Monday, July 27, 2009

fennel grilled fish in tomato saffron broth

serves 2

1 bunch fennel - cut stems off and keep them, slice bulb into thin julienned wedges
2-3 fillets of halibut (or firm white fish)
3 large soft tomatoes (or half a can of stewed)
1/2 med sweet onion or 2 large shallots - chopped
1/2 cup white wine (not sweet)
1 cup water
4-8 saffron threads
olive oil
sea salt
cracked pepper
wedges of lemon

Optional: if you have a spice rub or marinade you like for fish you can use that but keep in mind that you want the flavors to enhance not overwhelm or clash with fennel, saffron and tomato. I suggest anything with cayenne, lavender, fennel seed, lemon, thyme, savory and i love fresh chervil if you can find it.
  • Wash and pat dry the fish. Rub it with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs or spices of your choice (not the saffron, that's for later). I like to take the fish and smother it in the fresh fennel tops. Even better is to squeeze and twist the tops to release the aromatics and the juices from the leaves and then wrap the fish steaks in the leaves and in foil or a container that seals. You can leave it like that for a few minutes, hours or overnight in the fridge.
  • turn on or start your grill and let it get nice and hot.
  • Take the sliced bulb of the fennel plant and the onion or shallot and sautée over a med flame in a little olive oil until semi-soft and near translucent.
  • Add saffron threads and stir a moment and then add tomatoes and white wine.
  • Bring mix to a strong simmer, then reduce heat to a low flame and cover loosely. Add water throughout to keep the flavors blending and the broth liquid.
  • Add salt & pepper to mingle flavors. Not too much. Just a pinch of each.
  • While the broth is simmering take the fennel plant stalks (cut off any excess leaves) and line them up on the grill for about 3 minutes. Just long enough for the heat to start roast the skins. Then let cool a moment and line the stalks up on a piece of tin foil.
  • When stalks are cool enough to hold your finger on indefinitely drizzle with a little oil and lay the fish steaks on the stalks. Wrap the whole thing in tinfoil leaving a little tent at the top for the heat and steam to infuse the fish with flavor. Place on the grill stalks down.
  • Grill/roast on the grill for about 10 minutes depending on thickness of the fish. Don't be afraid to open the fish at around 8 minutes and check it with a knife. It's better to put it back on the grill for another 3 or 4 minutes than to over cook the fish. No undoing that!
  • When fish is done. Open the foil, squeeze it with lemon and let stand for a minute while you plate the fennel onion confit and the tomato saffron broth in a large dish.
  • Carefully remove the fish steaks from the stalks and place the steaks over the broth on the plate.
  • Serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

kale & olive summer salad

serves 4

1 bunch kale
8 -12 good, garlicky marinated black olives
(for god's sake don't even consider canned olives)
1 clove garlic chopped (optional if not in marinade)
2-3 Tbl olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
sea salt
cracked pepper
red pepper flakes

As a rule I always cut the leaves away from the spine of kale, chard and other dark greens because I find that they are just extra work and require a second chapter to each recipe (what to do with the spines and how...). I also just don't like the texture. That said you could, if you like, cut them out and then chop them into bite size pieces and simmer, steam or boil them a few minutes before you add the leaves and they should get tender about the same time. I'm sure there are lots of nutrients getting tossed when I omit them. Your call.

So, cut the kale into bite size pieces, rinse well and drain (if you only knew how many bugs you eat a year you'd always wash your produce).

Bring salted water to a boil and add kale for about 5-7 minutes.

The leaves should be darker but still vibrant, soft but still holding there shape (not a metaphor for women of a certain age but occurring as such in my current mood)...

When the leaves are in their prime, so to speak, pluck them out with a slotted spoon or drain them in a colander and then quickly submerge the kale in a bath of ice water. This is blanching and will cool the leaves quickly so they retain their bright color and texture for the salad.

Drain the leaves and pat dry.

In a bowl, toss leaves with oil, lemon and olives. I like to slice the olives but that's usually because I forget to buy pitted ones and can't bare the thought of a friend losing a tooth on pit.

Salt, pepper and flake to taste.

Serve with lemon wedges or a fresh sardines or as a bed for an egg salad.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

San Francisco Goodies

Recently, I went to San Francisco for the weekend with my dog Brody and dear friend Antonia. We left at noon and 6 hours of hot, dusty highway 5, 2 pee brakes and a roadside fruit stand later we were paying our toll and pushing through cars to get the green light on the Bay Bridge. It seems no matter how I plan my travel to SF I always end up delayed or rushed until I'm in perfect sync with the setting of the sun as I roll across that bridge. The deep shadows of the skyline and the haze and the fog and the silver gold sunlight on the water always make me doubt my reasons for leaving my old city.

I should have a post card or photo for that nostalgic hiccup but I don't so I'll share this Still Life With Produce moment from Niki and Tony's house where we arrived moments later.

My sister and Tony's home was cozy and inviting. More than ever their little abode was busting at the seems with life, beauty and many projects. The little guys production station....only my sister can make such a pretty mess.

Tony's strawberries. Check out the awesome container garden in the back of the house.

Saturday night we (they) had a dinner party made especially sweet by the effortless pairing of lovely people and good food. Smartly organized as a potluck Tony made mashed yams and potatoes then baked with parmesan and bread crumbs, a garden salad from his actual garden and rubarb juice for mixed drinks. He also made, more delicious bread, of course, and peppered the table with pickled condiments from his summer stock. His sister (my sister, we are family) Bridget, my cancer cohort, made collard greens (yes also from the gard... you get it) stewed with onions. I made nothing. Niki made the place warm with candles and set things right. Dusty and Brody made things hairy and extremely charming.

The table was expanded all evening by the chef's and foodies that attendended, every bite a starchy delight thankfully, and we completed the feast with Mission Pies and ice cream around a pit fire in the garden.


And oh, you don't even know the heaven I'm in. Tony has been canning~!
I have bread and butter pickles, white vinegar pickles, cherries, strawberry lemon jam (yes, sooooo good), strawberry rubarb jam, pickled onions and more and more. You wish you you knew. Really.

The bread and butter pickles have a flavor like cornichons and they are excellent chopped up into an egg salad.

Tony lamented that he's not sure what one does with pickled onions and I'll admit right here mostly I just eat them out of the jar with my fingers but I also topped my carrot soup with them, layered them into a quesadilla with smoked tomato salsa and added them to my beet and corn salad last night.