Tag Archives: seafood

Delicious Detox: Salad Nicoise

It’s not the type of cinnamon roll I usually go for, the very sticky kind with gooey frosting. And there were eight of them, really huge, scented with cardamom from this truly marvelous bakery in Manzanita Oregon. We hadn’t anticipated they’d be so enormous. And the kids, even though they were ravenous from hours of playing on the beach, couldn’t even finish one. Which left me alone in the kitchen with a half finished box of cinnamon rolls. I didn’t eat them all at once and of course I didn’t eat every last one. I’m not that much of a glutton. The kids had made a significant dent. But over the course of a day and a half, the remainder slowly and steadily disappeared. They were fantastic. Which brings me to the topic of today’s post: May will have to be Delicious Detox Month.

I was actually going to write about making pizza because I have a new method and I totally love it. However when I discovered there was no wi-fi at the Manzanita cabin my friend Liz and I rented (and really, given my track record of never writing blog posts on vacation, maybe it would never have been written anyway) I ended up waiting another week to write. Then, with the cinnamon roll debacle and feeling rather on the wrong side of forty and clearly not bathing suit ready at all and June being right around the corner, I knew I wouldn’t be writing about pizza. Not this month…It’s time for Delicious Detox. Liz, of course, coined the catchy phrase.

I still feel I should provide the link to the pizza dough here. It’s perfect for any night of the week, being so easy (no kneading!) but it was also just perfect for a Saturday night last weekend. (I guess this is the kind of thinking that leads to taking all of May off from pizza and pastries…) A breeze to stir up and to form; the dough baked out chewy and crisp all at once. Also, you really should try my current favorite pizza accoutrements (melted leeks, bacon, white cheddar, breadcrumbs, finished with arugula) for which, if you ask in comments, I will be happy to provide directions. Here is a photo:

As far as the Delicious Detox goes, don’t worry, there is no way I would subsist for a week on honey/cayenne water or what have you. My little brother did that once and from his dizzying experience I know that method is not for people who have to drive carpools or make dinner every night for a bunch of ravenous children. Also, I don’t believe in talking about dieting in front of kids. I talk about making “healthy choices”. Here’s how it will go: I will eat a lot less meat. I will vigilantly search out seasonal vegetables. I will take advantage of halibut and salmon season. I will snack on fruit and drink only water. (I will still have a latte for breakfast though – I’m not completely crazy.)  Go sugar free the entire time – no maple syrup, no honey. Only whole grains, if grains are on the menu. Sometimes a little challenge is fun. I promise that whatever I write about will taste delicious – not like compressed hay bales or rabbit food.

In anticipation of the new regime, which will start May 1st, I was inspired to make Salade Niçoise. I was hoping to get some sashimi grade ahi to sear as a substitute for the traditional canned tuna. At the seafood counter, the fresh tuna looked grim and the fish guy deeply apologetic.

“I was hoping I could just sear it.” I said doubtfully.

“Uhhh. It should be alright.” You might describe his look as shifty.

I headed over to the canned fish aisle. Line caught tuna, local, packed in olive oil. It is the traditional choice even if it wasn’t what I’d envisioned.

Salade Niçoise

serves 4

  • 1 bunch slim asparagus, ends trimmed (traditionally these would be green beans, boiled. Asparagus is what I had on hand)
  • 12 new potatoes
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup pitted Niçoise olives
  • a splash of white wine or vermouth
  • a small head of red lettuce
  • 2 handfuls of arugula
  • 2 cans albacore tuna packed in olive oil
  • 4 boiled eggs: start in cold water and when the water has reached a boil, cook for 5 minutes. Then drain and cool in cold water.
  • 3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp french mustard
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 9 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra for broiling the asparagus
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Put a medium sized saucepan, half full of water on the stove over high heat.
  2. Preheat the broiler to high
  3. Place asparagus on a rimmed sheet pan with 1 tbsp olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and lots of pepper. Toss until coated.
  4. Broil for 3 minutes, turning or shaking the pan once after a minute or two. The asparagus should have some brown spots and smell wonderful. Remove from the hot pan and set aside on a plate to cool.
  5. When the water in the saucepan is boiling add 1 tbsp salt and the potatoes. When the water returns to the boil,  lower the heat to medium and set a timer for 12 minutes.
  6. While the potatoes are cooking, rinse and dry the lettuce and arugula leaves and arrange on a large platter.
  7. In a medium bowl, whisk the red vinegar, the mustard, the herbs, 1/2 tsp sea salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly.
  8. Drain the tuna and toss with 2 tbsp of vinaigrette.
  9. When the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork, drain them and leave them to cool slightly. When you can handle them without burning yourself, quarter them, and toss them in a small bowl with the vermouth.
  10. Add 5 tbsp of vinaigrette to the potatoes. Allow to cool a bit.
  11. Peel and quarter the eggs.
  12. Toss the cherry tomatoes with 1 tbsp vinaigrette.
  13. Toss the rest of the vinaigrette with the salad leaves.
  14. Arrange the asparagus over the lettuces. Arrange the potato salad either in a heap in the middle or evenly over the whole platter of leaves.  Dot the platter with tomatoes, eggs, tuna and olives.

Have I left anything out? David Lebovitz says you choose either tuna OR anchovies. He also said Niçoise salad is perfectly fine with no fish whatsoever. So I didn’t forget anchovies – I just made a choice. So can you. That’s the fun part.

