Golden Beets with Smoked Trout & Dill

Golden Beets with Smoked Trout &Dill

Golden Beets with Smoked Trout & Dill

As a kid, I never looked twice at a beet.  Back then, they were a vegetable I was usually forced to eat, but never consumed by choice. I think a lot of it had to do with how they were prepared or maybe integrated into a dish. As a youth, no one ever showed me what an absolutely awesome vegetable the beet actually was.  When they’re perfectly roasted, the beet’s natural sweetness and earthiness is developed.

I was invited to a birthday brunch last weekend, and was given the task of bringing an appetizer. I thought these Golden Beets with Smoked Trout and Dill was the perfect choice to bring. Growing up in Philadelphia, bagels and lox was a Sunday morning staple, so this was my take on that dish. The combination of the sweet beets, the smokey taste of the fish and the tart cream cheese was loved by all.  I like when that happens.

Roasted Golden Beets

Roasted Golden Beets

Roasted Golden Beets with Smoked Trout & Dill 

  • 12 medium size golden beets or 6 large
  • 1 package of Smoked Trout (usually in the deli section)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • couple sprigs of dill
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • 24 water crackers


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the green, leafy tops off of the beets. Place all the beets in a large bowl, and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and then toss to coat. Wrap 3 beets (if using small ones, or 1 at a time if using large ones)  in aluminum foil to make little packets.
  2. Place the aluminum packets on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes. The size of the beet will determine how long you need to roast it. A larger, denser beet will take longer. The beets are done when you can pierce them with a fork. When they’re done, open the packets and let the beets cool. Once cooled, place the beet in between a paper towel and rub the beet skin right off.
  3. Slice the beets into 1/8 – 1/4 inch slices.
  4. Place a beet slice on a water cracker, top with a little dollop of cream cheese, a piece of the smoked trout, and a tiny sprig of dill.

Mama’s Tips

The size of the beet will determine the cooking time. Larger sized beets will take longer in the oven. They’re done when you can pierce them easily with a fork.

You can find the packaged Smoked Trout in the deli section of your market with the packaged lunch meats and smoked salmon. I bought a 5 ounce package, and it was plenty.

Golden Beets with Smoked Trout & Dill

Golden Beets with Smoked Trout & Dill

Recipe: Easy

Grilled Shrimp Kebabs

Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

I know I haven’t posted a new recipe in awhile, but Mama took a little vacation. I’m funny when it comes to leaving home, and that’s why I hardly ever leave. I find the whole traveling process very stressful, especially when there’s airline travel involved.  But, little did I know that a lovely little paradise existed 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles.

A group of my friends (Cindy, Roberta, Wendy and Lauren) go to Catalina for a week every summer.  I’ve been invited to go in the past, but I had envisioned Catalina to be nothing special, so I always declined. But for some reason my husband, and I and son #2 decided to give it a try. Well, Mama was pleasantly surprised. Actually more than just pleasantly.

Catalina is very easy to reach, no muss, no fuss. One hour on the Catalina Express and you arrive in Avalon Harbor. There’s very few cars on the island, and most people get around by golf cart.  The city center is very quaint, and filled with small restaurants, shops, bars and markets. Nothing fancy mind you, but keep in mind this is a very low-key, stress-free vacation. But what wow-ed me the most was the island’s natural beauty.  Sunshine every day, bright blue skies and water clear enough to see fish, dolphins and plenty of seals. And guess what…I can’t wait to go back.

My inspiration for this week’s recipe came from the Pacific Ocean. I find the visual, as well as the sound and smell of the ocean so relaxing. How better to pay homage to the Pacific than with a shrimp recipe of course!

Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (leave the tail shell on)
  • 1 large green pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion cut into 1″ pieces
  • fresh pineapple cut into 1″ chunks, or you can use a 15 ounce can of pineapple, with the juice drained
  • Metal skewers, or wooden skewers soaked in water


  1. Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail shell on. Rinse the shrimp under cold water then dry with a paper towel and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients, except the shrimp, vegetables and pineapple. Pour off 1/4 cup of the marinade, and reserve for basting the shrimp on the grill.
  3. Place the shrimp in a resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade in the bag, coating all the shrimp.  Place the bag in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. Take your skewers and thread the shrimp on the skewers, piercing the shrimp through the center, with both the front and tail portion going through the skewer. Thread on a piece of pineapple, then another shrimp, then the green pepper and onion. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Place the completed skewers on a metal baking sheet.
  5. Spray your grill with cooking spray so the shrimp won’t stick, and heat the grill to medium high.
  6. Place your skewers on the grill and baste with the remaining marinade. Turn the skewers so the shrimp cook evenly on each side. All grills are different, so cook the shrimp until they are pink on the outside. Be very careful not to overcook the shrimp as they will become rubbery. As soon as they are no longer opaque, they are done.
  7. Serve immediately from the grill.


Mama’s Tips

If you’re going to use wooden skewers for these kabobs, soak them in water for an hour or two so that they won’t burn when you put them on the grill.

