Breakfast: Eggs, Liver and Asparagus

I had this two mornings in a row; the first day it was two hen eggs and a little more onion than shown here.

Liver for breakfast, eh?  Well, I noticed they were selling it in strips at Whole Foods — I wasn’t going to have to get a pound or so of it, and it was from a pastured animal.

Eggs, Liver, Asparagus

Breakfast is energizing!

At any rate, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with liver.  In my youth I was to go in for surgery but was sent home to Iron Up on liver, iron tablets, and whatever metallic shavings my parents could force down me before returning a month later for the surgery.  (I made that up about the metallic shavings.)

At any rate, I was not over fond of the item, liver and onions, for the longest time…

But I always loved chicken liver pate, and liverwurst.  And liver is supposed to be good for you, if you find the right livers.  So, I decided to have a go at this.

The Recipe

About 3 ounces of beef liver, sliced thin
1 or two eggs
A handful of asparagus, broken up
A few slices of onion (total amount about shallot-sized, roughly chopped
1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional, I’ve been throwing it into food for its health benefits)
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon of whatever you are using for cooking oil/fat (I had a bit of duck fat in the fridge).

Prep everything and get it into place, including cracking the eggs into a small bowl.

Turn the heat for your skillet to medium high, and get your cooking oil/fat up to temperature.

Cook the onions first, stir them around, until they turn translucent and perhaps even brown slightly.

Add the asparagus for a minute, moving it around, and reducing heat to medium.

Make an area to rest the egg(s) and add.  (If you have an electric oven, you may wish to lift the skillet off the heat source for a moment or so.  Scorched egg whites are Not Pretty.)

Mix the veggies on the other side of the pan again, move them aside and add the meat.  Throw most of your seasonings on everything (I just use the mustard on the liver, though).

Flip the liver after 2-3 minutes, and add more mustard or other seasonings as desired.  (If you wish to flip the egg(s), do so now.)

Cook another two minutes, and plate.

Do NOT over cook your liver!  If your liver is thinner than mine was, cook for less time.  It should be rare/medium rare, and if you are eating quality liver, rare is very tasty.  A medium-done liver is a fair replacement for shoe leather,  and for some reason, really intensifies that livery taste.

&&&

Oh, yes, another visit to the farmer’s market!

Once again, hitting up local edibles!

Once again, hitting up local edibles!

Today’s capture:  duck and hen eggs, Asian eggplant, a chicken, salad greens, plums, red gold potatoes, two types of onion, okra, golden beets, purple bell peppers, and squash blossoms.  Already consumed: one potato (scalloped, for lunch) and some of the beet greens.

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Pork Carnitas (for a pot-luck crowd)

I love many varieties of “ethnic” foods, and enjoy attempting to re-create some of these in my own kitchen.  I’ve focused more on Asian and Mediterranean, and less on south of the (my) border, but I love Mexican, Peruvian and Brazilian as well.

So anyhow, for a local pot luck, I signed up to make pork carnitas — which would be one of several things stuffed into, say, soft tacos or taco shells, that other people would provide.  You can also turn this into a lettuce wrap, which would be my preference.  Or, you could eat this straight up if you are so inclined…

Pork carnitas

Served!

Warning:  This is NOT going to be quick and easy!!

This is the blog post recipe I more or less followed, from The Yummy Life:

