Fish Tacos, Finally (for Em, because they are her favorite)

crispy and delicious

crispy and delicious

I have been working on this post for quite some time, but I am glad I waited, because it took me a while to get it right. Now I suspect they will be in the regular rotation. There are a couple components, but most of them can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for weeknights, which is very convenient because these are delicious and the perfect antidote for the crappy days that occasionally pop up during the week.

These are fairly basic, in that there aren’t too many components. You could absolutely change this up and add your own twists. Pico de gallo, guacamole instead of just avocado, cotija cheese. Find your bliss! You do you! I will tell you though, the sauce is key. This one is really spicy, but the spice is from sriracha, so it’s flavorful round spice, not the kind that smacks your mouth and makes your eyes water. And it is mellowed by the slaw and the avocado. The slaw is a little bit sweet and adds good crunch, and the fish is fried in beer batter, which makes everything delicious. I usually just use tilapia, because it is easy to find and cheap, but any white fish would be excellent. And I prefer flour to corn tortillas for these, but you can absolutely switch those out. I generally like to have both in the fridge anyway. If you have the slaw and the sauce on hand (and they both keep pretty well) these go together in about 15 minutes. Easy peasy.

assembly

assembly

All the things:

1. I am still studying for the Series 79. It is miserable. I need it to be over.

2. I’m going back to Cali, Cali, Cali. Another California trip for this girl in April. The ladies are going to Sonoma and San Francisco, and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s my favorite place on earth.

3. I am trying to eat healthy lunches, so I decided to make a salad on Sunday to bring with me for the week. The first one was quinoa, edamame, red cabbage and carrots with an orange soy vinaigrette. I ate it with avocado on it. It was delicious.

quinoa, red cabbage, carrots, edamame, orange-soy vinaigrette

quinoa, red cabbage, carrots, edamame, orange-soy vinaigrette

4. I am STILL reading The Goldfinch, but only because I have a job and a non-profit and a test to take so I can’t just read without stopping. It is GREAT.

5. Speaking of non-profits – IGNITE the NITE is February 27th! Get your tickets Bostonians! It is going to be an amazing time again this year!!

6. It’s almost the Superbowl! The most glorious snack filled day of the year. I mean, I could not care less about who wins this one, but I can make snacks, so that’s pretty good.

7. I still couldn’t love anything more than I love my new camera. I can’t wait to be done with this test so I can spend some good quality time with it and learn all the tricks.

8. Make these tacos asap. You are going to like them.

For the Tacos

8 pieces batter fried fish (see recipe below)

8 flour tortillas

One avocado, sliced

2 cups cabbage slaw (see recipe below)

Spicy sauce (see recipe below)

Warm the tortillas (if you have a gas stove, toast them over a burner. It is delightful.) Lay one piece of fish over each tortilla. Top with avocado slices, slaw and sauce.

Enjoy!

For the Fish

2 Tilapia filets, each cut in four strips lengthwise

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Salt and black pepper

1 cup beer of your choice (I really like Negra Modelo or something similar, but Bud Light works just fine)

Oil for frying

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cayenne if you are using, a generous pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper.  Add the beer and whisk to combine. Add the fish to the batter and make sure all the pieces are coated well. Heat 1/2 – 3/4 of an inch of oil in a large (10″) high sided frying pan over medium high heat until it shimmers. Test it by dropping in a bit of the batter, if it starts to puff and turn golden right away, the oil is ready. Drop four pieces into the oil and cook until the bottom is golden brown and flip, cooking the other side the same way, about five minutes total. Remove the fish to a plate lined with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the second batch of fish. Voila!

For the Slaw

¼ head red cabbage, shredded

1 carrot, peeled shredded (in a food processor or on a box grater)

Chopped cilantro to taste (this is personal preference, though I don’t love cilantro, and I still like quite a bit in this slaw)

¼ cup rice vinegar

1 tbl neutral oil, like canola

1 tbl honey

2 tsp salt

Combine the shredded cabbage, the carrot and the cilantro in a large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and mix well to combine. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and refrigerate. (Let sit for ideally an hour or so before using to allow flavors to meld)

For the Sauce

½ cup mayo

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup whole milk

¼ cup sriracha (this is a lot. Feel free to use less if you are nervous. The final product is really spicy on its own, but meshes really nicely with everything on the taco.)

2 cloves garlic mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt

1 tbl soy sauce

Zest and juice from one lime.

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well to combine. This makes a lot, but leftovers obviously keep (and you’ll use more than you think, I suspect)

Clam Chowder

New England style

New England style

Happy New Year friends!

It’s 2014, which is weird. It sounds like it’s out of science fiction. 2014. This might be the year The Others come. Hopefully they’ll be nice. And single.

I’ve got big hopes for 2014. Unfortunately most of them require vast amounts of wealth and free time, of which I have neither, so small hopes will have to do.

I hope GLOW raises ALL THE MONEY this year, and that IGNITE the NITE is a rousing success again, and that I am still sane when that time rolls around. I hope to pass the Series 79 and 63. I hope to have time to read all the books I bought last year that I haven’t gotten to yet. I hope to learn how to make duck confit. I hope to run a half marathon (which involves the hope that I can figure out how to work regular work outs into my schedule.) I hope to go on vacation in April for my birthday. I hope to finish (start) all the improvements I have planned for my apartment. I hope to eat more ramen (the real stuff) and less ramen (the packaged stuff). I hope to spend more time with my bf Shania because we keep talking about it but can never get our acts together. I hope to get to the beach more. I hope to actually write Christmas cards this year. I hope to learn to love gin. I hope to see my littlest sister more. I hope to see my entire family more. I hope to meet more single dudes. I hope to cross some of the reportedly amazing new restaurants in the area off my “to-try” list. I hope to be more patient. I hope to remember to listen well and to be a good friend because I have amazing people in my life that deserve that from me. I hope to do more yoga. I hope to eat more vegetables. I hope to get to NYC for no other reason than just to visit. I hope to have more impromptu dinner parties. I hope to spend more time here.

And this month, I hope you like soup, because there will be a fair amount of it. January seems like a good month for soup. I made chowder this weekend and it was really good. I can’t recall if I’ve ever made clam chowder before, which is kind of crazy since I like clam chowder and I live in the clam chowder center of the universe. But I have now! It’s very rich. There’s plenty of cream in it, but the richness comes mostly from the clam broth. It’s not as thick as many of the pure white stewy style chowders that you get in mass quantities up here. The broth is much thinner. A spoon is not standing upright in a bowl of this. But it is richer, nonetheless. The clams are all added at the end, as to remain really tender and delicate, rather than chewy and overcooked, and it could be easily modified to include more celery, corn or other shellfish.

I am off to my first of three GLOW meetings this week. SO MANY MEETINGS! But I missed you all! And here’s hoping you will be seeing more of me around here. I have three more weeks of studying to do, so you’ll get AT LEAST three more weeks of regular posting. And maybe I’ll have more to say. Writer’s block is a fearsome beast.

Things:

I am studying for the Series 79 right now. It is miserable. You know what I like more than studying? EVERYTHING. You are getting your first post in several months. This is hardly a coincidence.

I bought myself a really fun new toy. I have wanted a good camera forever and I finally treated myself. I love it like I have never loved before. I don’t even know how to use it yet, and my pictures are a million times better.

There are some fun new food and drink places popping up around here these days. I am particularly enamored with Tavern Road. The food is so good and it is a place that I want to be when it’s cold out, or when I have had a bad day, or on New Year’s Eve. My other favorites at the moment, some new and some not so new, are JM Curley’s, Trillium Brewing, Toro (always), Neptune Oyster (of course) and Row 34. Boston is a really fun place to eat and drink these days. And I haven’t even ventured over to Cambridge recently. There are approximately eleventy new places I need to try asap.

What I am listening to: Beyonce. Obviously.

