Sablefish with Japanese Influence

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Lunch for the day was broiled miso black cod accompanied by a daikon, cucumber, red onion salad dressed with a ponzu, ginger dressing.

I had picked up black cod at the market yesterday and was looking forward to eating this delicate lovely fish that was marinated with miso, sake and mirin for about 4 hours. The recipes for miso marinade vary but usually call for miso, sugar, ginger and rice wine stirred together. Some people marinate salmon, ahi and aku in this mixture, but the favorite is black cod, also known as sablefish. I started with a recipe from Nobu Matsuhisa found here: However, I didn’t want the sugar so I tailored it quite a bit for flavoring.

The filets were quite small so I marinated them the night before and then removed them from the marinade so they would not be overly salty.

Black cod, it’s not a cod, it’s a sablefish belonging not to the codfish family, but to another family its own. They have black skin and get their name from the sable, a North Asian marten with black fur. This was my first time cooking black cod and I admit I found it to be intriguing. My filets were quite tiny and smelled beautiful.

I made a daikon, cucumber, red onion salad to accompany the cod prepared with my handy, dandy Japanese spiral slicer. It had been collecting dust in the box since the day I bought it over 6 ago. I had never used it so I thought, this is the time to break in the device. The slicer allows me to create ribbons of zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, and daikon radish. It grips the top of any firm vegetable and rotates it against the changeable stainless steel blade. My slicer comes with 3 removable serrated blades to cut thin ribbons and a non removable blade to cut larger ribbons.

I started first by slicing the daikon and then salting it and putting it in a strainer so the excess liquid would drain out. Next I sliced the ribbons of cucumber and added them to the strainer. Finally I sliced the red onion.

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While the daikon was straining I removed the black cod from the marinade and then put the reserved marinade into a small pan and reduced the marinade down to a thick syrup.

The black cod was then put under the broiler to broil for about 8 minutes (be careful not to overcook).

To serve, I combined the daikon, cucumber, and red onion and then topped it with a bit of ponzu and ginger dressing. Then the black cod was served on the side topped with the reduced marinade.

Lovely combination of crunchy, sweet, peppery salad with the sweet delicate black cod!

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Blue Hubbard Squash Soup

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I love farmer’s markets and the beautiful winter squashes that are available in the fall.   I recently found a squash that I just love, the Blue Hubbard Squash. These babies are beautiful, blueish hue on the outside with bright orange flesh.  They are super sweet and make amazing soup as they take on flavors wonderfully.  They used to be very common in the early 20th century as they were one of the few foods that could be counted on to pass through a long winter unspoiled, if  stored properly.  Legend has it that Hubbard squashes came from South America where apparently they have been cultivated for some 4000 years. Stories say that that they were brought to  Massachusetts in the late 1700’s. A woman named Elizabeth Hubbard may have been responsible for spreading and endorsing the seeds.

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These squashes can be beasts –  some can weigh thirty pounds or even more – and with a tough rind that makes getting to the flesh quite difficult.   I’ve heard that the best way to open the large ones is to wrap them in a plastic bag and drop them with some force to the ground.  They apparently split open easily.  I didn’t have to worry about it as my hubbard was just a baby, at least it was small. I managed to cut it open with a sharp knife and then cut off the rind with the same knife.   After that I cut it up into cubes so it could be roasted.

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I looked in my pantry to see what I could find to complement the squash.  I didn’t want to mess around with too many other vegetables so I opted only to use leeks and shallots to keep the flavor of the squash pure.  At the end I added some apples as I thought the apples would work perfectly.  I wanted just a hint of aji panca (a chili native to Peru)   in the soup.  This is my favorite chili powder these days, I love the flavor of this chili powder.  I added some half and half to finish the soup and to round it out.

I think it worked out well, but you be the judge.

Ingredients

¼ tsp ground aji panca chili powder

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¼ tsp Alderwood sea salt

1 tsp French thyme

1 bay leaf

3 1/3 cups roasted blue hubbard squash (cut into 1 cubes)

1 ½ cup diced leeks

½ cup dice shallots

2 small fuji apples that have been cut into 1 inch pieces

5 cups organic chicken stock

1 tbl olive oil

½ cup half and half

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Roast blue hubbard squash (that has been coated with olive oil) for 45 minutes or until soft and lightly caramelized. Remove from oven
  3. In soup pot, sauté leeks and shallots in 1 tbl olive oil until softened.
  4. Add roasted blue hubbard squash to leeks and shallots
  5. Add chicken stock and spices
  6. Add apple pieces
  7. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes until apples are softened
  8. Puree soup
  9. Add  half and half

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Enjoy!

