Monday, June 23, 2014

Healthy Halibut Hits the Spot!

                In May we went on a three week road trip, up the east coast, visiting all our children. In between we made stops in Philadelphia and New York City.  I don’t think I have to tell you that we ate very well along the way, with most meals including a glass or two of wine.
               It was not a happy day when we got home and I stepped on the scale.  So I was delighted to realize that spring had come and with it the opening of farmers’ markets. The one closest to me is the Agricenter. Another good sign of spring is that the Paradise Seafood truck is there every week, Wednesday through Saturday. 
                In the barn, I picked up a couple of bunches of lovely Treviso-type kale.  Then I went to the Paradise truck looking for scallops, but Ted the Fish Man had beautiful halibut filets. I couldn’t resist. But then I had to come up with an amusing preparation, easy and tasty of course, but almost equally important, healthy.  Looking through old recipe files, I found this one, an Italian-inspired sauce, perfect for the flavor and texture of halibut.
                I used blood orange flavored olive oil.  This is available in several locations around town. I got mine at Bazaar, in Carriage Crossing, but Mighty Olive, in Laurelwood, will also have it in stock. If you choose to make it with plain olive oil, double the amount of orange zest and you’ll still be very happy with the results.  I have mint flourishing in a pot near my herb garden.  If you don’t, you can use two packages (around one ounce each) from the supermarket, or go to the Winchester or Cordova Farmers Market and get a package with enough for this recipe for around $2.00.
                This sauce can be made a bit ahead, but no more than an hour or so. Because of the acid the mint will turn dark and have a less than pleasant texture. 
                The filets were so lovely that I made 8-ounce servings. After making the side dishes, it was obvious to me that that was going to be too big a serving. After I took the picture you see here, I cut all the servings in half and served them from a platter.  Only one person took seconds.  I suggest a 5- to 6-ounce serving per person.
Later I took the remaining fish, flaked it, and added the remaining sauce, the crumbs left over from the crust preparation and a beaten egg.  I fried up a tiny taste and it was really yummy.  I made croquettes on a baking sheet and froze them.  Sometime soon I will partially thaw them, brown them quickly in a bit of olive oil and put them on top of a salad for a good dinner on a hot summer night.
                For the crumbs, I used French bread slices that I toasted lightly.  That way you’ll get a better golden color for the crumb crust in the short time it takes the fish to bake. I had a container of pistachios on hand. I loved the flavor they added to the crust, but you can substitute almonds, or leave out the nuts entirely and you’ll still love it.
               For our side dishes, I made a rice pilaf and sautéed the kale in a little garlic and olive oil.  They made for a lovely meal…and oh! So healthy!

Pistachio Crusted Halibut with Orange Mint Salsa Verde

For the fish:

3 to 4 1” thick slices toasted baguette
1/3 cup pistachios
2 teaspoons blood orange olive oil
A few leaves of mint
About 1 ½ pounds halibut filet, about 1” thick, cut into four portions

For the sauce:

1/3 cup onion, very finely minced
½ cup blood orange olive oil
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
½ cup fresh orange juice
1 cup (loosely packed) fresh mint, minced
Orange slices and more mint sprigs for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  In a food processor, make crumbs from the toasted baguette. Add the pistachios, 2 teaspoons blood orange olive oil and the few leaves of mint. Pulse until nuts are coarsely ground.
Place the halibut skin side down on a well-oiled baking sheet.  Divide the crumbs among them, patting lightly to make them adhere. You may not need all of them.
Combine all the sauce ingredients and whisk together.  Let set for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour for flavors to meld. 
When ready to serve, bake the fish until just barely cooked through, ten to twelve minutes. Put a pool of the sauce on each of four dinner plates.  Remove the fish from the baking sheet with a spatula (most of the skin may stick to the pan). Place on top of the sauce, garnish with orange slices and mint sprigs and serve immediately.  Serves four.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Onion-Coconut Milk Soup--A Brunch Pleaser

       Once again we have a recipe that comes from the French culinary magazine “Cuisine et Vins de France.”  I’ve had a subscription for years and love leafing through back issues looking for amusing things to cook. 
                This one came from the November 2011 issue.  I was doing a brunch menu for our church Weekday Gourmet connection group and wanted something a little different to start.  For brunch menus, I like a soup that you can serve in cups or mugs and this fills the bill. Soups with chunks of most anything in them are a little difficult to sip gracefully. 
                I made a few changes--I’m sure you’re not surprised.  The biggest one was to replace minced fresh lemongrass with the lemongrass paste from the produce section of most supermarkets.  We’ve used it and the ginger paste in several recipes before.  Lemongrass is a bit fibrous, so you have to get down to the softer part and mince really finely if you’re using fresh. The nice paste-makers have done that for us.  It’s also hard to find outside oriental markets, but if you want to use fresh lemongrass, substitute three stalks.
                I also changed to 2% milk instead of whole.  Coconut milk is rather high in fat, so it’s still plenty rich tasting. If you’d like to cut the fat even further, you may substitute light coconut milk instead, and use 1% milk.  The trick of simmering the onions instead of sautéing them in lots of oil also cuts down a bit on the fat.
         I know this seems like a lot of onion, but in our group we had one member who doesn’t care for onions and she was quite happy with it. We had another who claims to hate coconut, and she loved it.  You just never know, do you?               

