Moqueca, or a Tasty Brazilian Fish Stew

October 31, 2011 § 1 Comment

This year was supposed to be the Year of Ellen Baking, right? Or was it the Year of Ellen Reading? I was supposed to run three moquecahalf-marathons this year, read 12 books, and start the engine on something Big and Awesome. It’s turned out to be more of the Year of Ellen Waffling, and I don’t mean those maple-dripped golden squares on your brunch plate. It’s not been an all-that-great year, and I want it to be over with. I’ve petitioned the International Calendarological Society to just end 2011 here and now, and to get a move on with 2012. Apparently only Popes and Julius Caesar can do that. Officially. You can imagine my regard for “official.”

I’m declaring an end to 2011 as of Oct. 31—which conveniently makes Halloween the equivalent of New Year’s Eve. November 1st will begin a 61-day period known as Daintydays. It’s a time when Dainty and anyone who may have a thread of Daintyness in her/himself says “I’ve had enough of this, and I’m just gonna do ______” (with the blank being nothing that harms others, of course; that’s not very Dainty). Two months. Two months to do what you think you couldn’t by the end of the year. Think on it—we start tomorrow.

What does this have to do with moqueca? Absolutely nothing. Unless “Making the freakin’ best fish stew ever” is that thing you want to do by the end of the year. I first had moqueca at Edwige at Night in Provincetown in 2010. When I heard they were closing for good at the end of the Summer 2011 season, I rushed over for one last order. Last week, we made our own moqueca with a little help from Emeril Lagasse. While it’s no Edwige, it’s still damn good.

Moqueca (Brazilian fish stew)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds  white-fleshed fish cut into 1-2 in. pieces —we used a combo of bluefish (from our Cape Ann Fresh Catch share) and some shrimp
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups roughly chopped tomatoes – we used a 25 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes and gave them a rough chop
  • 1/2 cup fish stock or water
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • up to 1/4 cup hot sauce – recipe calls for Piri Piri, which is a blender hot sauce, but we dumbed it down a bit
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Steamed white rice, as an accompaniment

-Put the fish in a glass mixing bowl with the lime juice. Set aside for 20 minutes and prep the remaining ingredients.
-Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Believe me, you’ll need a larger pan than you expected. Heat up the oil, and saute the onions until translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic saute for about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, fish stock and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine everything.
-Turn up heat a tad and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, add the limed fish, the hot sauce (try half the amount first then add more after afterward) and the coconut milk. Stir it up again and let it heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low and until the flesh starts to flake, about 10 minutes. IF you are using shrimp, add the shrimp separately from the fish, about 5 minutes through that cooking period.
-Remove the cover and sprinkle the cilantro over the fish. Season with the remaining salt and hot sauce, if you so choose.
-Serve with the rice. A nice basmati rice is perfect. Make LOTS of it, you’ll need it.

mocquea - brazilian fish stew

Ahhh ... leftovers.

Homegrown Food Challenge—Days 6 & 7

October 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

No, we did not whither away and die from lack of food after Day 5 of our Homegrown Food Challenge. We survived quite nicely, thank you very much. I’ve just not been … well … in the blogging mood, I guess. If you’re a blogger, you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down. Hey, it happens. I’m back on track now, though, no worries.

Breakfast:
Day 6—it was all the way back last Saturday. I had promised we’d kick it up a bit with something for breakfast that was more interesting than yogurt. And we did—omelets! Not an omelet, per se, but more of a flat egg. That’s what my mom called them when I was growing up. It’s just two eggs, slightly beaten and NOTHING added to the eggs, as you would were you making omelets. Just a straight ol’ egg. We added in some local goat cheese and diced homegrown tomato right at the last second, folded and called it breakfast. A slice or two of toasted homemade bread made it a filling meal.

homegrown omelet

Lunch:
After, Jennifer took off for the weekend to attend to some business, leaving me to fend for myself. Lunch was … honestly, I can’t remember. Must have been the last of the grilled eggplant paninni … yum … By the way, that post was way popular. Way. Popular.

