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halibut en papillote

8 May

20130508-224013.jpgWhen J and I moved into our new place, we bought this big awesome dining table that seats 10 people. Rather ridiculous considering it takes up nearly half of our living room space, but we were determined to entertain!

It’s now been 6 months and we’ve had one dinner party…

It was a glorious meal, sans the fruit flies that decided to hatch in my mushroom growing box and terrorize us by dive-bombing our wine glasses. Though I must say, that’s a great way to go. Drowning in a juicy zin.

We started with this incredibly easy roasted feta with thyme honey, Castelvetrano olives, and a nutty, oily manchego smuggled in from M’s Spain trip. Heaven.

For our salad course, we did a super easy romaine with April Bloomfield’s lemon caper dressing featuring whole segments of lemons, capers, shallots, and mustard. I loved the idea of the dressing, but in practice it was just too darn mustardy to the point where it reminded me of the stanky smell of a Burger King whopper where the yellow mustard had been warmed by meat. Okay, I’m being a little extreme. Everyone really liked this salad except me.

For our main course, I decided on halibut en papillote. I prepared 8 individual packets ahead of time and popped them into the oven, while we enjoyed our cheese. It couldn’t have been easier and I could tell everyone was pleased to have a toasted parchment gift to tear open at their place setting. The halibut itself was perfectly cooked and delicate in flavor, since J and I trekked over to Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley for the best of the best.

halibut en papillote
an aquatic surprise

6-8 oz individual portions of halibut
handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
thin slices of fennel bulb
thin slices of lemon
splash of dry white wine
1/2 T butter, cut into pieces
parchment paper

Place a thin layer of fennel slices in the center of a foot-long piece of parchment paper. Lay one piece of halibut on your fennel pile. Season with salt and pepper. Top with a layer of cherry tomatoes cut-size down. Top with 2-3 slices of lemon. Place pieces of butter on top of the lemon and finish with a splash of white wine.

Begin sealing your packet by folding your parchment paper in half, from left to right, over your fish like a book cover. Start at the fold on at the bottom left and folder the corner over to form a small triangle. Continue folding over 1-inch sections of the paper at a slight angle, like the folds of a fan. As you work your way around the rectangle, you’ll notice you’ll begin to form a half-moon shape. When you come to the end, twist it like a butterscotch candy wrapper until your package is sealed airtight. Bake at 425 F for around 12 minutes depending on the thickness of your halibut.

Serve your parchment packages unopened and let guests tear open their own portions. Bon appetit!

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salt roasted branzini

13 Mar

I’d love it if someone would describe me as “salt of the earth.” In an alternate universe where I am a farmer or a coffee plantation owner with a shacky chic house and rattan furniture, it would be so.

The reality is that I am writing this post in the midst of a packed bus, wrapping my thumbs aggressively on my iPhone. There’s a large man to my left flubbing several inches over the seat demarcation and an old Asian lady to my right yelling on her phone so loudly that I can hear it through my earbuds (I’m blasting the hipster cool soundtrack from Drive).

Back to my salt of the earth fantasies… I’m slicing open my beautiful silver-skinned, clear-eyed branzini. I’m stuffing her belly full of thinly sliced leeks and lemons. I’m cracking an egg open daintily with one hand and stirring my whites into a bowl of powdery salt. In a few minutes I’ll delicately mound salt around my branzini like the sand sculptures made when I was a kid.

And when I crack into the hardened salt dome after baking, the scent of the sweet sea and citrus steams from within. In that instant, I can think of nothing more perfect.

salt roasted branzini
savoring the salt of the earth

* 1 tablespoons coriander seeds
* 1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
* 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
* 1 1.5-pound cleaned scaled branzini
* 1/2 cup thinly sliced leek (white and pale green parts only)
* 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
* 1 large egg whites
* 3 tablespoons water
* 3 cups coarse sea salt
* Extra-virgin olive oil
* Lemon wedges

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 450°F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with foil, leaving generous overhang. Combine first 3 ingredients in small skillet. Toast spices over medium heat until beginning to pop, stirring frequently, about 9 minutes. Cool spices. Coarsely crush in mortar with pestle or in heavy resealable plastic bag with mallet.

Rinse fish inside and out; pat dry. Sprinkle all of spice mixture in fish cavity. Stuff with leek and lemon slices.

Whisk egg white and water in large bowl to blend. Add salt. Stir until salt is evenly moistened. Spread 2 cups salt mixture in 3-inch-wide, 10-inch-long strip (or use more to equal length of fish) on prepared sheet. Place fish on salt. Cover fish completely with remaining salt mixture, pressing to seal.