http://www.theyummylife.com/carnitas_shredded_pork

  • 1 approximately 5.25 lb) pastured pork shoulder butt, fat removed, broken down into 8 chunks.  Because this cut has bones, the portion sizes were not identical.  (My source used lean loin meat, but with pastured meat, there is some lean-ness already there, and you do need a little fat for tenderness and flavor.)  After excess fat was removed, and the bone factored out in dinner calculations — although the bone was cooked in — I’d say between 4.5 to 5.o pounds meat. Do cut out any fractured segments of bone your butcher may have missed!  When we are done creating this meal, no one but no one should be looking for sharp edges of bone!
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt.  Ooops, what’s that?  Okay, I pre-seasoned the meat with one teaspoon pink Himalayan salt, 1/4 teaspoon each of Aleppo ground chili (a mild ground chili obtained from Penzey’s), and Trader Joe’s ground Rainbow Peppercorns.
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil, sourced from Costco.  I’d rather do this than canola oil.  Frankly, canola oil appears to be better than corn oil, or generic vegetable oil, but since there’s some discussion there still ongoing, I’ll do the avocado oil thang, if it remains sourceable from the less-expensive Costco.  I probably didn’t do the full 2 tablespoons, but then again, I didn’t measure.  I’m thinking one heaping tablespoon. Ghee also has a high flash point, and would be good for browning meat.
  • 1 cup low sodium, vegetable broth, from the box is fine.
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper.  (I used one teaspoon, roughly speaking,
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 2 cups salsa verde (store-bought or homemade). I ended up using 16 ounces of store-bought, which is a little shy of 2 cups, but next time at any rate it will be home-made.
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed

Rub down your meat with either seasoned salt, or with a mixture of salt, Aleppo ground chili and ground pepper. Let sit a few minutes.

Heat your skillet or Dutch oven to a medium high, add the oil.  Wait a couple more minutes, then add the meat.  I used the divided portion concept – half of the meat was browned; then the other half.  Brown the meat on each side — including edges — about 4 minutes each side.  As you go along, the meat will more readily brown, due to the residues in the skillet, and so some sides may take less time.  Set aside when done.

Add all the meat to the crock pot,  and use the veggie broth to de-glaze your skillet or Dutch oven, pouring all this over into the crock pot when done.

Top off the crock pot with all the other ingredients except the three spices at the end.  (Sigh when your jar of salsa verde isn’t quite 2 cups worth!)  It will do.

Set the crock pot to cook on HIGH, for 4 hours.  If you have smaller chucks of meat, you can check it at 3.5 hours.  Meat should be tender and fall apart, without shredding up entirely.  (Some of that will happen later…)  At any rate, if you want to run this on LOW, you can use 8 hours, but be forewarned that doing this while you go off to work has to take into account your commute time, your lunch time and your traffic and errands going home time, which for me turns this into about 10 or so hours, rendering the pork obnoxious…  Alas.)

Pork Carnitas

At the end of the crock pot stage, prior to shredding and then de-fatting (in the fridge overnight)

Break and roughly shred up the meat using two forks, and discard any bones. Return to the liquid, and allow to cool to a fridge-friendly temperature.  Refrigerate overnight, and remove and discard that crusty fat which forms at top before proceeding further.

(You CAN take a whole day to make this meal (using a de-greaser) and serve it that night, but since I knew what the day of the pot luck was going to be like in my life, I opted to do the above about three weeks in advance — and yes, there was also out-of-town/vacation time to consider in between.  So, I picked a weekend where I could crock pot, and then refrigerate it overnight, remove and discard the fat, and then freeze the rest.  Obviously, your needs will differ.)

Back to the meat — place it in a baking dish, and to this you want to add about 3 cups of the de-fatted liquid, which appeared to be just about what I had, so I added it all back to the meat.  I also added in the coriander, cumin and paprika, and mixed it up with a spoon.

Bake at 300 F for 30 minutes, pull from oven, and mix it up.  Return to oven and repeat, pulling it back out at 15-20 minute intervals hereafter to mix again.  What you are trying to do is cook off the extra water, concentrating the flavors, but without drying out the meat (hence the mixing).  Do this for as long as it takes to get to a consistency you like.   This may take a couple of hours or so.  I like a little liquid to remain; dry carnitas are not to my liking, although you can certainly find them at restaurants.

Back for seconds... the pork carnitas are at the bottom.  Everything was SOOoooo tasty!

Back for seconds… the pork carnitas are at the bottom. Everything was SOOoooo tasty!

