Tag Archives: gluten free

Salmon En Papillote with Kalamata Olives

salmon en papillote cookedMy first exposure to En Papillote was about 10 years ago at a dinner party hosted by friend Philippe.  As his name sounds, he is French, from Paris.  I don’t remember how he seasoned the fish, other than he came around to every person adding a dollop if creme fraiche on top, but I do remember it was quite a presentation.

A few years later I read about En Papillote in the cookbook, Jacque and Julia (Pepin and Child, respectively).  They each had their own techniques and well I tried both and can say that it looked much easier in the book.  With some perseverance, I’ve been able to create nice packages in the shape of a half moon. I think you’ll find it easy to replicate.

This recipe calls for Kalamata olives as a key seasoning ingredient.  The olives mix well when it steams with the lemon juice, oil, garlic, parsley and thyme to create a savory flavorful dish.  When working with En Papillote, the trick is to create an air-filled packet with the paper that provides a vessel for steaming the fish with the juices so the fish absorbs the flavors.  Rather than the dollop of creme fraiche, this packet is topped with  full sprigs of thyme that your guests can remove before eating.  It adds great flavor and makes for a nice presentation.

salmon en papillote garlic

To create the half moon packets, take a sheet of parchment paper about 15″ x 15″ and place the fish so that the top horizontal edge lines up with the middle so that the entire fillet is placed in the bottom half of the sheet.

Salt and pepper the fillet, then squeeze the juice of the lemon quarter over the fish and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil (I use EVOO).  The oil may run a bit but that is fine.  Lift the paper up so the oil moves closer to the fish. Then place 3 thin slices of garlic on top, followed by 3 sprigs of parsley (I use Italian parsley), and 2 sprigs of thyme.  Then place 4 pitted Kalamata olives on top.

salmon en papillote ready to encase

When you’re ready to create the packet, fold the top half over the fish and bring the edges of the paper together by holding the center portion and crimp it with your hands bu folding the paper in small increments up in sort of a roll, and moving the crimp up the left until you get to the edge.  Fold the end tighter into the crimp.  Then go back to the center when you started, and crimp the right side in the same way you did the left. You’ll end up with a half-moon shape.

salmon en papilotte one wrapped

Repeat with the other fillets.  This can be done several hours ahead and placed in refrigerator to store and taking out a few minutes prior to cooking.

salmon en papillotte on tray

Salmon En Papillote with Kalamata Olives


4 5-6 oz wild salmon fillets
1 lemon quartered
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 hearty sprigs thyme
8 full leaf sprigs parsley
2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
16 pitted kalamata olives
4 pieces of parchment paper about 15″  x 15″
Salt and pepper

Salt and pepper the salmon fillets.  Place one salmon filet in parchment paper so that the top of the horizontal filet meets the middle of the parchment paper. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon quarter on top of the fillet, followed by drizzling 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place 3 slices if garlic on the fillet, then the parsley sprigs followed by the thyme. Place 4 olives on top.  Fold the top portion if the parchment over to meet the bottom portion and crimp the edges tightly starting in the middle and working your way up the left side and then from the middle, crimp the right side into a half moon shape.  Preheat oven to 400° and bake the fish for 15 minutes.  Serve each guest one parchment package.

Serves 4.


Fab 5: Healthy Food List

It’s January. The time of year when we remember just how well we celebrated the holidays by the fit of our clothes. And, we make resolutions to be healthier and leaner.  I am all for doing whatever it takes to get the motivation to live a healthier life.

Since I have launched this blog, I have written about workout programs, calorie-trackers and eating guidelines that help me to continuously live and eat healthy. In the spirit of the New Year, here are my top 5 foods that help me maintain eating healthy week in and week out.  These are food that I have come to love and believe in for helping me eat healthy, maintain calorie control and feel satisfied.

Almonds/Almond Butter

amond butter w alm

A handful of almonds go a very long way.  Nine clinical studies have shown that almonds help lower cholesterol when part of a diet low in saturated fat. Almonds, high in monounsaturated fats, also help reduce the risk of heart disease. They are great as a snack, and I sometimes chop them up and put them in my oatmeal.  But most often, I eat almonds in the form of Almond Butter – 1 tablespoon on a rice cake for breakfast. It’s filling, healthy and makes for a low-calorie breakfast.


