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and all previous generations before them.  One of my all-time favorite dishes involved the steaming of catfish, with a sauce for dipping that was good enough to drink.

I remember years ago, while living in Chicago, I had dinner at a very popular, so-called “upscale French-Vietnamese restaurant”.  I was already rather skeptical (and quite disturbed) upon entering what appeared to be a Hollywood set of Casablanca.  All the diners even looked like actors pretending to eat.  Perusing through the menu, I spotted their steamed fish and decided to give it a try.  Besides being served on a small banana leaf, it tasted almost exactly the same as Mom’s.  From that evening on, I knew what the term “French-Vietnamese restaurant” really meant.  It meant being able to charge $40 for a dish that could be made for less than $10.

It was a good lesson learned.  I still love steamed fish, and in particular, steamed halibut.  And, I love my handy, dandy steamer.  I truly couldn’t live without it.  In less than 10 minutes flat, the fish is perfectly cooked and a healthy, delicious dinner is on the table.  Thanks, Mom!


Steamed Halibut
Kiss My Spatula’s version of her Mom’s steamed catfish

Feel free to substitute the halibut for any flaky, white fish such as red snapper, catfish, cod or sea bass.

Music Pairing: Old Friends, Simon and Garfunkel, The Concert in Central Park


  • 2 halibut steaks, 1-inch thick, skin removed (about 1 pound total)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp thinly sliced ginger (more, if you are a ginger lover like me)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • handful of chopped cilantro


Add 2-3 inches of water to the bottom of a steamer and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, place halibut steaks on a plate that fits inside the steamer.  Lightly salt and pepper steaks.  Combine soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper in a small bowl.  Spoon sauce over halibut steaks.  Get every last bit.  Top with ginger and 1/2 of the scallions.  Steam for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness of halibut steak.  Check water level occasionally during cooking to ensure steaming water does not evaporate fully.  Add more boiling water if needed.  Remove from steamer and top with reserved scallions and cilantro.  Serve immediately with rice and a side of stir fried vegetables.


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Fish Tacos

Taquerías in the middle of Ireland?  Nada.  The first time my Irishman had a taste of fish tacos was during a trip we took together to Mexico in 2002.  Ever since then, fish tacos are never too far from his mind.  He has an uncanny ability to sniff out the nearest taquería from miles away.  Literally.  It’s pretty scary.  Though, I’m not entirely convinced it really has anything to do with the tacos themselves.  I suspect it’s more the supporting cast members that drive his constant craving.  The chips.  The salsa.  The guacamole.  The sour cream.  And of course, The Cerveza.


I don’t mind really.  Actually, I don’t mind at all.  There are just some nights when the primary focus is on minimum cooking and more importantly, minimum washing up.  Fish tacos do the trick every time.  Like the Caprese, this is another dish that only requires mainly assembly and chopping skills.  YES!  Just grab a piece of your favorite fish (prawns work great too), grill it up and pile on your favorite taco toppings.  Organic black beans, fresh avocado, red onions, vine tomatoes, cilantro and a squeeze of lime are always in the mix for us.  In less than 15 minutes, it’s 2002, and we’re back in Mey-hee-ko.


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Elephants have earned the reputation of being the smartest kid in class. This intelligence is linked mostly with their ability to never forget (though I’m convinced part of the reason is just because, well, they’re cute…damn cute)!

Salmon, on the other hand, are not quite as cute. However, the memory of salmon is nothing short of remarkable. Salmon are born in fresh water streams, swim to the ocean where they stay for 2-5 years, and then swim back to the exact same stream in which they were born to lay their own eggs.

Is that unbelievable or what? That’s like me trying to get back to the village in Vietnam where I was born, on foot and without a map!

So, yes, salmon are smart little suckers. More importantly, they are tast-teeee! We all know the health benefits of this super-food, but what is most appealing is how quickly and in how many ways it can be prepared – raw, smoked, grilled, baked, broiled, steamed, seared – all with lip smacking results. Admittedly, I’m pretty spoiled living in the Pacific Northwest, being so close to the source. This wild Pacific salmon nearly lept into my arms at the market it was so fresh, so I had no choice but to take it home.


Pan Seared Wild Salmon with Mustard-Caper Butter and Wilted Spinach
Tweaked from Martha Stewart Living, Dec 2006, serves 2

Watch the oven carefully and set a timer. It may get a little smoky with the high heat, plus you do not want to overcook the salmon. It happens faster than you think. I usually like to take it out a minute before recipes indicate since I like it more rare than not.

Also, after learning this technique from Barefoot Contessa, it’s the only way to pan sear. Finishing off the salmon in the oven makes for a restaurant quality cooked piece of fish. Just remember – do not move the fillets – you will be very tempted, but don’t do it. Leaving them alone allows for the nice crust to form in order for you to flip them over. If you move them – trust me, you’ll have a fishy, sticky, mess on your hands.

Music Pairing: Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, Radiohead, In Rainbows


  • 2 center-cut wild salmon fillets (7 to 8 ounces each), skin removed
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Vegetable oil


  • 8 ounces baby or regular spinach
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

mustard-caper butter:

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp drained capers, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tsp coarsely chopped fresh dill or parsley
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon, plus thin slices for garnish
  • Freshly ground pepper

for salmon:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rub both sides of salmon fillets with olive oil and season tops very liberally with salt and pepper. Heat a dry oven-proof saute pan over high heat for 2-3 minutes. When the pan is very hot, lower heat to medium and place the salmon fillets seasoning-sides down in the pan and cook without moving them for 2 minutes, until very browned. Turn the fillets and place the pan in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes, until the salmon is cooked rare.

for spinach:

While salmon is in the oven, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add red onions, cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes. Raise heat to medium-high. Add half the spinach, and cook, stirring until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add remaining spinach, and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes more. Stir in salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

for mustard-caper butter:
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir to blend. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Place spinach in center of plate and top with salmon fillet. Spread some mustard-caper butter on salmon and garnish with lemon slices. Serve immediately.


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