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My Experience with Blue Apron

5 Nov

When it comes to food, I like to be in control. I like to be the one picking out groceries and I like to be the one cooking. But honestly, grocery shopping can be a pain sometimes.

Inspired by the discount offer of two free meals for first time users of Blue Apron (Blue Apron has also been sponsoring some of the podcasts I listen to lately), I decided to try out the services. With my discount offer, I paid about $40 for three meals intended to serve two people (regular price of about $60).

Blue Apron is a food delivery service that takes care of the grocery shopping, allowing customers to enjoy and focus on the cooking experience. After noting dietary preferences, Blue Apron ships three pre-shopped and pre-portioned meals on a week-by-week basis. The food gets carefully portioned and packaged and is shipped in a refrigerated box.

I wanted to keep an open mind, so I did not check off any dietary preferences to see what they would send me. The week before my delivery, Blue Apron sent me an email with the ingredients and recipes I would be receiving:

  • Pan-Seared Salmon with Arugula, Candy Stripe Beets & Horseradish Sour Cream
  • Greek-Style Braised Chicken Thighs with Fingerling Potatoes
  • Caramelized Pork & Congee with Crispy Shallots & Black Garlic

Each meal is slated to take an average of 35 minutes to prepare. While no nutrition information is provided for individual recipes, Blue Apron notes that each meal contains between 500 and 700 calories per serving.

Below I discuss the meals I received and cooked, showing pictures and providing individual feedback for each recipe.

Pan-Seared Salmon with Arugula, Candy Stripe Beets & Horseradish Sour Cream

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I cooked the fish on my first night Continue reading

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Mustard Roasted Salmon with Asparagus and Fingerlings

29 Jun

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It’s hot here in New York, but I am still turning on the oven…for now. The temperature has not yet escalated to the point where I refuse to be in the kitchen under heat. So, a simple, roasted dinner I made.

As per my last post, I am trying to incorporate more fish into my diet. Salmon is in season in the summertime, and the pink, fatty fish looks so nice next to green and gold asparagus and fingerling potatoes.

I was in the Upper West Side area on a Friday afternoon, and after seeing every other person on the street with a shopping bag from New York City’s famous Zabar’s, I just had to go in and pick up some fish for dinner.

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The vegetables were from the Columbia greenmarket. Fingerlings are one of my favorite potato varieties. They really do look like little fingers! I had some leftover kale ribbons, so I spread my roasted vegetables on a small bed of raw kale.

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A no-fuss oven to plate dinner.

 

Mustard Roasted Salmon with Asparagus and Fingerlings

The salmon served 2, the vegetables served 4 (I saved for leftovers the next day)…you can always adjust the amounts if you want 

For the vegetables:

1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed at the ends

10 fingerling potatoes, sliced in half the long way and sliced again if you want the smaller

1-2 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

For the fish:

1 large fillet of salmon (about 1/4 pound)

1/2 tablespoon mustard

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or lemon juice)

a pinch of each salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Spread the potatoes on one half of the baking sheet, and the asparagus on the other half of the baking sheet in a single layer (if you can’t make a single layer, use 2 baking sheets). Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper (you can always use more later).

Roast the vegetables, checking after 10 minutes. The asparagus will be done before the potatoes. After 10-15 minutes, the asparagus will probably be done. Transfer the asparagus to a serving plate, re-distribute and spread the potatoes out on the baking sheet, and return the potatoes to the oven. They will cook for about 20 to 30 minutes more or until slightly golden and soft.

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Meanwhile, pat the salmon dry. Line your baking sheet (or pie pan!) with a rectangle of parchment paper. Place the salmon onto the parchment, skin side down.

Whisk together the mustard, olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Spoon it over the salmon (you may not need all of it, save the rest for a vinaigrette…just don’t double dip your spoon). Roast the fish in the oven for about 10-20 minutes, checking oven so as not to overcook the salmon.

Sardine Pastas!

21 Jun

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 Brother/Sister Pasta with Sardines

I’m new to the whole “fish in tins” thing. Fresh fish is great, but I am picky about where it comes from, etc., etc., so I don’t buy it often. And even though I love my vegetarian-friendly chia seeds and ground flaxseeds, I always feel like I should be eating more fish.

(Re: the recent news about the updated recommendations for pregnant women and children to eat more fish…not that I am pregnant, or a child, but nonetheless, a little fish in the diet is good for the brain, the heart, the body)

I took a big step (for me) last year and started to eat canned tuna fish. Not bad. Not great. But I do it for my health, right? It’s good to change up the diet, add some variety to the mix. And you can keep it in the pantry to have on-hand.