Dinner:
Dinner was when I got creative on Day 6. Earlier in the week I had cooked up some homegrown Vermont cranberry beans. Used the pressure cooker, actually, and the process yielded some terrific bean broth. Add some homegrown leeks, homegrown carrots, and a neighbor’s small bunch of homegrown celery, and it’s the beginning of soup! I added to that the leftover Vermont cranberry beans, some leftover homegrown/homemade tomato sauce, a fading homegrown zucchini and a couple of locally grown potatoes—along with salt, pepper, homegrown oregano and sage. Soup and bread for dinner—the end of a great gardening day.

Day 7

Our weeklong Homegrown Food Challenge ended not with a big banquet ala Julie and Julia, but on a much more common, everyday note. Plans for going out with a bang—lasagna of homemade pasta, homegrown broccoli, eggplant and kale—faded with the afternoon. Instead we hunkered down, ate our soup and toasted our accomplishment with the last of the local beer.

Next year … I truly wonder what that will bring.

Homegrown Food Challenge—Day 5

October 16, 2011 § 6 Comments

Has this been the longest week ever? Were there 10 days in this particular week? God, it just seems never-ending. What is up with that, calendar?

Not to imply that the Homegrown Food Challenge is getting old. It’s not. As I said yesterday, we actually have too much food to work with, and I haven’t end gotten around to using our homegrown leeks and beets and … whaddaya know … we have a head of broccoli ready to go.

It’s just that, well, I’m realizing how boring my breakfast (or lack of it) is becoming. It’s the same, every time. Coffee, well, duh, I require daily morning intakes. It’s just the non-liquids that go along with that meal. It’s not as mind-numbing as the time in Jr. High that I ate a Toaster Strudel every day for two years. But … unless I’m going to have home-baked baked goods for breakfast, I’m not so sure I have any thrilling alternatives. Suggestions, anyone?

On to Day 5, which, I must admit, was borderline local …

Breakfast:
Flat Black coffee with Maine’s Own Organic milk. Stonyfield yogurt. Local apple. Thank god for good coffee.

Lunch:
I feel almost sinful having the grilled eggplant paninni with smoky mayo two days in a row. But I did. And I loved it. Really and truly. No tomato this time.

Dinner:
Another local eatery. This time with our new-found friend who was flying solo that night. We headed to Gaslight. No, they aren’t a struggling local place that needs our money. But the place has darn-good food and surely the fish on the menu is local, right? And the broccoli rabe under the fish, I hope. The Harpoon IPA definitely was local. Ring it up—we liked it all.

Homegrown Food Challenge—Day 4

October 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

Day 4 … halfway through our week of eating and drinking stuff as homegrown and as local as possible. How’s it going? Great. In fact, we might have too much food. Well, we’ll make it to the end, definitely.

Okay, I had promised some scintillating breakfasts. Not happening on Day 4. The morning meal, to me, is utilitarian. I know, that’s the wrong way to think about it. You’re supposed to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper. Or something like that. I honestly don’t have the stomach for breakfast until, say, 9 am.

Day 4 was a whole two days ago. Let’s see if I can remember what we had.

Breakfast:
Flat Black coffee. Maine’s Own Organic Milk. And honestly, I may have had an apple. I know it wasn’t much. I was kinda busy and on a role with things, work-wise. Sometimes that happens. Kids, eat your breakfast and don’t be like Auntie Dainty.

Lunch:
Lunch … I have to say what I made for lunch was the best thing ever constructed out of two pieces of bread. Seriously. Some cookbook-writing chef is going to see my delicious creation and will put it front and center in his/her lunch options.

Grilled eggplant paninni with tomato and smoky mayo

It’s a grilled eggplant and tomato paninni with smoky mayo. Recall the smoky mayo originally topped the broiled bluefish on Day 2. Imagine that spread not-too-thinly on two slices of homemade sourdoughish bread. And remember the eggplant on the grilled pizza from Day 3? Lay a couple of those grilled eggplant slices down on top. Add some sliced tomato, top with another mayo-slathered slice of bread. Put a bit of olive oil in a hot cast iron pan. Lay down the sammies. And add some wait to make them “pressed sandwiches.” In this case, I used a very heavy Dutch oven. Grill both sides to a nice crispness. Smoky mayo+grilled eggplant=the world’s perfect pairing. I wanted to share it with everyone and no one all at once.

