DIY: Cooking Copper River Salmon

My first experience with Copper River Salmon was about three years ago at a sushi restaurant. This very seasonal salmon is filled with Omega 3’s and is very tasty. My understanding is that the adult Sockeye Salmon are ready to spawn and head to the fresh waters of the Copper River in Alaska and fatten up during the upstream swim. This bright orange, almost red salmon is delicious.

A few weeks ago, I was noticing one of my colleagues heating up her lunch. I commented on what a nice lunch she had. She said it was Copper River Salmon she picked up from Costco. It took me a a few seconds before I recognized the variety.  

I was cooking a lot last week and decided I wanted to get a hold of the Copper River Salmon from Costco. My colleague told me she got it from the San Leandro store. I called to make sure it was still available and the representative assured me they were carrying it. I don’t have a Costco card, so I convinced a friend to take me.

 I picked some of the reasonably priced salmon for $10.99 per pound. My only question now was how to prepare this delightful fish. I wanted a simple recipe so I could really taste the fish. After reviewing various online recipes, I ended up listening to my friend who said olive oil, salt, pepper, orange juice, and orange rind.  

  Mind you, I haven’t cooked salmon in awhile. I wanted to make sure to get the results of a tender, medium rare cook with a crispy salmon skin. After careful thought, I decided on using my cast iron skillet in order to get the pan really hot and enough oil so the skin would not stick. My intuition was correct. Let’s say I succeeded and was thrilled with my accomplishment.  

Here’s my instructions on how to cook the perfect salmon:

  • Salmon filet (preferably Copper River)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, additional 2 tbsp olive oil for cooking
  • 3 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp orange rind

Marinate the salmon with all the ingredients above for a few hours. Can also marinate overnight.  Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high. Heat enough olive oil to cover the pan, approximately 2 tbsp. When hot, place your salmon, skin side down in pan. 

  After a couple of minutes, use a spatula and ensure your salmon is not sticking to the pan. If it does, add additional oil. Let salmon sear for about 4-5 minutes. Turn the pan down to medium heat and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.  Remove from pan and serve.  

  The fish was tender and flavorful and I ate all of the crispy salmon skin. This was the best salmon I have ever cooked and a lot better than most salmon I have eaten at restaurants. After this experience, I feel much more comfortable cooking fish. If you like salmon, it’s time to run to the Costco in San Leandro and pick up the Copper River Salmon before it runs out.  

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Head to Alameda for Authentic ItalianĀ 

My BFF and I took my sister out last night to celebrate her birthday.  The birthday girl wanted Italian food and suggested Trabocco Kitchen and Cocktails located at Alameda South Shore Center.  It was my first time here and honestly my expectations were pretty low.

The service was really good.  We were immediately given warm bread to dip in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and were asked what we wanted to drink.  We each ordered cocktails.  I really enjoyed my “Milano Mule” which is their twist on a Moscow Mule.  It had Hangar 1 Mandarin Blossom vodka, saffron, and ginger beer and it was delicious.  
We started with a Caesar salad that wasn’t actually on the menu but it caught our eye when another table ordered it.  It was simple, but tasty.  We really liked the boiled egg that was included.   

 We had two antipasti.  One was the carpaccio which is raw, grass fed beef tenderloin with lemon, olive oil, shaved parmesan, and arugula.  Another very simple and delicious dish.  The meat was so tender that it melted in my mouth.  

 The other antipasti appeared much more complicated.  We had the polipo e patate which is grilled octopus with two kinds of potatoes, celery, lemon, and olive oil.  This was probably my favorite dish of the evening.  I loved the meaty char on the octopus.  
 My BFF picked the special rotisserie of the day which was duck.  It came with polenta and spinach.  The skin wasn’t crispy like Peking duck, rather fattier like a roast duck.  It had a deep rich flavor that was enjoyable.
 My sister ordered the agnolotti di zucca which is house-made pasta filled with butternut squash, walnuts, brown butter sage sauce, and parmesan.  I was pretty excited about it because you can see through a window where fresh pasta is being made.  I loved the texture of the pasta on the agnolotti, but the filling and sauce was a bit heavy and boring.  This was probably my least favorite dish, but I would still consider trying other pasta dishes here in the future.

 I ordered the pollo alla contadina, the wood-fire chicken with an herb and chili flake marinade.  It came with potatoes and root vegetables.  I asked to substitute the root vegetables with the green beans, but they accidentally substituted spinach.  I was ok with that.  The chicken had crispy skin and tender juicy meat that made me happy.   

 I would be remiss not to mention the wine we had that complimented our dinner.  My BFF did a great job selecting the montepulciano and it was a perfect pairing for our meal.  

 For dessert, they brought out a free tiramisu for the birthday girl.  It was exceptional and I can’t remember ever having a better one.  

 We also had the zabaglione, an Italian custard cream with fresh fruit.  I personally thought it was a bit on the thin side and didn’t enjoy it as much as the others at the table.  I would’ve liked more tiramisu.  

 In summary, we had a great experience at Trabocco.   I think we had a pretty good sampling of foods, but I did watch pizzas coming out to tables that looked amazing.  I’ll definitely be back for more as this was just an introduction to delicious authentic Italian food in Alameda.

