Sick of Dinner

Posted: June 16, 2010 | Author: Rita | Filed under: Rita | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

My recent gap in posting was unfortunately due to being sick, so I wasn’t all there enough to write down any coherent thoughts last week. I’m doing ok now — 24 hours of sleep helps! But the real casualty is that I was supposed to host a dinner party for four the day I could barely keep my eyes open at work. It was a real shame because I had a totally bomb menu planned taking advantage of my CSA greens and was looking forward to catching up with old friends. Sigh.

After coming home just a couple of hours at work and sleeping for 7 hours I realized though I wasn’t hungry all the food and supplies I bought were going to rot if I didn’t cook something so I thought ‘To hell with it’ and just made most of what I had planned in the first place and figured I’d eat the rest later. This turned out to be a damned good idea because it was probably one of the best dinners I’ve ever made. Too bad no one else was there to have any!

First off, since it was to be a sort of special occasion after not seeing friends for so long, I had bought four fillets of salmon. Right there that made dinner fancier than usual. Sure it was a little more expensive than groceries normally are but I figured I was saving money with all the produce I had acquired. And besides, pesto was involved and pesto with tilapia doesn’t jibe as nicely, at least in my mind.

Next, last week’s CSA share consisted of some veggies outside of my usual repertoire, like escarole. I have nothing against it but I didn’t know what to do with it and I figured I’d use it all up first. This is how I came up with a Braised Escarole with Cannellini Beans appetizer. Ok, I didn’t “come up” with it but I did read that escarole and white beans go together superbly and I found a fantastic recipe along with much commentary at this website. so no, I did not create it.

Discovery: escarole needs to be braised or sauteed for quite a while since it’s pretty bitter raw! The recipe I just linked to was absolutely delicious. Had I served it to friends It would have been spooned atop whole wheat flatbreads as an appetizer but I ate it as a side. The recipe can also be more like a soup, if that catches your fancy.

As the main, my CSA provided us with a simple but delicious recipe for Pan-Seared Salmon on a Bed of Baby Greens with Dried Cherries along with a recipe for an orange zest dressing. (Thus the salmon purchase!) Uh, yes, this was truly amazing. Lucky for me, one of the farmers is a trained chef and sends us weekly recipes and ideas!

The only real “recipe” part to this was the dressing, since it’s: plate some baby greens. Make the dressing. Pan-sear the salmon (skinned) on both sides for a few minutes until each side is golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Dress the greens using half of the dressing. Place the salmon on top of the greens. Drizzle the rest of the dressing along with the dried cherries that have been marinating in the dressing. Voila! I used golden raisins instead which worked just as well! So here is that dressing:

Orange-Zest Salad Dressing
- 2 1/2 tbsp champagne or white wine vinegar [I used red wine vinegar]
- 2 tbsp fresh orange juice
- 1 tsp orange zest
- salt, pepper
- 1/4 cup dried cherries [I used golden raisins]
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine except olive oil and set aside. Pan-sear the salmon in the meantime, instructions above. Remove cherries/raisins from dressing. Whisk the olive oil in until blended. Dress half of it onto the greens. Plate the salmon. Drizzle remaining dressing on fish with cherries/raisins to garnish. Serve.

Simple but seems so fancy. Also, way, way tasty. Since I received so much spinach last week I had made some spinach with walnut pesto to use some of it up and scooped some atop the fish too. It was a very thick pesto, more like a tapenade. Either way it was good too. With all of these lettuces and greens I will need more salad dressing ideas so if anyone has any please let me know! I really don’t make them myself too often.

I would have made a grain as a side but just for myself, this was all much more than enough. Dessert was some blueberries and strawberries. Hopefully next time people are over for dinner I’ll be able to cook something just as special.

Viva la Revolution!

Posted: April 21, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

You may have seen this kid’s face before. But now, he looks a little bit older, a little bit more grown-up. In case you’ve not put it together yet, this is Jamie Oliver, formerly the Naked Chef. He is now spearheading the first truly aggressive attempt to get America to eat better via his weekly TV show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. He’s taking on one of the most statistically unhealthy towns in the country, and trying to teach its residents to eat better from the school lunches on up. In the first episode, some of these kids cannot identify a tomato. Clips show them spitting out salads and throwing away beautiful and totally amazing vegetables, prepared by JAMIE FREAKING OLIVER. Dude is a CHEF, and these kids are just tossing it away.