What I am reading: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. And the Knopman Series 79 study guide. And the IRS guidelines for a 501 (c) (3). The Goldfinch I can definitely recommend.

Clam Chowder (serves 6)

2 dozen littlenecks, scrubbed clean

1 dozen quahogs or two dozen cherrystones, scrubbed clean

2 tbl unsalted butter

1/2 lb thick cut or slab bacon or pancetta, cut in half inch pieces

2 stalks celery, diced

2 small onions, diced (about a cup)

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 bay leaves

pinch of dried red pepper flakes (optional)

2 tbls all-purpose flour

2 large yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs) scrubbed and diced in 1/2 inch pieces

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

pepper to taste

parsley to serve

Put the quahogs (cherrystones) in a large pot with quart of water over high heat and steam the clams, watching them and removing  each clam as they open. Put them aside to cool. Strain the water through a sieve lined with cheese cloth and set it aside, you should have about a quart. Wash the pot thoroughly to get ride of the grit. Remove the meat from the reserved clams and chop the meat into large pieces (about an inch) and set aside.

Heat the butter and bacon or pancetta in the pot over medium heat, until the bacon is brown and crispy and the fat has rendered. Add the celery, onion, garlic, bay leaves and red pepper flakes, if using, and saute until the vegetables are soft, about five minutes.

the early stages...

the early stages…

Add the flour and stir for two minutes or so, until all the vegetables and bacon are well coated. Add the potatoes and continue to stir for several more minutes. Add the reserved steaming water, raise the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about ten minutes. The potatoes will be starting to soften, but won’t yet be cooked through. Add the heavy cream and the milk, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the littlenecks and cook the chowder until the clams open. Add the reserved clam meat and heat just a couple minutes more until all the littlenecks are open and the chopped clams are cooke through. There is a good chance the chowder will look “broken” at this point. (You will likely see small bubbles of oil on the top of the soup.) If this bothers you, and it did me, there’s an easy fix! Strain the chowder through a strainer over a large bowl. Put the solids back in the pot, and then run the liquids through the blender in batches and then pour back into the pot over the solids. Reheat the soup until piping hot and taste for pepper (and salt, though you will likely not need it. The clams and the bacon are plenty salty!) Serve with a good sprinkle of parsley over the top of each bowl.

Enjoy!!

Lobster Risotto for a Happy Summer…

mmmm, lobster risotto

I spent the other night lying in bed eating Buffalo wings and watching Toddlers in Tiaras. That is either the surest sign of a work trip involving a hotel stay or the symptoms of a stroke.

It was my second trip to Atlanta in as many months. In addition to my work travels, since I have seen you all last I:

Changed jobs

Celebrated a beautiful bride-to-be in NYC

Catered my first big party. For real strangers

Moved

Made a quilt

Made a wedding cake

Went to a gorgeous wedding in Portland, ME

Said farewell to some great friends that I will miss terribly until I get to visit my favorite place in November.

Celebrated the birth of a brand new baby girl whom I already love to pieces

Hung out with the littlest, who came home from her mountain adventure for a visit

Celebrated two years of a bestie’s good health

Celebrated the first birthday of one of my very favorite people…

I’m tired. But oh I missed you so. I haven’t been cooking much. Little stuff, light stuff, quick stuff mostly. And I haven’t been blogging much, though I do have at least three posts started and abandoned. And I do think about blogging all the time. Sometimes guiltily because I don’t have time. Sometimes wistfully because I wish I had time, and sometimes with a little bit of dread because in the moments that I did have I couldn’t think of anything to say. Because to say I had NO time would be a lie. I had enough time to read a couple books, and to watch season one of Homeland, and to lie around and enjoy my new apartment. But I was busy, and I am exhausted, and I am very much looking forward to a little bit of “free” time I have coming up. Only a job to worry about for a couple of weeks! What am I going to do with all that time? I actually have HOLD written in my day planner, so that I wouldn’t forget and book something for myself to do next weekend. Because I will be sitting around, and doing some projects, and hanging some curtains, and enjoying all the summer foods (it’s summer! I’ve only been to the farmer’s market TWICE!) and remembering how to cook.  I have one more fun weekend this weekend in NYC celebrating my amazing Momma and her birthday and then a couple weeks of blissful nothing. I can’t wait.

But I didn’t starve myself over the last couple of months. I did eat. Most recently I ate lobster. Lots of lobster. I ate lobster mac and cheese with my people in Portsmouth, then I came home and ate lobster rolls with my family to celebrate my dad’s birthday.

Please excuse the terrible picture, I was too busy having an awesome time with the fam.

And there was leftover lobster. LEFTOVER LOBSTER! I don’t think I have ever experienced such a thing. So I made risotto…

It took me about a week to move. Not to pack and move and unpack, but to actually move. I had movers come and move my furniture and some of my packed boxes one day, but there was a bunch of smaller stuff that didn’t really fit in boxes or hadn’t made it into one yet, and I figured it wasn’t so much and I could easily do it myself. I didn’t think I was in a huge rush to get out of my last apartment (I ended up being wrong about that, but I still had a couple extra days, which is definitely lucky) so I figured it wouldn’t be a huge deal. But oh my god I was wrong. I have SO MUCH CRAP. On the last night of the move I was essentially just walking back and forth between the two apartments (I only moved down the block) with a milk crate and one of those huge IKEA bags, filling them up in the old place and emptying them in the new place…repeat over and over and over (25 times, to be exact. I moved to a fourth floor walk-up. I did 75 flights of stairs that night. I know because I counted through the pain.) The last trip was the freezer. I filled the IKEA bag with pulled pork, chicken tinga, lobster stock, chicken pieces, parmesan rinds and whatever else was in there, and I tried to pick up the bag. I immediately purged a lot. The lobster stock, the parmesan rinds, and one (of the four or so) bags of pulled pork made the cut. Long story short (ha!) I had lobster stock in my new freezer. And lobster meat in my fridge. It was meant to be.

low-cal

I wanted to make it a little summery and lighter, if that is possible with risotto, so I thought I would add some fresh corn, since it has made an early appearance this year. I am very glad I did. It added texture, crunch and sweetness and I really loved how it turned out.

I’ve posted about risotto before. It gets a bad rap. It is not nearly as picky or difficult or time consuming as people insist it is. You definitely have to pay attention, it certainly isn’t a hands off meal, but you don’t have to stay absolutely chained to the stove for an hour stirring until your arm feels like it is going to fall off. I say a half hour, maybe 40 minutes of frequent stirring. You can certainly walk away to pour yourself a glass of wine (and you definitely should do this) or change the channel on the tv or put on music or use the facilities and it will still be great. I think. I mean, I really enjoy it and I do all of those things. Perhaps if I had risotto that made by someone who literally never walked away from the stove and stirred constantly I would realize the error of my ways, but I don’t think so. Maybe I’ll try it that way sometime so I can compare, but probably not. I am perfectly happy with my way.

One trick, and I think I mentioned this before, is that I also warm the wine before I add it to the rice. Risotto recipes call for warming the broth to a simmer so that when you add it to the hot rice the protein (?) in the rice doesn’t seize up and not let the liquid absorb into the grains, but it doesn’t usually call for you to heat the wine, which doesn’t make sense, since the wine is likely cold from the fridge and you add it first, when I would imagine the rice is most likely to seize. So I throw the wine in a pyrex measuring cup and stick in in the warm broth to heat up a little before I add it. Another note – I don’t like seafood and cheese together in general, so I do not add cheese to my lobster risotto at all. I am not sure how the experts would feel about this, but I feel pretty good about it. You should feel free to do whatever you’d like.

Lest you think I have been eating only cereal for months, let me ease your fears…

Burrata on olive oil toast with roasted tomatoes, basil oil and balsamic drizzle.

simplicity

Chicken Milanese-ish

busy food

Homemade Ranch (I will be talking about this in the future, because I pretty much only like salads with ranch dressing. Because I am an eight-year old.)

guilty pleasures…

Cobb Salad

my kind of salad…

So see….there you go. I’ve been eating, and taking pictures and thinking about blogging…my failure was in the execution. But I’m back! And it’s B&G’s three-year blogiversary! Happy Birthday B&G.