BeansBeans are high in antioxidants, fiber, protein, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc. Studies show that eating beans regularly may decrease the risk of diabetes, heart disease, colorectal cancer. (dr oz) I eat beans 4-5 times a week.  I put them in my salads (garbanzo, northern, kidney and black beans) about a half a cup for a serving, and make bean-based soups.  Not only are they healthy, but they are hearty, leaving me full. I often add pumpkin seeds or other nuts to my salad or soup to help make it a complete protein meal, such as my lentil soup with mushrooms and pepitos.

Lundberg Brown Rice Cakes    

lundberg rice cake

For this one, I named a brand rather than just including brown rice cakes.  It’s because I love these organic gluten-free rice cakes more so than other brands because they are sturdier, tighter packed and can therefore hold toppings better, even wet toppings like tuna salad.  This is my personal view (I’m not collecting money to say this).  Since Lundberg’s are tighter packed, they contain more calories than the lighter ones but they are also more filling.


salmon en papillote garlic

I make a concerted effort to eat fish several times a week because fish offers high protein at fewer calories than other animal proteins and there are great health benefits. Research, published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, suggests that eating oily fish once or twice a week may increase your lifespan. Salmon, in particular, is considered an oily fish and one that is very high in omega-3 fats, which have been shown to reduce heart disease.  Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids may help with other conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and many more.  I often poach salmon, bake it in a roasting pan or en papillote – steamed in parchment paper (see recipe).   

Sweet Potatoes


Sweet potatoes are a true super food so it’s no wonder they make my top 5 healthy food list.  They’re filling, healthy, gluten-free and high in fiber, potassium, and vitamins A, B6 and C.  When cooked well, they are naturally sweet and moist and require no butter or anything.  Just wash them, wrap them in foil and bake in a 400° oven until they are soft.  It takes a while – depending on size, it can be 1-1 ½ hours. Because they take so long to bake and a microwave doesn’t do them justice, I often make them on a weekend and keep them in the refrigerator for eating later in the week.  I’ll eat them at room temperature at lunch or heat them up for dinner.

Another way I eat sweet potatoes is to make chips out of them.  Dice the sweet potatoes into 1/4″ pieces.  Place on a baking sheet. Add olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and cayenne pepper and bake in a 400° oven for about 25 minutes.  The pieces with the skin on will get a bit crunchy  the inside pieces will not.  You will need to watch it so that the potatoes are not too crunchy, or else they’ll be burnt. I sometimes eat this as a snack, or as a side dish.



Turkey Kathi Roll

kathi dishThis is one of my favorite ground turkey dishes.  Kathi is a type of street-food originating from Kolkata, India. Its original form was a kathi kabab enclosed in a paratha – an unleavened bread made with layers of dough and ghee or cooking oil. Today, pretty much any filling rolled up in any kind of Indian flatbread is called a kati roll.

Little red Thai chilies make this dish come alive. The heat of chili peppers mixes well with Garam Masala, a traditional Indian blend of ground spices that include peppers, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and cardamom, to fully flavor the turkey.  I make my version for medium heat but can easily see scaling it to higher heat for the right group of people.  Potato and peas provide a nice balance to the spice and extends this dish as stand-alone if you choose not have a wrapper at all.  It’s an easy one-skillet dish that is perfect for weeknights.  If you like less heat, you can tone it down by serving yogurt with it or using fewer Thai chili peppers.

kathi cookingRather than making the traditional Indian flatbread, Roti, I go on a limb and mix ethnicities, serving the filling in corn tortillas.  Yes, corn tortillas.  May sound odd, but they’re pre-made, fat-free and gluten-free, making this Indian-Mexican mix a flavorful, healthier version.  If you prefer to keep the dish authentically Indian, you can also use store-bought Naan as a substitute or make your own wrapping using this Roti recipe.

