Showing posts with label Seafood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Seafood. Show all posts

September 17, 2017

Salade Niçoise et Libanaise

Having recently come to appreciate a perfectly cooked green bean, I have been keen to find interesting ways to serve them. This dish contains the wonderful arrangement of Salade Niçoise, along with the Lebanese-type tahini dressing. It was a perfect confluence of tuna dishes that I wished to make, namely samke harra (a sesame-smothered fish dish from Lebanon) and the classic salade composée from Nice (whose ingredients are a hotly debated subject anyway).

I was sorely tempted to name it Salade Libaniçoise.

You can pretty much see everything in the picture, but I'll lay out the recipe for your entertainment, anyway. The tuna and the capers are the only elements served warm - I used the same skillet for both - the other parts can be prepared in advance. The purple potatoes are a type called Quartz, here in Germany, but you can of course use any kind of waxy potato that you like. These were too pretty not to showcase.

Salade Niçoise et Libanaise

Serves 2

150 grams mixed greens (I've used lambs' lettuce with arugula and shreds of beetroot)
2 eggs, boiled
125 mL Niçoise olives, stones in
30 mL capers, rinsed & fried in olive oil
100 grams potatoes, boiled, cooled, & sliced
100 grams haricots verts, or other fine green beans, steamed and quick-cooled in ice water
a few cherry tomatoes, halved
200 grams of tuna steak, pressed with sesame seeds and lightly seared on all sides (do not overcook!)

Tahini Dressing

45 mL (3 tablespoons) tahini, stirred well
big pinch of coarse/kosher salt
Juice of half a lemon
1 clove garlic, pressed
15 mL olive oil
cold water, if necessary, to made a thick salad-dressing consistency

In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients, mixing well with a fork or stick blender. Add a little cold water, a tablespoon at a time, and stir until it becomes creamy and the texture of pourable salad dressing.

Layer the ingredients onto the platter. If you green beans are still wet, lay them on some paper towel to dry off, so they don't sog out the salad. Arrange the greens around the bottom, and then place the potatoes, egg halves, beans, and tomatoes, however you like, but leaving a space to put the tuna. Tumble the olives into all the nooks and crannies between the other elements.

As soon as the tuna and capers are added to the platter, drizzle the dressing as artistically as you can manage over the various elements of the salad. I see from this that I really need to invest in a sauce bottle with a nozzle, so that I can better control the flow - this one got a bit blobby-looking.

It was really quite filling, and completely delicious.

September 03, 2016

Curried Spaghetti with Prawns

This dish is essentially a hybrid other recipes, which came together as I was fondly recollecting the kind of curried pasta that was always on the menu of a certain kind of casual Canadian-Italian restaurant in the late 1980s. That said, this one owes most of its technique to Nigella Lawson's Lone Linguine with White Truffle Oil, although my proposed serving size is smaller than hers by half. So by all means, go ahead and add a couple of slices of your favourite garlic toast.

You could also use fresh spinach in place of the arugula, of course, but I like the peppery bite of the arugula against the richness of the sauce. A glass of Pinot Grigio goes remarkably well with this, too, if you're so inclined.

It's really fast to make. Basically, in just the amount of time it takes to boil the water, cook the pasta, and toss it all together, dinner is ready. Perfect weeknight fare.

You can use whatever kind of curry powder you like, or blend your own. I’ve used a hot Indian curry powder, but Madras would be nice, or even a Caribbean curry blend.

Curried Spaghetti with Prawns

Serves 2

112 grams spaghetti
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons whipping cream
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
225 grams raw prawns or large shrimp, deshelled
1 1/2 cups arugula

Set a pot of water (for pasta) to boil over medium-high heat.

For the prawns, rinse them well under cool water and let defrost in a bowl of cool water until they regain their flexibility. Drain thoroughly, and pat dry with a paper towel (they should not go into the skillet wet).

Salt the now-boiling water and add the pasta. Cook al dente or to taste. That's about 10 minutes for the spaghetti I have at hand, but check your packaging. If you're serving garlic bread, make sure it's already underway by this point.

While the pasta cooks, whisk together the egg, cream, Parmesan, and curry powder in a small mixing bowl. If your curry powder is salt-free, you may wish to add a pinch of sea salt.

Wash the arugula and shake off excess water; no need to spin it dry.

