Arctic Char (yet again). Pan-fried with Crispy Skin.

Arctic char is in my top ten faves in the seafood world.  While I love salmon, steelhead trout and regular trout, this one is my very favorite, and at least around here, it is cheaper than most wild-caught salmon (with the exception of the rather uninteresting “silverbright” variety).  At any rate, any of the Arctic char recipes I leave here can be used for any salmon or trout. They’re all Salmonidae species.   Although I’d check the source before dining on the skin, as detailed.

It is the third time I’ve succumbed to posting an Arctic char recipe. these things are that versatile and that good.

arctic char, pan fried

Half a fillet, one serving. Note the crunchy collar of skin.

It is sustainably farmed in Iceland, Canada and Scotland.  I once saw some of it for sale as being a product of Chile, and I avoided that selection.  (Chile?  Arctic???  Then again, Chile?  Atlantic?)  So, read labels.  Seafood, fortunately, is required in the US to be labelled with country-of-origin.  If this is missing, ask.  Or, dodge out.

At any rate, the good Arctic char farms use lakes to raise this fish, and are thus able to control for the wild populations to keep them from interbreeding.  As it is an extremely cold water fish, I will sometimes eat the char sourced from Iceland or Canada as sashimi — I take care to freeze it for at least three days prior.  (I do this for any raw fish I prepare at home, btw.)

Arctic char is also a more slender and smaller fish than most salmon.  Among other things, this makes this fish quite adaptable to pan-frying without having to flip it during the cooking process.  However, if you have a smaller, somewhat more skinny section of wild salmon, or if you have steelhead trout (alas most of this seems to come from Chile these days, but sometimes you can find it from Canada), or just plain ole trout (rainbow or other), feel free to substitute in.

One of the highlights of prepping the fish this way, is that you get to eat some mighty fine and crispy skin.  (Make sure your fillet has been de-scaled!)

2 servings.

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon Avocado or other cooking oil (I now find this oil at Costco, so I no longer hesitate to recommend it.  Ghee is another good option.  Both have high smoking points.
0.75 pounds of Arctic char, more or less, as a fillet, skin-on but no scales.
One large slice of lemon.
Lemon pepper to taste.  (I recommend Trader Joe’s in its little grinding container.)
2 ounces Goat cheese.
Optional: Any of:  1 teaspoon minced red onion; a dusting of fresh cilantro, lemon wedges

Get everything ready and together — I hate wasting minutes while something is cooking delving back to the innards of my undersized fridge looking for the goat cheese, which has usually fallen back and under the bok choy…

You’ll need a skillet — I’ve been using the cast iron one, but whatever you’ve got to hand.  Pre-heat it on the cook top (hey, in the past we’d say, “pre-heat it on the range”, but whatever) to medium high, and reduce to a low medium once the oil almost reaches that smoking point.  You’ll see a little vapor or two try to do just that.  (Another good reason for the avocado oil; it has a high smoke point.  Along with the fact that I’ve yet to read anything seriously bad about it…)  Anyhow, on my antiquated electric range (it is way too old ever to accept being called a “cook top” — it doesn’t even have a timer), the reading you should turn the heat to is “3”.

Drop in the fish, skin side down.  Squeeze the lemon slice over the surface that is exposed.  Grind some lemon pepper onto the fish.  Add the goat cheese in lumps here and there, as depicted above.  Cover.  If your skillet doesn’t come with a lid, aluminum foil works.

Allow to fry for about 8-10 minutes, peaking occasionally.  Once the surface of the fish is cooked (whitened by the heat) cook one minute more.  If you are doing this with a thick cut of salmon, allow for two more minutes of cooking; and if you are doing this with any fish you are not really sure of the source of… yes, most trout, I’m afraid… do those extra two minutes, too.

Remove and plate.  Top with any or all of the optional toppings if you wish.  (I was not that coordinated today.)

The skin may well separate and remain behind on the skillet — pull it off and eat it if it is crispy, and again, if you trust your seafood source.  Although the fat cooks off during this process, any fat-soluble pesticides will malinger here.  If it is attached to the fish, likewise pull it off and eat as a warm tiny-plate side, again with the above proviso.  I would NOT do this with “Atlantic” salmon or with trout (unless I personally caught said trout in a reliable river or stream).

Ideally served with a nice tossed salad and some type of lemony dressing.

ADDENDUM ~ MY FAVE SEAFOOD SPECIES

Not in order, but I will include ten of them here.

