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March 26, 2006

Easy Tilapia

Mr. Spaceling suggested that I blog this recipe as Easy, Sexy Tilapia. I'm not sure how sexy it is, but it's indisputibly easy.


The Steps

  1. Put a little soy sauce on a plate or in a shallow dish. Put the tilapia filets down on the plate, and sprinkle them with a little more soy sauce. Let them marinate for 15-20 minutes or so, while you prep other ingredients for dinner.
  2. Heat butter and olive oil in a non-stick skillet. Pat the tilapia filets dry with paper towels, and cook them, about 2 minutes a side, until they are cooked through.

You can keep the filets warm in a 200 F oven while you make a sauce or something to top the filets with. I made a sauce by sauteeing sliced shiitake mushrooms for a couple of minutes, then throwing in a ton of sliced green garlic, followed by 1/2 cup of white wine and 1 cup of chicken broth. I brought everything to a boil and simmered for 10 minutes, and then stirred in a tablespoon of butter. (If you watch cooking shows, you know that this is called "monter au beurre", which makes it sound really sophisticated.) Spoon generously over the fish to serve.

The green garlic topping was perfectly tasty, but fell short of amazing. (I think the distinctive garlic flavor was overwhelmed by the long cooking - it tasted like leeks cooked with a bit of garlic, which is perfectly fine, but I can get leeks anytime. I still have another bunch of green garlic, though, so I'll give it a go with another preparation and see how it turns out.

The tilapia was terrific. It was moist, flavorful, and had a nice hint of crispy browness on the outside. Mmmmm. It's nice to have a good way to cook tilapia, since it's cheap (for fish), and nearly always available. I'll definitely be cooking tilapia again, though probably with a different sauce/accompaniment.

Posted by spaceling at 08:50 PM

Farmers' Market Haul - 3/26

Pickings were relatively slim at the Japantown farmers' market today. Spring may be here, but for the most part, the stuff on offer was the same stuff that was available in early February: Fuji apples, navel oranges, beets, turnips, chard, and assorted other greens.

But I did find one thing that's very definitely a seasonal springtime delicacy: green garlic. Green garlic looks a little like an overgrown scallion, with looser leaves up top, and a bulbous, purple-streaked white part at the bottom. And it smells like garlic. Mmmmm. I bought two bunches. I haven't quite figured out what to do with it yet.

The other cause for excitement at the market was that the mushroom lady was there, with fresh shiitakes. So I've got some shiitakes.

Today's total haul:

Posted by spaceling at 05:55 PM | TrackBack

March 22, 2006

Bhutanese Red Rice

I like brown rice. It's nutty, it's chewy, it's a source of whole grains. We all know how important whole grains are, right?

What I don't like about brown rice is how long it takes to cook. Most varieties take 40 to 50 minutes. Most nights, dinner doesn't take me 40 to 50 minutes to make. And even when it does, I'd need to be sufficiently organized to start the rice first. Since I'm the queen of winging it in the kitchen, I don't make brown rice as often as I might want to. (This is also why I don't make barley - another favorite grain of mine - all that often.)

There are a couple of brands of quick cooking brown rice out there - as far as I can tell, they're partially pre-cooked. I tried one brand, and thought it was kind of yucky. I'm told that Trader Joe's sells pre-cooked frozen brown rice that you can just toss in the microwave. Sometime when I get organized, I should just cook up a batch of my own, dole it out into single servings, and freeze them.

But, yesterday, I discovered an alternative that only takes 20 minutes to cook. Bhutanese Red Rice. It looks like a short-grained brown rice, but with a reddish tint to it. It really does cook up perfectly in only 20 minutes, and has a nice chewy nutty flavor to it. I just cooked it plain, but next time, I'm going to try this pilaf recipe here.

Posted by spaceling at 01:06 PM | TrackBack

March 20, 2006

Shrimp, Pancetta, and Spinach Salad

Here's a catchup entry. I made this salad earlier this past week, using, among other ingredients, the mystery endive.

