January 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
“One of the best meals you’ve ever made.”
Who doesn’t like to hear that from their partner? It was a seriously delicious meal, I agree. Did I have my doubts while I was cooking? There have been times when I’ve deviated from a recipe—as I did in this case—and it turned out terribly wrong. Terribly. Wrong. I dunno, maybe I have a new confidence in the kitchen. And, I gave myself plenty of time to cook. Rushing never ends with good results for me.
This meal was based on a recipe we saw once on a Food Network program hosted my Michael Chiarello, Lunchbag Swordfishwith Mediterranean Tomato Sauce and Linguini. Except sans swordfish and linguine. Morse Fish Market didn’t have swordfish, but they did have these cute lil’ whole filleted trout. Foodie’s had rainbow Swiss chard on special, especially ideal since eating your greens is a very healthy thing. And, last deviation, no one needs linguine when whole wheat Israeli cous cous makes such a nice side dish.Oh, wait – the last deviation: There was absolutely no lunchbags used in preparing this meal.
I did stick pretty close to the “tomato sauce” recipe, but prefer to call it a roasted salsa.
Recipe for Trout & Tomato-Caper Salsa
(the salsa roasts along with the trout!)
- 3 cups plum tomatoes, cored and thinly wedged
- 1 tbs chopped fresh oregano
- 1 tbs chopped parsley
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup or less of minced red onion (my red onion was a bit strong, so I used less)
- 2 tbs drained capers
- 1/2 of a large red pepper, chopped (original recipe calls for 1/2 cup roasted red pepper – didn’t have time to roast!)
- Juice of whole lemon (original calls for 2 tbs – oh well)
- 4 tbs EVOO
- 2 8+ oz. whole trout fillets
- 1 lemon sliced thinly
- 2 tbs parsley, finely chopped
- kosher salt & pepper
-Set oven to 450-ish.
-Prepare and combine tomatoes, herbs, garlic, red onion, capers, red pepper, lemon juice and EVOO in a medium bowl. Add a couple turns of a pepper mill. Set aside for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-Remove fish heads and tail (and reserve for stock). Rinse fish and pat dry. Working with one fish at a time, season the inside of whole fish with salt and pepper (the two fillets just kinda flap open – easy to do!). While fish is still open, layer lemon slices (remove any seeds you see) and sprinkle with about 1 tbs of chopped parsley. Close up fish. Set aside. Prepare next fishy.
-After tomato-caper mixture has married for about a half hour, place it in the bottom of a rectangular glass baking dish. Salt and pepper fish where they are, then flip them upside down onto the salsa. Salt and pepper them again.
-Place in the oven for about 16 minutes, checking occasionally after about 12 minutes.
While the salsa is sitting, you can get your ingredients ready for the chard and cous cous so everything is ready to go. Timing is always one of my biggest hurdles!
Recipe for Rainbow Chard and Israeli Cous Cous
For best timing, set liquid for cous cous to boil a couple minutes before putting fish in the oven. And start cooking chard while the fish cooks.
- 1 1/4 cup (or less by just a tad) boiling water or chicken stock
- 1 cup Israeli cous cous (it’s the larger-sized cous cous – more substantive, that’s why we like it)
- 1 small swig EVOO
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 bunch of rainbow Swiss chard, washed and patted dry, roughly chopped
- a touch of chicken stock
- salt and pepper
-Add cous cous to boiling water in a small pot. Cover. Let sit until the rest of the meal is complete.
-Add EVOO to a medium sauce pan and turn on heat to medium. Let that heat up a bit. Add garlic – it should sizzle a tad – and give it a good shake or two. Let that saute until fragrant – less than a minute.
-Add chard. Sprinkle in a dash of salt and pepper. Toss it around in the garlic and oil with tongs. It will wilt a bit right then. Add a glug of chicken stock so the chard has something to steam in. Cover. Let cook 5 minutes or until leaves are tender and stalks still have a tiny bit of crunch. If leaves are black-black, you’ve gone too far!
The whole meal came together pretty much at the same time. Yay!
This is where I learned two lessons. The chard was divided between the two plates, and the fish was placed on top. Next, each plate received a big scoop of cous cous, and that was topped with some of the roasted salsa from the baking dish.