Just before the pasta is ready, heat a large skillet over high heat, and add a tablespoon of the butter, swirling until it foams out and the pan is thoroughly hot. Note: Don’t put all the prawns in the skillet at once, or they will steam, not sauté. Add half the prawns to start, scattered around the pan, then wait a few seconds before adding the rest. Sauté the drained and dried prawns briefly over high heat until just opaque, and then lay the arugula overtop to wilt. Turn off the heat under the skillet.

When the pasta is ready, remove 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and reserve (you won’t need all of it, though). I use a glass measuring cup to do this, but a clean mug will do. Drain the rest of the water.

Add the drained pasta to the skillet, on top of the arugula, and then add the remaining half-tablespoon of butter. Toss well with a pasta fork and a spatula, or a couple of forks.

Add about a tablespoon of the reserved, hot pasta-water to the egg mixture, and whisk it well. Then add the egg mixture to the skillet all at once, and stir and toss until that the pasta becomes lightly coated with the sauce, and the sauce becomes smooth (because the Parmesan will have melted, and the egg thickened). This takes only a couple of minutes, max. Taste to see if it needs any salt and adjust as needed. It is important to do this off the heat, or you will end up with scrambled eggs instead of a silky sauce. Still tasty, but *shrugs* not quite as good texturally.

Transfer to plates or bowls and serve immediately.

May 16, 2016

Smoked Tuna Melt

Tuna Melts show up on a lot of people's comfort food lists. They are a cultural phenomenon that I grew up hearing about, but not eating. My mother didn't buy canned fish (for a variety of reasons, including worries about mercury content), and the fresh fish that we had occasionally was never tuna. Plus, I couldn't really eat fish when I was a kid, so it wasn't served very often. But I heard people talking about them rather a lot. My classmates often had tunafish sandwiches (as an aside, I never understood why these sandwiches were always described as tunafish, rather than just tuna. Is there any non-fish kind of tuna?), which they evidently enjoyed a great deal.

So now that I can eat fish, all these years later, when I find myself in possession of a can of fish, I think about these classic dishes that are comfort food for so many people, but outside of my realm of experience. Today's can of smoked albacore tuna (like the hot-smoked salmon from my recent Kedgeree post) came as part of a care package of local products from my family on the west coast of Canada.

Tuna Melts evoke strong opinions on such points as amount and type of mayonnaise, presence of pickles in or on the sandwich, shredded or not shredded cheese, open- or closed-face, tomato or no tomato. I decided to go open face (to be eaten with cutlery), with tomato but no pickles (mostly because I was out of pickles, to be honest - add some if you like). These sandwiches are very substantial, and one piece would have been completely sufficient for each of us. We were both in a bit of a food coma after eating these.

Smoked Tuna Melt

Makes 4

4 slices bakery bread
4 slices tomato
4 bread-covering slices of cheese (or equivalent shredded)
Fresh ground black pepper
Smoked paprika

170 grams boneless smoked tuna, drained
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I use Hellmann's)
1 celery stalk
1 green onion
1/4 cup shredded Gouda or Edam or Jack cheese
splash Worcestershire sauce
splash Tabasco sauce
zest of half a lemon
juice of half a lemon
black pepper

Preheat your broiler.

In a medium mixing bowl, slice the celery stalk into quarters lengthwise, and finely chop. Finely slice the green onion, including the dark green part. Flake the tuna on top of the vegetables, and add the rest of the filling ingredients. Stir well with a fork until nicely combined. Taste, and add salt if you think it needs it (mine didn't, but it will depend on both your choice of mayonnaise and the tuna itself).

Toast the bread lightly in a toaster (or under the broiler, as you like). Lay out the toast slices on a baking sheet or pizza pan. Divide the filling mixture between the slices, spreading evenly to the edges. Add a generous amount of black pepper. Top with the sliced cheese, or some of the shredded, if you're going that route. Top with a tomato slice in the centre of each piece, and a final layer of cheese on top of the tomato. Sprinkle with a restrained amount of smoked paprika (not shown).

Broil until cheese is bubbling. Serve with potato chips (for tradition's sake), and a green salad, for balance.

March 28, 2016

Hot-Smoked Salmon & Fennel Kedgeree

A few weeks ago, we received a care package that contained two tins of hot-smoked wild fish from my home province of British Columbia: one BC sockeye salmon, and one BC albacore tuna. I don't have a huge repertoire of fish recipes - if you check out the seafood tag, you'll see mostly prawns, with only a few non-crustacean offerings. So, I've been thinking quite a bit about what to make with this unexpected bounty. The last time I had smoked tuna, I made Smoked Tuna Noodle Skillet Dinner, and the only salmon recipe I've posted is Salmon Corn Chowder.