This dish was very, very loosely inspired by a shrimp, bacon, and spinach salad that I had at Applebee's, of all places. It was really quite good, except that a) they overdid it a bit on the dressing (which, given the calorie count of most restaurant dressings, probably means they really overdid it on the calories), and b) the dressing had an oddly sweet undertone that I didn't care for. This salad does not sweeten the dressing, and I served the dressing on the side so that each person could decide how much they wanted. However, the dressing includes rendered bacon (well, pancetta) fat, which is probably not going to please health food purists. (I don't think that the amount is excessive, but some people just don't go for pig fat. You can always leave it out.)

This recipe makes enough to serve 2 people for dinner and have enough left over for one of them to have a side serving of salad for lunch.

Ingredients: Salad

Ingredients: Dressing

The Steps

  1. Cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium to medium-low heat until it is crispy and some of the fat has rendered out. Remove the pancetta to a plate. Pour off most of the fat into a small bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the shrimp on both sides with dried thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. Saute the shrimp in the pan used to cook the pancetta until opaque and cooked through. (3 to 5 minutes.)
  3. Toss the hot shrimp with the pancetta and all the other salad ingredients in a large salad bowl.
  4. Make a vinaigrette dressing using the pancetta fat, olive oil, sherry vinegar, thyme, and generous dollops of Dijon mustard. (I threw the dressing together pretty much by feel - you want roughly twice as much fat/oil as vinegar. Just whisk everything together vigorously, taste, and adjust accordingly.)
  5. Serve the salad, passing the dressing and a pepper grinder for people to apply to their salad as suits them.

Posted by spaceling at 10:33 AM | TrackBack

March 19, 2006

Okra and Shrimp Stew

I'm catching up here - I made this dish nearly two weeks ago, when I picked up that okra at 99 Ranch. It was tasty enough to be recorded for future reference, so I scribbled down a few notes, but I didn't get around to putting together this post until today.

One nice thing about this recipe is that it's really quick. It only takes about 20 minutes to put together.

I adapted this recipe from a recipe in Barbara Kafka's Vegetable Love. She had a recipe for an okra and red pepper stew. I beefed it up into a main dish by adding shrimp and tomatoes, and spiced it up with a little Cajun seasoning.

This makes a fairly brothy stew. I just served it up in shallow bowls, but it would be terrific over rice or couscous.


The Steps

  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the okra. Cook, stirring, until bright green, about 4 minutes. (The okra really does turn a nice bright green. Pretty neat.
  2. Add roasted peppers, tomatoes, Cajun seasoning, broth, and shrimp. Stir everything together.
  3. Bring to a boil, and cook until the okra is tender and the shrimp are cooked through. Maybe 4 to 5 minutes.

Posted by spaceling at 09:13 PM

March 18, 2006

Lentil, Mushroom, and Spinach Soup

I came up with this recipe to use up some stuff that I had in the fridge. I had a half a bunch of spinach left over from making the salad, and I had 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms that I'd intended to put in said salad before the salad took a turn in another direction. I also had some fresh thyme.

My first taste of this soup made me say, "Wow!" It is amazingly rich and hearty tasting, even more so than most lentil soups I've had. I'm not sure if the key is the red wine, or the mushroom bouillon that I used, or what, but it's good. And completely vegan. (Well, if your wine is vegan. I didn't check mine.)

The Ingredients

The Steps

    Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion starts to get translucent.
  1. Add the mushrooms, and cook another 5 minutes or so, until the mushrooms start to get tender.
  2. Add the red wine, and cook until it's reduced down considerably. (By at least half, I'd say, maybe a bit more.)
  3. Add the broth, lentils, and herbes de Provence. Strip the leaves off the fresh thyme sprigs and drop them into the pot (the leaves, not the stems). (Alternatively, you could just toss in the whole sprigs, and fish them out again before serving, but I like having the thyme leaves in the soup.)
  4. Bring the pot to a slow boil, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes (or longer), depending on how long it takes the lentils to be done.
  5. About 5 minutes before the lentils are done, stir in the spinach.
  6. Just before serving, taste and add freshly ground pepper and/or salt (salt probably not necessary if you used reconstituted bouillon) to taste.

Posted by spaceling at 09:16 AM | TrackBack

March 11, 2006

A Case of Mistaken Vegetable Identity, Part 2

So, I went to the supermarket this evening to get some stuff for dinner. I was contemplating a salad. A serious salad, with some nice, strong tasting greens. None of your wimpy iceberg lettuce salads. I wanted a salad which let you know you were eating something.