And now I am off to celebrate my mom’s birthday. Let’s Go Mets.

and one for good luck.

Lobster Risotto (serves 4 – or one for dinner and a couple lunches…)

3 tbl olive oil

6 tbl unsalted butter, divided

1 onion, diced

2 small shallots, diced

1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice

1/2 cup white wine

4 cups lobster stock

Kernals from 3 ears of good fresh corn

1 – 1 1/2 cups lobster meat

minced chives for garnish

Heat the lobster stock in a medium saucepan over medium heat to a simmer. Pour the wine in a heat proof glass measuring cup and place it in the stock to warm.

Melt 1- 1 1/2 tbl of the butter in a saute pan over medium heat, and saute the corn kernals until bright and starting to brown, season with salt and pepper, remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and three tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a high sided saute pan or dutch oven. When the butter has melted, add the onions and shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add the rice and stir, coating the rice with oil and butter, and cook until the rice just begins to brown.

Add the wine to the rice, and stirring frequently, cook until the wine is absorbed. When you drag the spoon through the rice, it should hold it’s place, the liquid should not seep in to fill space. Begin adding the warm stock, about 1/2 – 2/3 cup at a time, and cook stirring frequently until each additon is absorbed by the rice before adding more. Start testing the rice for doneness after about the fifth or sixth addition of stock. When the rice is cooked through but retains a slight bite on your teeth, add your last 1/2 cup of stock, the remaining butter, corn and lobster meat and remove from the heat.  Stir to combine and melt the butter, and plate, sprinkling generously with minced chives.

 

In which I loooove garlic…

Scampi to take away the weird taste leftover from my dental visit...

So the name Shrimp Scampi irritates me, because I feel like the word scampi is actually referring to the shrimp, which would make Shrimp Scampi redundant and silly. That is sort of true. Scampo (plural: scampi) is actually a Norwegian lobster which is similar, but smaller I think, than an American lobster, and in some languages/countries, etc, scampi refers to large prawns or shrimpish creatures. The way these things were traditionally prepared, it seems, was with garlic, which which is why it is called Shrimp Scampi when shrimp was prepared that way even though technically, in the original prep the scampi WAS the “shrimp.” At any rate, the dish has become an Italian-American staple called Shrimp Scampi, so I guess that is what I will call it even though it doesn’t sound right.

Scampi is basically shrimp cooked with a lot of garlic, butter and oil and served over pasta (mostly, but I have also seen/enjoyed it over rice.)

The trick, I think, with this dish, is getting the flavor from the oil and butter, and creating a good sauce, without being greasy or oily. Ratio of pasta to sauce helps, as does adding wine and/or lemon juice (I do both.) The lemon, in particular, also adds a brightness which is lovely against the richness of the oil and butter.

There really is nothing to this. You want to prep all your ingredients ahead of time because it cooks quickly, and you definitely don’t want to overcook the shrimp. They’re the star and overcooked shrimp are the worst. Mince everything, boil the water and then drop the pasta in as you melt the butter and oil together and you should be in good shape. When the butter is melted, add the garlic, shallots and red pepper flakes and cook until they start to soften, one to two minutes. Add the wine and turn up the heat to let the wine boil and reduce a bit, another one to two minutes, add the shrimp, the lemon juice and zest and cook for another one or two minutes until the shrimp is almost cooked through. Add the cooked pasta and the parsley to the shrimp and sauce  and toss together to finish cooking and coat the pasta. Voila! Dunzo! Scampi deliciousness in about 20 minutes!

This is perfect if you are craving quick pasta, but don’t feel like vodka sauce, again, if you went to the dentist to get a crown that morning and the temporary cement they use has left a metallic potpourri taste in your mouth, if you are trying to impress someone with something that feels fancy but is actually super easy (but not on a date, please, this stuff is potent) if you need some comfort food as you are watching your infuriating Boston Celtics forget the basics of rebounding and ball possession…really, it’s an all occasion pasta…

mmmm...garlic.

Thoughts:

1. The Celtics are bumming me out. 

2. Also bumming me out? Maria and Arnold splitting up…that’s a weird one, I know, but true. It’s been 25 years! They seemed to really like each other, in spite of their weirdness as a couple. Sad.

3. It’s softshell crab season! WHEEE! I made this the other night. And it was so delicious (because how could softshell crab be anything but…) that I went back last night to try to get another one and the ladies were out…boo. Patience, young jedi.

tempura softshell, homemade tartar sauce, hot dog bun, perfection...

4. I have been dying to share empanadas that I have made several times with you all because they (and I quote) “might be the best things you’ve ever made…” but I have been hesitant because apparently crimping dough is my kryptonite and they look ridiculous when I make them…I finally said forget it and took pictures anyway, so you’ll get to see them at some point. They really do taste awesome.

5. I made my buttermilk cake the other day for Mother’s Day and accidentally doubled the butter. Still delicious! Less healthy.

6. I have a rando cleaning tip that I need to share because it would be cruel not to…Lestoil. This stuff is AMAZING. You can get it in the supermarket near the old fashioned stuff like Borax, and I vow NEVER to be without it. I discovered it in high school when some jack wagon threw an open permanent marker at me, and I asked one of our art teachers if he knew of anything that might get it out, he recommended Lestoil AND IT WORKED. Permanent marker! PERMANENT. Completely gone. And then last night I had a minor (or maybe not so minor) panic attack when I was sitting on my couch and didn’t realize I had dropped an open roller ball pen onto my light colored couch and a black ink spot was rapidly forming in a prominent location. Broke out the Lestoil. It is totally gone. Seriously. Get this. It’s cheap and amazing, and also works to clean floors. Mego’s tip o’ the week.

7. From one of my favorite websites The Hairpin - thoughts about what your American Girl doll from your childhood says about you now (I had Kirsten, not sure why I ended up with her, you’ll have to ask Ma Dukes – I wanted Samantha Parkington because she was sooooo pretty)…

“Kirsten Larson:
You probably got Kirsten because she was blond, or because you read a lot of Little House on the Prairie books. (It definitely wasn’t because of her “St. Lucia Christmas Outfit” … yikes!)…

You therefore grew up to be a bit more thoughtful, a bit more reserved than your peers. You also find yourself inexplicably drawn towards crafts like knitting, jam-making, and quilting. You secretly suspect that you’d manage just fine in a post-Apocalyptic setting, should things come to that. You were surprised and delighted to see some of Kirsten’s outfits come back into style in certain enclaves of Brooklyn.” 

HA. (Incidentally, if any of you out there also had Kirsten, did you suffer through the tragic discovery that taking her hair down from the braids and brushing it out like it was pictured when she was wearing her nightgown in the catalog made it impossible to get her hair back up in the braids EVER again? And did you cry about this as you were wearing your super cozy real-girl sized MATCHING Kirsten Larson flannel nightgown? No? Just me? Or…errrr, I mean, just somebody that I knew? OK.)

8. Music recommendation of the day: Josh Ritter. I am particularly enjoying “The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter” right now.

9. Farmers’ markets start in the next two weeks around here. Yippee! I think I am going to try canning stuff this year. Because canning stuff will absolutely add to my cool quotient by a factor of ten, amiright?