I decided to use the salmon first. I did a little research online, asked friends on Facebook for suggestions, and even deliberated reworking previous recipes to use fish, but I wanted to make something new and interesting. Finally I remembered Kedgeree, a dish that had always caught my fancy for not only its interesting name but its entire multicultural history. I knew that most Kedgeree recipes call for smoked haddock or sometimes smoked mackerel, but I reasoned that the flavours should also be compatible with hot-smoked sockeye salmon.

Kedgeree is an Anglo-Indian dish, broadly considered to be descended from the South Asian class of rice-and-legume dishes called Khichri (also spelled Khichdi, kitchiri or khichuri, amongst other spellings), whose other culinary offspring might include Egyptian Kushari. Like its parent, Kedgeree has a lot of built in variability - wet or dry, whether you use ghee or oil, curry powder or separately blended spices, what kind of smoked, flaked fish, whether to include raisins. I went with a somewhat drier style, constructed more like a fried rice than a biryani, rice porridge or paella.

This qualifies as a skillet dinner if you have leftover rice to use.

Hot-Smoked Salmon & Fennel Kedgeree

Serves 3 - 4
Total Prep & Cooking Time: 20 minutes (if starting with cooked rice)

3 cups cooked basmati rice, fluffed and cooled, grains separated
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 small yellow onion, chopped finely
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and finely sliced (fronds reserved)
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 red chile, sliced
1 tablespoon Madras-type curry paste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 170 gram tin of hot-smoked wild sockeye salmon
2 boiled eggs
Fresh cilantro leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of half a lemon

If you need to cook rice from scratch for this recipe, it takes about 1 cup / 200 grams raw basmati, cooked however you like to cook rice. For optimal length and separation of grains, soak the rice in the cooking water for an hour or so before cooking. Be sure to separate the cooled grains of rice with your fingers (or a fork) before adding to the skillet.

Prepare your vegetables. Open and drain the scant liquid from the tin of salmon. Peel the boiled eggs, and slice them lengthwise into quarters. Tear up the fronds of fennel and put them with the cilantro for garnish.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large, non-stick skillet. Once it has foamed out, add the chopped onion and sliced fennel, and stir and sauté until translucent and the onion is starting to brown at the edges.

Add the curry paste and cumin and coriander seed, and stir through. Add the sliced garlic, and continue to sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and stir until it has melted. Add the rice and half the red chile slices, and stir fry until the rice grains are all well coated with the buttery spices.

Add the salmon, breaking it into large and small chunks with your fingers. Stir gently through the skillet, so it doesn't break down entirely (unless you like it that way). When the salmon has been integrated and warmed through, serve in shallow bowls, garnishing with the remaining chile slices, the quartered eggs, the fennel fronds, and the cilantro leaves.
Finally, squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over each bowl.

We served this with kalonji (nigella seed) studded roti, but this would also be excellent with a bowl of dal on the side (and would feed more people). If I had thought of it in time, I would have served a dollop of curried eggplant chutney, too.

Kedgeree can be eaten hot or cold, and it was reported that this one heated up very nicely in the microwave the next day.

February 07, 2015

Prawn & Pumpkin Risotto

This is the traditional Hallowe'en dinner in our household, but really, you can make it all winter long when the winter squashes are cheap and plentiful. I've used a butternut squash here, but you could of course use any cooking pumpkin with firm, dense flesh (acorn or muscat squash might not be at their best here, because they would likely turn to mush with all the stirring). The final colour of the dish will depend greatly on which squash you decided to use, but usually ranges from an intense yellow to a vibrant orange.

For the shrimp, please check out this Oceanwise resource page for prawns/shrimp if you need help making an informed choice about sustainable harvesting.

If you're vegetarian/vegan, or just not a fan of seafood, you can omit the prawns and still have a beautiful, delicious side dish. Either way, don't drown in in cheese at the end - it really doesn't want or need it.

Prawn & Pumpkin Risotto

Serves 4

4 cups diced-small pumpkin or winter squash
250 grams risotto rice (arborio, carnaroli, or similar)
1 small onion, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup white vermouth or dry white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
250 grams raw prawns or large shrimp (frozen is fine)
Hot water from a recently boiled kettle (just in case)

If you've read my other risotto recipes, you will know that I am extremely particular about the size of ingredients in my risotto. My theory is, broadly, if it's not a featured ingredient, it should be no bigger than a (cooked) grain of the rice that you are using. Basically, onions, I'm looking at you. Because the squash and prawns are features, they get to be bigger, but I do find having a small dice for the pumpkin here makes a more visually and texturally pleasing choice.

