Bouillabaisse–for one or two.

I’ve decided that one of the things that I should always have in my freezer is some good quality frozen fish.I like it packaged in individual servings so that I’m not trying to figure out what to do with the remains of a meal of fish. True, a bit of “leftover” baked, broiled, or even pan-fried fish can be turned into chowder…or tuna or salmon can be “re-purposed” into a salad. However, as much as I like fish, I’m not really into it as a leftover so it’s either get it from the fishmonger/supermarket, or in individual Cryovac packages. I do like variety in my fish so I usually check out the fish counter at my local Harris Teeter or The Fresh Market anytime I’m there–and if lucky, come home with something special like monkfish,  “manager’s special” tuna steaks, or wild-caught salmon. I do bring home the occasional tilapia (though with some thought to the downside of the farm-raised fish).

I love Chilean sea bass but that’s just not in the budget for everyday fish although my freezer does have some that I found at Costco. My favorite standby fish is cod. Firm, tasty white fish that lends itself to cooking in many different ways. Again, my favorite source is Costco.

I’m also fond of reading recipes–if only for inspiration rather than mindless to-the-letter following. Skulking through my inbox today I found an email from Bon Appétit that provided some interesting reading: recipes for cod–an interesting collection that all looked tasty.

One particularly caught my eye was poached cod with tomatoes and saffron–which brought to mind another cool-weather favorite that I don’t make all that often unless I’m making it for friends: bouillabaisse. Looking at this recipe made me wonder why I hadn’t made an effort to make mini-bouillabaisse for myself. It’s really just poached fish in a yummy tomato soup.

Though bouillabaisse typically has lots of different kinds of fish and seafood in it, I could certainly start with a single-serving size piece of cod and add a couple things. My Harris Teeter fishmonger is used to me ordering strange quantities, so probably wouldn’t bat an eye over two shrimp and a scallop–or maybe even a clam or two.

Taking this basic recipe for poached cod, I’d need to add a couple things to recreate the taste of the traditional bouillabaisse: most notably some fennel and pastis (licorice-flavored aperitif).

Mini-bouillabaisse

Ingredients

SERVINGS: 4
  • one 4-5 ounce skinless cod fillet
  • 2-3 shrimp
  • 1-2 scallops, clams, or muscles.
For the poaching liquid (from the Poached Cod with Saffron)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (with juice instead of adding water)
  • ¼ cup dry white wine (keeping this instead of using  fish stock)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Adding for traditional bouillabaisse flavor:

  • scant 1/4 cup diced fennel
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons pastis/Pernod (season to taste)
  • 1/2 medium onion or 1 small leek

Preparation

  • Sauté leek and/or onion in olive oil until softened.
  • Add garlic and sauté until fragrant but not browned.
  • Add tomatoes, wine water, fennel, bay leaves, pepper, and salt and simmer 10 to 15 minutes to let flavors meld. Reduce to a bare simmer.
  • Add cod filet and about 3 minutes later add the shrimp, scallop, clams, or mussels and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes (until the shrimp begin to curl, the scallop is opaque, and clams or mussels open.

If you want to bulk this up for extra hungry people, add cubed potatoes while the soup base is simmering and cook until almost tender; then add fish and continue as above. There is more soup/sauce here than is needed for one serving. Put it in the freezer for the next time you want bouillabaisse for one–you’ll have a quick meal–even if it is only a fish filet without the extra seafood.

A rather traditional accompaniment to bouillabaisse rouille, a garlicky “mayonnaise” to dollop into your bowl but I don’t always make it. Bouillabaisse can be eaten without it.  My favorite is the version by Anthony Bourdain with the roasted red peppers, egg yolk, and lemon, and lots of garlic. My most often-used version of  rouille uses a mayonnaise base as it’s faster and easier (from Saveur). Traditionally this would be made with soaked breadcrumbs or egg yolk and  other ingredients into which olive oil is emulsified–like mayonnaise. The mayonnaise version is easier for single-serving, solo cooking. (If there’s any left over it’s good on a sandwich or with other meat since I don’t use the fish stock in it.)

