8.04.2012

Thou Shalt Not Judge

That should be the first culinary commandment. A can of cream of mushroom soup in a recipe? Frozen vegetables? A tin of French-fried onions? Mac-and-cheese-three-for-a-dollar? Making dinner in the microwave? Don't judge. Everyone has their reasons for doing what they do, and cooking whatever they eat.

I grew up with a mother who had to feed four hungry boys and a husband nightly. Occasionally, she cut corners by using prepared foods. It saved an incredible amount of her time and energy and, to be honest, the food tasted great to a growing kid. Two of my favorites from childhood are her incredible Meat Ball Casserole and Spicy Meat Ball Soup. Without Campbell's soups, these recipes would not exist.

I don't use prepared foods when I cook because I like to whole process of cooking, I have ample time, and I do NOT have four (or any) children. I do use canned tomatoes and prepared Dijon mustard but, in general, make most of my condiments: Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, some mustard, hot sauces, and definitely mayonnaise. As for cooking methods, the one method I employ, that gets a lot of criticism, is using a microwave to make a meal and not simply to reheat last evening's fare. That is one thing I do. Please, don't judge me.


I know there are many purists out there who think there are dangers to microwave cooking, or that the microwave is for heating and defrosting only, or that food can't possibly have intense and wonderful flavors/textures if it comes out of the microwave. I beg to differ.

Back about 20 years ago, my friend Bunny introduced me to Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet, a thick and heavy tome teaching one how to cook anything in a microwave. It has, many times, saved me. Homemade mango chutney, perfect bacon, and almost every variety of vegetable were all made - and made well - in a microwave. (I love this book and, in fact, just gave it to another friend, Heather, who was seeking microwave recipes.)

Then, when Mark and I took an Indian cooking class at the adult education program in Kittery, Maine, the teachers - an Indian couple - passed around several books. I copied a recipe from one on microwave Indian cooking. I believe it was by Julie Sahni (as she does have a cookbook of this ilk on the shelves) but I can't be sure.

The recipe was for Indian salmon. I am a big salmon fan and (again, don't judge me) I actually prefer the fatty, soft flavor of Atlantic salmon, even though I should prefer (and often use) wild-caught Pacific salmon.

This recipe - which I have also made using a conventional skillet-oven method (but it isn't as good!) - is amazing. It is an especially welcome recipe when the temperatures outside are nearing 105°F (45.5°C) and the last thing you want to do is turn on an oven. Plus your rice cooker also keeps the kitchen cool. Regardless of the weather or time of year, it has become one of our favorite preparations for salmon.

In the recipe, I call for a jalapeño pepper, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Today, when I made it, I used four small Thai chile peppers, but have used habañeros, jalapeños and serranos, all with good - yet slightly different - results.

Also, the photos show cooking for two servings and the recipe is for four. It can be doubled or halved, but the cooking times need to change. Rather than add the timings in parentheses (which could get confusing), I will simply repeat the recipe three times, with three timings and three lists of ingredients.

खाने का आनन्द लें (Bon appétit in Hindi)

- David

Indian Salmon (for 4)

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoons ground cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 6-ounce portions salmon filet, skin removed
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced onion
1 or 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon julienne of fresh ginger root
1 1/4 cups light coconut milk
jasmine rice for serving

Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, turmeric and salt in a small bowl. Coat salmon pieces - tops, bottoms and sides - with the spice mixture and rub gently into the flesh. Let sit at cool room temperature for 15 minutes.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a 10-inch by 12-inch microwave-safe dish for 3 minutes. Add salmon filets, skinned-side up, and microwave on high for 1 minute. Turn and microwave an additional 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining tablespoon oil along with the onions, pepper and ginger; stir to coat vegetables. Microwave at high for 4 minutes, stirring once at midpoint. Add coconut milk and cook 2 minutes.

Return salmon filets to the dish, skinned-side down, and cook at high for 3-4 minutes. Spoon sauce onto the serving plate and top with salmon.

Jasmine rice, a chutney and some raita make perfect accompaniments.

Serves 4.