Shrimp Scampi over Linguine (serves 2)

1/2 lb dried linguine

2 tbl olive oil

3 tbl butter

pinch of red pepper flakes

2 tbls finely minced garlic (about four large cloves)

1 tbl finely minced shallot (about one small)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tsp lemon zest

juice of half a lemon

1/2 lb medium or large shrimp (not small, and not too large or there won’t be enough of them – I used 21-30 size)

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

chopped parsley to serve

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook linguine until just al dente. Meanwhile in a large skillet or saute pan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Add red pepper flakes, garlic and shallots and cook until garlic and shallots are soft, stirring to prevent burning, about two minutes (lower heat if it seems garlic is cooking too quickly.) Add wine and bring to a boil. Let simmer and reduce for a minute or two, then add shrimp, lemon zest and juice and cook shrimp, turning occasionally, until almost cooked through, about two minutes. Add the cooked linguine to the shrimp and butter, toss to combine and finish cooking, adding a splash of the pasta cooking water to make a bit saucier if necessary. Remove from heat, toss parsley with the pasta and serve!

In which I make bagels…

So here’s what I did last weekend…

I made those!!

Bagels! I made them! I also had brunch with my Gram and my aunt (the bagels joined us as well) and finally watched The Town. (My apartment is in it! For reals! You have to look quick, but the prettiest blue door in all of the North End is in it! Famous.) It was a low key weekend that was much needed (do you see how few things on that list involve leaving the house…jackpot!)

The bagels, I’ll admit, were stressful. Not, as it turns out, because they were difficult to make, but because I was very afraid that they were going to be difficult, and it wasn’t until they were cooling on the rack that I realized that they actually were not at all, and that I will happily make them again…maybe for Easter (I didn’t do this…oops.)

I also made gravlax to go with them.

brunch

I wanted to make cream cheese too, and really bring this home, but I couldn’t get rennet aside from mail order and I didn’t have time to mail order. Next time.

Anyway, gravlax are cured salmon (note: I do not like smoked salmon. Not. At. All. Why would you take delicious salmon and make it taste like campfire? It boggles the mind. Instead, gravlax are my preferred bagel topping.) I have made them before, so I was not nervous about that. There really is nothing easier. You buy a salmon filet and cut it into two equal sized pieces, mix yourself up a paste of kosher salt, sugar, pepper and vodka (just a splash) and sandwich the paste between the two pieces of salmon with some dill, and then wrap it and stick it in the fridge with some weights on it. (At the Hargraves homestead in CT, you know there are gravlax in the works when there is a large patio rock hanging out in the fridge…not weird at all.) Every twelve hours or so, you take the salmon out, unwrap it and baste it with the liquid that is being pulled out of the salmon by the salt, and in four days you have a two beautifully cured gravlax filets. Sounds like a lot, but trust me, writing about it took more work than making it.

I started the bagels Saturday evening, mix the dough, knead for 5-7 minutes, throw it in the fridge and do something else. (In my case, watch The Town very closely to pick out all of the reasons that Ben Affleck and co. took over my neighborhood for what felt like years two summers ago.) After at least one hour in the fridge, take the dough out, portion it, shape it and stick it back in the fridge overnight. Next morning take the dough out of the fridge, boil those suckers for a minute and a half each, top with the toppings of your choice (onion! sesame seeds! poppy seeds! salt! asiago cheese! whatever you want! except for cinnamon sugar! that one waits until after the bagels are baked!) and then bake them for 20 minutes. That’s it. Voila. Bagels. Good bagels. Bagels that will make you (and hopefully others) smile. Bagels that will impress your friends. Bagels that you will want to make again. Bagels! BAGELS!!

Bagels!

So go forth, make bagels!

Things…

1. Last week, I was suffering from a terrible hormone imbalance that made me at once want to burst into tears, put my fist through my monitor, and eat my own weight in bar food. How this particular hormone imbalance is able to sneak up on me on a fairly regular basis is a testament to something -what I am not sure, but I suspect it is not to my brilliance, I have often spent a good portion of days like this trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with me. Eventually it dawns on me… – but at any rate I went home and made batter fried chicken fingers, honey mustard sauce and french fries (and sat on my couch and ate them by myself while I watched the Celts and cursed the cheerleaders) so I will be talking about that one of these days.

2. Remember how I said I needed more hours in the day? That would actually still be helpful, but what I ACTUALLY discovered is almost as helpful is having less TV in my hours. I miss it though. I had the wrong channel on to watch the Celts last night for a minute (YES, the Celtics were on TV and I watched…I really have been good, but I have bent the rules for an occasional sporting event. It’s the playoffs, I think Jesus will be ok with this?) and I heard the opening of Law & Order SVU and practically had a Pavlovian response. I think TV was an excellent choice for a Lenten sacrifice.

3. Another thing that happened last week: I had to go to the dentist for a temporary crown to replace the giant silver filling that I have had in a tooth pretty much since this particular tooth entered my mouthspace when I was approximately eight. I was thinking, hey, no biggie, I have had a root canal and crown before, I don’t remember it being a big deal (even though I am PETRIFIED of dental procedures, unfortunate, since I don’t exactly have the luxury of strong naturally perfect teeth) until I realized that I was actually so paralyzed with fear before this was to occur the last time that at a visit just prior to the procedure my dentist gave me a prescription for Valium to chill me the heck out, which I was very conspicuously without this time. It may have been pretty apparent when I got there, because he kept assuring me that there was actually nothing to worry about (except for that drill, you mean? Right.) But then he gave me head phones and my choice of like 500 videos and I got to watch Bruce and the E Street Band live in Hyde Park, which was actually totally awesome and helpful even thought I could still hear the drill. Since then my mouth has tasted like metallic potpourri and nothing has helped all day, so I decided that lots of garlic may be the only fix. I made Garlic Scampi for dinner. I will also be talking about this soon.

4. I need to find a British noble family to be a part of so I can be part of society. Not this fake American new money society, REAL society. My new name will be Flossy (not my real name, that will be Beatrice or Florence or something, but my nickname that might as well be my real name because everyone forgets what my real name is – also, fun fact: my French class name in high school was Brigitte but my teacher couldn’t remember and always, ALWAYS, called me Beatrice…) and my last name will be something with a hyphen. And I will wear fascinators on the reg and will have an invite to the Royal Wedding. Actually, Hargraves is a British name, if anybody out there has a spare five minutes, do you mind checking if I may actually be descended from nobility? That could help me out. Also, Hargraves used to be spelled Hargreaves, so you may want to start there. Thanks bunches! Love you, mean it!

5. I just read “Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later.” IT WAS AWFUL. I mean, it was awesome with a capital A. But I’m not sure who wrote it or who allowed it to be published. I loved every minute of reading it, but I am devastated that professionals in the literary world allowed it to happen.

OK, this is going to take me another eight days if I don’t just get to it…make bagels. Thank me later.

Peter Reinhart’s Bagels (makes 6-8 bagels)

3 1/2 cups (1 pound) unbleached flour (bread or all-purpose)

3 tsp salt, divided

3/4 tsp instant yeast

1 tbl honey or barley malt syrup

1 cup plus 2 tbl water

1 tsp baking soda

Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dehydrated onion, and other toppings of your choice.

1. By hand, mix the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, the yeast, honey and the water until the ingredients form a stiff, coarse ball of dough (about 3 minutes). If necessary, add a little more water. Let the dough rest 5 minutes.

2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until the dough feels stiff yet supple, with a satiny, slightly tacky feel, 2 to 3 minutes. If the dough seems too soft or too tacky, sprinkle over just enough flour as needed.

3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to several hours. Keep in mind that the bagels must be shaped before proofing overnight.

4. When ready to shape the bagels, line a baking sheet with lightly greased parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 6 to 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a loose, round ball by rolling it on a clean, dry work surface with a cupped hand; do not use any flour on the surface. If the dough slides around and won’t ball up, wipe the work surface with a damp paper towel and try again – the slight amount of moisture will provide enough “bite” for the dough to form a ball. When each piece has been formed into a ball, you are ready to shape the bagels.

