Archive for fish

friday dinners

Posted in delicious stories, vague recipes with tags , , , , on December 28, 2009 by thatwasdelicious

I wouldn’t say that it has happened enough to make it a habit, but if I have my way this winter it just might: Friday night dinners at my place. With the end of the semester, the work load eased enough for me to find myself with time on my hands. The weather also got accomodatingly chilly, sending me searching for recipes for stews and soups and while it is nice to make a big pot of soup on Sunday and enjoy it for the rest of the week, it is even nicer to make a big pot of soup on Friday and share it with whomever can stop by.

The first Friday dinner was after Thanksgiving. We were all still a little full– some people had decided that a week of raw vegetables was the antidote to a weekend of feasting, some planned dinner parties of salads, and I decided that I would finally find a recipe for fish stew. I knew what it was that I wanted, lots of different meats of the sea,  in a tomatoe-y broth, probably some onion, a splash of wine, garlic of course, pepper, and what else….? Maybe fennel? After browsing through some recipes and finding none that had exactly all of the elements I was looking for, I decided that I would wing it with a modicum of good sense and see what I came up with. On the particular Friday I had only two obligations: visit a new mom and baby and make fish stew. Obligations, now that is the wrong word. Since I was taking the train out to visit mom and baby I decided that I would stop at the fish stand in Reading Terminal Market to make the fishy purchases and since there were some veggie vendors still open at that time of night, I was set.

Here is what I bought for a fish stew dinner for four:

1 lb of cod

1/2 lb of shrimp

1 dozen tiny mussels

1/2 dozen clams

1 bulb of fennel

1 bunch of parsley

onions and garlic and carrots were at the house

Lilli brought a loaf of delicious bread that was soft but with an excellent crust. A loaf of bread meant for tearing and dipping.

Matt brought salty, divine salami coated in herbs de provence

Joe rustled up the canned tomatoes that I needed and a jug of wine.

I made my purchases at the market and then walked home through the windy streets. There was snow promised in the forecast and they were setting up the Christmas lights in city hall.  I cut down along Arch Street enjoying the wind and the bump of my bags against my leg. There was no reason to hurry and even the cold didn’t bother me all that much.

I had not invited that many people over since Lilli was planning on hosting a feast out at her place on Saturday. The plan was supposed to be me, Joe, Lilli, Matt, and Alex but Alex got pulled away by other adventures…..

So, fish stew for four.

I finely minced the fennel, the onion, the garlic, and the carrot. That went into the pot with some olive oil to sautee. Then, I decided that I would quickly sautee the cod in a separate pan just to get a nice brown crust on the edges. Once the cod was browned, the shrimp deveined and washed, and the shellfish soaked and lightly scrubbed, everything went into the pot along with the two large cans of crushed tomatoes, some generous glugs of wine, and plenty of crushed pepper. The soup sat on the stove and glurped and bubbled while we all compared work weeks, tore off hunks of bread and ate them with the salami. The wine jug was passed around and the soup was ready within the hour. I didn’t add salt until the very end. I wasn’t sure how much of a salt the shellfish would add when they opened and I wasn’t sure how far the soup would cook down so I waited until I was about to serve the stew to salt it to my taste, which is a little saltier than most.  Poured out into bowls and topped with some chopped parsely we had ourselves some fish stew. My favorite part, other than the taste,  was seeing the shells of the clams and mussels peeking out of the red-winey broth. Like the bolognese sauce, I think that the reason I was so pleased with this stew was that it tasted exactly like I was hoping that it would.

It is always a disappointment when you spend all day cooking something and it smells right, and it looks right but when you take the first bite, there is something a little off. This fish stew was winey and earthy from the fennel and had that fresh from the sea taste of the shellfish. The cod practically disintegrated in the cooking process but the shrimp and mussels were juicy and sweet.

The soup was slurped up and remnants mopped up with pieces of bread. I think that we all had seconds and drank enough wine to get unreasonably sleepy by about nine o’clock. But since Matt and I both had to be up at dawn the next day, none of us felt too terrible for tucking in and calling it a night.

The second Friday night dinner was two weeks later. Again a snow storm had been forecasted and the temperature had dropped even further. The week before had been spent in a haze of exams and last minute preparations for the upcoming winter break. I had another soup in mind, one that I wanted to make in the slow cooker since I was going to be studying for most of the day and my exam was scheduled around the prime hour of dinner preparations. Since Emily Tredeau was in town and had a little bit of a morning to hang out, I thought that again I would make the dinner purchases at Reading Terminal Market. The plan was a sausage and arugula soup with mushrooms on toast (a recipe stolen from Smitten Kitchen).

Emily and I set off in the morning, bundled up as much as we could. The wind was cold and sharp but it was a clear day.

