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Summer Ceviche Salad with Fresh Papalo

The vendor had noticed us ogling her herbs. "It's papalo! Here, take some with you." she chirped. "I'll write the word down for you. It's from Mexico. Use it like cilantro."

At the next stand over, we scored some gray sole and returned home with arms full of tomatoes, onions, lettuces, cucumbers and this unfamiliar herb.

A quick web search revealed that papalo is indeed native to Mexico, and it grows like a weed across the Southwest US as well as Central and South America. Generally eaten raw, is often added to things like guacamole, salsas and sandwiches.

Fresh Papalo

This site claims the flavor is "somewhere between arugula, cilantro and rue," but having not eaten rue, I thought I tasted something slightly citrusy and minty, like something between cilantro and the sushi bar staple, shiso.

Homesick Texan makes a very pretty salsa verde with it, but on this particularly hot, humid day, we had our minds set on a cool ceviche salad for lunch.

This is just a variation on my basic ceviche recipe. I think the only thing that could have made it more delightful would be a sliced avocado on the side.

Ceviche Salad

Summer Ceviche Salad (Serves two)

2 sole fillets (or another white fish) sliced in 1/2" wide strips
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp honey (or a pinch of sugar)
1 tsp chopped papalo (or cilantro)
1 tsp chopped epazote (optional)
1 handful cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 radishes, sliced very thin
1/4-1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and sliced very thin
1 green onion (white section) sliced very thin
4 cups mesclun or chopped leaf lettuce

1. Combine the lime juice and salt in a glass/pyrex dish or another non-reactive container.
2. Add the fish slices, tossing well to coat the fish with juice, and chill (for up to, but not more than an hour), stirring once or twice during that time to make sure all the fish surface area comes in contact with the juice.
3. After 20-30 minutes, the fish should look white and opaque. Drain off most of the lime juice and incorporate the olive oil. Coat the fish well.
4. Mix in the honey (or a pinch of sugar) and taste the lime juice-olive oil blend. Adjust the flavor, to taste, with salt/sugar.
5. Toss in the herbs, tomatoes, radishes, jalapeño slices and onion.
6. Divide the lettuce greens and make a bed on each plate. Spoon the ceviche on top of the lettuce and drizzle the greens with the lime juice.

Because it's often used as a substitute for cilantro or culantro, you won't be surprised to learn that the papalo was delicious in our ceviche.

I think it'd also make a delightful addition to fish tacos. That citrusy aspect is bound to make papalo welcome anywhere you'd use a pinch of cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

If you happen to be in NYC, you can get your very own papalo (and epazote and other good-lookin' herbs and veggies) at the Angel Family Farm stand at Tompkins Square on Sundays. Looks like they're based in Goshen, NY, and they run a local CSA, as well.

Salud!
Miss Ginsu

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7.30.2009

But You Can't Tuna Fish

When it comes to a surplus, some foods are easier to wrangle than others. Extra apples become applesauce and apple butter. Easy.

Extra peaches become preserves. No problem. Extra cabbage becomes sauerkraut or kimchi. Cucumbers, beans, onions and carrots become pickles.

But what happens when you come across a great sale on tuna? Well, as it turns out, that, too can be preserved.

Tuna!

J and I are huge fans of the oil-packed tuna that typically comes in jars from Spain and Italy, but those are not cheap.

An article in the LA Times a few months ago illustrated how the same process can be accomplished at home, so when we recently ran across some bargain albacore steaks, we stocked up.

Preserved Tuna

As the piece illustrates, oil-poaching tuna is a supremely simple process with the potential to save lots of money if you get a good price on the tuna. And the end result is very satisfying.

Watching your salt intake? Don't use it. Like a little citrus flavor? Add some lemon peel to the oil. We've been pleased with the addition of thin-sliced garlic.

Essentially, you just cover a tuna steak in olive oil, add some herbs, citrus peel, garlic and/or salt to the liquid (if you like) and cook it at the lowest cooking temperature you can manage for about 12 to 15 minutes.

Once it's opaque and flaking, it's ready to go in jars and hang out in the fridge... become a tuna salad sandwich or top a lovely salad, like this feta-olive-chickpea-tomato number. Mmm...

Mediterranean Salad

Our home-poached tuna is also J's new favorite thing when paired with avocado. We shared this salad the other night, and I have a feeling it's going to become a regular part of the dinner lineup.

Note: I didn't post an image here yesterday out of pure laziness... and lack of quality light in the windowsill, but mum insisted on a photo, so we made it again today. Yum.

