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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Homegrown Food Challenge: Day 1

October 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

Yesterday began our week-long Homegrown Food Challenge (HGFC). So, right from the beginning I have to amend the title, or rather—I should clarify and lay out the rules of this Homegrown Food Challenge we’ve undertaken:

  1. “Homegrown” … with such a small garden plot and the fact that it’s nearly done producing, we’re amending “homegrown food” to “local food.”
  2. “Local” for this challenge will mean somewhere in New England. I know, it could be more local than that. Maybe for the next challenge we’ll pull in the boundaries.
  3. Items that are in our allowable “pantry” include oils, vinegars and flours. And I reserve the right to add in quinoa as a “cheater” grain.
  4. Leftovers that were in our fridge need to be eaten, right? And trust me, we did not stock the fridge with “leftovers” so we could cheat with them.
  5. Our “veganish” diet – two out of three meals not containing animal products – will be put on hold for the week.

Hey, that’s not so bad, right? So far, so good.

To prep for the challenge, I hit the closest local farmers market I could find, which just happens to be at Boston Medical Center on Fridays. I came back with butternut squash, two eggplant, red peppers, dinosaur kale, two heads of leaf lettuce and romanesco – it’s like a fractal-influenced head of broccoli. All produce brought to us by the good folks at Farmer Dave’s in Dracut.

Farmers market fare from Farmer Dave's

Farmers market fare from Farmer Dave's

We also stopped by Whole Foods to find some local dairy products. And you know what? We did actually find some.

So, with that, let the challenge begin!

DAY 1

Breakfast: We need coffee. Coffee doesn’t grow in this climate. What to do … Well, there are local coffee roasters. That counts. And our favorite local coffee roaster is Flat Black Coffee Company with locations in Dorchester and downtown Boston. We’ve known the owner for years and can attest he and his crew produce a great and responsible bean. Into that cup we usually pour some almond or soymilk. Not happening this week, so how about some local milk? We picked up some Maine’s Own Organic Milk.

Yogurt, apple and honey

Yogurt, apple and honey - all local!

The coffee accompanied a bowl of Stonyfield plain yogurt – I’m positive all that dairy is from New England cows and if not, someone clue me in – mixed with a local chopped apple and topped with Topsfield-produced honey. Breakfast, done.

Lunch: Okay, so … It’s Columbus Day. Jennifer’s off work, and I’m working but not all that hard … A friend calls us. Hadn’t seen her in a while. “Wanna go out for lunch?” Say no? No. We said yes. And we opted to eat at a small, local Mexican restaurant two blocks away where I know they a) make a lot of their own stuff and b) could use our dining dollars. I feel completely in-line with the challenge by supporting our local small eateries.

Dinner: Gotta clean out the leftovers from the fridge, right? Pasta with shrimp, red pepper and pesto. And just the pasta and shrimp weren’t local in that dish. Plus, we had homemade bread. And, a bottle of Harpoon IPA brewed right down the street in Southie.

Day 2 should be interesting—it’s our first Cape Ann Fresh Catch share pick-up. Fish with heads!! Awesome!

The Homegrown Food Challenge

September 30, 2011 § 4 Comments

Are you in for the Home Grown Food Challenge?

I’m always up for a challenge, unless it involves deep sea diving or eating 62 hot dogs.

A few weeks ago, the folks at the Homegrown Food Challenge emailed me out of the blue with a request: Can I submit a recipe or two or three that Luke and Karen—founders of the Food Challenge—can prepare during their October-long commitment to eating locally sourced food? Sure! Absolutely! And what’s this challenge you’re talking about?

Luke and Karen tell their own story over at their blog, Sweet Local Farm. In a nutshell, they’re living the “modern-day back-to-the-land” lifestyle on three acres of farmland in the Pioneer Valley. They plant, they tend, they harvest, they cook. And what they can’t eat all at once, they put up for the winter by canning and freezing and pickling and storing in a lot of other ways.

Can I come live with you, Luke and Karen? Cuz that’s exactly what I want to do.

Last year, realizing they had buckets and buckets of a wide variety of food at this time of year, they challenged themselves eat only what they grew during the month of October. And what they didn’t grow themselves, they’d source locally.

This year, they are doing it again and encouraging others to join in. Not everybody has a 3-acre farm that can support them for the month, they know that. And they realize 31 days is a long time to commit to any challenge, let alone one that involves food.

The Homegrown Food Challenge, therefore, is nothing if not flexible. Only growing tomatoes and basil in your garden? That’s fine—commit to eating only locally sourced foods and hit up your neighborhood farmers markets. Can’t commit to a month? Then sign up for a week or a day. or hey, even one day a week. Point is, making the commitment to the Homegrown Food Challenge will get you thinking about a) where your food comes from, b) what food you’re going to eat, and c) how you’re going to get that food. You do realize that calling up Domino’s or Yum Phat and having your meal appear before you in 30 minutes or less is a modern-day miracle? And one that only a small portion of this world’s population has the luxury to partake in?

Think about your food, people!

Ahem … sorry for the rant. It was quick, though.

Back to the Challenge. Head on over to the Homegrown Food Challenge’s Facebook page and sign up whichever source and time frame works for you. Or, just mentally commit to it. Whatever you do, there’s gonna be some recipes on the page that you can turn to for inspiration. And I’m sure Luke and Karen will be posting about it over on Sweet Local Farm.