6. Using your hands and a fair amount of pressure, roll each dough ball into a “rope” 8 to 10 inches long. (Moisten the work surface with a damp paper towel, if necessary, to get the necessary bite or friction). Slightly taper the rope at the ends so that they are thinner than the middle. Place one end of the dough between your thumb and forefinger and wrap it around your hand until the ends overlap in your palm; they should overlap by about 2 inches. Squeeze the overlapping ends together and then press the joined ends into the work surface, rolling them back and forth a few times until they are completely sealed.

7. Remove the dough from your hand and squeeze as necessary to even out the thickness so that there is a 2-inch hole in the center. Place the bagel on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the other pieces. Lightly wipe the bagels with oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

8. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator 90 minutes before you plan to bake them. Fill a large stockpot with 3 quarts of water (be sure the water is at least 4 inches deep), cover with a lid, and slowly bring the water to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on.

9. Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven to 500 degrees.

10. Test the bagels by placing one in a bowl of cold water. If it sinks and doesn’t float to the surface, return it to the sheet, wait 15 minutes and then test it again. When one bagel passes the float test, they are ready for the pot.

11. Gently lift each bagel and drop it into the simmering water. Add as many as will comfortably fit in the pot. After 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to flip each bagel over. Poach for an extra 30 seconds. Using the slotted spoon, remove each bagel and return it to the lined baking sheet. Continue until all the bagels have been poached. Generously sprinkle each bagel with a topping.

12. Place the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the heat to 450 degrees. Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate the sheet (if using two sheets, also switch their positions). Check the underside of the bagels. If they are getting too dark, place another sheet under the baking sheet. Bake until the bagels are golden brown, an additional 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the bagels to a rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

brunch


In which I take forever…

So last Wednesday (oof! two Wednesdays ago…you guys, I am the WORST) was one of those days when I planned on being out after work, and not getting home until late. It was supposed to be dance class day, and I would not have been home until after 9 probably, so I packed my bag for work and off I went.  About midday, I found out that my good friend M Sizzle would not be able to make it to dance class that night after all, and, what with my crippling social phobia and awful dance skills, dance class is NOT something I am yet capable of managing on my own, so I found myself with an entire evening with nothing on the schedule. Couple that with getting out of work a bit earlier than normal, and suddenly I had HOURS of time to fill. I decided to really fill it good. I had some things I wanted to do, and I was going to accomplish ALL OF THE THINGS. I didn’t make a written list that would hang around and mock me, I just thought of the things I wanted to do in my head, and set about doing them. This might be my new ticket to success, because had I had a visual of my plan for the evening, I may have stopped before I even started. I was going for a run, and I was going to do 30 Day Shred, because it was March 2nd, and March 2nd is the most obvious day to start a new work out regimen. New Year’s is for chumps, I’m for March 2nd all the way. I was also going to do some laundry, necessary due to a troublesomely few pairs of skivs remaining in the drawer that morning, and I was also going to make some delicious linguine with clam sauce for dinner because I have a blog post from a month ago that has been languishing, and I needed something to share with all of you….

heaven on a weekday

So I stopped at the store on the way home and picked up some clams and some shallots, all the while formulating my plan of attack. I changed into my running gear, separated my laundry and was off to the races. I popped the laundry in the machines, turned on the iPod and took off in the FREEZING WINDY COLD at a pretty good clip. I got about a quarter mile into the run and thought “look at me go! I am so good at accomplishing things!” Of course, by the time I was rolling pasta dough at 8:40 and I was so hungry I was going to eat my hand, I was starting to think maybe all the things were way too many things…I didn’t sit down to this dinner until 9pm. Making fresh pasta was probably foolish, but I was in the mood for fresh and it is better than dried with this particular sauce. But I recommend dried if you’re not crazy.

This dinner actually comes together really quickly if you do use dried pasta, which I use a lot, dare I say, most of the time when I make this because I do usually make it during the week.

It starts with bacon, as all wonderful things do.

mmmm, bacon

Once the bacon is starting to brown, I take it out of the pan and set it aside for later. I add a splash of olive oil, lots of shallots, some minced garlic and some red pepper flakes.

shallot-y

Once the shallots get soft I add a not insignificant amount of white wine, simmer for a minute, and then add clams.

Cockles!

In this case, cockles, because they are cute and miniature, just like I like things to be, you get more for your money, at least visually, and they are similar to the Italian vongole, that I believe are traditional in this dish. The pot gets covered for a couple of minutes until most of the clams are open, which is when I drop the FRESH pasta into the water (if you are using dried, I would do this when you add the wine to the pan.) When the last clam opens I turn off the heat, add lemon zest and juice, and the bacon back into the pan, followed by the cooked pasta, and I toss them all together in perfect harmony.

On to the plate they go, sprinkled with fresh parsley (don’t skip it, even if you are generally a parsley hater) and some fresh pepper and then I eat ravenously. Rarely do I not have seconds.

bliss

And, in case you were wondering, that particular Wednesday night, I did in fact go for a run, do my Shred workout, do three loads of laundry and make myself some linguine con vongole. But just in case you think for a second I felt victorious in my many accomplishments, I will have you know that just as I was getting a little cocky I found my sweaty post-run self standing in the laundromat in my running leggings (yes, leggings…as if that wasn’t humiliating enough) as the strange lady that works there fawned over the two very cute boys that were in there and I folded, in plain sight of said boys, my unmentionables. So, touche world. You always win. I’ll try not to forget again…

The things I am thinking…

1. There are some amazing – in the best and worst possible ways – things going on in the world right now. This is what living history means I guess? Thoughts to Japan, and the Middle East, and the mid west, and all people doing their best to band together and make their world right in the face of wrongs, natural or man-made.

2. I volunteer at an awesome organization called Community Servings that prepares and delivers thousands of meals a week to critically ill patients and their dependents and care givers. I love that I found something food related to spend my time on. If you have extra cash (ha?) and find yourself looking for somewhere to put it, they always welcome donations…and if you are in the Boston area you should totally come and volunteer because it is actually really fun.

3. I gave up television for Lent. Cra-cra-craziness. So far so good. I am going to read A LOT of books and blog a lot??

4. My karaoke song of the moment is “Valerie.” The Amy Winehouse version. (Amy, where did you get to? I haven’t seen your brand of crazy in ages!) Incidentally, while I was looking for that link, I found THIS “Valerie.” Steve Winwood! I didn’t even know that’s what you were saying! Maybe that version is my new favorite karaoke song! Also, the fact that I have a karaoke song is humorous, since simply imagining doing karaoke makes me panic and sweat. And back to Amy Winehouse for a minute…could you imagine being a parent of a little girl, and one day she opens her mouth and that voice comes out of it? How awesome is that? And then she turns in to Amy Winehouse and it is decidedly less awesome and you sort of just wish you had a tone deaf kid? (Hey Mom and Dad, you totally win after all!)

5. This…SuperHamm! Please, somebody get on this.

6. I am slowly compiling a list of things I want you guys to have in your kitchen at all times. I think at some point I will have a stocked pantry section of this here blog, but here is what I have so far: a) canned beans – black, cannelleni, chickpeas, whatever kind you like, just have cans of them at the ready. So versatile! (Dried too, but canned are key for last minute stuff.) b.) Cotija cheese – random, I know, but if you see some in the store pick some up. It is salty and crumbly and awesome, lasts forever in the fridge and works with so many things. c.) Pickled onions. These take all of about three minutes to make, also keep forever and are the most fantastic garnish for pretty much everything. d.) A Liter of Gruner Veltliner – this wine, conveniently, often comes in liter size, goes with all sorts of foods, is a white wine for all wine drinkers and is generally a great deal. Doesn’t keep forever though, both because wine doesn’t really do that, and also because it is delicious. e.) Shallots – I just love them and use them all the time. f.) Limes and lemons – sometimes needing a gimlet becomes an emergency. Also they are good for other things. g.) Eggs – you should just really never be without these. They are good for every meal. Every meal. h.) Dried pasta – doesn’t need an explanation, just find your favorite shapes, one long and skinny, one short, and have them in in the house always. i.) The number of your favorite sushi delivery…

