Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blackened Rock Cod with Crispy Skin

I did buy that beautiful orange rock cod yesterday at Staff of Life, because I knew I wanted to cook it with the skin on and crispy, and it is not often they don't just filet and skin all the cod before I get there. Staff of Life has the freshest fish counter in Santa Cruz by the way. When I was there yesterday I also made friends with the new Cheese monger! He is awesome, friendly and knows his stuff. He just moved down from Napa where he ran a cheese shop there. Originally from the Basque region of France, I know I am going to enjoy being friends with him! I love the staff at Staff of Life.

Here is the menu for tonight: Blackened Rock Cod, Cumin scented black beans, fresh corn cakes, and sauteed zucchini.

I used this recipe for the corn cakes. The beans came right out of a can and I seasoned them with ground cumin. I sliced the zukes into moons and sauteed in a little olive oil in a very hot pan to get brownage on them and sprinkled with sea salt. For the fish I cut slits in the skin and seasoned with salt. The flesh side I seasoned with blackened seasoning mixture and salt. In a very hot cast iron skillet with a little olive oil I placed the fish flesh side down for about 3 minutes then flipped it and finished cooking it on the skin side till the flesh was barely cooked through and the skin crispy.

Blackened seasoning: 3 Tablespoons Paprika, 1 teaspoon each of the following: black pepper, cayenne pepper, white pepper, salt, garlic powder, dried oregano and dried thyme. This is a general guideline, taste and adjust heat and salt to your preference. Or buy Paul Prudhomme's!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wild Sea Scallops!! Let them eat leftovers!

I went to the fish counter today at Staff of Life and everything looked so fresh and so good I wanted to take it all home and have a seafood party. The Tombo (Albacore) Tuna was bright pink and glistening, the sable fish filets (aka black cod or butter fish - very high in Omegas) looked perfect. This is what I originally came in for. Then I spotted the Rock Cod still on the bone, gutted and scaled. The skin a beautiful orange - I knew i wanted to pan fry it till the skin was nice and crispy. But then I noticed the huge Wild Day Boat Sea Scallops. Whoa, that was it, that's what we're having for dinner.

I also picked up a bunch of green onion and an eggplant to round out my menu. I am really lucky to have several farms on my road where I can pick up fresh vegetables daily. Yesterday (from Everett Family Farm) I picked up some zucchini, sweet red pepper and 2 kinds of tomato; purple cherokee and early girl. I also had some basil with roots sitting in a vase on my counter from the weekend.

This is what I planned:

Grilled, eggplant, zucchini and sweet red pepper with basil. A tomato salsa with green onions, sea salt and raw grated garlic. Steamed Rice. Seared Day Boat Sea Scallops finished with butter.

Slice veggies and season with sea salt and pepper. Coat generously with olive oil and sprinkle with julienne basil. You can grill these, fry in a pan or roast in the oven. I grilled them so I wouldn't have to dirty a pan. Roasting is a favorite way too. I like the way the roasting brings out the flavor of vegetables. Just place in an even layer on a sheet pan and roast in a 400 degree oven. Turning once. Total cooking time about 20 minutes.

For the salsa I chopped 2 tomatoes and 2 green onions. I used a microplane grater to grate a large garlic clove into the tomatoes and sprinkled with sea salt.

Now for the sweet succulent scallops. First be sure to check with your fish seller that your scallops are wild dayboat scallops. If the scallops came out of can, it means they were caught at sea, shucked and placed in a brine or saline solution to keep them fresh. You will not achieve the proper brownage or have the true sweetness of a fresh sea scallop. Dayboat scallops are caught by divers and delivered fresh in a sack.

To prepare the scallops remove the little flap of meat you may find on the side of each scallop and discard. Rinse the scallops lightly and pat dry with a towel. I stack mine between 2 paper towels. To cook, place a large skillet over very high heat. When hot add olive oil to just cover bottom of pan. Pan should be close to smoking. Season scallops with salt and pepper. Gently add each scallop and let brown. Don't move your pan around and don't move your scallops, just let them brown, about 2 minutes. When you have a nice brown crust gently turn over each scallop. If it is sticking slide a metal spatula under to loosen. Let 2nd side brown. After 2nd side is browned throw in a knob of butter (about 2 teaspoons) and swirl around pan. Remove pan from heat and serve.

