Sunday, October 30, 2005

Technique of the Week

Hands-on salad

How to make fish stock

On board -- a closer look at knife's best friend

A juicy guide to citrus fruit

Playing with fire -- how to broil

The cutting edge -- how to choose and sharpen knives

How to make pasta dough

How to Work with Leeks

How to Cook Swiss Chard

How to season (and all about salt)

How to grill fish

How to cook a whole fish

FAQ about Herbs

How to cook asparagus

Making Pie and Tart Dough (pâte brisée)

Rolling out and baking tart dough

Making sushi rice

Sectioning an orange

Salad with Grilled Soy Ginger Mahi-Mahi

This is a good post to end the grilling season since this mahi was one of the juiciest, most flavorful pieces of fish that ever came off my grill. Since we just got our first snow in Boston (end of October -- can you believe it?!), I probably won't get to grill much longer.

This dish is all about the marinade. Grating the ginger and garlic on the Microplane grater helps them get integrated into the liquids of the marinade and intensifies mahi's flavor.

Fish Substitutions: Swordfish, Marlin, Grouper, Striped Bass, Halibut

Serves 4

1 1/2 inches ginger, peeled
1 garlic clove
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp maple syrup (or honey)
1 Tbsp sesame seed oil
3 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 Mahi fillets without skin (6-8 oz each)
  1. Grate ginger and garlic using Microplane (or some other very fine) grater. In a non-reactive container, that is just large enough to fit fish fillets, combine all ingredients (except fish) and mix well.
  2. Place fish fillets into the marinade and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes - 2 hours.
  3. Preheat the grill to high.
  4. Pick up a wad of paper towel with tongs, dip it into oil, and brush the grill rack.
  5. Place the fish on the grill and cover. Cook for 3 minutes without disturbing. Turn the grill down to medium. Flip fillets over, cover the grill, and cook for additional 3 minutes per inch of thickness.
  6. To test for doneness, separate the flakes with a fork and peek inside. Fish is done when a trace of translucency remains in the center.
  7. Serve over mixed greens topped with your favorite dressing.

Apple Galette

Lots of non-fish entries lately. Sorry, I can't help it. Now that I keep my digital camera in the kitchen, it's hard not to take pictures. And once you start taking pictures of food, it's hard not to post them.

I made an apple galette today and it finally tasted as good as they taste in France. I am not much of a baker, but I do obsess about making perfect tarts and pies. On occasion I have my triumphs and this is one of them. Following Pyewacket's suggestion of using Northern Spy apples for baking helped a lot. They stayed together and caramelized beautifully -- a healthy doze of butter and sugar might have contributed to the successful outcome.

Most of this was complete improvisation, but here is what I think I did, so that I can do it next time.

Set the pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven, and set another rack in the top third. Preheat to 400F.

Let the dough soften at room temp 30 minutes before rolling out. There are way better sources for all-butter pie dough than my blog, so I am not going to post the recipe for that.

Peel and core 2-3 Northern spy apples and slice 1/2 inch thick. Squeeze 1/2 lemon oven apples, and sprinkle with about 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and toss. Let sit while rolling out the dough.

Sprinkle dough with 1 Tbsp sugar leaving 2 inch boarder. Drain the liquid out of apples and pat them gently on paper towels. Arrange apples on dough, dot with 1 1/2 Tbsp softened butter, and sprinkle with another Tbsp sugar. Reduce the apple liquid in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until thick and bubbly and drizzle over apples. Fold in the dough edges, brush dough with butter and sprinkle with a bit more sugar (do you think I have enough sugar in this tarte? :) Actually, the whole thing comes to about 1/4 cup, so it's not too much.

Bake on the stone for 20 minutes. Then bake on top rack for 20 minutes or until apples are caramelized. Mix 1 Tbsp maple syrup and 1 Tbsp apricot preserve and brush over tarte. Let cool at least 1 hour before serving.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Bluefish with Crispy Potatoes

What can be better on a Friday night than Marcella Hazan's roasted fish with potatoes? It works with any fish that is not too dense, but it is quite incredible with bluefish. Make sure to scrape off and serve all the crispy pototoes that gets stuck to your baking dish -- that's the best part!