Bake fish 15 minutes. Let stand in crust 10 minutes.

Using large knife, rap crust sharply to crack. Brush salt from fish. Cut into portions and serve, passing extra-virgin olive oil and lemon wedges alongside. Serves 2.

red, red meat: harissa tri-tip roast

20 Feb

Red meat. It’s arguably the most controversial of all meats, second only to foie gras, of course. There’s just something about tearing into a huge slab of bloody steak that makes a lady really feel like a lady.

Submitting to my carnivore cravings, an affordable yet hearty tri-tip roast made its way into the shopping cart. With a quick tap through the Epicurious app, I found an intriguing recipe for Harissa-Crusted Tri-Tip Roast.

Normally, I’m not much for African food. I always think of  blobs of mashed meats you have to eat with your hands shaped like a cup–no thanks! Harissa, however, is a spicy chili condiment that comes from Tunisa, which borders the Mediterranean and has a cuisine more akin to the Middle East than the Ethiopian African cuisine I tend to think of.

Making harissa appealed to my pseudo ethnically diverse culinary explorations–and doubly interesting because this particular recipe utilizes one of my very favorite Asian chili pastes, sambal oelek, cousin of more famous sriracha. Oddly enough, when my harissa was all blended it up, it tasted reminiscent of Taco Bell mild sauce. This is a truly international recipe, indeed!

As for how the harissa tasted on my tri-tip roast… it was hot, garlicky, tomatoey meatliciousness! Loved it. And, it added an appealing red slather atop my beautiful slab of red meat.

harissa-crusted tri-tip roast
red, red meat

* 1 3/4 teaspoons caraway seeds
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 6 garlic cloves
* 1/4 cup sambal oelek
* 2 tablespoons tomato sauce
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 1 1/4 teaspoons chili powder
* 1 1 3/4- to 2-pound tri-tip beef roast, most of fat layer trimmed

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toast caraway seeds in small nonstick skillet over medium heat until seeds darken and begin to smoke, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add olive oil and garlic cloves to caraway seeds in skillet. Cover; remove from heat. Let stand 1 minute. Pour caraway mixture into processor. Add chili paste, tomato sauce, cumin, and chili powder and blend until garlic cloves are pureed. Season harissa to taste with salt.

Sprinkle beef all over with salt and pepper; place beef, fat side down, on rack on rimmed baking sheet. Spread with half of harissa. Turn beef over; spread remaining harissa over top and sides. Roast beef until thermometer inserted into center registers 125°F to 130°F for medium-rare, about 35 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes. Slice and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

portugese bean soup

25 Dec

I woke up with the sun today — I always forget how brightly it shines here in Hawaii. It’s Christmas day and it will be no less than 85 degees with golden sunshine and breezy tradewinds that will keep me from sweating too much.

For the rest of the nation, it’s probably a soup day. You know what I mean, after tearing open your pile of presents, it’s time to cosy up next to the fire and play with your new Kindle Fire (anyone actually buy that sh*t?). For lunch or dinner, nothing sounds better than a hearty bowl of soup made by mom or grandma.

While Christmas shopping, I spotted this cookbook at Williams Sonoma. 365 soup recipes?! Ridiculous and yet a mental note was filed under “must-haves.” It’d be even more ridiculous if I still lived here in Hawaii because no one eats soup here. That is, except for Portugese Bean Soup!

Made with smoky ham hocks, Portugese sausage (like a spicy linguica with a bit of stink, made locally in Hawaii), vegetables, beans, and macaroni, it’s a classic peasant food–hearty, filling and economical. It’s the best soup you could eat on Christmas day, or any day for that matter.

portugese bean soup
hawaiian style

1 smoked ham hock
1 (10 ounce) portugese sausage (or spicy cajun-flavored pork sausage, or even better, kimchi portugese sausage)
1 onion, chopped
2.5 quarts water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 celery rib, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 (15 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 head cabbage, chopped
1 (15 ounce) can white kidney beans
1 cup macaroni

Place ham hock, half of the chopped onion, and water in pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Meanwhile, slice sausage into bite-sized pieces (I like cubes) and saute until browned. Add half of the sausage into boiling mixture.

Remove meat from ham hock, chop, and return to soup (I toss the skin back in for flavor). Add two bouillon cubes, potatoes, celery, carrots, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and garlic. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, boil macaroni according to instructions on package. Drain and set aside.