Perhaps next month there shouldn’t be quite so much olive oil…

Manzanita, 2012


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The Moroccan Salmon Sandwich

There is a diner (the upscale yuppie variety) near my house called Skillet, which serves a extraordinarily good hamburger. I am somewhat of a devotee of the hamburger. (And I don’t mind much if it’s the posh kind or the fast food kind – if by fast food you mean Dick’s)  Anyway, at Skillet they have this condiment called bacon jam. It’s as heartstoppingly wonderful as it sounds. Of course bacon jam is heartstopping in every sense of the word. So much so, that having eaten at Skillet several times in the course of a few weeks, I felt I had to explore other parts of the menu. After carefully looking it over, and with a flicker of regret as I passed over the burger (bacon jam, arugula, creamy blue cheese), I ordered the Moroccan Sockeye Salmon Sandwich, which had condiments that sounded intriguing too: harissa aioli and crisp fried preserved lemons.

The salmon sandwich handily beat the hamburger – the epic Skillet hamburger with bacon jam. No kidding. Harissa aioli and fried preserved lemons beat bacon jam?! Yes they did. It’s true. Sharp bittersweet tang, then more sweet, and smoky too, the tangled crunch – oh just a little bit more – What?! How can it be all eaten up already?! I had to figure out a way to make this sandwich at home because ordering two would be embarrassing.

Guess what? It was easy. There are a couple of ways to get there too. This could be a project kind of sandwich, with toasting, grinding and soaking the spices for the harissa and the ras el hanout yourself or you can just buy them ready-made at a grocery store. Moroccan food has become ubiquitous in cities and I see these condiments all over the place. That being said I would not deny myself the pleasure of the scent of freshly roasted cumin, or the sinus clearing burn of roasted dried chili de arbol. (Please try making these condiments just once!) However, I do understand that this is just a sandwich. A fifteen minute proposition if you don’t make all the condiments yourself.

Removing the pin bones with needle nose pliers

Moroccan Sockeye Salmon Sandwich – serves 4 generously

  • 1 1/3 lbs sockeye salmon filet
  • 1 tbsp ras el hanout (see recipe below)
  • spray olive or canola oil
  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise (I like the Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1/4 c. harissa (or to taste – see recipe below)
  • 1 medium sized preserved lemon, sliced thin, seeds removed and dried off with a paper towel (I prefer Le Moulins Mahjoub brand for their firm skin. It makes it a lot easier to slice. I bought them at the grocery store)
  • Canola or peanut oil
  • 1/4 c. rice flour
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 handfuls of arugula, rinsed and dried
  • 4 brioche buns or soft potato rolls
  1. Using needle nosed pliers (I have some reserved for the kitchen in a drawer) remove the pinbones from the salmon. If you run the tip of your finger lengthwise down the fatter side of the salmon, you will find the bones poking upwards.
  2. Heat the grill or the grill pan, to medium.
  3. Spray the salmon on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle the ras el hanout evenly over the top of the fleshy side. It will tend to clump in spots but you can even it out with a stiff brush or even your fingers.
  4. Place the salmon flesh side down over medium heat on your grill and set the timer for 8 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, heat about 1/4″ of canola or peanut oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat.
  6. While the oil is heating, combine the rice flour and the cornstarch with a pinch of salt on a small plate. Lightly coat the sliced preserved lemon in the dry ingredients and set aside.
  7. Test the oil by dropping a little piece of bread into it. It should brown quickly and evenly. It it burns right away, it is too hot and you’ll have to begin again.
  8. Carefully, so you don’t splash yourself, lay the lemon slices in the hot oil. They should take a minute or two per side to become golden brown.
  9. Set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel.
  10. Whisk the harissa into the mayonnaise with a fork.
  11. The salmon should be ready to flip now.
  12. Flip the salmon over and set a timer for two minutes. Allowing the salmon to cook thoroughly on the flesh side should make flipping it over a breeze. It simply does not stick to the grate if you grill it this way and you get beautiful grill marks.
  13. Bring the salmon inside and cut it into 4 generous pieces.
  14. Spread both sides of the brioche or potato rolls with the harissa mayonnaise. Lay the salmon, then the arugula, then the preserved lemons  and top with the other half of the roll.
Ras El Hanout – makes about 1/4 cup
This recipe comes from Fine Cooking. It is so easy to throw together if you, like me, have loads of spices in your cupboard.
  • 2 Tbs. sweet paprika (preferably Hungarian)
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir with a fork.
Harissa - makes about 1/2 cup
This recipe comes from Sunday Suppers at Lucques.  I have only made wonderful food from this book.
  • 6 dried chile de arbol, ribs and seeds removed – this is much easier to do when they are dried
  • 2 San Marzano tomatoes, canned
  • 1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 medium cloves of garlic
  • freshly ground black pepper – several grindings
  • 1 tsp kosher sea salt
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/16 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Heat a medium sized heavy sauté pan over high heat for 1 minute. Add the chilies to the pan and dry toast them until they have little black spots and they smell wonderful. Depending on the heat of your stove this could happen in seconds or take up to a couple of minutes – so don’t walk away! When they are done, set aside in a heat proof bowl and cover with very hot water. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  2. Setting the heat to medium, toast the cumin seeds. Seeing as the pan is already quite hot, this will take less than 30 seconds under your watchful eye. When they smell fabulous, take them off the stove and grind them in your mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one, crush them with the edge of the bottom of a wine bottle on a cutting board, or in a clean coffee grinder.
  3. In the same pan, cook the tomatoes over medium heat until darkened and somewhat thicker. Set aside.
  4. Drain the chiles and put them in a food processor or blender with the garlic, tomatoes, paprika, cumin, cayenne, vinegar, salt and pepper. Puree until combined. You will have to scrape down the container with a spatula frequently; this doesn’t make a lot of harissa. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a thin stream and blend until smooth.

To give you some idea how of delicious and universally pleasing the Moroccan Salmon Sandwich is, I will tell you that my picky five year old demolished his and ate half of a second and Martin and I ate ours and split a third. There was nothing left for Siri and Alistair and they had to be consoled with ice cream sundaes, which were clearly running a distant second to the sandwich. Alistair even ate just bread with the sauce and arugula because we’d run out of the salmon. Ok. I confess that the fried preserved lemon was a tough sell. My daughter managed to pick hers off even though I trickily shoved it underneath the tangle of arugula leaves. Siri is nobody’s fool and saw through my ruse immediately. The boys blithely polished the whole thing off, lemons and all.

