Monthly Archives: April 2007

Baked Swordfish Amanda

Some days it’s easier for me to say hello to a friend via the food I’m eating than it is to pick up the phone.

I spent half of yesterday getting ready for Take It Bake It, which is (gasp!) tonight. As I spread my six shallow metal pans out on the counter and began filling them with strawberry-rhubarb crisp, my mind wandered to Amanda, a friend from Cape Cod who once helped me make twelve dinners for six in a day. Packing up food this way always seems a little strange to me. The foil pans are little life rafts for the food, sailing what might otherwise be destined for waste into the freezer, where technology allows humans to press pause on their lifespan.

Last winter Amanda and I both worked from home, so we’d have lunch together every week or so, alternating houses. Once I showed up and she announced a recipe that struck me as . . . how do I put this delicately? A little . . . ghetto, maybe. She’d mixed equal parts cream cheese and mango salsa, slathered it onto salmon, and baked it. I was hesitant – it certainly wasn’t pretty – but when my fork reached my mouth, the tender, rich fish blended so well with the creamy, slightly spicy pink sauce. Every once in a while I find myself hankering after Amanda’s salmon.

Last night, after making 32 egg yolks’ worth of creme anglaise and folding the seven crisps into their little foil and plastic sleeping bags, I mixed a little cream cheese with peach salsa and piled it onto the swordfish steaks I found marked “sashimi” (really?) in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s. Even as I made it, I doubted it again. This is worse than cream of mushroom soup in a can, said someone in my brain. But it worked, again, and the utter speed of the whole operation made it taste even better.

I sat there thinking about Amanda all through dinner, about how her then 1-year-old learned her name and used it for a week straight to identify every noun and emotion that came to him, about how she puts brownies in s’mores, about the dill bread she’d make almost every time we had lunch in her kitchen, and about how she and her husband taught us how to play Speed Scrabble (which I just found out is also called Idaho Scrabble) . . . Then we dug out the end of a bag of chocolate chips and started eating them straight from the bag for dessert, just like she does. Why do I find this habit of hers so endearing?

It did eventually dawn on me that Amanda’s not eating much swordfish these days because she’s pregnant, but it didn’t matter. I was able to put my finger on why the recipes with the cheesiest, dorkiest names, those most often titled (Method) (Ingredient) (Person), are those we come back to again and again: these are the recipes that bring us the people we miss, no matter how far we feel from them. Baked Swordfish Amanda might not mean much to you. But to me, it means a night with a friend I might not see more than once a year.

Hello, Amanda. It was nice having dinner with you.

Baked Swordfish Amanda

Recipe for Baked Swordfish Amanda
Recipe 120 of 365

I guess this is more of a method than a recipe; you simply mix equal parts salsa and cream cheese and spread it over a piece of fish. And I can’t take the credit, either. Amanda got the recipe from somewhere else, I think, but I’m not sure where.

TIME: 5 minutes active time, plus cooking fish
MAKES: 2 servings

2 (1/3 pound) swordfish steaks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup peach, mango, or pineapple salsa
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened (whipped cream cheese works fine)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the fish in a baking dish and season with salt and pepper. Mix the salsa and the cheese together in a small bowl with a fork until blended, and spread it over the top of the fish. Bake roughly 10 minutes per inch of thickness, 10 to 15 minutes for typical swordfish steaks. Serve immediately.

And the “big batch” recipes I made with Amanda, published in the April 2006 issue of Cape Cod Magazine:

Recipe for Corkscrew Bolognese

Recipe for Chicken, Spinach, and Proscuitto Lasagna

Leave a comment

Filed under fish, recipe

Parking lot picnic

Yesterday we pressed our luck and took the dog backcountry skiing again, only this time, things worked out. We had a beautiful skin up in the late afternoon, a great ski, and afterward, as the sun dipped down toward Seattle, we feasted on plain cheese sandwiches and this simple chopped salad in the parking lot, passing a decidely unglamorous tupperware container between the three of us humans and feeling in all ways sated.

I meant to add 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts to the mix, but alas, when we came home from skiing, the pine nuts where just where I’d left them, opened and untouched on the kitchen counter.

Creamy chickpea and cucumber salad 1

Recipe for Creamy Chopped Salad with Chickpeas and Cucumbers
Recipe 119 of 365

Goat cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, and mint combine to make a creamy, tangy dressing for this simple-to-make salad.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
1 English cucumber, peeled if desired and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl until the goat cheese turns into a creamy dressing. Serve immediately, or pack for a picnic lunch.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lunch, recipe, salad, vegetables

A Very Bad Girl

Bromley gets a talking-to

That delicious artichoke and fennel salad at The Four Swallows and Lara’s gorgeous artichoke photos inspired me to stock up when I saw artichokes on sale at Ballard Market. I wanted to recreate the salad, with its flirtatious hint of truffle oil, but one glance at the price of fennel this week sent me scurrying in the other direction.