Arctic Char (including the rest of the Salmonidae family of fishes).  See above…
Striped Bass.  They’ve come back from the brink, and with sustainable wild fishing, they have a hope.
Bluefish.  You do have to look at that bluefish on ice at the fish mongers carefully, but if you avoid the rainbow-hued specimens, and go for the right coloration, you gotta great dinner in front of you.  First time or two you do it, take an expert bluefish sorter with you.  Too many of them wear the Slytherin hat…
Sardines.  Yes, sometimes you can buy them fresh, and seriously, these are to die for!  Remove head and guts, and pan fry with seasonings, and you got a CATCH on your hands!  Everything after cooking is edible, except the backbone and those oversized scales which are super easy on this fish to remove.  The tail and fins are crispy food, as is the rest of this little guy, fins and all.  Plan for at least three fish per serving.
Dover Sole.  Again, you have to judge them by appearance, and you will most likely get something edible if you are on the East Coast.  It’s not my first choice, but if I like how they look, and if my reliable fish monger seems encouraging, I’ll buy this for dishes such as fish tacos.  I’d love to tap into a good tilapia supply for white fish,  but right now those are helping farm-to-table restaurants more than me.
Rhode Island Red Shrimp.  They’re caught off of Rhode Island, natch, and taste great if you really cook them very Briefly.  They are wild-caught.  I prefer not to buy farmed shrimp — way way too many abuses out there, and I am currently still leary about Gulf Shrimp, even though these are mostly wild-caught.  I seriously do prefer to add my own oil…
Maine Shrimp.  They are only available in the coldest months of the year — otherwise they go way out to sea, do their own thing, and don’t become dinner.  Fine.  I can wait.
Octopus.  Made the way my brother makes it, Greek style.  The baby octopi aren’t bad, either.
Oysters.  Preferably served raw with a fine mignonette, or even just a simple squeeze of lemon, topped with a shaving of green onion.  On occasion, a bit of fresh shredded horseradish works wonders.  These are definitely highlights in good shoreline seafood restaurants, where if they are a little off the beaten path, they’re not too pricey.  I’ve yet to brave opening up the shells, myself.
Miscellaneous, depending on what really looks good at the market!

 

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Seafood | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Spinach and Goat Cheese – a “Makeover”

I’m calling this one a makeover although the original my family grew up with, and loved, remains serviceable.

spinach and goat cheese

Nine ounces of baby spinach shrinks a bit!

The original recipe involved three packs of frozen spinach for the whole family, and a packet of Philadelphia brand cream cheese (other than home-made, is there really any other brand?)

We’d cook up the three packs, drain it, add in a dollop of butter, mix it up, then put slices of the cream cheese (a whole pack) on top, with a little salt and pepper,  and serve it up.  This recipe served four of us with my kid brother wolfing down at least half of this as a side. (We sorta said, “is this what is left???”  It is possible during his teens we moved to four packages…)   I have to say that anyone saying that this meal is not kid-friendly has only met a limited number of kids.  Meatloaf was never kid-friendly to me; spinach this way was always kid-friendly to me and my bro!)

So maybe we can consider the below recipe simply a changeover?

The below is two servings.  Although one could chow down on all of it, if so inclined.  I’ve cut back on the dairy portions from days of old.  Keep in mind that a bag of spinach is apparently mostly water, and once you start cooking it, it just shrinks and shrinks and shrinks — which is one reason I halt the cooking as soon as I do.  (It also tastes best to me this way).

Ingredients:

1 nine-ounce (or so) bag of baby spinach, rinsed and any nasty leaves removed.  (or one regular-sized frozen package, thawed and drained before cooking)
About 3/4th cup water and 3/4th cup vegetable stock from the box (low sodium), or home-made. 
1 teaspoon butter or ghee.
About 1 ounce goat cheese.
 Plain or with herbs.  (Or, Philadelphia Brand cream cheese.)
Salt (if using) and ground pepper to taste.  (I use Trader Joe’s Rainbow Peppercorns – nice spicy taste.  Penzey’s version is also good.)
Optional:  red pepper flakes, maybe just a pinch.

The How To:

Get everything in place ahead of time, because when the spinach is ready, everything else should be rarin’ to go.

Boil the broth/water mix.  Add the spinach.  Keep mixing until all the leaves just get wetted down; don’t over-cook.  This will only be a couple minutes unless you are making more servings than listed above.

Drain the spinach in a colander, squish down the spinach for a few seconds, dump quickly into a bowl, add in the butter/ghee, mix around.  (Don’t be afraid of healthy fats — fats DO help certain veggie vitamins and other nutrients to be absorbed.)

Parcel out the goat cheese, sprinkle on salt, pepper, and the optional red pepper flakes, and serve.  As you eat, you may want to mix the toppings in, letting the cheese melt.

 

 

 

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Dining out in Massachusetts: Salem and Gill

I want to take this opportunity to introduce everyone to fine dining in Massachusetts, if only in a couple of destinations.

However, since this is a food blog, and I took no photos of food during either visit, I’m going to present an image taken of food from yesterday’s Farmer’s Market, before moving on to the dining reviews and other natter about the trips:

Strawberries in season are like, well, candy.   BETTER than candy!

Strawberries in season are like, well, candy. BETTER than candy!

Moving on…

Our first destination is Salem, yes, THAT Salem, home of supposed witches, and witch trials.  This is on the eastern seaboard, north of Boston (which Google Maps had routed me through, since my GPS has frozen and could not be bulged to do anything more than turn on a light), but fortunately a friend routed me back out of Salem for the mid-Sunday afternoon commute by a better route.  The idea of stop and go in a tunnel deep under Boston Harbor, tea parties or not, was anathema!