Here’s where that might have been improved.
1) I couldn’t access my chard easily. Remember, the fish still had its skin and was filled with lemon. There was a lot of manual labor to be done on that fish, and placing the fish to the side of the chard would have been better. Had that fish been a skinless single fillet of something else, I think it would have been okay.
2) The roasted salsa was juicy – flavorful, but juicy. I’m not a big fan of juice running all over my plate. Use a slotted spoon!
Overall, a delicious meal. And today I have fish heads and tails in the freezer for a future batch of fish stock – even better.
January 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
“Half off bar menu tonight at Sel de la Terre.”
That tweet convinced me get out of my sweats and into some real clothes after a snow day that shut down the City of Boston. I love the French-inspired menu – absolutely. But put a deal on it like 50% off and I’ll push old ladies over to … well, yeah, I guess I’m a bit of a frugal person.
Boots on, Jennifer and I trudged through the gloppy banks of slush in the South End to SDLT’s Back Bay location.
In My Glass:
Fig Manhattan: fig-infused bourbon and sweet vermouth. I’m a big Manhattan fan but drink them sparingly (can’t have as much of the hard stuff as I used to …). I made an exception for this savory-sweet version of the classic leather-chairs-and-wood-paneled cocktail.
A half-dozen moon shoal oysters served with a garnish of red onion and … couldn’t really tell you. Maybe some champagne vinegar in there? Jennifer thought the oysters were terrific. Me? “Meh,” I think is the latest fashionable grunt for “not that impressed.” Maybe the tiny bits of oyster shell left in my mouth had something to do with it. I could have used another accompaniment option.
On Our Plates:
Grilled flatbread pizza with smoked chicken, feta, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms and sage. That’s A LOT to put on a pizza that’s about 5 inches in diameter—and that’s only okay when the result is as AWESOME as this. One of the best flatbread restaurant pizzas we’ve had in quite some time. Was it lightly touched with balsamic vinegar? There was a sweet tang to the flavor that went nicely with the feta. Mmmmm feta …. love it on pizza. Big thumbs up on this plate.
Panko crusted yellowfin tuna with citrus salad, honey and chili sauce. If you order this, bypass the chili sauce: 1) it’s way too hot and 2) it covers the natural flavor of a wonderful hunk of tuna and the nice touch of the somewhat spicy panko covering. Tuna was cooked perfectly – meaning barely at all. Panko played the perfect second fiddle. And the citrus salad – there were a couple of tiny hunks of red grapefruit I think but the real stars were the spattering of dried fruits. Love dried fruit in my salad. Lightly dressed with something – not sure what – again, it let the flavors of the salad and fruit come out big rather than weigh it down with oiliness.
Bread basket and butter: An assortment of breads – all done well – came with a sweetened butter. Was that honey? There were little flecks of something in there – not sure what. If you know, please give me a shout out in the comments section and let me know. To me, sweetened butter belongs with brunch. On pancakes.
Just realized, I need to eat breakfast …
Dainty Rates Sel de la Terre: 4 Dots
(Dainty Rates perfect score is 5 dots)
January 4, 2011 § 1 Comment
This is the best part. This is when the clams go from mollusk-stuffed rocks to dinner in no time at all. This is the kind of 30-minute meal I’m talkin’ about, sista. Step aside, Rach. Ellen’s makin’ dinner.
Actually, Jennifer and Ellen are making dinner. Okay, okay … Jennifer’s making dinner, I’m sous-cheffing.
Here’s the play-by-play:
Large pot, filled with water, add handfuls of kosher salt until it “tastes like the sea,” as Giada would say. High heat. When it boils, throw in a pound of linguine – you know the drill. Keep an eye on doneness while you’re prepping the rest. Cook until nearly done, then just turn off the heat and let it coast in. When clams are nearly done, drain the linguine. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water to add back into the pasta if you wish.
Two or three big fat cloves of garlic, smacked and minced go into a saute pan with EVOO, a tbs or two. Throw in a fresh anchovy fillet (or two for good luck). Medium heat ’til the anchovy melts and it smells like Italian heaven.