First step, as always, is get your mise en place ready: Peel, clean, and dice your pumpkin, and set aside. If you have a little less pumpkin than 4 cups, it's still fine, although 4 cups gives the best result. Finely dice your onion, and mince your garlic. Warm up your broth and keep it on a low flame on the stove, so it's ready to be ladled into the rice. Clean the shrimp, removing shells (if necessary) and veins. If frozen, rinse them in a sieve under cold running water until they are mostly defrosted. Basically, get all ingredients prepared, measured, and standing by, because you get no further time to prep once you've started cooking. Be sure to boil a kettle, and have the hot water standing by in case you need it later.

In a large saucepan, heat the butter or olive oil over medium heat until quite hot, and then add the shrimp and quickly sauté them until they just barely change colour. Remove to a nearby plate/bowl to add into the risotto later.

In the same saucepan, without cleaning it, add the onion and garlic, and sauté just until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the salt and white pepper, and stir through.

Next, add the rice and stir well, to get a nice, thin coating of fat on the rice grains. Add the tomato paste, and stir through until it is completely integrated and there are no streaks of red running through the rice. Add the diced squash, and stir it through gently. (You can also reverse the order of adding the rice vs. the squash, no biggie as long as everything is nicely coated in the end. I find it easier to add the tomato paste before adding the squash, though, to get it evenly distributed.)

Add all of the wine/vermouth at once, and stir, carefully scraping up the bottom of the pot so that nothing sticks. Lower the heat to medium-low, and begin to add the warm vegetable broth, one ladleful at a time, stirring gently but pretty much constantly in between each addition until the liquid has been absorbed before adding more. It should take about 25 - 35 minutes to add all of the liquid, and that variable is based on how hot your burner is.

If you get to the end of your broth and find that the rice is not quite cooked enough to your taste, add a little of the hot water from your recently boiled kettle, and continue until the texture is just right - a little bite to the rice, but not crunchy. Next time, you might want to lower the heat a bit more.

When the rice is ready, stir the prawns gently into the risotto. If you want an especially luxurious dish, add in another tablespoon of butter or olive oil, but it's not strictly necessary. Cover the risotto, and remove from the heat. Let stand for five minutes, and then spoon into shallow bowls and serve. Feel free to add a garnish of parsley if you like, but steer clear of the parmesan.

January 08, 2014

Orange Ginger Zander

Happy 2014 from Always In The Kitchen! Shall we start the new year with some fish?

This is a slight adaptation of Anne Lindsay's Teriyaki Orange Fish Fillets (from Lighthearted Everyday Cooking). I note that the amount of soy sauce called for in the recipe was virtually undetectable in the finished dish, and recommend that if you want an actual teriyaki flavour, you will need to substantially increase the soy. I'm going to try it with triple soy next time, to see if it can earn the "teriyaki" in the name. I might add a little sesame oil, too, just to enhance the Japanese flavour profile, but even as is, it is a very nice dish.

You can use any mild fish for this - I used zander (also known as pike-perch) but halibut, basa, sole, or tilapia would all work nicely. The fish cooks very quickly, so do not start cooking until your accompanying dishes are almost ready to serve.

For the orange component, I used clementines (zest and freshly squeezed juice). I wish I had kept some long strands of zest for garnish, and I will next time, just for the prettiness of presentation.

Orange Ginger Zander

Serves 4
Total Prep & Cooking Time: 12 minutes

4 boneless fish fillets (or eight small ones)
zest from an orange (or clementine)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons finely minced onion
1 tablespoon less-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sugar (may not be needed if the juice is very sweet)
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Combine zest, juice, onion, soy sauce, ginger, and sugar (if needed) in a small bowl. Pour half into a skillet that is just large enough to accommodate the fish fillets in a single layer. Lay the fish in the sauce, and pour the remaining sauce over the fish. In a separate bowl, combine the water and cornstarch and stir until smooth.

Turn the burner to high and bring the liquid just to a boil. Immediately turn the heat down to a bare simmer and cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid. Allow the dish to simmer for about 5 minutes (it's okay to peek, just try not to let too much steam evaporate), or until the fish is just cooked (it may be quicker if you have really thin fillets).