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Heat: Linguine with clams

“It’s about the sauce, not the little snot of meat in the shell” Mario told me later. “Nobody is interested in the little snot of meat!” Heat, by Bill Buford

I can’t believe I’ve never written about this.

A couple of years ago I read this book Heat by a guy who was a fiction editor at the New Yorker.  He took time off from his life as an editor and took an unpaid position in the kitchen at Babbo, an Italian restaurant in New York. The book details what he learned and how it completely changed the trajectory of his life. Anybody who knows me well could tell you that I really loved this book. As in reading it six times in one year – the kind of love which probably would more accurately be described as obsession. There’s a particular passage where the author describes making linguine with clam sauce, “begin by roasting small pinches of garlic and chili flakes and medium pinches of the onion and pancetta in a hot pan with olive oil” and so on, and I could just about taste it while reading. I imagined the rich smoky scent of the pancetta. The briny, winey, butter swirling around silky noodles. Splayed grey clam shells and bright green parsley strewn over the top. Linguine with clam sauce might seem pedestrian – some version is served at every mediocre Italian restaurant – but Mr. Buford’s prose was so compelling, I had to try it.

For some crazy reason that had to do with having trouble finding the right page in the book when I wanted to shop for ingredients (I know this is a lame excuse but the book has no index!) and being fearful about major dinner revolt caused by serving clams to my kids who fear all shellfish except crab and shrimp, I never actually did try this recipe. Until today. Somehow after the excesses of Thanksgiving, linguine with clams seems festive and at the same time, a little bit reductive, at least in terms of technique and ingredients. It doesn’t take all day to put it together. It doesn’t require even a single glug of heavy whipping cream. And Mr. Buford’s description captured my imagination. I envisioned excellent baguette for mopping up the juices, a Verdicchio to drink and a lightly dressed fennel and cucumber salad. I thought this might be the perfect post Thanksgiving meal.

Babbo Linguine with clams, Mr. Buford points out, was “no longer linguine exactly; it had changed color and texture and become something else. I tasted it again…in this strand of linguine: an ocean pungency.” It was, deliciously, just that. And a welcome respite from leftover turkey and mashed potatoes as well.

Linguine with clams - serves 4

I had to conflate Mr. Buford’s method with some more practical aspects from Marcella Hazan’s recipe for Linguine with clams in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. For instance, “a big handful of clams”? What’s that? Ms. Hazan writes you’ll need 4 or 5 littleneck clams per person – sounds like a big handful to me.

  • 2 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1/4 tsp – 1/2 tsp chili flakes – this will barely be hot. If you’re not serving kids, bump it up a little.
  • 3 tbsp minced red onion
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped pancetta
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 splashes white wine (1/2-3/4 cup?)
  • 1 lb linguine fino
  • 24 littleneck or other small clams
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • splash of green olive oil to finish
  1. Set a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Salt the water until it tastes as salty as sea water.
  2. Put a very large heavy bottomed sauté pan (not non-stick!) on a burner and set the heat to medium. Allow the pan to heat up for 2 minutes. Add the olive oil, then garlic, chili flakes, onion and pancetta, all at once. Stir until softened. Do not scorch. About 2 or 3 minutes.
  3. Spoon off any olive oil and add the butter. As it melts, swirl, and then add the wine. Let it bubble for 20 or 30 seconds and turn off the heat.
  4. When the water has hit a rolling boil, add the linguine. Stir until all the strands are separated and submerged and the water has returned to a full boil.
  5. Dump all the clams into the sauté pan, turn up the heat and clamp a lid on the top. The clams will be done in about 6 or 7 minutes. By this time the pasta will be nearly done.
  6. When the pasta is almost done, set the clams on high heat.
  7. Do not drain the pasta in a colander in the sink! The starchy pasta water clinging to the linguine is a key component of the sauce. Make sure the pasta pot is right next to the sauté pan. With big tongs, reach into the boiling water and drag the drippy wet pasta into the pan of clams – taking a few passes so you get most of the pasta out of the pot. Simmer the pasta and clams for 30 seconds.
  8. Dress lightly with the green olive oil and strew parsley over the top.
  9. Serve immediately in warm pasta bowls.

I bet you’ll love Heat, if you haven’t read it yet, although probably not as obsessively as I did. (Even I can see that was a little weird!) If you want to make this using Mr. Buford’s excellent notes, the text describing how starts on page 130 in the hardcover edition, two thirds of the way into chapter 12 for those of you who have the paperback.

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Summer with a twist – Rhubarb cocktails and gravad lax

It’s summer (sort of) here in the Pacific Northwest.  I’m going to keep this quick and offer Gravad Lax – home cured salmon – as an option for when you are tired of the grill.

For me this happens maybe once each summer – usually during a heat wave when it’s too hot to stand around flipping burgers in front of a red-hot pile of charcoal. Instead of singeing your eyebrows off in 90 degree heat by the Weber while your guests are sitting over there drinking cold beer, your dinner is already done, so you can be sitting in the sun with a beer too. You see, you salt the fish two days before you eat it, allowing it to cure in the refrigerator. About half an hour before you want to eat, pull the salmon from the cold of the fridge and shave the thinnest translucent slices possible from the fish. The salt will have pulled all the moisture out and the color will be vividly red. The cool salty-silky salmon is a welcome change from peppery charred filets you might expect on a hot June night. Even though it’s not exactly hot here in Seattle.

I like to imagine serving gravad lax in the long bright evenings you get in Stockholm at midsummer, but without the mosquitoes. We didn’t have mosquitoes last week but since this is Seattle in June, we had rain, rain, rain. No sultry summer evening in the garden for us! Still, we had a fantastic time with friends. With the salmon, we served rhubarb cocktails. I’m including both recipes. Happy summer!

