katsu salad
Have you ever gone to a Japanese restaurant and ordered chicken katsu?  It usually comes with a small salad topped with a sweet, creamy dressing.  What I’ve done here, you see, is put the chicken directly on the salad, and then taken some liberties with the ingredients.  The end result is a sophisticated main-course salad suitable for a fork or chopsticks.

Makes: 2 people get up and gyoza
Total kitchen time: 45 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 1-2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 1/3 cups green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 1/3 cups red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup muscat grapes, halved (These are very sweet grapes.  If you can’t find muscat, use the next sweetest grape you can find)
  • 1 Asian pear, peeled and cut into sticks
  • 2 tbsp. slivered almonds
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F and set the top rack in the bottom third of the oven.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, if you’ve got some available.  This won’t make the food taste better, but it will make cleanup that much sweeter.
  2. Place the chicken breasts between two large layers of plastic wrap.  Using a mallet or the bottom of a heavy skillet, pound the breasts out flat.  Salt and pepper the chicken breasts generously on both sides.
  3. Beat the egg in a small bowl.  Then, lightly coat each chicken breast with the beaten egg, again on both sides.  Sprinkle the panko flakes over the breasts – you guessed it – on both sides.  Arrange the breasts on your parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving lots of room in between.
  4. Bake the chicken breasts at 400°F for 25 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the breast reads 165°F.  Transfer to a cutting board and slice into 1/2″ pieces.
  5. Meanwhile, toss the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl.  When the chicken is ready, plate the salad first, then top with the chicken.  Finally, drizzle over a generous amount of the honey-ginger dressing (recipe follows).

Honey-ginger dressing:

  • 4 tbsp. real mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp. peanut oil (or sesame oil)
  • 2 tbsp. mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 1 tbsp. blue agave nectar (substitute with honey)
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 2 drops red chili oil
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small food processor, or whisk by hand if the power is out at your house.  Check the taste and adjust with salt and agave nectar as needed.  The final dressing should be sweet but mild.

Wow, I feel healthier already.  A salad with baked chicken breasts?  This could totally have been a 90’s fad diet, combining the allure of Japanese health-cuisine with the American penchant for crispy chicken.  Next time your belt doesn’t fit, or your cell phone won’t play back HD video, try out this recipe.

Reading time: 2 min

Salmon fish sticks 
What’s better than fish sticks?  These are, my friend.  As a proud Pacific Northwest resident, I feel like an ambassador of salmon, the mighty pink fish of Puget Sound.  So, I proudly present salmon as you’ve never had it before.  The flavorful, crisp batter turns this magnificent fish into the finger food of your dreams. 

Total kitchen time: 1 hr
Makes: 2 people swim upstream for more

Shopping list:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. center-cut salmon fillet, skin removed
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 cranks  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup light beer
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 qt. safflower oil (or vegetable oil) for frying
  1. Slice the salmon fillet against the grain to form sticks, about 1″ square by 5″ long.  Pat the sticks dry thoroughly with paper towels.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, paprika, baking soda, thyme, salt and pepper.  Add the beer and stir until the mixture forms a sticky paste.
  3. Spread the panko flakes in an even layer on a plate.  Then, carefully dip each salmon stick into the batter, wiping off the excess.  Roll the sticks in the panko to coat and set aside.  You want to be very delicate as you handle the fish because it will have a tendency to break apart easily.
  4. Heat the oil to 350°F in a large, heavy bottomed skillet.  Make sure you have enough oil to cover about1.5″.  Add the fish sticks, no more than 3 at a time, and fry until golden.  You’ll want to turn the fish once during the frying to ensure that it is cooking evenly.  It should only take about 1 minute or so per side for nicely done fish.  Set the fried fish sticks on a stack of paper towels to drain. 

For the dippin’ sauce:

  • 1 tbsp. pimentos (and about 1/2 tsp. of the liquid they’re stored in)
  • 1 tbsp. capers
  • 4 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse for 20 seconds or until roughly combined.

For the slaw:

  • 1 cup red cabbage, finely shaved
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp. champagne vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the outside layer of the carrot and discard.  Then, peel the inner flesh of the carrot into long, thin strips.  Coarsely chop the strips to about 3″ in length.
  2. Combine the carrot shavings and remaining ingredients in a large bowl.

Allow me to reiterate how awesome this meal is.  If you are cooking for children, this is your ticket to Salmonville.  Enjoy the trip, and remember to write!

Reading time: 2 min

Cake edge 
My sister just passed a landmark birthday and her gift request from me was a hand-made peanut-butter-cup cake.  She is crazy for peanut butter, but scaling up a Reese’s to feed 20 people was a bit of a challenge.  I’m not much of a baker (and my penmanship sucks) so Rachel helped me out a lot with this cake.  Mad props to her, yo.  By the time we were done, it looked like a buttercream grenade had gone off in the kitchen and my hand mixer smelled like burning.  But, everyone loved this cake, so something must have gone right.

cake slice

Reading time: 4 min
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