Archive for the ‘Fish and Seafood’ Category

A Memorial Spread

Monday, June 29th, 2020

I just realized that I haven’t posted anything here this month … so here is a quick recipe from my next cookbook, Pot Luck. The book will share essays and recipes I have created over many years, as well as a few new recipes (because I keep coming up with new ideas!).

This particular recipe is new to me, but it goes with an older story. It was inspired by my late neighbor Harrison Parker. Harry was a larger-then-life figure with a heart of gold and a wealth of arcane knowledge at his fingertips. He was the official historian of my town, Hawley, Massachusetts, and he was active in local politics. He died 20 years ago, but he was so famous in our county that people still ask me whether I knew him.

My book includes an essay I wrote after his death that highlights many of his contributions to our community and to our immediate neighborhood. It also mentions one of Harry’s less endearing habits (one to which all of his neighbors were accustomed!).

Harrison was inclined to show up at our houses just as we were sitting down to cocktails in the evening. He would happily sit down, request a drink, and share the news of the day. He almost always stayed through dinner.

Harry didn’t want to take complete advantage of his hosts so he frequently brought a small appetizer as an offering … either a chunk of cheese or a tin of smoked oysters. He loved to construct little cocktail sandwiches of crackers, cheese, and oysters.

His sandwiches aren’t really a recipe … so a couple of weeks ago I created a smoked oyster spread in his honor. I’m sure Harry would have loved this spread if he had had a chance to taste it!

I made this recipe for my friends at Mass Appeal. See video below!

Smoked Oyster Spread à la Harry

Ingredients:

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese at room temperature (leave it out for at least a couple of hours so it really softens)
1 can (3 ounces) smoked oysters, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch cayenne pepper
a bit of the oil in which the oysters are packed
1 tablespoon chopped chives

Instructions:

Place the cream cheese in a bowl, and mash it well. Add the other ingredients in order. Serve with celery or buttery crackers. Makes about 1 cup.

Making a spread is serious business! Thanks to Peter Beck for taking the photos for this post.

Iron-Rich Foods

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

The clams in these fritters are high in iron.

The clams, egg, and, parsley in these fritters are high in iron.

Yesterday I visited my friends at the television program Mass Appeal. We were originally scheduled to make simple appetizers and an even simpler dessert.

The producers decided to devote the entire episode to the worthy cause of donating blood, however, and asked me whether I would change the menu to feature foods with a lot of iron.

Here’s what I know about iron in food. (I started to tell this story on the air but got distracted; I’m still learning how to work on TV!)

My great-grandfather died of pernicious anemia in 1917 at the age of 56. He was a physician—but in 1917 even physicians didn’t know that iron could help with anemia.

His granddaughter, my mother, was understandably worried about anemia. When my brother and I were growing up, our mother served us liver on a fairly regular basis in order to make sure we had enough iron in our diets.

It was NOT my favorite food, and my mother learned to watch me carefully as I ate it to make sure I didn’t surreptitiously feed most of my portion to the dog.

As I grew older, I realized (and quickly informed my mother) that the liver was unnecessary. As this chart from the Red Cross illustrates, any number of foods—most of them tastier than liver, in my opinion—contain that mineral.

So of course I told the producers at Mass Appeal that I would be delighted to whip up a little iron.

We began by making clam fritters and spinach salad. Here is the video.

And here are the recipes. The fritter recipe is (slightly) adapted from Narragansett Beer; the company kindly provided me with this formula for an upcoming book!

Next, we made Kate’s Fantastic Ginger Snaps from my Pudding Hollow Cookbook. The Kate in the recipe is Kate Stevens of Charlemont, Massachusetts, who generously shared her recipe with me.

These cookies get iron from both molasses and ginger—and I have never served them to anyone who has not fallen in love with them.

Here’s the video.

And here is the recipe.

I’ll be back on Mass Appeal in a couple of weeks playing with zucchini. In the meantime, I hope my readers will make sure to eat foods with lots of iron—and of course to donate blood.

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Scallops from the MRKT

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

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Josean Jimenez discovered that he loved food and cooking when he was a child. “Pretty early on when my parents would throw parties, I realized I’d rather be in the kitchen than anywhere else. The kitchen is usually where everybody gathers,” he told me in a recent interview.

Jimenez and I were sitting at a table near the large front windows of his MRKT Restaurant on Elm Street in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. Photographer Paul Franz and I nibbled on one of Jimenez’s beloved small plates while the chef told us about his life and his passion for cooking. (Unfortunately, Paul’s lovely photos ended up in the local newspaper; blog readers are stuck with mine!)

Born in Puerto Rico, Jiminez grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts. Cooking classes he took in junior high school “sparked” his culinary abilities. He went on to study culinary arts at Smith Vocational High School and the Connecticut Culinary Institute.

