Fresh Sardines and Salad – A Meal

Fresh sardines are nothing like the oily, salty things that come out of a tin (although there is a place for tinned sardines — more as an accent to salads, and perhaps, like anchovies, to pizza. Or, as a protein source for hiking and camping.)

This is a meal with sardines, a Brussels sprouts/shiitake stir fry, and some greens with quinoa.

Fresh Sardines

A Lunch of Sardines and Veggies (the apple was dessert)

To Prep a Sardine:

Get your fishmonger to scale them, although I am given to understand that the large scales are really quite thin and edible — but I don’t really want to eat them.  You can have him gut and clean the fish, too.

If you do it yourself — this is probably one of the few fish I’d scale indoors, in my kitchen, as the large scales (way out of proportion to the size of the fish!) are easy to find before they dry out and adhere to any neighboring surfaces within two yards, like other fish scales.  Use a paring knife and run it backwards from tail to head.  You can also buy a dedicated fish de-scaler; you may have to look on-line.

Now, I’m no stranger to finding yummy meat in fish heads, but, frankly, there’s nothing there to find on a sardine, so I cut them off, taking the lateral gill fins with it.  Using a pair of kitchen scissors (if your paring knife is super sharp, you can use that, as well), I cut the belly from neck to vent, pull out all the guts and dispose of them, rinse thoroughly, and then look inside.  If there is any dark brownish stuff, I scrape it out, gently.  This gets rid of all bitterness.  Rinse again, pat dry, and reserve.

Should you like to see a video of a variety of ways to go about sardine preparations, check this one out:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTzJdF5dtFo&list=UU6jTyW7Oyic1PJwrFr7_2iw&feature=c4-overview

This is one meal where you want to get everything in place before you turn on the range.

For the Salad:

Greens, a mixture. You can optionally add in cuke, baby (salad) turnips, shallot, as you wish.
Extra virgin olive oil.  1/8 cup.
Apple cider vinegar.  1/8 cup.
Mediterranean herbs, optional

For the Quinoa:

Prepared white and/or red quinoa, about 1/4-1/3 cup.  More if you want.
Red cabbage as garnish, thinly sliced
Some of the above oil and vinegar and herbs

For the Brussels Sprouts and Shiitake Mushroom side:

Olive oil for the skillet
1/4 cup sliced Brussels sprouts
about an ounce of thinly slivered mushroom
Salt, garlic powder, and pepper to taste

For the Sardines:

Olive oil for the skillet
2 sardines, prepared as described above
1/4 lemon
Lemon pepper and garlic powder to taste.  No salt needed, it’s a salt water fish and comes with its own.

Meal Preparation:

Arrange the salad ingredients and the chilled quinoa on your serving plate.

Mix the oil, vinegar and optional herbs together.  You will have to shake or mix these again just before serving, as there is nothing here to keep the oil and vinegar from retreating from each other.

Saute the Brussels sprouts in a large hot skillet (medium high)  with the oil until they just start getting a hint of brown, stirring often.  Add in the shiitake and seasonings, and continue stirring for a minute.  Put the sardines (patted dry) into the skillet on the far side of the veggies, along with its seasonings, also in a little oil. Cook for a minute, then flip them and reduce heat to medium low.  Stir veggies again.  I cover with a screen.  The fish should cook at least three minutes on that side before you flip them again — remove veggies now if they look ready — roasted appearance to the sprouts and semi-translucent appearance to the shrooms.  If not, move them around a bit on their side of the skillet.  Cook the sardines for another three minutes on this side, and if the fish is beginning to flake on both sides, you are ready to serve.

Plate everything.  Splash the re-mixed oil and vinegar over the greens, quinoa, the cooked veggies, and, should you wish, the fish.  And enjoy.  Fresh sardines should not taste “fishy”, although if your idea of an optimal fish is something like flounder, it will have flavor.  It should not be bitter, either, if you have checked your (or your fishmonger’s) initial preparations. 

