Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Fish and more

Yesterday I went down to my folks to help with fish butchering,  my Dad and brothers were back from a 5-day fishing trip out of San Diego with a bunch of large fish – mostly Albacore, but some Bluefin Tuna and Yellowtail too.  You’ve gotta love a family who likes to get together with big sharp knives.   We tried a new way to skin the albacore (which was demonstrated on the boat by the cook), which was pretty quick, but usually took off a chunk of the belly meat.  I have heard that on some fish (like Salmon), the belly is the best part, so we decided to cut off the chunk and save it was kind of thin and small for cooking.  My idea was to make fish burgers from it, my brother was thinking a doing some kind of a quick sear on it like he does with bluefin.  Everyone else just thought we were nuts (but had the biggest knives).   Anyway, I did make fish burgers with the belly meat when I got home (with a large cooler full of fish, nicely vacuum packed), and they turned out quite yummy.  
The more:  we spent last weekend in Colorado Springs (where the daily high temperatures were lower than lows in Phoenix) with wonderful friends who also love to cook and eat, and dish which got the most raves was crab cakes.   Which are the more famous cousins of fish burgers.    We had with a bit of mango salsa.  Yum yum.   Both recipes are below.
One note, there is a trick on cooking both of these (which had very similar consistency before going into the pan):  you need to flip once.   You need to very carefully peak to see if they are brown on the bottom.  A well seasoned pan, or non-stick skillet is another must.  Good eating!
Also – does anyone have any experience buying crab in Phoenix?  I am sure that AJ’s and Whole Foods must carry it, but have never seen it (maybe because I haven’t looked) at the fish counter.
Fish Burgers:

1 ½  teaspoon olive oil
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup minced red bell pepper
1 lb tuna, chopped in ¼ inch or smaller dice
1 egg, lightly beaten
2-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt, the mustard is already pretty salty)
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
Start with making a fruit salsa… see the next recipe, mango salsa, or your favorite (you might even be able to find one pre-made, but it only takes a few minutes to put one together, especially since you are already chopping onion and bell pepper).
Saute the onion and bell pepper until soft in the smaller about of oil (use a large pan, you will use again to cook the burgers).  Transfer to a medium bowl, and let cool.  Add the fish, mustard, egg, parsley, a bit of salt and some pepper. Mix with a wooden spoon. Put a piece of plastic wrap on a place, form 4 patties on the wrap, and cover with more plastic.  Refrigerate for an hour (or at least 20 minutes, I suspect they will hold together better if let sit longer).   To cook, heat a nice layer of olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Pan fry, flipping once, until each side is lightly brown and crispy (about 4 minutes per side).

Serve on buns, with lettuce, and salsa, I like a little mayo too.
Pineapple (or plum) Salsa
1 cup chopped Pineapple or plum
¼ cup finely chopped onion (green or sweet are good)
¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons minced ginger

Mix all together in a glass or ceramic bowl, refrigerate (best if sits for an hour or so, this will hold for a couple of days).      Next day – good with chips, in a salad with some goat cheese, etc. 

Crab Cakes (see hear for original and reviews)Adopted from The Barefoot Contessa

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup small diced red onion (1 small onion)
1 1/2 cups small diced celery (4 stalks)
1/2 cup small diced red bell pepper (1 small pepper)
1/2 cup small diced yellow bell pepper (1 small pepper)
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons crab boil seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound lump crabmeat, drained and picked to remove shells
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten for frying
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil

Place the 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons oil, onion, celery, red and yellow bell peppers, parsley, capers, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, crab boil seasoning, salt, and pepper in a large saute pan over medium-low heat and cook until the vegetables are soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, break the lump crabmeat into small pieces and toss with the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs. Add the cooked mixture and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 
Heat the butter and olive oil for frying over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the large spoonfuls of crab mixture, flatten into patties (epxect to get 6-8) and fry for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until browned. Drain on paper towels; keep them warm in a 250 degree oven and serve hot.   Can also do a bite sized for a party, they reheat very well.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse

For me, biographies test to fall into two groups: ones I love, and ones I hate.  This was definitely a love.   It's told like a story, and even though there are lots of dates and people, its done in a way that's easy to read and follow along.

What really impressed me was Alice Waters, and how the author brought you a feeling really knowing her, warts and all.  Of course I knew of her, have at least one of her cookbooks, and knew that she is considered the "Mother of California Cuisine".   This book walks you through what she has done, how she has really changed the culinary landscape (literally... small farmers, organic, local).  But what was really interesting to me was how she did it.  She had a great skill: knowing what tasted good, and how to get something to taste just right.  That skill, combined with passion and energy was able to lead profound changes to what we eat in good restaurants (and some of us, at home), without things like good public speaking skills or people management skills.  She knew what she wanted, but often could not clearly articulate a vision.  She was not good a public speaker, was horrible about managing money, did not give others credit where credit was due, and many, many times let others "save"  her when things were going the wrong direction.  She is profoundly talented to react to what she saw or tasted.  She led in a way that only a women could.  And I suspect, in a way that was more possible 30 years ago than today.  But fortunately, she has both established herself and matured.  She has re-focused her energy on kids, and providing an environment where they can learn what is good about food.

The other wonderful thing about this book is the descriptions from Alice on how to cook things.  Not recipes per se, but how something should look and feel, how to go about cooking something marvelous and simple.