Eat them straight up, make lettuce “taco shells”.  Another attendee at the potluck supplied optional hard and soft taco shells of the traditional corn variety.  There were lots of cooked dishes and various Mexican condiments (and Margaritas), too.

The source websites:

http://www.theyummylife.com/carnitas_shredded_pork — for the bulk of the recipe; I did vary out on the cut of pork to something more nutritionally dense and flavorful, and the oil source, and the broth source; and went with pink Himalayan salt over the ambiguous “seasoned” salt.

http://paleofoodiekitchen.com/2013/04/slow-cooker-carnitas/ — for the three spices added in last in the process.  It just didn’t seem “Mexican” enough without them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Meats, South of the Border | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Korean Gaji-Namul (Eggplant)

One of my favorite veggies (technically, it’s a fruit) is the eggplant, especially the low-muss, low-fuss Asian variety where the skin is thin and very edible.  Known as the aubergine if you speak the Queen’s English, this plant is in the nightshade family, related to tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and belladonna.

Last weekend, I found a bunch of the thin Asian style at the local Farmer’s Market, very reasonably priced.

Ye Ole Farmers' Market Venture

Ye Ole Farmers’ Market Venture

My happily-gotten gains from the Market:  a dozen chicken eggs, a half dozen duck eggs, a yellow cuke (looks like a lemon), an English cuke, Asian eggplants, tomatoes, red leaf lettuce (the stuff I’m growing has passed its prime), baby leeks (which I will use like scallions), a bulb of garlic, a purple bell pepper, and a bacon/spinach quiche and two small packs of frozen portabella mushroom sauce made with heavy cream and some great seasonings.  This last is intended for use with pasta (the vendor makes home-made pasta, and his establishment is named Fresh Pastabilities) — but I mix it with stir fry veggies or with ground meat, since I’d prefer not to eat pasta.  His other ultimate flavor is sage/pumpkin, but that one is seasonal.  

So anyhow, I surfed around for a recipe that would have some sort of Asian background, and would have items in it that I already have in-house,  and which would be healthy.  No breading, no deep-fat-frying.  I substituted the baby leek for the green scallions, and I assume most readers will have better access to the scallions (I usually do, too).  I increased the garlic, and added button mushrooms, and went with coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.  (The tamari I currently have in the house is a little too strong…)

My source website for this recipe is http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/gaji-namul.  Maangchi seems to have a wonderful touch for her native Korean foods, and I’ve been wandering through her website a lot currently.

This dish is perfect for a Meatless Monday.  Maanghi considers it a side dish, but I’m planning it for dinner for a couple of nights.  It is a quick dish,  and eggplant is “meaty” enough to be filling.  I added in the mushrooms to her recipe since I didn’t want this to be “totally” about eggplant!!  There is such a thing as too much eggplant at once!  (The dish actually proved to make two main meals plus a side, so estimate 5 or 6 side portions if you wish to do it that way).

eggplant aubergine gaji-namul

There’s a lot more in this bowl than appears. Unfortunately not the most photogenic of dishes, but it tastes great! (And no, those aren’t Korean chopsticks…  And yes, that’s wild strawberry and nitrogen-fixing white clover in my lawn.)

4 thin Asian eggplants, cut into about four sections (about 2 inches long each) and then lengthwise once.
4-5 ounces small button mushrooms (if you can’t find small, cut them in half).  
2-3 green onions (or baby green leeks), root removed and chopped coarsely
3 cloves garlic, peeled, and crushed.
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil (roasted or plain)
3/4 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (adjust up or down according to taste or tolerance)
2.5 – 3 tablespoons of tamari or coconut aminos

You can do the eggplant and mushrooms any of several ways.  Steam for about 10-15 minutes in a steamer, then drain.  Nuke for a few minutes in your microwave.  Roast at 425 F for about 25 minutes with the above oil, covered.  Or, grill, with the oil.  (I ended up roasting them.)