To devein the shrimp, run a pairing knife down the back of the shrimp. You will see the black vein. Using the tip of your knife, cut out the vein and discard.

Always spray your grill with a little cooking spray, or brush lightly with some olive oil so that the shrimp don’t stick to the grill.




Recipe: Easy

Salmon Burgers with Fresh Dill Sauce

Salmon Burger

Some foods just bring back memories of childhood. I am very fortunate that the memories I have of those times are warm and happy ones. Every night, my parents and me and my two brothers sat around our red kitchen table and had dinner together. One of the things that my mother made every week was salmon croquettes. It’s not something you would think kids would have liked necessarily, but oddly my brothers and I loved them. At least I think they did. I’ll have to ask them.

Anyway, I’ll take a salmon burger over a beef burger any day. Hamburgers are so 29 seconds ago. These aquatic burgers are filled with so many different ingredients they just exude flavor. I love to pair it with the fresh dill sauce which is the perfect creamy and lemony partner for the fish. Then you top the burger with the peppery arugula, and a toasted bun for crunch, and I promise you, you’ll never look at a beef burger again.

Mini Salmon Burgers in Pita Pockets

Salmon Burgers

Adapted From Food Network

  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh salmon filet
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons panko crumbs, plus extra to coat patties
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • sandwich buns
  • fresh arugula
  1. Pulse 1/4 pound salmon in a food processor with 2 tablespoons dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest and a pinch of cayenne pepper. 
  2. Transfer this mixture to a medium bowl and mix with 1 pound of salmon that has been finely diced. You want it to be a little chunky so you can really taste the salmon. Add in 2 chopped scallions, 2 tablespoons of panko crumbs, and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. I used a cookie cutter about the same size as my bun and pressed the mixture into the cutter to create uniform sized patties. Pressing the mixture into the cutter also helps it keep it’s shape. Place on an oiled cookie sheet and chill for at least 30 minutes. You want the patties good and chilled so they will retain their shape. Heat canola oil in a cast iron skillet on medium-high. Cook the patties about 3-4 minutes on each side. You want them to cook through, but be careful they don’t burn. Don’t let the oil get too hot.
  4. Drain the patties on a paper towel.
  5. Toast buns, top pattie with dill sauce and fresh arugula.

Mini Salmon Burgers in Pita Pockets

Dill Sauce 

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • fresh, ground pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Salmon Burger

Salmon Burger

Mama’s Tips:

To make this sandwich even more perfect, butter a griddle and toast your buns til golden on the edges. It gives this sandwich a lovely added crunch.

If you have a cast iron skillet, use it instead of a regular frying pan. Fill you pan with the oil about 1/4 inch deep and don’t place the patties in the pan until the oil is hot. Cast iron skillets retain heat and evenly distribute the heat better than the standard frying pan.. Your patties will also get a nice crust on them. That’s a good thing.

To clean your skillet, use a washcloth and rinse with hot water and immediately dry the skillet. Never, ever put one in a dishwasher. Season your pan by rubbing with a paper bowl and a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Gently heat the pan to help the oil soak in. (From Bon Appetit).

Recipe: Intermediate

Panko Crusted Shrimp with Chive Aioli

Panko Crusted Shrimp

Panko Crusted Shrimp

I suppose the thing I’m learning about life is that it’s always changing, and that things can’t always stay the same. When I became a mother I was very comfortable in that role, and I believed that my job as nurturer, caretaker, maid, cook and pain-in-the-ass, would go on forever. However, it seems that both of my sons are ready to cut the proverbial apron strings. I don’t think I’m ready to let go yet. My mind is overwhelmed with thoughts of how will they navigate the world without me telling them what to do. Will they remember to brush their teeth?

What has brought on all this unwanted anxiety, was the trip I made today with my youngest son to look at a school and an apartment in a beautiful college town about an hour from our house. I was so excited for him, and the adventure that was ahead of him.  If I’ve done my job well, he will be able to venture out into the world and do just fine. I know I’m not the first middle-aged broad to go through this, I just didn’t realize it would happen this quickly. But it did.

So what, you may ask, does all this have to do with shrimp?  Nothing much really. As it is now, the boys are rarely home to eat dinner, and usually never at the same time. But yesterday, they were both home for family dinner and they asked if I would make fried shrimp. Well, that’s my job, and I aim to please. So, here’s the panko crusted shrimp dish I made for them. I highly suggest you make the chive aioli. It’s cool and creamy, and a little lemon-y, and a really nice contrast to the crunchiness of the shrimp.

Panko Crusted Shrimp

Panko Crusted Shrimp with Chive Aioli

From Cooking Light

  • 1 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons cornstrach
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • canola oil for frying
  • 1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup canola mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  1. Combine 1/2 cup panko crumbs, parsley and red pepper flakes in a mini processor; pulse to combine. Combine this mixture with the remaining panko crumbs in a shallow dish. Place the cornstarch in a shallow dish and the egg whites in a another separate shallow dish. Sprinkle the shrimp liberally with salt and pepper. Dredge the shrimp in the cornstarch, shaking off the excess; then dip into egg whites. Then dredge the shrimp in the panko mixture and press to adhere.
  2. In a large non-stick skillet, heat enough oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp, but do not crowd them and cook about three minutes per side insuring that they cook through. When the oil starts to get dark, I cleaned out the pan and heated fresh oil.
Chive Aioli
  • Whisk together the yogurt, mayonnaise, chives, lemon juice and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Serve with shrimp.