To Eat a Fresh Sardine:  YES, there are a lot of tiny little bones in there.  They are edible, cooked.  I remove the backbone and the upper fin, but all those little fish ribs are good sources for dietary calcium.  The tail at this point should be crunchy, and is thus edible as well.

Nutrition Notes:  The sardine is a fascinating little fish, usually found wild-caught, and filled with healthy Omega-3′s and dietary calcium, as well as being a great source of necessary protein.  It is a sustainable fish, and very prolific in its breeding habit.   As it is so small, and low in the oceanic food chain, that it is not a mercury accumulator and, so long as it is fished in clean waters, should have a minimal if any toxin burden.

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Sweet Potato Latkes

It’s not going to happen again for another seven thousand plus years, Chanukkah falling on the same date as U.S. Thanksgiving (although it could happen sooner on other holidays somewhere).  This is an artifact of the Jewish calendar (more lunar-oriented) being different from the common one (solar-oriented) we use in the West.  I suspect I won’t be around for the next occurrence.

At any rate, I tried my hand at latkes, in honor of both traditions.

Sweet Potato Latkes

Sweet Potato Latkes

And, as sweet potatoes are a frequent item at Thanksgiving repasts (preferably without those silly marshmallows), I decided to combine the best of both worlds and make sweet potato latkes, gluten-free.  AND marshmallow-free.   Seriously, sweet potatoes are called “sweet” potatoes because they are already sweet enough!

Here we go:  (Makes 4-6 latkes depending on patty size; scale up the recipe accordingly but one large/extra-large egg may be sufficient for two cups of sweet potato.)

Sweet Potato

Shredding into ugly bowl whose saving grace is that it won’t break if it gets dropped, like my favorite trivet did yesterday.

1 cup shredded sweet potato (this is about one moderately large sweet potato).  You may wish to peel, first (I simply peeled off the thicker, rougher portions of the skin, removing most of it).  Next time I may try the super fine grating option, but this worked nicely.
1 large egg
1/3 medium onion, diced
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and ground pepper to taste
Oil for cooking (I used olive oil; sesame might add a new kick to this)

Sweet Potato Latkes

Mixture (prior to addition of seasonings)

Mix it all up with your hands, form some patties — make them thin and flat so they cook through without burning the outsides, heat up your oil to medium high, reduce heat to medium, or just under medium, as you add your latkes.  You can deep fry them, which is traditional; I chose not to — I used just enough oil to keep the skillet happy.

It is possible some of them may break up; they’ll still taste great, and most of mine held together just fine, only shedding a little potato on the edges.  Anyhow, about five minutes per side, then flip back for a final 30 seconds to the original side — so everything is hot.

Dish out, and serve.

Yes, it is now too late to make these for Chanukkah (or Thanksgiving) this year, but maybe this is something to think about serving at least twice next year!  (Or just plain anytime — I’ve never tried making latkes before, but I’ll certainly do them again.)

These are tasty and they are healthy — no added sweeteners, what can I say?  And they are quick and easy — three out of three ain’t bad!

Oh, I do want to say what I am thankful for:  decent health, good friends and family, making a few new classy friends this year (hello, Lis; Robin), finding an old friend or two as a blast from the past (hello, Kat; hello, Ken).  Finally getting my act together regarding my future retirement plans, and just simply beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  

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Roasted Cabbage and Fennel

I’ve long been a fan of roasted veggies.  Rub a little olive oil on them, stick them in the oven at high heat, with whatever seasonings strike your fancy, and remove and eat.

roasted cabbage, fennel

Ready to eat

This one turned out quite tasty, and the idea of adding mustard popped out of a different recipe from Melissa Joulwan’s new book, Well Fed 2:  More Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat. (which I hadn’t had a chance to crack open before writing my most recent cookbook post).

So, here we go:

Pre-heat oven to 400 F.