Tunacado Salad
J's Tunacado Salad (Serves Two)
4-5 cups mixed lettuce, chopped or torn
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup drained tuna chunks
1 ripe Hass avocado, in 1" pieces
1-2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1-2 scallions, sliced thin
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (use some of the poaching oil!)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Dash of salt, grind of pepper

1. Combine lettuce, tomatoes, tuna, avocado, parsley and scallions.
2. Drizzle with a vinaigrette composed of the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
3. Devour immediately.

The parsley and scallions are minor, but very tasty additions. If you must, you can get by without them, but it really is a superior salad when they're included.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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4.04.2009

A Defense Against Doldrums

The stale, crusty edge of winter lingers forever, it seems. And while I know Shakespeare called April the "cruelest month," I feel February is a strong contender for the title.

What's to be done with these days in which citrus season is closing and spring shoots and greens are still weeks away?

I'll throw in my vote for that greatest of Swedish traditions... and no, I don't mean IKEA, I mean the Smorgasbord.

Smorgasbord Fish Platter

A group of friends, a selection of hot and cold tasties freely sampled and maybe a few merry nips of akavit... it all seems like just the thing to relieve late-winter doldrums.

So then, what goes on the smorgasbord? To my mind, considering the menu is half the fun.

I think a proper smorgas spread includes a tantalizing array of foods common in Sweden, such as sliced dark rye or pumpernickel bread (for making open-faced sandwiches), spicy mustard, sliced cheeses, cold meats such as ham, sausages, Swedish meatballs and lingonberry sauce, cold shrimp salads, potato salads dressed with dill, beets (pickled or not), pickled veggies, pickled and smoked fish (salmon and herring are popular), cardamom cake, warm rice pudding and coffee.

And though I mock IKEA's world domination a bit, they probably are the best source of smorgasbord ingredients for most folks. With reasonable prices on lingonberries and a selection of Swedish delights in their food area, I'd encourage you to browse through their offerings if you're interested in setting up a savory smorgas of your own.

Meanwhile, I'll offer my own tasty Swedish Meatball recipe, which makes a delicious meal whether you're feeding a crowd or just serving dinner.
Swedish Meatballs (Makes about 30 meatballs)
2 slices fresh bread (white or whole-wheat)
1/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp butter, divided
2 Tbsp canola or peanut oil, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 lb ground chuck
1 lb ground pork
1 large egg
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups beef or chicken stock
3/4 cup sour cream

1. Tear the bread into bits and place it in a small bowl with the milk. Allow the mixture to soak for 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and one tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sweat the onion until softened but not browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. When tender, transfer the onions to a large bowl, but reserve any of the oil/butter mixture left in the skillet.
3. Put the ground beef and pork in a large bowl and blend in the sweated onions, egg, salt, pepper, allspice and nutmeg.
4. Squeeze any excess milk out of the bread crumbs and blend into the meatball mixture.
5. Form golfball-sized meatballs with your hands, stacking the balls on a clean plate.
6. In the same skillet you used to sweat the onions, add the reserved tablespoons of butter and oil and heat over a medium flame.
7. Add the meatballs in batches (don't overcrowd the pan), and saute until well-browned on all sides — about 7 to 8 minutes. Move cooked meatballs to a wire rack or plate covered in paper towels.
8. When the meatballs are done, reserve the fat in the pan, sprinkling the flour into the skillet. Continue heating, stirring the flour and oil with a wooden spoon.
9. Add the stock to the pan, stirring to loosen any bits at the bottom of the pan. Simmer and stir until the stock reduces and starts to thicken. Season with salt and pepper, lower the heat and stir in the sour cream.
10. Return the meatballs to the saucy skillet and coat well with the sauce. Serve hot with lingonberry sauce on the side.

Lingonberry sauce is pretty quick to make on the fly... just warm a half-cup of lingonberry jam or jelly in a saucepan with a few tablespoons of water, whisking the mixture until it's a uniform, pourable sauce.

And what if there's no lingonberries to be found? Just substitute a currant, blueberry or blackberry jam. It'll be just as tasty.

Yours in Winter Feasting!
Miss Ginsu

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2.19.2009

Food Horoscope: Aquarius

Happy birth-month, Aquarians!

Aquarius
Aquarius, the water bearer (January 20 - February 18)

Now, I'm merely a cook, and not an astrologer, but here's my advice for your foodcast:

This might be a great year to focus on experimentation in your cooking.

Try new ingredients. Sample new flavor combinations. Pick up some books at the library and absorb an entirely new cuisine or a skill, like gardening, chocolate-making or pickling.