This year, I am taking the “fish in tins” challenge. Bring it on sardines and anchovies. These smaller fish are supposed to be more sustainable, plus, anchovies can add a nice salty flavor to dishes and sauces, and sardines are a hot “super food” bursting with healthy omega-3 fat. A few months ago, I tried sardines from the tin for my first time. Last month, I bought anchovy paste and made my own version of fish sauce to go into a curry. I was definitely scared, but I persisted and came out strong in the end.

I can now say that I enjoy a nice pasta with sardines sprinkled throughout. I buy the boneless skinless sardines packed in olive oil. (I know, I’m not a true sardine fan until I can enjoy them skin, bones, and all, but this is a process…I’ll get there soon).

This was my first run at sardine pasta, adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Weeknight Wonders cookbook:

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Whole wheat fusilli pasta with broccoli rabe, pine nuts, golden raisins, and sardines. I added Parmesan on top. And it was SO good!

The sardines got added at the last minute before serving. The worst part about fish is the fishy smell, so I was pleased that the sardines had a very mild fishy smell only if they got too hot, but a smell so delicate that I was not offended.

I recently made a version of Ellie’s Pasta with Sardines with my brother. The pasta was a combination of Ellie’s recipe and my Throw Together Late Spring/Early Summer Pasta.

Instead of broccoli rabe, my brother and I used asparagus ribbons, fresh spring garlic, swiss chard, and cremini mushroom slices. We used toasted pine nuts, but no raisins this time.

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Brother/Sister Pasta with Sardines

Once you have the basic method down, you can always substitute your favorite vegetables and nuts/seeds. You can omit the raisins or keep them. Parmesan is optional, but I love the salty tufts on top of my pasta.

Don’t forget to always save your pasta water!

Pasta with Sardines and Vegetables

Adapted from Ellie Krieger

Makes about 4 servings

3 small tablespoons pine nuts (or whatever nut you like)

1 small bunch (3/4 lb. or so) of broccoli rabe (or a combination of whatever seasonal vegetables you have)

4 cloves garlic (in the spring, look for fresh garlic!)

1 can olive-oil packed sardines (Ellie uses 2, I just used 1…up to you; I like the boneless/skinless kind)

12 ounces whole-wheat or regular fusilli or spaghetti

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup raisins (optional)

salt and pepper and red pepper flakes, to taste

grated Parmesan, for serving

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While the water is heating, toast the pine nuts in dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Trim the tough ends from the broccoli rabe, then chop the rest, including the leaves, into 1/2-inch pieces (or, prepare/chop your other vegetables how you like). Roughly chop the garlic and drain the sardines.

Cook the pasta for 1 minute less than it says on the package directions; drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water *If using asparagus or zucchini ribbons, drop them into the pasta water 1-2 minutes before you drain the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet (you can use the same one you toasted the pine nuts in) over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli rabe, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring, until it is crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the drained pasta to the vegetable skillet. Add the sardines, the raisins, the pasta cooking water, toasted pine nuts, and the salt/pepper/red pepper flakes. Turn the heat to medium-high and toss to warm through, 1 to 2 minutes. The sardines will break up as you toss. Serve each bowl with a little grated Parmesan on top.

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Pasta with Sardines Broccoli Rabe 

Soft Polenta with Sautéed Spinach and Shrimp

30 Apr

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I like my quick vegetarian meals. I can turn out an easy dinner with very little preparation, and it always tastes good. Lately, though, I’ve been wanting some variety in my diet.

I’ve now checked sardines off the list of foods I’ve never eaten at home. They were excellent in pasta with broccoli rabe, pine nuts, and golden raisins. The other day I bought anchovy paste so that I could play around with flavor. I’m open to anchovy suggestions if anyone out there has some…

And now, I can check off shrimp. I order shrimp at restaurants occasionally, but I’m not a diehard fan. Nevertheless, shrimp is a quick-cooking protein and I figured I’d take it for a spin at home for a change. I found some decently sustainable frozen shrimp at Whole Foods. They defrost quickly either overnight in the fridge or under cold running water for about 6 minutes.

I sautéed some onion and garlic in a pan, added the shrimp, and a heaping few handfuls of spring spinach from the Columbia Greenmarket.

Served atop a bed of soft, Farmer Ground Flour polenta from my local butcher, Harlem Shambles ($5 for a big bag!). I like to cook polenta in mostly water with a little milk, and I finish it with a pat of butter, a few grates of Parmesan, and a few dabs of plain Greek yogurt. Creamy and dreamy. Don’t forget the black pepper!