Wait for the eggplant/mushrooms to cool down just so you can handle them.  Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl, and shred the eggplant by hand — the author says they taste better this way, rather than cut with a knife — and plop that into the bowl, too.   Add everything else — if you roasted or grilled you don’t need to add any more oil.  Mix; your hands will be most efficient.

Serve.  As a good option, set up as many plates as you will be feeding, lay down a bed of lettuce on each, and add this dish.  It’s served warm, not hot or cold (although I did nuke the leftovers to hot when re-heating).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Asian & Asian Influenced, Cooking, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Lobster Salad with Tomalley Dressing

As you’ve probably gathered by now, I tend to eat everything except the squeak on things I cook.

Lobster salad, tomalley dressing

Lobster Salad with a Tomalley Mayo dressing

They had a Fourth of July sale on lobster near by, so I bought one for eating later the following week.  I simply cooked it, picked all the meat out, and reserved the green tomalley (lobster liver) and the shells.  The shells are frozen for future fish stock, and the tomalley (pronounced like the Mexican “tamale”) was set aside for dressing for the lobster.  I love lobster, but I only buy it on sale,  or when I’m in Maine or Rhode Island.

Back in 2008 the FDA issued a warning about eating tomalley at that time, due to red tide (a plankton problem, producing a toxin lobsters — and various molluscs — might ingest), and this warning shows up on Internet searches (with that date), but at this point eating tomalley on occasion isn’t harmful, and is without red tide problems.  Generally speaking, it can be quite nutritious.  Just keep abreast of red tide alerts.

At the bottom of this post, I’ll discuss how to cook and how to shell/pick your lobster for salads.  Most of you won’t need that information.  Right now, let’s get right into the Meat O’ the Matter:

Lobster Salad with Tomalley Mayo Dressing:

The Salad

Chilled lobster meat from one lobster, de-shelled, broken into bite size pieces where needed.
Lettuce
Raddoccio or other non-lettuce green (endive?  small bits of celery?)
Onion greens or scallions
A slice of onion bulb, finely minced
Hearts of palm, sliced
Rinsed capers
Tomalley Mayo, see Dressing below
Lemon slices for garnish, if desired

The Dressing

A little more liquid than I wanted, but still solid enough

A little more liquid than I wanted, but still solid enough.  It didn’t separate.

1 whole egg (or two egg yolks, but the whole egg is supposedly going to help make a thicker mayo)
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice, squeezed from the lemon
1/2 tablespoon white wine or apple cider vinegar (I did the latter, it was what was here)
1/2 teaspoon ground white (or black) pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup oil — I used 1/2 cup avocado oil, and 1/4 cup regular olive oil.
Tomalley from one lobster (approximately two tablespoons)
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence.  Try Penzey’s.  

The Method

For the dressing, I essentially cribbed from the truly excellent book, The Ancestral Table, by Russ Crandall.  While he doesn’t use tomalley,  I needed a healthy base, and his promised that.  (PS, at the moment I don’t get paid for links to Amazon or anywhere else, but I am planning on changing this in the near future…)

Bring all ingredients to room temperature.

Mix up the eggs or egg yolks, lemon juice, condiments and indeed everything but the oils.  You can do this by hand or with a whisk, but have everything ready for a blender such as an immersion stick blender, or one of those old-fashioned hand-held blenders with the twirlybird electronics that your Mom probably used (I have her old set).  You can also plop this into a blender, but this sounds like a mess to clean up after, what with the oil.  If you are really talented with the whisk, you can do this without electricity, too.  I’m not.

Slowly drizzle in your oil mixture (both oils already combined together).  Mix, stir, or blend.  Add oil gradually.  Eventually you’ll get it.  Eventually you can start adding more at a time.

My result wasn’t as sturdy as a store-bought mayo, but it didn’t separate, and was quite good.  The tomalley taste is subtle, and adds good protein to your food.