He worked his way up from dishwashing and prepping ingredients to chef at a number of Pioneer Valley Restaurants. The young chef ventured east to Martha’s Vineyard and Boston, but found that our valley in Western Massachusetts called him back.

During his early years working for others Jimenez expanded his early interest in “multi-Spanish/Puerto-Rican/Creole food” to embrace a wide variety of cuisines. He also learned to manage restaurants as well as cook in them.

Last year he decided he was ready to set out on his own and began looking for a restaurant in the Pioneer Valley. The location in South Deerfield, which had been a restaurant for many years and needed few alterations, suited him perfectly. It was manageable in size and attractive.

More importantly, it represented only a 15-minute drive from the home in Chicopee he shares with his wife and their lively three-year-old twin sons, whom Jimenez obviously adores—although he also obviously finds them a handful.

Each boy has a name tattooed on one of the proud papa’s arms. I asked him what he would do if he had more children since he didn’t have any more arms. Jimenez looked alarmed. “This is all we’re planning,” he said. “Some days when they come in to the restaurant, we have a lot of cleaning up to do!”

MRKT Restaurant opened in November. The winter months were long in the new restaurant, but business is brisk now that spring has arrived. Jimenez hopes to expand his hours (currently Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.) to include lunch very soon. He is also planning international nights with guest chefs.

Jimenez’s own cooking philosophy at MRKT reflects the value he has come to place on the contributions of area farms and their produce. “It’s farm to table with international flare,” Jimenez said of his menu. “I’m trying to support local agriculture. The food tastes better when it’s not coming in a truck from California.”

Jimenez noted that the farm-to-table emphasis also suits his culinary temperament since he likes to alter his menu frequently. Responding to the growing season makes changes inevitable.

“We’ve had the current menu for maybe four weeks and I’m ready to change it,” he said with a smile.

However much the menu may vary, it will probably always feature small plates, which Jimenez likes to offer so that diners can share and taste as many food combinations as possible.

The small plates on the menu when I visited included Hadley asparagus with goat-cheese fondue and a fried egg (the chef is very fond of eggs); chicken liver mousse with homemade jam, pickled mustard seed, and grilled toast; and the dish Jimenez served Paul Franz and me, sea scallops with a vegetable ragout and a carrot-cardamom reduction.

The orange of the carrot reduction and the green of the peas and beans shouted “spring,” and the dish provided contrasting consistencies to the palate: creamy sauce, tenderly chewy scallops, crunchy chives.

We forked the scallops and vegetables down quickly and then asked Josean Jimenez for a spoon so we could savor every drop of the carrot reduction.

I plan to make this dish soon. It’s quick, easy, flavorful, and just a bit showy. (I do love showy!)

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MRKT Restaurant’s Pan-Seared New Bedford Scallops with Fava Bean/English Pea Ragout and Carrot-Cardamom Reduction

Ingredients:

for the reduction:

1 cup carrot juice (Josean Jimenez makes this with a juicer, but it may also be purchased)
1 cardamom pod, lightly crushed by hand
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste

for the scallops:

salt and pepper to taste
4 large scallops
a splash of canola oil
1 teaspoon butter

for the ragout:

a splash of canola oil
1 tiny red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fava beans, blanched
1/4 cup English peas, blanched
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1 teaspoon butter
sea salt and pepper to taste (Josean Jimenez prefers the French “piment d’espelette,” available in gourmet stores, but other ground pepper may be substituted)
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives plus additional chives for garnish

Instructions:

First, prepare the reduction. In a saucepan combine the carrot juice and cardamom pod. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer until it reduces by half (about 5 to 10 minutes). Stir in the cream, and again reduce by about half, or until slightly thick (about 5 minutes more).

Remove the reduction from the heat, add salt and pepper, and set aside. Move on to the scallops.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over the scallops. In a small sauté pan heat a splash of canola oil. Sear the scallops over medium high heat until they are golden brown on both sides (around 2 to 5 minutes, depending on your stove). Add the teaspoon of butter just as they are about to finish cooking.

In another small sauté pan heat another splash of canola oil for the ragout. Sauté the red onion pieces briefly; then add the beans and peas. Sauté over medium heat for 1 minute.

Add the vegetable stock, and cook for another minute. Toss in the butter when the stock is almost finished cooking. Season the ragout with the salt and pepper, and add the tablespoon of chives.

To serve the dish, ladle 1 ounce of the carrot sauce into a flat bowl. (You will have enough leftover sauce for several future servings.) Pour the vegetable ragout on top of the sauce, and place the scallops on top. Sprinkle chives on top and serve.

Makes 1 serving.

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Maple-Soy Glazed Salmon

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

We still have a week to go in maple month—and I’m doing a maple-cooking demonstration in Virginia on April 1—so I’m in a maple mood.