The second destination, the following weekend, was the really tiny town of Gill, Massachusetts, considered west Massachusetts, even if I think of it as central-west. It is a small town just on the west side of the Connecticut River.  (I think inhabitants of this state call anything not in Boston suburbia, and west of that, western Massachusetts…)

The dining experiences:

Opus, 87 Washington Street, Salem, Massachusetts.  We gave this a 5 star rating!

Rockafellas, 231 Essex Street, Salem, Massachusetts.  We gave this a 3.5 star rating, still pretty good!  Just be selective.

The Gill Tavern, 326 Main Road, Gill, Massachusetts.  I gave this a 4.75 star rating!  (I forgot to consult with my compatriots, but went by table discussion  and personal satisfaction.)

 Salem, Massachusetts

Four of us wandered to Salem, Massachusetts, for a fine weekend of relaxation, fun, the beach, shopping, and dining.  We stayed in a condo/townhouse owned by the parents of one of my friends.

Cematary, central Salem

Cemetery, central Salem

I’m going to review two restaurants we attended — and sorry, no food photos.  You’ll have to take my word about the platings and the foods…  I think you will find that all my restaurant food photos in past posts here (barring one night) have been taken outdoors.  I don’t like annoying my fellows (whether at my table, or simply total strangers) with flash, and I consider all cell phone cameras to be extremely lame with quality in the dark.  I’m not going to bother with the graininess. Or the intrusiveness.

Saturday Night :  OPUS  (Or is it O with a really huge “O” followed by opus?)

We all agreed:  FIVE STARS for OPUS!

Meals:  I shared the Tier One charcuterie board with the friend who was hosting this venture. The prosciutto  was to die for.  She loved the date preserves; I loved the pickled daikon radish (and so we switched as appropriate).  There were a variety of other cheeses and cured meats (the latter sliced as thinly as possible, except the pate.)  Theoretically, there were three meats and two cheeses, but I saw one or two  more than that in each category (and on retrospect, the pricing went with what we ordered).

On my own I ordered one of the night’s small plate specials, the seared yellowfin tuna with Chimichurri sauce.  This was totally awesome — the tuna was raw inside, lightly seared in a mild peppery marinate, and served with that excellent green sauce.  It was extremely fresh.

My charcuterie friend also ordered her own small plate:  Figs, black whipped agave mascarpone, rosemary balsamic reduction, and shaved speck, whatever a speck is.  She said it was excellent.

Another friend apparently was only mildly hungry, and ordered a shrimp roll and was quite satisfied — they have a wide selection of Japanese sushi item choices on the menu.  The fourth of us ordered organic Springer Mountain Chicken, which is described as:  pan roasted half chicken, organic vegetable ratatouille, roasted truffled fingerling potatoes & lemon garlic jus —  and was also well-satisfied.  This was a large and attractive meal.

Indeed, watching the plates and presentations as they were served at other tables, there’s a lot about proper presentation here .

We did eat dessert:  One friend and I shared a cheese plate, which was done up like the charturerie plate, but a broader selection of cheeses, and of course, no meat.  Again it had a date pate, and pickled daikon.  To be honest, I don’t recollect the other dessert ordered, probably because I’ve trained myself not to be a serious sweet-tooth anymore — AND this has worked!  I may still love chocolate, but seriously, I don’t need foods to be sweet!

Service was attentive and prompt.

Sunday Luncheon:  ROCKAFELLAS, no relation to the oil magnates turned politicians.

I ordered the vegetarian, gluten-free Portobella Tower.  It is described as “Grilled Portobello Mushrooms, Zucchini and Roasted Peppers layered with a
Spicy Marinated Goat Cheese and Roasted Tomato Sauce, topped with Balsamic Onions.
Served with Risotto and Mixed Greens”

Thankfully it wasn’t a true “Tower” height.  I got worried when I saw the size of the nacho platter delivered before mine, to another of us at the table.  But, nachos are cheaper than portobellos, so I should not have fretted.

My Tower was tasty — the goat cheese between slices of eggplant was creamy and rich.  I’d rate this dish four stars, since it wasn’t quite exceptional beyond that.  I really liked the combo of veggies and shrooms in this.  That nacho dish across the way we’d rate probably about a three.  Not a good cheese to nacho ratio, or the tomato chunks.  The coconut popcorn shrimp another companion ordered were large (personally, I fear I pre-judge popcorn shrimp to be popcorn-sized, and often they have been, so I seldom if ever order.)  However apparently the shrimp themselves did not make the “Taste Muster”, even if the rest of that dish seemed to satisfy her.  Our fourth table-mate had a salad… she was fine with it, but it was neither extra-ordinary nor maudlin.  I have to say the strawberry slices on it looked worthwhile.  It was lunch — no one ordered dessert.

Service was attentive and prompt.  I’d say don’t expect the unexpected, and probably avoid the shrimp or the nachos (unless you just want nachos and minimal toppings).  The Portobello tower, however, is something I’d likely order again.

Upshots:

Neither are bad dining destinations.  There is a lot of variety on both menus to satisfy gluten-free and/or diverse taste buds, but for fine dining, Opus can’t be beat!