Earlier in the week, I baked a bunch of sweet potatoes (fork them all around, bake in the oven for about an hour or until soft), so I added a half to this dinner.

Soft polenta, sautéed spinach and shrimp, with a little roasted sweet potato. A fine meal.

Soft Polenta

Adapted from an old post, originally from Joy the Baker

Makes 4-6 servings

1 cup polenta

4 cups water

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon salt

To finish:

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1 tablespoon Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon butter

fresh ground black pepper

Place 1 cup of dried polenta in a medium sized bowl. Top with one cup cold water. Set aside.

In a medium sized sauce pan bring 1 cup of milk and remaining 3 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add salt. Slowly whisk the polenta/water mixture into the boiling milk mixture. Turn flame down to medium low. The time the polenta takes to cook will depend on weather you’re using fine grain or course polenta. However long it takes, stir occasionally until you’re reached a desired thickness.

Turn of flame and add grated parmesan cheese, Greek yogurt, and a pat of butter. Grind some black pepper over the top. Stir to incorporate.

 

Sautéed Spinach and Shrimp

makes about 4-5 servings

1 tablespoon oil (canola or olive work fine)

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound shrimp (defrosted if frozen), rinsed and patted dry

2-4 heaping handfuls of chopped spinach

salt

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for about 3 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook one minute more. Add the shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until lightly pink.

Add the spinach to the pan and stir until slightly wilted. Sprinkle with a few pinches of salt, to taste.

Serve atop a soft bed of polenta. 

Soba Bowls with Tea-Poached Salmon

1 May

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I had a great meal last weekend at cocoron in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. cocoron is a soba shop, serving up noodle bowls both hot and cold. I had the warm vege oroshi soba, which was a simple steaming bowl of soba noodles with vegetables: daikon radish, watercress, ginger…perfect with a side of spicy kimchi and cabbage with a miso-sesame dressing.

Slurping up a big bowl of noodles screams comfort, and I am on such a soba kick right now. My one qualm with soba noodles is how sticky they get when I make them at home. They are so starchy and end up mushing together. Now I know that I need to rinse them after draining to take off the excess starch.

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I remember when I first got the Sprouted Kitchen‘s cookbook late last summer, this Soba Bowl with Tea-Poached Salmon caught my eye immediately. It was the first thing I made from the cookbook, and after making it again tonight, I knew I had to share the recipe here.

Tea is a great medium for poaching and making sauces. I know Jackie Newgent is a big fan of using tea in her recipes, and I used it in the Rigatoni Bolognese that I posted about a few weeks back.

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This recipe looks a bit involved, but there are really just 3 parts: roasting broccoli, poaching the salmon, and preparing the sauce. All of this happens simultaneously, so the meal really comes together quite quickly. I think broccoli goes great with this type of dish, but if you prefer to use another seasonal vegetable, maybe asparagus or bok choy or sautéed greens, feel free. If you can’t find soba noodles at your store, you can use spaghetti or rice noodles. And to make the meal vegetarian, simply omit the fish or poach some tofu…

Soba Bowls with Tea-Poached Salmon

adapted from the Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook, serves 4

Sauce:

3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons tahini

2 tablespoons agave nectar

grated zest and juice of 1 lime

3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Broccoli:

1 bunch broccoli or other seasonal vegetable

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

pinch of salt

Salmon:

3 bags green tea

1 tablespoon peppercorns

1/2 cup mirin or dry white wine

1 pound wild salmon fillet

Putting it all together:

1 (8-9.5-ounce) pack soba noodles

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup white or black sesame seeds

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Make the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, tahini, agave nectar, lime zest and juice, tamari, and grated ginger until smooth. Set aside.

Roast the broccoli: Cut the broccoli into small florets, including some of the stems. Toss the broccoli with the olive oil, garlic, and salt and spread on a baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven.

Poach the salmon: In a saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a gentle simmer. Turn the heat down to low, add the tea bags and peppercorns and steep for 3 minutes, then discard the tea bags. Add the mirin to the poaching liquid. Gentle slide in the salmon, skin side down. Cover, and cook until the salmon is just barely cooked in the middle, 8-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. If in doubt, it is better to undercook the salmon a bit rather than overcook it. Remove the salmon to a plate and flake it with a fork. Set aside.

Putting it all together: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the soba noodles according to package instructions or until al dente. Drain the noodles. In a large bowl, toss together the warm noodles, broccoli, dressing, green onions, and sesame seeds. Divide the noodles among bowls and top with a portion of the salmon. Serve.

