Monthly Archives: June 2007

A Cure for El Groucho

Effing spectacular,” said my husband, who usually just comes right out and swears. I’m not sure if it was the romantic vibe El Gaucho‘s dark dining room has going or reverence for the Yukon River salmon we were eating that made him hold his tongue, but I appreciated it.

And he was right – the salmon was spectacular. I don’t mean good in a they-sure-did-cook-this-up-nice kind of way. That was part of it (it was cooked perfectly, still translucent in the center), but the salmon itself was unlike anything I’d ever tasted. See, Yukon River salmon has up to 30 percent fat, which is roughly double what Copper River salmon, the leading cause of outrageous expenditure at the Whole Foods fish counter, usually has. Double. We’re talking about butter, made out of fish. It was slippery in my mouth; the flesh didn’t so much collapse between my teeth as disassociate, the individual sheaths of muscle slipping past each other. It tasted sexy. Like satin sheets in my mouth, I’d say, if I’d ever slept on satin sheets. I chewed each bite so much longer than I usually do, trying to hold on to that rich silkiness.

“I feel like a kid from the East Coast skiing western powder for the first time,” said my husband. He kept staring at his plate, as if willing his 12-ounce portion to grow even larger.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We went to El Gaucho in the first place because we’d heard they were serving Yukon River salmon there. (Paul Mackay, the owner of Mackay Restaurants, of which El Gaucho is a part, worked a deal with the Yu’pik folks native to that area of Alaska, the only people who are legally allowed to fish the river. He buys the fish directly from the fishermen. No middleman, fair prices, the chef actually flies up there to pick the fish out himself, etc.)

Anyway, we’d stayed at the Inn upstairs, but I’d never actually eaten at El Gaucho. It’s basically a super high-end steak house, with a cigar room, waiters in tuxes, a schmancy bar, and lots of flaming food. I’d seen how dimly lit the dining room is, and labeled it a cocoon for men who either really love meat or really want to get someone into bed. (There. I said it.) Not really my thing. Right?

Wrong. I loved it. At least, I loved it as soon as my eyes adjusted to the man-cave’s darkness and I got over feeling like I’d walked in on a mob meeting. It served as a surprising, instant cure for the grouchiness I’d slipped into that day.

El Gaucho made me wish I hosted more (read: any) serious business dinners. The restaurant is a giant space that oozes masculinity (formerly a seaman’s union hall), with lots of dark red and black tones. Tables set up on multiple levels cascade down toward the kitchen, so that the people on the highest floor have a stadium view of the action down below.

And action there is: El Gaucho is known for steak, of course, but mostly for their “flaming swords”: Tuxedoed servers with serious faces walk around with fireproof gloves on, ladling flammable liquid over giant meat-laden swords (think Three Musketeers), pouring fire from one vessel to another, and setting still-flaming platefuls of food in front of gaping guests. As long as you’re not a vegetarian, this place impresses. And being seated up top, like we were, makes you feel important, even if you don’t order anything that needs to be set ablaze.

But like I said, I didn’t think I’d be into it. I never was a big circus fan. My husband and I ordered a Caesar salad, slightly annoyed that we’d have to undergo the pomp and circumstance of having someone prepare it tableside. I know what goes in a Caesar salad. But by the time we’d been plied with cocktails and started in on our bottle of wine, I forgot that I’d been in a rush, and edged closer to him in the little treetop nest our V-shaped booth was becoming.

The salad et. al. arrived, and I felt a little thrill seeing that our server had all the proper ingredients lined up on the rolling cart she’d be using to prepare our food. She even mashed the anchovies and garlic there in front of us. And when the salad hit our plates, I tasted it, that luscious texture great Caesars get from a coddled egg yolk, along with the deep (never fishy) flavor the anchovies lend. I decided I could get used to tableside service. Or, at least, food prepared just the way I like it.

In addition to the salmon, we ordered sauteed spinach, which came with an exuberant squeeze of lemon, plenty of garlic, and a hint of spice from red pepper flakes, and also a mushroom risotto. The salmon came surprisingly plain on the plate, next to just a few thin slices of cucumber topped with a dollop of sour cream. (Sounds strange, yes, but it worked.) Though the side dishes made the meal complete, I was so overwhelmed by the salmon’s flavor that I had trouble mentally processing anything else.