Fried Shrimp

Note: I suggest buying large shrimp instead of extra large; as the extra large tend to be tougher and have a little less flavor.

Panko Crusted Shrimp

Recipe: Intermediate

Cedar Planked Salmon…It’s All About the Plank

It’s funny how things evolve in your life. I cringe a little when I think back to the days when I was single. When I was 25, I moved by myself from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. I quickly got an apartment and a job as a secretary in Century City. Food was not even on my radar. I would grab a sandwich on my lunch break, and then on my way back home to the valley, I would stop at McDonald’s for a hamburger and fries. I never cooked, and there was never any food in my refrigerator. And then I met Neil.

This guy loved food. Every meal was an adventure with him. He liked to go out to nice restaurants, he loved to entertain guests, and he could cook. I mean he could really, really cook. So, over the past twenty-five years, he’s taught me everything he knows about food, and that’s a lot. But where he really shines is behind the barbecue. It’s funny, but when we get invited to people’s houses for a barbecue they’ll ask Neil to do the cooking. He makes a killer grilled salmon with herb butter that he cooks on a cedar plank. By cooking on the plank the fish will retain its moisture and the plank imparts a delicious, smokey flavor. If you’ve never cooked on a cedar plank before then I insist you give it a try.

I have purchased my cedar planks from Williams Sonoma, and also from Home Depot. You can also check online, they are not hard to find.

Cedar Planked Salmon with Herb Butter

1 cedar plank

1 salmon filet (I always buy from Costco)

Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

herb butter (recipe to follow)


1. Soak your plank, weighted down in the sink or a dish filled with water, fruit juice, or wine for 4 hours. This will keep the plank from burning. I soaked my plank in salted water. Before cooking, dry off plank and brush cooking side with oil to prevent fish from sticking.

2. Heat your grill to medium.

3 Wash, and pat dry salmon filet. I removed the skin.

4. Season fish with salt and pepper and dot the surface with the herb butter.

5. Place fish on the plank, and cook on grill with the lid closed for about 30 minutes until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.

Herb Butter

1/2 cup softened butter

1 teaspoon each of finely mined basil, thyme and parsley

In a small bowl mix all ingredients together until combined

Grilled asparagus and zucchini are a perfect compliment to the fish

Curried Scallop Cakes…ya’ want a little scallop with your curry?

Scallop Cakes

When I was in culinary school, we were having a class on wine tasting and Chef had asked each student to bring in an appetizer to pair with a wine.  I made these scallop cakes, and I served them as a slider on a lightly toasted mini bun, topped with a chili-lime aioli and a smidgen of tomato concasse (Kon-Kah-SAY, sounds fancy, but it’s a diced tomato that’s been peeled and seeded. It was a nice touch, anyway). Well, the cakes were gone in sixty seconds.  It’s my go-to appetizer whenever  I’m asked to bring something to a gathering.

The panko crumbs give them a nice crispy crunch on the outside, while the inside bursts with the combination of the curry and the sweet butteriness of the scallop.  My little tip is, when I’m forming the cakes, I take a 2 1/4 inch cookie cutter and press the scallop mixture into it.  By compressing the mixture, the cake won’t fall apart when you fry it.  It also insures that all your cakes will be the same size.  However, if you don’t have a cookie cutter, you can still roll them into balls and then flatten them with the palm of your hand.

To insure total scallop yumminess, don’t chop the scallops too finely. When you take a bite of one of these cakes, you want that taste of the scallop to be prominent.  And, just to kick the dish up a-notch, I found scallop shells at Cost Plus to serve them on.  Perfection!

Scallop Cakes

Curried Scallop Cakes


Makes about 30 cakes

1 1/2 pounds fresh sea scallops cut into 1/4 inch pieces or gently pulsed in food processor

3/4 cup mayonnaise

3 large egg yolks

3 scallions, chopped

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard

1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 1/2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

Vegetable oil

Mix first 9 ingredients and 1 1/2 cups of panko in a large bowl to blend.  Cover mixture and refrigerate 1 hour.

Place remaining 2 cups panko on large plate.  Take one heaping table spoon of scallop mixture and roll it into a ball and coat completely in the panko crumbs. Then, if you have a cookie cutter or ring mold, press it into the mold to form a round cake.

Heat enough vegetable oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat to come 1/4 inch up sides of pan.

Working in batches, saute scallop cakes until golden and cooked through.  Transfer scallop cakes to paper towels to drain.

These can be made 4 hours ahead.  Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Reheat on baking sheet in 350 degree oven for 8 minutes. They also freeze well. I place them in an airtight container, and then reheat in a 350 degree oven until heated through.