Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ina Garten's Mustard-Roasted Fish


Source: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients by Ina Garten (New York: Clarkson/Potter, 2008), p. 136.

As I've mentioned before, this is one of my absolute favorite cookbooks (received last Christmas as a gift from my wonderful aunt). I had hesitated with this one because I tend to find cream sauces and the like too rich for my palate (and my digestive system). However, Ina Garten has yet to fail me, and since I ate rather conservatively for Thanksgiving, I figured--why not?

Well, the trick here folks is the crème fraîche. Don't get me wrong--low-calorie this dish is not. But the crème fraîche balances the mustard flavor perfectly so that it doesn't overwhelm the fish (she suggested snapper, I used tilapia) and it is much lighter than using traditional heavy cream or whipping cream. The fish almost poaches in the sauce, rather than roasts, so if you are looking for a crispy fish recipe, this is not it. The fish was, however, delightfully flaky and full of flavor of its own (not just mustard), and best of all--10 minutes to prep and cook (sans side dishes, of course). This is definitely a favorite recipe!

5 stars/5!
No modifications.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

More October 2009 Real Simple Recipes

I've been enjoying the "A Month of Easy Dinners" issue of Real Simple (October 2009). I hope to try all of them, but some of them may have to wait until next Fall. This week, however, I managed to make the "Ravioli with Apples and Walnuts" and "Meatballs with Sautéed chard".
Modifications: I added some andouille chicken sausage we had in the fridge.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Notes: very good in concept and I liked the apples with the spicy sausage. I did find the dish to be too dry, however, and think I will toss it all in some truffle oil next time. Nice balance of flavors.
Modifications: none (served with whole-wheat couscous instead of suggested baguette)
Rating: 4/5 stars
Notes: really loved these meatballs--would make easy appetizers for a party, too. The combination of pine nuts, currants, cinnamon and pork gave them a Mediterranean taste and the moisture from the chard kept them from being too dry. Could be whipped up ahead of time and then broiled prior to serving.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Revisiting Brussels Sprouts and Surviving...

To continue our series on cooking foods that I have historically LOATHED (see squash)...tonight I made a pasta dish inspired by p. 66 of Real Simple's November 2009 issue AND my local farmer's market.

Brussels Sprouts. Yes. I HATE (did hate) brussels sprouts. When I was a child, my parents would grant me an additional prerogative of my choosing every birthday. The first one I picked was to no longer have to eat brussels sprouts. My mother even wrote it up by decree and signed it with a wax seal. I'm fairly certain I have not eaten brussels sprouts since I was thirteen or so. Of all vegetables, the gag factor for brussels sprouts was the highest (maybe tied with eggplant).

So, again, overcome by my need to partake of New England's regional bounty of autumn veggies, I spotted some brussels sprouts at this morning's farmer's market. I remembered Martha Stewart trying to convince me (via TV) that they really were quite wonderful when grown at home and prepared right off the stalk, so, $3 later---I walked home with a stalk of sprouts.

I learned from Real Simple that brussels sprouts are "cruciferous" veggies full of good things like Vitamin C, dietary fiber and potassium. The sprouts I bought bore little to no resemblance to the awful things I've eaten in California. These were very small, green and looked slightly less threatening.

Taking my cue from page 66, I decided to roast them in the oven with some olive oil, sea salt, and pepper for use in a pasta. Despite some over-roasting issues, the ended up working quite well in the pasta (see below for my original recipe). VERDICT? palatable. :)


  • 1/2 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
  • three large links fresh sweet italian lamb sausage (or sausage of your choice)
  • 1-2 stalks of brussels sprouts (depending on size)--the smaller the sprout, the sweeter
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • one large lump fresh mozzarella (as fresh as possible--I got mine at the farmer's market, made right here in Somerville) (shaved, or grated)
  • garlic powder
  • black truffle oil
  • dried parsley
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • Preheat oven to 425 F.
  • In medium to large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil (med-high heat).
  • Remove sprouts from stalk, clean, and cut in half lengthwise. On a baking sheet, place the sprouts face down, and drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Roast in oven for 5-10 minutes, then set aside.
  • Start water boiling for pasta.
  • In heated oil, add sliced sausage, cooking through. Add hazlenuts and dried parsley to taste, stirring frequently. You may wish to discard the oil/grease from the sausage, or you can use it in lieu of additional olive oil.
  • cook spaghetti in salted water until al dente. Drain, then add to skillet with sausage, etc.
  • Toss in the brussels sprouts with 1 tablespoon black truffle oil, a pinch of garlic powder and mozzarella, and toss until heated through. Serve warm!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Real Simple Recipes":Oct and Nov 2009