For Serving One Person:

About 1/2 of a small red cabbage, sliced thin. This one came from a farmer’s market and so is smaller in New England than your standard supermarket size.  (You can use green but note they tend to be larger.  Adjust amounts accordingly.) 
1/4 cup sliced/chopped fennel bulb
3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons or so of Dijon mustard
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds – I went on the heavier side, but base this on how well you enjoy fennel.  It goes further in veggie dishes than it does, say, in ground pork.
Salt and pepper to taste.  I went with about 1/8th teaspoon of salt and a good 1/4 teaspoon of Trader Joe’s Rainbow Peppercorn mix, which is my “go to” pepper mix these days.

Cabbage, Fennel

Ready to mix, sitting in a somewhat deep bowl

For serving two people:  Double everything except the garlic cloves (five is plenty) and the olive oil (1 tablespoon should be plenty)  You can also add in additional fennel bulb slices to taste — the above is what I had, as the rest of the bulb had gone, er, bad.  Place everything lovingly in a bow big enough to mix in.  Use your hands or a large spoon to mix.

Spread everything out on either parchment paper (recommended, if you have) or aluminum foil on a baking sheet, without large pockets of veggies — thin this out.  For two people, use a full size cookie sheet.

Cabbage, Fennel

All laid out and ready to go.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, remove, and serve.  It has crispy sections and moist sections, and that mustard added a whole new layer of complexity to this dish.  This turned out to be an excellent side.  You can also allow to get cold and serve on a bed of leaf lettuce, and maybe this would be a good lunch.

I’ve skimmed through Joulwan’s new cookbook, and am already pinpointing ideas to try.  If it is as good as her first book — and the recipes win me over by appealing to my international taste buds — it really doesn’t matter what type of food plan she, or anyone, follows — if you like good and real food, there should be several excellent somethings in the book for everyone.   And very few of her dishes could be called “pricey” to prepare.

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Too Many Cookbooks?

Cookbooks

Mother’s gift to me when I moved out on my own, Encyclopedia of Creative Cooking, on the far left.

Yes, probably, but I will let you know some were gifts, some were things I picked up at tag sales or library sales, and some were outright free from the book exchange table at the Litchfield Farmers’ Market (to which I have added a few of my rejected books on occasion).   I have a few, a very few, cookbooks on my Kindle, mostly free things dating from the turn of the past century, which are mostly of interest as period pieces, although I’ve occasionally attempted recipes from one or two of them.

Cookbooks

Food Journeys of a Lifetime was a brotherly gift. There are some vegetarian cookbooks in here, but I avoid seitan (which I pronounce “Satan”) and TVP.

I also surf the net for new ideas, but I find by buying specialty cookbooks based on specific topics or cuisines, I come across ideas I’d never have thought to search for, when I am in the mood for, say, exploring Japanese food.  (My absolute favorite recent cookbook is Japanese Hot Pots, by Ono and Salat, and at some point in the near future I will be posting meals inspired by that book).   Besides, many of my cookbooks pre-date the Internet explosion of good cookery.  I also like the re-working of sauces and condiments in Healthy Dressings, Sauces and Toppings, by Mark Sisson; and having them all at one place at my fingertips is worthwhile.  My friend, Kat, pointed me at Planet Barbecue, by Steven Raichlen, wherein I can explore styles of barbecue around the world — it’s not just a face-off among Texans, Kansans, and North Carolinians….  and especially in the summer, grilling is great fun, and who wants to rely on hamburgers and hot dogs?  (Well, I don’t.)  Nancy pointed me at The Zuni Cafe, a restaurant cookbook when I was visiting once; I think we ate an item or two from it at her place — and I had to order that one.

Cookbooks

On the far right, we start getting into my collection of Arthuriana books — you know, those things that relate to early Middle Ages King Arthur. I do read other things in addition to cookbooks.

I’ve actually come to a conclusion.  “How-To” books are to be bought, by and large, as books, as are art-focused books.  Cookbooks are “how-to”, as are home improvement, woodworking, food preserving, gardening, tree-identifying, tiling, home-building books.  I need the big print, rather than squinting down while working or creating.