Add a half cup-ish dry white wine. Nothing you wouldn’t drink yourself, but I’m not talking a Dog Point sauvignon blanc here. We used a Sevillon/Chardonnay blend that is on the I-wouldn’t-chuck-it-down-the-sink side.
Clam juice – that’s right, we’re adding clam juice to clam sauce. Like adding chicken stock to something. Just a touch of added flavor. Let that come together for a bit. It’ll boil more quickly than you think.
Simmah time. Mmmmm. We’re half-way there, folks.
Now’s the time that some will get squeamish. It’s ok, really – the clams are destined for a greater purpose at this point. We had about 30 clams. Only about 10 at a time fit in the pan. Throw ’em in, cover, and wait for the little guys to give it up. It takes between four to six minutes, depending on size. We had some big clams that took quite a bit of time. And, something I never knew – when the clams open, it’s not like it’s a slow-motion death yawn. There’s a definite rumbling in the dying clam’s vicinity, and then a sudden “pop” – the pearly treasure reveals itself. I’m exaggerating with the pearl comparison, of course.
When they open, take them out of the “juice” and pry out the meat. Reserve shells (for fumé). Add next batch to pan, and so on until they’re all cooked and open.
We’re almost there.
Mince your clams. Add back to the saute pan – which now magically has way more liquid in it from the clams – and let them heat up again. Add in your pasta. Mix until amazing.
Serve up, garnish with fresh chopped flat parsley – never, never the curly stuff. (By the way, we added parsley we harvested from our garden back in November. Man, that stuff keeps when prepared properly. Fresh garden parsley in January, yo.)
Eat. Try not to slop it all over yourself. That may be the hardest part of this whole experience.
January 3, 2011 § 2 Comments
That was the subject line of the email we received from our friend Karen. For $15, she picked up a shellfish license that allows her to walk around in the low-tide sands of Provincetown, clawing for clams and such. She picked up two licenses, actually, so she could share the experience with folks like us. My partner, Jennifer, and I were going to be in Provincetown for New Year’s weekend, and she knew we’d be up for a hunting-gathering experience.
Armed with an official clam rake, purchased new for our first clamming experience, we joined Karen and Robin at low tide on New Year’s Eve afternoon. We picked a spot east of town. For about 30 minutes we raked around the wet sand of the flats. Nothing. Okay, I lied. We found two clams – one of which was less than 1 in. thick and we had to dig back into its home.
Apparently conditions hadn’t been ideal for clams in that spot this summer. Karen knew of another spot about 2 miles further west and we sped off to hopefully richer clamming fields.
The first sign we reached fertile ground was the mass of rake-armed people out on the flats. Second sign: full clam baskets dangling from arms of weary food gatherers. After trudging through a bit of shallow water (note to self: purchase galoshes) we spent all of a minute raking before we hit the jackpot. Robin hit the clam jackpot first, actually. Then Karen. You don’t have to dig deep to find these critters. They’re just below the surface. I’d hit a few miscues – some empty scallop shells, a hunk of asphalt – but when you hit a clam with a tine, you know from the sound and from the bulk you’ve found your treasure.
When I found my first clam – a quahog – I was rewarded with more than one actually. They tend to hang out in batches. My batches tended to have three. Robin found up to six in several spots. All told, the four of us walked off the flats with about 50-60 clams.
Speaking of walking off the flats, we ran into the local shellfish commissioner while calling it a day. An affable guy, he explained the quahogs we found pretty much stay near the surface. The softshell steamers are a bit further down. The longer-tined rakes, like the one we bought, are ideal for harvesting those. Rather than just randomly digging 6-in. holes hoping to hit payload, the commissioner said to look for tear-shaped hole in the sand. Spot those, and you’ll likely find your steamers.
Don’t like clams because of the sand? Karen says there’s a trick to getting the clams to give it up. Throw them into a bucket, fill with water, add a bunch of baking soda and let them sit overnight. Not sure exactly how that works, but if she says it works, that’s enough proof for me.
I’ll let you know if it works. Meanwhile, I’m looking for my best linguine and clam sauce recipe. Harvesting and cooking – it’s so primeval.