kathi spice

Turkey Kathi Roll


1.5 pounds ground dark meat turkey

3 tablespoons canola or safflower oil

1 large onion chopped

1 ½ tablespoons ground turmeric

1 ½ tablespoons garam masala

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 tablespoon Kosher salt

2 gloves of garlic, minced

1 inch piece of ginger peeled and sliced

5 Thai chilies

½ cup chicken broth

1 cup peeled, boiled russet potatoes – about ¾ of a potato

1 cup of frozen green peas – defrosted

½ cup chopped cilantro

Ground black peppercorns to taste

12 corn tortillas

Boil peeled potato until soft, and fork through to separate into small pieces.  In a skillet over medium flame, heat the oil and add onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, cumin, chili powder, and chilies and sauté until the onion is soft. Add ground turkey to skillet and mix through to brown.  Then add potato, peas and chicken broth to skillet.  Mix through, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add cilantro and mix through.  Discard ginger. Warm tortillas, naan or roti to serve.


Serves 6.


Stuffed Mushrooms

stuffed mushrooms beautifulThis is a recipe taken from my father.  He didn’t cook a ton, but there were a few dishes he made quite well.  This is one of them that I doctored up with additional herbs for added flavor. These stuffed mushrooms are healthy,  gluten free, no-carb and dairy-free.  They are made with a secret flavoring ingredient:  anchovies.   The anchovy filets pretty much disintegrate when they are sautéed with the chopped mushrooms – so those who get haunted by the sight of anchovies on their Caesar salad but are fine with their flavor in the dressing, will like this recipe and may never know they’re in there.   Their flavor adds a lot of seasoning and depth.

They key is to finely chop the mushrooms and open up the caps to hold enough filling.  I take a paring knife and slice around the mushroom cap and the gills and add them to the chopped mushroom mixture.  This leaves a bigger cap to fill.

The mushrooms can be cooked and then frozen for future servings.  Just thaw out the mushrooms before heating them up.

Stuffed Mushrooms


1 lb large sized white mushrooms

1/ 4pound small crimini mushrooms, chopped finely

1 1 oz can of anchovies packed in olive oil

1 garlic clove finely chopped or grated using microplane

¼ teaspoon ground pepper

3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 375°.   Finely chop the stems from the pound of white mushrooms and the stems and caps of the crimini mushrooms. Add the can of anchovies with the oil, garlic, pepper, parsley and thyme, and sauté the mushrooms until the anchovies disintegrate. Line a baking pan with foil and place the mushroom caps on lined pan. Fill the mushroom caps with a teaspoon each of the filling.  And bake for about 30 minutes, until the mushroom caps are soft and cooked.


Serves 4-6 as appetizer.







Leslie’s Holiday Brisket

brisket w honey

When I told my friend Jon that I was starting my blog, his first words out of his mouth were, “Are you going to post your brisket recipe”

I did try to explain that the blog was mostly healthy recipes and he did his best to explain the healthy side of brisket – which well, I didn’t quite buy.  However, since I do promise that this blog will have some splurges included, since that is part of the Hellbent Living way – 85% healthy 15% naughty I decided to include it as there is no better time to be naughty than the holidays.

Jon has been a guest at my table for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Passover (Seder) for more than a dozen years and I’ve been making brisket for the celebration for most of those years.  Unlike most Jews, I didn’t have a brisket recipe that was handed down from generation to generation.  In fact my mother never made it.  My recollection of brisket from when I was a child, was my mother’s father’s version…which my mother never made because my father never liked brisket – neither my mother’s father’s version or his mother’s version.

brisket plate

When I started to make my own holidays, I tried various brisket recipes but non really stuck. Then, my sister found a recipe for brisket that calls for Marsala wine and Lipton Onion Soup…and it was really good so I made that for a couple of years and then as my holiday guests (most of whom have been celebrating with me or 12-17 years) put the order in for brisket for Passover.  Now I’m not kosher, but I do observe many of the diet restrictions fo Passover, due to coming form a more observant mother.  So I had to some doctoring to do to make this dish comply with the kosher dietary rules of Passover – lack of Lipton onion soup which is made with corn syrup and corn starch, and corn being one of the ingredients I stay away from during Passover.  What resulted has become my holiday brisket — the dish that my guests holiday after holiday, year after year, have cone to love, expect and request.