I strongly recommend using an adjustable Asian slicer (Benriner brand is available in many Oriental stores), or a mandolin for slicing your potatoes and garlic. It will save you tons of time and will ensure that potatoes slices are all the same thickness. If you decide to slice potatoes by hand, cut them in half, and put them on the cutting board flat side down. This will give you more stability when slicing them. Even though they'll be semi-circles, they'll taste just as good.

Fish substitutions: mackerel, cod, haddock, hake, halibut, bass, tilapia, red snapper

Serves 4

Butter for greasing the baking dish
6 medium boiling potatoes (red skinned or yukon gold)
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 Lb bluefish fillet with skin

  1. Set the racks in the bottom third and middle positions of your oven. Preheat to 425F.
  2. Heavily butter a large shallow baking dish (about 10" x 16").
  3. Peel potatoes and slice into very thin (1/8" thick circles) using an adjustable blade slicer.
  4. Adjust the slicer to the thinnest possible setting and slice the garlic paper thin.
  5. Season potatoes generously with salt and pepper and mix with half of sliced garlic, 3 Tbsp olive oil (reserving 1 Tbsp oil for the fish). Spread evenly in the baking dish in a single overlapping layer. Bake in the bottom third of the oven for 15 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender and starting to crisp around the edges of the dish.
  6. Season bluefish with salt and pepper on both sides.
  7. Mix the remaining garlic, 1 Tbsp oil, lemon juice, and parsley. Pour over bluefish.
  8. When potatoes are almon tender, place the bluefish on top and bake in the middle of the oven until the fish is opaque in the center, but still juicy, 10 minutes per inch of thickness.
  9. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Pumpkin Kasha 3 Ways

On my drive home from work, my head was swimming with pumpkin ideas for Elise's Great Pumpkin Carve Up Cook Off food blog event. But as I got home and started reheating dinner, it suddenly occurred to me that the perfect pumpkin dish was staring me in the face. It never occurred to me to write about my homey Pumpkin Kasha. Somehow it seemed so non-gourmet, so simple.

You are probably thinking of buckwheat with pumpkin -- an odd combination indeed. Let me explain the name. In Russia, Kasha refers to a dish cooked out of any grain (buckwheat, oats, wheat, millet, barley, rice, etc). Just like not all pasta is spaghetti, not all kasha is buckwheat. This particular kasha is made with rice. It is somewhere between risotto and rice pudding -- with puffed up rice grains wrapped in pumpkin creaminess. No cinnamon, no nutmeg, nothing to distract form the flavor of pumpkin. The only thing I sometimes add are raisins. Not to say that spices wouldn't be good in this dish, but they are not traditional, and it's never a good idea to mess with your childhood memories.

I didn't carve a pumpkin for this dish, but since this was yesterday's dinner leftovers, I figured it was in the right spirit of not wasting pumpkin.

I did play around with it a little and made pumpkin rice cakes and pumpkin kasha brulee just for fun. The rice cakes were particularly good drizzled with maple syrup.

Serves 6

1 sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
1 1/2 cups risotto rice (Arborio, Carnaroli, etc)
3 cups water
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 cups milk
2/3 cups raisins (optional)
2 Tbsp butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, place cut side down on an oiled baking sheet and bake for 1 hour or until tender. Scoop out pumpkin flesh and mash.
  3. In a large heavy pot, combine rice, water and half Tbsp salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until rice is almost tender, 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add the milk and another half Tbsp salt, bring to a simmer, cover and cook on very low stirring occasionally until rice is tender and most of the milk is absorbed, 20-30 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning.
  5. Add the pumpkin and raisins, and cook another 5-10 minutes.
  6. Stir in the butter and serve.

To make pumpkin rice cakes, chill pumpkin kasha overnight. Shape into patties, dredge in bread crumbs (panko works best), and fry on both sides in 1 Tbsp butter.

To make pumpkin kasha brulee, scoop into ramekins, smooth the top, sprinkle with sugar and put under the broiler until browned, 4-5 minutes (check every minute since broilers differ). But I must say that it tastes better just sprinkled with a little sugar.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fish with a Passport

There was an interesting article in New York Times today about Patagonian Toothfish (a.k.a. Chilean Sea Bass).

Have you ever wondered what makes this fish so incredibly buttery, delicious, and forgiving to overcooking? Here is an excerpt from the article.
The toothfish, however, possesses one specific quality that has made it the nontraditional fish of choice. Most fish we eat are equipped with an airtight organ called a swim bladder. By filling its swim bladder with air, a fish saves energy, letting the rising effect of gasses do the work of swimming up. The ancestors of the toothfish, however, were benthic fishes - dedicated deep-water bottom feeders that never moved more than a few feet above the sea floor. As such, they lost the need for a swim bladder long ago, and it was soon crowded out by other organs in the fish's gut.

But eventually the direct predecessors of the Patagonian toothfish found it advantageous to rise off the bottom and hunt for prey in shallower water. Without a swim bladder to work from, the ur-toothfish needed to develop an alternate buoyancy device. Over time, glands developed under the fish's skin that secreted fats directly into its muscle tissue. Fats, being lighter than water, performed the same function as a swim bladder, lightening the animal and allowing it to rise from depths of 6,000 feet to as shallow as 200 feet with little effort.

This trait made the toothfish a very effective predator for millions of years. But when the modern human seafood diner evolved a taste for fish, the fat-as-flotation scheme made the toothfish into very desirable prey. Because when you secrete fat directly into your body, you are in effect giving yourself a deep-tissue marinade for your whole life.

The article explains the history of how Patagonian toothfish became the poster child for endangered fish. The picture it paints is rather gloomy: whether we eat wild of farm raised fish, we'll eventually eradicate all ocean wild life. The part that I find ironic is that according to USDA, we are no where near the 3 servings of fish per week that they recommend, yet most fish are considered overfished. So, what's the poor consumer to do? If you persevere through all seven pages and get to the last sentence, you do get a glimpse of hope. Yes, chances are that the future of seafood lies in farming, but we'll find ways to do it better and more environmentally friendly.

I wonder how different things would be if food was more local and fish didn't travel half way around the world from the sea to the plate. It used to be that the seas and oceans only fed the people who lived on the coast. But now they have to feed whole continents.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Cured Sable Sandwiches

Monday is the leftovers night in our house. It's a bad day to buy fish since fish markets don't get deliveries on Monday, and going food shopping on the first day back at work doesn't sound too appealing in general. So what better night to finish all that yummy food that got cooked over the weekend. Tonight, I tossed a little salad and made open faced sanwiches with chive cream cheese, cucumbers, red onions, and cured sable that I wrote about on saturday. Any gravlax style fish and cucumber is one of those perfect combinations: silky and salty against crunchy and refreshing. It was light but satisfying and provided a nice change of pace after a weekend of pasta with sage butter and rabbit sauce (mmm, but what a pasta that was!).

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Food Writing

Parasitologist came to dinner

In the Ice Box -- a letter to HBO executives

Thoughts on recipe writing

Culinary Artistry book review

Boot Camp at the Culinary Institute of America

Boot Camp (part 1)

Boot Camp (part 2)

Boot Camp (part 3)

An Ode to Domenic’s Panino Tonno

Cured Sable Gravlax Style

Carolyn from 18th Century Cuisine is hosting "Cooking the old fashioned way - AKA Disaster Preparedness" event. Who says you need electricity and gas to cook? Salt will do in a pinch. I know this does not exactly look like a disaster preparedness type of dish, but if you ignore the fancy presentation, it's quite practical. Gravlax is Swedish cured salmon. Although no heating method is involved, the fish is "cooked" or preserved with salt and sugar. I didn't use as much salt as traditional Gravlax since I was planning to store the fish in the fridge and consume it in a few days, but in case of a real disaster, it would stay just fine without refrigeration if more salt was used for the cure.

Inspired by Stephen's post (from about "Gravblue," bluefish cured gravlax style, I decided to try it with sweet and buttery sable (also known as black cod or butterfish). It turned out incredibly well, but I am not sure if I'd pay $15/Lb for sable next time, when salmon tastes as good for $10/Lb.