Go this route and you'll satisfy a desire for novelty without spending gobs of money at restaurants.

Who knows? You might even learn you have a real knack for your newfound skill and make a side business out of it.

Since January is an ideal month to enjoy citrus fruit (and a far less ideal month to go outdoors) you can start experimenting now, if you like.

Try an approachable salad of fresh mint and grapefruit. Or a clementine sorbet. Or a salad of tangerines and frisee. Or add oranges into a supremely simplified take on a Spanish-style bouillabaisse, like so:
A Simple Spanish Seaside Stew (Serves 4)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 28oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 navel oranges — peeled, segmented and halved crosswise
1-2 lb fish of your choice, cut into 2-inch pieces* (or substitute shelled shrimp)
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

1. In a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
2. Add the sliced onions, bell pepper, thyme and pepper flakes, sauteing 10 minutes.
3. Pour in the diced tomatoes with their juices and the salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook 20 minutes, or until the pepper pieces are very tender.
4. Add the orange pieces and the fish cubes. Gently mix into the tomato mixture and allow to cook 5 to 8 minutes, or until the fish pieces are opaque.
5. Season to taste with additional salt and ground black pepper, if necessary. Garnish with fresh dill and serve with a crisp green salad and/or a crusty hunk of bread for dipping.

The combination of tomatoes and oranges is very common in Mediterranean Spain, and this stew is an easy way to get more fish in your diet for not a lot of money. I find it also makes for tasty lunch leftovers.

Enjoy your birthday and happy eating!
Miss Ginsu

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1.20.2009

Food Quote Friday: Palme Vidar

My Bluefish

On Iceland:

"'This is a small country,' he says. 'We have always swung, between feast and famine. There have been terrible times before, too, when the sheep bubble burst and the herring fleet failed. We always hang on. And you know, we were not going in a good direction. When I was a boy, if you went to the harbour to fish and you got wet, you could not fish again until the next day, because you had only one pair of trousers. Today people have too many trousers.'"

— Palme Vidar in The Guardian


More briny food quotes can be found within the food quote archive.

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10.17.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 10.06.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was not in Las Vegas, but in front of the Louvre museum in Paris. Another good guess by Mr. Hazard. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Mackerel Economics in Prison Leads to Appreciation for Oily Fillets
Hold on... you're telling me this *isn't* a piece from The Onion?

Making Meals in a Rice Cooker
Brilliant. I love this.

Celebrity Chef Barbie
Just in case you didn't truly believe that "Celebrity Chef" is now a legitimate career... Dream big, girls!

Street Vendor Project
Advocacy for the little guy. Plus: the annual Vendy Awards. Mmm... social justice is tasty.

The Swill Is Gone
Dirty politics and a long, unappetizing history lolling behind the current Chinese milk scandal. Ew.

New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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10.06.2008

Dinner with Sarah. Palin, that is.

Watching the debates tonight? Why not really get to know the candidate and dine Sarah Palin style?

My crafty contact M. in the Bay area used Google's 10th anniversary index yesterday to check around for what the potential Republican veep was cooking up a decade ago.

Turns out, she was glazing salmon and submitting her recipes to AlaskaSeafood.org.

glazed mahi


SWEET AND SAUCY GRILLED SALMON
Recipe by Alaska Fisherman Sarah Palin
Wasilla, Alaska

* 1 can (12 oz.) tomato sauce
* 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
* 1/4 cup molases
* 3 tbsp. ketchup
* 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
* 2 tbsp. dried minced onion
* 1 tbsp. Worcestershure sauce
* 1 tbsp. mustard
* 1 tbsp. dried bell pepper dices
* 1/4 tsp. each cinnamon and nutmeg
* 4 to 6 Alaska salmon fillets or steaks (4 to 6 oz. each)

Blend all ingredients, except seafood, in bowl; let set 10 to 15 minutes. Dip seafood into sauce, then place on hot oiled grill, not directly over heat source (coals or gas). Cover and vent. Cook about 6 to 12 minutes per inch of thickness, brushing with extra sauce, if desired. Do not overcook or burn edges.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Also great with Alaska halibut or cod!

Has anyone tried this one?

Maybe a person could pair it with the neglected Palin Syrah?

It's a bummer we don't have a Biden recipe to go with it. Maybe a Biden cocktail is in order. Or Biden biscotti. Or maybe Biden brownies for dessert.