Rouille (my version)

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic mashed to paste with pinch salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • a squeeze of lemon juice, to taste

Preparation

  • Blend garlic, paprika, saffron to a paste with a few drops of water if necessary.
  • Add to the mayonnaise
  • Add the squeeze of lemon juice to taste, and salt to taste.
  • Thin with a few drops of water if necessary.

 

 

 

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Pesto variations

I get the impression that lots of people think “pesto” means what we consider “traditional” basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan.and/or pecorino romano blended in olive oil. The name really refers to the method of preparation–pounding or crushing using mortar and pestle.

With the convenience of a blender or food processor you don’t have to do the laborious pounding so this is an easy, no-cook sauce–right up there with gremolata  or persillade to at zip and zing to summer (or winter) dishes. It’s also a way to preserve some summer bounty into the winter when you want to resurrect a bit of summer–when you have an excess of summer herbs, make it, and freeze it.

As hot summer weather looms, pesto of various sorts is great for use in lighter meals–pasta, bean or legume salads, and with summer vegetables. Bon Appetit just posted recipes for different kinds of pesto–with recipes: 22 Pesto Recipes for When You Want Greens *and* Cheese might just provide some inspiration for summer meals.

Go ahead, get wild an crazy with variations on the traditional basil pesto!

A son gôut!

Just have to share this duck recipe!

I love duck breasts–it’s a great way to have duck when you are trying to do single-serving cooking since the breasts are readily available frozen from the supermarket. There are some in my freezer now, and one of my favorite citrus fruits is a lovely blood orange.

I was just perusing the WordPress and my FaceBook updates and saw this recipe for “Duck and Orange Salad with Duck Crackling”  from Mrs Portly’s Kitchen.  The pictures came very close to having me drooling all over by keyboard–such perfectly cooked duck and that jewel-like blood orange gel!

I’ve never tried cooking duck breasts without the skin–but that would make it much simpler than searing them with the skin on but this looks like it would be well worth every bit of effort. And the crackling–yum!

I think I saw blood oranges at The Fresh Market last time I was there!

Christmas evening supper

Christmas eve–what’s for supper? Your basic duck breast, pan-seared and dressed with some of the spoils of my visit to Bull City Olive Oil. Just a take-off on a vinaigrette, but what fun. A nice fatty duck breast pan-seared so that the skin is cracklin’ crispy–with a very simple sauce–fruity.

Turn off the smoke alarm so you won’t be interrupted while cooking. You need to start with a skillet that will tolerate high heat–it needs to be almost smoking hot to begin–and no worries about sticking given the fat in the duck skin. I used my favorite carbon steel skillet–very well cured (now black and nonstick), and has the advantages of cast iron, without the weight. Just the right size for two duck breasts.

20161224_173256I had thought that perhaps just a drizzle of one of the infused vinegars would be good, but after tasting the vinegars with a piece of breast that was loose in the package, I decided it needed  more complexity, so I started with  extra-virgin olive oil infused with mushroom and sage–awesome as a condiment in its own right, but for nice fatty duck it needs to be brightened a bit with one of the infused balsamic vinegars. Decisions, decisions!

I had black mission fig, black cherry, and blackberry with ginger. After tasting I decided that blackberry-ginger was what I wanted this evening, though any of these would have been good with duck. I didn’t use typical vinaigrette proportions but I did emulsify the oil and the vinegar (1:1). The mushroom-sage oil is very earthy and a great contrast to the fruitiness of the blackberry with that little spark of ginger.

20161224_174026To prep the breasts I patted them dry and scored the skin side, careful not to cut into the meat–just to help the fat render while pan-searing. You need a very sharp knife so that just the weight of the knife pulled across the skin will cut into it. Then I salted the meat side of the breasts and let them sit for about 20 minutes to season.

After patting them dry I put them into a  very hot skillet, skin side down, and cooked until most of the fat rendered and the skin side was brown and crispy (about 5 to 8 minutes), reducing the heat a bit to keep them from getting too brown before a sufficient amount of fat had rendered. Then turned them and continued to cook until the temperature was 135ºF by instant read thermometer (about 5 minutes).