As for Dainty’s role in this … I’ll give you a heads up when Luke and Karen use one of the recipes I’ve submitted. And I’ll also direct you over there when one of their other recipes looks Daintilicious. I’m very pysched about it.

Jennifer and I have officially committed to one week of locally sourced food. And it’s not going to be this week. This takes some planning and rule making (and rule breaking)—we’ll keep you posted as to when that week occurs. And she doesn’t know it yet, but in addition to that one week, I’m also adding in one day of locally sourced food each week, which I hope to continue beyond October.

How are we preparing for the Challenge? Well, we’re coming up with guidelines, e.g. oils, vinegars, flour, lemons and limes don’t count. And we’re planning some meals. And we’re mapping out farmers markets. And we’re going out for dinner tonight.

Need some inspiration? I will be posting the three recipes I submitted to Luke this weekend. AND, I’ll post an awesomely superb spicy tomato soup recipe later today so you can hit the farmers market tomorrow morning with a shopping list in hand.

Are you in? Who’s with me?

What to Do With Kohlrabi?

September 9, 2011 § 3 Comments

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi, my garden's "Let's try something new" veggie for 2011.

Kohlrabi. German for cabbage turnip. English for “What the hell is this thing?”

Duh, I know what kohlrabi is. It’s a member of the brassica clan, i.e. cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussell’s sprouts, etc. All the brassica veggies are basically the same plant. One’s leaves form a head, one green florets, one really floppy outer leaves, one’s stem produces tiny head at the axillary buds. And in the case of kohlrabi, the stem swells up to the size of an ostrich egg.

Careful now, Dainty. You’re showing your botanical geek side. Calm down. Calm down.

I’ve never grown it before. Dad and the farm didn’t grow it either. But this year I bought a 6-pack of kohlrabi transplants as my “Let’s try something new” experiment. Why not, right? You only live once. Might as well grow some kohlrabi.

As you can see, my six transplants turned into 3 harvestable (barely) knobby things. One didn’t make it through the transplanting. One actually grew into broccoli. Note to self: Don’t buy transplants from the store again – your transplants labeled zucchini were actually yellow squash and the purple eggplant turned out to be white. As for the last transplant – no idea what happened to that, I lost track of it. Oh, well.

Anyway, so I’m here with three kohlrabi. One looks pretty good. One turned into the funniest looking kohlrabi ever – I expect my award in the mail any day now – and one looks like it’s been sitting in the hydrator a little longer than it should (true, every word).

And I have no idea what to do with them. Oh, sure, I’ve Googled. Saute it like broccoli stems. Cube. Puree. Middle Eastern and Indian dish galore have found their way into my searches. But I’m stuck. Folks, I’m at a loss. Indecision is a horrible thing.

So, dear Daintyites, , I’m looking to you for suggestions. Any ideas? Anyone? If you have a recipe – any recipe at all – please leave a comment below. I may need to hit the farm stands and gather up more of this brazen brassica.

Somerville Winter Farmers Market

February 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

The Somerville Winter Farmers Market has been up and active since January 8th, and why haven’t we been before this weekend?? Maybe because we’re South Enders, and making it all the way over the river and through traffic can be rough-going. Or, maybe it’s been the weather. Or … maybe we just didn’t know what we were going to find. With “farmers markets” you just never know what you’re going to get—sometimes it’s not even food-related, you know? Screen-print shirts, artwork—come on, dude.

We’re happy to say we found lots of food-related stuff in the Armory Building, which is a great place to hold an event like this. Not too big that the vendors get lost. Just large enough to encourage a good traffic flow on the floor. And an upstairs space for overflow vendors and chillin’ and listening to the musicians (Rodriguez someoneorother? Good choice).

Considering the heavens have dumped loads of snow upon us all winter, and spring harvests just seem so far off, it was really refreshing to see farmers and their produce. One farm looks like they have a connection with an organic farm down in Florida—they were selling fresh greens and even squashes that were shipped up from there. Do I have a problem with that? Not really. One cannot live by turnips alone all winter.

The Winter Farmers Market is also way more than veggies. Our first purchases, in fact, were unpasteurized apple cider and maple syrup. And there were seafood vendors, pork/beef producers, wineries, cheese makers, bakeries, orchards and prepared foods chefs in the house, as well. Lots to choose from.

All in all, we were happy with the hour we spent shuttling from booth to booth.

Our bounty from the Somerville Winter Farmers Market

Our loot: scallops, two varieties of apples, maple syrup, unpasteurized apple cider, kale, baby spinach, Rainbow Lights Swiss chard, mussels, two kinds of soft cheese (burrata and fresh mozzarella) two kinds of semi-soft cheese (swiss and hardwick stone), and a watermelon radish. I told Jennifer there had to be at least one thing we purchased that we didn’t have experience with—that would be the watermelon radish. Spicy sweet with a gorgeous dark pink coloring inside (the “watermelon” part), we julienned it and put it on a spinach salad with apple slices and goat cheese with a shallot balsamic vinaigrette. That salad accompanied our mussels last night. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Spinach salad with apple, watermelon radish and goat cheese

Spinach salad with apple, watermelon radish and goat cheese

We’ve also already used the rainbow chard, which accompanied Saturday night’s sea bass and mango cous cous.

Sea bass with mango cous cous and rainbow chard

Sea bass with mango cous cous and rainbow chard

The scallops are our Valentine’s Day meal. Can’t wait for that.

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