Super powers.

My in-laws are in California for an extended vacation, and last weekend we followed them to Lake Tahoe for the weekend. They, of course, have the luxury of being on permanent vacation, so they’re there for the rest of the week, at which point they’ll make their way back to San Francisco for their final weekend with us.

That said, Tahoe was pretty awesome. Despite living 4-5 hours away from the area, we hadn’t been out that way yet, so we were looking forward to our trip not only for spending time with the family, but also to check out a new area that we are sure to revisit.

We did a couple of hikes while we were there (one through Big Meadow and another along Echo Lake, which is part of the Pacific Crest Trail), and these bars would have been perfect to have with us, but sadly I didn’t make them until this week. I’m sure they’ll be put to good use this weekend when we’re out wandering around the city, so we’ll see how filling they are.

Regardless, I like the name of them, “super-power bars”, aptly named because of all the super-nutritous ingredients. Speaking of which, I should warn you that they are loaded with all sorts of weird stuff that you likely don’t have on hand (at least I didn’t). Quinoa flakes, Incan berries, wheat germ, and chia seeds are all a little hard to find depending on where you live, but I was able to locate them all in one place (for the SF-ers, that was Rainbow). I’d suggest buying enough of the ingredients for multiple batches, so these ingredients don’t go to waste.

Incan Super-Power Bars
adapted from Food & Wine, September 2011; makes 2 dozen bars

time commitment: ~1 hour, 15 minutes (including lots of down time)

printable version

ingredients
2 c quinoa flakes (7 ounces)
1 c sliced almonds (3 1/2 ounces)
1/2 c raw roasted sunflower seeds (2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 c toasted wheat germ (2 ounces)
2 T chia seeds
3/4 c golden berries, also known as Incan berries and dried cape gooseberries (4 ounces), coarsely chopped
3/4 c raisins
4 T unsalted butter
1/2 c plus 2 T light brown sugar
1/2 c plus 2 T agave syrup
1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 t sea salt

instructions
Preheat the oven to 350 F. On a sturdy rimmed baking sheet, toss the quinoa with the almonds and toast for 15 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the sunflower seeds, wheat germ, chia seeds, golden berries and raisins.
In a medium saucepan, combine the 4 tablespoons of butter with the brown sugar and agave syrup and bring to a boil. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the sugar is just dissolved, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Pour the mixture into the large bowl and stir until the dry ingredients are evenly coated.
Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray (or butter). Scrape the mixture onto the baking sheet and form into a 7-by-12-inch rectangle, pressing lightly to compact it; use a straight edge to evenly press the sides. Bake the bar for 10 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool slightly, then refrigerate until firm, 20 minutes.
Invert the bar onto a work surface and peel off the paper. Cut the bar into twelve 1-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip in half to form twenty-four 1-by-3 1/2-inch bars.

Rinse and Repeat

Aside from having the occasional relentless sushi craving, at which time I could easily devour four maki rolls by my lonesome, seafood has not been a mainstay in my repertoire as of late. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve cooked plenty of seafood dishes, cephalopods included, but it’s been quite a while.

Does the oyster-shuckin’ day even count?! And if not, then it’s been almost a year since seafood has had a presence here – yikaroonies! Needless to say, that has got to be remedied.

Because here’s the deal – here’s my beef with seafood: you have to plan for it. Yeah, I know, that’s not normally a problem for me at all; I plan what days of the week my hair gets washed, for cryin’ out loud. But when I cook fish, I want it to be fresh as all get out. I want it to smell like the sea, and I want to buy it as close to when I hope to prepare it as possible – a day apart, tops. That’s where I run into an issue because I like to buy groceries on Sunday in the early afternoon, with hopes of eating any fish I’d purchase on Monday (don’t forget – Sundays are for the big time-consuming meals). Now, if anything goes awry on Monday, say a last minute plan with a friend, or a husband working late, or maybe I get a wild hair up my ass to finally go for a run after work (which, when the mood strikes, I must take advantage of said urge), the plans for fish-cooking are ruined.

You still with me? Because this is real life – I had to toss a couple of lovely halibut fillets into the freezer a few weeks ago because the Monday cooking didn’t happen, and cooking that same fish on Tuesday seemed like such a travesty. And yeah, it’s not like I wasted the fish and threw it away, but still – frozen halibut just isn’t the same.

You may be sensing some degree of stubbornness on my part, and that’s spot on. But this time around, I did bend the rules just a tad. I stuck to my regular method of purchasing fish on Sunday. When Monday rolled around, I stuck to my plans of cooking that night. Of course, Chris tried to throw a wrench into my plan and work late, but I just snacked and waited patiently, vowing not to ruin my fish this time. At the last minute, I decided to cook half of the fish (only 2 fillets), so that I could – get this – cook the other two on Tuesday night (because another issue I have with fish is that leftover fish tastes like poo, and that’s not good for anyone). Yeah, I know – crazy, huh?! But here’s where it gets even crazier – it was still just as good on Tuesday.

I’m sure the red pepper and harissa pesto that was nestled under those perfectly-cooked fillets helped in the taste area, but the point of my story is a point you’re not going to hear me make too often: I was wrong. (ps – you might want to do a screenshot of this page before I update this post and delete that sentence.)

With that point out of the way, maybe I can slowly work a weekly seafood dish back into my weekly cooking, like we used to do back in the day. We’ll see how it goes…

In the meantime though, take yourself to the grocery store on Sunday (or Monday, if you’re feeling frisky) and buy the prettiest pink wild Alaskan (sustainable) salmon you can find, as well as the remainder of the ingredients for the pesto. If you can’t find harissa, you can use tomato paste, which is what the original recipe used – I just wanted more spice in my life. Come straight home from work on Monday and cook half of the fish, one for you and one for your lucky guest. Whip up the pesto while the grill does the rest of the work. Eat said fish, and thank yourself for such a lovely dinner.

Rinse, and repeat on Tuesday.

Salmon with Red Pepper-Harissa Pesto
adapted from Cooking Light, October 2011; serves 4

time commitment: 15 minutes (enough time to toss some edamame into the microwave for steaming in which case you’d have a full freakin’ dinner!)

printable version

ingredients
4 6-oz wild Alaskan salmon fillets
3/4 t salt, divided
cooking spray
3 medium-sized bottled roasted red peppers, rinsed & drained
1-2 T bottled harissa
1 t olive oil
1/4 c blanched almonds
1 garlic clove

instructions
heat grill pan over med-hi heat. sprinkle fish with salt. coat pan with cooking spray. grilled fish for ~4 minutes on each side, until fish flakes easily (I like to leave some of the middle less cooked, as it cooks a little after it’s taken off the grill).

meanwhile, combine remaining salt and other ingredients in a small food processor or blender, and blend until smooth. serve pesto with fish.