Weeknight Shrimp and Tofu Pad Thai


One of the most common questions I get asked is what I cook when I’m not cooking.

Between recipe testing, styling, and shooting, work leaves me with plenty of leftovers,  but there are a few easy, quick recipes I always rely on and have “most” of the ingredients on hand. (Meaning, I keep the dry ingredients as pantry staples so I only have to stop by the store for a handful of fresh things.) I’m going to start sharing these easy weeknight recipes with you beginning with Pad Thai.
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Salmon, Crème Fraîche, and Fennel Rillettes

Aida Mollenkamp Smoked Salmon Rillettes Spread Recipe

Midnight in Paris is the next movie that I’m paying homage to as part of my week of Oscars-themed recipes. Since the film flips and flops between modern-day and 1920s Paris, I decided to make a contemporary twist on a classic French recipe.

All you have to do is read two lines of any Lost Generation novel and the romanticism surrounding that era is infectious. It’s hard to deny the quiet elegance of that era — as France recovered from World War 1 and American writers walked the streets looking to escape and find inspiration. That is a lot to translate into finger food, but I immediately thought of the classic French appetizer, rillettes. Similar to a pâté, rillettes are traditionally made by slow cooking pork in its own fat and then mixing it for a seriously decadent spread.

I wanted to give it a more modern, quicker, and slightly healthier twist so I came up with these Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche, and Fennel Rillettes. They’re made by breaking up smoked salmon and folding it together with a double dose of anise flavor from the fennel and the herbs and a dollop of creme fraiche for a touch of decadence. This spread has a smoky, sweet, anise flavor and is as delicious on a cracker as it is between bread for a quick sandwich. And, of course, since this is another recipe I developed for Moët & Chandon, it tastes even better when paired with some chilled champagne.
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Spiced Citrus Pickled Shrimp

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipe Spiced Pickled Shrimp

Super Bowl is but a few days away and there are recipes galore out there for everything from overloaded nachos to kajillion-layer dips. But around these parts we’re sticking to the healthier eating habits of last month and are lightening things up for game day too.

My latest finger food obsession hails from the South but dispels all the Southern food stereotypes because it’s really light and quite healthy.  Pickled shrimp are a classic in the Carolinas but, seeing as I’ve never been around those parts, I hadn’t heard of them until recently. Seeing as I have more than a mild obsessions for all things pickled and fermented, I had to try this the minute I came across it. After a few rounds of pickling and some tweaks (inspired largely by an overzealous citrus tree), I came up with this really easy but ridiculously flavorful recipe.
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Poke, My Way

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipe Ahi Poke Tostada

For the last recipe of my Hawaiian coverage, I wanted to share with you my California-fied twist on a classic Hawaiian recipe.

Poke (pronounced poh-kay) is one of those classic Hawaiian dishes I can’t get enough of and I eat my share when I’m on island. If you haven’t had it before, it’s like a Hawaiian-style ceviche where, at the most basic, sushi-grade seafood is mixed with classic Hawaiian flavors of soy sauce and onions. From there, the options are limitless and you’ll find all sorts of poke flavors made with everything from octopus to squid, all over the state.

The problem is that a lot of poke is seriously high in sodium and just does’t have a balance of freshness and flavor that I like. I’ve spent a fair amount of time, money, and meals comparing and contrasting poke throughout the state and finally realized I should be making it myself and have become a self-proclaimed poke master. (Bold words I know seeing as I’m not born-and-bred in Hawaii.)

Speaking of which, my favorite way of serving poke has been super untraditional as a sort of Mexican tostada with Hawaiian flavors. Anytime I spend more than a few weeks away from California, I start craving Mexican food, so, to get the best of both worlds, I decided to make my own poke and throw it atop a crunchy tostada base.
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The Original Fusion Food

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipe Shrimp and Vegetable Saimin

I had a revelation this trip: food in Hawaii was fusion long before the term was ever coined.

Sure, some modern dishes are historically Hawaiian and others have been slightly tweaked from a distinct ethnic dish, but a good amount of food in Hawaii is the result of a mash up of numerous cuisines and flavors. One such dish is Saimin: it’s origin dates back to sugar cane plantation days when various immigrants worked and cooked together and saimin reflects all those influences. Saimin has a broth reminiscent of Japanese dashi, uses egg and wheat noodles reminiscent of Chinese chow mein noodles, and is garnished with an assortment of toppings hailing from Chinese, Hawaiian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Filipino cuisines.

My first taste of saimin was a late-night meal at the Hawaiian fast food chain, Zippys, which was forgettable, to say the least. Fortunately, I’ve had better tasting saimin since, but every one has been so MSG-filled that I walk away feeling like I’ve made out with a salt lick. Recently, my friends in Hawaii asked me to craft them modern, homemade, healthier versions of their favorite local grindz (aka only-in-Hawaii foods) and when I asked which to start with, one of them blurted out, Saimin!
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