Halibut and Heirlooms – Bodacious Summer Food

It’s been a beautiful summer so far. Perfect weather in sunny CA.

I had a fantastic week. Two dinners with two dear friends both who sent me home with fruits of their labor: heirloom tomatoes grown with care by my friend Dan and CA halibut caught by line by my friend Jon. Yes, CA halibut caught by line. Dan is the master of the tomato garden, I can honestly say I have not had better tomatoes than his. Jon is the master of the sea. Who catches halibut by line, this was a big one, 15 pounds.

I wanted to eat both the tomatoes and the halibut quickly to take advantage of the freshness of both. So why not combine them together and top the dish with lovely fresh made pesto (I used basil, thai basil and almonds (instead of pine nuts) and garlic.

My friend Robert suggested adding some ascorbic acid (grind a Vitamin C tablet with a mortar and pestle) to the pesto to prevent oxidation and help to keep it green, even after sitting a while. He said to make sure it is pure Vitamin C (e.g., no rose hips or other vitamins) and use about 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. Briefly blanching and icing the basil will also help keep it really green.

It’s great to have foodie friends! Thanks guys!!!

Halibut and Heirloom
Halibut and Heirloom

I prepared the dish very simply, poached the halibut in water, with some white wine added, fresh parsley, thyme, cilantro and garlic. It poached for about 8 minutes. I removed the fish from the poaching liquid, patted it dry and then laid it down on the diced tomatoes and topped the dish with freshly made pesto.

Delicious, perfect for a summer dinner. So fresh and tasty.

The pesto didn’t overwhelm the fish but complimented the fish and tomatoes perfectly.

Enjoy!

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Serendipity: Green Lipped Mussels – Thai Style

I went downtown to the Asian market to buy herbs and other food.  I found the best fresh food at the market including the most beautiful fresh galangal that I have ever seen.  It was so fresh.   Galangal is a rhizome of plants in the ginger family.  It’s culinary uses originated in Indonesia.  It is used in various Asian cuisines (Thai, Cambodian, Laotian, Vietnamese and throughout Indonesian cuisine).  While it is related to ginger it does not taste similar,  It is more like a combination of citrus, black pepper, cedar and ginger.  I love this stuff and I have never seen such a gorgeous selection of galangal.  It was very well priced too.

Fresh galangal
Fresh galangal

While I was shopping I ran into Melanie and she told me that there was a Songkran (Thai New Year) celebration happening in downtown San Jose, just 1 block from the market. It is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional New Year’s Day from April 13 – April 15. So after I finished my shopping I packed my car with my goodies and wandered over to the street party.

Songkran
Songkran – Thai New Year

It was a beautiful sunny day with festivities and fun happening everyone.  There were tents and booths over a two block stretch. There was also a beauty pageant taking place at a stage at the end of one of the streets.  Another event that was taking place was a wrestling competition.  Can’t say I expected that.

As I walked through the festival I noticed people walking around with what appeared to be powder on their faces.  I asked someone about the significance of the powder on their faces.  A lovely young woman responded that a big part of the  celebration of Songkran is the throwing of water upon others. People roam the streets with containers of water or water guns. Also, many people  have bowls of beige colored powder and they mix it with water.  This paste  is then smeared on the faces and bodies of random people as a blessing for the new year. That’s what I saw everywhere, faces smeared with powdery paste.  After I asked, I thanked them and one of the guys squirted me with the water gun.  I laughed and said spray me more as it is hot.

After I finished my exploration of the That New Year celebration I came home and decided to make a mussel dish to celebrate the new year at home.  I had picked up the ingredients at the market earlier and thought how appropriate it would be to make Thai influenced green lipped mussels.  What a coincidence, go to the market to buy food, find out it is Thai New Year and then I make Thai green lipped mussels.  Serendipity for sure.

Songkran
Thai green lipped mussels in celebration of Songkran

Ingredients

  • 1 pound green lipped mussels (I used frozen green lippped mussels on the half shell as that is all I could find)
  • 1/2 medium onion diced
  • 3/4 cup white wine (I used Austrian Gewurztraminer, an old one that I lost in the cellar, I wanted the foral aromatics of the Gewurtz)
  • 3 tsp fish sauce
  • 14 oz can coconut cream
  • 1 1/2″ knob of fresh galangal (mine was about 1 1/2″ diameter) cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass – smashed to open up the fibers and cut into 2 ” lengths
  • 3 tsp green curry paste
  • 15 leaves of Thai basil
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tbl coconut oil

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a deep pot.
  2. Add onions and saute until softened
  3. Add curry paste and saute to extract the flavors
  4. Add white wine and continue to saute for a couple of minutes
  5. Add coconut cream, galangal, lemon grass, thai basil leaves, a handful of cilantro and bring to a simmer.
  6. Simmer for 30 minutes until thickened, reduced and until the flavors are incorporated.
  7. Add green lipped mussels and cook for 12-15 minutes or until done.
  8. Serve in a deep bowl with lots of liquid to soak up the juices, Garnish with fresh cilantro.  I topped mine with a mint/cilantro/basil pesto as well.
Yummy, all gone.
Yummy, all gone.