7. Can we talk about Aerosmith for a second? (What? Is that weird?) So, somebody was talking about American Idol at work the other day, and they were commenting on Steven Tyler making a comeback or whatever, and they said something like “the greatest American rock band” and I thought. “what? Aerosmith? What country are you from man?” Ireland, actually, he’s from Ireland, but then I looked it up and he might actually be correct! I mean, I suppose it depends on how you categorize “the best” and how you categorize rock (does Grateful Dead count?) but they have the highest album sales of any American rock band, and their first album came out in like 1974. And then I was thinking, “yeah, but I have NEVER in my life heard anyone ever say they were an Aerosmith fan…like ANYONE.” But then I looked at their albums, and I actually own one (Get a Grip, from junior high…don’t judge me, you don’t know my life…) and I actually know at least one song on EVERY ALBUM. And, know a song like I recognize it immediately and can sing most of the words…so, there you go. Also discovered, “Janie’s Got a Gun” is about incest. I mean, kind of d’uh, if you think about it, but I hadn’t, and even though I can sing them, I never really delved into the lyrics. Informative day on Wikipedia. I’m still gonna make fun of Steven Tyler though, because that guy is cra-cra…

8. You wonder why it takes me so long to write these freakin posts??

9. Just had my last class for this semester the other night and we went over the final exam. Nailed it! I am turning into a real estate dork and I carry a financial calculator in my purse. I assure you I did not expect this from my life.

10. JT (Justin Timberlake, not James Taylor) is single! Ryan Reynolds, JT, THINGS ARE LOOKING UP!

Linguine con Vongole (serves 3-4)

4 oz bacon (preferably thick cut) cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1-2 tbl olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

2 cloves garlic, minced

pinch of red pepper flakes

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 lb cockles or littlenecks

zest and juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper to taste

chopped parsley for garnish

3/4 – 1 lb pasta, dried or fresh (weights will vary depending on whether you are using dried or fresh. Cook enough for three to four people)

Boil salted water for the pasta in a large pot.

Cook the bacon in a deep skillet or saute pan over medium heat until starting to crisp and brown, and fat is rendered. Remove the bacon from the pan, and add olive oil (use 1 tbl if the bacon has rendered a lot of fat, 2 tbls if the pan is still looking a bit dry) and then add the shallot. Saute for 1-2 minutes until the shallot starts to soften and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for another minute. If you are using dried pasta, now is the time to drop it in. Add the wine to the shallots and bring to a boil. Let simmer and reduce for a minute or so. Add the clams and cover the pot. Cockles will take 2-3 minutes to open, littlenecks will take a bit longer. When most of the clams have opened, add the fresh pasta, to the boiling water, it will only take two minutes or so to cook. When all of the clams have opened, turn off the heat. Add the lemon zest and juice an the bacon to the clams and stir together, adding salt and fresh pepper to taste. Add the pasta and toss together. Serve the pasta and garnish with parsley. Enjoy!

(Tip: for a more cost effective option, use half the fresh clams, and supplement with a can of drained chopped clams. Add the canned clams off the heat, as they are already cooked and you don’t want them to get rubbery.)

voila

In which I offer my sincerest of apologies…

Oh man, y’all, I am EXHAUSTED. I know I can’t complain, I was retired for six months, I had plenty of time to rest up, but this sudden change in schedule has rocked my world. Work is awesome, but the days are LONG, and I am beat at the end of them. On top of that until recently, it has been too hot to eat, never mind cook, so that has left you, little blog, high and dry. But I am BACK!

Before I get to food though, I just want to share a couple of things I am currently obsessed with:

The penguin ice bucket my mom bought me the other day when we were at this giant antique fair/flea market thing. It matches the one that my parents had at their house when we were growing up, which is actually the one my mom had in her house growing up. It’s very cute and retro and I can’t wait to have people over so I can put ice in it.

The new Eminem song with Rhianna. It might have a totally reprehensible message, I can’t quite tell yet, but it is really catchy and really fantastic and I want to listen to it 800 times in a row. Consider yourself lucky you are not my roommate.

My sweatpants. I pulled them out of the bin last night and I didn’t even realize how much I had missed them.

The superman/banana. It’s this move on the core dvd of P90X and I just love it for some reason. I can’t get enough. Even though after I do it I am unable to rise from a reclining position like a normal person and I have to roll over onto my hands a knees to do things like grabbing the remote.

My sewing machine. While I was ignoring you, I did some sewing, and I made these:

look what I made!

I am a sewing fool.

And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, my living room. I made some changes. I acquired a sectional through the adopt a couch program, and it forced me to rearrange some furniture. Somehow, in spite of replacing two smaller pieces of furniture with an incredibly giant piece of furniture, there is more floor space and the room feels bigger. Plus, it’s a sectional. People, do you have a sectional? Because you really really should get one. What a delight. It makes me resent my parents a little for not having one when we were growing up. True story. Sorry guys.

Umm, pardon me, but I am watching Monday Night Football (note: that was written on Monday, I didn’t tape it or anything) and somebody said that one of the guys reached a max speed of 22 mph during the game yesterday. Does that maybe seem a little impossible? Crazy. Also, there are halftime shows at Monday Night Football now? Is Green Day running short on cash?

So anyway, what were we talking about? Food? Right. Mesdames and Messieurs, I tried to come back to you with a bang. I made something the other night that I want you to make right away. But don’t get alarmed when I tell you what it is. Hear me out. It involves a whole fish and a box of salt. And actually, that’s pretty much all it involves. That, and some egg whites and optional herbs of your choice. It is salt roasted fish and it is a revelation. And really really easy.

It all starts like this.

well hey there little guy, do take comfort in knowing you were delicious...

The ladies of Mercato del Mare have chosen to enjoy their September Sundays like normal humans, so they have been closed the last couple of Sundays, which means I didn’t feel too guilty when I saw the branzini at Whole Foods and had to pick one up. It was about a pound and a quarter, if I recall correctly, and it cost about eleven dollars. A little note: I ate the entire thing. Had I made a starch to serve with it, it potentially could have served two girls, but to be safe, you would probably want two of these or one larger fish for two people. I am guessing a snapper would serve two, but these guys are little. And the lovely gentleman at Whole Foods gutted and scaled the fish for me, so it really couldn’t have been easier.

I looked in a couple of places to find a recipe or method for baking this, and to be totally honest, I can’t for the life of me remember where I found it. Have I mentioned I’m tired? NO! I lied! I remember. NPR. It was from the NPR website. Good thing I remembered, because I couldn’t remember how many egg whites to tell you to use. It was four. I would have remembered. Essentially, I sliced a lemon and grabbed some thyme from Auntie Ann’s garden and a couple of bay leaves, sprinkled on some salt and pepper, and that was about the extent of the fish prep. I whisked together 4 large egg whites with a half cup of water until it was foamy and getting bigger, and then I added 4 cups of coarse kosher salt. It felt like wet sand. I laid about a cup of the mixture down on a cookie sheet, put two bay leaves on top of it, and then laid the fish on top of that.

getting cozy

The rest of the salt mixture goes on top so the fish is totally encased, and then it gets baked for a half hour. When it’s finished, you crack the crust and take the top off, and the fish is moist and perfect and so unbelievably delicious. I served it over sauteed swiss chard from Auntie Ann’s garden and finished it with a beurre blanc. And I ate the whole thing. And it was gooooood.

And since this has taken almost a month, I am just going to post this as is. Because if I don’t, who knows when it would happen. But I leave you with these final thoughts.

I am back in SCHOOL! Yay! One night a week I get to go and do some larnin’ about real estate and mortgages and debt and equity. And I LOVE it. I am such a nerd.

You know how sometimes in those romantic comedies the stories are so crazy far fetched that you think there is no way that could ever happen and no one would believe it if you said it happened to you? Sometimes that is how I feel about my life.