Art books need a bigger screen/format than ANY Kindle or i-Pad can provide.  They need pages one can TOUCH.  I don’t buy many, but when I wish, I’d like to be able to view them as needed.

Other books, if available, will be bought as e-books.  I really am cramped on space and need to clear things out in my life.  I am also going to rely more on book “rental” from my local public library than I’ve done in my past.  At any rate, when I build my future home, the photo below will no longer be an issue, because there will be a convenient space in or near my kitchen to house cookbooks, WITHOUT having to stack them.   Stacking means you really really have to be dedicated to access any of the lower books in the stack.  Right now, my kitchen has ABSOLUTELY no room for a single cookbook.   (All photos in this post are from my current living room space.)

Cookbooks

Need to re-arrange quick for accessibility. Most but not all are new.  Hey, note the little llama down to the lower right?

Posted in Commentary, Cookbooks, Cooking | 2 Comments

Slow Cooked Beef Tongue

I’m very much a fan of tongue, and have posted about it once or twice in my career as a blogger.  I usually simmer it as Mother did, on the range, but I decided slow-cooking would be a fun way of preparation.  I could go out for the afternoon and come back, and dinner would be served.

Beef tongue, tongue

Beef tongue, after slicing. Most is reserved for other purposes.

Beef Tongue, one or two (I used two — makes excellent leftovers).  Use your kitchen scissors to cut holes into the skin, so flavors can seep into the meat.
A good tablespoonful of cloves
Pickling spices, another good tablespoonful *.  
1-2 onions, peeled but whole (unless really large; then halve them)
1-3 tomatillos, peeled (optional)
Any other veggie that takes well to slow cooking and would be good with vinegar that happened to come home with you…  Add as many as appeals to you!
Apple cider vinegar, to come up a third of the way of the height of the stuff in the crock pot.  (Alternatively, reserved dill pickle vinegar once the pickles are gone, which is how Mother handled this.) 
Water on top of that, to nearly cover the above.  This makes a water / vinegar ratio leaning a bit heavier on water. 

Toss everything in and set crock pot on high, and cook for 4.5 – 5 hours.  Admittedly, I’d set the timer for 5 hours, and came around the yard at the 4.5 mark, and the aroma was heavenly.  [Okay, I use the crock pot on the porch in the back yard, since my kitchen lacks space/outlets for a lot of these amenities...]   Aromas of clove, onion, meat… I removed one tongue at 4.5 hours and the other at five hours, and the samples I had for Sunday night dinner from each worked wonderfully.  I can’t vouch how it will be after being on all day while at work – next time I may experiment and put it on low for all day. But set at high, the skin came off the tongue with ease, and the texture of the meat was perfect at 4.5 or 5 hours.  Some foods really can’t take all-day crock-potting while one is at work (9 hours is great for brisket, but…), but that’s a future experiment.

beef tongue, tongue

One smallish beef tongue, whole. (You can also buy them pre-smoked, which is good — but expensive. These are $4/lb.)

Slice, and serve with:  a good brown deli or Dijon mustard; or horseradish; or horseradish mustard.  Serves 3 per tongue (well, beef tongue sizes WILL vary), but you do also have veggies going in that crock pot.

Tongue can be re-heated for future meals, or served cold.  Old-time New York delis still serve tongue sandwiches, and it goes nicely in Mexican tacos (sometimes you can find it in Mexican restaurants); and putting it into green leafy salads is a tasty option in the Goats and Greens household.

Since this is something we grew up on, I consider tongue comfort food.  And, yes, kid’s food. Hey, apparently we didn’t know better, but I still love it today. Yes, I know, I know… But until I subbed in sweet potato for bread, meatloaf (also served often then) was NEVER REMOTELY a comfort food, just something to tolerate as it was always dry and never moist.

* Pickling spices:  you can make your own mix, but I use the pre-mixed jar from Carluzzi’s, a local grocery chain, which sources from The Nutmeg Spice Company**.  It appears to have lots of bay leaf, more clove, and mustard and coriander seed, possibly other things.  I WILL upgrade to making my entire spice mixture myself,  eventually.