While the breasts were searing, I whisked the oil and vinegar together, and got the roasted potatoes out of the oven. While the breasts rested (and continued with carry-over cooking), I poured off the excess fat from the pan, left just enough to  sauté a mix of  baby arugula and radicchio for a side. Very quick. Very tasty!

The bitterness of the arugula and radicchio was a great contrast to the richness of the duck, and the blackberry-ginger/mushroom-sage sauce. (Blackberry and sage are awesome together–makes me want to try a sorbet with that combination.)  The Les Hérétiques wine (old vine Carignane grapes) has lots of berry fruit (blackberry  with some earthiness, and minerals) all in all a great wine for this meal even though it’s just my “house” wine.

All together a very flavorful supper for no more time than it took.  So many possible flavor variations possible with this simple sauce. A son gôut!

Ò¿Ó

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My fat cells and I

It’s amazing how easy it is to ignore what the scales, the mirror, the doctor, and clothes are telling you–until you get a look as others see you–a video of you going about your normal activity. As you watch, it’s more like watching another person, and you have a sudden OMG-it’s-really-true moment. You suddenly know that the time has come–that repeated New Year’s resolution that you’ve “renewed” umpteen times and not kept must finally be faced. (Hotel bathroom mirrors are almost as revealing–big, usually with door mirrors too so you get an all-around look in really bright light, too.)

You review all the experience that you’ve had with “diets”–the Atkins (worked like a charm but not sustainable because of the ban on fruit, beans, milk, and dairy products except cheese. The New Atkins–for the same reasons. You read the books evaluating low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets, high-protein, Mediterranean diet, and the French Paradox and feel like a real wuss because you’ve not been able to keep to the latest thing you’ve tried. You even check sites that have BMI computations available–everyone gives you the same answer: you’ve moved over from the overweight into the “obese” range. Then there’s the video–wonderful hive inspection but the beekeeper.

9781455533862I bought the latest diet book on the market–the day it was released–Always Hungry?.  I read it, and think about it, and then I saw myself in a video, And the jig is up! You know you’ve deluded yourself when looking in the mirror, looking at photographs, and feeling how your clothes fit.

So reread the book–really read the book (including the recipes and the meal plans). To add motivation, (since the book discusses movement) I’ve dug in the “junk” basket on the bookcase shelf, and in the drawer where stuff accumulates and, finally, found the pedometer. Now I have numbers to show how truly sedentary I truly am! Scary.

Back to this food plan. Refined sugars are a no=no, but that’s not a real problem because your sweet tooth is chocolate dependent. Soft drinks are not in the in this house fridge anyway. But there are pasta and beans on the pantry shelf. From experience I know I  like (maybe even love) complex carbohydrates, aka starches. Those and milk have been the stumbling blocks every time before–but this food plan allows legumes and milk even in the initial phase. There’s one ounce of dark chocolate allowed daily even in Phase 1. This “diet” for weight loss is a plan for moderation. Phases 2 and 3  (essential since you really, truly like food) allows judicious reintroduction of some of the things you most like (baked white potatoes), at least on an occasional basis and still maintain weight loss.

Since some basic sauces are essential for the food plan, I decided to start with some that would need routine weekly preparation and those that I thought I would like particularly well, to give me an idea of how things the recipes are seasoned.

After reviewing the list of permitted foods (again), this book moves to the kitchen. Trying some of the recipes since in the past food plans have always seemed too contrived. Well, the recipe for Blue Cheese Dressing (All Phases) on page 263 seems like a good place to start since it is a favorite. Can’t you eat the lettuce so you can have the blue cheese dressing? Recommended to make a wide-mouth mason jar (have) and immersion blender (have). The prep time estimate was accurate–really fast and easy.. (Since blue cheese is a strong flavor, I prefer more tartness, so I replaced the tablespoon of water with an additional tablespoon of lemon juice.  Tastes splendid so score one for the food plan Bring on the crudities. This sauce is a keeper even if it is on a food plan for weight loss!