One of my favorite pieces of mail is the monthly arrival of Real Simple magazine, courtesy of a gift subscription from my mother. My absolute favorite part of the magazine is the recipes which do tend to be simple and healthy. I like recipes that I can cook during the week, but are a little more exciting than dumping two cans of beans in a pot with some canned tomatoes and chili mix.
In the past week or so, I made the following recipes:
Tilapia with Peppers and Olives (Real Simple, October 2009)
  • tilapia + green olives + lime = awesome
  • yellow cauliflower IS slightly sweeter than white cauliflower
  • if you cook tilapia too long, it still tastes good, but it falls apart from the filet
  • I don't like squash, in general. But living in New England in autumn makes one want to like squash. Not only did I like this squash, I'd make it again for a Thanksgiving meal. Make it for your friends who do not like squash and see what they say. The mint and scallions made a wonderful combination and the texture of spaghetti squash is much more pleasant than other squashes.
  • Don't mess with lamb too much. So much flavor right there.
RATING: A, Solid A

Spicy Rice with (Chicken) and Chorizo (Real Simple, November 2009)--not yet available online, but part of their "10 Fresh Ideas for Turkey Leftovers".

  • Ok, so I used chicken instead of turkey.
  • Since I used pre-cooked chorizo links (Applegate Farms), I added some salt, garlic powder and a touch of paprika because the flavor of the chorizo wouldn't permeate the rice as much. I also heated the chorizo in some olive oil to help distribute the flavors. This probably isn't necessary with chorizo in crumbled form.
  • Next time I might add some canned tomatoes to give it a bit more of a spanish rice feel.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Oven-Roasted Stuffed Poblanos

Believe it or not, I have actually cooked once or twice since my last blog post (in AUGUST)! However, since my crazy teaching schedule started, I've been far too reliant upon frozen food and my local grubhole. I'm also quite fond of the relatively new Tory Row in Harvard Square, where I eat dinner every Wednesday night.

So, now that I've had two weeks to adjust to the insanity rigors of my schedule, I figured it was high-time to start cooking again. So, on Saturday, I picked up some poblano peppers, chipotle-flavored locally-made goat cheese, and some fingerling potatoes from the Farmers Market. Tonight I whipped up this concoction:
Oven-Roasted Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Spinach & Chipotle Goat Cheese

Poblano Peppers
  • 4 poblano peppers
  • half a large onion; or one small onion, chopped
  • one clove garlic, chopped
  • olive oil (recommended amounts in directions)
  • organic fresh spinach (1-2 bunches--remember that spinach really does cook down to nothing!)
  • 1 small "log" of goat cheese (I used chipotle goat cheese from Valley View Farm)
  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Wash spinach thoroughly (I recommend letting it soak in a bowl full of water, twice through, then running just the leaves through a salad spinner. I HATE sand in my spinach. :))
  • Remove stems from spinach and set leaves aside.
  • Wash poblanos, lay the poblano flat and slice a "T " cut into each (see photo), pulling the seeds out with your fingers (it may be easiest to turn it upside down over a trash can). {Thanks to Elly for this hint on cutting poblanos!}

Poblanos await their stuffing
  • In a medium skillet, use 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to cook onion and garlic until onion is transparent and garlic is golden (roughly five minutes).
  • Add spinach to skillet and LIGHTLY sauté until the leaves are just wilted. Set aside.
  • Add a generous slice or two of the goat cheese inside each pepper.
  • Stuff the spinach mixture into each pepper leaving just a little room on top.
  • Slip one more slice of the goat cheese into the pepper.
  • In a greased baking dish (or one drizzled with olive oil), place the four peppers with the stuffed side facing up. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over the peppers.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until peppers are tender (the skin should slightly blister in places, but not enough to slip off the pepper). The cheese will get softer, but won't "melt"
  • Serve hot!
We had ours with an easy side of scalloped fingerling potatoes (dashed with Penzey's Seasoned Salt).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

FSP Lime Chicken with Currant Wehani

Serves 2

  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced
  • juice of one lime
  • kosher salt
  • Penzey's "Florida Seasoned Pepper"
  • 1 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • one large clove of garlic, chopped
  • blanched slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 8 oz. Wehani rice (cook acc. to package directions: 35-45 min.)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup dried zante currants

