Pork Pad Thai

Pork isn’t the most traditional meat item to put in a pad Thai — that would be chicken or shrimp.  Sometimes it is just left at the tofu, and no chicken nor seafood — but be forewarned that even if you request vegetarian pad Thai at a restaurant, if you are vegetarian (and not just wanting to eat direct chicken, seafood or pork, and just wanting the tofu) — you may well get the fish sauce included in the dish, because that’s how they do it, culturally.  They’re not trying to get something “past” you – it’s just a different cultural vibe when they talk about “vegetarian”.

But pork is no true stranger to Thai cooking, so here we are with a recipe I adapted from a couple of sources for a recent Thai-themed pot luck, which I made with pork.  (Others were doing things with chicken or shrimp…)

Pad Thai

Pork Pad Thai, topped with peanuts, scallion greens and cilantro.  This dish was cooked on-site as a demo at the pot luck.

Pork Pad Thai

My sources:  (I’ve done some adaptations)

* Simple Thai Food, by Leela Punyaratabandhu
* http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Vegetarian-Pad-Thai-240960

This dish takes about 10 – 12 minutes to cook; the devil is in the prepping. Get your mis en place in place ahead of turning on the heat, or you’ll have a real miss…  Give yourself about 45-60 minutes of prep time — there’s always something you have to hunt down!

Pad Thai

Mise almost in place. Note, clockwise, eggs, peanuts, ginger, shallots/garlic, dried shrimp, fish sauce/palm sugar/tamarind, a topping bowl of cilantro and green onion

Pad Thai

The eggs have been mixed, and the soaked rice sticks have been cut into edible portions. You can hardly see the dried shrimp in this shot.  They’re behind that empty Mai Tai cup…

Ingredients: (Serves about six to maybe  eight people as the main course.)

* 12 ounces dried rice sticks.  I am going by Leela’s recommendation and using the 1/8th inch wide ones, Often, what you only find the ¼ inch ones (whatever works!).  They may be sold as Pad Thai noodles or Banh Pho.  (“Pho” means “noodle”; it may even be a more specific word meaning “rice noodle”.)
* 3 tablespoons packed grated palm sugar or 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar.  I will be using less (one half of what the recipe calls for), as I really don’t care for this particular seasoning.  If you make this at home, and you like sweet, double the amount posted here.   Try it without the additional, first — no one seemed to miss it.  (As far as I can tell…)
* 6 tablespoons tamarind pulp.  Tamarind is sweet/tart – I bought a brand with no added sugar, AND no seeds to get (painfully) rid of.  That’s a process in itself — don’t set yourself up for that!
* 6 tablespoons fish sauce.  If going vegetarian, sub in your favorite soy or tamari sauce or coconut aminos.  You’ll also want to pass on the meat/seafood aspects below — perhaps add mushrooms or bok choy or something…)
* 1/4 cup oil. I use refined sesame oil.  Toasted sesame oil would be way too heavy.  Unlike the above ingredients, this was NOT measured, and I think the total amount of oil used was well under the 1/4 cup.  I would recommend going with minimal at the two stages where oil is called for.
* 3 large shallots, approx. 6 ounce total, fine sliced.  Sub in onion or leek if shallots are unavailable.
* 4 large cloves garlic, minced/coarsely chopped, your preference.
* 1 package extra firm tofu, find the firmest possible, cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
 You are more likely to find a seriously firm tofu at an Asian market.  For the potluck I used 1 inch by 1/4 inch matchstick cuts, as recommended in the book, but they fell apart more than they needed to.  Cube them.
* 4 tablespoons small dried shrimp, OPTIONAL.  (they are in the refrigerated section at the Asian market.  Who-da thunk?  I had to ask…)  If using, do NOT add salt to this dish!
* 12-16 ounces pork, shrimp, or chicken.  In this case, we are using pork, which I froze about a month ago (on sale), and sliced as thin as possible as it thawed.  If you are using the pork fresh, freeze it for 30-40 minutes, then slice it as thin as possible with a good chef’s knife.  Remove fat before weighing.  If using shrimp, de-shell in advance; and personally I prefer to remove the tail portion of the shell, too.
* 5 large eggs, lightly beaten – just enough to combine whites and yellow.
* About 3-4 cups mung bean sprouts, go heavy if you wish.