Waking Up the Palette with Sashimi, Sweet Potato Greens and Ponzu

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I have at times been at a loss trying to find ways to make the food really appetizing and flavorful and yet low calorie. I’ve done sous vide chicken to implode the flavors into the meat. I’ve braised the veg and the food adding lots of fresh herbs. I’ve done miso soup, I’ve cooked potato greens, I eat baby bok choy almost daily. But I wanted something really interesting with lots of peppery vibrancy that was healthy and interesting.

Yesterday I went to my local Japanese market as I really enjoy cooking Japanese food and have cooked Japanese food for many years. This time I wanted to buy the ingredients to prepare one of my favorites, sashimi.  Sashimi is thinly sliced, raw seafood and served raw in the Japanese cuisine. It is usually arranged and served on top of shredded daikon and shiso leaves. Sashimi pieces are typically dipped into a dish of soy sauce, which can be accompanied by wasabi depending on the kind of sashimi.

I picked up a nice piece of tilapia to slice up as sashimi. Tilapia is a  tender, white fish, and a rich source of protein, low in calories, no trans fats, no carbohydrates, source of several essential vitamins and minerals, lowest level of mercury concentration of all fish.

Rather than doing a traditional soy/wasabi dipping sauce I chose to make a ponzu, ginger, green onion sauce and then drizzle that sauce over the tilapia. Ponzu is a terrific product, low in calories, a bit high on sodium, but fabulous with tilapia and a number of other types of fish. Ponzu has sweet, sour, slightly salty flavor and I thought it would pair beautifully with the delicate lovely fish combined with the freshly grated ginger with its dancing, peppery, slightly sweet flavors along with finely chopped scallions.

I had picked up some lovely sweet potato greens at the local farmers market and thought they would be a perfect accompaniment to the sashimi part of the menu. Yummy, peppery, crunchy notes of pickled mustard seeds were added as the finishing touch to the greens. I would not consider the greens to be particularly peppery but more as a foil to pick up other flavors.

To make the green dish, I removed the leaves from the stems (leaving some of the tender parts of the stems), quickly blanched the greens, cooled them under running water, then removed the excess liquid from the leaves and chopped them. They were then added to a wok, where I was sauteing chopped onions, garlic and red peppers, along with some water. I covered the wok, and cooked the greens until the liquid was absorbed and then added a bit of spicy mustard into the wok to tie it together.

The greens were topped with pickled mustard seeds to pull the peppery menu together. Mustard seed’s hot and spicy flavors enhance most meats, fish, and sauces and I believed that the pickled mustard seeds would tie into very well to the ginger and ponzu sauce (the pickled mustard seed recipe comes from the Momofuku cookbook and a favorite of my friend Dan).

My taste buds were definitely going to be awake with this menu. I laid out the tilapia topped with the ponzu, ginger, green onion sauce, with the greens topped with pickled mustard seeds (that were prepared earlier in the day) and a lovely side of sliced cucumbers.

The peppery notes blended beautifully between both dishes and the cucumbers provided a wonderfully cooling component to the meal along with some crispy crunchy texture.

A wonderful, refreshing lunch under 220 calories.

Bodacious Grains of Paradise, Chicken & Lentil Soup

I felt like cooking soup today and had some grains of paradise that I had purchased at Boulette’s Larder at the Ferry Market in San Francisco.

Grains of Paradise from Boulette’s Larder in San Francisco

Grains of paradise are peppery seeds from the Aframomum melegueta plant. They have been used in their native West Africa for centuries, and in Europe since at least the 800s. Today, they are commonly in used in Northern Africa. Stores which specialize in spices may carry grains of paradise. They can also be ordered through companies which import spices.

This spice is also known as alligator pepper, Guinea grains, or melegueta pepper. It has a slightly peppery flavor, but the taste of grains of paradise is a bit more complex than pepper. The spice tastes a bit like coriander, ginger, and cardamom, with a bit of a citrus flavor. It is milder than black pepper, but it still packs a punch, especially when applied in large amounts.