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Indian Salmon (for 2)

3/4 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoons ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 6-ounce portions salmon filet, skin removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup thinly sliced onion
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 tablespoon julienne of fresh ginger root
3/4 cups light coconut milk
jasmine rice for serving

Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, turmeric and salt in a small bowl. Coat salmon pieces - tops, bottoms and sides - with the spice mixture and rub gently into the flesh. Let sit at cool room temperature for 15 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 9-inch microwave-safe pie plate for 2 minutes. Add salmon filets, skinned-side up, and microwave on high for 40 seconds. Turn and microwave an additional 40 seconds. Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil along with the onions, pepper and ginger; stir to coat vegetables. Microwave at high for 3 minutes, stirring once at midpoint. Add coconut milk and cook 1 1/2 minutes.

Return salmon filets to the dish, skinned-side down, and cook at high for 2-3 minutes. Spoon sauce onto the serving plate and top with salmon.

Jasmine rice, a chutney and some raita make perfect accompaniments.

Serves 2.

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Indian Salmon (for 8)

3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cayenne
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 6-ounce portions salmon filet, skin removed
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons julienne of fresh ginger root
2 1/2 cups light coconut milk
jasmine rice for serving

Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, turmeric and salt in a small bowl. Coat salmon pieces - tops, bottoms and sides - with the spice mixture and rub gently into the flesh. Let sit at cool room temperature for 15 minutes.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch by 14-inch microwave-safe dish for 4 minutes. Add salmon filets, skinned-side up, and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Turn and microwave an additional 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil along with the onions, pepper and ginger; stir to coat vegetables. Microwave at high for 6 minutes, stirring once at midpoint. Add coconut milk and cook 3 minutes.

Return salmon filets to the dish, skinned-side down, and cook at high for 4 minutes. Spoon sauce onto the serving plate and top with salmon.

Jasmine rice, a chutney and some raita make perfect accompaniments.

Serves 8.

10 comments:

  1. This looks like a must try. Thanks for the serving options!

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  2. Jill - I think you will really love it! Very easy and so tasty...

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  3. That looks very tasty, and I happen to have salmon in the fridge.

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  4. I can see how this recipe could cause controversy in many kitchens. The microwave in my household is only ever used for heating and defrosting and I never even considered cooking fish in there. I can see by the list of spice ingredients how delicious the flavours would be but I guess the only thing I'd miss would be the slightly crispiness you get from pan cooking. Using the microwave is almost like steaming I suppose. I think I need to try this!

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  5. I am a BIG fan of the microwave - my jam making has gotten far easier (and less messy) because of it too. Plus I can spend more time eating the jam and less scraping the splatter off my stove! And I can't remember the last time I actually FRIED a piece of bacon!

    This looks like a lovely meal, and will definitely be added to my list. Another great post David!

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  6. Susan - whenever we have this dish, we always think of you and how we would love to make it for you one day.

    John - I know what you mean about missing the crispiness but, as Indian cooking often forgoes the crispy texture in its fish and lamb curries, I don't miss it at all.

    Karin - I have never made jam in the microwave but might have to call on you for some recipes.I have, on the other hand, made chutney, apple butter and other condiments in there!

    Thanks, all, for reading!

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  7. In my opinion the whole idea of food related activities is doing whatever interests you. There´s no right or wrong (of course there are exceptions as always)but it should be a pleasurable experience, and that means whatever works for you. With such hot weather you managed to eat a great meal! I love the idea of jalapeño pepper... recipe? This time I checked your recipes but couldn´t find it. Campbell´s cream of mushroon soup in meatloaf, that´s the recipe that haunted me for years!

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  8. Thanks, Paula! I agree - we can all make our own rules to suit! The jalapeño isn't a recipe but a choice of the peppers in the salmon. I do love using them in lots of things, though. Someday, maybe you will get my Mom's meat ball casserole or her spicy meat ball soup - both thanks to Mr. Campbell!

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  9. No judgement from me whatsoever! I am very impressed that you can turn a meal out like this from a microwave. I would never have thought it would be possible. You have made me look at my microwave in a new light!

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  10. Anna - I think the microwave is a great friend. I had my first "real cooking" experience with one in Paris when friends made a succulent pork loin in theirs. I was blow away!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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