Last night I made a gorgeous garlicky aioli for our grilled artichokes and asparagus, tinted it with a little truffle oil, put some of it in a ramekin, piled the rest onto a plate to serve with dinner, and stepped outside to join my husband on the porch next to the grill.

Truffled Garlic Aioli

Silence from the kitchen. Then one newly cone-free dog came wagging toward the porch door, obviously very, very proud of something. Long story short: our dog really likes aioli.

Grilled veggies with aioli

Recipe for Truffled Garlic Aioli
Recipe 118 of 365

Aioli is just a way of saying “homemade mayonnaise” without making people nervous – but that’s what it is; it’s the real thing, typically flavored with garlic. I make mine with a good organic egg from the farmer’s market, since it means eating the yolk raw, and typically I use a combination of olive oil and another oil – in this case, an olive oil infused with the black truffle oil I found at Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find a similar blend, just use all olive oil, and replace a teaspoon to a tablespoon of the olive oil with pure truffle oil, if you can.

Aioli makes a great dip for fresh, steamed, or grilled vegetables, or grilled fish.

TIME: 10 minutes
MAKES: 1/2 cup

1 large egg yolk
1 clove garlic, chopped to a paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup olive oil infused with truffle oil

Place the yolk in the bottom of a small mixing bowl and whisk until light – it will seem like all the yolk clings to the sides of the bowl, but enough whisking will thicken and lighten it. Add the remaining ingredients except the oil, and whisk to blend well. Whisking with one hand and pouring with the other, add a tiny bit of the olive oil at a time, whisking to create an emulsion between the yolks and the oil – you’ll really be adding about 1/2 teaspoon of oil at a time. Continue whisking until all the oil has been added (the aioli should be pale yellow and quite thick), and serve immediately.

NOTE: If at any point the mixture seems to be refusing the oil (and you can’t seem to get the oil to mix in), try adding just a teaspoon of cold water. Whisk that in, then continue adding the oil.

Keep any leftover aioli in the refrigerator, covered, and use with in a day or two.

Leave a comment

Filed under dog, recipe, vegetables

A fridge full of nothing

Yesterday was one of those days: I opened the fridge, peered in, and saw nothing to eat. I looked closer, bent at the waist, momentarily believing that sticking my entire head in might help me see things in a new light. I saw broccoli rabe and sausages and great globe artichokes, asparagus and salad greens and half a pound of bacon, but nothing sounded like the lunch I needed. So I closed the fridge.

I came back five minutes later. I laughed at myself when I realized I was disappointed no one had gone grocery shopping for me while I opened the mail.

Finally, finally, I spotted a half-used jar of sundried tomatoes. And oh how they hit the spot.

Herbed Israeli Couscous with Sundried Tomatoes 1

Recipe for Herbed Israeli Couscous with Sundried Tomatoes
Recipe 117 of 365

Israeli couscous, also called Middle Eastern couscous and a relative of Sardinian fregola, is a larger, chewier version of regular couscous, often made with wheat flour rather than semolina flour. It cooks quickly, which makes it an ideal weeknight side dish. Serve this as is, or use it as a base for a larger meal, stirring in cooked chicken or vegetables, or topping it with, say, a meaty tomato sauce.

Look for Israeli couscous in the bulk bins of a health food store or the ethnic food aisle of a larger conventional grocery store.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 2 to 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup Israeli couscous
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup chopped sundried tomatoes (from a jar, typically packed in oil)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil, then the onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the onions are soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic, couscous, rosemary, and thyme, and stir to combine and coat all the couscous grains with the oil. Cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the grains begin to look lightly toasted.

Add 1 cup of the broth, and simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Add half of the remaining broth, simmer again for a few minutes, and then the rest of the broth, simmering until all the liquid has been soaked up. (Taste the grains for doneness – they should be tender. If they’re still a little hard in the center, add a bit of water and cook a few more minutes.)

Season the couscous to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the sundried tomatoes. Serve hot.

Leave a comment

Filed under recipe, side dish

A Weekend Project

Last weekend I nestled a little Black Russian tomato plant in next to the rhubarb, simply becuase I’m beginning to believe the rhubarb has superpowers. It won’t stop growing. I hope the tomatoes take the hint.

A taste of this delectable rhubarb marmalade inspired me to make this orangey version – we’ve been topping everything from the olive oil cake to walnut bread to plain yogurt with it.

Recipe for Orange-Rhubarb Marmalade
Recipe 116 of 365

You’ll know the marmalade has begun to thicken enough to start testing when the bubbling sounds get lower and louder. (The sound reminded me of that swamp full of R.O.U.S. in The Princess Bride.) This is more of a spreadable compote than a highly gelatinized marmalade, so don’t expect it to become as solid as store-bought jelly.

