Oiled Up

Dinner:  April 9, 2009

After a couple of pork-heavy dinners in a row, I was craving something a little lighter last night. I thought about the remaining fish filets I had stashed in the freezer a couple weeks back, and decided to plan something around one of them. I’m still swooning at the memory of the striped bass I had at La Laiterie last Friday night, so I thought it was perhaps too soon to cook it again at home. So it would be cod then – but how to prepare it?

going into the oven

I didn’t want to roast it again, and fried fish didn’t really appeal, so in the end, I decided to revisit a technique I don’t use often enough when cooking fish: poaching. To simplify things even more, I decided to forego the traditional court-bouillon and poach the fish in olive oil.

my favorite spiced salt

I divided the cod into three relatively equal pieces, seasoned them well with my favorite spiced sea salt, and nestled them in a small baking dish. I added enough extra virgin olive oil to cover them, then placed them in a preheated oven set to 260 – the lowest setting on our oven. I set a timer for 25 minutes and got to work on accompaniments: Simmons Farm spinach, sauteed with sliced shallot, some previously cooked chickpeas (you can, of course, substitute canned) added to the pan to warm through, and a Middle Eastern-inspired sauce of flat-leaf parsley, chives, mint, chile flakes, lemon and more olive oil.

spinach, shallot, chickpeas

The cod cooked up beautifully, with a silky, flaky texture and no hint of greasiness, and the chickpea-spinach combo was a hit as well. I was so impressed with the results I can’t wait to try this again with other varieties of seafood (Bomster scallops, I’m looking at you).

One Fish, Two Fish

One of the reasons I’m so happy that Mike is as big a fan of seafood as I am is because it’s so darned quick and easy to prepare, and this week, quick and easy is about all I’ve had in me. I’ve been anxious to get back to the cutest fish market ever, and on Tuesday, the weather was finally (sorta) warm enough for me to make the walk up to the North End and pick up a few provisions.

I came home with two beautiful filets, one cod and one wild striped bass. I cooked the bass on Tuesday, portioning out a couple of pieces for our dinner and packaging the remainder to freeze. I stewed half of a fennel bulb, thinly sliced, along with some sliced onion, canned San Marzano tomatoes, a glug each of white wine and olive oil, and some Herbes de Provence, and when the mixture had cooked down, I sauteed the striper in a little olive oil until the skin was crisp and the flesh just cooked through. I spooned the fennel and tomato mixture into shallow bowls, placed a filet on top of each portion, and finished with a few fennel fronds, sprigs of flat leaf parsley, and lemon zest.

Wednesday night’s cod was even easier: I used this recipe as a jumping off point, but added my own spin by tossing the potatoes with a bit of smoked Spanish paprika before putting them in the oven to roast. After about 40 minutes, I added the cod (again, I portioned out two pieces and froze the rest), turning it on the baking sheet to coat it with paprika oil and sprinkling a little salt over it, and placed it back in the oven until the cod was just cooked through, about 15-20 minutes or so. I served the cod and potatoes on a bed of picked flat leaf parsley leaves, and sprinkled a little Sherry vinegar, snipped chives, and Basque herbed salt over each serving.

Both of these seafood suppers were incredibly simple and incredibly good, allowing the flavors of the super-fresh fish to shine through. We’re lucky to have access to such great seafood around here, and as the weather warms up and we crave lighter fare, you can bet we’ll be taking full advantage of it.

A twofer

peas + lentils

Here’s another brief catch-up post at the end of a busy week. Wednesday night’s meal was not exactly what I had planned, as I realized yet again that an item I thought I still had was absent from my pantry. So rather than the black rice I had planned to combine with peas from the freezer and Allen Farms pea greens, I used lentils.

Dinner:  February 4, 2009

I cooked them with shallot and a healthy amount of coriander, and they were tasty but not quite what I was going for. Still, the combination made a nice bed for our sauteed Georges Bank cod filets, and the pea greens were fabulous. Kirby thought so, too.

Thursday’s dinner was another one built on leftovers: the remainder of last weekend’s roast beef from Simmons Farm, cut into chunks, slowly cooked in a bottle of ‘gansett then shredded apart with a couple of forks; plus the rest of my most recent batch of enchilada sauce, thawed and reheated.

I stuffed the meat into softened Piaxtla tortillas and rolled them, nestling them in a baking dish with enchilada sauce on the bottom, then pouring the rest of the sauce over the top, and finally adding slices of Narragansett Creamery mozzarella before chucking them in the oven to bake.

Dinner:  February 5, 2009

When they came out of the oven, I let them rest briefly before plating them, topping each serving with a bit of crumbled queso fresco (also from Narragansett Creamery), some chile-spiced toasted pepitas, and chunks of avocado, a cooling counterpoint to the spicy chile sauce.

Caponata-Style Escarole and Cod

caponata style escarole and cod

It was a beautiful day yesterday, but I wasn’t able to get out of the office to enjoy it, so when I got home, Mike mixed us up a round of Aviations and we took them out front to the stoop to take advantage of the evening’s waning warmth.

I had some local wild cod filets and a bunch of escarole that I wanted to cook up for dinner, so I did a quick search on foodandwine.com and found a recipe for Caponata-Style Escarole and Cod. It sounded quick, easy and tasty, so while I generally don’t cook from recipes, I thought I’d give this a go.

I have cooked a lot of fish fillets (cod included), and I think I can say I’m pretty good at it, but in this instance the cod began to break up about as soon as it hit the oil, and by the time I flipped the fillets and cooked them through, we were left with this:

broken cod

Not pretty, and not a good sign of things to come.

Despite the fact that the fish had pretty much disintegrated, I had high hopes for the sauce. We love olives, capers, anchovies and tomatoes, and we love escarole and all manner of bitter greens – the combination sounded awesome. However, in the finished dish, we thought that the bitter and salty flavors were almost overwhelming. They definitely overpowered the fish, and it just didn’t taste balanced to us. I pulled out the cooked olives and added some uncooked whole olives hoping that their fruitiness might help, but it didn’t. The dish wasn’t inedible, but it was disappointing.

As Mike said, this has a lot of potential, but it needs some work. I do think that I’ll attempt the dish again, tweaking it to maybe add a bit of heat or acidity, and maybe try it with a different fish that will hold up better to the cooking. Not a bad dish, but I hope I can turn out a better version next time around.