Dinner in St. Germain: Le Comptoir

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It’s night three in Paris and this evening’s dinner is the best thus far for me. After our visit to the Louvre, we headed to St. Germain for an early dinner at le comptoir. My friends and I ordered a bottle of Bordeaux to share.
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We got three different entrees (appetizers). One of my friends ordered the bisque froide ou chaude (lobster bisque). It was a little too thin for me, but she enjoyed it because of the kick.
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My other friend obsessed with foie gras because she can’t get it anymore in California, got the foie gras de canard des Landes de Sandrine Paris. The French version of foie gras is typically cold and served like a pate to spread. It was quite rich and we were only able to eat half of it.
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On the recommendation of a Canadian woman sitting next to us, I ordered the escargot. I was glad I had the experience of escargot in France as they were quite good.
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Our plats (entrees) arrived next. One friend ordered the daube de joue de boeuf coquillettes et carrots (beef stew). The beef was extremely tender and melted in your mouth. The carrots were amazing as well.
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My other friend and I both ordered the carre d’agneau roti au thym haricots tarbais, echalotes au xeres (lamb chops with white beans). I loved my plat.
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The three of us ordered three different desserts. One friend ordered the pot de creme chocolat guanaja. This was very smooth and tasty.
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My other friend got the pannacotta vinaigre balsamique. It was very standard fare.
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I got the most interesting dessert, the baba bouchon, chantilly, rhum. This dessert could get one drunk with all the rhum poured on it.
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We ended the evening like locals, with a cafe.

Kitchen 388 in the Oakland 510

There is a small restaurant located on Grand Avenue in Oakland that I have passed by hundreds of times in the past two years. Early on, I had heard good reviews about Kitchen 388. I had wanted to go there, but couldn’t figure out when they were open. It would appear open one day and then it would be closed for months at a time. I noticed that it seemed to be open more consistently lately, so I thought I would finally give it a try.
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This morning I brought my seven year old niece to Kitchen 388 for brunch. She started with a glass of orange juice and I started with a cafe au lait. Kitchen 388 is proud to serve Roast Co coffee, which I thought was just ok. I did like the fact that my coffee was presented in a big bowl. I’ll have to give Roast Co. another chance since they are an Oakland roaster. Maybe I had a bad cup or a bad barista?
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I decided that I would order two dishes for us to share as well as a side of fruit salad. The waitress brought out our fruit salad to nibble on while we waited for our dishes to come out. The fruits included blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, mango, and pineapple. I loved the freshness as well as the variety.
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One dish we had was the baked eggs. Two eggs were individually served in ramekin dishes with olive oil and basil. It came with cherry tomatoes and levain toast. This dish was very simple, but a combination that I enjoyed. I don’t tend to eat out a lot for breakfast because I like to make my own basic breakfast foods. I think baking eggs the way Kitchen 388 may be added to my own repertoire.
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My niece loves fried chicken and she loves waffles, but I was pretty sure it was her first time having the two items together. The waffles were a little pale in color, but it had great texture with a good outer crisp. We got two large pieces of fried chicken. It was extremely juicy and flavorful. I was quite impressed. My niece ate about half of the plate, so I know she enjoyed it as much as I did.
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Another dish on the menu that caught my eye was the pork chop. I love pork chops for breakfast. I saw a waiter bring out two of them and couldn’t keep my eye off those grill marks. I’ll be going back to Kitchen 388 for weekend brunch and having the pork chop.

To help clarify, here are the hours: Kitchen 388 is open Wednesday through Friday from 9am to 3pm for coffee drinks, empanadas and pastries. They have full dinner service Wednesday through Friday from 5pm to 9pm. And of course, weekend brunch is every Saturday and Sunday from 9am – 3pm.

Celebrity Chef: Cat Cora

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Whenever I travel for work, I would alway pack my tennis shoes and gym clothes, but rarely end up pulling it out of the suitcase. This time while I was in Florida, I did pull it out because I had to get my Weight Watcher activity points in. I found that our hotel the Swan and Dolphin had a one mile loop walking trail. I could loop around three times and earn three activity points. It’s a good thing I did because that is how I discovered Kouzzina, Iron Chef Cat Cora’s restaurant located on the Boardwalk. I had to dine here just because she is the only female Iron Chef. The restaurant is open for dinner as well as breakfast. I tried both.

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Kouzzina means kitchen in Greek and serves Mediterranean food. Although I was excited to be having dinner here, I knew I was in Florida and wanted to play it safe. I would start with my favorite Greek soup, Avgolemono. To me, lemon and chicken is like peanut butter and jelly. They go well together. Chef Cora’s soup did not have the exact consistency or texture that I expected, but it was still good. It was a tad thicker, had a more pungent lemon flavor, and had orzo when I expected rice. I now realize that you can use rice or orzo to make this soup. The Asian in me likes the rice.

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My friend who enjoys Greek appetizers ordered the Kouzzina sampler as her entree. It came with lamb meatballs, shrimp skewers, marinated olives, spiced cashews, dolmas, hummus, and pita. The platter of items was very mediocre. My favorite thing was the spiced cashews.

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I continued to play it safe and ordered the wood-grilled rib eye steak which was topped with an herb salsa and came with broccolini and potatoes. This was great. I wiped off some of the herb salsa, but everything else was delicious and met my expectations.

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The one thing I noticed about Kouzzina was that they could work on their plating. Plating was a hot mess. I guess in Florida they care more about abundance than they do presentation.

I came back the next morning for breakfast with my colleague. We shared two items. One was the French toast baklava, which was grilled fig and anise country bread with honey, walnuts and cinnamon. It also came with a side of chicken sausage.

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The second item was the warm phyllo filled with semolina custard and cinnamon sugar.

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Chef Cat Cora proved she could do breakfast. These Greek influenced breakfast plates were well worth my second visit and three more loops around the walking trail.