But the thing I liked about El Gaucho – more than the salmon, more than the old-fashioned dinner drama – was how slowly my dinner passed there. We were there for three hours, but I never looked at my watch. I gazed out at the other diners, and watched my husband gaze at the sign to the cigar room. Things moved in slow motion. Flames, everywhere, but never a hasty action. Every time a waiter passed, he paused slightly at our table, and smiled, as if to prove he wasn’t in a rush.

We lingered over the Roquefort platter El Gaucho sets out at the end of each meal. (I hesitate to use the word “complimentary,” because we certainly paid for it somewhere.) We fed each other pear slices. Cracked open whole nuts and laughed at how much better the squirrels are at it. Sipped coffee and chatted, well after we’d paid the bill.

Yes, it’s an expensive restaurant. But it was just what the doctor ordered.

El Gaucho in Seattle

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Hot pink

This is the real thing – No plastic bottle. No guar gum. No unpronounceable ingredients. Just raspberries, in a simple vinaigrette. Drizzle it on a salad of crisp greens with whole fresh raspberries, nuts, and goat cheese or bleu cheese.

Imagine it drizzled over endive . . . hot pink salad!

Frisee salad with homemade raspberry vinaigrette

Recipe for Homemade Raspberry Vinaigrette
Recipe 181 of 365

TIME: 5 minutes
MAKES: About 3/4 cup

1/2 pint raspberries
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Place the raspberries, mustard, lemon juice, and vinegar in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. With the motor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, and season to taste with the salt and pepper. Use immediately or refrigerate up to 3 days.

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I saw the sign

Thanks for your thoughts. I’ve appreciated them.

Here’s what’s happened in the (almost) two days since that conversation: Two quesadillas. Made by Tito. A two-hour nap. Lots of very productive work time. A long, luxuriously slow dinner at El Gaucho, which I’ll tell you about later. Ate some chocolate. (But, um, not in that order.) Egg burrito for breakfast. Made by Tito. Two articles came out; I finished three others. Turned two small pieces down, took on one bigger article. (Notice: I didn’t take all three.) Leftovers for lunch. Trip to the gym today, followed by another nap. More writing. No cooking. No recipes written. Some thinking.

As is almost always the case, the best thoughts come to me when pen and paper are the farthest away. I jumped onto the ellyptical machine and S.O.S. came blasting through my ear buds. S.O.S. indeed, I thought. I gave myself thirty minutes to make up my mind. I turned the machine to an easy setting and felt its gentle motion begin to loosen up my spine.

I opened Arthritis Today (yes, I’m a faithful A.T. reader, no laughing) to a piece that caught my eye: Express Yourself, said the header. Ease pain and boost immune function with expressive journaling. A whole article on how writing about your feelings can ease your symptoms. Well hey, isn’t that what I’ve been doing? Might explain why I get so dang verbose when I’m not feeling great. Hogwash is good for my health. I turned the page. Rihanna crooned.

I could care less about losing those last ten pounds or finding the right slingbacks for summer, but A.T. can sure drag me in with their headlines. Bounce back after a setback, it said. Don’t get sidelined by a good flare. I started reading, the words wobbling up and down with my cadence, and sure enough, an achievement psychologist from nowhere other than Seattle named Dan Tripps had something to say about setting and reassessing goals. Is this a sign? I wondered.

“Goals should be adaptable,” said Dr. Tripps. And “continuity is critical for sustaining momentum.” Oh, and “stick to your schedule.”

Adaptability. Continuity. Oh, Dr. T., how did you know? Both of these things are important. So I’ll continue. But I’ll adapt. I’ll keep going, but allow more silly things. Cocktails. Leftovers. The perfect grilled cheese sandwich. And I’m going to take help, if you want to give it.

It turns out my husband has a thing or two he needs to get off his chest in the recipe department, too. I may share a recipe or two of his for beer – “Seattleite” was his latest, a good pale ale – or perhaps slugs, the lumpy mounds of baked dough he likes to make with leftover pie crust. The recipe starts, “Have your wife make a pie. Ask her to save the extra dough for you.”

See? That’ll be two for one. Adapting.

I did like hearing from you.