Some additional Salem photos, before we move on along:

Downtown Salem Plaza -- just about the least gaudy of the statuary here.

Downtown Salem Plaza — just about the least gaudy/obnoxious of the statuary here.

Marker for Capt Daniel Hawthorne, d. 1796.

Marker for Capt Daniel Hawthorne, d. 1796.  Related to the literary Nathaniel Hawthorne.

 

Gill, Massachusetts

We were in Gill because the town is next door to Montague, which annually hosts the Mutton and Mead Renaissance Faier one weekend each year.  And yes, they do serve “mutton” (tiny dried lamb chops) and mead (not sampled) at the Ren Faire, but we go for shopping and entertainment.  (Mutton and Mead?  Goats and Greens?  What’s with these alliterations?)

At any rate, Gill is on the west of the Connecticut River, and Montague is to the right, and both are in the close proximity of that apparent favorite destination of so many in Deerfield, the main Yankee Candle outlet (a place I can stand being in for about ten minutes before all the clashing aromas drive me out).  At any rate, whenever I mention being in the area to folks back home, it seems the first question is, “Is that near Yankee Candle?”  “Yes, but fortunately far enough away that you can’t smell it!”   Seriously, if you really head into Deerfield, I’d consider Magic Wings (a butterfly conservancy), and Old Historic Deerfield far superior draws…

At any rate, the Ren Faire was fun.

 

An improved road in Peru, MA.  Seriously, I had to turn around during a journey on this with my then-housemate back about 15 years ago.

An improved road in Peru, MA. Seriously, I had to turn around during a journey on this with my then-housemate back about 15 years ago.

 

Gotta love Men in Kilts dancing on tabletops!

Gotta love hot Men in Kilts dancing on tabletops!


Back to Gill and the Gill Tavern.

Saturday Night:  THE GILL TAVERN

Four of the five of us present that night for dinner opted for the lamb.  Hey, perhaps a theme?  This lamb was described as Grilled lamb with rosemary port demi-glaze, accompanied by asparagus and potato gratin.  I am not sure what cut this was, but it ended up with a bone surrounded by a LOT of really tasty, well-seasoned, and perfectly cooked lamb meat.  Definitely NOT one of those stereotypical lamb loin chops with two bites o’ meat and the rest being bone.  (I understand this restaurant sources a lot of food locally and humanely.) The asparagus was tender and flavorful, and the potato gratin was not watery nor in need of salting.  Nor did the cheese taste of “faux cheese” — whatever they included of cheese into the layers of potato leant body to the potato, and was satisfying.  The fifth of us chose a flank steak, which I understand was quite good, too.

Us same four also opted to try the house mead, which we found serviceable.  Nothing but nothing beats a good home-brewed mead!  There are nuances and layers not found in commercial varieties.  (Two of our party actually brews their own mead.)

For dessert, I simply ordered coffee, but I did take a taste of one person’s order of dessert — I wish I remembered what it was called, but it did contain chocolate and was extremely rich enough (and not sicky-sweet, which I hate anyway) that I was totally fine with the taste.  (Okay, I did take a second bite…)  I am thinking it had to be a mousse of some sort.

Service was mostly attentive and prompt, but I suspect there were a fair number of unexpected diners who’d just come from the well-attended Ren Faire slowing things down for a short portion of the evening.  I’d certainly go back here again!

We looked pretty much like the below when we turned up at the restaurant — one neighboring table assumed we were staffers there (no).

And, one last view — Steampunk Ren, anyone??   Bringing Time Travel into its own.

Steampunk is a few centuries advanced of the Renaissance era...

Steampunk is a few centuries advanced of the Renaissance era…

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Of Goats and Greens at Four Years

It has been four years of blogging, with my first post uploaded on June 12, 2010.  I had hoped to have my 200th blog post coincide with the time, but I’ll be off by about a month or so.

For the fourth year blog anniversary, the menu item will be, um, Goats and Greens.  I mean, why not celebrate the fourth year in style?  I’d hoped to pick up kale for the green part of this, both to match my header image and to celebrate its strong nutritional values.  But I overshot the supermarket, and the local Mom ‘n’ Pop didn’t carry it, so without backtracking…  Spinach.

 

Goats Greens Spinach

Notice the goat-like shape of this chop, happily nestling into the greens it wishes to consume for dinner…  I think it planned this presentation, right?

(For the 200th post, I have something different planned, a probably boring venture through life and food over those 200 posts.  Basically, how I came to what I perceive as healthy eating.)

The Goat

This goat came from Blue Slope Farm, out of Franklin, CT.  I have never been to Franklin, and I think of it as a sleepy, bucolic and relaxing corner somewhere in this state.

Generally speaking, goat is much less fatty than lamb.  To me, it has a taste somewhere between lamb and beef.  Goats thrive in areas not suitable for the raising of cattle, or for that matter, for a lot of the vegetation we eat.   Goat is an unusual animal for consumption in America, but across the world, it is justifiably quite popular.  They’re small, and most breeds are very hardy.  In conversations with an Indian co-worker, I learned that back in her home country, it was goat she ate, and she had to convert her ruminant course of choice to lamb in this country.