What was purchased:

1 lb of chicken sausage with fennel, garlic, and white wine

16 oz chicken broth

10 cremini mushrooms

1 lavender cupcake (for dessert) and 1 peanut butter and chocolate cupcake (eaten to fortify us for the walk back)

again, the onions and garlic were at home. And I had some left over fennel fronds and parsely that needed to get used up.

Purchases made and Amish cinnamon buns oogled, Emily and I headed through city hall. As a visitor to the city, Emily had wanted to take a tour of city hall. I knew that there was a long list of drugs and diseases that I needed to get home to memorize, but the temptation to spend the wonderful day out and exploring my own city won out. We ducked into the gift store and asked how long a tour was. There was a 15 minute, $4.00 tour of “The Tower.”  Surely I could spare 15 minutes of my day….

Not really knowing what we were getting ourselves in for, Emily and I made our way up to the Tower. Turns out that the Tower in question was the spire that reaches out of the center of city hall, houses the clocks, and upon William Penn in his two (three, four? I am not sure,  I didn’t pay as much attention on the tour as I should have) ton glory stands. Led by a gruff security guard to a small elevator we ascended up past the clocks to the look-out deck and down below us and for forty miles around us we could see the city of Philadelphia. It was glorious.

Adventures for the morning completed, I headed back to my apartment to begin cooking and studying.

The onions and garlic were sauteed with a little olive oil and then I browned the meat in the same pan. I deglazed the pan with a little whiskey and then the onions and sausage, the whiskey, the fennel fronds, and the chicken broth with some pepper went into the slow cooker. Again, I didn’t salt the soup since I didn’t know how much it would reduce and because the sausage was rather salty. The whole mess then got left alone until about 8 hours.

The mushrooms on toast were made with an adapted recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I finely minced the mushrooms, some garlic, and some parsley. That went into a skillet with some butter and olive oil. I cooked the mushrooms down and then added a splash of red wine. The wine was cooked off and then I added a small dollope of sour cream. When it came time for dinner I toasted some bread, added the mushrooms and then topped with some more sour cream. These tasty mushroom toasts with the soup that had become a rich meaty broth were perfect for the bitterly cold evening. I also made some mulled wine with Limoncello, cinammon, and sliced clementines. The soup was laddled over fresh arugula and topped with some pecorino cheese. The arugula added a peppery green bite to the heaviness of the soup and the cheese melted on top just like a good french onion soup. For dessert there was dark chocolate and the lavender cupcake that I purchased with Emily earlier in the day at a small bakery stand called the Flying Monkey. As we were ladling out the soup, Matt arrived with a bulb of fennel, two giant oranges, and again the delicious salami.  I sliced up the fennel and sprinkled some salt and vinegar over it and it was a fresh, sweet, crunchy addition to the other heavier items of the meal.

After dinner, we all bundled up and headed off to Toby’s Weekly Review.

For both of these dinners, the left overs were superb.

Here’s to hoping there are more Friday dinners….

Un beso,


feasts of love

Posted in delicious places, delicious stories, vague recipes with tags , , , , on June 26, 2009 by thatwasdelicious

Here are some just straight up good eating moments that have reminded my why I love this whole goddamn messy world.

Raw Oysters: See oystahs

Burrata and Toast: Burrata is an incredibly rich cow’s milk mozzarrella. To make burrata they first make a mozzarella skin (adding vinegar to create a whey and then doing other mysterious cheese-making things to it) and then they fill that mozzarrella skin with the creamy curds of cow’s milk. Burrata straight from Italy costs about 36.00/lb and is worth every penny. One morning at work Simon noticed that our last ball of burrata was going to expire that day. So he sliced a filone in half, sliced the burrata into thick rounds, laid the burrata on the bread, drizzled the cheese with olive oil and a little sugar and then toasted the whole thing. I poured out two cups of coffee and we stood burrata and toast one hand, coffee in the other, munching away at pure bliss on bread. Sweet yeasty toasted bread married the complexly rich flavors of the burrata and olive oil, the slight crunch of sugar crystals softened the bitterness of the coffee, and the warmth of the bread and the coolness of the cheese played off of one another. Ah, yes. Ah, yes.

Halibut and Stone Fruit Salsa: My boss Jaimie loves food. She says it is the only thing that makes sense to her all of the time. The last week that I was in California, she invited my mom and I up to her treehouse in the mountains for dinner. When we arrived there was white wine waiting and a fire under the grill. She prepared for us: grilled halibut with a stone fruit salsa and quinoa. The plates that she presented to us were beautiful: The plates themselves were a deep indigo color. The quinoa was piled beneath the startling white flesh of the grilled halibut. Her stone fruit salsa was a play of pinks, mauves, and purples over the white of the fish and the toasty brown of the grain. And she had grilled whole spring onions to add a flash of green to the spectacle. And the flavor. Mmmmmmm……. The quinoa had a toasty hint to it and offered a soft sweetness to balance out the spicy heat and acidic sweet tang of the salsa. The halibut was firm but also had a melt in your mouth sweetness to it. The spring onions tasted like the grill–in a good way, that smoky woody charredness– and a bite with all of these elements made me make entirely inappropriate noises of happiness and delight. The whole thing reminded me again why food is a total expereince and why the best food is one that plays over all of the senses. When I was finished, I promised myself that I would recreate that dinner for everyone I know and love.

