Smoked Salmon Snow Peas

Smokes Salmon Snow Peas

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Trader Joe’s? Roughly 3000 times you say? Well, brace yourself, here’s yet another reason why TJ’s is my favorite starving artist go-to. I love me some smoked salmon. In heaven I will eat a toasted bagel with cream cheese and lox every single day of eternity. Unfortunately, back in the mortal realm, smoked salmon is one of those pricey pay day items that requires a paycheck and some serious convincing. At least that’s what I thought until I discovered Trader Joe’s smoked sockeye salmon in a single pack for $4.99. At around 100 calories for the entire pack, it’s small enough to eat as the star of one’s dinner, but big enough that you could stretch it out for a tray of appetizers for a few friends.

For me I would just eat it straight from the package for an afternoon snack or throw it into some scrambled eggs for a light and protein-filled dinner. As an appetizer my default would be to reach for the Carr’s table water crackers, Philadelphia cream cheese, and capers… but I am far more conscious of my health these days and am always looking for ways to snack without too much danger (i.e. dairy and wheat). So, when I discovered that I had a bag of snow peas (also from TJ’s) in my fridge I thought, yes: crunch, flavor, nutrition, zero guilt, done. I simply took one or two peas and wrapped them in one of the thinly sliced pieces of fish. Cheap elegance. Now of course you very well could smear some cream cheese on these bad boys and no one would be upset. Or you could skip the cream cheese and dip them into soy sauce just like sushi…. or both…. mmmm….. And the good news is if you have more than a few friends to feed, it’s only $5 to buy a second pack. How could you go wrong? This is all yet more evidence that Trader Joe’s is likely a front for human trafficking or giant drug empire, but it’s so fantastic and affordable that we’re all just not questioning it.

Any other quick healthy snack ideas out there?

**Disclaimer: TJ’s is notorious for randomly not having items for indiscriminate spans of time (at least at the location near me). I’ve definitely gone for weeks without seeing the single, but it always comes back. The price may also go as high as $5.99 – still a bargain in my book.

More Ahi

Ahi_StirFryI get the feeling you’re all dying for more fresh ahi tuna. Well here it is. For the second of my two amazing tuna steaks, I decided to go even more simple and healthy. Behold, seared ahi with stir fried vegetables. In my wok I stir fried zucchini, then asparagus, then cremini mushrooms (removing each one to a bowl before adding the next). Once all were cooked to my liking, I returned all of them to the wok, added a pressed clove of garlic, a few squirts of Sriracha, and a generous helping of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (basically soy sauce that is gluten free and packed with protein).

If you read my last post, you know that I seared both steaks at the same time, used one right away, and kept another wrapped tightly in the fridge for later use. Both recipes I’ve shared would work equally well with either freshly cooked or chilled from the previous day. Totally up to you. I confess that in all actually these steaks could have easily been split up into four meals or at least shared with other friends…. however I just ate it all myself in two sittings. I mean, come on, how often does a starving artist get to enjoy himself like this? But I tell ya, now that I’ve done this once, I can’t wait to do it again with a group of friends. Especially those sandwiches.

One More Idea!!

So after I had already eaten the tuna as displayed in these two posts, I came up with another idea. If making sandwiches isn’t quite up your alley or you want to impress a dinner party with an amazing starter, try some ahi tuna lettuce wraps. Take your seared ahi steak (completely cooled) and mince it. Yes, chop it up really small. Place it in a bowl and toss with a pinch of kosher salt and a dash of sesame oil. Seal the bowl air tight and put it in the coldest part of your fridge for at least an hour. Meanwhile, get a head or two of iceburg lettuce, chop it in half, hollow it out so you’re left with a few layers of the big outside leaves (use what you removed for a salad later). Spice up 1/2 cup of soy sauce (or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos) with 1 tsp of prepared Wasabi in a tube (or powder, which ever your prefer). When you’re ready to eat, serve the ahi tuna in a bowl, super cold, with the lettuce leaves, spicy soy sauce, sesame seeds, and lemon on the side. Place about two tablespoons of the tuna in one of the lettuce leaves, top with the soy and the sesame seeds – an amazingly cool summer starter. Or, eat with some seaweed salad and miso soup from your favorite local sushi place for a light dinner. You will be so happy.