For the salad, just simply add everything above together, or whatever salad ingredients float your boat, or are at hand.  By the way, that lovely lettuce was from my garden.  Also by the way, turning that lobster into a salad provided me three meals from one crustacean (not counting the shells waiting in the freezer).  The photo was taken with the garden lettuce and the dressing; the fancier salad makings described above didn’t end up with any camera intrusions…

Reserve the extra dressing for some other seafood dish.  I’m thinking if you grill up salmon or crab cakes, this might be good on top.  Or reserve it for a regular salad of greens.  Since this dressing includes seafood, I’d only store it in the fridge about three days, tops.

Please enjoy!

Cooking the lobster:

Get a pot of water to boiling (deep enough to submerge your lobster/lobsters).

Get your live lobster (1.5 pounds or thereabouts).   Place in pot, and cover.  (If you are feeling so inclined, you can put your lobster in the freezer for about half an hour prior to cooking, to numb his nerves.)

When the water returns to boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for ten minutes; remove from pot and allow to cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes. (Or, go ahead and skip the below, and just dine while still hot!)

Shelling the Lobster:

For shelling lobster, I find it handy to have to hand the following:

A good paring knife
A good nutcracker
A lobster pick (a grilling skewer can also work)
A spoon (for the tomalley retrieval)
Two bowls, one for the shells and the other for the meat.
Paper towels
Optional:  A tall mug of tea or coffee, just for you, while working.  Oh, hey, how about a glass of wine?

Lobster, Tomalley

Tomalley to the bottom right

I prefer to shell my lobster out doors.  This way, I don’t have to worry much about splatter.  And lobsters do splatter.   I also don’t have to worry about cats jumping in my lap while I am working (like one did just now as I typed this sentence).   Which brings me to sanitary practices especially if you are going to be serving the salad to others.  Save any nibbling to the end, and be ready to jump up and go back inside to use hot soap and water on your hands or any equipment any time during this process (which is what I did) or have those antibacterial towelettes to hand with you.

Tear off the tail, and use the knife on the inner portion of the tail, cracking down the “ribs”.  Pull out the meat, and remove the dark “vein” that runs down the back side of the tail.  Discard (yep, there are some things I don’t save…).  Any hunks of orange-red matter are lobster roe, and this means you have a female.  You can eat this, too.  If you desire it, put it in with the meat pile.  A note about the tail — at the very end of the tail are little flippers – some choice-tasting meat lurks within.  You won’t find much there, but I reward myself with them while collecting my future salad.

Break off the claws where they join the main body.  You can usually snap off the small pincer of each claw without using any tool.  But use the pick or skewer to tease out the meat it contains.  Break the other pincer off from the rest of the arm, and use the nutcrackers to break into the meat there.  (On occasion, the pincer will not break this way — a nice flat rock underneath and a hammer above will do the trick…).  There is a thin piece of cartilage in this part of the claw — remove it since you don’t want to run into it while dining on your salad.  (Yes, it can go into the shell pile…)

Crack into the other segments of the lobster arms, and save the meat into the salad pile.

Tear off the little legs (spinnerettes) on the sides of the body.  If meat comes out of the body at that point, reserve that meat.  It is up to you if you wish to suck out the meat from the spinnerettes (another snack while you are shelling!)  or if you wish to toss them, meat and all, into the shell pile.  I opted for the latter.

Use the spoon to pull out the tomalley — you could do this earlier in the shelling process, of course.  Reserve separate from the lobster meat itself.  (And yes, I know some of you will simply… discard.  Oh well.)  You can usually retrieve at least a couple tablespoons’ worth.  Break off the large torso shell, and then, gently, retrieve body meat from between the interior cartilage, avoiding the fibrous-feeling “lungs”, which are also not edible.  It helps to have good light.  Your patience level will determine how much meat you save from here, but it is worth collecting at least some.  The rest can end up in the shell pile, and thus in the freezer.

Cat and Lobster: the cat is a bit bored.

Cat and Lobster: the cat is a bit bored.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Commentary, Cooking, Salads, Seafood | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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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