Cheers,

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10.02.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 08.25.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Though he may have appeared to have been in Nova Scotia last week (a fine guess), Cupcake was actually located just down the way from Bonaparte Breads in Fells Point, Baltimore. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Conserving locally caught tuna, Italian style
Since I buy the Italian stuff by the case, it helps to know how to actually make it.

Not Just a Garden, but Cows
The latest thing in suburban status symbols: Jersey Cows.

The Essential Barbecue Guide
Duck, Venison... The Guardian's take on grilling looks a bit more adventurous than your standard US grill feature.

Dirt exposure boosts happiness
A little something gardeners have known all along...

Fish Tale Has DNA Hook
Teens testing restaurant dishes find some fishy business afoot.

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8.25.2008

Blended Bacon Butter (& Friends)

One of the first techniques we learned in cooking school was for making compound butter. It's essentially just butter that's softened, blended with something flavorful, reformed and re-chilled for serving.

Compound butters are so decadent and so easy — though they never fail to impress guests when you make the effort — and yet, they're one of those delicious details I invariably forget about.

Bread & Butter
Why bread and butter when you could be eating a better butter?

Here's three recipes for compound butters — each supremely simple and very tasty. You'll notice the method is the same for each, so once you've made one or two, you can kind of go crazy and add in just about anything you like.

The Bacon Butter is divine on grilled vegetables (try it on your corn-on-the-cob), the Herb Butter is great sliced and slipped under the skin of a chicken you're about to roast, the Anchovy Butter especially loves steaks and broiled fish... and (surprise!) all three are delicious spread across the surface of a fresh baguette. Or maybe even a hot biscuit. Mmm...
Blended Bacon Butter
1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup crisp bacon, finely crumbled (or proscuitto or serrano ham, minced)
1/4 Tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1. Blend the butter in a bowl with the bacon or minced proscuitto/serrano (a wooden spoon works well for this).
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roll the butter into a tight log shape in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week. If you won't use it that day, wrap well (or seal in a freezer bag) or freeze for up to 3 months.

Zesty Herb Butter
1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 Tbsp parsley, minced
1 Tbsp chives, minced
1/2 Tbsp tarragon, minced
1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 Tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1. Blend the butter in a bowl with the garlic, herbs, zest and lemon juice (a wooden spoon works well for this).
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roll the butter into a tight log shape in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week. If you won't use it that day, wrap well (or seal in a freezer bag) or freeze for up to 3 months.

Garlic Anchovy Butter
1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened
4 Anchovy fillets, minced
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 Tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1. Blend the butter in a bowl with the minced anchovies, garlic, zest and lemon juice (a wooden spoon works well for this).
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roll the butter into a tight log shape in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week. If you won't use it that day, wrap well (or seal in a freezer bag) or freeze for up to 3 months.


Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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8.14.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 07.21.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
As surmised, last week Cupcake was visiting the handsome polar bear at the Musée d'Orsay. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Be the envy of your friends and the bane of your enemies by posting a guess in the comments.

Vertical Farms for Urban Areas
Critics question zucchini-in-the-sky visions: “Would a tomato in lower Manhattan be able to outbid an investment banker for space in a high-rise?”

Cutest. Spaghetti film. Ever.
I love this short so much. PES, you rock.

The Food-Truck Revolution
NY Mag offers up a handy map of NYC's most mobile meals... with recommendations, of course.

Red Hook vendors in the red
I know they mean well, but I kind of hate the health department.

felt egg cosy
I can't say I've ever had need for an egg cozy, but... OMG SO CUTE!

Is Eco-Wine Better?
An exploration of the "green" wine spin factor.

Parker's Wine Vintage Chart
A good "print out and take along" reference for the next time you're out wine shopping.

Fun with Toxins
MUG sends out a call to New Yorkers... Help keep consumer labeling on your milk!

Good Fish, Bad Fish: A Consumer Guide
Think wild Alaskan (sablefish, salmon) or think small: mussels, oysters, anchovies, sardines

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7.21.2008

Food Quote Friday: Nikolai Gogol

fresh bluefish

" 'And bake us a four-cornered fish pie,' he said, sucking the air through his teeth and inhaling deeply.

'In one corner I want you to put the sturgeon cheeks and the gristle cooked soft, in another throw in some buckwheat, and then some mushrooms and onions, and some sweet milt, and the brains, and whatever else, you know the sort of thing. And make sure that on the one side it's — you know — a nice golden brown, but not so much on the other side. And the pastry — make sure it’s baked through, 'til it just crumbles away, so that the juices soak right through, do you see, so that you don’t even feel it in your mouth — so it just melts like snow.'