Marsala wine continues to be a key ingredient in my brisket.  And what I ended up doing was replacing the onion soup mix with a mixture of kosher salt, onion powder and potato starch.  I end up using more onion powder and salt than the original recipe and it works out really well.  The potato starch actually helps thicken sauce more so it coats the brisket and the higher levels of salt and onion powder flavors the meat.  I also heavy up on the ketchup more so than what the original recipe called for because the acid in the ketchup helps break down the protein (beef) and the higher quantity really helps soften the beef more. Lastly, I added a higher wine to water ratio.  This brisket has been a favorite for years and keeps my guests waiting for the next holiday to come back for more.  I hope it does the same for you.

brisket uncooked in pan cropped

Leslie’s Holiday Brisket


4-lb brisket, though I make the same amount of sauce for 8-10 lbs of brisket

4 onions, sliced

2 tablespoons oil

6 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces

3 tablespoons onion powder

3 tablespoons Kosher salt

3 tablespoons potato starch

6 tablespoons of ketchup

6 cloves of garlic

3 cups of Marsala wine

3 cups hot water

Kosher salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 360 degrees.  Trim fat off Brisket. Oil both sides of brisket, add salt and pepper to taste and sear brisket on both sides.  Add onions, carrots, garlic and add to roasting pan.  In a separate bowl add onion powder, salt and potato starch and mix through to blend then add to roasting pan.  Add 2 cups of Marsala wine and ketchup to roasting pan and mix to incorporate ketchup and potato starch mixture.  Add brisket to pan and 2 cups of hot tap water plus the remaining cup of Marsala. Cover brisket with onions and carrot.  Cover and bake for 3 hours, turning every hour.

brisket in pan cropped

Chicken Seafood with Tarragon and Saffron Sauce


Paella is such a classic dish and one of my favorites. I love the flavor of saffron and shellfish mixed together. I would have it more often but I don’t like to eat a main dish that is primarily carbohydrates all that often.  So I created this protein-rich, dish that has the “goodness” of paella with additional seasonings and vegetables that can be served as a stew on its own, or with some rice on the side. I find it satisfies my paella craving while balancing my diet needs.

I use with saffron with tarragon to make for a deeper flavor.  Tarragon has a nice strong anise-like flavor, that can overpower if used in large amounts.  In this recipe, the saffron has a mellowing effect on the tarragon and when combined with the juices of the shellfish, the flavors come together wonderfully.

For this recipe, as in mixed paella, I use chicken, shellfish and sausage.  The sausage I use is a homemade (by someone else) organic chicken chorizo sausage that is made without nitrates.  If you are gluten-free you might skip the sausage altogether.  If you can’t get homemade sausage, you can use packaged pre-cooked sausage and skip the broiling part.

I think this dish will feed your paella cravings, if you get them. Though I must admit, I do still eat paella every so often as a splurge!

Image 17

Chicken Seafood with Tarragon and Saffron Sauce


6 boneless and skinless chicken thighs  (about 2.5 lbs)

6 large prawns or 12 medium sized shrimp – shelled and deveined; tails on

12 clams (cherrystone, little necks or whatever your preference)

1 lb of mussels

2 chicken chorizo sausages, fresh, uncooked, no nitrates

2 tablespoons chopped tarragon (1/8 cup) tarragon leaves, chopped

¼ teaspoon loosely packed saffron threads

2 garlic cloves chopped or grated using microplane

1 yellow onion halved then sliced thinly

1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt

1 ½ lbs of green beans – VVV ends removed

1 red bell pepper – chopped, cored, seeded and cut into ¼ pieces

I bottle white wine

Line a baking sheet with foil.  Place fresh sausages on the baking sheet and broil for 10 minutes.  Slice into ¼ inch pieces when cool enough to handle