The Stockholm - serves 1

  • 1/2 ounce aquavit
  • 1/2 ounce cointreau
  • 1 1/2 ounces rhubarb puree (recipe follows)
  • dash of orange bitters
  • Prosecco to top up
  • a piece of orange peel, cut wide with a sharp vegetable peeler

Rhubarb puree – makes enough for many cocktails

  • 4 stalks rhubarb, rinsed and sliced into 1/2″ slices
  • 3-4 tbsp sugar
  • juice of one lime

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Toss all ingredients together in a small baking dish (for instance, an 8″x8″ square pan or a gratin). Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
  3. Bake in the oven for about 1/2 an hour until the fruit is completely soft.
  4. Push the rhubarb through a fine mesh sieve with a wooden spoon or, if you are feeling completely lazy, puree in the food processor. (if you opt for the food processor, the puree will be somewhat fibrous)
  5. Refrigerate until cold and proceed.

Assembling the cocktail:

  1. In a tall cold champagne flute stir together the aquavit, cointreau, rhubarb puree and the bitters.
  2. Top up with chilly Prosecco and float a wide piece of orange peel to finish.

This is now my favorite summer cocktail. That St. Germaine that I sometimes rave about would potentially be an excellent substitute for the Cointreau if you happen to have any lying around.

Gravad Lax - serves 6-8 as a generous appetizer

Allow 4 days to complete the recipe. Note that there is a total of 15 minutes  easy work though.

  • 2 pounds salmon (I used Copper River sockeye)
  • 2 teaspoons peppercorns (I used mixed), lightly crushed
  • 4 tablespoons kosher salt (not fancy kosher sea salt & not sea salt, just regular old kosher)
  • 2-4 tablespoons sugar (I used 3)
  • About a cup of rinsed, coarsely chopped dill
  • lemon wedges, finely minced onion, chopped chives, crème fraiche, cucumber slices, coarse sea salt, thinly sliced dark rye bread to serve

  1. Day 1-2: Freeze the salmon for 48 hours to kill any parasites.
  2. Day 3: First, cut the salmon fillet in half across the short dimension. If you pull any pin bones with needle nosed pliers, you will make slicing and serving a lot easier.
  3. Stir the peppercorns, salt and sugar together in a small bowl.
  4. In a rimmed baking dish (to catch any salt that doesn’t adhere) rub about a third of the salt mixture on the flesh side of each piece of salmon.
  5. Sandwich the salted fish, flesh sides together, with the rest of the salt mixture and the dill in the middle. The thick part of one piece should top the thin part of the other. Place in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, carefully sealed, in the bottom of the refrigerator for 2 days. I would put the bag in a baking dish. Turn the bag a couple of times a day.
  6. Day 5: After 2 days, drain any liquid and scrape off the salt mixture and dill and place in the freezer for half an hour (you don’t HAVE to put it in the freezer but it sure makes slicing it very thin a lot easier)
  7. Gravad lax keeps for at least a week, drained of all the accumulated liquid, in the refrigerator. Well wrapped, it keeps for 3 months in the freezer.
  8. Serve with crème fraiche, chopped chives or minced red onion, lemon wedges, maybe a few cucumber slices and if you are feeling ambitious (I recommend this) some excellent homemade rye bread with fennel seeds. (If you haven’t tried rye without caraway seeds, you haven’t lived. You won’t be disappointed I promise – send me a comment if you want the recipe!) Otherwise some of those rye cocktail squares or German style pumpernickel would be fine.

I like to make a big platter with everything, piling up the gravad lax and all the condiments in heaps. Little teaspoons can scoop up the crème fraiche and onions. Everyone can build little sandwiches according to their own taste. A little bite of sandwich, a taste of the cocktail, and around it goes. What a nice party! A more organized person than I am would at least provide cocktail napkins. Oh well.

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le Grand Aioli

 

The reductive pleasure of this very simple meal is hard to convey. Plain poached cod surrounded by plain blanched haricots verts, asparagus, English peas and little beets. I would have liked baby carrots but we had a bag of the large workhorse variety so I cut them up and didn’t give it a second thought. Baby turnips and long French radishes would also have been elegant, modern and springlike but I came from 2 hours of standing in the fiercely cold rain for kid soccer and when I got to the market I just wanted to get out and get home. Fancy vegetables can wait for next time. (Believe me, there will be a next time) The glory of le Grand Aioli is of course the aioli, with its velvety opulent burn. Seriously, it takes less than 2 minutes to make.  After demolishing the plate of fish and vegetables, which we plunged into the aioli, we went through half a loaf of toasted Colombia bread that had been slicked with a very green olive oil, spreading silky aioli over it thickly too. After that, I nabbed all the crusts of this excellent bread from the plates of my children (what a drag it will be when the kids figure out this is actually the best part) and wiped the little aioli bowl clean. It was that kind of dinner.

Of course, in my mind le Grand Aioli is meant to be enjoyed on a sunny terrace, cracked granite underfoot with a glass of very cold very crisp mineral-y white wine and white threadbare very soft linen napkins somewhere in the south of France or in a garden in England under a trellis of lilacs on an unseasonably warm late spring afternoon. We ate at our dining room table with a perfectly lovely Malbec my dad brought over and 3 children who initially complained bitterly about the meal and then suddenly ate everything in sight. And the sun came out too. I credit the aioli.

Le Grand Aioli – serves 4

You will have to make a court bouillon but most likely you have all the ingredients stored anyway. It’s very quick. Start with the court bouillon and everything else will fall into place.

Court Bouillon

  • 2 pints water
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 2 cloves
  • 7 peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar

In a large non-reactive saute pan with a lid (unless you are one of those people who owns a fish poacher in which case now is the time to haul it out), combine all of the ingredients and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes. Now it is ready to use.