So one tasty recipe doesn’t make it acceptable. I like (and make at home often) vinaigrettes and use oil and vinegar dressings. The Lemon Olive Oil Dressing (All Phases), page 269, is straightforward and a good balance of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. If you make this in tandem with the blue cheese, you don’t have miscellaneous bits of leftover lemon.

[There’s a bonus to using mason jars–they have gradations on the sides so with just a bit of planning you won’t even have to wash a measuring cup. If you use a kitchen scale, you might not even need measuring spoons. (I’ve noted weights of things like 2 tablespoons of lemon juice with the recipes).]

Next  for testing,  I chose Creamy Dill Sauce (All Phases). This sauce is a bit more complicated than the first two but noted to keep for 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Again, using a mason jar and scales it was easy to put together.Knowing that I tend to find many recipes under-seasoned, and over-salted, I did use 2 small garlic cloves, substituted 1/4 teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika for the “dash of paprika” called for in the recipe. I found it a bit lacking in the lemon flavor with only the lemon juice, so I added 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest. After allowing it to stand for a few hours, I was pleased with the tart dill, lemon, and slightly smoky flavors. (This is easily modifiable without changing the balance of protein/fat–ancho chili or Aleppo pepper could be used.

The final sauce that I made to test was Lemon Tahini (All Phases), page 269. Taking my taste for garlic and tartness into account, I used a large clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons extra lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest.

My clean up after making these sauces (in very close to the prep time given in the book and with a little more experience and organization I’m sure I can decrease that):

  • one chef’s knife
  • one cutting board
  • one set of measuring spoons
  • one spatula for scraping down the side of jars
  • immersion blender
  • microplane grater (for lemon zest)
  • one citrus reamer

I can certainly deal with that. Leftover from this prep, one lemon minus zest (lack of organization on my part–next time I’ll just zest all the lemons before squeezing them)

I didn’t have to buy anything that wasn’t already in my pantry except dill and parsley, but since it’s winter, that’s not a negative thing. I’m certainly not going to have to rearrange my kitchen to accommodate, although the immersion blender will need to live somewhere slightly more accessible.

Sauces, as important as they are, don’t make a meal plan. The recipe for Broiled Fish with Garlic and Lemon (All Phases), page 232, looks like a good way to start testing the main dish recipes. It is simple, and besides, it’s very easy to cook fish, although I don’t use the broiler much–but this recipe works as well as those for the sauces. The serving of cod fillet that I cooked with this recipe was for one–so only about 6 ounces. In order not to overcook the fish, I seared on only one side and then finished under the broiler. . I broiled the fish for 8 minutes (the minimum time suggested in the recipe). Broiling it on the lemon slices with the olive oil and garlic worked: nicely garlicky and great lemon flavor. This is another keeper!

Three things that are called for frequently are mayonnaise and  Ranchero Sauce, page 272. I’m going to opt out of those since I can get a palatable mayonnaise made without sugar (that I usually buy anyway) and I have a favorite salsa that lacks sugar in the ingredient list.My local Harris Teeter grocery has a store brand hummus that is without sugar, so I’ll likely also opt to use that instead of making it at home.(There are resources on the  website  to facilitate the plan.)

Now that I have a feel for the seasoning used in these dishes I think I can use many of the recipes provided with the meal plan without having to alter my pantry much at all. After looking at other recipes, I find several that I am looking forward to trying: Ginger-Carrot Soup (All Phases), Red Lentil Soup (All Phases)Chocolate Sauce (All Phases), and Cabbage Casserole (All Phases). A lot of these recipes lend themselves easily to improvisation with herbs and spices, too–another plus for preventing boredom.

There’s only one “special” thing I have to buy–whey protein for the occasional Phase 1 Power Shake. Because of the stress on the balance of macronutrients emphasized in each phase, I will do that. (The thing sounds good when you consider what else is in it).

