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Fuzzy Fish and A Coddled Egg – A Caesar Salad A la Grill

This post wraps up my three post series on a recent dinner party. As many of you will have already surmised from the post title this meal did not culminate in some amazing confectionary creation – rather, in the spirt of early summer cooking, and in an effort to keep the house cool and the oven off, this meal ended in a trip to the freezer for some cool and refreshing store bought popsicles. This beautiful thing about this dish is that it takes advantage of the sweetness of peak season lettuces and the heat from an already lit grill to create a sumptuous twist on a classic caesar salad that is simultaneously fit for a fancy feast and simple to prepare.

If you are looking to follow my “path to party time success,” you can make this dressing several hours ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator until approximately 30 mins before dinner time when the dressing should be removed to allow it time to warm a bit before serving. I use anchovy fillets for this recipe but feel free to replace the fuzzy fish with a TSP or so of anchovy paste. The recipe calls for parmesan in two formats – you will need two to three TBSP of freshly grated cheese in the dressing itself as well as a healthy dose of broadly cut shavings to sprinkle on top of the salad just before serving.

I generally make the shavings ahead of time as well, I recommend using a flat vegetable peeler (the type you would use to peel potatoes – this is sometimes called a speed peeler) to shave wide strips of nutty parmesan from the block. You can place these in a small bowl In the fridge until you need them (keep these guys cool as the thin strips will melt slightly and stick together in a big blob if left in the heat.) You will see that the recipe calls for a coddled egg yolk, this may sound fancy but it is a very simple procedure. Simply bring a small pot of water to a boil, plop your egg in, turn the heat down to a slow boil and cook for 60 to 90 seconds before removing with a slotted spoon. Once the egg has cooled slightly carefully separate the yolk from the white (you can discard the white) and place the yolk in a bowl until needed.

The lettuces themselves should be grilled over fairly high heat. I generally select romaine hearts for this salad and cut them into quarters, leaving the bottoms in tact, so that they hold together well throughout the grilling process. As you brush the lettuces with olive oil and salt and pepper before grilling be careful not to go overboard with salt when making the dressing. While we’re taking about the dressing I think it’s important to note that this one has a tendency to come out on the thick side and packs a punch of strongly flavored ingredients – I like to serve the salad at least semi-dressed but it’s a good idea to go easy when drizzling the dressing over the lettuces. I generally serve the leftover dressing on the side along with some extra shavings of parmesan.

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Grilled Caesar Salad

1 Large Egg Coddled – Yolk Separated (Discard White)
1 TSP Worcestershire
3 TBSP Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Clove of Garlic
3 High Quality Anchovies
1 TSP Dijon Mustard
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
1/3 Cup Parmesan, Grated
2 Medium Heads of Romaine Cut In Quarters Lengthwise, Base Intact
About 20 Large Shavings of Parmesan for Topping
Salt and Pepper

Start by coddling your egg in boiling water for 60-90 seconds. Separate out the yolk from the white, discarding the white, and set the yolk aside.

Combine garlic, Worcestershire, lemon juice, anchovy and dijon in a small food processor and blend until smooth. Toss in parmesan and puree briefly. Add oil in a slow stream until emulsified. Add egg to mixture and pulse to combine, puree until smooth and add a good whack of freshly cracked pepper. Taste dressing for balance and adjust as needed.

Lightly brush cut sides of romaine with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and grill over high heat until lightly singed (about 45-60 seconds per side.)

Arrange romaine on a serving platter, drizzle with a bit of caesar salad dressing and sprinkle parmesan shavings on top. Serve with extra dressing and shavings on the side.

Why I Love Home Goods – Israeli Couscous Salad with Sardines and Tomatoes

I love Home Goods. I really love Home Goods. If you don’t have a Home Goods (which is related to Marshalls and TJ Maxx and sells, well, home goods, at a mere fraction of other store’s prices) near you, I’m sorry, you’re missing out. The one near us is simply phenomenal (the selection from store to store tends to vary quite a bit, I have been in others that aren’t quite as good). I love to go in on days when its not too busy and make a B Line towards the gourmet foods section some days the finds are better than others at times the selection may be quite slim but I still always find some cool new spice or or salt or jam to take home and add to the arsenal I keep in the pantry for which I use when I need some inspiration to a dish (or in times of desperation when I get back from a business trip to find that there is no fresh produce in the house and raid the pantry in hopes of scrounging up something meal-worthy.)

On this particular trip the selection was amazing, I got some great nut oils (walnut and hazelnut) and can of stir fry oil which is flavored with ginger and garlic, I also came across some high quality hot smoked Spanish Paprika, which I love to add to sauteed greens for breakfast. Nestled in among some salts on the bottom shelf were some small tins of cured fish. I selected some smoked mackerel and a container of smoked trout, a tin of herring, and a small can of Portuguese sardines in Peri Peri sauce which I put to use in today’s featured recipe which is a take on a great recipe for Pearled Cous Cous with Roasted Tomatoes which I found on Smitten Kitchen last summer and immediately fell in love with.

While we are speaking of favorite things, I have used a particular favorite ingredient in this recipe that I want to talk a little more about. Garlic. Specifically Raw Garlic that I buy FROZEN from Trader Joes. It comes in a little flat that looks like a miniature ice cube tray and holds small squares of frozen minced garlic which are each equivalent to approximately one large clove. I am a garlic junkie so I used two in this recipe which I put in a large mixing bowl with the oil and allow to simultaneously thaw and infuse the olive oil with its garlicy goodness while I prepare the remaining ingredients for the dish.

While we are on the topic of specific ingredients lets talk about sardines. Before you wrinkle your nose let me tell you I was a bit apprehensive about what to do with them once I opened the can and peered inside at chunks of silvery fish which included both skin and spine. I am assured that you can eat both but I slit them in half and removed the spine before slivering the flesh into the salad. I might recommend to other first timers that you follow a similar path. To other more experienced sardine eaters, please, by all means, eat the fish spine and all, I am told there is good calcium in doing it this way but I will stick to my gut for now and keep taking the spines out (I have to say the spine removal process is a very simple procedure – hardly a taxing surgery by normal cooking standards.) If you’re really not sure about the fish, leave them out, I wont stop you, but you’ll be missing out on the hint of salty ocean flavor they bring to this Mediterranean summer dish. The salad makes a great side dish for a summer feast, it would go well with a simple meal of grilled meats or vegetable kabobs and is perfect for a summer picnic.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Sardines and Tomatoes

3/4 Cup Puy Lentils
1 Bay Leaf
2 Cups Israeli Couscous
2.5 Cups Chicken Broth
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
2 Cloves Minced Garlic
1 Quart Grape Tomatoes Cut in Half Lengthwise
1/2 Cup Olives Chopped
1/4 Cup Basil Cut into a Chiffonade
2-3 TBSP Lemon Juice
1 Tin of Sardines in Peri Peri Sauce, Spine Removed and Flesh Flaked.
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

Bring a medium pan of water to a boil, add lentils and bay leaf and reduce to a simmer, simmer until just tender, approximately 20 minutes. When just tender remove pot from heat, drain lentils and run under cold water until cooled.

While Lentils are cooking bring chicken broth to a boil in a separate pot, once boiling add couscous and simmer uncovered for approximately 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand for 20 minutes until cooled.

Place garlic in a large mixing bowl with the olive oil while you halve the tomatoes and chop the olives and basil. Place the tomatoes, olives, and basil in the bowl with the garlic and olive oil and mix. Add couscous, lentils, and lemon juice and stir. Add flaked sardine meat and taste for seasoning.

Add salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste.

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