Friday, March 18, 2011

Wait... low-carb can be... Tasty?!?

We did it. As of Wednesday a.m., we have cut out the bad white stuff (flour, potatoes, sugar- all the goodies). I am determined that we will not spend our meals eating the usual grilled protein and salads. 
As luck would have it, a couple of weeks ago, we managed to get a bag full of really great fresh fish from our buddy Lenny at Northshore seafood . If you are in the greater Lafayette area, he is the man to go to- he gets the fish flash frozen on ships in Alaska and shipped pretty much overnight. Great selection and reasonable prices. 

So I'm staring into the freezer, in search of inspiration, and I spot the salmon fillets. My initial thought- toss a spice rub on it and grill it. But NO- I will not get bored with this diet before it even begins. I take the salmon upstairs and explore the pantry. I have some diced tomatoes with basil and garlic... hmmm. 

Now as a quick side note, if you are one of the few people that have not heard- canned tomatoes are no longer a stigmatized product. Granted, you want a good quality canned tomato with minimum added sodium. But overall, they are usually canned when ripe, and taste more...tomatoe-y than any you might be getting at the market (depending on where you live). 
When it comes to my flavor profiles, I typically prefer Italian cooking. Southern Italian cooking typically includes tomatoes, peppers, olives and olive oil, garlic, artichokes, oranges, ricotta cheese, eggplants, zucchini, certain types of fish, and capers. A quick tomato sauce made with diced or stewed canned tomatoes, garlic, wine, and fresh herbs is always a go-to recipe to go with many different kinds of meat or just tossed over pasta.

For this particular recipe, I chose to use a fair amount of Southern Italian ingredients, along with onions and white wine, to poach the salmon:  
The Salmon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small-medium onion (mine was approx 3" in diameter), sliced into thin rings
2 cloves garlic, diced finely
Approx 2 tbsp capers
1 can diced tomatoes (whatever variety you have on hand)
zest of about half of a lemon
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice
Thyme (fresh if you have it- otherwise dried would be fine)
White wine- approx 1/3-1/2 cup
1/4 cup hot water
2 salmon fillets (approx 4 oz each)
S&P to taste

Give the pan a good go 'round of olive oil- maybe 1-2 tbsp. It should be just enough to coat the pan. Slice the onions- a mandolin is ideal for this task. Toss them in the pan at medium- medium high heat and cook for about 5 mins to get them softened. Add the garlic and let them hang out for a couple of minutes at the same temp.Drain the capers and add them to the pan (you can add more or less depending on how much you like capers. I reallllly like capers.) Let them kind of fry a bit with the onions and garlic.
Add the tomatoes, thyme, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Let everything cook together for about 10 mins at medium heat. You want the flavors to blend, but not for the sauce to completely reduce- if it gets to dry, add a little bit of water.

After about 10 mins, add the wine- I took about 2 good circles of the pan with the bottle. I think it was somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 cup- and the water. Stir and then place the filets in the pan- skin side down if the skin is still on. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes. This depends on the thickness and size of your filets. You will want the fish to be slightly firm to the touch and to flake away with a fork.  
When I used to cook salmon, I thought the white stuff on top looked gross and I also thought maybe I had done something wrong to make it look like that. I have since been educated by my local fishmonger that this white stuff has to do with the super healthy Omega 3 fats coming out of the fish as it cooks. So there ya go. Knowledge.
The finished product

Egg Slut salad with bacon
I recently saw an episode of Top Chef All Stars with Wylie Dufresne where he was called an "egg slut". I did not know this was a real term, but I am glad to know that my condition has an actual name. You can take a fried or poached egg and put it on top if just about anything and I will love it. I only recently started putting poached eggs on top of salads and I am already a huuuuge fan.

For this recipe, I tossed together some butter lettuce, tomatoes, and...bacon. Don't judge, it's low-carb...I used 2 1/2 slices chopped up. I'm pretty sure I made 3, but Matt claims no knowledge of the missing bacon half. 
The dressing was super simple- I set aside a pinch of the garlic I chopped before tossing it into the salmon recipe. I added 1 tbsp red wine vinegar and 1 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard. I then whisked in just under 1/3 cup of EVOO, tossed in some S&P and voila. It's a good, thick dressing that will stick to your ingredients nicely.
Now, let's talk about poaching eggs. I am still a newbie, but I have gathered a few tips that have helped me out in this area and I would like to share:

1. Make sure your water is lightly bubbling, not boiling. A full boil will tear your egg to shreds.Egg drop soup, anyone?
2. When the water is ready, add just a little white vinegar- I have also used white wine vinegar. This helps bind the egg together.
3. Right before you put  the egg in, use a spoon to make a small whirlpool in the middle of the water. This will make the egg white wrap nicely around the yolk when you put it in.
4. Put your egg into a small bowl and slide it in, rather than just dropping straight from the shell.
5. I have found somewhere between 2-3 minutes to be the perfect time- it depends on how well the egg holds together and your starting water temp.

There can be an odd problem where, instead of going in as a whole, the white goes in and the yolk follows (or vice versa). Here is the outcome: I call it "decomposed salad with bacon and egg". It's very "in" right now.
When all was said and done, I still had a decent amount of sauce left. I flashed back to recipes for baked eggs with tomatoes that I had always glossed over because they seemed like entirely too much trouble for a weekday morning meal... but now I pretty much had the prep done, so I figured what the hell.


Leftover tomato sauce
3 eggs
shredded cheese of your choice
Ramekins or some kind of individual baking dish

I didn't even think of it until just now as I am writing this up, but I did not spray or butter the ramekins. You may want to toss a quick shot of Pam in them before beginning- I did not have much of a problem, but it would probably make for easier clean up. 

Set the oven to 450 deg F. Put a small amount of the tomato mixture on the bottom of each ramekin.
Place an egg on top of the tomato- I somehow managed to buy Jumbo eggs, so they took up a fair amount of room. Add more of the tomato mixture around the sides of the egg (mostly covering the whites). Pop them on a baking sheet and into the oven for approx 5-7 mins. You want the whites to be mostly firm, but the yolks still runny. When they look almost done, take them out and put cheese on top. I used a combination of leftover gruyere and fontina from a mac and cheese recipe- just under a tablespoon per. Put them back in the oven under the broiler for just a minute- until the cheese is melty and bubbly. Pull them out and let them sit for a minute so you don't ed up burning your mount on the cheesy goodness.

It ends up being the tomato sauce with cheese- which is always good- in some parts, but then you get to the gooey center and the yolk makes it super creamy and rich. If you have the tomato sauce up and ready to go, the whole process takes about 10 minutes and is a really satisfying and yummy start to the day. I would definitely recommend giving it a try.

So here is hoping we can stick to this low-carb regimen- at least until April 9th. 
April 9th, in case you are unaware, is our pre-decided cheat day. April 9th is...Baconfest! I know- be jealous. And for anyone who is thinking of joining- or even thinks I am ridiculous for wanting to go to a festival of bacon..... they are SOLD OUT! They sold out the day the tickets went on sale. Chi-town knows that when the Baconfest comes to town, you'd best jump on it and get those tickets- because they won't last 24 hours. 


  1. Wow! I am totally going to try that Salmon Recipe. I LOVE anything salmon. Oh and that breakfast Egg recipe. My husband will LOVE that! Good stuff, Erica!!!

  2. Oh good- I'm glad :) We'll be playing with some swordfish later on this week some time- usually a super yummy fish. I'll let you know how that goes, too!

  3. I like your poached egg recommendations, but can we have a tutorial sometime? I even bought one of those microwave egg poachers and it sucked!