If you are going to rear them up yourselves, however, note they are SMART animals, and they don’t herd up like sheep do.  They may look like sheep, but they ain’t.  I’ve heard it said that herding goats is like herding cats.  Some breeds are apparently better (ie, easier to maintain) on farms than others.

To prepare and marinate (Dinner, not the livestock):

* 1.25 lbs goat chops (rib chops in this case; shoulder chops should be fine. For rib chops, this quantity results in 4 chops. You could try loin chops, but if they are anything like lamb loin chops, you’ll need to take a loan out on your first-born, and I lack a first-born.)   The bones will be in.  (NOTE to SELF: Reserve bones after for bone broth)
* 1 tablespoon coconut aminos (or gluten-free soy tamari)
* 1/4-1/3 of one large lemon (judge by size.  My lemon was a monster.)
* Salt and pepper to taste.  Since this is a celebratory meal for me, my salt was most definitely pink Himalayan salt, and the pepper was that Rainbow Pepper that Trader Joe’s sells in that handy little grinder.

Lay out the meat.  If your goat comes from a less-than-optimal source, CAFO or something, cut off more of any fat than I did in the photo.  Seriously, though, it is a crime to cut off ALL the fat from a grass-fed animal and then lather it in oil, even olive oil.   Put the coconut aminos/tamari and the juice from that lemon portion over the meat.  And the salt and pepper.  Marinate for about an hour or so.  (In case you are worried, when the dish is served, you don’t have to eat any fat — it just helps preserve flavor and essence.)

Goats and Greens

Goat chops marinating in coconut aminos, lemon, pepper, salt

Cook the goat chops:

  • The above
  • 1.5 teaspoon ghee, butter, or avocado oil (or other preferred oil)
  • 1.5 teaspoon of cumin seed (or, combine cumin seed half and half with Kala Jeera seed, another variety of cumin)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • minced garlic, 2-3 cloves (or, cheat and use garlic powder…)

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Heat up a skillet to medium high, add the ghee/butter/or other oil, wait a couple minutes.  Your best bet is to use an oven-proof skillet — save yourself a pan to clean!

Add the cumin/Kala Jeera seeds and allow them to toast a bit, moving them around in the skillet.  About 2-3 minutes.

Add the marinated meat, top with nutmeg.  Allow to brown 2-3 minutes each side, then add garlic.

Remove skillet from stove top, to oven.  Cook 15-20 minutes (this is assuming the meat is about 3/4 inches thick on average).

And GREENS!

* 1 bag fresh spinach

On the stove top heat up enough water to cook the above spinach in a pot.  Go to high and reduce when the water starts to boil.

Add spinach to the pot of boiling water about 3 minutes before the goat is done, and reduce heat to medium.  Cook spinach long enough to wilt it, but not so long as to make a sorry morass of bleah out of it (unless that’s your preferred spinach consistency…)  If you choose, add a dash of salt here.

Pull the goat out of the oven, let rest five minutes.  Drain the spinach.

Plate the spinach — 1/4 of the lot of it per goat chop works nicely, assuming you are using the rib chop-sized pieces.  Depending on any other sides, this serves 2 to 4 people, but I’d seriously only expect two people (each getting two chops apiece).

 

Goats and greens

Goats and Greens, a chop and spinach

 

Posted in Commentary, Cooking, Meats | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Bay Scallops with Mushrooms, Snow Peas and Shallot

I remember back decades ago, when bay scallops cost more than sea scallops  It has reversed, now, and today the bay scallops were on sale.  Mind you, these were large bay scallops — I’d say about 1/2 inch diameter in the best of the cases prior to cooking.  It is really easy to over cook bay scallops because most of them are so small.

Well, the price was right, so I took the plunge!

Bay Scallop Saute

Bay Scallops lovingly living among mushrooms, snow peas and shallot

* 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon oil total — I used about half and half of avocado oil and a pat of grass-fed butter (even if I am hard-pressed to find a mouth on the butter so it can consume grass or anything… but you know what I mean… ;)  )
* 1 large shallot, diced
* 5 ounces, approximately, button mushrooms, chopped or broken up coarsely
* 3 ounces, approximately, snow peas, broken in half and any bad bits removed
* 1/2 pound bay scallops, as large as is available.
* Ground lemon pepper, about 1/4 teaspoon
* 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (NOT the sushi rice vinegar, which has sugar and other unnecessary stuff.)
* 1/16 – 1/8 teaspoon or less of red pepper flakes (optional).  I rather like a mild kick with this idea.
* 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon thyme
* 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon savory (or you could use tarragon, as supermarkets no longer seem to carry savory.  Or you could buy it from Penzey’s, as I did…)
* salt to taste — I suggest a pinch

Heat the butter/oil in a skillet until everything is toasty hot, over medium heat.

Add in the shallot and mushrooms.  Saute until shallot is translucent and the mushrooms are cooked.

Add the snow peas and everything else except the scallops, thyme and savory.  Mix around to get everything cooking, for about 2 minutes.