In Dutch oven, on a stove top over med-high heat, add two tablespoons canola oil.  Pat chicken thighs with paper towels to remove moisture and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  When oil is hot, add chicken thighs to pot and cook for 6 minutes – 3 on each side.  Remove thighs to a resting plate.  Add chopped onion, garlic, tarragon, saffron and salt to pot and sauté until softened… 5 minutes. Add red pepper and sauté for 1 more minute.  Add ¼ cup of wine and start to deglaze the pot with a wooden spoon.  I do this 4 times in total, each with a ¼ cup of wine.  Then add the rest of the bottle of wine, chicken thighs, sausage and string beans to pot. Cover, lower heat to a simmer and cook 25 minutes.  Then turn up the heat until a boil and add fresh clams, mussels and prawns to pot and cover and cook until shells open and prawns are opaque.   If you your clams have harder shells like cherrystone, put them in the pot a few minutes before the mussels and prawns.  Uncover and mix seafood, and chicken together in pot with sauce and string beans and serve.

Serve in bowls as is or over rice.

Serves 6.




Eggplant Provencal

Image 6

When I visited Provence last year, and landed in Avignon, I made a bee-line to the covered market, Les Halles.  There, I had the best mix of French-Italian food I ever had.  Actually it reminded me more of the Italian food that I would get growing up in Brooklyn.  The marinated stuffed eggplant, marinated artichokes, stuffed hot peppers….  I don’t see much of this type of “salumeria” food in San Francisco.  If you have never been to Provence, you need to go for the food.  We ate one night at the Chef’s table at La Mirande.  We dined with 12 other people we didn’t know and the Chef was the host and entertainer, telling us what ingredients were used to make each dish. The meal was simple and incredible — white asparagus soup, monkfish with basil grapefruit sauce (that I will try to re-create in another blog post), and duck with artichokes in a sauce of white wine and liver… yes liver, and it was great. Continue reading

An All-Pepper Marinade With a Kick


I like a lot of flavor and a lot of spice in my food.  I typically believe the hotter, the better.  When it comes to marinades, it’s hard to find one that has big flavor without having a lot of sugar, salt and oil.  I kept thinking that there has to be a better way to make a marinade out of great fresh ingredients, that has spice but not all the sugar and fat. So I started to play around with peppers.  To me peppers are the perfect vegetable.  They are versatile: great in salads, as a side dish vegetable (roasted, or sautéed), an accompaniment to a protein and even as a main dish (stuffed).  And as flavoring agents: jalapeños which I love for spice and dried peppers make for wonderful sauces, braises and stews. And they are healthy: a good source of Thiamin, Niacin, Folate, Magnesium and Copper, Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6 and more.

I used a bunch of fresh peppers (jalapeños, pasillas, anaheims) and puree them in the food processor with other spices like cilantro, garlic, scallions, and a little olive oil and lime juice to provide the acidity needed to break down the proteins…which is basically how a marinade softens and flavors meats.  I added very little oil and no sugar.  The result was so flavorful.  I use it as both a marinade and a salsa in the same dish.  If you don’t like food as spicy as I do, you can temper the recipe by using fewer jalapeños.

green sauce in cuisinart

I have used this beautifully green marinade on chicken breasts, fish, and flank steak. My favorite is using it on flank steak. I usually serve it with corn tortillas. This recipe calls for 2 lbs of flank steak. It can serve 4-8 people depending on serving sizes. I portion out 4-5 oz for my serving so I do not overdo it with the calories. I use half the marinade to tenderize and flavor the meat before grilling. I serve the steak with grilled onions and red peppers and serve with corn tortillas and use the remaining marinade to top off the tortillas. If you want to make a big batch, this freezes well.

Pepper Lime Cilantro Marinade: (makes 3.5 cups of marinade)

4 poblano peppers – stem removed, cut into big chunks, seeds regarded

4 jalapeño peppers — stems removed, sliced.  I use the whole pepper with seeds for extra spice. If you want it more mild, discard seeds and white pith and perhaps only use 1-3 peppers, depending on your palate

3 tablespoons of olive oil

Juice of two limes

Half a bunch of cilantro

4 scallions

I teaspoon of coriander seeds

1 teaspoon of black peppercorns

1 clove of garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt

Mix all ingredients in a food processor.  Process for 2-3 minutes.  Marinade will be finely chopped.  It will not be  a puree.