Grains of Paradise

I had a few ingredients that I wanted to use up along with some home made veggie stock. I had not one onion in the house (I turned the veggie drawers over and could not find one) so I used leeks instead and that was a success as leeks are wonderfully sweet and complex. I also had some lovely small garnet yams in the fridge and added those as well for more sweetness.

The Recipe
Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/3 cups leeks, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup carrots, finely chopped
2 cups diced garnet yams
8 ounces chicken breast cut into 1/2 pieces
1 cup red lentils
1 cup tomato sauce
8 cups vegetable stock
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon grains of paradise
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp ground dried thyme
1 bay leaf
parsley and pea shoots for garnish
Directions
1. Heat the olive oil in large pot and add the leeks and saute until softened, about 8 minutes.
2. Add the carrot and sweat until the carrots are softened, about 7 minutes.
3. Add the chicken breast and continue to saute until the chicken is slightly browned.
4. Add the remaining incredients and stir to combine. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 40-50 minutes. Check from time to time and add additional stock (or water) if the soup is too thick.

I topped mine with a bit of parsley and some delicious pea shoots for some additional pepperiness. Be warned if you munch on a grain of paradise you will get a good hit of peppery flavor. But a lovely pepper it is.

Enjoy, serve with a side salad for a healthy meal.

Lentil Soup With Grains of Paradise
Finished Lentil Soup With Grains of Paradise

Bodacious Chili – East meets Southwest, Peru and Koronis Purple Beans cooked in Columbian Black Clay Pot

I love the fall season and the ingredients that come to market. Gone are the days of heirloom tomatoes, corn and fava beans. These are the days of winter squash, turnip and dried beans. My Saturday mornings are spent at one of the local farmer’s markets looking for interesting food. One of the local purveyors, Lonely Mountain Organic Farm, sells interesting dried beans. On this day he had Koronis Purple Beans. The Koronis Purple is a bush bean, a shelling bean. It was developed by Robert Lobitz and was grown for its shelling beans with deep purple seeds. They were far to pretty to pass up. I was speaking to Kevin, the farmer from Lonely Mountain that grew these beans, and he said that they had just been harvested and were so fresh they didn’t need to be soaked overnight. We thought they would work well for chili. And so I thought what kind of chili would be interesting. Let me do an east meets southwest, Peru, Koronis Purple for some bodacious fun. I was hoping that the glorious purple would remain. But alas that was not to be the case.

Gone are the days when our only choices for chili were red pepper flakes and chile powder. Cayenne, jalapeño, anchos, pasillas can be found at most grocery stores. But there are even more interesting varieties that are not mainstream and I had a couple in my pantry that I wanted to use in this chili. I opted instead for the Peruvian, Southwest dried chili powder : chimayo style chile powder (from New Mexico), amarillo chile powder (from N. Mexico), ground aji panca (from Peru) and aji amarillo (from Peru).

“Aji” means chile pepper in Spanish. I could find no English translation of panca. Aji panca is a type of chile pepper that is commonly grown in Peru. It is dark red and mild with a smokey, fruity taste.

I also used aji amarillo. “Amarillo” means yellow. Aji amarillo is often thought of as the most important ingredient in Peruvian cooking. It is worth seeking out for its unique flavor, which offers a lot of fruitiness for its heat. It’s a different kind of fruitiness: less sharp and harsh, more full-bodied, and a lot more subtle and tastes like sunshine. This is a comforting hot chile, which may seem odd. Aji amarillo is used in many classic Peruvian dishes and I thought why not try it in a classic American dish “Chile”, the ultimate comfort food made with the comforting hot chile.

I have a beautiful clay bean pot that I bought at La Toque in Half Moon Bay.

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It is hand-crafted black clay La Chamba bean pot from La Chamba, Colombia and can go directly from microwave, stove or oven to the table top. There are no toxins in the La Chamba because no glazes are used and there is no lead in the clay. The black color comes from the firing process and the smooth, satiny finish is accomplished by hand-rubbing the surface with stones. La Chamba is exclusively made in a village in Columbia and the women and craftsmen who make these pots are their own bosses and set their own prices.