Anyways, part of the effort is getting everybody in America to eat smarter, healthier, less processed, more real food. It actually goes right along with his whole Naked Chef persona, which was all about taking wonderful ingredients and preparing them simply and deliciously. Along with signing his petition after seeing 5 minutes of the first episode (you should sign too.), I decided to try and work some Jamie-ness into my daily diet. This lead me to a recipe I’d seen before in the pages of The Naked Chef, but never paused to actually consider and cook. Yes, I fully admit that I am a fool.

Tray-Baked Salmon with Green Beans, Tomatoes, Olives and Anchovies

I’m going to list the ingredients here, even though honestly, the only ingredients NOT in the name of the recipe¬† are lemons, olive oil, salt and pepper.

  • 1 8-ish ounce salmon fillet per person you’re serving
  • a pint of cherry tomatoes
  • roughly half a pound of green beans
  • a few handfuls of pitted olives (we used a Mediterranean olive mix from FreshDirect – pick what looks good)
  • a lemon
  • anchovy fillets (please do not skip these. they get all nutty and savory, and really truly round out the whole dish)
  • olive oil, salt and pepper

Heat your oven to roughly 450. Jamie says in the book to heat your oven and roasting tray on the highest heat, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to test my oven, which sets off my smoke alarm when I’m making cookies at 325, at whatever the “highest heat” is. So I picked 450. If you know and trust your oven, please feel free to go at a higher temperature, but don’t blame me if the smoke alarm goes off. I warned you.
If it’s your thing, blanch your green beans this way: Drop into a shallow skillet of boiling salted water for 2 minutes, then fish out and dump into an ice bath to shock them, keeping them bright green and making sure they stop cooking. I didn’t blanch mine, because I like a green bean that fights back, and since I was going to be roasting these anyways, I didn’t see the point in cooking them twice. Go with your gut on this one.

Combine your green beans, the cherry tomatoes (Jamie says about 20 cherry tomatoes. Count them if you have that much time on your hands, I won’t judge you. I just poured until it looked like enough), and a few handfuls of pitted black olives (DO NOT use the ones out of the can for this. Go to the olive bar at Whole Foods or do not make this recipe. You’ve been warned). Drizzle with a little olive oil, because you’re going to be roasting these HOT, give them a little salt and pepper, remembering that olives are salty, as are anchovies, and maybe a small drizzle of lemon. Toss.
Pat the salmon fillets really dry, and season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. You only want to use the juice of half a lemon for the combo of the veggies AND the fish, so be delicate. Put the fish on a roasting pan or cookie sheet and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, just so it doesn’t burn. Less than a teaspoon, seriously, because you’re just trying to ensure the surface doesn’t burn. I also added a lemon slice to the top of each piece, which I always do with salmon.
Put the veggies at the opposite end of the roasting pan or cookie sheet from the salmon, and scatter 5-6 anchovy fillets over the green beans. Don’t wimp out on the anchovies – they melt away and fall apart and bring a beautiful savory nuttiness to the other intense flavors of salt, sweet, acid, and richness.

Roast everything for 10 minutes. This will yield a medium-rare salmon fillet, tomatoes that are all puffed up and ready to explode, and wonderful things happening with the other ingredients. If you don’t like your fish medium-rare, you could of course let it go a little longer, but please no more than 12 or 13 minutes…. you want everything to taste VERY MUCH of itself, which means it cannot be overcooked.
The thing that amazed me most about this dish was probably its beautiful simplicity. It took 10 minutes to put together, and 10 minutes to cook. Nothing was seasoned with anything other than salt, pepper and lemon. And somehow, the salmon comes together all rich and buttery, and the tomatoes are acidic and juicy. The olives add their tang and briny saltiness, and the green beans are just sweet sweet sweet. And keeping everything together, seriously, is the anchovy. Because they’re tiny, the fillets just dissolve when you cook them, and you’re left with these tiny little chunks of nutty, savory something that somehow end up on your fork – it mellows out the tomato, makes the olives a little less overwhelming, and enhances the green beans in every way. And seriously – 6 ingredients along with olive oil, salt, and pepper. 6!!!!