Remove the fish to a plate, and bring the orange sauce to a boil again. Stir the cornstarch and water to ensure it is smooth, and then add the mixture to the orange stirring well. It will thicken almost immediately, but keep stirring until the sauce regains some of its translucence, to ensure that the cornstarch doesn't leave a raw flavour. Spoon the sauce over the fillets, and serve immediately. Rice is a lovely bed for the orange sauce, but gingered noodles would also be delicious.

July 11, 2013

Shrimp & Grits

Grits take a while to cook, it's true (even "quick" grits...and let's not even consider instant grits, which are par-cooked and more finely ground to speed along the cooking, but which suffer texturally), but shrimp take almost no time at all, so it balances out, more or less. Can't get grits? Make your favourite cheesy polenta recipe instead (like the one previously showcased for making polenta fries and Meatballs & Polenta). It won't have the same texture, but it will be a lovely bed for the shrimp to sprawl upon.

The shrimp portion of this dish comes together pretty darn quick, so make sure that your grits (or polenta, if you're going that route) is pretty much ready to serve before you fire up the frying pan.

For two servings:

250 grams peeled shrimp (31-40 count, or 20 shrimp)
2 slices thick cut bacon, cut into matchsticks (or thin lardons)
2 green onions, finely sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
1-2 jalapenos or serranos, or green chiles, finely diced

Fry up the bits of bacon over medium-high heat until they start to crisp. Spoon off some of the fat, if necessary, so you just have a thin layer in the bottom of the pan. Add the shrimp, and give them 30 seconds without disturbing. Flip each shrimp over, and add the peppers and onions. Let them cook for 15-20 seconds undisturbed, then stir and sauté until the shrimp are pinkly opaque instead of grey and translucent, and the vegetables are softened and crisp around the edges. If you like, you can add a good pinch of your favourite cajun-style spice mixture, or just a quick hit of cayenne (or Tabasco sauce). You shouldn't need additional salt, because the bacon is salty enough to season the whole dish.

Serve up the polenta into shallow bowls, and tumble the shrimp and vegetables over top. Top with freshly ground black pepper, and serve.

December 10, 2012

Smoked Tuna Skillet Dinner

I didn't grow up with tuna noodle casserole. My mother didn't buy canned fish, and the only pasta casserole that she made was a (delicious) baked spaghetti. I was highly sensitive to fish when I was young, we considered an allergy even though it wasn't a true anaphylactic risk. It was fairly unpleasant, and when the rest of the family was having fish, I usually had a fried egg instead. Also, I hated peas with the fiery intensity of a thousand suns. I'm over both of those things now, but you can only imagine how shocked my poor mom would be, if she could see me making this dish.

The beauty of not having a childhood tradition to draw on for tuna + noodles is that I don't have any sense of nostalgia forcing my hand in terms of specific ingredients, methodology or presentation in order to get it "right." I just get to mess around with some tasty food, and share the results with you.

This is a grown-up sort of skillet dinner - the smoked tuna is quite strong, so you don't need as much of it as some other recipes might suggest. If you can't get smoked tuna, you may wish to use a little extra of the regular kind, and perhaps add a drop or two of liquid smoke to get a similar effect. This recipe was adapted from Eating Well.

Smoked Tuna Skillet Dinner

Serves 4

200 g broad German egg noodles
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
100 grams cremini mushrooms
2 teaspoons Mushroom Base (I use Better than Bouillon)
2 tablespoons dry Sherry
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 cups 1% Milk
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
160 grams Smoked Albacore Tuna
1 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons Panko-style bread crumbs

Position rack in upper third of oven and preheat broiler.

Meanwhile, heat butter in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened. Add sherry and cook and stir until evaporated. Shake together the milk and flour until smooth. Add milk and pepper and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Then, stir in the dry noodles, along with an extra cup of hot water (the pan will be very full). Cook and stir until the noodles have absorbed the extra water, and are tender, and the sauce has thickened. If it starts looking too dry, add a little more water, a couple of tablespoons at a time. Stir in tuna (broken into small chunks), peas and 1/2 the Parmesan until evenly incorporated.

Sprinkle the casserole with panko and the remaining Parmesan. Broil until bubbly and lightly browned on top, 3 to 4 minutes. The broiler does dry the dish out a bit more (the one pictured is actually a little drier than I wanted it to be), so if you think it's just right going in...keep a close eye on it, or add an "insurance" tablespoon of water to loosen thing up.

There's not a lot of vegetables in this, obviously, so a nice broccoli on the side is a good idea (or tossed green salad, or other tasty plant of your choice).