Very very optional:  1/2 cup preserved radish, finely chopped (optional) **  (I could only find this mixed with red chili powder, so we played  this one as an add-on condiment when serving!!!)
* Approx two inches peeled, shredded fresh ginger.
* Approx 1 cup / 10 ounces finely chopped or crushed roasted, unsalted peanuts.  
For those of you who do not use peanuts, substitute the same amount of cashews.  Or if you can’t do tree nuts either, leave off, or set them on the side as an option for your guests.
* 6 green onions, one inch lengths, green part only.  
(in the school of waste-not, want-not, I tossed the white parts in with the shallot contingent)
* 2 limes, cut into small wedges, for garnish and flavor
* Optional red chili powder to taste (see above about the preserved radish)
* Fresh Cilantro, coarsely chopped.

** Being as this was a pot luck with 16 attendees, I didn’t want to emphasize heat.  The preserved radish in red chili powder sauce actually turned out very interesting and not overly-hot; and I’d recommend in the above recipe, if you cannot find preserved radish alone, adding in 1/8 – 1/4 cup of this, where it says below to add in preserved radish.

Soak noodles in a large bowl of warm water until softened and pliable, 30-40 minutes. Drain well in a colander, and cut into about six inch long pieces with scissors, and cover with a dampened paper towel, or a lid to prevent the rice noodles drying back out again..  Set aside.  While soaking, prep the rest of the ingredients…

Mix the sugar, tamarind and fish sauce in a small bowl until sugar dissolves.  Set aside.

In a skillet or wok, heat about 5 tablespoons of oil, medium high heat.  Add the noodles and stir until coated, about one minute.  Add the sauce from above, stir for another three minutes, remove from pan into a second pan, and set aside, covered.  (Preferably keep it on low heat, but we discovered this is not essential.)

Add a couple more tablespoons of the oil to the first pan, throw in the pork or chicken, and stir for two-three minutes until the pinkness is gone, then add the shallot (including the white part of your scallions), garlic, radish, tofu and dried shrimp, and continue to stir fry.

Move the food to the side, and scramble the eggs on the other side with a spatula in the same pan, about two minutes or until they appear congealed and scrambled. Mix back in at that point with the other food currently in the skillet/wok.

If you are using fresh shrimp, add them here, and stir fry for a minute.  Don’t over cook!

Add back the noodles, and check for noodle done-ness .  If needed add a little water, Add the ginger and at least 3/4 of the sprouts, and mix for another minute or so.  Place in serving bowl

Sprinkle pad Thai on top with green onions/scallions, peanuts and any leftover sprouts, as well as the cilantro.  Serve on the side with lime wedges, red chili powder (or that preserved radish mix in red chili, if you have it), so that people can add these things as they wish.

You are ready to serve!!!

Pad Thai allows a variety of veggies, if you so like.  You can indeed skip the tofu; you can add in mushrooms – straw mushrooms, button mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms… etc. Baby corn is good.  Bok choy…  The mung bean sprouts and the tamarind and the peanuts (cashew if you can’t do peanut) seem to be a given.  Personally, I limit the sugar, and if I hadn’t been making this for a Thai-specific pot luck with reasonable authenticity, I would have skipped the sugar entirely, and relied on the tamarind alone for sweetness.  However, I didn’t find the recipe as given above to be too sweet for me.

Pad Thai, Banh Pho

Thai rice sticks, aka Banh Pho.

If you do use pork, you want to find a really  lean cut of pork.  Tenderloin would work, but I ended up with a couple very very lean pieces of thick-cut boneless pork chops from Whole Foods, which being on sale made them about the price of regular supermarket pork chops, with a healthier profile.  That this pork was pastured probably also increased the lean-ness factor in the meat I used.  (There’s a place for pork fat, but this ain’t it…)

For my Paleo readers who don’t want to do peanuts — and for anyone at all remotely allergic or sensitive to peanuts, apparently the most common food allergen around:  Several types of tree nuts rip my gut up.  Peanuts (which are actually legumes) somehow leave me alone.  I don’t like cashews enough to experiment with them in my body.  Use cashews if they work for you, it is supposed to be a one to one substitution, and if you have a problem with peanuts and not tree nuts, think about cashews.