Stir in cabbage and kidney beans, cook until the cabbage has softened, about 10 minutes. Spoon soup into bowls and stir in a scoop or two of the macaroni. You can also add the macaroni directly into the soup pot, but it will get soggy after awhile.

ottolenghi’s soba noodles with eggplant and mango

10 Oct


Lately I’ve noticed more and more of my friends and their kids have grown allergies to certain kinds of food: dairy, gluten, nuts, fruit, chocolate (sad!), etc. I don’t know if science has improved allowing us to identify specific allergies, or if it’s a result of over processing our food to the point where our bodies begin to reject everything. Thankfully, the only thing I’m sure my body doesn’t agree with is Indian food, but that’s another story.

So when it comes to potluck parties, I always try to bring a dish everyone can enjoy sans epipen. With a vegetarian on the guest list, I turned to my newest cookbook acquisition, Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, famous in the UK for his gourmet food-to-go shops and vegetarian column in The Guardian.

I’m a huge eggplant fan. Any Asian variety will do–I just cannot stand the standard American-Italian fatties that are chock-full of hard seeds. I scooped up a giant bag of six Chinese eggplants on the discount shelf of the Chinese grocery store. 3-bucks…SCORE! I also found ripe mangos (you definitely need ripe ones for the sweetness) in the discount bin for a buck. Old school Chinese!

I let this baby sit and marinate in its juices for the 2 hours as directed and wow, did the flavor intensify! The noodles got a little mushy too, so I’d say an hour max.

soba noodles with eggplant and mango
vegetarian brits make great asian food? yes.

* 1/2 cup rice vinegar
* 3 T sugar
* 1/2 t salt
* 2 garlic cloves
* 1/2 fresh red chile, finely chopped
* 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
* grated zest and juice of 1 lime
* 1 cup sunflower oil
* 2 eggplants, cut into 3/4-inch dice
* 8 to 9 oz soba noodles
* 1 large ripe mango, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips
* 1 and 2/3 cups basil leaves, chopped (if you can get some use Thai basil, but much less of it)
* 2 and 1/2 cups cilantro leaves, chopped
* 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly

In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chili and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.

Heat up the sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the eggplant in three or four batches. Once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain.

Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 5 to 8 minutes to become tender but still al dente. Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a dish towel.

In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.

let’s go fishing: 3 fish recipes

13 Sep

The older I get, the more nostalgic I tend to be about days gone by. Especially when it comes to TV.

I’m finding myself a little misty-eyed as I watch this old episode of Fishing Tales with Mike Sakamoto, a super local Hawaiian fishing show and favorite of my grandpa’s in the ’80s. Grandpa would whistle happily along to the “Let’s Go Fishing” theme song as he was in the kitchen cooking dinner–at times preparing fish that he had caught himself fishing that day.

I don’t pretend to be as talented of a fish cook as my grandpa, but I do like to experiment with a “fresh catch” from the Berkeley Bowl now and then. Here are three of my latest endeavors: 1) Classic Misoyaki Butterfish, 2) Baked Sockeye Salmon with Capers, 3) Lazy Ono (wahoo) with Scorched Tomatoes.

1. Misoyaki Butterfish is a no-brainer. You’ll see this served at many restaurants these days as Miso Black Cod. I can’t say I really care which fish it is, I just love any fatty oily white fish marinated overnight in miso, sake and sugar, broiled until lusciously caramelized. Your chopsticks will slide elegantly between each flaky layer of fish, right into your mouth. The secret is to wipe off all of the marinate before you cook it, otherwise caramelization will not occur!

2. I found this recipe for Baked Sockeye Salmon with Capers on Epicurious–it was all an elaborate excuse to utilize my new iPad in the kitchen. I had purchased two lovely vibrant pink filets of wild sockeye salmon from Berkeley Bowl and dug through my pantry to cobble together a recipe. While not the most gourmet recipe, you can’t really mess up impeccably fresh salmon with a bit of garlic, evoo, and capers.

3. I was tired and hungry after work one evening, when I happened upon Trader Joe’s frozen Hawaiian Ono (wahoo) steaks. I improvised a quick pan sear, then scorched some grape tomatoes in the crusty pan. I buttered up the pan juices and poured the lot of buttery brine over my pasta. Happiness!

1. misoyaki butterfish
japanese comfort food at its best

* 1-2 lbs filets of butterfish (makes enough marinade for 2 lbs, but I made just 1 lb for 2 people and really slathered it on)
* 3/4 cup white shiro miso
* 2 T red miso (optional or use more white)
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/4 cup sake
* 1/4 cup mirin
* 1 tsp soy sauce

Combine miring, sake, and sugar in a small pot. Bring to a simmer stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, until all the alcohol burns off. Remove from heat, and add soy sauce to stop boiling. Slowly add the miso and mix until sauce is creamy. Do not ever boil miso. Once the sauce is cool, coat all sides of your fish and place into a glass baking dish or ziploc bag. Marinate for at least 24 hours for thin filets, or 2-3 days for thicker black cod steaks.

