Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sole, Slaw, and Salad: A summery triumvirate

First, the sole and the slaw:

I had some frozen sole filets in the freezer, and was desperate for a quick and easy recipe, but something a little better than just butter and onions.  Enter Baked Sole with Lemon.  Now, I'm a little wary of unfairly--as I find one particular site on a topic about which I think I'm rather authoritative, to be full of inaccuracies and astonishingly sophomoric given the supposed "credentials" of the "guide."But that is not of great import at the moment as we are talking about food--not this other subject that shall remain nameless.

I really loved this recipe for the good balance of butter and lemon. I made two adjustments (for pragmatic what-I-had-on-hand reasons): shallots instead of onion (a common substitution here at The Lady of Shallots), and cilantro mixed in with parsley. The real annoyance with baking sole (or any other thin, flat fish) is that you basically have to watch it carefully because even a few minutes difference can overcook it. The recommended 30 minutes would have been far too much for my 5 filets (in two dishes). I took it to about 20 and that was almost too much. Overall rating: 4/5 stars.

The slaw--Napa Cabbage and Sesame Seed Slaw--from Smitten Kitchen's Deb Perelman (via NPR), was absolutely wonderful. Complex, but not confusing, and for those of you whose taste buds shrivel upon the mere mention of wasabi, fear not.  The honey and the lime cut the heat of the wasabi, and leave the flavor. To give it a little more Japanese flair, I also added some seaweed seasoning--specifically Mishima's Aji Nori Furikake. I will definitely make this again: 5/5 stars.

Finally:  the "salad" that, really, if I'm honest?  They are pickles.  Yummy pickles, but I certainly could have used more sugar. I accept responsibility for that. Now, "Refrigerator Cucumber Salad" isn't exactly the sexiest name, but given that I can't think of an alternative, we'll stick with that. When she said that she cuts the sugar in half, I tried a happy medium: I cut the sugar in half, but I also substituted half the vinegar with apple cider vinegar--hoping to give it more sweetness. This was not all that successful.  The "salad" is VERY vinegary---but I can call them "homemade pickles" without too much shame. I also used celery seed instead of celery leaf, and chopped shallots instead of red onion--good call. The "pickles" are also more convincing when served in a small ramekin next to a fantastic grilled mozzarella, red pepper, and red onion sandwich! ;-) I'll give the recipe 3.5 stars as I made it, and will try it again with more sugar for a hopeful 4/5.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer Cooking: Lemony Orzo, Salmon Skewers, Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Well, I've been gone for a bit, and in the meantime I've been grieving the loss of my mother -- who passed in the beginning of June -- and trying to figure out the best way to get life back on track.  Cooking and eating seems to be a good place as any to start (to say nothing of the fact that I spent a month in LA subsisting off of martinis and snack foods--indulgences of grief).

I've enjoyed using Pinterest for recipes because I am seduced by the photos.  Truly.  But I've started a board of the recipes that I've actually cooked, and I add little mini-reviews.  You can check it out (and follow, if so inclined) here.

Now while martinis and snack foods are simply delicious, my personal trainer is going to make that weird face she makes when she's trying not to call me out on being lame. So, at least I can counter it with the fact that I a) am cooking again and b) eating healthy food!

Below you will see Grilled Salmon Kebabs.  These get 4/5 stars from me.  Next time we make them, I think I will use the spices as a rub on the salmon before it is sliced into pieces.  But they were tasty and paired wonderfully with Martha Stewart's Lemony Orzo. I love orzo and I love lemons, so this was a match made in heaven-5 stars!. She suggests lemon peel, but I will go out of my way for any excuse to use my favorite kitchen accoutrement: my zester! I liked that the zest stayed in with the orzo after cooking, and I think it made it more lemony (although I have not prepared it with peel instead of zest...). But I anticipate making this orzo several times this summer. The salad was also homegrown--a lettuce mix and beans from our patio garden.
We had leftovers, and I hate eating the same exact meal twice in a row, so I added this recipe for Roasted Sweet Potato Skewers with Cilantro-JalapeƱo Aioli Dip.  I made a few adjustments.  Notice the lack of skewers below (I prefer smaller pieces of sweet potato) and my "dip" was a little different--more of a dipping sauce.  I substituted plain yogurt for the mayo, blended everything with my immersion blender, and the result was fantastic.  It will be a great dressing for salad, and I even drizzled a bit in the soup I had tonight. 5 stars for the sauce!