September 14, 2012

Summer Rolls, While We Still Can

Before I move entirely into my autumnal kitchen habits, here's one more dying-light-of-summer dish that I simply must share with you.

For years, I'd avoided summer rolls (aka salad rolls, aka fresh spring rolls), because the initial ones I'd tried were not really all that good, dry and bland, relying heavily on a giant wodge of unseasoned noodles to make up their bulk, and requiring constant, nay, desperate dipping into peanut sauce simply in order to swallow each bite. When I discovered, years later, that most summer rolls are in fact delightful treats, I felt rather foolish for avoiding them for so long.

Most of the versions you see in my neighbourhood tend to be either vegetarian or, more likely, prawn-centric, with a few veggies, a bit of (seasoned!) noodle, and a smart row of precisely lined up prawns down the centre. The dipping sauces tend to be a peanut affair (spicy if you're lucky), or nuoc cham, a Vietnamese dipping sauce made primarily of fish sauce, lime juice and rice vinegar, with some chiles and herbs thrown in. You can really use whatever dipping sauce you like - any Asian-style dumpling sauce is probably going to work fine, or plum sauce, or coconut chutney...even just painting a stripe of sriracha down the side before you dig in is going to work.

What made me actually decide to make these myself was the sudden, thunder-struck notion that coconut-lemongrass chicken would be really quite good in these. However, I've never seen such a thing for sale. The only solution was to get some rice paper wrappers, and start rolling my own. After that, I made some more, minus the chicken and coconut, and with double the vegetables (all nicely seasoned with nuoc cham, prior to rolling).

The following, consequently, is more of a general guideline, than a recipe, really. Vary them as much as you like - you're the one who is going to be enjoying them.

Lemongrass Chicken Summer Rolls

Makes 6 rolls

6 Banh trang rice wrappers
125 grams rice vermicelli, cooked
200 grams chicken breast
60 mL coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon lemongrass powder
1 carrot, shredded
8 centimetres English cucumber, matchstick cut
fresh Thai basil, shredded
fresh mint, shredded
2 tablespoons nuoc cham or lime juice with a pinch of salt

Cook the chicken in the coconut milk with the lemongrass powder. Remove the chicken from the coconut milk, and shred finely. Add the noodles into the coconut milk, and toss well to coat. Toss the cucumber and carrot with the nuoc cham, and allow to drain.

Dip one banh trang wrapper in water (or run it briefly under the tap) and immediately lay it flat on a wooden cutting board. In the bottom third of the circle, lay some of the chicken, some of the noodles, and some of the vegetables, as you would for making a burrito. Top with the shredded herbs. Cilantro is also a nice addition here.

Lift the bottom edge of the wrapper (which will now be pliable) and wrap it upward until it just covers the filling, and hold it there with one hand. Using your other hand, fold the sides inward, and then continue to roll from the bottom up until the roll is complete. Put aside on a plate and chill while you make the rest. Wrap tightly, so they hold together while you're eating them, but not so tightly that you tear the wrapper. A little practice will make them just right.

Serve with the dipping sauce of your choice - more nuoc cham, or peanut sauce are classics, but I prefer a nice, spicy, peanut-butter laced vinaigrette. You can always go crazy and have more than one, sauce, of course. Why decide?

For vegetarian/vegan summer rolls, simply omit the chicken, lemongrass, and coconut milk and increase the vegetables - you might want to add thinly sliced daikon or zucchini, or other crisp raw vegetables of your choice, to round it out. You could also add a julienne of spicy tofu. You may want to season your noodles with a little Nuoc cham (a vegetarian version, of course) if you're going all veggie. You can really put whatever you like in them.

These will keep until the next day, assuming you don't get up in the middle of the night and devour them. I'm just sayin'. Two rolls makes a good, light supper.

May 27, 2012

Miso Halibut Cheeks

I know this looks like yet another pasta recipe, but really it's about the lovely bit of fish perched on top of the gingered noodles. The noodles could easily have been a bowl of Japanese rice, and possibly will be, next time.

You may have noticed that I do not tend to post a lot of fish or seafood recipes, and when I do they are usually for prawns, which is hands-down the most common type of seafood cookery for me. There is a reason for this: When I was a child, I had an allergic/food sensitivity reaction to finned fish. Shellfish were fine, but rare in our household, so I learned to like them without any adverse effects intruding. For finned fish, however, I grew to hate even the smell in the air, raw or cooked, however fresh. I would try to hold my breath in disgust, as I angrily ate my fried egg while the rest of the family had fish. When I eventually grew out of the physiological reaction to fish, I had no idea how to cook it, and little desire to learn, because the smell was so off-putting.