As he said all this, Petukh kept smacking and sucking his lips."

Nikolai Gogol from Dead Souls

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6.27.2008

No stove, please. I'll have ceviche.

Bah! Cooking... Who needs it? With the temps the 80s and high humidity all week, I just can't get excited about turning on the oven when I come home from work. Raw-food diets suddenly begin to seem more attractive.

J and I try to maintain a Fish n' Film Friday dinner (it's a great mnemonic device to keep fish in our diets), but the thought of turning on the stove last week was just... too... much. So then, our thoughts turned to tangy, spicy bits of ceviche.

Grouper ceviche
Grouper ceviche with radishes, jalapeño and cilantro

Ceviche (sometimes spelled seviche) is simply thin-sliced (or cubed) raw fish that's marinated in a strong acid, usually citrus-based, such as lemon, lime or grapefruit juice. The acid pickles or "cooks" the fish, turning its appearance from translucent to opaque.

Ceviche can be made with salmon or mackerel, of course, but those are fattier, more fully-flavored fish. I prefer the white fishes or ceviches made with shell-off shrimp and scallops. My recommendation? Go with snapper, grouper, sea bass, flounder, halibut, sole or mahi-mahi and doll it up with whatever tasty things you have in the fridge.

Chopped herbs or minced onions are a natural. Peruvian ceviche is very minimalist (and usually served with onions, sweet potatoes and corn), while Mexican ceviche is often mixed with a sort of pico de gallo of chilies, tomatoes and onions. I recently discovered it's also delightful when mixed with chopped-up pickled onions or pickled ramps.
Basic Ceviche
1 pound white fish (sliced uniformly thin), shelled shrimp or scallops
1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 4 limes)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp olive oil

Optional extras
1 Tbsp chopped pickled ramps
1 small red onion, sliced very thin and rinsed in cold water
1 handful cherry tomatoes, halved
3-4 radishes, sliced very thin
1/4 red pepper, diced
1/4-1/2 jalapeño pepper, sliced very thin

1. Combine the lime juice, salt and cilantro.
2. Put the fish in a glass/pyrex dish or another non-reactive container.
3. Pour the lime juice mixture over the fish and chill for up to two hours, stirring once or twice during this time to make sure all the surfaces are covered.
4. After two hours, the fish should look white and opaque. Drain off the lime juice and toss the fish with olive oil to stop the "cooking." Season to taste. (You may wish to mix in the tiniest pinch of sugar if the mixture seems too tart.)
5. Toss in your choice of optional extras, or simply serve as-is, over fresh greens or piled in a cocktail glass.

For my own personal tastes, I find that ceviche cries out for some tortillas (fresh or fried), a crisp salad of fresh greens or even avocados and a cold beer. Wheat beers like Hefeweizen seem to work very well, as do classic Mexican beers like Sol, Corona or Negra Modelo.

Salud!

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6.17.2008

The Wisdom of Food Proverbs

Whenever I cook with tomatoes, I remember what my dad always used to say: "Where a tomato appears, basil is welcome." And you know what? It works. Bruschettas, sauces, lasagnas, salads, soups... When the tomato is involved, I add the basil and it's nice. This method might work less well in a salsa, but honestly, it wouldn't be bad.

That got me thinking about other food proverbs or traditional sayings.

Perhaps I'm just leaving a treasure of wisdom sitting out on the front stairs by ignoring the supposedly Polish proverb: "Fish, to taste right, must swim three times — in water, in butter and in wine." I generally just encourage my fish fillets to swim in a nice pool of olive oil, but I don't doubt that a few generations of unnamed ancient cooks are on to something.

There's certainly great truth in Benjamin Franklin's "Fish and visitors smell in three days." I've always tried to keep that notion in mind when I shop as well as when I travel.

As I poked around the internet, looking for food proverbs, I came up with "Talk doesn't cook rice," commonly credited to the Chinese, and "A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat," credited to anonymous, pithy New Yorkers. Both seem like very sensible, very practical notions.

Garlic Bulb
One free seat on the subway, coming right up.

And what about "There's no such thing as 'a little garlic'"? Much as I love the stuff, I've found that it really does proclaim itself the king of any dish in which it appears.

I think I'll have no trouble abiding the merry Czech proverb: "A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it's better to be thoroughly sure." On the same tip, we find the Egyptian: "Do not cease to drink beer, to eat, to intoxicate thyself, to make love and to celebrate the good days." As an amateur hedonist myself, I couldn't agree more.