Cooking in clay is different than cooking in metal. The clay retains heat and moisture and there is less harsh steam in the pot, so food is able to cook in its own juices and not dry out. Beans, come out of La Chamba pots tasting earthier and with a creamier texture. I love this pot because it works beautifully on the stove as well as in my oven. I have a gas stove and it works perfectly on the flame. (no sticking at all). I have used this pot to make soups, beans and and braises and am always happy with the results. Somehow, the food I cook in this pot seems more infused with flavor. It keeps the food warm for a long time. It is my go to pot now, over my enameled cast iron pots. I love using this cookware and cooking with clay. It’s amazing, the food never sticks and cleanup is a breeze. So perfect, fusion chile made in a clay pot made in Columbia.

Ingredients

2 tbl olive oil

1 large white onion – diced

2 medium red onion – diced

2 celery stalks – fine dice

1 poblano pepper – diced

chicken stock – 3 cups

tomato sauce – homemade – 3 cups

1 1/2 tbl chimayo style chili powder

3/4 tsp amarillo chili powder (from N. Mexico)

1 1/2 tbl ground aji panca

1 1/2 tbl aji amarillo

½ bunch of fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

3 tbl cumin

2tsp alderwood smoked sea salt

cilantro – chopped

1 ¼ pounds heirloom purple kidney beans

firm tofu- 1 ½ pounds

Method

  1. Because these beans were so fresh, no soaking was required
  2. Saute onions in olive oil until softened in clay bean pot
  3. Add celery and poblano and continue to saute
  4. Add chicken stock, tomato sauce and spices (except salt) and stir to mix
  5. Add purple kidney beans and bring to a simmer
  6. Simmer for 2 hours or until beans are tender
  7. Dice fresh tofu into 1 inch pieces.
  8. Add to kidney beans.
  9. Simmer for an additional 1/2 hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Add cilantro to finish

Enjoy!

Bodacious Fresh Sablefish with Tender Pea Shoots

I went to the farmers market.  The heavens opened and the rain came pouring down. I huddled under my umbrella and looked at all the beautiful offerings. A lot caught my eye including fresh chickens (slaughtered yesterday), heirloom variety hard squash, pea shoots and lovely fish. I wanted something for lunch so I picked up some gorgeous sablefish also known as black cod and pea shoots.

Pea shoots are harvested after 2-4 weeks, are tender and bursting with a distinctive pea flavors. Since the earliest times people have harvested wild leafy plants. In the middle ages salads were very popular when people looked to spring greens after eating salted meats and pickled vegetables all winter. Today salads are a regular part of our diet however many people are adding the pea shoot to the salad for a fresh taste.

Fresh Pea Shoots with Japanese Influenced Dressing

Pea shoots can be cooked or eaten fresh. They can be stir-fried, in a wok, as an addition to a healthy salad, wilted into a risotto or pasta dish, added to a marinade or sauce or on their own as a salad. Pea shoots are nutritious, delicious packed with vitamins A, C and folic acid. They will keep in the refrigerator for close to a month.

I love sablefish, also known as black cod. I have prepared it before and typically I like to do it with a Japanese type of seasoning. The fish purveyor at the market said it had been caught the day before. So I had to buy it as fresh fish is gorgeous. I thought it would pair beautifully with the fresh pea shoots.

I made a  Japanese influenced dressing that paired very well with the pea shoots. The sablefish was marinated with a similar Japanese marinade for about 30 minutes and then cooked in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes and finished under the broiler for about 3 minutes. The pea shoot salad was plated and topped with the sablefish and finished with sesame seeds and the pan juices from cooking the fish.

RECIPE

Pea Shoot Salad 1 cup fresh pea shoots Pea Shoot Salad Dressing 1 tbl sesame oil 1 1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar 1 tsp shoyu 1 tsp mirin 1 tsp sesame seeds 1/8 tsp fresh grated young ginger Method 1. Mix dressing ingredients together. 2. Dress pea shoots with the dressing.

Sablefish with Japanese Influence Ingredients 4 oz. sablefish Marinade for sablefish marinade 1 tsp shoyu 1 tsp sesame oil 1 tsp mirin 1/8 tsp fresh ginger

Method 1. Preheat oven to 400F. 2. Mix marinade ingredients together. 3. Marinate sablefish for 30 minutes. 4. Add sablefish and marinade to oven proof dish and bake for 15 minutes 5. Remove fish from oven and turn on the broiler 6. Broil fish for 3 minutes or until nicely golden

To serve: plate the pea shoot salad and top with fish and pan juices. Finish with sesame seeds.

Japanese Influenced Pea Shoot Salad with Fresh Sablefish

Enjoy!