I never made scallops for my children before. I usually give them salmon or some other white fish and they are happy. Crab and lobster thrills them. I was a little surprised when they wouldn't eat them. Livy told me tonight she is a vegetarian, Henry said he is a fastfoodatarian. We told Henry he would starve to death. Livy changed to a meatatarian after I heated up yesterday's leftover chicken.

That's ok, more for me and Ron. They were to die for.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Excaliber Baby Chickens, no forks allowed

On our way home from Zion National Park and a fun visit with an old friend, James and a new friend Debbi, we stopped in Vegas, baby! We stayed at the Excaliber and went to the Tournament of Kings dinner show to watch the knights jousting. Henry really liked the dinner of Dragon's Blood Soup, Games Hens, fried steak cut potatoes, broccoli and dried out dinner roll. He mostly enjoyed the privilege of eating with his hands. Henry is a picky eater, so when he likes something (that is healthy and the rest of us will eat it) I will make a point to cook it. Game hens seem like a complicated meal to eat on a
weeknight, but this dinner was simple.

I don't think I've written about salt here yet. I use course grey sea salt. I guess it's from France. I buy it in bulk at the Natural Food Store. My sister, the real salt freak, buys it by the barrel. I joke, but she does buy like 30 pounds of it every year and then hands it out to us through the year. She saves a lot of money buying it in bulk. Something like $1 or 2/pound to my $6.

I use a big mortar and pestle to grind up my salt into smaller crystals, about a tablespoon at a time or as I need it. I really like using the grey sea salt. It makes the food taste really good and it has lots of minerals in it. I read articles on salt where they stated there is no difference in taste between the pink salt from this tiny island near japan, the grey salt from France,etc... and the diamond crystal from mines in Pennsylvania, that all salt has the same composition.
But the way the salt crystals melt on the food, or in your mouth, I guess that is what makes a difference.

Anyway, if you see it in your store pick it up and give it a try. Try it on fresh lettuce greens with good olive oil and a sprinkle of vinegar and cracked black pepper. Let me know if you notice a difference.

Excaliber Game Hens

For the baby chickens I ground about a tablespoon salt with the leaves of about 8 springs fresh thyme and a bunch of cracked pepper wiht my mortar and pestle. I rubbed this mixture all of the birds and put a little inside the cavity. Place the birds on a roasting pan (covered with foil for easy clean-up) and put a pat of butter on each bird. Place in a 375 degree* oven for about an hour. Baste the birds when you think about it and half way through the cooking time flip the birds to brown the backs. flip back after 15 minutes and finish breast side up.

After you get the birds in the oven cut 2 or 3 large idaho potatoes lengthwise into 8ths. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on a sheet pan and put in oven with chicks. I also wrapped a bulb of garlic sprinkled with olive oil and a little salt in foil and baked in the oven too.

Steam a head of broccoli. Skip the dried out rolls.

Serve with or without silverware.

Henry said the only thing missing was the rolls!!

* I use the convection roast mode on my oven. If your oven cooks slow, increase heat to 390 degrees or so.

I never remember to take a picture of the food when it is finished. I am always too hungry and ready to eat. Here's a picture a few minutes after it went in the oven.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tortilla Soup


Cover an assortment of dried chilis with boiling water to soften. Remove seeds and stems then puree softened pods. (I used pasilla, california, new mexico). (You can use dry chili powder in place of this homemade paste if you want to.) Saute an onion and a couple of chopped garlic cloves in olive oil. Add 4 chopped boneless chicken thighs. Stir in some of the chili puree to taste and a 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano. Add about a quart of chicken stock. Throw in some chopped tomatoes, a can of black beans and some frozen corn. Bring to a boil and simmer about 20 minutes. Season with salt. While soup is simmering cut about 6 corn tortillas into strips and fry in oil till crispy.
Finish soup with a half bunch of chopped cilantro.

Serve soup with fried tortilla strips, chopped avocado, lime wedges, sliced jalapenos and sour cream.