You pointed out things I hadn’t thought of, like the fact that I seemed to have set up an equation where I either did Project or Proposal, never considering that part of the reason my enthusiasm for this project might be flagging is that I have the wrong equation to begin with. Health-wise, pulling the proverbial throttle back on hogwash and replacing it with something else would be, well, not exactly forward progress, in spoon terms. I admit, you’re right.

Arthritis Today gave me a few more pointers, too. (Except SOCK SCIENCE: In Pursuit of the Perfect Sock. I skipped that one.) That I’m young, for example. Sure, it’s a goal, but there is no ticking time bomb on a cookbook, and I doubt I’ll become measurably less creative in the next ten years, much less in the next six months.

I also read a piece about a woman my age with rheumatoid arthritis, about her struggles with her dream to complete a marathon. To my absolute horror, I felt a tear trickle down my face. In the gym. Thank goodness no one does cardio on sunny Friday afternoons.

I guess the other thing that’s occurred to me is that I don’t necessarily have to have an answer: Why am I doing this? Who cares? I’m doing it.

Yes, I’m doing it. If I hiccup somewhere along the way, so be it. You’ll forgive me. If you have an original recipe to send me, meaning YOU wrote it, by all means, send it along. You never know when I’ll have another bout of self-doubt.

Plus, I just got this new lens for my camera (way on sale!) . . . and you’ll only stand for so many photos of my dog.

Chicken with Rosemary-Garlic Cream

Recipe for Chicken with Rosemary-Garlic Cream
Recipe 180 of 365

I once had an instructor in culinary school who said, “fat equals flavor,” over and over in each class. “Fat equals flavah, people!” This recipe isn’t short on either. And it’s a good test for your toothpaste.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 2 servings

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, add the oil, and swirl to coat. Add the chicken, and cook for 4 to 6 minutes per side (undisturbed), depending on the thickness of the meat.

Scoot the chicken to the sides of the pan, and place the butter in the center. When melted, stir the garlic and rosemary into the butter, and let cook for about a minute, stirring. Add the cream, season with salt and pepper, increase the heat to high, and simmer the cream until thick enough to coat the chicken, about 2 or 3 minutes, turning the chicken in the sauce as it cooks down.

Serve the chicken hot, topped with the remaining sauce.

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A long conversation with myself

I’m about to round the halfway mark. I know, because in January I bought the perfect month-to-month calendar for this project. At the top of each day, there are two numbers. Today looks like this: 179/186. It’s the 179th day of the year; there are 186 days left. I just turned the page to glance into July, and saw Monday: 183/182. I’ve written a recipe each day for almost 6 months.

But why, I ask? Why am I doing this? It’s certainly not because I have two extra hours in every day. And it’s not because I get some twisted kick out of making my husband wait for his dinner while I snap photos of it, or because I feel a dirty notebook should be a permanent fixture in every kitchen. These are things I could live without. What am I trying to prove?

I started this project because I needed a goal; I was new to town and unsure I’d ever push my way into Seattle’s food-writing world. I needed a good assignment. I was least certain about finding an outlet for recipe writing (I’d done plenty of it on Cape Cod, testing and developing recipes for cookbooks and supermarket magazines and such, and I loved it), and was curious to find the answer to the question everyone asks me: What do you eat at home? I’d often said I never cooked the same thing twice in a year’s time.

I was right about that: I haven’t made many things twice in 2007. People write me and say oh, I’ve been making recipe X a lot, and I sort of wonder what it would be like to make the same thing over and over again. Like wondering what it would be like to have red hair, or be taller.

And now we’ve lived here nine months, and I have plenty to do. I’ve just submitted what I think is my first piece about something other than food. I’m getting paid to write recipes that actually get printed, for publications I don’t consider to be stepping stones. And as the page turns to July, I wonder whether this project is worth my time. You know, the every day part. I think I’ll always write recipes here, no matter what year it is, no matter how busy I get. But do I want to keep doing it every day? Can you think of something you’ve done for an hour or two every day for the last six months that you really didn’t need to do? Television doesn’t count (but it’s probably a pretty solid metric).