Once I was done with picture taking, I chucked the fancy presentation in favor of a good sandwich with cucumbers, sprouts, and guacamole.

2 identical center cut salmon fillets with the skin (2 Lb total)
1 Tbsp black pepper corns
1/4 cup sea or kosher salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cognac
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dill

  1. Remove any pin bones from salmon with needlenose pliers or tweezers.
  2. Put pepper corns into a small ziploc bag and crush by rolling them with a rolling pin or pressing on them with a heavy skillet.
  3. Mix salt, sugar, and crushed pepper corns.
  4. Rub both sides of fillets heavily with about half of the salt and sugar mixture. Sprinkle the remaining salt and sugar onto the flesh side of fillets. Sprinkle with cognac. Spread dill evenly over one fillet.
  5. Place the second fillet on top of the first one so that the flesh side of fillets is together, and the skin is outside. You should end up with a salmon dill sandwich. Place it in a large freezer ziploc bag, get as much air out as possible, and lock the bag.
  6. Put the bag with salmon in a pyrex or other shallow baking dish, place a cutting board, and then a heavy weight (5-8 Lb) on top of salmon. I use an old brick wrapped in foil.
  7. Refrigerate for 2 days turning the bag with salmon over every 12 hours.
  8. After 2 days, get the salmon out of the bag, rinse under cold water and dry with paper towels. Slice very thinly at 45 degree angle and serve.

Gravlax will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days, or you can freeze it for couple of months.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Pan Roasted Halibut with Sage

There are many great fats in this world, and the duck fat is the king of them all. It tastes like fall leaves and crackling fire -- there is nothing like it. I don't mind that duck has too much fat for its own good. Whenever I roast a duck, the fat leftovers go straight into the freezer for making confit, but if I only cook the breasts, the spoonful or two of extra fat go into the fridge and get used at the first opportune moment. Sometimes it's potatoes, sometimes it's mushrooms, but today I thought I'll do something more adventurous. I know what you are thinking --she can't be serious about cooking fish in duck fat! She sure can.

Seafood with bacon is a classic combination (though frequently abused in my opinion). And how is the pig closer to the fish than the duck? Come to think of it, duck can even swim :) You have to be careful when choosing fish for this dish. It needs to have a neutral flavor that doesn't interfere with the duck. Halibut is really awesome in this dish due to its silky texture, and what it lacks in flavor is easily compensated by the duck.

Fish substitutions: Cod, Monkfish, Striped bass
Note: Don't let the lack of duck fat stop you from making this dish. It tastes great with butter too.

Serves 4

2 Tbsp duck fat or butter (or a combination)
4 halibut fillets without skin (6-8 oz each)
Salt and pepper
10-12 sage leaves
2 Tbsp dry white wine
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Melt 1 1/2 Tbsp duck fat in a large oven-safe non-stick (or cast iron) skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Season halibut fillets with salt and pepper and add them to the skillet in one layer without crowding.
  4. Sear on one side until nicely browned, 2-3 minutes. Flip the fillets, scatter sage leaves around them in the pan, and finish cooking in the middle of the oven until you can separate the flakes of the fish with a fork, but a trace of translucency still remains in the center. The total cooking time (searing + baking) should be around 8 minutes per inch of thickness, but start checking 1-2 minutes before that.
  5. Remove halibut from the pan.
  6. Mash sage into the pan drippings using a fork.
  7. Set the pan over medium heat. Add wine and the remaining 1/2 Tbsp of duck fat or butter and stir until the fat gets integrated into the sauce, about 1 minute. Pour over halibut and serve.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Appetizer Recipes


Salmon Cucumber Rolls

Branzino Tartar with Apples and Ginger

Scallop Ceviche

Seared Kampachi

Salmon Orange Pâté

Tuna Tartare with Preserved Lemons

Tuna with Green Bean Salad and Deviled Eggs

Individual Sole Terrines

Radish spread

Bluefish Pâté

Red Caviar Canapés

Herring in Fur Coat

Fig and Blue Cheese Tartlets

Salt Cod and Potato Cakes

Cured Sable Gravlax Style