Note: This recipe does not process the marmalade thoroughly enough to make it shelf-stable. Keep it refrigerated up to 3 months.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: Approximately 6 pints marmalade

4 large navel oranges, stickers and tough stems removed
1 gallon (16 cups) water
5 cups sugar
1 1/2 pounds young rhubarb, chopped into 1/2” pieces

Cut the oranges into sixths through the poles. Seed them and slice them thinly using a food processor fitted with the thin slicing disc (or slice by hand). Transfer the oranges to a large stockpot and cover with the water. Cover and let sit overnight, 12 to 18 hours.

Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Place a few small plates in the refrigerator. Add the sugar and the rhubarb and stir until the sugar has dissolved completely. Simmer an additional 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Start checking for doneness after about 1 1/2 hours: spoon about a tablespoon of the marmalade onto a cold plate. Return to the refrigerator for a few minutes, then take it out to see whether the liquid part has separated from the fruit. When done, the liquid part of the marmalade won’t run across the plate; it should hold together.

Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the marmalade to 5 to 6 clean pint-sized jars, seal with clean lids, and refrigerate.

1 Comment

Filed under garden, recipe

Mac & Cheese without a mortgage

Gee, I sure to seem to be on a health kick: the last week shows cookies, eggs, butter, cream, bacon, and now cheese. Plus, I had these bacon-ginger cookies for dessert last night. Really, I do eat vegetables.

I’m all for how the schmancy macaroni and cheese recipes taste, with fourteen artisanal cheeses, pasta handmade by someone’s second cousin’s great-aunt in Italy and flown to the US on a private jet with the proper ventilation, salt from the rockiest shores of Brittany, and butter from sacred cows in India, but sometimes I don’t really feel macaroni and cheese should require taking out a second mortgage.

I found those 2-pound blocks of Tillamook cheese on sale at Ballard Market for $5 last weekend and sort of went wild. Well, wild for me. I bought three.

Creamy Mac & Cheese

Recipe for Creamy Orange Mac & Cheese
Recipe 115 of 365

Here’s a homemade version of those big, creamy, mild Velveeta shells, minus the unpronounceable ingredients that make Velveeta feel like plastic in your mouth. I used the mild orange-colored medium cheddar usually available on the west coast, but you can substitute any meltable cheese – Gruyere, Swiss, sharp cheddar, Monterey jack, or something stronger like Comte would all be great, as would adding chopped cooked vegetables, chicken, etc. Because there’s no baking step involved, this homemade mac is a little quicker to make than some.

And OOOHHHHhhhh is it good the next day, straight out of the fridge.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 4 to 6 side dish servings

1/2 pound large macaroni elbows
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups milk, warmed
4 packed cups grated cheddar cheese (8 ounces, grated)

Cook the pasta until al dente according to package directions. Prep all the ingredients while the water comes to a boil.

As soon as you put the pasta in, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and the bubbles begin to subside, add the flour, and cook, stirring continuously with a whisk, for 1 minute. Add about a 1/4 cup of the milk and whisk until the mixture forms a paste. Add the remaining milk, whisk until smooth, and cook the mixture, stirring often, until it comes to a simmer and thickens a bit. Remove from the heat and let sit until the bubbles subside completely. Add the cheese a little at a time, whisking until smooth between each addition.

When the pasta is done, drain and return it to the pan. Add the cheese sauce, stir to combine the pasta with the sauce, transfer the mac and cheese to a serving bowl, and serve immediately.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lunch, Pasta, recipe

Piles

Piles

What is it about piles? I have one for bills and one for clippings people send me, one for books to read, one for recipes to try, one for cookbooks to leaf through, one for New Yorkers, and this one, for mostly cooking or Seattle-related magazines I haven’t gotten to yet. Then there’s the pile of various notebooks, for recipe testing, calendering, writing, planning, and actual note-taking, which are themselves really just huge piles, simmered and reduced into a smaller, more legible format. You might call the piles on the inside of my notebooks lists.

So why does list connote organization while pile implies impending disaster? I’d argue that the latter is just an expanded, more physically impressive version of the former. A grocery list does represent organization, and the pile of groceries that sits on the counter for 20 minutes while I check my email is simply the list’s physical manifestation.

My piles are probably a good representation of what’s going on in my brain, and even though I’m always trying to figure out how to get rid of them, I think deep down I might even love them.

This must be the Way of the Universe: everything is piles, all the atoms and particles and whatevers that make up our physical world. I guess I’ll have to bring that up the next time my physicist husband starts bugging me about the state of our office.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to point you to a few of the things I’ve written recently, just to add to your piles: check out Seattle Weekly’s dining guide for a slew of informative and often funny capsules on Seattle dining. (It’s organized according to the “22 most statisticially significant human-restaurant interactions,” which makes it quite entertaining.) I also have pieces in the April and May issues of Seattle Homes and Lifestyles. And in a cruel twist of fate, I’ll be part of a feature on KCTS‘s “About the Money” show tonight at 7:30 and I don’t actually have a television to watch it on.

Leave a comment

Filed under media