Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Failed Fish

Just when I'm getting all excited that I'm starting to master fish, I have one of those dinners that feels like a total flop.

Tuesdays are the night we have my father-in-law-to-be (Chris) up to dinner. Usually I try to do something new. Yesterday it was chinese style fish steamed in foil (from Sally Schneider).

Chris is always big on saying I can cook anything, but yesterday I proved him wrong.

So to start off I had surgery on Monday so there I am sprawled on the couch at 4:30 trying to psyche myself up to start cooking but wincing in pain and feeling slightly faint and nauseous at the same time. I'd stopped off at Mutual Fish and bought some whole trout and I had the other fixings. Cobe called right about then and sounded worried, "are you sure? I could pick up take out."

I should have taken the hint.

Instead I put a pot of boiling water on thinking I would make mashed potatoes. And slowly the pain eased and I minced some garlic, ginger and scallions, mixed it with fermented black beans and stuffed the cavities of the trouts. Then mixed soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and sherry and poured that on top, and sealed them up in little foil packets.

All sounds good, yes?

Then I threw some delicata squash (halved) in a pan with butter and 5-spice and a little water to steam and covered them with foil. Threw everything in the oven and went back to laying on the couch.

Eventually decided rice would be better than mashed potatoes, threw in some sesame seeds for flavor. And decided we needed dessert so threw some halved pears in a pan with melted butter and vanilla and lemon juice.

Chris came up at 6:30, we sat down to eat at 7 (this is kind of a record for me....we've eaten at 9pm before). And the food? Well. After all that fuss the trout bland and was a devil to deal with, bones and skin everywhere just for a tiny piece of meat. I put some cilantro on top but ended up just dousing it with soy sauce and eating with the rice, which we damn well could have done anyway without all the futsy mincing.

The squash had a nice flavor, but wasn't moist and creamy like it should be, it had this waxy quality that kind of ruined it for me. And the pears were burned because I forgot to turn them mid-way like I was supposed to. But other than that, they were actually pretty some kind of pie without the crust. Perfect when mixed with a little vanilla ice cream. Could have done without the skins though, damn my laziness.

Fish: C+ (edible)
Squash: C
Pears: B+

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Composed sandwiches

Our typical saturday...I drove out to Marymoor early to play ultimate, and then came home starving. Luckily I remembered to stop at the store. I picked some jalapeno bagels, salami, mixed greens, and roasted tomatoes.

I know what you're thinking. But really and truly, jalapeno bagels are amazing. They were Jacobe's find, I can't take the credit myself. I was very suspicious. I'm an H&H bagels snob ( . But when you cut them thinly and toast them in the oven they come out amazing. You wouldn't even guess it was jalapeno if someone fed them to you blindfolded.

So that's what I did, cut them thinly, toasted them, and spread them with some leftover vinaigarette from the other day. I've taken to making one with olive oil, pear vinegar and a splash of balsamic. I'm kind of addicted. Then I added thinly sliced reggiano, a few slices of really nice peppery salami, some arugula, and the roasted tomatoes.

Just beautiful. The soft tomatoes with the spicy salami, the bitter arugula, the sweetness of the vinaigarette, the creamy nutty reggiano, and the toasty warm slightly spicy bagel.

By the way...roasted tomatoes are easy. Just throw cut tomatoes cut side down on a piece of foil and cook them at 200-250 until they collapse. Maybe spread a little olive oil over their backs. Divine.

Sandwiches: B+

Friday, October 26, 2007

Roasted salad

It's one of those unusual Seattle fall days, the sun has come out through the clouds, the leaves are brilliant orange and yellow and green. Feels like a day for roasting.

I picked up an eggplant and some peppers at the farmers market this weekend and they've been sitting in the fridge accusingly. So I popped the peppers in the oven on broil and threw the eggplant in my big cast iron pan on high. Let them cook till they were all black on all sides and then threw them in a brown bag to cool down.

This is one of my favorite ways to cook. You can't burn them too much. I guess they could be too soft, but even that would be hard. You want them to be pretty soft.

Then you just flake off the skins and dice them, throw on some good olive oil (I am a frantoia woman), a splash of balsamic, sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

And there you have this luscious salad, buttery and slightly smoky. I think eggplant may be one of the only vegetables that can taste luscious.

Roasted Salad: A

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I admit, I have a fear of cooking fish. So simple one would think. When raw it tastes pure like the ocean. But leave it in the oven too long and it becomes chewy and fishy.

The other day I finally made some progress.

I had decided to make this recipe for halibut poached in carrot juice and cilantro from Traunfeld's "Herbal Kitchen," but when I stopped off at the store post-call and exhausted I didn't actually have the recipe in hand so somehow I decided I needed whole carrots instead of the juice. After sleeping for a few hours, I meandered to the kitchen and found my mistake, but decided to wing it. Not usually a good idea, but I was intrigued by the idea of poaching in some kind of juice, carrot or not.

I pondered my options. Steam the greens and puree them? I did this for a "Happy in the Kitchen" recipe that turned out pretty awesome but I have this lowly blender and it was a tough job. I tried boiling the greens to see if the water developed any kind of nice flavor, no go. Well maybe I'll just boil the hell out of the carrots and see what that water tastes like. But then I forgot and added salt and the water tasted just like the ocean, not even a little carroty.

I finally decided to just drain the carrots and puree them, which remarkably worked though they weren't quite sweet enough so I added some orange juice and cider for some liquid and to replace the lime juice (forgot that too). Then I put in the ginger, shallots and vermouth. Brought it to a boil, cooked it a few minutes to soften the shallots, threw in the fish and turned the heat down to nothing for 7 minutes. Whisked in some butter. Sprinkled on some cilantro. Fabulous. The fish was melt in your mouth soft and set off by the subtle sweetness of the carroty-citrus sauce.

The thing that really fascinates me is that this is how I make poached eggs.....boil the water and then turn it off, leave the eggs 6 minutes. They come out all silky smooth. Never thought of it for fish. And there's so many options! You could poach the fish in anything really. It's all kind of exciting though sadly this was a night that Cobe was away so I had no one to share my cooking marvel with . I'll have to make it for him next time.

Fish: B