Looking back, I realize I also wanted to see if I had it, the je ne sais quoi it takes to write a cookbook. But who was I kidding? I’ve known exactly what quoi is all along: time and money. And a little talent, I suppose. And, most importantly, the guts to try. It’s this last issue that hogwash helps me skirt so gracefully. This is my project. This is my priority.

But see, this is not a cookbook. It’s like a cookbook, and it’s certainly proven I have the creativity and drive to write a cookbook, but it’s not a cookbook. So why am I spending the two hours a day I need to work on a cookbook proposal writing recipes that will most likely only be seen by you? No offense. Really, I like that you’re reading. But let’s be honest, here: no one is going to knock down my door with a book contract, which means at some point, either I have to muster up the guts to try or give up. Someday, I always promise myself.

I may have started the project, which may seem big in terms of something to do with one’s spare time, as a way of avoiding writing something bigger. The project is easier than thinking what would happen if I poured energy into a proposal and couldn’t find a taker, if I got a contract and had some nasty lupus flare and couldn’t finish it, if I finished it and it didn’t sell. If it sold and I hated it. So much easier. Here, no one can tell me no.

But I don’t really want to talk about that anymore. To you, or anyone. It’s a secret, remember? Like the year before I applied to culinary school. I knew it was coming.

I might have to cut down on the honesty around here.

There are definite advantages to finishing off the year. I’m a list person, you know that. Hogwash has become a year-long list; my brain is permanently preoccupied with recipe ideas, which is a good thing. I am rarely bored with the food I cook. And, luckily, I don’t run out of ideas too often. Right now my “to try” list is about ten items long. It’s also sort of fun to have a goal, in the same way wind sprints can be fun, I suppose, if you like that sort of thing. I do. Part of me quite enjoys having a goal every day.

But the disadvantages are starting to get heavier, like a child falling asleep in my arms. Suddenly I have this weight, this mass of self-created responsibility that I can’t find a babysitter for. And she’s expensive.

See, before I started, I had this utopian vision: I’d show people how easy it is to make great food, and perhaps inspire them to cook, to bring food home from the farmers’ market and actually cook with their families, maybe sit down and talk to each other, or, God Forbid, a neighbor. I’d help people bring food back into their lives.

That’s all peachy-keen, but cooking for “people” is a lot more pricey than cooking for two. My husband loves food, but he’d be perfectly happy with rice and beans twice a week, provided ample Cholula and a massive tangle of sharp cheddar cheese. When we lived in Vail, we spent $50 a week on food. Now we – meaning I – spend more like $150, sometimes $200.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m the one who says there’s nothing better to spend money on than food. It’s your body. It’s your health. Right? We ate lots of Uncle Ben‘s rice in Vail, and we’re not doing that now.

But my commitment to hogwash makes it a little difficult to fold any financial goals into the picture, because I’m simply too stubborn write 365 recipes for $3 meals. I mean, who needs more than one or two recipes for rice and beans? (And, uh, I still haven’t put any advertising on my site.)

I have cheated, I’ll admit – I’d say a third of the recipes I write here for four people are actually recipes for two that I’ve doubled, to avoid expense and unwanted leftovers. (Have I told you? I’m not a big fan of leftovers. Luckily, my husband is.)

Hey, that’s another thing: the waste. Is it right of me to spend gobs of money on food when I could be perfectly healthy (for sure) and happy (probably) consuming a much simpler list of ingredients? Do my neighbors really need my twice-a-week dessert rations? Or is all this talk about living on $20 per week going to my head? So many questions.

Also, I think I’m starting to react against my own creativity. I’m craving really simple, borderline boring food. I want to eat the same thing four evenings in a row, just for the shock of it. For goodness’ sake, there are times when I’d just like to make grilled cheese sandwiches and go to bed. I’d love to sit down with a magazine after dinner, instead of rushing to the computer to download recipe images and type out notes while my husband does the dishes. He’s done so many dishes.

Last night was one of those nights. Tito’s building chairs for the deck, and has been stepping directly from the office into a sawdust-filled flurry of activity each night this week. We needed something fast, healthy, satisfying. And I haven’t been to the grocery store since last Wednesday (except to get those strawberries I still haven’t used).

This, dear reader, is what we would eat tonight, without the project. It’s also a good example of how we love to eat: out of giant multi-purpose bowls (they’re plastic, if you must know), lounging on the porch in the old nappy white chairs someone was giving away last fall, watching our pets crash into each other as they chase the same bug.

