Grilled Chili-Lime Salmon with Shallot

Chili-Lime Grilled Salmon on Cedar Planks | Culinary Compost Recipes

Place the salmon fillets over indirect heat on the center of the grilling grate, with coals on either side. The cedar planks ensure even cooking without flareups.

This is one of my signature Southwest recipes, made with just a few ingredients for the marinade. Buy the best Hatch pure ground chili you can find — it should not be cut with other fillers. When done, the fillets should flake apart and you can easily remove them from the skin before serving, if desired.

When cooked over cedar planks, the caramelized shallot and char from grilling adds incredible flavor without the risk of burning the fish. You can also use a gas grill, but the flavor won’t be the same. Enjoy!



4 8-oz. fresh salmon fillets, with skin
1/2 shallot, peeled and minced
2 tbs. XV olive oil
Juice of one large fresh lime
1 tsp. fresh-cracked black pepper
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. ground Ancho chili
1 tbs. ground Hatch mild red chili

You Will Also Need:
Cedar planks for grilling
Instant-read digital thermometer



Wash the salmon fillets in cold water and pat dry. Place them in a glass 1.5-quart baking dish with the skin side down.

Prepare the marinade by whisking the ingredients in a shallow mixing bowl. Pour over the salmon fillets, ensuring they are evenly covered. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in your fridge for 2-4 hours.

Prior to grilling, remove the salmon from the fridge and allow to warm to room temperature for 30 minutes.

While the fillets are coming up to room temperature, prepare an outdoor charcoal grill with a generous row of coals on either side, allowing room for the salmon fillets to be placed in the center on a grilling grate over indirect heat. Light the coals and allow them to fire until nearly white-hot.

When ready, place the salmon fillets skin-side down (do not scrape off the marinade) on cedar planks in the center of the grilling grate. To ensure even cooking, try to arrange the thickest part of the fillets in the center of the grate and not at the edges.

Cover and vent, cooking for about 10-12 minutes. Do not turn. Watch closely and remove when the thickest part of the fish reads 130-degrees on an instant-read digital thermometer.

Serve immediately.

Serves 2-4

Chili Lime Marinade for Salmon | Culinary Compost Recipes

Mexican Chipotle-Lime Crema

Mexican Chipotle-Lime Crema Sauce | Culinary Compost Recipes

My version of a classic Mexican cream sauce, kicked up with zippy chipotle adobo and fresh-squeezed lime juice.

This condiment is a must on authentic Baja fish tacos. You can also serve it with huevos rancheros or as a dipping sauce for a variety of other needs. Double the recipe if you need more. Will keep for at least a week in your fridge.  Enjoy!



1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayo (please do this dish justice and don’t use the low-fat version)
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbs. + 1/2 tsp. San Marcos chipotle adobo sauce
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
Buttermilk (used as a thinner, if necessary)


Place the ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Whisk vigorously for two minutes. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a couple of tablespoons of buttermilk.
Either serve in a dish or place in a plastic squeeze bottle. Refrigerate for two hours before serving.

Makes one cup.

Thai Lemongrass Curry Chicken

Thai Lemongrass Curry Chicken | Culinary Compost Recipes
This is a recipe inspired by one of my all-time favorites dishes featured at a local Thai restaurant. Sadly, the place closed and I was forced to reinvent it for posterity.  The flavor is intense and very complex. You will need a very sharp knife in preparing this recipe — lemongrass is a woody, fiberous stalk that is very hard to cut. The aromatic flavor of the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves are essential to this dish. Most Asian markets will carry both of these items, so you should have no trouble finding them.

If you don’t have a good wok, I highly recommend the Lodge cast-iron version. It is built like a tank and can be used indoors over a gas or ceramic electric stovetop, or outside on a charcoal grill. I love mine and it has never let me down. Order it from Amazon and save yourself about twenty bucks.

Enjoy — this is one of my favorite recipes.



For the Marinade~
2 large skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4″ pieces
1 two-inch shallot, peeled and minced
1″ chunk grated ginger root
3 lemongrass stalks – trimmed to about 8″ in length (discard the narrow green tops)
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tbs. fish sauce
Juice from 1/4 lime


2 tbs. peanut oil
20 snow peas
1 fresh garden red bell pepper, sliced
5 leaves fresh basil
1 tbs. brown sugar
1 tbs. dry Balti spice
2 tbs. Thai green curry paste (or more to taste)
3 scallion, finely sliced with greens
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
4 kaffir lime leaves – very thinly sliced
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbs. fish sauce
1 can Thai coconut milk

2 cups Thai jasmine rice, cooked according to package directions



Marinade the chicken at least one hour prior to preparing the meal. Cut the chicken into 3/4″ pieces and place in a bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, add the soy sauce, lime juice and fish sauce. Add the minced shallot and ginger. Trim the lemongrass to 8″ and discard the root and green tops. Hit aggressively with a meat mallet and discard the tough outer sheath, keeping the inner core. Cut into 2″ sections and then finely julienne. Combine with the sauce and pour over the chicken pieces. Stir to ensure they are evenly coated and place covered in your fridge.