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Pan-Seared Mahi Mahi With Sautéed Leeks

16 Jan

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I don’t cook fish very often at home. When I do, I usually opt for salmon, and I usually roast it. I decided to try something new this time…

Mahi-mahi has very little fat, so while it is not the best choice to get those omega-3 fatty acids, it is still a great choice for a low-fat, high protein meal.

While I would have preferred to purchase my fish at the farmer’s market, I didn’t get my act together in time this week, so I purchased my fish from Whole Foods. They sell frozen, wild-caught mahi-mahi there, nicely portioned into 2 6-oz fillets. I defrosted them in the fridge overnight on a covered plate.

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Pan-searing was a lot easier than I thought it would be. With a hot skillet, the fish was done in about 6-7 minutes. And the best part is that I got nice, golden sear marks.

I ate the fish with some sautéed leeks and a quick fennel orange salad (literally fennel, orange slivers, and a touch of OJ + olive oil/salt/pepper).

I brushed the fish with a little bit of teriyaki sauce that I had leftover from last night’s dinner (I made teriyaki bok choy over brown rice with an egg on top!) . You could also just mix together 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and a little fresh lime juice for a quick savory sauce.

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Pan-Seared Mahi-Mahi

Cooking method adapted from Mark Bittman’s Fish

serves 2

2 6-oz fillets mahi-mahi (I cut each fillet in half to have 4 small pieces of fish)

canola or coconut oil

fresh ground pepper

teriyaki sauce (see recipe below)

Make sure the fish fillets are at room temperature and pat them dry with a paper towel. Grind the pepper on both sides of the fillets.

Heat a 12-inch nonstick or cast-iron skillet for about 10 minutes, until smoking slightly. Add the oil, and place the peppered fish on the pan. Cook until browned on 1 side, about 3 minutes. Turn, and brown on the other side. Turn off the heat, brush the fish with the teriyaki sauce, and turn the fish in it a few times.

Teriyaki Sauce

recipe from Chloe’s Kitchen

makes a relatively large amount (maybe about a cup?); store in a jar if you have leftover sauce

3/4 cup water

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1 garlic clove

2 tablespoons maple syrup or brown sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a medium saucepan, whisk together all of the ingredients. Heat the sauce over medium-high heat, whisking frequently until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture has thickened and big, syrupy bubbles appear on the surface.

Sauteed Leeks

2 large leeks, green parts removed, washed

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt, to taste

Slice the leeks in half lengthwise, and then slice in half again. Chop the leeks into small pieces.

Heat the oil on a skillet. Add the leeks and saute for about 7-10 minutes, until soft and lightly browned. Add salt to taste.

You could even add a little parmesan or some teriyaki for more flavor. I think these leeks would be great on top of a slice of toasted bread, like a crostini. 

>Maple Sesame Salmon with Whole Wheat Couscous and Sauteed Green Beans

18 Jan

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Boy do I love the broiler. The broiler can melt cheese until it is gooey and golden brown and the broiler can char my fish until it has the perfect plum-color surface. Two very good things.

This salmon is marinated in a sweet and salty mixture of maple syrup, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. I added a few chili flakes for a mild kick. Into the oven on a high broiler setting (425-450 deg. F). I sprinkled sesame seeds atop the fillets just a few minutes before the salmon was finished baking.

Served on a bed of whole wheat couscous (only takes 5 min. to cook) and sauteed garlic green beans, I’d say this is a beautifully balanced meal.


Maple Sesame Salmon

From “And then I do the dishes

Salmon fillets (enough for 4-6 people; have them de-bone the fish at the market)
3 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes or Sriracha sauce

Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Mix all ingredients except the salmon and sesame seeds. Using either a bowl or a ziplock bag, place the salmon in the marinade and let it rest for at least 15 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (easy clean-up). Turn on the broiler to 425-450 deg F and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Place the salmon on the baking sheet (skin side up) and bake for 10-25 minutes (depending on your fish size and oven, just check it every so often). Baste every so often with the marinade. Flip the salmon over halfway through cooking. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top during the last few minutes of baking. The salmon will be ready when flaked with a fork and done on the inside (opaque flesh).

This makes great left-overs to take for lunch, too. So long lunch rut (for now, anyway).

Sauteed Garlic Green Beans

adapted from Eating Well

Olive oil
1 pound of green beans, trimmed
1/2 cup water
2 chopped garlic cloves
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Heat a pan with olive oil over med-high heat. Add the green beans and cook, stirring often, about 2-3 minutes until seared in spots. Reduce heat to medium, add water, cover, and cook about 3 minutes more. Take off the cover to ensure that all the water is evaporated. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Finish with balsamic vinegar and salt/pepper.