So yes, a decision must be made. Do I continue? I’m not the type to quit, but today, I seem to have lost my purpose.

I also don’t feel brave enough to stop. That might take some guts, too; I’m already halfway, almost, and besides, you’re reading this. And really, in the long run, what difference would another six months make?

Quinoa-Black Bean Bowl

Quinoa-Black Bean Bowls (for two)
Recipe 179 of 365

Simmer 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 cup chicken stock until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, chop a quarter of a red onion and saute it in a swirl of olive oil with a finely chopped jalapeno pepper until soft. Add a can of black beans, rinsed and drained, season with salt, pepper, and cumin, and cook over low heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in a handful of chopped fresh cilantro. Pile the quinoa into two bowls, and top with the black bean mixture, a sliced avocado, plenty of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, a glug of salsa, and a dollop of sour cream.

It tastes much better this way:

Quinoa-Black Bean Bowl, the way we eat it

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Be with what is.

“Be with what is,” directed my yoga instructor at a class two Sundays ago. I smirked out loud and rolled my eyes at my husband from downward dog, half laughing at her self-righteous yogic tone, and tried unsuccessfully to cover it up with fake cough. Be, she repeated more slowly (now she’s onto me!), with what is.

That afternoon, when the seven bags of garden mulch I schlepped home from the hardware store turned out to be moldy, her words crept back into my brain. “Be with what is,” I said to the mulch, and ruled out the option of harassing the hardware store guys more than absolutely necessary. Sure, I had to make a second trip to exchange it, but really, what could I do?

These last two weeks have been busy, packed with people, and it’s become sort of a mantra. I’ve seen many friends, felt many of the warm, knowing, comforting hugs that make having friends so important. We talked weddings and births and deaths, adventures and boredom and problems and triumphs. I burst into tears on the way to REI once, overwhelmed by the telling of life in the comfortable presence of a dear friend, and in that moment I was silently grateful to have so many wonderful people to count on.

It’s been so much. So much energy, so much time, so many sheets to change. Somehow, though, balancing people and work and my own limitations has been easier these days. I’m not sure why, but I have a feeling my little yoga chant is helping. It’s quite convenient, really. I think it would make a good television advertisement, if I had any feeling for what those sound like: Facing a deadline you know you’re going to have trouble making? Don’t panic. Just be. It is. Cat puked on the rug? The rug is now a different color. Be with the slightly different rug.

It translates quite well to the kitchen environment.

Last weekend I conjured up a deep-dish strawberry-rhubarb pie in my mind, made with the season’s best of both – strawberries from a farmer’s market and rhubarb from the new growth on our plants in the backyard. I’d give it a very lightly sweetened cornmeal crust and bake it in a small springform pan, so it had tall, squared-off sides like a cheesecake and a full pastry top. I couldn’t wait to cut a strawberry-shaped hole out of the center of its top and watch the sticky pink juice ooze from it.

Then, a friend asked for a recipe for a fruity something with a cornmeal top or bottom. I thought it was meant to be. I ran out and bought some conventional strawberries from a big grocery store; I couldn’t wait until market day. So unlike me.

But yesterday when I made the crust, a not-quite-typical version pulsed in the food processor with eggs and sour cream, I lost the pie vibe. I wrapped the dough in a sheet of wax paper to chill, knowing it was a bit too wet for a proper pie crust. To test it, I rolled a little chunk of it into a ball, sprinkled it with raw sugar, and baked it off, the way I’d planned to treat the top of the pie.

The little dough trial came out, a cornmeal cookie, and I ate it hot: a cornmeal shortbread, almost, like the best corn muffin top in the world, only more buttery, sprinkled with crunchy sugar and still moist in the middle.

The dough was too good plain. I opened the refrigerator and squinted hard at two pounds of steroidal strawberries, wondering what I’d do with them if I didn’t put them in the pie. My brain ping-ponged between my choices: Dough is good. Cookies are dynamite. But strawberries need to be used. Be with what is, a voice said. The dough is so good. So I rolled the dough into little cookie balls and surrounded them with sugar, and when they came out of the oven, puffed and sparkling, I knew I’d made the right choice.