Dinner:
We still had two bluefish fillets in the fridge from our Cape Ann Fresh Catch share on Tuesday. We did another round of Broiled Bluefish with Smoky Mayo since it was so good on Day 2. And we had a small side salad. See those beans on top? Vermont Cranberry Beans – the best homegrown beans. Ever.

 

Broiled bluefish with smoky mayo and a salad

That was it for Day 4. We won’t tell you if we finish the remaining Topsfield Fair-made kettle corn. We’ll let you think on that.

 

 

Homegrown Food Challenge—Day 3

October 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

Day 3 on the Homegrown Food Challenge and no fish heads were lopped off on this particular day. But the grill did get lit, and that’s always a fun thing. Here’s how our day progressed.

Breakfast:
Starting to look very familiar. Flat Black coffee with Maine’s Own Organic Milk. Stonyfield yogurt with local apple, honey and a crumbled Effie’s oatcake. We’ll get a bit more creative with breakfast on the weekend, no worries.

Lunch:
Jennifer and I both had big salads with local stuff, similar to the one I had for lunch on Day 2. Local lettuce and red pepper, pickled beets, homemade dressing, etc etc. I even made some homemade croutons from homemade bread.

Dinner:
This is where the grill gets lit—finally! We cranked it up for some pizza made with homemade pizza dough. Two pizzas are usually enough to take care of dinner plus give us enough for lunch the following day.

grilled pizza

Pizza #1: Homemade sauce using slightly green homegrown tomatoes (similar to the roasted cherry tomato sauce I make), grilled eggplant (from farmers market) and locally made mozzarella.

grilled pizza

Pizza #2: Homemade pesto using homegrown basil, grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper (from farmers market) and caramelized homegrown leeks.

Can’t have pizza without beer, right? We had some Whale’s Tale Pale Ale from Cisco Brewers on Nantucket. Pretty tasty stuff!

As I am two days behind in posting, I can hint at what awaits you for Day 4: One of the most fabulous creations to ever have been sandwiched between two pieces of bread. Think I over-exaggerate? Oh. No.

Homegrown Food Challenge—Day 2

October 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

One day down in the Homegrown Food Challenge, and it went quite well. A local eatery and leftovers – we eased into it. Nothing wrong with that. Day 2, as I promised, was much more exciting.

Chopping a head off a fish-type of exciting.

But, alas, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin at the beginning.

DAY 2

Breakfast:

More coffee from our favorite local coffee roaster, Flat Black Coffee Company, with the Maine’s Own Organic Milk.

More Stonyfield plain yogurt with half a local apple, Topsfield-produced honey and an Effie’s Oatcake crumbled on top. Hey, they’re a local company. It counts. And I’m inspired to make my own oatcakes now.

Lunch:

A big ol’ salad using:

  • lettuce and red pepper from the farmers market
  • a homegrown carrot
  • a local apple
  • a boiled egg – the eggs are local
  • homemade salad dressing – just something I whipped up, no biggie
  • my very own and awesomely tasty pickled beets. That’s right, pickled beets on a salad. It was awesome.
  • some shavings from a homegrown head of red cabbage

Filling and tasty. I washed that down with some home brewed iced tea.

Jennifer had the rest of the leftover pasta and a local apple.

Dinner:

This is where the fish head comes in. Or I should say, where the fish head comes off. Realizing there was way too much to say about last night’s dinner, I posted about the fish and side dish separately. (Click on the lick to check out the dish.) On the menu:

Broiled bluefish with smoky mayo and roasted romanesco

  • Cape Ann-caught broiled bluefish with a homemade smoky mayo
  • Roasted romanesco
  • A glass of white wine. Okay, okay, it was Tohu from New Zealand. BUT, it had been opened a few days earlier ans was in the fridge. That counts as a leftover, right?
  • I may or may not have had a handful (or two) of kettle corn purchased at the Topsfield Fair. It was popped on site! That’s local, right?

Day 3 is already two-thirds complete, and I’m happy to say we are both still on track with this Challenge. Tonight’s dinner is just an hour away. Grilled pizza is always a fun thing to make.

Broiled Bluefish with Smoky Mayo

October 12, 2011 § 4 Comments

Fish have heads.