Cut, measure and prepare everything else so you are ready to go – Thai recipes are known for their short cooking times.

Preheat a wok over medium heat. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat. When shimmering, add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, stirring constantly so it doesn’t scorch. Quickly add the chicken and discard the marinade/lemongrass. Sear until no longer pink, stirring constantly.

Add the chicken stock and fish sauce and bring to a slow boil. Add the coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves. Stir to incorporate. Add the Balti spice, green curry and brown sugar. Stir until slightly reduced, about 3-5 minutes. Add the snow peas, bell pepper, and basil and cook for three additional minutes.

Remove the wok from the stove and place on a heavy serving trivet. Serve the lemongrass chicken over hot jasmine rice with cilantro and scallion as a garnish.


Serves 4


Mike’s Famous Guacamole

Mike's Famous Guacamole | Culinary Compost Recipes

I’m always amazed by how people settle for commercially-made guacamole frozen in 5-gallon buckets and served as “fresh.” They mindlessly dollop this bland, pale green concoction on their favorite Mexican entree at their local restaurant — never realizing how drop-dead amazing it can be if you make it yourself.

Don’t make this mistake at home. Try my recipe and you’ll never order it at a restaurant again. It takes only 20 minutes and is well worth the small amount of time you put into it.


2 ripe Haas avocados
1 large clove garlic, mashed (a clove is one part of the bulb)
3 tbs. finely chopped red onion
3 tbs. minced cilantro leaves
Juice of 1/8 lime
Salt and fresh-ground coarse black pepper to taste

minced jalapeños
diced tomatoes


Remove skin and pit from avocados. Place in a small mixing bowl. Add juice of 1/8 lime. Mash the avocados with a potato masher until a textured consistency is achieved. Do not blend in a food processor.

Combine other ingredients and fold in with a spoon or fork. Serve immediately.

Makes about two cups.

There is no such thing as leftover guacamole. Use it up or throw it out. If you must save it overnight, place it in a non-reactive bowl and cover with a small amount of lime juice. Place plastic wrap over the dish and push it down on the surface of the guacamole, removing the air pocket. Contact with air is what turns the avocados brown over time.

You may have heard stories from housewives who leave the avocado pit in the serving bowl to help keep the guacamole fresh. It is simply not true. Don’t expect your guests to politely fish around this culinary eight-ball with their chips either. It’s tacky and I’m here to do my part in ending this craziness, one reader at a time. Citric acid from the lime juice will stop the reaction with oxygen, but you must also remove the air pocket described above.

On a side note: it may be just me, but I think Haas avocados are hands-down better tasting than the smooth, green-skinned variety.

El Mejor Margarita on the Rocks

El Mejor Margarita on the Rocks | Culinary Compost Drink Recipes

You can use a quality Blanco or Reposado tequila. Either one works well. I prefer the Reposado for its refined character. Do not use Anejo — tequila that fine should be savored straight in a shot glass.

There’s nothing quite like getting tanked on a Margarita bigger than your head. Enjoy in moderation.  This recipe will fill one grande Margarita glass. Please refrain from making this with rail Jose Cuervo… I’m trusting you’re better than that.



Two 1.5 oz. shots of premium tequila (blanco or reposado)
Drizzle of Triple Sec (about one teaspoon)
Juice from 1/2 fresh lime
1 tbs. powdered sugar, to taste
5 large ice cubes
Kosher salt for rim of glass



Using a sharp paring knife, cut the lime in half and then cut a 1/4″ wedge off of that and reserve for the glass rim. Add the remaining squeezed half lime portion with the other ingredients to a pint Mason jar. Seal tightly and shake well until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a chilled Margarita glass rimmed with the reserved lime wedge and salt. Reserve any remaining booze by placing the sealed Mason jar in your freezer for no more than 1/2 hour.

This is a STRONG cocktail. Enjoy with reservation.

Take care not to chip the glass when pouring the ice.
Take care not to chip your teeth when passing out on the kitchen floor.

Note: I like the infusion of the lime to take center stage. If you prefer a sweeter cocktail, add a bit more powdered sugar.