Apricot Lavender Jelly: Apricots stolen from an old orchard, lavender grown outside a garden gate. Sent with me as a reminder of the West coast and to bring sunlight to my new home.

Rossini and Pickled Black Walnuts: Rossini is a blue cheese with a twist. When they are done making wine, the cheesemakers place the old grapeskins in with the aging cheese. This gives the cheese a little more of a wine taste and softens the edge of the blue. Pairing this cheese with pickled black walnuts makes even more flavors jump out of the cheese. The black walnuts add an earthy note to the tastes that ground the wine/grape flavors and pull out the umami like tastes of the cheese. Startling play time on the tongue.

Hot Fudge Sundaes and Manhattans: My boss’s boyfriend is British. He is also a good man and the two of them work really well together. They are going to get married and have babies and lots of dogs and feed the world really good food. My last day at AGF, Jaimie and David invited me out for drinks. We went to their favorite bar and they did all of the ordering. One drink turned to two and two devolved into three or four and a discussion of why Withnail and I might be the best movie put out by the Brits. At one point I got up to use the restroom. When I returned, Jaimie and David told me that they had ordered hot fudge sundaes and since these hot fudge sundaes did not come with cherries, three more Manhattans. Oh dear, I thought to myself, oh dear. The hot fudge sundaes and Manhattans arrived and my mouth dropped. The sundaes were in these huge mugs. The ice cream was topped with whipped cream and salted nuts. And the best part was that the hot fudge (which was thick, dark, bitter chocolate) came in its own gravy boat and you got to put it on your sundae–balancing hot and cold however you pleased. We ate the sundaes, we finished the drinks, and then put a cherry on top of it all. The next morning I truly felt like shit, but was it worth it? Of course.

Salmon with Shaved Fennel, Arugula, and White Bean Salad (+Hooters): My last weekend in California I took the train into San Fran to see Michelle. We agreed to meet at the Embarcadero and when I arrived I was thrilled to see the white tents of a farmer’s market set up along the pier. She and I walked through the stalls sampling whatever anyone offered to us and catching up on the past months of our lives. Having toured the entirety of the farmer’s market, we suddenly realized that we were hungry for real food. We found ourselves standing beside a tent that was filled with the smoky scent of grilling salmon. Someone walked past with a piece of beautiful pink salmon balanced on top of a pile of greens and topped with creme fraiche. We were sold. We both ordered fish (Michelle’s came with eggs and toast and mine came with a sharp and fresh arugual, fennel, white bean, and cherry tomato salad aka summer on a plate). We sat on the sunny pier balancing our plates on our knees and squinting into the sun. As we ate we watched the white sails of boats swing by under the bridge. The salmon was delicious, not cooked the whole way through and nicely salted. The perfect food to be eating in the salty wind. When we were finished, we fed our scraps to a dog who had been nosing around and who reminded us both of Luna, and then we cotinued walking into the wind and sun down the pier. About three hours later, we realized that we were hungry again. So we went to Hooters and had beer and wings and I had the pleasure of watching Michelle smoke a post-lunch cigarette, an experience that is a hallmark of so many meals we have had together and one that I love because I can almost feel how much she enjoys it. An action so quintessentially her. Then we continued walking until it was time to part ways, for now.

Ceviche and Carnitas: I wanted to do something for the men that I worked with before I left so I decided that I would make lunch. I knew that Simon loved shrimp so I asked him while were working what his favorite way to eat shrimp was. He told me that he loved ceviche. Ceviche? Now there was a dish I had never made or has any aspirations to making. But it was supposed to be a hot day and there is no time like the present for learning. So Friday morning, my last day of work, I headed to the seafood market. I bought tiny, sweet, shrimp and cucumbers, avocados, cilantro, and limes. When I arrived at work, everyone was in good spirits. The radio was blaring Mexican cowboy tunes and Simon was teasing the new boy Daniel about some girl. I headed straight into the kitchen and could feel the loose happiness of cooking in my joints. To make the ceviche I juiced the limes and mixed that with rice vinegar and some chili salsa that Daniel’s mother had made. Then I chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantrol, and cucumber and mixed it all together with the shrimp and the avocado. While I was preparing the ceviche Jaimie was busy making carnitas. Salted, rubbed with chili, and cooked in a hot skillet, carnitas are delicious with fresh cojita and tacos. We called to the boys, come eat. Then we all stood around the kitchen table plucking at the hot meat with our fingers and wrapping ceviche up in tacos plucked off the open flame of the stove. Not a Sunday breakfast, but it will do nicely….