Add the scallops, and cook another 2.5 – 3 minutes, stirring often, and I lean towards 3 minutes.  (If you have 1/4 inch diameter scallops, reduce the cooking time to account for that.)  You want the scallops white, not translucent, on all sides.  You don’t want them dried-out, either.

Add the thyme and savory, mix around another thirty seconds, plate and serve.  I’m thinking a light salad with shreds of cabbage, grape tomatoes, and a simple vinaigrette would be a great accompanying dish.

You could adapt this to sea scallops.  I’d break up the sea scallops into quarters, so that aesthetically it fits better with the size of the other items in this dish.  To truly bring out the sea scallop intensity, I’d probably pan-sear them whole (an extra step, but when you are paying that much more for them…), and only break them up when it is time to serve.  Oh, and yes, with sea scallops, my button mushrooms would probably transform themselves into shiitake.

 

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Mushrooms, Seafood | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Korean Japchae

We have a great little Japanese/Korean restaurant nearby, and although I’m pretty much a sushi/sashimi buff, I’ve branched out into the Korean side of things there.

I find that their entrees are way too large and way too rice-filled for my tastes — if I could have half the rice in total, I’d be willing to doggy-bag the remainders.  While they serve the food (toppings) on top of the rice, they want you to mix it all together before eating it properly Korean style, even though I’d love to tell them I’m not interested in that ratio of starch to the rest of it.  (Since they are Korean and this is their foodway in which they take great pride, they hover over you with massive enthusiasm, nearly even demanding you mix the platter up!)

Korean Japchae

A portion or two of japchae

Enter their Japchae Appetizer, a smaller portion of food which 1) one can actually eat at a sitting without feeling bloated, with maybe a side of a piece or two of  favorite sashimi du jour, and 2) contains white yam noodles instead of rice, and the ratio is much more tolerable to begin with.

At any rate, japchae ingredients depend a lot on what is at hand.  I’ve included two source videos at the bottom of this post, plus a picture of the local “take out” results.

What I did — and I suggest reading this entire recipe through, before attempting  — follows below.  (This turned out to be five servings… next time I’ll cut this in half, but it was fun to eat over multiple meals anyway):

1 package (4 ounces) Shirataki white yam noodle substitute (look at the packaging carefully, they also sell a soy noodle substitute, and from a distance both bags are identical.  There is also another brand called Nasoya Pasta Zero, which would work.  You want the vermicelli shaped noodles.  (Both of these brands are sold packed in water and are already flexible — although apparently specialty stores will sell dried white yam noodles, which are also usable.  For my first venture at this back in January, I used rice cellophane noodles, and I can tell you, noooo, they don’t work quite right.  Which is why I haven’t posted anything on the topic until now…)  In order to get things ready, take a pair of scissors and cut the noodles into manageable lengths.  Perhaps five or six inches.  There’s no forks twirling noodles around spoons as in Italian cuisine…

1 bag (6 ounces) fresh baby spinach.  Rinse, pick out any bad bits.  Don’t skimp on the spinach, go over this quantity if you have the opportunity.

5 ounces raw beef from a beef source that works best when not slow-cooked or roasted;  cut into strips.  I used skirt steak — if it works well in fajitas, it should work well here!  And, it did.  Thin strips are best; you can easily cut it thin with a knife if the meat is partially frozen, or with kitchen scissors if it is already thawed.  Meat actually turns out to be a condiment rather than a main item in my variant of the recipe.  (I kept thinking of veggies I wanted to add!)

1 colorful bell pepper, cut up and de-seeded.

1 medium zucchini, ends removed, and julienned.  I used my mandolin for this.

1/2 medium onion, chopped.

2-3 ounces Snow peas.   If large, cut them in half.  Trim off any brown ends.

3-4 ounces Bean sprouts.

1 or two ounces white cabbage, sliced thin and shredded.

4 ounces Mushrooms.  Varieties don’t really matter:  I’d suggest white button and shiitake (either previously reconstituted earlier in warm water, or fresh) — but just about any edible mushroom or combination will do.  I’d hesitate over morels, they have a really funky texture that won’t go with this meal.  Mushroom weight should be judged by their reconstituted weight.  If you reconstitute some from dried, when you are ready to set up, squeeze  extra water out of them.  (SAVE this mushroom water for other dishes!!!  Talk about umami!).  In this specific dish, I used Portobellos (they were at hand), and an unusual variety named bunashimeji, which I’d found at Whole Foods.

Bunashimeji mushrooms, but use whatever is available!

Bunashimeji mushrooms, but use whatever is available!

This recipe is flexible — use different veggies, use pork or chicken or duck instead of the  beef, or omit meat entirely.  Just pay attention to cooking times by what you know of specific vegetables and meats.  The veggies in the final dish are by and large crispy or at least solid, not soggy.

Other ingredients:

1.5 tablespoons Toasted sesame seed oil (or regular sesame seed oil if that’s what you got)

Olive oil, not extra virgin, due to taste influences, but look for a reliable brand.  (Avocado oil would also work, or coconut oil.   Both can be pricey, but used in limits, they’re worth it.  Recently I found avocado oil at my local Costco’s at a reasonable price.  Avocado oil, if you can find it without paying off your first born, has a high cooking temp of up to 500 F, and doesn’t add in flavors you might not want in certain dishes.)