Also, if you’re feeling brave and/or you happen to get your hands on fresh Sushi grade tuna, skip the searing altogether and use completely raw tuna for this application. It’s amazing.

Hooray for pay day!

Pay Day Ahi

Ahi Avocado SandwichI know it’s common practice to associate “starving artist” with poverty. And rightfully so – I mean, they call it “starving” for a reason. This is no different for me, though, as you can see in this blog I am never *really* starving. And that’s because much of my life is spent being creatively frugal with what I find. But one of the things I love most about being a starving artist is that, every now and then, all the hard work and struggle pay off. The stars align, the paychecks roll in, and suddenly you find yourself with a bit of extra cash to spend. It’s a wonderful feeling. What’s even more wonderful is when you have enough cash to catch up on your bills and still have a bit left over to treat yourself to some divine cuisine.

July has found me in this very position and true to form, I have wasted no time in making a higher end food investment. Those of you who are loyal readers should be not at all surprised to find that it is seafood. One of my best friends, whether I’m rich or poor, is Costco, and one of the things that I’ve always looked longingly at is their fresh seafood counter. A bargain, yes, but still an initial investment beyond my normal budget… until a few days ago. I made two purchases. A beautiful large whole filet of wild caught sockeye salmon for $35. And a pack of two sizable fresh wild ahi tuna steaks for $20. Honestly, considering the purchase, these prices are a steal. Hefty, but not so much that I’m going to be totally broke and have nothing to do with it. And, what’s better, because there is so much, that means I have lots more to play with. Bargain AND multitasker? The starving artist’s dream.

For this post I’m focusing on the ahi. First, because I saw no point in freezing this gorgeous fish for later use, I decided instead to cook it right away and use it over the next few days in various ways. Cooking ahi is best kept simple – super super high heat, brush with a thin layer of olive oil, sear for two minutes on each side, done. No seasoning  (that comes later), no fuss, nice rare tuna with an even sear layer on all sides. Gorgeous.

Tonight I was inspired to make a sandwich. It turned out to be one of the best things ever created. The key? Simplicity. Above you see the fruits of my labor: seared ahi tuna sandwich with avocado and wasabi spread. Are you freaking out? You should be. Here’s the run down.

  • 2 slices of toasted Ezekiel bread (it’s flourless and low glycemic – try it)
  • 3 slices of ahi, cut against the grain, seasoned with kosher salt
  • sliced avocado, seasoned with kosher salt
  • 4-6 paper thin slices of cucumber (shave it with your vegetable peeler or use a food processor)
  • wasabi spread (1 tbs soy free veganaise, 1 tsp prepared wasabi, few drops soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, mix all ingredients thoroughly)

And that’s all there is, friends. Toast the bread, cover both slices with generous amounts of wasabi spread, layer on the tuna, the avocado, then the cucumber. Simple, elegant, and utterly divine. I won’t lie, I ate two of these, and also gave one to my roommate. It was so good that I felt he needed to experience it. And the best part? I still have another tuna steak!

Conquering Canned Salmon

Canned Salmon CakesIf you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you have more than once heard me sing my praise for Costco. It is both the starving artist’s best friend and worst enemy. My friend Joel coined the phrase in regards to Costco “go broke saving money.” And those of you who shop at Costco know exactly what I’m talking about – if you get out spending less than $75 it’s a miracle. Whenever I get a paycheck, it’s one of my first stops, which is dangerous… it’s hard enough showing restraint with no money, but with a full wallet, I spend at least $100 without breaking a sweat. Let’s be serious, this bitch can shop.

A few weeks ago I had one of these visits to Costco and, like I often do with some extra cash to spend, I made an impulse purchase on something new… a six pack of canned salmon. I know, I know, canned salmon?? Weeks previously I had been having a conversation at the fitness studio about protein and how canned salmon could be a good and inexpensive source (40 grams per can!). So, here I was at Costco, the place where everything is cheapest when bought in mass quantity. Time for some canned salmon. Fair warning, if you’re looking for the satisfaction of a fresh grilled filet of salmon, this is not the post for you. The starving artist has to make do.

My first attempt was to use this like I would use a can of good tuna or sardines: throw it into my salad. I opened the can, drained the liquid, and turned it onto a small plate. The can-shaped brick of dirty pink fish thwopped out onto the plate as if it was being birthed. Hmm. Not what I was hoping for. A quick taste revealed more disappointment: it tastes just like canned tuna. Not that I mind canned tuna, but, well, I was hoping for salmon. Yeah, this is going to need some starving artist pizzaz.

My next move? Salmon cake. Normally one will put in things like mayonnaise, bacon, bread crumbs… but I’m in bootcamp – those won’t fly. I must be exceptionally creative. So here’s what I did. Instead of mayo, I used soy-free veganaise, which I keep in my fridge nowadays. Obviously this is not a vegan recipe, so you can just use real mayo if you have it, but veganaise is what I have and makes me feel better. Also instead of breadcrumbs I used almond meal, which is really just almonds ground up into a powder. A gluten-free breading that you can get at Trader Joe’s for $3.99. The one exception I did make is using panko bread crumbs on the exterior for an unbeatable crunch. I normally use almond meal instead of bread crumbs to coat things, but for this particular recipe it really needed the panko.

I eat them just as pictured with a bit of hot sauce on them. Also great with homemade tzatziki sauce or the infamous secret sauce. You can top them with avocado, put them on a bun, or you can make them into balls and serve them as finger food at your next gathering. Just put out some store-bought remoulade for dipping. Mmm!’

Now, much like the ice cream post from yesterday, these should not be eaten every day. I ate these three days a row last week and stopped losing weight – not good! Have them once a week and you’ll be golden. Woohoo! I’m going to try for one or two more creations with this stuff… I’ll let you know what I come up with.

Almost Guiltless Salmon Cakes – Recipe PDF

Cool Smoked Salmon and Edamame Salad

So I had a bunch of ingredients left over from the salad I made earlier this week. It’s still no-cooking kind of weather, so I wanted to make another salad that could be served cool, but I didn’t want to make the same one – come on, where would be in the fun in that? One of my favorite activities in the kitchen is using leftover ingredients as inspiration for an entirely new dish. I know, I’m a nerd…

The first thing I considered was the fresh dill. Fresh dill makes me think of two things: Tzatziki sauce and salmon. Now I can already hear your chiding, unamused thoughts: how does the starving artist afford smoked salmon? It’s quite simple – I paid a visit to my dear friend Trader Joe. He sells a wonderful Sockeye Salmon in a two-serving pouch for only $4.99. Though I didn’t want or need to make tzatziki, I did have cucumbers in my fridge. One of my favorite combinations is smoked salmon and cream cheese (on a bagel), but I can’t very well toss a salad with cream cheese and retain any kind of self respect. Instead I felt like Greek yogurt would be a good substitute. It gives that same creaminess as cream cheese but with far more nutritional value. Besides, what a perfect match for cucumber and dill. Here’s the full list:

  • 1/2 large cucumber, diced finely
  • 1 cup of cooked and shelled edamame
  • 2 very thin slices of red onion
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped dill
  • 2 scoops of Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 oz smoked salmon
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Basically I tossed together the cucumber, edamame, onion, and dill, seasoned liberally with salt and pepper. Then I tossed in the yogurt, olive oil, and lemon, and stirred it to combine. Fold in your salmon at the end and voila. A gorgeous and satisfying summer salad.

Now if you happen to be on a pay day (or if you’re not a starving artist), using a fresh grilled filet of salmon would be outstanding. I also thought that topping it with some salmon roe would be really elegant, but let’s not kid ourselves, I will not be in possession of salmon roe for quite some time.

Happy Friday!