So, I got some spinach. And then I was browsing along in the lettuce section, and there was this lettuce with kind of spiky, frilly leaves. I'm not really good with my lettuce names, but I would have described it as frisee, or perhaps escarole. Or maybe chicory. I dunno, I'm not good with my lettuce names. I just eat the stuff. It was underneath a sign that read "Endive - $1.99/lb".

I get up to the checkout stand, and the cashier picks this stuff up, peers at it, and asks me if I know what it is. I say no, but that it was under the sign that said Endive.

She asks two other cashiers, and one of them very confidently says, "Oh, that's Belgian endive."

Now, I'm pretty sure it's not Belgian endive. We've established that I'm not good with my lettuce names, but Belgian endive to me means the tight oblong-shaped bundle of pale white leaves that costs a king's ransom.

The cashier rings in Belgian endive, and it comes up $5.99/lb. "Woah," says the cashier. "That had better be some damn tasty lettuce." She clearly doesn't believe that anyone would pay 6 bucks a pound for lettuce. I've done sillier things than pay 6 bucks a pound for lettuce, but I really don't think it's Belgian endive. The other cashier, who insists its Belgian endive, goes to check.

She calls back, and says that because it is under the sign that says "Endive", they'll give it to me for the cheaper price. I pay, and then wander home, wondering rather guiltily if everyone's general state of produce ignorance has procured me fantastically expensive lettuce for a bargain price.

Thanks to the wonder of google, I can now confidently answer that I got exactly what I paid for. Behold the following yourDictonary entry, which explains that endive can refer to either Chicorium endiva, also known as frisee, or escarole, or Belgian endive. The picture shows that what I've got is clearly not the Belgian endive, which is indeed the little oblong bundle of fantastically expensive white leaves.

When I next shop for lettuce, perhaps I need to bring a field guide. Anyone know a good one?

Posted by spaceling at 07:31 PM | TrackBack

Braised Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli rabe. A.k.a broccoli raab. A.k.a broccoli di rabe. A.k.a rapini. A.k.a yummy.

I know I've eaten broccoli rabe before. But I'd never cooked it before. And I don't remember it ever being this good.

This very simple recipe is adapted from Barbara Kafka's Vegetable Love.

The Ingredients

The steps

  1. Heat a bit of olive oil in a saute pan with a lid. Put it the broccoli rabe, and a generous sprinkling of red pepper flakes, and cook, turning with tongs until it is bright green and the leaves wilt.
  2. Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  3. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and cook about 8 minutes.
  4. Uncover, and boil off of the chicken broth a bit. (I was too impatient to let all the broth boil off, and a bit afraid of overcooking the broccoli rabe, so I just lifted the broccoli rabe out of the broth with tongs.

This was really delicious. I was bound to think so, since I've never met a leafy green I didn't like. However, Mr. Spaceling, who is somewhat suspicious of leafy greens and deeply suspicous of anything with the word "broccoli" in the name, pronounced this good. (I think part of the trick here is that broccoli rabe actually doesn't taste that much like broccoli. It actually resembles spinach in some ways.)

I'm definitely going to be cooking more broccoli rabe in the future.

Posted by spaceling at 07:00 AM | TrackBack

March 05, 2006

Farmer's Market Haul - 3/4

I've been cooking a ton, but time for blogging has been scarce. Perhaps I'll be able to catch up on the backlog sometime soon.

Today was pretty slim pickings at the farmers' market. Fewer stalls than usual, and not a lot of variety at the stalls that were there. I hope this is just a seasonal thing, and not a sign that the market is struggling. I think on the whole, the market must be doing pretty well - for a cold, cloudy, and windy morning in March, there were a fair number of shoppers.

So, today's haul was:

For a total expense of $8.65 (and half of that was the walnuts).

On my way back, I swung by 99 Ranch, where they had okra and snow peas on sale. I think I'm going to stir fry the carrots and snow peas with soy sauce and sesame seeds. I don't know what I'll do with the okra yet.

Posted by spaceling at 12:39 PM