Dinner with Charles

I have finally freed myself from working on weekends. For some reason, I was so brainwashed during my graduate school days that I never escaped from my work during the weekends. But I am now slowly getting used to the fact that weekends are my own time and work should not interfere with it.

Charles was here this weekend. I made ginger carrot soup and avocado BLTs for us to take to the Prospect Park for a lunch picnic. We tried to play backgammon but the instructions were too complicated. Then for dinner we made salmon burgers, green beans with black sesame dressing, and Japanese congee. All these are recipes from "Harumi's Japanese Cooking." She is reportedly the Martha-like figure in Japan. And her recipes are really easy to follow at home. Best of all, more than half of the recipes are quite light, healthy, and perfect for the summer. I also learned to use my microwave as more than just a reheater for leftovers. I now have cooked chicken thighs (for chicken salads), green beans (in the picture), asparagus (I made up a salad with just olive oil, salt, pepper, and an undercooked poached egg), potatoes (for the salmon burger), and carrots (her carrots salad recipe). It is unbelievably easy and the kitchen remains cool and oil-free. Of course this cannot replace all wok-frying or steaming, but for making many summer salads this is a perfect way to blanch veggies.

Her salmon burgers are quite different and good. Chopped up salmon is mixed with plain mashed potato (no milk or anything), eggs, onions, and ground pork. The end result is a nice moist salmony patties with interesting texture (potato), juiciness (pork), and the liveliness of the fish. This is a smart way to use up scraps of salmon pieces if you end up buying too large of a fillet piece.

The green beans with sesame seeds is now one of my favorite veggie dishes. The only labor intensive part is that each green bean should be cut into bit-size pieces AND split open length-wise. This latter part is important because the outer surface of the green beans is too slippery to grab onto enough of the sesame sauce. And the dressing couldn't be easier -- soy sauce, powdered sugar, mirin, and crushed toasted black sesame seeds. Not a single drop of fat! So tasty, and so good for you too!

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