After rereading the permitted foods, I’ve decided I can do without pasta if I can have legumes and the prospect of adding some pasta and bread in later Phases 2 and 3. With my physician’s words bouncing around in my brain, and that horrible BMI, I CAN do this. It’s about moderation–and chocolate, whipped cream, and wine (after Phase 1) are allowed. It’s about moderation and balance of the amount and quality of protein, carbohydrate, and fats consumed. It’s also about not having to revamp my pantry or suffer deprivation.

This project has to involve getting off my butt and doing more walking and movement, too! That’s likely to take more effort than eating the right things, given how sedentary my work is. But, needs must!

Ò¿Ó

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There is a lead-in phase where you get ready–for three of those days I’ll be on the road or at a convention, but once back home, this starts. No more procrastination!  After sampling the sauce recipes and the broiled fish, I certainly feel more positive about the meal plans that I ever have about any other weight-loss meal plan. (The blue cheese sauce added to egg salad is good–lots of room for improvisation with the recipes, still keeping the macronutrient balance.

I’ll admit to one slight frustration with this book: recipes are listed by name under an entry for “recipes”. Cabbage Casserole appears just where you’d expect it. Coleslaw you will find only if you look for “Tangy Coleslaw”. When trying to locate the recipe for the fish, I couldn’t remember the specific name–fortunately, broiled was in the title so it was close to the first of the list.

Though the main focus is not as a cookbook, but on nutrition and weight loss (index very useful for this), just a few simple entries throughout for main ingredients such as “cabbage”, “polenta”, or “shrimp” would be helpful. But, I shouldn’t complain–I know space considerations often dictate what can be included or what must be cut. I’d happily settle for smaller print in the index (even if it meant getting out my reading glasses) to have those extra entries.

 

 

A strange coincidence this afternoon

I truly love technology, especially when it lets me find marvelous things. If you’ve been here before, you’ll note the change of format. Well, it’s entailed a LOT of editing, link checking, replacing photographs that somehow disappeared in the switch.  So, I’m likely a little squirrely side. (Frankie would probably flat-out bitchy since the last time he walked across the keyboard.) I was just editing a blog post on Roast Duck with Fresh Fig Sauce, thinking that since it’s summertime, there will be figs. . . .

My email popped up notification of a  “like”  from a blog that I just discovered and started following.   From Alfred’s with Love.  WordPress put this one up on my list of recommended blogs yesterday, and I went to check it out.  I liked, I followed.Thank you, WordPress!

I’m seriously addicted to good writing about food, eating, dining, or even just the occasional graze, or an excellent sandwich (See Bibliography page).  As usual, the WordPress email included some links–Sea Bass and eat it caught my eye, and I was just roaming around. Perhaps because I had just been looking at duck on my blog I pulled down the recipe index and clicked on duck.

What I found first was Duck à l’epoisses. Epoisses is one of my two favorite cheeses (the other being Brin d’Amour or Fleur de Maquis).  I’d never thought of combining it with duck until I saw this recipe, and it’s left me drooling on my keyboard, even if it is so hot right now that I’d not want duck for dinner. This is a keeper of a recipe–come some cooler days and I’ll be looking for Epoisses cheese to try this (unfortunately it’s not one that I can just walk into the cheese shop and get here in Durham).

You’ve got the links here; you really should go check out this blog because there delightful reading, and some great anticipation with the recipes.

Easy Foolproof Béarnaise Sauce

Béarnaise sauce is great. It can be made without a lot of fuss as you see here.

Stefan's Gourmet Blog

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Béarnaise is one of the classic sauces from French cuisine and it is great with steak. The traditional way of preparing it au bain marie requires quite a bit of skill, as the sauces curdles easily. It also requires you to make clarified butter first. And even though you should make clarified butter to cook the steak anyway, using a slightly different technique you can make sauce béarnaise easily with minimal risk of curdling.

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Last night’s dinner: a nice juicy steak cooked sous-vide and then seared quickly in very hot clarified butter, hand cut fries, sauce béarnaise, a green salad, and a nice glass of Saint-Émilion Grand Cru.

There are some variation on the recipe, but the basic idea of béarnaise is a hollandaise with tarragon. Some recipes also add parsley and chervil. Some recipes use tarragon vinegar, but instead you can just as easily use the stems of the…

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