2 plus 0.5 tablespoons gluten-free tamari, or coconut aminos.  Or if you like gluten, go for the regular soy sauce.   My own predilection, after reading “Wheat Belly“, is to avoid where possible.

2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce.  This may not be authentic for Korean, but since some of the recipes I’ve seen posted online by Koreans call for fish cake, I figure this puts it up closer to a notch, and I have Thai fish sauce.

Ground pepper.  If you are using low sodium tamari, you may (or not) wish to add a little salt to taste.

Sesame seeds, at least a couple tablespoons full.

3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed.  Extra garlic powder if you like.

1/4 teaspoon (or so) of shredded fresh ginger.  (Remove the brown outer covering of the ginger on the area you plan to shred.)  Hate to say it, but I’ve never met any pre-ground powdered ginger from the supermarket worth the effort of shaking it onto food.

What you need to do:

You NEED to have your mise en place IN PLACE before you start the physical action of cooking.  Everything goes fast, and for at least the first times out, you need no distractions.   Be sure everything is out, chopped or cut accordingly, take a deep breath and go.  Traditionally, this dish is served warm, not hot; not cold.

Korean Japchae

Raw veggies in the waiting…

Set up a skillet for sauteing foods, and set up a pot with water in it for cooking the spinach and the noodles.

Prep the meat and mushrooms:  1.5 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, 2 tablespoons tamari or coconut aminos, two teaspoons of fish sauce, three cloves of smashed garlic, some ground pepper, and the shredded ginger.  Mix these all together, and set aside to marinate briefly.

IN THE SKILLET:

Keep in mind that veggies (with the exception of spinach) need to remain some crunch.  And the spinach shouldn’t cook to disintegration level.

Onions and Cabbage:  Add a little light (non-virgin) olive oil to the skillet, just enough to coat.  As noted in the ingredients list, a couple other oils may also work here.  Turn heat to medium high on the burner.  Sprinkle in some sesame seeds and some ground black pepper.  Saute the onion until translucent, stirring as needed, about 3-4 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium (where this will remain for the rest of the skillet cooking events).  Add the cabbage, and saute another minute.  Remove the onions and cabbage to a bowl, and return the pan to the heat.

Mung bean sprouts:  Add to the skillet, and saute, adding a little more sesame seeds (about 1/4 teaspoon), and stir as needed for a minute or so.  (At any stage where more oil may be needed, add it, but just as needed.).  Remove the sprouts to the same bowl with the onions and cabbage.

Snow peas:  Saute in that skillet, add oil if needed, but seasonings should be fine. A minute or two should suffice.  Remove to the collection bowl.

Bell pepper and zucchini:  Saute the bell pepper for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently.  After 2 or 2.5 minutes, add the zucchini, and perhaps more ground pepper and a few more sesame seeds.  Saute another minute and a half.  Remove to the collection bowl (which in my case was now terribly full!)

Meat and mushroom mixture:  Again, you know the routine.  Saute and stir.  About 4 minutes, but if the meat is chicken or pork instead of beef, try 7 minutes.

IN THE RANGE TOP POT:

Note — this is going alongside the skillet work, to save time.  I’m assuming that skillet and range top pot work are not always going to coincide, but as I saw tonight, it’s adaptable.

Korean Japchae

Cooked veggies, aside

Spinach:  Bring the water to boil, add spinach.  Poke down with any handy kitchen implement other than your hands… ;)  This is basically a blanch, we don’t want to cook this spinach WAY down.  After about 1-2 minutes of all the spinach being immersed underwater and really cooking, use tongs to remove the spinach to a SEPARATE bowl than the one we are collecting cooked skillet foods above.  Alternatively, drain off the water through a collander or sieve into a separate vessel (don’t throw this out!)   When the spinach gets cool enough, gently squeeze water out, and put the spinach you’ve so treated into that pile of vegetation from the skillet cookery sessions.  (You likely haven’t gotten to the cooking of the meat/mushroom portion yet.)

White Yam /Sweet Potato Starch Noodles:  Heat the pot of somewhat green-from-spinach-water back up to boiling.  Toss in the noodles.  Let them go for about 3-4 minutes.  Drain through a narrow sieve — some colanders will have holes too wide to restrain these noodles from escaping.  Rinse quickly in cold water, and add the non-toasted sesame oil to them in a separate bowl, mixing to keep these guys from clumping.

Toss everything described above together (when it is all DONE)  into whatever container holds them, add the additional tamari/coconut aminos, ginger, sesame seeds, and any desired garlic powder, salt and pepper, and serve.  It will be warm.  Leftovers can be lightly nuked.

Korean Japchae

Korean Japchae in the waiting container, near the end of the process of preparation.  Yes, I needed to add it to a pan, so everything would fit.