Salt Roasted Fish (serves 1 or 2 depending on the size of the fish and how hungry you are)

1 whole fish, 1.5 to 2 lbs, gutted and scaled, fins and gills removed. I used branzini, red snapper would be great too.

4 egg whites

1/2 cup water

4 cups coarse kosher salt

4 bay leaves

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 thin slices lemon

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. Whisk the egg whites and water in a large bowl until very frothy and about doubled in volume. Pour in the salt and mix well with your hands. You are going for something the consistency of wet sand. If crust seems dry, add a few more tablespoons water.

Pat out 1 cup of the crust mixture on the baking sheet into the size and shape of your fish. Lay two bay leaves on the salt, and set the fish on top, sprinkle the inside with salt and pepper, and stuff with the thyme and lemon slices and cover with the remaining crust mix. Wet your hands and pat the crust all over, smoothing it out and making sure the fish is completely sealed.

Roast smaller fish for 30 minutes, the salt crust will be golden.

Remove the fish from the oven and crack the crust along the sides with the back of a big spoon. Lift the crust up off the fish. Let the fish cool for a few minutes, then peel off the skin. Slide the top fillet off the bones and serve. Grab the tail and lift up the bones. Lift the remaining fillet off the bottom crust and skin (or lift off the fillet with the skin and take the skin off separately, if that’s easier) and serve with beurre blanc.

mmmmmmmm.

In which I make something delicious…

Hola amigos!

oh heavens

That there is salmon.

I have a great fish market right down the street from me. The lovely ladies of Mercato del Mare opened the small place about two years ago (I think?) and they always have the regular stuff you might be looking for, and it is always impeccably fresh. And they send great e-mails when they have special stuff. They also have what appears to be delightful ready to eat or heat and eat options, which since I like to do it myself, I don’t take advantage of, but one of these days I am sure I will, because it all looks delicious. They are always willing to chat about whatever idea I have come up with that particular evening, and will help out with any particular requests I might have. I love having them in the neighborhood.

I wandered in there the other day with a recipe for salmon sashimi in mind, and left with some lovely salmon cut in thin slices for me by the ladies. The recipe called for 1/8 inch thick slices, which is really really thin. I think the only way that might have been possible would be to cut them right off the whole filet with a really sharp, thin-blade knife. I am not giving up on that possibility, but in the meantime, the 1/4 inch slices that I ended up with worked just fine. Thanks for the help Liz and Keri!

This recipe comes together really easily, and says it will serve four as an appetizer. I ate it by myself and called it dinner.

First things first, the salmon gets marinated in soy sauce for a minute. Literally, one minute, then you drain it.

marinated

The fish gets laid out on a plate and sprinkled with, in my case, ginger and scallions. It is supposed to be ginger and chives but I didn’t have any.

sprinkled

Then you mix a little bit more soy sauce with the juice of a lime and an orange, while you heat sesame, olive and canola oils for about two minutes.

When you are ready to eat you pour the hot oil over the top of the fish, and then follow with the soy citrus mixture. That’s it. Dinner is served. And it is awesome.

dinner

This tasted a lot of soy sauce (use low-sodium or it will border on overwhelming) and the oil seemed like it would be too much, but wasn’t. This felt luxurious but only cost me about $5. And it came together in minutes. If I want it to feel more like dinner, next time I will serve the fish over rice stick or bean thread noodles for a little bit of substance. And perhaps I will add either red pepper flakes (probably to the oil) or sriracha (to the soy citrus sauce) for a little heat. I suspect if you have friends that like sushi, they will be really impressed by this oh so simple appetizer. And I think it would be easily adjusted for different flavor profiles as well. And this is a good one for the air conditioner-less situation that I find myself in. It is always right around this time of year that I wonder why I love this apartment so much. No air and no dishwasher. Remind me again?

Anyway, if you are as big a salmon sushi fan as I am, sally forth and make this soon. You will not regret it.

Salmon Sashimi with Soy and Sesame Oil (serves 2 as an appetizer, 1 for dinner)

Adapted from Food & Wine July 2008

1/4 cup plus 2 tbl low-sodium soy sauce

1 tsp fresh lime juice

1 tsp fresh orange juice

1/4 lb super fresh salmon, sliced as thinly as possible and then into approximately 2 inch lengths

One 1/4 inch piece of fresh ginger sliced paper-thin and cut into match sticks

1 tbl thinly sliced scallions

2 tbl neutral oil like grapeseed, or a combination of olive and canola oils

1 tsp Asian sesame oil

1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)

2 tbl cilantro leaves (optional)

In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce with the lime and orange juices. In a medium bowl, toss the salmon with the remaining 1/4 cup of soy sauce and let stand for 1 minute, then drain. Arrange salmon on plate or plates and top with the ginger and chives.

In a small saucepan, heat the oils over moderately high heat until smoking, about 2 minutes. Drizzle the hot oil over the salmon pieces. Spoon the soy-citrus sauce on top. Sprinkle with the roasted sesame seeds and cilantro leaves, if using, and serve.

In which I attain food nirvana…

Well my pets, a lot has been happening around here, just a few short days ago, this was the status of my kitchen.

dismantled

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that this isn’t my kitchen, it is in fact, my dining room, playing host to my most treasured possessions.

dry goods

There’s my kitchen table and all of my pantry items. If your dream was to see the contents of my cabinets, I feel sorry for you, but consider me your genie. There they are.

depression

That picture makes me shudder. But it had to be done. You know how sometimes you don’t even know how dirty something was until it has been cleaned? The kitchen needed it bad. I pulled out the stove and did the floor underneath it. Same for the fridge. Did you know you are supposed to be able to see through the window on your oven door? I cleaned that too. It’s glorious. And now, things are back to normal, thank goodness.

aaaaaaand, we're back

Totally back to normal.

I need a dishwasher, still.

This weekend was exhausting. I feel like a puddle. I ate a lot, and I ate very well, and I made almost none of it. There was book club up in Salem, Thai food with one of my favorite fams on Friday, birthday lunch for my Gram on Sunday at Neptune, and dinner with a friend back in town from New York Sunday night. There was some excellent food and lots of wine and not enough sleep. And in between all that eating, I developed some serious soccer fever over here. Soccer is mostly watched an adored by those who have played it, and I sort of get that. There is not a ton of scoring and it can sometimes end in a tie, but it is a beautiful game, and the boys ain’t bad to look at either. I love that the guys exchange banners and all those adorable tiny people who escort the players onto the field. How excited must they be? The Copa Mundial is soccer in its purest form and I am watching as much of it as possible (which at three games a day is really rotten for productivity.) Another thing I like is the accents on so many of the announcers. But those horns that sound like millions of angry bees and stay in your head for hours after the game ends even through the tv? Who’s idea were those? Thanks, but I prefer my soccer without them. Especially since there is often such great chants and music in the stands by groups of fans that we can’t hear. One other thing I don’t like, what is with the particularly tight jerseys on some of these teams? Never a good look. That is all.

Also: Go Celts! Beat LA.

All this to say I am actually writing about a creation from last weekend. I can’t figure out where time has gone.

Soft shell crab season is short but oh so sweet, and I try to take advantage while it lasts. My favorite way to cook them is to fry in tempura batter. It is really quick and easy and you can’t really go wrong. Except just a warning. If you have a fish market close by, you may want to ask them to clean the crabs for you. It is not hard, but involves cutting the face off a live creature and said creature gets mad, so it’s a little creepy. Totally worth it, but you may not think so.