Aioli

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic smashed in a mortar and pestle with 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (or 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 olive oil – I find all olive oil to be too strong)

Place all ingredients in the tall narrow cylindrical container that comes with an immersion blender and blend for a few seconds until the oil is emulsified and the aioli is thick.

If you have no immersion blender, this can also be done in a food processor or blender, in which case you must leave out the oil and very slowly in a very thin stream add it to the rest of the ingredients as the blades are spinning.

The Vegetables

  • 4 ounces haricots verts
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, rinsed and trimmed
  • 1 pound English peas in their pods, remove their pods
  • 4 little beets
  • Baby carrots, peeled and greens trimmed short — or big carrots, peeled and cut to the size of a baby carrot.

The Fish

1 1/2 lbs skinned cod fillet

Consider also baby turnips, radishes, small potatoes (fingerling), baby artichokes, spring onions. Next time I make this, it’s going to be crazy and even more beautiful. You can also include quartered boiled eggs and garnish with parsley. I was too cold and too tired to do this.

Fill a 4 quart saucepan with water, cover and bring to a rolling boil. Add 2 tbsp sea salt and start blanching vegetables in batches. If you plan to steam the beets, set up a steamer alongside.

Scrub the beets and trim their tails and tops. The beets take longer especially if you prefer to roast them as I do: 1 1/2 – 2 hours in a 400F oven, wrapped in foil, but they can also be steamed and then peeled. I would steam them for 15-20 minutes if they are small.

The haricots verts, asparagus and English peas will take 2-4 minutes in the boiling water. Carrots take 2-5  minutes depending on their diameter. Start checking everything after 2 minutes. Blanch everything separately so you can carefully control when it is perfectly done. The vegetables should be crisp tender. A device called a spider is useful here, for fishing everything out quickly at the right time.

After boiling these tender green vegetables, it is nice to dump them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. I have no ice maker so I pull them a little early and lay them in one layer on a rimmed sheet pan on a dish towel.

As the vegetables are cooking (they’ll be served room temperature), bring the court bouillon to a simmer and lay the cod in it. It will not cover the fish. Put a lid on the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the cod to sit in the broth until you’ve finished the vegetables. About 15 minutes.

Carefully remove the fish to a large white platter that can accommodate it with all the vegetables. Serve with toasted crusty bread that has been slicked with olive oil and the aioli. A little dish of coarse sea salt would be lovely for sprinkling over everything.

 

 

 

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Codcakes – really?!

Really. And believe me, I was skeptical. My friend Liz made them first from a recipe collection she got from me! Codcakes. It’s sounds like the sort of tame and ridiculous expletive my mother sometimes uses – “Fishhooks! Codcakes!” I would never say that and if you’d asked me a week ago, I might have said I would never make codcakes either. I imagined something leaden. I worried they’d be fishy – not in a good way. Codcakes sound like the kind of thing an old person would make to use up leftovers. But Liz liked them. In fact I believe what she said was “Sarah, you have to try them. They’re totally excellent!” She was right and I was completely wrong.

I wouldn’t admit this to a true crab cake connoisseur because it would  probably lead to a long and boring argument, but for a fast last minute weeknight meal that won’t threaten your retirement savings, these are pretty close to crabcakes. Really very delicious. Crisply browned on the outside in olive oil, tender within and greenly perfumed with basil. The garlic gives them a little attitude. If you don’t agree that they are wonderful after trying them, I’d love to know why.

Codcakes with Basil Aioli

This recipe can be doubled very easily. The five of us demolish a double recipe every time.

  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Sea salt, pepper
  • 1 pound cod fillets, skin removed
  • 1 1/2 c. panko, divided in half
  • 1 egg
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1/4 c. olive oil

First make the sauce.

In a food processor or blender, process mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic and basil until pale green and smooth.

Scrape the aioli into a small serving bowl and, without bothering to clean out the bowl of the food processor, pulse half the cod into a combination of finely minced and chunky pieces. Transfer fish to a large mixing bowl and process the remainder of the cod.

Using a large sturdy spatula, mix all the processed cod in the mixing bowl with 3 tbsp of aioli, 3/4 c. panko, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, the egg and the scallions. It should look like this:

Form the mixture into patties – these could be quite small – 2″ is good for small children. 3″ would be fine for adults. Put the remaining panko on a plate or wide bowl, and press  all over the patties.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Don’t start cooking until the oil is shimmering. This is important and the difference between stodgy-greasy and golden-crisp. Sometimes I put the pan on the heat and walk away for a few minutes to chop a clove of garlic or change whatever music I happen to be listening to. Acquiring the patience for the pan to get hot enough took me a long time. Let the pan sit on the heat for at least 3 minutes.

Add the patties to the pan and cook about 4 minutes per side, until golden. Serve with aioli or if you have a child who is acting very silly (I did) with ketchup. The aioli also goes very well with steamed or roasted asparagus. You may want to add a little extra of everything to the sauce – you’ll want more.

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Surf and Turf. My way.

Surf n’ turf makes me think of Outback Steakhouse or Olive Garden – not that I’ve ever been to either place; I can only surmise. As much as I like steak and shrimp, I have to ask: isn’t it kind of over the top having them both at once? And yet, it was Sunday and we had a too small steak in the freezer and coming back from a soccer game, we just happened to pass Mutual Fish where they always have something I want. Right in front in a big plastic tub of ice chips were a heap of rosy pink shrimp. Surf and Turf? I  guess so.

Sometimes Sunday is a good day to make a huge elaborate meal like spaghetti bolognese – the 4 hour long Marcella Hazan version – or a Roast Chicken with Bread Salad, like the one Judy Rogers makes at Zuni Cafe.  Today was a napping Sunday – a day where the weather threatens to rain but it never quite does and it’s too warmly muggy outside. I fought it all afternoon and then at about 4:30 I just wanted to go to sleep and I did.  Waking up on the couch bleary eyed and sleepy at 5:15, I dreaded pulling dinner together.