Then again, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the leftover peanuts…

Pad Thai, Tamarind, Fish Sauce

This palm  sugar package is the first sugar package of any sort I’ve bought in at least three years.  (I do pick up small amounts of maple syrup.)  This tamarind paste has had the seeds removed — it will turn your rice sticks dark.  I ended up loving the preserved radish with chilli – not too hot after all!  The fish sauce is good, if you don’t find this one, I understand that Red Boat makes a great one.  Coconut Palm sugar sourced at Whole Foods, the rest at Atlantic Food Market, Main Street, Danbury, CT.    

Note: WordPress spell-check balked at “Thai”, “choy”, and “wok”.

 

 

 

 

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Young Steamed Octopus

The recipe:

Each 0.75 pound octopus serves one person as a main dish.  The frozen packages I find in one of my supermarkets contain two each of these.  I’m writing the recipe up as per one octopus – scale up accordingly.  (I wasn’t sure how this would turn out, so I cooked them one at a time, same method.)

young octopus recipe

Young Octopus steamed in its own juices, with Olives

One 3/4 pound  whole but cleaned young octopus
5-6 pitted olives (I pick from the variety at the select-your-own supermarket olive stand)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/3 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 teaspoon dried savory (if you can’t find savory [my supermarket no longer carries it, so  I bought it online], try tarragon or thyme)
1/4 teaspoon ground lemon pepper
Pinch (~1/16th teaspoon) red pepper flakes.

Thaw the octopus completely in your fridge.

Pre-heat oven to 325 F.

Rinse and dry off the octopus

Octopus recipe

Thawed young octopus

Place the octopus in aluminum foil — you will want a sufficient amount of foil to wrap up the creature when you are ready.

Add all the other ingredients, and mix with your hands so that the octopus is coated.  DO NOT add water.  The octopus appears to be made mostly OF water, and water released during the cooking process will itself steam the octopus.

Wrap up and cover the octopus with the foil

The octopus in foil should be put into a baking dish in case anything leaks.

Cook in the oven for 45-50 minutes.  (If you do have a larger octopus, you will want to cook the beast longer.  For anything larger than a pound, I’d cook at 250 F, and let it cook more gradually out to about 1.5 hours before checking)

Pull out of the oven and open the foil carefully, due to steam.  If still tough (which may happen with a really big one), fold foil back and return to cook for another 10-15 minutes.

Your octopus is ready, and can be eaten as is, hot or warm.  A suggested side could be a yummy Greek salad. Or, if you prefer, chop it into bite size pieces, and toss into said salad, and serve chilled. (I ate one of these hot as described, and the second in a salad.)  Either serving method is very much a success!

Octopus recipe

Still Life with Octopus, Tomato and Olives

Reserve the reddish dark purple steaming liquid it generated, the octopus juice.  (Next time I make this I hope to come up with a nutritious and tasty idea for that, and I’ll update here, but I got busy with other things and it passed what I’d consider its “use by” date.)

I don’t believe octopus re-heats well.  Enjoy any leftovers cold, or perhaps left to warm to room temperature.

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Dining Out: India House, Northampton, MA

One of the best Indian restaurants I’ve been to in recent years has to be this gem located at 25 State Street, Northampton, Massachusetts.

Indian restaurant, review, Northampton, India House

India House, Northampton, MA

They’re only open for dinner, not lunches, but they open at five, and so a friend and I met there after each having a full and busy day before this.

For a starter, we shared the tangri chicken — a presentation I’ve not seen before, but which consists of chicken wingettes in a marinade of pomegranate-cumin reduction, atop mascarpone and seasoned goat cheese.  It was spicy, but the cheese provided a superb balance.  This is highly recommended, and I probably should have photographed them, but I have a dislike of pulling out a  camera when dining indoors, especially since the place was beginning to fill.  (Filling on a weekday night… Good sign!)

For the main, we shared an order of garlic naan, which is excellent eaten hot or at least warm, and some of it I dipped into my course.  My friend ordered the chicken aubergine — boneless chicken combined with baby eggplant, onion, ginger, curry leaves and carmelized garlic with a tamarind jaggery reduction.  I ordered an item off the specials of the day menu — so I can’t refer back to the list of ingredients, but it was a flavorful lamb curry, and almost certainly differed from any of the curry styles mentioned in their regular menu.  The mains were served with tasty sides of basmati rice, as should be expected.  I loved the sauce on my friend’s dish just a touch more than I did mine, but no regrets in any case.