Sushi was the thing that broke the barrier for me, in the late 1980s. I started with the predictable California rolls, and eventually worked up my courage to try the others. The Japanese preparations tended to control the objectionable fishiness quite excellently. From there, I found myself eating fish as part of elaborate tasting menus at places like (the now-defunct) Lumiere, where elegant little morsels of sablefish might be cooked with sake and maple foam, for example. Tiny portions just right for sampling and exploring, which opened the door to other cooked fish preparations. When I started ordering fish in fine dining restaurants during departmental lunches for work, it was a real eye-opener in terms of how skilled preparation and bright flavours can make all of the difference. I even learned to like fish and chips (although I am particular about what fish it is, preferring mild, creamy white fish).

So, finally, when I saw the Miso Cod recipe in Cook This Not That! Kitchen Survival Guide, I was intrigued. I prefer halibut to cod, so that's what I hand in mind when I went to my local fish monger, The Daily Catch. They had halibut fillet, no surprise, but they also had halibut cheeks, and I knew in a blazing flash that they would be perfect for this dish. Halibut cheeks are boneless, which is part of the appeal, but they also possess a sort of delicacy of texture that appeals to me.

The recipe also included the marinated cucumbers shown to the side of the fish, which were a simple preparation of salt, sugar, rice vinegar and chile flakes that I enjoyed, but found overly salty. The spinach and sesame salad (goma ae) was thrown together to use up some spinach.

Miso Halibut Cheeks
Adapted from Cook This Not That! Kitchen Survival Guide
Serves 4

4 medium halibut cheeks (about 4 oz. each)
1/2 cup white miso (shiro miso)
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons sake
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Combine the miso, mirin, sake, and sugar in a non-reactive bowl that is large enough to also hold the fish. Rinse and pat dry the halibut cheeks, and add them to the miso mixture, turning gently to ensure that each piece is well coated. Cover well, and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.

Preheat your broiler with a rack set at 15 cm (6 inches) below the flame, and prepare an edged baking sheet by lining it with foil and misting with cooking oil. Remove the halibut cheeks from the miso, and place, evenly spaced, on the prepared sheet. Brush a little extra miso mixture over the top of each cheek, to ensure it is evenly coated. Broil, watching carefully, for about 8 - 12 minutes, depending on your broiler, removing when the miso glaze begins to caramelize, and the fish begins to flake under gentle pressure. Garnish with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds.

Halibut cheeks may be a little pricy, depending on where you live, but fillet, such as in the original recipe, or any other mild, creamy white fish should work nicely - check out Ocean Wise for any other fishies you might want to use. My fish monger is an Ocean Wise partner, and only uses sustainable seafood, which is reassuring because I don't need to do in-shop analysis before I pick my fish.

September 11, 2011

Greek Shrimp Saute over Orzo

This is beautifully easy, but it's really only half a recipe: the shrimp half. You could serve this over rice, a creamy pasta, garlic toast(!), or baby potatoes, really it's entirely up to you. I chose to serve it over Creamy Parmesan Orzo, which has been a solid workhorse in my kitchen for the past six years, and it worked out just fine.

The recipe is almost embarrassingly easy, although I do need to give credit to Cooking Light's Fresh Food Fast cookbook: This was everything it was supposed to be: fast, delicious, and easy.

Greek Shrimp Saute
adapted from Fresh Food Fast
Serves 3 - 4

454 grams frozen peeled prawns
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
4 tablespoons Greek-style vinaigrette (lemon and oregano), ideally one with less fat*
10 Kalamata olives, sliced
1/4 cup torn basil
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1 clove garlic, crushed

Thaw the prawns under running water, rinsing well to remove any fishiness. Pat dry with paper towels. Toss with 1 tablespoon of vinaigrette.

Heat a skillet over high heat. Spritz with a little olive oil. Saute the shrimp for about three minutes, or until just barely cooked through. Remove to a bowl. In the emptied skillet, add the rest of the vinaigrette, the tomatoes, olives and garlic, and saute until heated through, about a minute or two, stirring constantly. Add to the shrimp, and toss to combine. Serve up the shrimp over your choice of accompaniment (in this case, the plated orzo), and sprinkle with basil and feta.

Could you add the rest of the Greek Salad components in here? A little red onion, some green pepper, maybe some cucumber, just for the textural kick? Absolutely. Or, you know, you could just make a Greek salad the way you like it, and top it with prawns sauteed in vinaigrette. I'm just saying.

*Here's a good simple version:

White Lemon Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
1 pinch dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt

Combine in a sealable jar, and shake until combined. Or, combine in a measuring cup, and whisk the heck out of it!

May 19, 2007

Surf & Turf

I've never been a big fan of the surf 'n turf platters in restaurants. When I have occasionally had them, they've been disappointingly cooked steaks with even more disappointingly dry, tough, overcooked, often tiny shrimp. I stopped trying them a long time ago.

While it seems strange to think of pairing seafood with beef, really, I think I understand the intent: both are luxurious items, so the combination must be even better, right? In the words of Homer Simpson, "I'll have your finest food, stuffed with your second finest food." Which, as you may know, turned out to be lobster stuffed with tacos.

I wanted a nice dinner for our anniversary. It's our tenth, so something a little special or unusual seemed the thing to do, but as we are saving money right now (and moving across town very shortly), we decided to stay in for dinner rather than go to one of our favourite special occasion haunts. Since I had a lovely bottle of Saintsbury Garnet Pinot Noir on hand, thanks to my sister, all I needed were a few items from the market to make a festive meal.

There aren't really recipes attached to this dinner - the tenderloin steaks started at room temperature, were seasoned with salt and pepper, quickly seared on both sides and placed in the oven for about four minutes to come up to temperature. As soon as they went into the oven, I melted some butter, added the freshly shelled, raw prawns, tossed once, added kosher salt and coarsely pounded black and white peppercorns, tossed again for a couple of minutes until they all started to pinken, then turned the flame off and added a couple of cloves of fresh garlic. The garlic softened and mellowed while the steaks rested on the cutting board. We ate a whole pound of prawns (well, that was their shell-on weight) between the two of us, since the theme was indulgent luxury. The asparagus were simply roasted on a piece of foil on a sheet in the oven for about seven minutes, so they still had a bit of a crisp bite. Ten minutes gets you silky, tender stalks.

Simple, and good. A fitting meal, we thought, for the ten years that we've spent together so far.

We had no room for dessert. The vanilla ice cream and limoncello drizzle would have to wait for another day.

August 20, 2006

A Tangle of Prawns

I have a great fondness for easy dinners, despite my appreciation for elaborate or difficult food. This particular dish was a second go at Nigella's Lemon Linguine, which she explains is simple enough to make even when "the thought of cooking makes you want to shriek." I've never been afflicted with that malady, personally, but I have occasionally wanted to "lie down in a darkened room" instead.

Happily, simple and easy dinners can often be made with things you've got literally lying around in the pantry/freezer/fruit bowl. I have reduced the ratio of pasta to sauce from Nigella's recipe, and added some garlic-butter-sauteed prawns (I confess, from a package of individually frozen, pre-shelled, cooked prawns) to relieve what I had previously found to be a dish more suited as a side than as a main course. This absolutely did the trick.

Lemon Prawn Linguine
Adapted from Nigella Bites

serves 4

1 lb. dried linguine
2 egg yolks
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
2/3 cup whipping cream
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons butter, divided
parsley, to taste, chopped
1/2 lb. precooked frozen peeled prawns
1 - 2 cloves crushed garlic

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a good pinch of salt and the linguine, and cook until just barely al dente. Drain, reserving about a half-cup of pasta water.

While the water is coming to boil, and while the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce: In a large, slightly warmed pasta-serving-sized bowl (rinse with hot water), stir together the egg yolks, cream, most of the cheese, and the lemon zest and juice. Don't beat too vigorously, just combine nicely. Chop some parsley and reserve it until the end.

Rinse your prawns under hot water, and toss them in a non-stick pan with a tablespoon of butter and a crushed clove or two of garlic. Allow them to simmer gently until warmed through. If they are done before you need them, turn off the heat and let them sit in the pan.

When the pasta is drained, add back into the cooking pot, and add the other tablespoon of butter. Stir about until the butter is melted and lightly coats each strand of pasta. Gently tip the pasta into your serving bowl with the sauce, and stir about until the sauce is evenly distributed. If it is looking too dry, add a little of the pasta water until it becomes slick again. Repeat as needed, if needed. Add the prawns and their garlicky juices, and stir about. Add the parsley for a final little toss. Serve at once, topped with ground black pepper and the last bit of parmesan.