As a kid, I don’t remember ever not liking vegetables. But there are so many kids today who are such picky eaters, because they’ve never been exposed to the delicious simplicity that is a well-cooked vegetable. They’ve never had food that tastes wholly and purely like its unprocessed self. And that makes me so sad. As a country, we absolutely need to work toward remembering what it’s like to eat the first piece of a tomato from our own garden, or our friend the farmer’s garden if we live where gardens aren’t possible. We need to remember as a nation that hamburgers come from COWS, not from McDonalds, and that cows live on farms, not in pens at processing plants. Fish come from the ocean, not a fish farm in the North Atlantic, and chickens eat worms, and dirt, and whatever the crap else is on the ground, not just corn. Have you ever seen a chicken climb a cornstalk?! No.

In general, this meal was a real wakeup call to me. I urge you to make it, as soon as you can find good green beans in your area, and as you’re eating it, remember that you don’t need 67 ingredients to make a delicious meal. And, bonus, there’s only 1 pan and 1 bowl to wash at the end! Who can beat that? Seriously.
Thanks, Jamie. Viva la Revolution indeed.

Moroccan Fish

Posted: April 7, 2010 | Author: Rita | Filed under: Rita | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Passover ended yesterday evening and I’ve been spending the past week and a half on vacation visiting my parents back home. My mom, for this very strictly kosher holiday, has insisted on cooking everything the entire time. “It’s your vacation,” she says, “And besides, I love cooking for you.” That must be where I get it from. What’s a Knife-Using Pretty Girl like me supposed to do?


Here’s a quick, delicious, healthy (and kosher-for-passover) tomato-based dish that anyone can make, courtesy of my mom. She calls it Moroccan Fish, though you can use the stew and seasonings on chicken as well. It made for a fantastic Monday night dinner. ;)

Moroccan Fish

- Fillet of fish (tilapia or salmon works well, though most any fish can be used)
- Olive oil for sauteing
- Large yellow onion, chopped
- A few cloves of crushed garlic, to taste
- At least one red bell pepper, slivered or chopped
- 2 cups of diced tomatoes (or can substitute one 16 oz can of diced tomatoes)
- Pinch of sugar
- Salt, pepper, cayenne, cumin: all to taste
- Cilantro or parsley (optional)

In a large pan over medium heat, saute chopped onion for a few minutes, until soft. Add garlic and sautee for another minute, but don’t let it brown. Add the red pepper and let soften, which will take a few minutes. Add the tomatoes. Sprinkle the pinch of sugar, the salt, pepper, cayenne and cumin. Add clinatro or parsley if doing so. Adjust to taste. Once the stew is thick and spiced appropriately, add the fish to the pan. Let it cook in the stew for a while, then flip so that both sides absorb the flavor of the stew.

Alternatively, you can bake the fish if that is your preference. Place the fish in a tray and smother with the stew once it’s ready. Wrap the tray tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or so, or whenever it seems to be done. Adjust the amounts of ingredients based on how many people you are cooking for!

If you only have eggs, you make the stew, crack a couple of eggs on top, sprinkle in some zahtar and voila! You have shakshuka, an Israeli staple dish. It goes well with pita bread.

Alex Runs, Joh Cooks p. 5

Posted: November 5, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Alex Runs Joh Cooks, Johanna | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

WOW!! Can you believe we’re already at part 5 of this series??? I know I can’t! Here’s the thing, though. We’re at part 5. Alex’s race is less than 3 weeks away. The donation deadline is in a week. And with that in mind, I’m imploring you. Please. Leave me a comment, so I can give her a dollar, or 2 dollars from you. So I can do what little bit I can, to show her how proud of her I am for doing this amazing thing to raise money to fight the disease that has hurt her family. Tell your friends, send them links, Tweet this, do whatever you have to do. I’m willing to donate for every single comment I get on one of these posts by November 15th.