You can order the foods at various levels of spiciness/”heat” — my friend, who has eaten here before, pointed out to me sometimes the meaning of “medium” may vary a bit from one day to the next, which would be the only downside to the experience.  My medium was milder than her medium, which may be why she ate all her rice and I only ate about two thirds of mine.

As a beverage, besides copious amounts of water (it was a hot day and I’d been out in the sun for a long time), I had a “sweet” lime soda, freshly made on site.  If you ask — and once I heard the word, “sweet”, I most definitely did– to have them drop down the level of sugar added.  Our waitress, a wonderfully kind woman, allowed when she brought the drink over, she far preferred the less sweet format, but most visitors are apparently stuck on those cloying sweet beverages.  There was just enough sugar to mute down the tartness of the lime, and it was an extremely refreshing beverage.

Service was prompt and attentive, the menu was broad and worth going back for further items — it was hard to make up my mind what to order.  My dish and my friend’s dish were seasoned differently — I’ve been to one or two Indian restaurants where it seemed all the sauces were ladled out from the same pot over different vegetables or meats, no matter what the food was named.

Ambiance was comfortable and calming — seating was very comfortable, and there was an attractive plethora of the Hindu pantheon statuary in the side windows.  There is also outdoor seating for those so inclined.  The restrooms are not easily accessible if you have issues with steep stairs.  The website prides itself in being gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian and vegan friendly — options for nearly everyone.  The fact that they don’t serve buffet style is in my mind a decided plus — buffet style options tend to cater to what everyone THINKS they may want, rather than towards true cultural exploration of tasty welcome food.  (I do love saag paneer, but if picking something more obscure and less likely to be buffet fare from the menu rewards me, I’ll just do saag paneer some other time.)

We gave the restaurant a rating of 4.75, essentially for not being as consistent on amounts of “heat” in menu items.  I do wanna go back!

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Cedar-Wrapped Grilled Fish, with Grilled Scalloped Potatoes

Cedar Wrap, Seafood, Fish, Bluefish, Salmon

Cedar Wraps

 

I just discovered these cedar wraps at my local Whole Wallet, and they sounded like a good idea.  You get eight per pack, and a long length of twine.  They work like cedar planks on your grilled fish, but seem to be more cost-effective — oh, yes, you get more cedar with the planks, but you really don’t need all that cedar, now, do you?  Also, you don’t have to soak them as long before use, so if you are hungry, you can get going all the sooner.

Most planks say soak two hours.  The cedar planks say at least five minutes.  I soaked these for about half an hour or so (while I was prepping the fire, the potatoes and the fish).

Traditionally, salmon (or another salmonid fish, such as Arctic char, steelhead trout, or regular trout)  is used on cedar planks.  I decided to experiment with both salmon and bluefish fillets.  And I cooked up some scalloped gold potatoes at the same time.  NOTE:  the potatoes should go on the grill BEFORE the fish, if you are using them.  The grilled potato recipe is at the latter portion of this post, even though both ideas ended up thrilling my taste buds to no end.

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Bluefish to the left, Salmon to the right

 

Cedar-Wrapped Fish

* Cedar Wraps — one each for each 1/4 to 1/3 pound fish fillet (A note for larger fillets below…)
* 1 fish fillet, 1/4 to 1/3 pound, per wrap.  I used a 1/4 pound bluefish fillet and a 1/3 pound salmon fillet.
* Ground white pepper
* Other seasonings of your choice (I kept this very simple because I wanted to see what flavors the cedar added to this, but lemon, lemon pepper, Italian herbs, etc. could be options.)

A note about bluefish:  I find the smaller fillets are the most tasty.  The older, bigger ones have been around the pond a bit too much.

Soak the cedar wraps in water.  Ignition of the wrap is not a good idea…  Five minutes minimum, but I’d probably still do at least twenty.

Get your grill going.  I have a charcoal grill and I start it with a charcoal chimney using  Royal Oak lump charcoal, not the self-igniting stuff.  I find myself feeling sickened when I inhale charcoal starter fluid — get the charcoal chimney and some newspaper — those ubiquitous fliers that land in your mailbox do wonders, and are free — some kitchen matches or one of those squeeze the trigger lighter things.  If you have another type of grill, get that going.  I don’t have expertise on other grill types, so use what you’ve probably already learned.  But keep in mind the distinction between indirect and direct fire, as it still applies.

Wrap your (seasoned) fillet with the wrap, and tie.  Lay the fish skin side down (or outer side down if it happens to be skinless).  If you run out of the supplied twine, be sure not to use nylon!

One of the benefits of being able to wrap around the fish is that you get the benefit of both sides receiving a cedar infusion throughout the process of cooking.  If you have  a larger fillet, either 1) tie it to the wrap leaving the top side exposed, and not flip it into cooking, 2) place it on the wrap without tying it, so you can (carefully) flip it half way through, or 3) put one wrap on the bottom and another on top, before tying.

When your charcoal is nice and hot, red and fiery, pour it onto one side of your grill, add the grilling grate, and let it cook there for a bit.  Clean down with a little oil and a grill scrubber.

Add the fish, off to the side (indirect heat).  Cover.  I leave the grill lid holes about half-open (all the time, actually — at this point they are probably frozen in place!)

In about 8-10  minutes, check.  You can flip for 3 or 4 minutes, if you like.  This will depend on the heat in your grill, your fish thickness, and your preferred level of done-ness.  The exposed portions of the fish should appear flakey and (if salmon) no longer that salmon-pink.

Grilled Salmon, Cedar Wrap

Remove and serve.

Grilled Scalloped Potatoes

Before putting the fish on the grill:  Prep and start cooking the potatoes.  I prefer the gold potatoes over ANY other style.  Russets are, to my taste buds, bland and starchy, and regular blue potatoes are bland and dry.  There’s a certain creaminess gold potatoes have, especially when I source them super fresh at farmers’ markets.  I like Yukon golds, red golds and blue golds, and probably anything else that has that rich yellow flesh inside.

Gold Potatoes

Gold-interior Potatoes

 * 2 or 3 medium potatoes.
* Olive or avocado oil, about a teaspoon or so
* 1/3 teaspoon ground ancho chili pepper — if you are feeling more adventurous, ground chipotle pepper would be wonderful.  (Pensey’s sells good varieties.)
* Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub down the potatoes, cutting off any bad spots.  (There are two schools of thought on potatoes:  some say leave the skins on for nutrition, others say remove due to phytotoxins that concentrate in the skin.  I’m not sure which is the best, health-wise, so I generally opt to leave skins on (they’re thinner on gold potatoes than russets, anyway), cutting off buds, bad spots and anything that looks green.  I don’t eat potatoes often enough that it matters to me one way or the other (potatoes, like most starchy foods, apply themselves directly to my hips and midsection, and I SOoooo did not lose 40 pounds to return to any sort of “high carb” plan), and yes, I’m lazy, and the skins don’t taste bad.  At any rate, peeling is at your discretion.)

Using a mandoline, or some good knife skills, scallop the potatoes.  On the mandoline, the setting was at 3/8ths of an inch, this thing’s largest size, and perfectly good for the purpose.

Place in the grill pan (use a grill pan/basket with holes in the bottom), spreading them out.  Wipe down with olive oil, using a paper towel as you put them there.  Add the seasonings, mixing gently with fingers or a large spoon.

When the grill is ready for food, put the grilling pan/basket on the grill, not directly under the flames.

Grilled scalloped Gold Potatoes

Grilled Scalloped Potatoes with Ancho Chili Powder

Now go in and prep and tie up your cedar wraps around your fish.  After about fifteen or twenty  minutes, add the fish to the grill — if the fire is not too flaming, you can move the potatoes more over the direct heat — be sure to use a good spatula to mix the potatoes gently around a bit.  I use a silicon spatula with a long handle for safety.

Every few minutes I mix the potatoes some more.

Finished Dinner & Verdict

When done, the potatoes are just slightly au dente (if you like them less so, cook longer before adding the fish wraps).   I think Russets might crumple up faster than golds, so keep that in mind if you really must have russets.

Remove everything from the grill and let rest about five minutes.  Serve with a leafy green salad; and I think guests would probably enjoy unwrapping their own personal fillets.  As for me, I ate both fillets for dinner (nobly, I needed to do a taste comparison — well, no — I was hungry; I’m never much noble about food…) and about half the scalloped potatoes.

Grilled Ceder Wraps, Grilled Fish, Grilled Scalloped Potatoes

Removing stuff from the grill — in the center are some lamb sliders which I’d simply thrown on the grill for a future meal. Just not wasting the charcoal!

