I admittedly do not cook as much Asian food as I should. I always feel like a dish is going to be overly complicated or require too much technique. But after a lovely chat with Nina Simonds, author of the new Simple Asian Meals (Rodale), I'm inspired to bring more Asian flavors onto my plate. She's determined to demystify Asian cooking for the everyday cook, and show just how accessible it can be. Get a taste of the cookbook below with her delicious recipe for Seared Ginger-Balsamic Salmon with Hot and Sour Slaw and read more about how she brings traditional Asian cooking into our world after the jump.
Simonds, a veteran food writer and chef, has been cooking Asian food for decades. Her love affair with the culture began when she bought a one-way ticket to Taiwan (she originally wanted to go to China but it wasn't an option amidst the Cultural Revolution) after dropping out of college to study cooking in Paris. There, she studied and worked under chefs, all without her parents' approval, for more than 3 years.
Her style has changed since those days, when she was a purist and adhered to tradition. "I still remain true to the essence of Chinese cooking, but I'm no longer afraid to mix things up a little by bringing Western ingredients and techniques into a dish."
She takes a trip to Asia every year to stimulate ideas, but now even uses Western recipes as inspiration, brainstorming ways to give them an Asian twist. And she's not afraid to admit that along with Western technique comes a time element. Simonds caters to our "30-minute-dinner" ideal by calling for some prepared ingredients like rotisserie chicken and store-bought stocks, all without compromising sophistication; the recipes may not be complicated, but they're certainly not one note.
One of the most important lessons she's learned over her years in the kitchen? If healthy food is going to be satisfying, it's got to be flavorful. "Flavor is essential," she says. "Up the ginger, garlic, and five-spice powder and you've some extraordinarily pungent and satisfying seasonings."
Make this recipe from Simple Asian Meals tonight.
Seared Ginger-Balsamic Salmon with Hot and Sour Slaw
Due in large part to its health-giving omega-3 oils, salmon has become one of the most popular types of fish consumed in the United States. I prefer to buy wild salmon for its flavor. The seared salmon and easy slaw are excellent served hot, room temperature, or cold.
4 pieces (6 ounces each) center-cut salmon fillets with skin, patted dry
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons olive or canola oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 medium red pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into dice
1 bag (9 ounces) shredded broccoli slaw (3 1⁄2 cups)
2 tablespoons rice wine or sake
1 cup water
1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 1⁄2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
Hot and Sour Dressing (combine in a small bowl)
1⁄4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1. Season the salmon fillets with the salt and pepper.
2. In a wok or heavy skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the olive or canola oil and the sesame oil over high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the ginger and red pepper flakes and stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the diced red pepper and toss lightly over high heat. Add the broccoli slaw, toss lightly, and pour in the rice wine. Stir and cover. Cook over medium-high heat for a minute or two. Uncover and add the Hot and Sour Dressing. Toss lightly for a minute and remove to a serving bowl.
3. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 10 seconds. Arrange the salmon fillets in the pan, skin side up. Partially cover and sear until well browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Turn the fish over and continue cooking for 5 to 6 minutes, until the fish flakes in the middle when prodded with a knife.
4. Using a slotted spoon or a spatula, portion the slaw on 4 individual serving plates (or keep in the serving bowl). Place the cooked salmon fillets on top.
5. Drain off any oil and reheat the pan with the water, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, ginger, and brown sugar, stirring to combine. Simmer over medium-heat high heat for 11⁄2 to 2 minutes, until thickened and reduced to 1⁄3 cup. Carefully pour the glaze over the salmon. Serve with rice or another whole grain.
Photography by Romulo Hanes. Reprinted from: Simple Asian Meals © 2012 by Nina Simonds. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc. Available wherever books are sold.