I was fortunate though in two ways: 1. I had that small thick steak and a pound of large shrimp waiting in the refrigerator. Also a bag of arugula – that was key. 2. I fell asleep perusing Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. When I woke up at 5:15 I began flipping through hoping for easy and wonderful and I found something right away – lucky me. Although it’s hardly surprising. Somehow Ms. Hazan always perks me up. I get curious. I want to do the right thing. I hope she would approve. I want to get to work. Not too much work in this case. We were eating by 6:15.

Here is what I found:

Grilled Shrimp Skewers & La Fiorentina.

Shrimp and steak? It could be predictable and pedestrian. Here – I don’t think so. I haven’t ever seen shrimp prepared with breadcrumbs on the grill. The breadcrumbs became wonderfully crisp and the large shrimp were moist, flavorful and tender. The recipe is so straightforward, and because the shrimp were large they took no time to clean. I do have to admit the Fiorentina was just for inspiration. My humble steak was no Chianina T-bone. The truth is, salt, pepper and olive oil are all a good piece of beef really needs. For this menu, aside from the shrimp and the steak, all of the other ingredients you might reasonably have on hand. It’s the method that kicks it. That is what I love about Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. There aren’t any culinary acrobatics. Although the meal was composed of simple ingredients using simple techniques – I made something we all loved  - there wasn’t a scrap left!

Sunday Menu

  • Grilled Shrimp Skewers
  • Grilled Beef
  • Arugula with olive oil and lemon – as a bed for the beef and shrimp
  • Grilled Asparagus
  • Red Quinoa with Sea Salt, olive oil and garlic (If you didn’t have quinoa, a rustic loaf of bread would be perfect. If I had had one in the house – that would have been my first choice. Less messy too.)

Grilled Shrimp Skewers

  • 1 lb large shrimp – about 15-18
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup dried bread crumbs (I make these when I have a few heels of soft sandwich bread and dry them out on a sheet pan in a 200 F oven for about 1/2 an hour)
  • 1 small clove of garlic chopped very fine
  • 1 heaping tsp parsley, chopped fine
  • Salt and pepper – freshly ground
  • A lemon sliced in eighths for squeezing
  • 5-6 short skewers – soaked in water
  1. Remove the shells from the shrimp and slice down their backs to remove the dark line. Leave their tails on – they look pretty.
  2. Rinse the shrimp in cold water in a colander and dry thoroughly with a towel.
  3. Place shrimp in a medium sized bowl. Pour the olive oil over the  shrimp – just to coat.  Don’t go overboard. You don’t have to use all of it.
  4. Sprinkle on the bread crumbs, evenly but lightly all over. Toss with a spoon. You may not need all of the bread crumbs depending on the size of your shrimp. Don’t make them look breaded with a gloppy coating. Sprinkle with a light hand.
  5. Add the garlic, parsley, salt and pepper and toss until evenly distributed.  Let them sit on the counter now for at least 20 minutes – you could leave them there for up to two hours.
  6. Set the grill to direct medium (or heat the broiler in your oven) 15 minutes before you want to cook the shrimp.
  7. Thread the shrimp on the skewers in even curls, piercing each shrimp twice, as seen in the photo below:
  8. Cook the shrimp on the grill for a few minutes per side – until they feel firm.  In the oven set them close to the heat. 1 1/2 or 2 minutes per side.
  9. Serve hot. The small squirt of lemon made this dish just right.

Steak in the Style of La Fiorentina

Somebody somewhere in Tuscany would certainly want to have words with me after this Fiorentina travesty. I know Tuscans take this steak preparation very seriously and would hate me throwing around “La Fiorentina” on some random cut of meat.  Also the idea that I would serve something so rare, luxurious, and symbolic of Tuscan cooking with…shrimp!?!?!  You’ll just have to bear with me. Anyway, even if I wanted a Chianina T-bone, they’re few and far between even in Tuscany. Today I went with a steak that Martin picked up, which the butcher at Whole Foods called “chateaubriand”.

I am not nearly as knowledgeable as I would like to be about these matters, but even I know that Chateaubriand refers to a preparation of beef, not a cut. Whatever it was, it was not a T-bone – maybe it was a sirloin. It was fine.  Since I can’t tell you what exactly the cut was that I grilled tonight,  I will tell you how to make a flank steak in the Fiorentina style. (I have done this before and I know that it tastes wonderful.) To prepare a flank steak Fiorentina-style, grill the meat over very hot coals to get a deeply caramelized exterior and keep it rather bloody inside.  Salt and pepper are the only flavoring before grilling and olive oil dresses the meat afterwards.  I suppose I am committing further heresy as I serve mine on a bed of lightly dressed arugula with olive oil and lemon.  The arugula wilts just enough under the hot grilled beef and is completely delicious – bitter, salty and lemony with the mineraly meat juices further dressing it. The flavors remind me of the first time I had carpaccio.


Grilled Flank Steak in the Fiorentina Style

(with a nod to my good friend Lee, who introduced me to the arugula salad underneath!)

  • 1 – 1 1/4 lbs flank steak, about 1″ thick
  • kosher salt or coarsely ground sea salt
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  • fruity-sharp green olive oil – for dressing afterwards not before
  • 3-4 big handfuls of washed and dried arugula – I get the bag of wild arugula from Trader Joe’s when I am too tired to wash a real bunch.
  • 1 lemon cut in half
  • a very hot grill
  1. Bring the beef to room temperature by unwrapping it and letting it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Heat the grill on high.
  3. Generously salt and pepper the steak.
  4. Grill for 8-10 minutes flipping once half way through the cooking time.
  5. While the meat is grilling, toss the arugula with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a large serving platter.
  6. The meat is done when it reaches 145 F on a meat thermometer. Allow the beef to rest uncovered for 5 or 10 minutes on a cutting board. Slice thinly and lay over dressed arugula. Squeeze the lemon half over the top.
  7. While the meat is resting grill the shrimp and the asparagus – the asparagus takes 6-8 minutes unless you have pencil-slim ones – which you should start checking after 4 minutes.