Saumon Aux LentilesThere are 2 excellent things about this dish. The first, is that it’s french. The second, is that it involves salmon, lentils, and leeks. Maybe that adds up to 4 good things, but either way….. It’s a great great dish. (And yes, in case you’re scoring at home, Salmon is ok with Alex the Vegetarian. I checked.) The excellent things about this dish expand the more you look into it, but before I go into those, I’ll go into one unnecessary thing.
There is a compound butter made with tarragon, chives, mustard, and lemon juice. I love compound butters, but they’re not exactly great for your health — slapping an extra tablespoon of butter onto a salmon filet that you’ve cooked in butter, seems excessive, even to my butter-loving soul. In that spirit, I would advocate for skipping the additional quantity of Mustard-Herb butter. ¬†2 tablespoons of butter should suffice, and halve the rest of the things in it.

And now, on with the recipe. Saumon aux Lentiles – or, Salmon with Lemtils.

I’m going to suggest that you follow the link to get the ingredients and items, since I got this directly from Gourmet March 2008, and in a shocking turn of events, I followed it to the letter. (more or less) You can also totally halve this and serve it for 2. I had a LOT of lentils left over, although I only cooked 2 portions of salmon, so I ended up eating lentils with fried eggs the next day, and it was delightful. So, for what that’s worth.

Step 1: The Lentils
Put the green lentils, water, and 3/4tsp of salt in a pot, bring to a boil, Simmer until just tender, and let them hang out for 5 minutes. Then, take out half a cup of the cooking water (it will be a funky color. Do not be deterred) and drain.
Zey Are FronchOne CupAvec du SelThe flavor's in the funk.

Step 2: The Leeks
I’m pretty sure that the leek is my favorite vegetable. Unless a chickpea is a vegetable, in which case, it wins. Are legumes vegetables? I know that in French, “legume” means “veggie” but I need a ruling. ALYSSA!!! You’re a Bio teacher – are chickpeas vegetables?
Regardless. Leeks rock. Except for one thing. They’re kind of a pain in the ass to clean, because they grow in sandy soil. So in order to clean them, you lop off the dark leafy bits, and you lop off the white root-looking end. Then, you cut them in half, top to bottom, so you have 2 long halves (ish). Then, you put each half round-side up, cut IT in half the long way, and then rotate your knife and cut them into half-moons the short way. I promise, this is all worth it, and there will be pictures. Once you have all of your leek bits cut up, place them in a big bowl or pot of cold water, and swish. Then, walk away.
Lop the root end off Each long half, cut in halfIt's hard to cut while taking a photoSwish, and walk away

While the sand and grit from the leeks is sinking to the bottom of the pot or bowl, get out a saute pan and put in some butter. Then, when the butter is melted, gently scoop out the leeks, leaving the grit at the bottom of the receptacle. Plop them in the saute pan and cook until softened. Then, add the lentils, their cooking liquid, and 2 tablespoons of the compound butter, and cook until the lentils are warm.
Carefully scoopingSauteing until softThe mustard-herb butterZee lentils!!!

Step 3: The Salmon
The rest of this dish is quite simple. Pat your salmon filets (skin on is fine) VERY dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Melt some butter in a non-stick pan, and get it pretty darn hot. Once the butter stops foaming, put the filets in, and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, depending on how well you like salmon cooked. Then, put some lentils and leeks on a plate, and top with the salmon. Easy peasy, one-two-threesy.
Fishy Fishy FISHY!!!!!*cough* Till the foam subsides. Ish. The flip. Zee bed of zee lentils and zee leeks

This dish is delicious. It’s frenchy. It’s got lots and lots of good protein, and fiber, and good fats. If you didn’t want to use the butter-sauteing method for the Salmon, by all means you could broil it. The lentils and leeks will still provide plenty of flavor, and salmon is a flavorful fish, although I really like the crisp that sauteing gave the skin.
Enjoy, and remember:
Alex Runs. I Cook. You Comment. I Donate.

Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.