The cedar taste came through very well and was complementary with both bluefish and salmon.  Because of the cedar pretty much enclosing both the skin side and the flesh side of the fish throughout the grilling process, the cedar taste was more pronounced — in a pleasing way — than when done on a plank.  To be honest, sometimes when cooked on a plank, I’m hard pressed to discern much cedar flavor at all.

I will be experimenting with other types of fish.

The potatoes were excellent this way — in the past when I’ve done the foil-covered whole potato grilled thing, I always got impatient to add the meat, seafood, and other veggies well before the potatoes had time to get cooked long enough.  The same has been true when I’ve tried to grill them quartered.  Perhaps this is because most recipes call for Russets, which as noted, I dislike, or maybe it is because of my innate impatience to get everything going and cooking when I am at the grill.

I will stock up on cedar wraps, in case Whole Wallet only intends to sell these seasonally.  I don’t mind grilling outside so long as the temps are above at least 40 degrees F.

 

 

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Figs and Omnivorous Dining – A snack (Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto) and a main (Whole Fish Stuffed with Figs)

I just love these figs!  The fresher, the better!  Before fig season leaves us in the dust, I figure I better post these two!

For our snack, we have figs wrapped with prosciutto.  For our main, we have striped black bass stuffed with figs and onion.

1:  Figs wrapped with prosciutto, simple appetizer:

Figs, prosciutto, appetizer

Figs wrapped with prosciutto. Yum.

The joy of this putative appetizer is that it cuts the sweetness of the fig (for me, at least, this is a major plus) and it cuts the saltiness of the prosciutto — also a plus.  And can provide a nutritious blast, depending on the source of your prosciutto.  I’ve made this as an addition to a personal work lunch box.

Fresh figs, stems pinched or cut off.
Thin-sliced prosciutto, preferably sourced from some place like Applegate.

It is easiest to use kitchen scissors — just cut the prosciutto to widths that accommodate your figs without overhanging much.  Wrap lengths around the figs.  They should adhere without toothpicks.  Refrigerate until served.

2:  Fig-stuffed Fish:

Use red snapper or striped black (or other) sea bass, you want the whole fish.  This should be a mid-sized whole fish — you want it fitting on your serving platter.  Have the fish monger scale and gut the fish for you, but leave the head, tail and fins on, unless you are truly skeeved out about where your food comes from.  In that case, go ahead and have him do the whole nine yards.  (Personally, I eat the cheek meat…  And I reserve bones and heads for fish stock.)

Figs, Whole Fish

Whole Fish, but not on a serving platter…

You can also do this on the grill, my original game plan, but I got home too late that night to futz around with the grill.

Whole fish (as discussed above)
8-10 figs, de-stemmed and chopped up
1/4 small onion, finely diced

1 teaspoon olive oil, avocado oil, ghee, butter, or coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Ground black pepper

Figs, stuffed fish

Figs, chopped up and ready for sauteing

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

In a skillet, cook the figs and onion and spices with each other, in the oil.

When the onion is translucent, perhaps even slightly carmalized, remove from heat and allow to cool until you can handle it.

Stuff your fish with the dates and onion mixture, reserving any that won’t fit.

Bake fish for 20-25 minutes, depending on size.

Just before fish is done, re-heat the remaining stuffing, and upon pulling your fish from the oven and putting it on a serving platter, use it as a topping for your dinner.

Figs, fish, sea bass, red snapper

Dinner is Served!

Serves two or three.  I simply saved leftovers for later in the week, and as you notice, since it was just serving me, I skipped the serving platter…

 

 

 

 

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Figgy Stardust! Vegetarian Fig Ideas! (NO spiders from Mars…)

(Okay, how many of you got the David Bowie reference??)

I love figs.  I love fresh figs; the dehydrated variety leaves me cold, alas.  I think this is because I am SO not a sweet-tooth, that the dehydrated figs just don’t work here in my tummy.  Dehydration concentrates any predominant flavors in the food you are so treating, which means the only fruit I like dehydrating (and eating afterwards, balanced out in salads with a lot of vinegar in the dressing) turn out to be tart things like cranberries and strawberries.  And tomatoes, which are technically fruits even if they get listed as vegetables.  Your mileage probably differs.  But I did add in thoughts for dehydrating these guys down below, if that’s your venue.

Figs fresh vegetarian

Fresh figs! Seriously, I don’t like the usual dried manifestations.

Anyhow, I just got some fresh (as in FRESH) figs from my local Whole Foods.  I think there are two or three varieties of figs, but what I did for these should work for all varieties.

So, in honor, here are a few recipes for figs, vegetarian style (I’ll make an omnivorian post for these l’l guys, later on.)

1.  Fresh Figs, by themselves.  Just remove stem.  Eat raw.  A great snack!  They taste pretty mild alone, maybe a slight bit too sweet (to me).

2.  Salad with Figs and Plums.  Remove stems, slice in half, and add to any salad you’d already be eating.  My concept is to have plums (half these guys too, and remove the pit), add pitted olives, and surround with many salad greens, a few slices of hearts of palm, maybe some cuke slivers or bell pepper slivers, with an optional bit of feta or goat cheese.  Top with your favorite home-made salad dressing, or go the simple route with one part EVOO to one part apple cider vinegar.  Cilantro is a nice additive on top of this.

3.  Figs with Yogurt.  See below!

4.  Figs with Egg.  See below!

5.  Figs in Portobello Cup.  See below!

6.  Dehydrated Fig (for salad, trail mix, or whatever).  I seriously still don’t know why someone might want to dehydrate figs and concentrate up their sugar level, but people do.  If you have a dehydrator, set the cooking temp at 135 F, or 57 C.  Remove stems, slice the figs longitudinally into thirds, and lay them out.  I’ve dehydrated strawberries and then headed off to work, and figs are a denser fruit, so I can safely say you can leave the figs un-attended while you go to work or whatever, and still have more time for them to dehydrate while you carry on with the rest of your life.  (For the same reason I have no interest in dehydrating these, I also have no interest in turning them into jellies or jams or other forms of preserves.  This info is only here as a public service for those inquiring minds who wanna know.  And if you do it in your oven at the lowest setting, you’ll want to stick around and watch ‘em.  In a dehydrator, you have the leeway an oven will not provide.)

SOME ACTUAL TRUE LIFE FIG RECIPES!!!

3: Figs with Yogurt:

figs, yogurt, vegetarian

Figs in goat yogurt. Or find a good plain yogurt without added sugars or other weird things.

My favorite yogurt these days is goat yogurt.  I get either the Trader Joe brand:  or the Redwood Hill brand.  I find Greek yogurt brands to be too “thick” to be of interest.  

figs, yogurt, vegetarian

4:  Figs with Egg:

Fig Egg Vegetarian

A duck egg cooked with fig, for breakfast

I had this for breakfast along side the Portobello cup mentioned below.

1 large duck egg or two regular chicken eggs.  (Duck is depicted.

1 or 2 figs, de-stemmed and sliced any way you like.

1/2 teaspoon avocado oil, or ghee, or butter.  Duck fat would work but as I was making this for Meatless Monday; I used avo oil.

Optional:  sautee a slice of chopped up onion in while cooking the fig.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat up your skillet with your cooking oil or fat of choice, medium.  Add the fig and onion, stir around until onion is transluscent.  Reduce heat to medium low and add your egg/s carefully — splattering them and rubberizing the whites does them (nor you) any favor.  Cook however long as you like, but the whites should be, well, white.  Since this was a duck egg, and the yolks on those babies are huge, I flipped it, waiting another minute of cooking time.  

5:  Figs in Portabella Cup:

figs, mushroom

You can’t really tell, but that is indeed a mushroom cap under the toppings!

Per large mushroom cap (one can assume one cap as a side; three caps as a meal per person):

1 large Portobello mushroom cap, stem removed.

2 figs, de-stemmed and sliced longitudinally into three slices

2 or three pitted olives, left whole if small, or sliced in half if large.

Half teaspoon, approximately, of extra virgin olive oil

OPTIONAL:  a couple teaspoons of either feta or goat cheese, crumbled.  Didn’t have so didn’t use, and this is exactly a fine recipe without.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Wipe down the portabella with the olive oil, using  a paper towel or a pastry brush.

Assemble your toppings inside the mushroom.  If using cheese, don’t add this yet.

Put in oven for 20 minutes.

If using the cheese, add it on top  five minutes before the mushroom finishes cooking, OR add it as soon as you pull the mushroom out of the oven.

Serve immediately.

PS:  there are some omnivorous suggestions for fresh figs in an upcoming post!  Both worked out very well.  

Oh, PS:  this truly is an irritant, the correct spelling of the mushroom used in one of the recipes above:  Portobello or Portabella… this link may or may not shed light or something on the matter.  I went back in and edited this post to tweak both ways… Grrr.  (The WordPress spell checker likes Portobello…)

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Restaurant Review: The Causeway, Glouchester, MA (with a farmers’ market digression…)

First off, I haven’t gotten to a farmer’s market in about three weeks, which bites, but here I am, showing off my wares from THREE of them — one from my own town on Friday (not much selection, but the grape tomatoes and the special “value added” Tuscan olive oil came from there).

FM aug30 -

The rest of the stuff came from one town immediately east and one town immediately north of me, today, Saturday.  We don’t sell wine at farmers’ markets hereabouts, but those bottles came from a really nice and friendly small wine shop near one of the markets.

The Haul:

Tomatoes:  Those grape tomatoes, plus regular “field” tomatoes, plus heirloom fancies.  Duck eggs.  Okra!  Tuscany-infused herbs into an olive oil bottle. Nice tart Gravenstein apples.  Salad greens.  White cuke. Whole chicken.  Chicken giblets.  White eggplant.  Sugar snap peas.  Chorizo pork sausage, and this one is now in the freezer for later.  That center dish however, is a mushroom/spinach/smoked Gouda strata, and unfortunately not gluten-free. The wine, as noted, came from a local wine shop, and the background plant came from — well somewhere nearby a month or so ago.  Frankly, I don’t remember.

Having eaten the strata, I am now about to embark on a few weeks of truly gluten-free eating.  I don’t have serious problems with gluten, but I don’t think it is a healthy component of food, and I am glad to have the chance to eliminate it for a while.

 

But NOW, to get onto our Massachusetts Restaurant Review!!!

Fine dining, clam-shack style!

4.5 stars (out of Five) — but the seafood itself is awesome!

Okay, definitely NOT fine dining, as in candlelit, private, linen table cloths.  And I did not have the handy dandy camera at the ready, alas.

It was very noisy on a Sunday afternoon a week ago; and that is the main reason the restaurant rates a 4.5 out of 5 star review.  There is enough room at tables to dine without feeling cramped, but it is really nice to be able to converse without shouting.  Or, just intermittently nodding…

There were four of us, and we four consulted on the review value before I posted this.

I ordered:  steamed mussels in a wine, butter  and herb sauce (appetizer);  and a main of Florentine seafood, which may have been on the “specials” menu.  This consisted of baked haddock, scallops, and shrimp, in a spinach-cheese sauce. Apparently gluten-free.  Sides that came with the main were a baked potato (I am not fond of Russets, so I took this home for later, and eventually tossed that part out) and steamed asparagus (which all got et.)  The mussels were extremely fresh, local and tasty.  The sauce was awesome.  The asparagus was good, but a little over-cooked, but hey if you are here, you are here for the SEAFOOD!  Some of the mussels and some of the asparagus became the next day’s lunch at work.

Compatriots ordered:  Scallop Greek Salad — excellent except that some lettuce other than bland  iceberg lettuce would have been appreciated.

Fried Oysters:  the batter was very light, and the oyster flavor predominated.  Excellent.  They were cooked but not over-cooked!

Haddock au gratin:  Haddock baked with a cheese sauce, and again served with potato and asparagus — this diner was very satisfied.

Fried clams:  Again, the batter was light.  Unlike at most establishments, where the clams are little tiny tidbits without flavor, surrounded by deadly breading, these were large and just somewhat surrounded by breading, and you could taste fresh clam.

If you are gluten-free, you can find things on the menu to eat and enjoy.  Obviously, fried and breaded menu items will be out for you.

On the specials menu were steamed clams — if I hadn’t gotten the mussel appetizer, I’d have sprung for those.  There are also a couple of lobster dishes, untried by our party.

If you like seafood, and you are in the Gloucester, Massachusetts area, check this un-sung and little-advertised (except by word of mouth) dining place out.  On weekends, at least in the summer, the place has a waiting line — I don’t think they take reservations — but I understand the ambiance is better on weekdays.  As in, quieter, for conversations.

Price is reasonable, and the seafood is FRESH!!  Service was informal, yet swift.  The “facilities” (toilet) is unisex, one at a time, but clean.  At least one of my weekend compatriots said I shouldn’t write this place up because she didn’t want this place KNOWN and more crowded than it is, but… hey.  It’s not like I’m anywhere near the NY Times in viewers.

For further information, directions, and menu:

http://www.thecausewayrestaurant.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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