If Ms. Hazan were here she would certainly give me a talking to. Oh well.

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Warm Bulgur Salad with Grilled Salmon, Cucumbers and Mint

Normally I steer away from Family-Friendly-Weeknight-Fast-Only-15-Minutes headings in magazines. It’s not that I’m against any of those sentiments – not at all!  It’s just that if there is a can of artichoke hearts involved or a jar of marinara sauce or a bag of frozen pizza dough, I worry that the resulting dish really won’t be delicious enough. You don’t have to take so many short-cuts to eat well quickly.

Today was really busy though, and I knew I wouldn’t be home until 5:30. I wanted to eat something fresh, easy and fast (all those buzz words!) that I would be able to put together in 1/2 an hour or less – no crazy chopping, no long marinating, nothing like that. So I found myself flipping through the “Family-Friendly-Fast” section of a magazine. Here I found “Minty Bulgur Salad with Salmon and Cucumbers”. It looked promising and turned out to be delicious. As always, I steered away from the finickier parts.  The author would have you cool the salmon and bulgur in the fridge after cooking – not for me! I say it’s more delicious, more flavorful and – dare I say – more elegant to serve it just barely warm.

On the side, we had beautifully charred, salt and pepper-y grilled asparagus.

Warm Bulgur Salad with Grilled Salmon, Cucumbers and Mint

  • 1 tbsp delicious green olive oil, or more to taste
  • 1 1/4 pounds salmon fillet
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups bulgur
  • 1/2  an English cucumber
  • 10-12 small tomatoes
  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, stems removed
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, larger leaves torn
  • 1/2 cup thin slivers of red onion
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • good red wine vinegar to taste
  1. First, boil a kettle of water. While the water is boiling, put the bulgur into a medium sized heat proof bowl. Pour three cups of boiling water over the bulgur, briefly stir and leave to sit for 25 minutes (or more if you’re not quite done with the other parts of the recipe.  It shouldn’t take much longer than that though.)
  2. Put the red onion slivers in a small bowl with cold water to cover.  Add a splash of vinegar and set aside.
  3. Thinly slice the cucumber and halve the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  4. Heat up the outdoor grill or your grill pan. Season the salmon with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper. Spray or brush generously with olive oil. If the grill is gas, set the heat to direct medium. With a grill pan, medium high on the stove should be right.  You want to get that grill or pan good and hot – then things won’t stick to it. Lay the salmon flesh side down. Grill for 7-8 minutes on the flesh side. The general wisdom will tell you that salmon fillet is done when you cook it 5 minutes each side – but that is not really the case.  After 5 minutes on a non-stick surface, salmon will cling to the pan or the grill with a vice-like grip.  You could try to flip it but the whole crisp and grill marked surface will be ruined. BUT! if you wait another minute or two, carefully lifting an edge with a thin metal spatula, the filet will slide right off like a slipper and you won’t have mangled the grill marks.   7-8 minutes on the flesh side, 3 on the skin side – that’s how you grill perfect salmon.
  5. As the salmon is grilling, drain the bulgur and the onions. Toss bulgur with the olive oil, lemon juice and red wine vinegar to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Add the onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley and mint. You can flake the salmon and toss everything together on a large platter or serve larger pieces of the salmon over the warm salad, which is what I did.

Grilled Asparagus

The thicker variety is best here – the pencil thin asparagus just falls through the grate and also becomes terribly mushy. Conveniently, the asparagus cooks at the same temperature and for nearly the same time as the salmon!

  • 1 lb asparagus, washed and woody ends snapped off
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Toss the asparagus with 2 tsp olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  2. Grill for 6-8 minutes on direct medium heat, flipping once.
  3. Serve.
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Shrimp, Avocado and Mango

Sometimes, you have to go off road to get exactly what you want. It’s funny; when I got the idea that I wanted a shrimp and avocado and either grapefruit or mango salad for dinner, I thought there would be at least half a dozen recipes at my fingertips in my stacks of cookbooks. Nope. Not one.

I tried all the usual suspects: Weber’s Big Book of Grilling, Forever Summer (Nigella Lawson), various titles from the Barefoot Contessa (although I never, ever find anything I want to eat in her books – pretty pictures though). I even checked Shirley Corriher’s Cookwise – I always wish I could find something there because it’s so well researched, and invariably I have to look elsewhere.

Finally, in desperation, I checked Joy. Nothing. Not specifically anyway. I kept flipping through and finally found two recipes I could cobble together. What is it about Joy of Cooking? I wouldn’t be without it.  People denigrate it.  They complain that it has no pictures and that the recipes are written in a laborious way. I admit, it is an old fashioned kind of book. Other fancier cookbooks left me high and dry today though and Joy had all the pieces I needed to put dinner together. Look how it came out:

I was pretty happy. No. Better than that. Very happy. We all were. No complaints today. In retrospect, the only thing I might have added were either some toasted pine nuts or frizzled shallots.