That pie may still come, and the crust won’t be all that different. But it’s just not ready to be yet.

Cornmeal Sparklers

Recipe for Cornmeal Sparklers
Recipe 178 of 365

Like a cross between cornmeal shortbread and corn muffins, these sparkly, sugar-crusted cookies are cute and addictive, crunchy on the outside but buttery enough to melt in your mouth. For something more like a snickerdoodle, add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the flour before mixing the dough, and sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top right as they come out of the oven.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 3 dozen cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces each
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg
Turbinado sugar (large crystal raw sugar), about 1 cup

Pulse the flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar together in the food processor until blended. Add the butter, and pulse 20 times, or until the butter is the size of small peas. Whisk the water, sour cream, and egg together in a measuring cup (it should total about a cup of liquid). Turn the machine on, and add the liquid in a slow, steady stream; the dough should ball up almost immediately.

Dump the dough onto a large piece of wax paper (the dough will seem quite wet), wrap, and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with silicon baking mats or parchment paper.

Working quickly, roll tablespoon-sized piece of dough into balls, roll the balls in the turbinado sugar to coat on all sides, and place on the baking sheets about 1 1/2” apart. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cookies are firm in the center and barely beginning to brown on the bottom.

Cool cookies 5 minutes on pans, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

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A nice fish dish

Joanna and I went to Pike Place Market yesterday, intending to buy Copper River salmon, but I went into sticker shock and came home with trout for $3.99 a pound. Into the pan went the box of dying grape tomatoes, praying for revival, with some withering shallots and a little chardonnay, and out came a simple, elegant-looking trout dish. We mopped up the juices with a great baguette.

Tip: Waiting until the vegetables are done cooking down to turn on the oven (instead of turning on the oven before you start) offers a grace period conducive to finishing the bottle of wine.

Baked Trout 1

Recipe for Baked Trout with Red Pepper, Cherry Tomato, and Caper Sauce
Recipe 177 of 365

It’s a mouthful of a title, but the flavors are actually quite simple: tender fresh trout, baked on top of a vegetable compote made from shallots, peppers, tomatoes, capers, cilantro, and a good slosh of white wine. If you can’t find trout in your area, substitute any fish with firm, white flesh (halibut, cod, or bass would be delicious).

This is a chop-as-you-go recipe – no need to prepare all the ingredients ahead of time.

*If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, just transfer the vegetables from your skillet to a 9” x 13” baking dish before adding the fish.

TIME: About 45 minutes total cooking time
MAKES: 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 large shallots, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 serrano chili peppers, finely chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup (packed) finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup capers
2 whole trout (about 2 pounds), gutted, heads removed, rinsed and patted dry

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, then the shallots, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add both kinds of peppers, and cook another 5 minutes, stirring. Add the tomatoes, season again with salt and pepper, and cook an additional 15 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to give up their juices.

Increase the heat to high. Add the wine, and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in half the cilantro and the capers. Place the fish (whole, skin on) on top of the vegetables, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the fish is opaque in the center. Sprinkle the remaining cilantro on top of the fish, and serve the filets immediately, topped with the vegetables.

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B1: Chewing the Fat

A piece on page B1 of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reports that Tyson Foods and Syntroleum Corp are teaming up. No, they’re not figuring out how to feed fuel to chickens – they say they’ve figured out how to turn chicken fat into a new form of biodiesel. (Tyson announced a similar deal with energy firm ConocoPhillips a few months ago.)

From one angle, I suppose this is good – chicken fat is a renewable resource, of sorts, and biodiesel is a good thing, right? But I’m sort of conflicted: I don’t love the idea of Tyson using this business to shine up its reputation for raising animals in ways that might not be the most humane. I mean, what does this say about animal rights? That it’s okay to raise chickens in overcrowded pens with gobs of antibiotics as long as it allows us to drive our diesel trucks more cheaply? And what about the fact that Tyson HAS enough chicken fat leftover from its packaging processes to pump out a projected 75 million gallons of fat-based fuel annually – how much of that fat is due to how the chickens are bred and raised? What happened to skinny chickens?

Ooohh, this whole energy thing (she says with a wave of the hand) is a hard fight. What is the answer?

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