Creamy Onion-Coconut Soup

1 ½ lbs. onions, peeled and chopped
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
¼ cup water
4 tablespoons lemongrass paste
1 cup coconut milk
3 cups 2% milk
Two limes

                In a Dutch oven, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, stir to coat with oil and cook about two minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add the water. Cover, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
                Stir in the lemongrass paste and cook a couple of minutes, stirring.  Add the coconut milk and 2% milk.  Bring to a slow simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are tender. Stir frequently.  In a blender or with a hand blender, purée the soup.  Bring back to a simmer.
                Ladle into soup cups or bowls.  Grate lime zest over each. Cut one of the limes into six wedges to garnish each cup and serve immediately. Serves six.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Savory Spanish Smoked Paprika Adobo Chicken

           My favorite chicken part is the leg-thigh quarter.  I’ve given you several recipes for it in the past.  There are several advantages over the more popular breast, in my opinion. First is flavor. Not only does the meat itself have more flavor, but since it needs to be cooked a little longer, any sauce, rub, herb or other seasoning has a chance to penetrate the flesh.
                Another advantage to this particular recipe is that it needs very little attention once it has been popped into the oven, making it a great dish for a company dinner. 
                As I did with earlier recipes, I put some flavorings under the skin.  You may not be a skin-eater, but I always encourage cooking any chicken part with the skin on. It retains moisture, and can always be peeled off after cooking.
                This recipe is very Spanish in its flavors.  Be sure to use the Spanish smoked paprika called pimentòn. It’s available in some supermarkets, specialty markets or at Penzey’s.  This adobo marinade is also wonderful on pork or full flavored seafood. 
                Spanish-style chorizo is a dry sausage, like a salami. The fresh (raw) Mexican-style chorizo won’t work in this. I used the chorizo from a package of sliced Spanish-style deli meats from Fresh Market. It also includes jamon serrano (a prosciutto-like ham) and salchichon.   I'll use the jamon and salchichon for sandwiches sometime in the next few days. If you can’t find the Spanish selection package, use sopressata or other Italian salami. 
                I used a combination of yellow and red grape tomatoes because I like the contrast and slight difference in flavor.  If you’d rather just use one full container of the red ones, the dish will still be delicious.

Spanish Chicken in Adobo

 Adobo marinade:
8 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 tbsp. kosher or sea salt
3 tbsp. Italian (flat) parsley leaves
1 ½ tbsp. Spanish smoked paprika
1 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
1/3 cup olive oil
To finish:
6 chicken leg quarters
6 thin slices Spanish chorizo or other salami
6 thin slices Swiss cheese
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup minced onion
¾ cup dry white wine
2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, drained
½ container yellow grape tomatoes
½ container red grape tomatoes
1 bag baby arugula

                Place all marinade ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor and pulse to chop finely.  Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse a few more times.  Remove 3 tablespoons of the mixture and reserve.
                Loosen the chicken skin on each piece and place one each of cheese and chorizo underneath, with the cheese closer to the flesh.  Place about a tablespoon of the adobo under the skin and spread it all around.  Use the rest of the mixture to rub all over the outside surface of the chicken and place in an oiled baking pan. Cover and reserve at room temperature for up to an hour. You may also do this in the morning and refrigerate, taking it out of the fridge about an hour before baking.
                In a heavy skillet heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir a couple of times.  Add the onion and cook until the onion is soft but not at all browned.  Add the reserved adobo marinade and cook, stirring, a couple of minutes.  Add the wine and chickpeas and simmer until the wine is reduced by about a third.  Turn off the heat and stir in the tomatoes.
                Preheat the oven to 400o. Place the prepared chicken in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375o. Continue to roast for another 30 minutes, then pour the chickpea mixture into the pan, scraping any bits that might cling to the pan.  Spread the chickpeas around the chicken, shake the pan a couple of times and continue to roast for another 15 minutes.
                To serve, place a handful of arugula on each plate. Top with the chicken, then ladle the chickpea mixture with their juices over the top.  Serve at once with crusty bread to soak up the sauce.   Serves six.