** The Nutmeg Spice Company.

Posted in Cooking, Meats, Offal | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Pork Chops with Apple & Onion – Simple!

I love good pork chops, and I saw a video where Civilized Caveman made these, and since I didn’t write anything down, this is my own take on what he did.

Pork chop, Apple, Onion

So yum I ate both servings

Serves 2 (although in my case I kept eating until they were gone…)  You can cook this ahead of time for lunches to bring to work, which is what I’d planned to do with the second chop….

2 bone-in pork chops, about 1/2 inch thick.
1 apple, cored and sliced
1/2 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ajwain (an Indian spice I picked up from Penzey’s — or have fun with your spice cabinet.  Nutmeg or coriander would be good.)
Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 275 F.

Use an oven proof skillet (so you don’t have to dirty two pans, but if you don’t have, you will have to dirty two pans), heat it to medium high on your range (which nowadays people call the stovetop).

pork chop, apple, onion

Sear the chops on both sides until slightly browned, just a few minutes.

Remove from heat, and briefly remove the meat.

Layer in apple and onions slices, and return the meat on top of the apple and onion.

Season.

pork chop, onion, apple

Place in oven for about 20 minutes, the pork will cook through nicely  and the apples and onions will still have texture.  Let rest for about five minutes, then serve.

Posted in Cooking, Meats | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Baba Ghanoush

When life gives you eggplant… make Baba Ghanoush!

Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ghanoush just about ready to eat — let it mellow in the fridge for a day, first

I did grow (one) of my own, and that was great, but it was only one.  Saturday I went to the Farmer’s Market, and one vendor was having a fire sale (er, pardon, frost sale) on peppers and Asian eggplant.  Unfortunately I only had so much cash burning a hole in my pocket, so I didn’t get the optimal amount of these things, but I think I did pretty well.    Price:  $1.00 for a pound, $0.75 for two pounds or more.  This was two pounds or more, and a couple of peppers are missing from the pic because they ended up in another dish before I thought to shoot this.

FM-e-p-

So, taking the two ball eggplants and the one large elongated one:

Eggplant – this quantity used was certainly a little over the size of one regular supermarket one.
Garlic – 2 large cloves, but adapt to taste.
Tahini – a very generous 1/4 cup.
Lemon juice – Start at 1/8 cup and taste-test up.  I ended up with over 1/4 cup but then again my tastebuds lean towards sour.
Oil for coating pan, either EVOO or sesame.
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Pre-heat oven to 400 F.

Slice eggplant into half, cutting off ends, stems and bad bits.  Place on oiled baking pan.  (If you are using a heavy duty supermarket one, you may want to soak it in a little salt water and lemon juice to draw off bitterness, after some initial cutting so that the salt can do its sork.  Soak for an hour, drain and dry before proceeding with roasting…)

Roast, covered, with a little oil (extra virgin olive oil, or sesame oil) for about 35-40 minutes.  Allow to cool so you can handle it.  Use a spoon to scoop the flesh out from the skin.  (For small Asian eggplants, you can leave the skin on, but it may be harder to mix, judgement call up to you.)

Combine eggplant flesh with all the rest of the ingredients, and mix.  You may need to use a food processor or a simple Smart Stick.  You can mix until total smoothness, or like me, you can mix to a still-granular, but combined, texture.   Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.  If your tahini is very dry  (mine came from a Lebanese source, and thus was not), you can add some extra olive or sesame oil (even toasted)  if desired.

You can let it sit for a while to develop flavor.  This will also freeze, if needed.  (You can also freeze straight-up eggplants, or so I was informed by the vendor, by blanching, then freezing.)  When serving, strips of cucumber, bell pepper, or celery could be good ideas.  I prefer just a spoon when it is just for me…

Garnish with cilantro or parsley, if desired.  Parsley would be more traditional to the region.

PS, this star veggie is also known as aubergine, in the British Isles.

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