 

Here are a couple of helpful videos on the making of Japchae:

I’m not clear if this first person uses rice or white yam noodles, which is why I went afoul back in January.  I’d used rice cellophane noodles, and this was not the taste sensation I’d wished for.  It wasn’t bad, it simply wasn’t what I was trying for.

The second video throws in seeming buckets of sugar, which I REFUSE to do.  (If I want dessert, I will hunt down some good fresh raspberries, or some honest Dark Chocolate.)

And, here’s a recipe from The Domestic Man:  Korean Japchae. I didn’t adapt from his recipe as my original inspirations and attempt came from back around January, before I ran into his recipe, but this does look mighty good.  He used a tiny bit of honey; I might try that next time.

Korean Japchae

Local Japchae Take-Out. Yes, you can julienne in carrots if you wish.  They used tons more spinach when I first tried this in-house.  Well, actually the take out didn’t seem to have much, if any.  Alas. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Asian & Asian Influenced, Cooking, Meats, Mushrooms | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Dijon Viniagrette Salad Dressing

This recipe is simple:

Dijon viniagrette

Vinaigrette

Juice of 1/2 lemon
Add rice vinegar to make 50 mL / 1.7 fluid ounces total volume atop the lemon juice (I used one of those Ball half-pint canning jars, and just added everything directly to that.  The metric side of the scale on the jar was more convenient to me.)
1.5 teaspoon Dijon mustard
75 mL / 2.5 fluid ounces of oil.   I recommend a 1:1  mixture (approximately 37.5 L/1.25 ounces of each) extra virgin olive  oil to avocado oil.  See below, and no, I don’t expect this to be measured out Exactly!
Two teaspoons Penzy’s Herbes de Provence dried herbal concoction.  (I have also (first) used the Country French Vinaigrette mixture, but that one for some odd reason does contain sugar, if you are choosing to avoid).
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper (approximate)

If you don’t have the Penzy’s, or if it is no longer fresh (dried herbs go south fairly fast), you can make your own blend of:  rosemary, fennel, savory, thyme, basil, tarragon, dill weed, oregano, lavender, chervil, or marjoram.  Or simply find a good Italian spice mixture.

Lemon juicer -- handy for capturing the seeds

Lemon juicer — handy for capturing the seeds

The vinegar/lemon juice ratio to olive oil is 1 part acidic constituents to 1.5 parts oil.  The mustard, besides providing additional flavor, helps the mixture stay together without separating out immediately, and it seems — in these hands, at least — that this ratio of vinegar (water-soluble liquid) to oil is about the minimum oil you can use and keep the emulsion stable.  At any rate, add everything to your container, seal tightly, shake vigorously for 2-3 minutes.

Grey Poupon Dijon mustard.  I think this is the reason as a child I thought "gray" was spelled with an "e" here in America.

Grey Poupon Dijon mustard. I think this is the reason as a child I thought “gray” was spelled with an “e” here in America.

While I am a big proponent of healthy oils, as these are, a lot of recipes out there call for 1 part vinegar to three or even four parts oil.  I think a bit much.  I used rice vinegar and lemon juice because this cuts down on some of the acidity, while still providing flavor, which truly oil-based recipes do not.  They’re just sort of slippery!

Those Ball jars have both ounce and metric measurements on them, and things just happened to line up with metric when I’ve been making this, and thus I used conversion software for the English measurements.  Since this is not going to be canned for long-term storage — please DO keep this in your fridge!   Unless you have a pressure canner, (and even then, I really wouldn’t…) store this in your fridge for up to 6 days.

About the oils:  There’s been a lot in the news, especially after Consumer Reports helped break the item last winter, about the (lack of) truth in advertising regarding extra virgin olive oil.  As in the old joke, “Yes, virgin.  Virgin ten times…”  I surfed around and found an oil that seems to be accepted as the Real Thing, and although it costs a bit more, it is still not as pricey as some of the more dubious ones.

While I love the taste of quality extra virgin in any Mediterranean-based salad dressing (hey, I like olives on my pizza!), it is understandable that some would like to mute that flavor down a bit.  In addition, the stuff used alone tends to congeal up after three or four days in the fridge, which is decidedly rather unpleasant and beyond irritating.

Costco, at least mine, now sells avocado oil, which is both healthy, and seriously less pricey than at any other venue I’ve seen it at.  Avocado oil is a neutral-tasting oil, and has a high temperature cooking/flash point (which isn’t important if you are going to use it for salads), but finding it at Costco (serendipitously, as I was on the hunt for hearts of palm in that section of their store), I’m seriously sussed.  I’m recommending a 1:1 mixture of the two oils to each other at the moment, but certainly feel free to experiment on the ratio in either direction.

Avocado oil:  Chosen Foods/Costco.  EVOO:  Olea/Whole Foods.  Hearts of Palm from Costco and not in the dressing (but certainly welcome in the salads!)

Avocado oil: Chosen Foods/Costco. EVOO: Olea/Whole Foods. Hearts of Palm from Costco and not in the dressing (but certainly welcome in the salads!)

This originally was made to top a salad I brought to a recent potluck late April, and I’ve been fine tuning it ever since.

Posted in Condiments, Salads, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment