Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pan-fried snapper, mashed potatoes, and steamed kale

For the fish, we mixed flour, salt, and paprika in shallow bowl, and breaded the fish lightly on each side. Then we sauteed it in olive oil. The kale was steamed. We diced the potatoes and boiled them until soft; after draining, we mashed them with parsley butter. We plated in the kitchen, and served the meal with wedges of lemon and a pinot gris from Firefly.

Pizza with spinach, feta and mozzarella, and sundried-tomato-and-olive tapenade

Stir fry with shrimp, mushrooms, and bok choy

We don't normally like bok choy that much, but in this stir fry it was wonderful. Begin by deveining a pound of shrimp, and in a small saucepan cover the shrimp with water, bring to a boil, and wait a minute or two for the shrimp to turn pink throughout. Drain and set aside. Then saute garlic and fresh ginger, and add a third to half a pound of whole crimini mushrooms, washed. When the mushrooms start to wilt and release their juices, add the bok choy, washed and cut cross-ways into strips. Continue to cook on high heat until the bok choy has reduced slightly, add the shrimp, and cook everything some more, coating the shrimp in the mushroom juices. Serve over brown rice.

Crab with parsley butter

It seems we only took one picture, so click for a larger view. We've had the same meal before, although we bought a cooked crab this time. For the parsley butter, combine in the food processor: garlic, parsley, lemon juice, salt, and butter. Have with a crusty bread.


A few times that we've made homemade pasta, we rolled out the dough and discovered that we had more than we wanted. This happens especially when we're making ravioli or another filled pasta, and don't have as much filling as dough. When this happens, we leave the dough un-cut, wrap it in wax paper, and freeze it for later.

Thus, near the end of January, we found ourselves with a fair amount of frozen lasanga noodle, some mushrooms, some ricotta, a bunch of spinach, and cans of tomatoes from last summer. The dinner, then, was obvious.

For easy lasagna, defrost the noodles enough that you can lay them out in a single layer (work in batches) in a glass pan. Bring the tea kettle to a boil, and pour the boiling water over the noodles. This will cook them just the right amount to then assemble into the casserole. Always saute the spinach before including it in the casserole, as otherwise it will reduce in the oven and throw off the volume. I like to saute it with onions, garlic, and the mushrooms. I generally mix an egg into the ricotta, along with salt, pepper, italian herbs, and any other cheeses (mozzarella and italian hard cheeses are good choices). Assemble the casserole, starting with noodles and ending with noodles and a thin layer of tomatoes or cheese on the top, and with at least one more noodle layer in the middle. Bake at least 40 minutes.

Steamed broccoli with garlic, couscous with garbanzo beans and spices

The little heads of broccoli were steamed and topped with garlic. The couscous recipe is an old and easy standby from The Joy of Cooking:
Heat in a large skillet [I do the entire dish in our smallest saucepan] over medium heat:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced blanched almonds
Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Stir in:
  • 1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce [I usually leave this out]
Cook until heated through, about 1 minute more. Stir in:
  • 2½ cups chicken or vegetable stock of water [it's a flavorful dish; use water]
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (about ⅔ cup dried), rinsed and drained if canned [1 can]
  • 1 cup chopped raisins or whole dried currants [or dried red peppers or...]
Bring to a boil and stir in:
    1¼ cups quick-cooking couscous
Cover, remove from the heat, and let stand for 5 minutes [or longer; it will holds its heat]. Fluff the couscous with a fork. Season with:
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste [or include some salt and pepper at the beginning]
Garnish with:
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Fish stew and rouille

I continue to be about a month behind in posting pictures. Near the end of January, my best friend S came over for dinner, and she, B, and I made fish stew (not quite a bouillabaisse, which should have fennel and pernod) and rouille. For the fish stew, we started with a whole sea bass from Berkeley bowl. The trimmings from the fish, along with all our frozen crab shells and ends of aromatics went into a big pot for the stock. The stew itself had a mirepoix of more aromatics, the fish, and clams and mussels. The rouille was very good — we followed Alice Waters' recipe, and got to try out the new stone mortar and pestle B gave me for Christmas. S brought a wonderful bottle of Beaujolais nouveau.

Making the soup:

Making the rouille:

Everything together on the table:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Leftovers and a composed salad

We had enough leftovers to make half a meal, so the decision was a composed salad and squash soup.

The salad consisted of:
  • A wonderful potato salad, made with tartar sauce that we pasturized and to which we added some dried dill.
  • Some cold cooked slaw.
  • A wonderful mixture of shredded raw beets and carrots, tossed with a wonderful white wine vinegar from Big Paw.
  • A lettuce salad with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Pizza with arugula, mozzarella, and tomato sauce

I was mildly disappointed in this pizza. The sauce was great: we processes garlic and some of our strained canned tomatoes in the cuisinart. And the cheese was Belfiore. But the arugula had a slightly off taste once cooked. I miss basil.

Squash soup

Halve a butternut squash and scoop out the seeds. Place face-down on a glass pan that's been coated with olive oil. Also include a halved onion. Roast squash and onion for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare a vegetable stock from whatever scraps you've been saving in the kitchen. Also saute a mirepoix of leeks and celery and olive oil. Add the strained vegetable stock and the cooked onion and squash meat. Blend the soup with an immersion blender. Serve with a crusty bread on a cold night.

Fried catfish with cooked cole slaw and tartar sauce

For the "slaw", slice in the food processor and combine leeks, cabbage, and carrots, in a medium pot with some butter. Add also some salt, vinegar, and beet greens. Stew covered over low, stirring occasionally.

For the tartar sauce, mash garlic with salt in the mortar and pestle, and combine with one egg yolk and a tsp water. Slowly dribble in 1/2 cup olive oil, whisking all the time. Then add some chopped capers to the mayonnaise.

For the fish, first make sure to take out any bones (we had bought a single whole pan-ready cat-fish, but then filleted it). Prepare a breading of flour, salt, and paprika. Coat the fish in the flour mixture, then dip in egg yolk, and then coat in flour again. In a non-stick pan, heat a mixture of olive and vegetable cooking oils, until a drop of batter starts to sizzle. Fry the fish on each side until golden.

Cheese-and-spinach tortellini with shrimp

This was a fairly involved dinner. Prepare a pasta dough — semolina flour, salt, an egg, some water, making sure it is pliable but not tacky — and also the filling for the tortellini — grated romano cheese blended with sauteed spinach. Roll out the dough fairly thin, and cut into medium-sized squares. For each square, place some filling in the center, fold over and press the edges into the triangle, and then roll the pasta around your finger into a bishop's cap. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile (yeah, right) devein half a pound of large prawns, cover with water, and boil a minute or two until they are pink throughout. Toss the prawns in a large serving bowl with olive oil, fresh parsley, and lots of minced garlic.

Drop the pasta one-by-one into the salted boiling water, using a wooden spoon to keep them from sticking. The pasta should cook two or three minutes, and will float when it's done. Remove with a slotted spoon, and toss with the prawns and garlic.

Serve with a very cold wine. Discover that the cheese you used (a Spanish fulvi) was much too strongly flavored; the dinner is one you will make again, but with a much more mild cheese.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sushi: Tuna, Avocado and Green Onion

Finishing a very good sushi dinner was an expensive bottle of Oregon wine, a birthday present for B from my father.


We discovered recently a new cheese producer, Belfiore, based here in Berkeley. Their cheese is available at Cheeseboard, and they make an amazing "traditional mozzarella", available in 12-oz packages. Or rather, we used to order their food-service-sized cheese at Columbae, but I never realized how local they are.

In any case, this pizza includes mozzarella, whole peeled canned tomatoes, and garlic mashed in the mortar-and-pestle with olive oil and brushed on the crust. The cutting board is new, from the ever-wonderful B.

First day back in Berkeley: parsley pesto

The overnight train from Eugene to Berkeley is fun, provided you have a sleeping car, which, when split between two people, is about the price of a full-price plane ticket. We arrived in Emeryville around 8am, and, after dropping off bags, I left for a full-day (indeed, full-week) conference on campus. B stayed home and spent most of the day unpacking and making a quick trip to Berkeley Bowl for essentials.

We didn't want an elaborate dinner, being tired from the trip, the unpacking, and the conference. Moreover, we were looking forward to Farmers' Market the next day, and so didn't want lots of supermarket produce. Fortunately, we had plenty of boxes of pasta, and the parsley in the garden had gone crazy over the break.

There's something decadent about having garden pesto in January. But that's California. The Cuisinart — did I mention we got a Cuisinart for Christmas — made short shrift of the pesto.