A Bodacious Day For the Body – Nourishing Body, Mind and Spirit

SPQR Restaurant San Francisco
SPQR Restaurant San Francisco

My idea of heaven on earth is a day spent nourishing the entire body: body, mind and soul and I look back on my day yesterday and feel so nourished. Good food to pamper the spirit (for me food is very spiritual) and body, a day at the baths to pamper the spirit and body and a good book to pamper the mind.

And so it was, spring lunch at SPQR on Fillmore St. in San Francisco followed by an afternoon at Kabuki Springs in Japantown, the quintessential experience of body, mind and spirit.

SPQR is a  San Francisco restaurant that takes its inspiration from Italian cuisine and wine.  SPQR translates to “The People and Senate of Rome” and was the emblem of the Roman Empire. It received a Michelin star for 2013 and offers amazing service in a comfortable atmosphere. I had a truly wonderful lunch, the service was perfect, the wine list is very well chosen, offering a variety of 3 ounce pours so that one can have a small pour with each dish.  Perfect.

Today I started with an asparagus panna cotta with hot smoked salmon, roe and seaweed served with a Terlan, ‘Vorberg’, Pinot Bianco Riserva, Alto Adige 2009.  Stellar pairing.  The beautiful freshness of spring.

asparagus panna cotta with hot smoked salmon, roe and seaweed broth
asparagus panna cotta with hot smoked salmon, roe and seaweed broth

I love that the courses are a  reasonable size so one can enjoy more than one course.  It took a long time to figure out what I wanted as everything looked amazing.  I finally decided on the carrot salad:   a sweet carrot and lentil salad, medjool date and vadouvan curry crema. What a salad, wow, flavor explosion.  I had “orange wine” with it:  a couple of small pours of “orange wine”: Monastero Suore Cistercensi, ‘Coenobium Rusticum’, Lazio 2010 and Elvio Cogno, ‘Anas-Cëtta’, Langhe Bianco, Piemonte 2011 Nascetta.  Both were beautiful with the carrot salad. I love orange wine.

sweet carrot and lentil salad, medjool date and vadouvan curry crema
sweet carrot and lentil salad, medjool date and vadouvan curry crema

A meal would not be complete at an Italian restaurant without pasta and so I finished with a pasta course:  buckwheat tagliatelle, cider and bacon braised suckling pork and rapini paired withI Favati, ‘Cretarossa’, Aglianico, Irpinia, Campania 2009.

buckwheat tagliatelle, cider and bacon braised suckling pork and rapini
buckwheat tagliatelle, cider and bacon braised suckling pork and rapini

An amazing 2 hour, 3 course lunch with lovely well chosen wines by the server.  Perfect spring lunch.

Now fed I wandered over to Kabuki Springs & Spa for my afternoon of bliss.

Kabuki Springs & Spa is an urban oasis in San Francisco, a place of serenity and deep relaxation.  I love it,  it’s a magic place, I feel so nourished after an afternoon at Kabuki.

kabukispring

You are offered a robe and a key for your personal locker when you check in at the front desk. Fluffy towels are rolled and stacked inside the spa for use. No need to bring anything, all you need is offered. They offer communal baths in the tradition of Japanese public baths, Kabuki’s communal bath is designed to encourage harmony and deep relaxation. They have a hot bath, a cold bath, a wet steam room, dry steam room, showers, salt if you want to do a salt scrub, lounge chairs, beverages (cucumber water, lemon water and regular water). I love to go into the hot bath, then cool off in the cold bath and then go back into the hot bath. I’ll go into both steam rooms as well. Relaxing music is piped into the entire spa. Serenity abounds.

kabuki2

Along with the amazing baths, Kabuki offers a variety of spa services including massages, facials, body treatments and acupuncture. I love to spend a couple of hours in the baths and then have a massage as was the case yesterday, an amazing shiatsu massage. The best I’ve ever had, deep relaxing massage. Four hours later I emerged, a relaxed, revitalized person.
kabuki

Sablefish with Japanese Influence

misoblackcodopt

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.

japanesespiralsliceropt

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!

misoblackcodoptimized

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!