I had brioche in the freezer that I made a couple of weeks ago, and an avocado and a spring onion in the fridge, and a dish was born. I made a quick salad with avocado, very thinly sliced spring onion, which is nice and mild but still has onion flavor, and a couple of tablespoons of ginger miso dressing.

avocado salad

I made a tempura batter with equal parts flour and club soda, and I toasted two pieces of brioche-you could use a crusty white bread like ciabatta or the like instead if you didn’t have brioche, but the brioche was really awesome. Try to get yourself some. Or make it! I fried the soft shells in really hot oil in the wok, it takes no more than five minutes. They should look like this. (Recipe note: a brand new bottle of club soda will bubble furiously and evaporate more for a thicker batter like the one in this photo, a not quite so new bottle will make a thinner batter-you will be able to see the crab through the batter when fried. This photo below is from soft shells I made a couple of weeks ago, and I prefer the result to the batter from this time around.)

fried to delight

Brioche on the plate, softshell on the brioche, salad on the softshell. I ate one stack and it was so good I went back and made a second.

perfection

I suspected this would be good, but it was just one of those dishes that was unexpected perfection. I was so excited I called my dad immediately. Sometimes things just work out better than expected.

One of these would have made a perfect appetizer, and though soft shells are a little pricey if you are trying to serve a crowd, they are a nice splurge for the occasional dinner for two. And one softshell is a good appetizer size. If you wanted to forego the bread these would also be great over a slaw I think.

Tempura Soft-shell Crabs with Avocado Salad (serves 2 as an appetizer)

2 thick slices brioche or other crusty bread

For the crabs:

2 soft shell crabs, cleaned

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup club soda or beer (a darker beer with have more flavor in the batter, choose accordingly)

Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper (feel free to add some cayenne as well)

Unflavored oil for deep frying-I used canola, grape seed or peanut would also work well

For the avocado salad:

1 ripe avocado pitted, peeled and diced into half-inch cubes

1/4 cup very thinly sliced spring onion (or substitute scallions or shallots) soaked quickly in cold water to remove the bite, and drained

2 tbl Ginger-Miso dressing

black pepper to taste

Make the avocado salad: combine the diced avocado, spring onion, dressing and black pepper in the small bowl and set aside.

Make the tempura batter: whisk together flour, salt, pepper and cayenne, if using, in a small bowl, and then whisk in club soda or beer, set aside. Heat 3 inches of oil in a heavy deep pot or a wok (a wok will heat up faster and require less oil) over medium-high heat until very hot and shimmering. Submerge crabs in tempura batter to thoroughly coat. Test readiness of oil by adding a small amount of the batter to the oil, if it bubbles furiously and crisps up right away, the oil is ready. Add the crabs to the hot oil and cook for 4-5 minutes until they are just lightly golden, you may need to turn them over once if they are not frying evenly. When cooked, remove them from the oil and drain on paper towels. In the meantime, as the crabs are frying, toast the brioche.

To plate: put the brioche on a plate and lay the crab on top of it. Spoon half the avocado salad over the top, and then garnish with some of the crispy tempura bits from the oil if you would like.

Enjoy!

In which I do a week in review…sort of…

I have quite a bit to say about the last couple of weeks, so I shall provide a quick rundown, both in food and life:

First, I have made several things recently, both from the Great Recipe Rescue of Aught Ten and otherwise, which, for whatever reason, don’t really merit their own blog post, but I think I would like to share them with you anyway.

For instance, Sticky Rice with Mango.

yum.

This was something I was introduced to at work. During one of my late nights at the office with my comrades in arms, we ordered Thai food, and my friend Mark ordered this for dessert. He let me try it and I swooned. I immediately ran out and bought a giant bag of glutinous rice and a can of coconut milk, but since I thought it was going to be difficult and since the rice requires a significant soaking before it is cooked (24 hours is preferable) I hadn’t gotten around to making this until recently. I am very sorry I waited. It does require a fair amount of soaking time, but other than that, this really couldn’t be easier. So easy, I never bothered posting about it. If you want to make it, search for a recipe online, get yourself some glutinous rice and have at it. Apparently, it is traditionally cooked in a pot and basket like this, but I don’t have one of those (I will someday though, because I am sort of in love with it) so my cooking vessel looked like this:

a large pot, a strainer, and some cheesecloth. Homemade sticky rice basket.

Worked just fine…be creative, you’ll figure something out.

Also? I made this butter cake. This was from the recipe rescue. It was tasty, but I thought it odd that they suggested serving it on its own, since it is essentially one layer of a yellow layer cake, but a bit more delicate, so it would difficult to use as a layer cake. I served it with strawberries and whipped cream and it was really good, but really, just a cake.

butter cake avec fraises

I also made these crackers one night when my family came over for dinner. They are like Cheez-Its for adults, but way better, because I don’t really like Cheez-Its (fake orange cheese in a snack that I don’t like? What?) They are really great, and easy and a crowd pleaser. And consist of ingredients that I pretty much always have on hand. I am quite sure they will be made over and over and over again.

Dignified snack food

And now? For my first life observation? The LOST finale. I can’t help it. I have been a fan since the beginning. It might be the only show I have ever watched every single episode IN ORDER. I was hooked from the start. And the further I get from the finale on Sunday night, the more I actually like it. Here’s why. I wanted Jack and Kate to be together. I have always wanted Jack and Kate to be together. I am a romantic, and they are supposed to be together in my romantic world. I know there are those that disagree, but just because two people (looking at you Kate and Sawyer) hook up one time in a sex cage, it doesn’t mean they are destined to spend eternity together. (I can’t believe I just typed that sentence in a forum Grammie reads…blame the LOST writers.) I mean it wasn’t flawless, poor Sayid. I understand that the idea is that the time these people spent on the island was the most important time in their lives, and therefore the throw away relationship between Sayid and Shannon comes to represent that in the finale. Fine. But instead of spending eternity with the love of his life, Sayid has to suffer through infinity with the single most annoying character in the series? No fair. At least she was looking fantastic, I guess. Those are my thoughts. I liked the throw down on the cliffs, I hated the hokey Christian Shephard speech, even though it technically defined the whole final season, and I am curious…the sideways world? It was purgatory for all the characters even though they died at different times? Did they all have to be ready to move forward together before any of them did? Was that just Jack’s sideways world? I don’t think so. Confusing. Also, apparently the MIB’s name in the scripts was Samuel. My research told me that. Word. That is simplistic. I have more thoughts, but I know there are not all that many LOST fans amongst my faithful readership, so I will move on.

Back to the food.

There was a roasted tomato risotto that I made with the slow roasted tomatoes I have been making quite a bit of lately.

Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes

I used the leftovers for more fried stuff with cheese. And it was good.

And there was a chicken curry. First I had to make curry powder:

one of my new favorite things.

And then I made my chicken curry. It is a recipe from Epicurious.com, and I think it is the one that my Florida friend Megan made for me one night when I was down there, when I took a deep breath and steeled myself to eat some curry that I wasn’t entirely sure I would love, and I cleaned my plate.

Curried chicken, with accoutrements

And there were more tarts…and look at the pans I used! Huzzah! I made these for the Kentucky Derby, and three of us did a number on them.

spicy shrimp with leeks, fig jam with gorgonzola and coppa, ricotta and roasted tomato, ricotta and olive with orange zest, sweet onions with gorgonzola, olives and rosemary to name a few

And there were these little guys:

frik and frak

I made ramp MAYONNAISE to go with it. Mayonnaise. All by myself. With a wooden spoon. It was fun. And there WILL be a post about it. Because it was that fun.

ramp mayo. by hand.

Alright, I think that’s that. A little week(s) in review if you will. I still have lots of other fun things to talk about though, so don’t worry, I haven’t totally cleaned out my photo files.

And now, to end on a serious note, because I have some great recent food memories from that part of the world…there are MILLIONS of gallons of oil in Gulf and no one seems to be doing anything about it. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?? I am not sure if I care at this point whose fault it is. There is plenty of time for finger-pointing and punishment after someone fixes it, but it has been over a month, and for some reason, we can not get the oil to stop? And now it is being relegated to second page news. Time to step up. FIX IT.

PS: Umm, this might be awesome, could you imagine if it malfunctioned like the soda machines sometimes do and spit out two?