Years ago I tasted a fabulous salmon dish at the Green Emporium in Colrain, Massachusetts. When I asked creative chef Michael Collins about it, he explained that he had cooked the fish with equal parts of maple syrup and soy sauce.

This is not precisely his recipe, which I don’t have, but it was inspired by Michael. The flavor of the marinade is subtle but definitely perceptible.

I had never baked salmon before, but one of my dinner guests, Lot Cooke (thank you, Lot!), got me through this recipe with no worries. Of course, it helped that the recipe was really, REALLY easy.

The Salmon

Ingredients:

2 pounds salmon fillets
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup soy sauce (I used low-sodium, which was still salty enough)

Instructions:

In a saucepan combine the syrup and soy sauce. Heat until the mixture until it boils. Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for 5 minutes.

Place the salmon fillets in little pouches of foil inside a large baking dish. Pour the maple-soy mixture over them and spread it on top. Close the foil up so that the marinade will stay on the fish and not bleed into the pan. Marinate the fish for 1 hour, basting the marinade over it again every 20 minutes or so.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the fish and baste once more. Bake the fish on a high oven rack, uncovered, until it flakes (about 20 minutes), basting after 10 minutes. For the last 2 to 3 minutes you may turn your broiler on to brown the salmon.

Serves 6.

Eating a little leftover salmon EXHAUSTED Rhubarb.

 

Oscar Banquets

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Oscar night looms. Commentators are dusting off their pre-show red-carpet patter, craftsmen are fashioning gold-plated statuettes, Price Waterhouse officials are counting ballots in secret sessions, and Hollywood is preparing to dazzle its colleagues and the general public with its annual orgy of self-congratulation.

Today Wolfgang Puck and his minions are working on the food for the Governor’s Ball. According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, this year’s menu will feature my favorite edible for ANY occasion—lots and lots of finger food, served buffet style. I would LOVE to taste Puck’s lobster tacos, not to mention the gold-dusted chocolate Oscars now being fashioned.

The first Academy-Awards banquet was less elaborate than the one planned for tomorrow evening. Held in Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel in May of 1929, it fed about 270 people instead of the 1500-odd nominees, presenters, and guests expected this year.

The overall ambiance, according to later recollections, was one of a small community celebration. First best-actress winner Janet Gaynor said decades after the fact, “It was just a small group getting together for a pat on the back…. Hollywood was just one big family then, and [the award] was a bouquet—thrown to me, I think, because I was new and because they thought I had certain freshness. It was nothing then like it is now.”

Janet Gaynor in "Sunrise," one of the three films for which she won the best-actress trophy in 1929.

The food was less sophisticated than that being planned for this year. Hollywood and the American public were a little simpler then. I think it sounds pretty tasty, however.

According to the official Awards Librarian at the Academy, the menu consisted of:

Assorted Nibbles (rolls, olives, etc.)
Consommé Celestine
Fillet of Sole Sauté au Beurre
Half-Broiled Chicken on Toast
(The librarian noted that she hoped this meant “broiled half-chicken” rather than underdone poultry.)
New String Beans
Long-Branch Potatoes
Lettuce and Tomatoes with French Dressing
Vanilla and Chocolate Ice Cream
Cakes
Demitasse

Nostalgia is always on the menu at the Academy Awards, so I am supplying a version of one of the dishes consumed in 1929. Happy viewing … and eating. Enjoy Billy Crystal’s return!

Billy Crystal and Friend. Courtesy of AMPAS. Photo credit : Bob D'Amico/ABC

Original Oscar Night Fillet of Sole

I love sole—and so, apparently, did diners in Hollywood in 1929. This is my favorite way to pan fry this fish in butter. If you want to make the fillets look more beautiful, dredge them in flour before cooking them.

I haven’t made this recipe lately so I don’t have a photo to share with you. But I do remember that it was delicious.

Ingredients:

1 small juice glass almost filled with sprigs of parsley
about 1/4 cup clarified butter
1-1/2 pounds sole fillets
salt and white pepper to taste
the juice of 1/2 large lemon

Instructions:

With kitchen scissors cut the parsley into small pieces in the glass. In a large frying pan, melt about half of the butter over medium heat. Put in a few sole fillets; they should not touch each other.

Fry the fillets gently for a minute or two on each side, until they become flaky, adding salt and pepper as you cook. As each fillet is done, place it on a platter in a 250-degree oven so that it stays warm until its relatives have finished cooking. Add butter to the pan as needed for sautéing.

When the fillets are all cooked and on the platter, throw the parsley and lemon juice into the frying pan, and stir to allow them to mingle with the pan drippings. Ladle the parsley-lemon-butter mixture onto the fish fillets, and serve.

Serves 4.

This postcard of the Roosevelt Hotel, currently for sale on ebay, was postmarked in 1929.

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