So, cobbled together from the Joy of Cooking:

Cilantro Grilled Shrimp with Avocado and Mango Salad

Serves 4

For the shrimp:

  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp – medium or large (I buy them pre-peeled and deveined, sustainably farm raised – peeling and deveining is too time consuming)
  • 1/3 c lime juice – from 3-4 juicy limes
  • 3 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper

For the salad:

  • 2-3 lemons (for a total of 1/4 c + 2 tbsp juice and 1 lemon half to keep avocados from browning)
  • 1/4 c water
  • 2 ripe Hass avocados
  • 2 Ataulfo mangos (these are the golden variety, or one of the other greenish larger kind)
  • 1/2 a large red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 hearts of romaine, washed and torn into bite sized pieces
  1. Start the coals or heat up a gas grill.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk the lime juice, cilantro, chili flakes, salt and pepper together. Add shrimp to bowl and toss. Set aside to marinate as you prepare the red onion, salad dressing and mango.
  3. Rinse the onion slices in several changes of water. In a small bowl, toss them with 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 c water and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. In small bowl, whisk 1/2 c olive oil, 2 tbsp lemon juice and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Set aside.
  5. Peel and cut mangos into 1/4″ slices.
  6. Thread the shrimp onto 6″ bamboo skewers. (I had 10 skewers with 4 shrimp on each)
  7. Peel and cut avocados into 1/4″ slices. Squeeze the 1/2 lemon over the slices to prevent browning.
  8. Grill the shrimp skewers over direct medium heat for 3 minutes per side.
  9. Toss the romaine with half the olive oil vinaigrette.
  10. Arrange the mangos and the avocados over the romaine. Drain the onion slices and strew over the salad. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over everything. Arrange the shrimp skewers on top.

*Since we have a possible shrimp allergy with one of the kids, I grilled a chicken breast with the shrimp.  The salad can be served with either chicken or fish or on its own.

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Halibut Season

I have been meaning to write up my old stand-bys, the ones my sister begged me to start blogging about right from the beginning. The store cupboard favorites; the fast, straightforward menus that everyone should have in their back pocket. I really meant to write about what my friend Candice refers to as Mexican Fiesta today. I really did. Mexican Fiesta is a wonderful concept. It’s easily scalable, accommodating 2-20 people with little fuss. It can be very simple or elaborate. Trader Joe’s can do a lot of the work or none.  I love Mexican Fiesta. In fact, we had the perfect mid-range Mexican Fiesta on Saturday, with pictures and everything, that I have been trying to find time to write up. But I got side-tracked…

That’s because halibut season began this week. My neighbor Susan reminded me about it yesterday.  What you need to look for is Pacific halibut and here is why: Pacific halibut is caught on long-lines which cause little to no environmental damage. These fish are not over-fished and are rated the best choice of all the flat fish by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood WATCH. I am so thankful that there are environmentally friendly halibut to eat because halibut is completely delicious. A firm yet tender fish, it is mild yet meaty. I love it.

Initially when I glanced at the recipe and saw three sections of preparation, I quailed. Wednesday is not the easiest day to try something new, let alone something that has three separate parts to produce. Then I started reading the recipe through. Clearly each part was very easy. The result was totally delicious and not at all boring old run-of-the-mill. The recipe explores the incredibly useful sear-roasting technique, allowing the cook to caramelize the exterior of the fish while protecting the moist interior. It’s a simple approach that we all should master.

Halibut Menu

Serves 4

  • Sear-Roasted Halibut with Horseradish Aïoli and Lemon Zest Breadcrumbs
  • Mashed Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Hot buttered peas

Game Plan

About 40 minutes prepwhen I write that I am assuming that all the ingredients have been assembled, i.e. the breadcrumbs are already made, the lemon zest has been grated  etc. – as stated in the recipe

  1. 40 minutes before you want to eat: peel 4 large yukon gold potatoes, cut into 2-3″ chunks and put them in a pot of water: cover by at least 1″.  Set to boil.
  2. Place peas and water in the steamer in a pot on the stove.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  4. Prepare Halibut recipe’s breadcrumbs and aïoli.
  5. Check potatoes. When nearly soft enough for mashing, begin searing the halibut.
  6. When the fish is in the oven, start steaming the peas. Then mash the potatoes with plenty of whole milk, butter, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Dress parsley salad.

Sear-Roasted Halibut with Horseradish Aïoli and Lemon Zest Breadcrumbs

This recipe was originally printed in Fine Cooking and authored by Seattle chef Tom Douglas.

Lemon Zest Breadcrumbs

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs (from a rustic loaf)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Make the lemon zest bread crumbs:

  1. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat – the oil should shimmer.
  2. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until golden and crunchy – about 2 minutes
  3. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool.
  4. Add the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Taste it! Make sure you’ve added enough salt and pepper. It should taste so you want to eat more of it.

Horseradish Aïoli

  • 5 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp bottled horseradish
  • 3/4 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp tomato paste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the aïoli:

In a small bowl stir together all the ingredients. Taste as you add the salt and pepper. This sauce was so delicious that my 3-year-old got a spoon and was eating it like pudding – albeit a mayonnaise-based, horseradish-flavored pudding!

Halibut

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 thick skinless halibut fillets – about 6oz each
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups fresh flat leaf parsley, washed and dried
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Sear roast the fish:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy non-stick skillet over medium high heat  (I don’t have an oven safe non-stick skillet – at least the handle doesn’t look like it should go in the oven – so I wrap the handle with a couple of layers of aluminum foil)
  3. Pat the fish dry and season with 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.
  4. When the oil is shimmering, place the fillets in the pan, skinned side up. Sear for 2 minutes. Don’t keep checking or moving the fish around. If you fuss with it you’ll ruin the sear.
  5. After 2 minutes lift up a corner to see that the fillets are nicely browned. Flip them and remove pan from the heat.
  6. Spread the aïoli over each fillet and then layer with bread crumbs. Put the pan in the preheated oven for 5 or 6 minutes.
  7. While the fish is roasting, toss the parsley with the juice of half the lemon and 1 tsp of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Taste it. Does it need more salt and pepper? Cut the remaining lemon-half into wedges and use them to garnish each plate.
  8. Remove the fish from the oven and plate with parsley salad tossed artfully over the top (I didn’t quite manage the artful part – good luck with that), mashed potatoes and buttered peas.

In anticipation of this menu, my 7-year-old became very dramatic: sighing, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. He even asked if he would be able to eat “something different”. And yet he ate every last scrap. We all did.

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