Most endearing among the food wisdom I found was this one, credited to an anonymous Chinese author: "When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other."

I like that one a lot. It says a great deal about the value of beauty, and I'm going to try to remember it so I can keep it close at hand in my daily life.

Bread and Butter at Les Enfants Terribles

One last food proverb I found (commonly credited to an Arab source) seems less useful for developing culinary prowess, but ominously valuable as a life lesson, or rather, a warning: "He who eats alone chokes alone."

Have a favorite? I'd love to hear it. Post in the comments and you can share with anyone else who happens along this way on a quest for food wisdom.

Cheers, all!

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6.04.2008

Tapas Party in a Jar

One of the great things about serving tapas is that it's just good, simple food. Score a cheap rioja and a Spanish cheese, slice a sausage, make a nice salad and open a bunch of jars. In Spain, they actually put tasty things in jars.

I have a favorite Spanish salad recipe that's made up of bacalao, oranges, tomatoes and green olives. This might sound strange if you're not accustomed to sweet and savory salads, but this kind of flavor combination is very ordinary in the Mediterranean.

Tapas on the table
Baguette, quince paste and fig cake in the foreground, tuna, remojón, and assorted olives in the back.

It's colorful, easy to put together and very nice as part of a tapas party spread.
Remojón (Spanish Cod & Orange Salad) (Makes 4-6 appetizer servings)

3/4 cup (about a 5"x4" piece) of dried salt cod
12 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
2 oranges
1 small red onion
10 Spanish olives, pitted and halved (optional)
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (or chili flakes)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Toast the fish over a flame or under a broiler until lightly browned.
2. Soak the the toasted cod in a bowl of cool water while you segment the oranges. Cut each orange segment in half.
3. Cut the red onion in half and cut each half into thin slices. Soak slices in cold water if you want to take out some of the bite.
3. Mix the drained tomatoes, onion slices, olives (if using) and the halved orange segments.
4. Drain the soaking fish and remove any skin or bones. Shred or chop the fish and add to the salad.
5. Blend the Aleppo pepper (or chili flakes) into the vinegar before whisking in the oil. Pour this dressing over the salad and toss to blend.

This salad holds up well (and probably even improves) as it sits at room temperature while you zip around the house picking up stray items in preparation for guests.
Easy-Peasy Tapas for 4-6

1/2 lb block of Manchego cheese, sliced
and/or a half-pound of Garrotxa cheese, sliced

1/2 lb chunk of membrillo (quince paste)
and/or fig paste

1 jar of oil-preserved tuna
and/or Spanish Cod & Orange Salad (see recipe, above)

1/4 lb thin-sliced serrano ham
and/or 1/4 lb salchichon slices

1-2 types of salt-cured or Spanish green olives
and/or roasted peppers and/or marinated tomatoes

1 baguette, thinly sliced
and/or some good lookin' crackers

Nice extras
Dried dates
Roasted almonds
Dried figs


Salud!

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5.14.2008

Foodlink Roundup: 04.14.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was, as surmised, in Bryant Park, Manhattan. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post a guess in the comments.

Cookie Monster: Is Me Really Monster?
McSweeney's takes a peek inside the mind of an addict.

Pacific Coast Salmon Fishing Shut Down
This year's low fish stocks mean bad news for salmon lovers.

This Is Just To Say
So long, and thanks for all the fish. One of my favorite food poems, re-imagined.

Ever Had a Nice Bottle of Greenpoint?
Garage bands, underground art scenes... and now, warehouse wine. (via WineHazard)

pintprice.com: the price of beer anywhere
A handy tool for comparing the true cost of living.

Carl Warner: Photographer
Click the orange box for the fantasy food photos. (Via MUG)

FoodFilmFest.com
Who knew there were enough films and docs on food justice to fill up an annual fest?

Aqua Ban at NY Hot Spots
Bottled water, is like, sooo last year...

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4.14.2008

Food Quote Friday: Gary Johnson

Mango-Glazed Mahi Mahi

"How simple life is. We buy a fish. We are fed.
We sit close to each other, we talk and then we go to bed."

— Gary Johnson from You made crusty bread rolls...

More simply delicious food quotes can be found in the archive here.

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4.04.2008

April Fish!

I love-love-love the tale behind the poisson d'avril, aka the April fish. And to think! I went my whole life not knowing this slippery story until last year when J filled me in, bless him!