  • start Wehani rice (prepare acc. to package directions, you can substitute broth for water...if using water, throw a pinch of kosher salt into the water. I also add a pat of butter.)
  • while rice is simmering, prepare chicken slices by rubbing with kosher salt and Florida Seasoned Pepper (can substitute lemon pepper), half of the lime juice, and set aside
  • in a medium frying pan with lid, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat.
  • Add onions and garlic to the pan, cooking until translucent (onions)
  • Add almonds to pan and saute for 3-4 more minutes
  • add chicken slices, browning on all sides.
  • add other half of lime juice and half of the white wine over chicken, then cover and reduce heat to medium low (simmer)
  • when most, but not all, of the liquid is absorbed by the wehani (approx. 30 min.), toss currants in with wehani, as well as the remaining white wine, and leave on heat for 5 min.
  • turn heat off under chicken--if you are using an electric range, remove the chicken from the burner
  • remove wehani from heat and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until liquid is completely absorbed
  • serve the chicken on a bed of wehani, spooning the sauce/broth from the chicken over it, making sure to distribute almonds and onions.
I served it with a simple salad of red-leaf lettuce, orange bell pepper, green onions tossed with olive oil and champagne vinegar. Wehani is VERY aromatic and has a strong flavor, so don't dress the salad with anything too obtrusive.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chilled Cajun Cod Nicoise Salad

Thus begins part two of our "It is hotter than Hades" food series. :) Today was so hot and humid I would have gladly spent part of it locked in a freezer. I hate cooking on days like this, but we've gotta eat. Since I also did not feel like getting in the car that has no air conditioning in order to go to the grocery store, I also had to play "let's experiment with weird random stuff in the fridge/freezer." Thus, I give you "Chilled Cajun Cod Nicoise Salad" which bears no real resemblance to Nicoise except for the green beans (which started off purple--see below).

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)
  • 2.5. filets cod or other flaky fish (I used frozen cod, but fresh would be better!)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • purple green beans (incidentally, purple beans just turn green when you cook 'em, so don't bother unless you plan on eating them raw)
  • red-leaf lettuce
  • cajun spice (I used Penzey's, but you could also make your own)
  • salt (enough for a rub--1 tsp should do it)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (can substitute olive oil)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • juice of half lemon
  • 2 tsp champagne vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • white pepper
  • rub both sides of cod filets with kosher salt and cajun seasoning (to taste) and set aside
  • blanch purple green beans, being sure to transfer them to an ice water bath
  • slice granny smith apple into thin slices
  • once green beans are cool, put in a plastic container along with the apple slices
  • drizzle lemon juice, champagne vinegar, olive oil and white pepper over the apple/bean mixture (I like to use a plastic container with a lid and then just shake it up to coat everything).
  • refrigerate apple/bean mixture
  • heat butter in frying pan over medium heat
  • pan fry each side of the filets for approx 2 minutes, setting in the spices
  • pour fresh lime juice over the filets, cover pan, and poach for approx. 5 min over low heat (add water if necessary)--Cooking time may be less for fresh cod
  • when cooked (it should flake apart), drain cod, and put in a container for refrigeration and chill for approx. 1 hr
  • when ready to serve, wash and tear red leaf lettuce and place on plates. Arrange apples, beans and cod in a design of your liking, pour residual dressing from the apple/bean mixture over entire salad.
  • SERVE!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chard and Chevre Wontons

It is true that necessity is the mother of invention. This is one of those "random things I had in my fridge" recipes that turned out pretty well. I was looking for something relatively healthy, quick, and "summery" (meaning, not meat pie or mac n' cheese). We have a great Farmer's Market here, and on Saturday I had picked up some rainbow chard, locally made black pepper chevre, cilantro, and a sweet green pepper. The cilantro is optional, but I found it really mediated the slight bitterness of the chard (as did the green pepper). The chevre is scrumptious and provides a bit of tang. I also used lemon pepper (my "summery" spice of choice) to give it just a tad more zip. The result was a really well-balanced filling with a crispy and light texture.


NOTE: The amount I used is for ONE PERSON (roughly eight wontons).
  • 1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 a sweet green pepper, choppped (or whole small pepper)
  • 4-5 large leaves rainbow chard, finely chopped (stems too)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
  • chevre
  • lemon pepper and sea salt (to taste)
  • wonton wrappers
  • water
  • 3-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Saute onion in 1-2 tbls of olive oil over medium heat until golden
  • Add green pepper and cook for an additional minute
  • Finally add chard and cilantro. Cook for approx. three minutes, shaking pan or stirring with a spatula. *do not overcook chard--it should be crunchy, colorful, and not wilted.*
  • Season to taste with sea salt and lemon pepper.

  • Allow mixture to cool slightly before filling wonton skins.
  • Place 1 tsp. to 1.5 tsps of mixture in the center of wonton skin. Place a dollop of chevre on top of mixture.
  • Wrap wonton according to package directions or your best attempt. :) I used water to seal, but egg whites will also work. As you can see, I need some work on my wonton folding skills.
  • In frying pan, heat at least 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • pan-fry wontons, allowing each side to get crispy (make sure your oil is hot enough)
  • remove wontons from pan, and drain the excess oil on a paper towel
  • serve hot, over a bed of remaining chard mixture (if there is any leftover).