That’s right. Fish aren’t just big slabs of fillets that motor around on their own in the ocean or in a river. They have heads. And tails, too. And fins. They even have guts. All of that—plus the nice fishy flesh—constitutes a whole fish.

And that’s what we signed up for when we bought a 5-week share in the Cape Ann Fresh Catch Community-Supported Fisheries (CSF). Whole fish one week, fillets the next.

Yesterday was our first fish pick-up.

“You know you’re getting a whole bluefish today, right?” said the pleasant assistant when I walked into the CSF pick-up location and proudly announcing this was my first-ever fish delivery.

“Yup, a whole fish.”

“You know how to fillet a whole fish?”

“Nope, but I’m gonna learn today, I guess.”

whole bluefish

Meet Mr. Bluefish

Among the millions of dogs-learning-to-talk YouTube videos and clips of hormone-laden boys throwing themselves off suburban rooftops into holly-filled foundation plantings, there are videos that are quite instructional. A quick search for “how to fillet a bluefish” netted me two great videos by none other than Tony Maws, chef over at the Craigie Street Bistro in Cambridge.

Wanna learn how to fillet a bluefish? Check out Tony’s Part 1 and Part 2. He’s a great instructor—my fillets looked pretty nearly smooth for a first-timer. Tony, I did good!

headless bluefish

Compare this photo to the one above: Notice how many more tools I have? An 8-in. chef’s knife, a rubber mallet, kitchen shears. Not kidding. And that was just to remove the head.

Bluefish fillets

In the end, I had two nice 1.5-ish pound bluefish fillets and …

Bluefish heads

… some fish heads, tails and an intact spine and bones. Those were chucked into the freezer for a future turn in a stock pot. Also put in the freezer was one whole fillet. The other fillet was quartered, and two of those slabs were stored in the fridge. The other two were headed for the dinner table.

Finally, getting on with dinner …

For those paying attention, this meal falls into Day 2 of our Homegrown Food Challenge, and we’re doing our best to keep the ingredients either homegrown or locally sourced. The fish was locally sourced: check. The mayo? Jennifer’s a mayo whipper-upper using fresh ingredients. So yes, if it didn’t come out of a Hellman’s jar, this is locally made and sourced. And boy, does she make a yummy mayo.

Smoky Mayo

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. good-quality mustard
  • 3/4 cup canola or veg oil (not a flavored or savory oil like olive)
  • 2 tsp. smoked Hungarian paprika
  • salt, pepper
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

-In a blender or food processor, add the egg yolk and super-slowly (Jennifer’s exact words) drizzle in the oil. Super. Slowly. It’ll start to thicken and look mayo-ey. That’s a good thing. Want it thick? Less oil. Thin? More oil.

-Add in paprika and give it a whir. Taste and add in salt and pepper to your liking. Then add in the lemon juice and whir some more.

homemade smoky mayo

Smoky mayo

This’ll give you WAY more mayo than you’ll need for two or even four individual fillets. Have fun with the rest of it! We’re thinking grilled eggplant paninnis. Refrigerate and use within two to three days.

Broiled Bluefish with Smoky Mayo
Serves 2

  • 2 6 oz. Bluefish fillets
  • 2-3 Tbs. smoky mayo (recipe above)

-Place your oven’s top rack under the broiler and set your oven on broil. Let that heat up good and hot.

-Meanwhile, place the bluefish fillets in an ovenproof baking dish, skin side down. Spread 1 to 1.5 Tbs. smoky mayo on each fillet. I’d even do a little more than that. Just give the fillet a nice, thick coating of mayo.

-When the broiler is ready to go, place the fillets under the heat—7 minutes should do it. But, keep an eye on them. Broiler distance varies and your mayo could scorch. Some scorching is okay, but you don’t want grizzled char.

Broiled bluefish with smoky mayo and romanesco

Broiled bluefish with smoky mayo and romanesco

The mayo holds in the fish’s moisture and adds a tasty smokiness to the fish. Really quite nice.

I know some think bluefish is … fishy. I grew up eating bluefish, so I had no worries. Jennifer quite liked the fish’s flavor, too. Plus, the fact that the fish was alive and swimming earlier that morning had a whole lot to do with the awesome flavor.

Oh, that green stuff over there on the other side of the plate—that would be roasted romanesco.

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