If you already know, just skip ahead to the recipe. If not, allow me to unwind this kinky yarn:

Waaay back in the day, Charles IX decreed that January 1 would officially be the new New Year's Day in France. Now, personally, I resent that decision because the holidays get so bunched up in late December that I'm never ready for another one on January 1. It just seems overcrowded. I've had more than enough hors d'oeuvres and cocktails by the end of Christmas, thank you very much.

It seems the good people of 1564 felt similarly. They'd been whooping it up on April 1 for pretty much... forever (doesn't late winter / early spring seem a perfectly reasonable time of year to whoop it up?), and they were none too thrilled with stupid old Charlie IX.

Plenty of other people didn't hear about the change of dates at all. Boy howdy! Didn't they look stupid kicking up their crazy yellow tights and crimson doublets, clowning around and celebrating the new year on April 1st when everyone else was calmly calculating the results of their first fiscal quarter.

It became a common prank in France to attempt to sneak a dead fish into the clothing of one's friends. (A dangerous liaison, indeed!) Sticking a paper fish to friends and loved ones has become the more modern (and far less stanky) version of this bizarre ritual.

Trout Duxelles

While I may try to sneak a paper fish or two onto some of my co-workers (not that they'd have any idea what I was on about...), I'd much prefer to receive my April fish in the form of dinner.

Thanks to a pair of whole, fresh rainbow trout, brussels sprouts, some herbs, a shallot and a handful of mushrooms, it's easy to whip up a schmantzy dinner in no time flat. (No foolin'!)

A duxelles (dook-SEHL) sounds challenging (that's French for you), but it's just sauteéed mushrooms and onions (or shallots) with a little thyme and some parsley. Divide the mixture between two cleaned and trimmed trout, rub on a little olive oil and roast. And that's about all there is to it.

Trout Duxelles with Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Trout Duxelles (Serves 2)

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large or 2 medium-sized shallots, sliced thin
1 lb button mushrooms, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp red wine or sherry
1/2 tsp thyme
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 rainbow trout, cleaned and trimmed
Olive oil (to coat the trout)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the shallots. Sauté until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms to the pan with a dash of salt and pepper. Stir frequently to avoid uneven cooking.

4. After 15 minutes or so, the mushrooms should have shrunken considerably and should be apt to stick to the pan a bit. Add the wine or sherry to the pan to deglaze. (Take this opportunity to work any stuck bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.)

5. Add herbs and simmer until the alcohol has reduced. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. Place trout on a baking sheet and rub exterior with a little olive oil.

7. Divide the duxelles and spoon into the body cavity of each trout. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until trout flesh is white and opaque. Serve with a good ale and a crisp salad, a nice rice pilaf or roasted vegetables.


Happy eating!

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4.01.2008

Food Quote Friday: Mark Morris

fish within fish

"Fish and chips used to be a poor man's treat, but with the prices,
it's becoming a delicacy."

Mark Morris, a London fishmonger

Love food quotes? Find more here.

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1.18.2008

Goal 7: Make a Date with a Fish

In my experience, there's a lot of things the experts recommend for good health, but those things don't happen if you don't schedule them and/or make them into habits. Or, maybe more precisely, they do happen, but the occurrences are sporadic.

The thought here is simple: If you want to make good health a priority, you need to make space for it. On your calendar. With a pen.

Fish, for example, is recommended by nutritionists as part of a healthy diet, but how often do you manage to work it into your meals?

trout duxelles
Trout duxelles with roasted fingerling potatoes

J and I have a running date with a fish every week (a threesome, if you will) for Fish & Film Friday. The Netflix show up, one of us brings the fish and we share a healthy habit that sticks... week after week.

Need to work in more leafy greens? Figure out a Swiss Chard Saturday and a Turnip Greens Tuesday. Want to start taking a multivitamin? You'll have better luck making that habit stick if you attach it to something else you already do each day.

The Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia had a similar idea when they started their Healthy Monday project (aka "The Day All Health Breaks Loose"). What if each and every Monday of every week became the day to start and sustain healthy behavior?

Any goal becomes more real when you make it a concrete part of your life and your calendar. Set up salad time. Invite oatmeal along to cawfee tawk. Make a date with a cabbage. Share your Friday with a fish.

Miss any of the previous resolutions? You'll find #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 and #6 linked here.

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1.07.2008

Goal 2: Eat like Mr. Miyagi

The good people of Okinawa, Japan, are known for more than mind-blowing karate. Okinawans are also some of the longest-lived people on the planet, and are reported to have the largest population of centenarians in the world.

Of course, our modern era being what it is, that fact that has subsequently spurred the so-called Okinawa Diet, a reduced-calorie plan that's based, for the most part, around veggies and fish. (Gee whiz, Wally... doesn't that sound like the Mediterranean Diet? Maybe veggies and fish really are good for you...)