Preheat oven to 450-degrees. Wipe the marinate completely off of the fish (this is important to achieve caramelization, and bake 5-8 minutes. When fish seems almost cooked, broil for an additional 2-3 minutes until well caramelized. Serves 2-4.

2. baked sockeye salmon with capers
salty, briny, garlicy
* 2 lbs wild sockeye salmon filets
* 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 2 tablespoons capers
* 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
* salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375°.

Wash the fish in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Coat a baking dish with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Lay the salmon down in the pan, skin side facing down. Distribute the capers and garlic slices between the filets. Sprinkle with a liberal quantity of salt and black pepper. Pour the remaining olive oil over the fish. Put the dish in the preheated oven and cook for 16 minutes. Let it stand for a few minutes before serving. Serves 4.

3. lazy ono with scorched tomatoes
simple evening din din from trader joes into your belly

* 1 or 2 ono (wahoo) steaks about 1/2 inch thick
* large handful of grape tomatoes
* olive oil
* knob of butter
* salt and pepper
* cooked pasta

Drizzle olive oil all over the ono steak, then sprinkle on salt and fresh cracked pepper on both sides.

Preheat a pan on med-high and cook the steaks 4 to 5 minutes each side. Ono is a quick cooking fish, so be sure not to over cook it! Once the ono is cooked, remove and plate it with the cooked pasta.

Add grape tomatoes to the pan you cooked the fish in, and roll the tomatoes around until they’re scorched on all sides. I like to squish a few of them to create a juice that deglazes the fish crusties in the pan–rub the brown fond with a spatula until mixed with the tomato juices. When the tomatoes are soft, add a knob of butter. Once melted, pour everything over your fish and pasta. Serves 1.

not so healthy turkey spinach meatloaf (hint: bacon)

8 Sep

I had all the best intentions. I was going to make a healthy version of meatloaf. J and I had watched this Chow video on Roku with the recipe for what promised to be the most delicious meatloaf, ever. A meatloaf infused with spinach and swathed in bacon for the moistest log of meat you’d ever seen.

I took a risk. Instead of using the prescribed combination of ground beef, pork, and veal, I selected turkey (*gasp*). Meatloaf, no. Foulloaf, maybe? J was bugging me to cook more healthy meat, so this was our compromise: turkey wrapped in bacon.

Though a bit tedious (you gotta get out a blender), this recipe produced a luscious loaf even with my substitution of turkey. I also like that you pat the mixture into a loaf pan instead free forming it.

The turkey oozed a layer of fatty scum that enveloped the beautiful slices of bacon preventing them from becoming golden brown–that was pretty much the only downside. The bacon flavor still penetrated as I hoped it would. I also opted for a pre-made Trader Joe’s organic pomodoro sauce and it blended right in as if I had made it be scratch, too. Definitely delicious, but it’ll be real meat next time.

spinach meatloaf
from the new new york times cookbook, via chow + foul

* 1 (10-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
* 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey (or a combination of veal, beef, and pork if you prefer)
* 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
* 1 medium garlic clove, minced
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
* 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/2 cup small-dice celery
* 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
* 1/4 cup whole milk
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
* 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
* 3 bacon slices
* Tomato sauce, warmed, for serving

Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Rinse the spinach well in cold water and drain. Place in a large frying pan, cover, and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. (It is not necessary to add liquid; the spinach will cook in the water clinging to the leaves.)

Transfer the spinach to a colander and douse with cold water to chill. Drain and press with your hands to extract most of the moisture. Coarsely chop the spinach.

Place the meat in a large bowl, followed by the chopped spinach, breadcrumbs, garlic, measured salt and pepper, and nutmeg (no need to mix yet); set aside.

Place the celery, parsley, and milk in a blender and blend until puréed. Add to the meat mixture.

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat until foaming. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add to the meat mixture.

Add the eggs to the meat mixture and, using clean hands, mix everything until evenly combined (don’t squeeze or overwork the mixture). If desired, test for seasoning by forming a small patty and cooking it in the small skillet over medium heat until no longer pink inside. Taste the patty and add more salt and pepper to the meat mixture as needed. Repeat the seasoning test as needed.

Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, spread to the edges, and smooth out the top. Cover the meatloaf with the bacon slices, laying them lengthwise and side by side.

Bake in the oven until just cooked through, turning the pan 180 degrees halfway through, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Pour off the excess fat and let the meatloaf stand for 20 minutes before slicing. If you choose, serve with tomato sauce.