There's been some interesting research lately into calorie-restricted diets and their effect on longevity. At least in smaller life forms, a calorie-restricted diet really does appear to translate to a slightly longer life.

Although I don't think I could fully enact that notion (I enjoy hot chocolate and French pastries far too much), consuming a diet full of vegetables and fishes seems like it's just plain old good advice.

That said, I think the best take-away from the Okinawa plan is their very savvy skills in portion control.

We live in a land of plenty. More than plenty, really, so it's not surprising that most people in this culture have no idea how much they should actually eat at any given meal.

That lack of skill in deciding what a portion should be is precisely why our nation's nutritionists try to give us visual cues. A portion of banana is half the banana. A portion of meat looks like a hockey puck, not a frisbee. A portion of nuts is a small handful, not a bag. A portion of Ben & Jerry's does not look like a pint container. Your dinner should not look like a plate loaded to the rim at the Old Country Buffet...

Bento Box
Sensei says... give those gyoza away and leave the rice behind.

The Okinawa portion control rule is easy to remember and easy to execute. Just remember 80%.

Step 1: Eat until you're 80% full.
Step 2: Stop eating.

Simple, right?

Now, an enterprising soul could probably go publish an "Everything I need to know about my health I learned from Mr. Miyagi" tome, because there's a lot of solid principles in the Okinawa plan (Enjoy your food, eat vast quantities of vegetables, be a kick-ass mentor, paint the house, wash the car, etc.), but personally, I'm seeking a few small, achievable steps.

Being a karate master takes a lifetime, but being good at 80% is something that can be achieved at any given meal.

This post marks the second of Seven Food Resolutions. Miss out on Goal 1? Find it here.

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1.02.2008

Tilapia Sandwich and a Tra La La. To go.

tra la la muffin

I wasn't going to say anything. I mean, when you find something good, you don't necessarily want the whole world showing up for their piece of the action, right?

And yet, discovery was inevitable. Last weekend while I was at the Essex Street Market, I couldn't help but see the signs.

Literally. They've gone and hung big, colorful vendor signs in the aisles. In the past year Essex has gone from dead-cheap produce, meats and fishes to a market that additionally features two wee gourmet food shops and an American artisanal cheesemonger.

The neighborhood is on the make, and the change is in the air. Or maybe that's just the scent of fresh-baked Tra La La muffins.

Ron and Ira run Rainbo's Fish and Tra La La Juice Bar, the improbably delightful dual-purpose shop at the north side of the market that features fresh-squeezed juices, my platonic ideal of the muffin genre and... fresh fish.

They're fishmongers by trade, and on many happy occasions I've gleefully forked out a pittance in return for their hot, fresh, meltingly tender fish sandwiches slathered in a tangy-creamy tartar sauce.

J writes today to tell me that he's been spying on the progress of their new prepared food counter. His Mission Impossible-style surveillance skills reveal they'll open their gates on Thursday. According to his report, they'll be featuring:
Fish and baked goods, of course, but also other prepared foods. They gave me a sample of a savory (and slightly spicy) cornmeal waffle yesterday that will become a serving platform for some kind of seafood stew or sauce or something (scallops were mentioned).

Alas... It looks like I'll lose my super-secret cheap-and-tasty fish sandwich + muffin shack (and my not-so-secret urban market) to the inevitable tide of hungry humanity.

But I'll try to be a good sport about this whole affair. My loss, your gain.

three spoons

Rainbo's Fish and Tra La La Juice Bar
Essex Street Market
Corner of Delancey and Essex
Manhattan, NY
212.312.3603

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5.08.2007

Dinner Goes Sci-Fi

The Food Loop
Oh, no! Cap'in! It's got the FISH!

I know, I know... You thought the future of food came in pill form, like the ones they popped on the Jetsons. All your nutritional needs met in one tiny, utilitarian package. No joy. No flavor. No chewing. No socializing. Just three squares a day condensed into hard, gray pills.

Granted, you don't have your flying car or your robot maid, but aren't you glad you were so very wrong about that food thing? (For the sake of mental peace I'm setting those disturbing national trends toward Jamba Juice, Vitamin Water and Power Bar meal replacements off to the side, of course.)

But lo! Yesterday, a sharp-eyed friend sent me a link to the real deal in space-age dining: the food loop. Yes, the future is here and it comes in the form of epic oven battles between your roast and this wacky pink trussing tool. Place your bets, gather 'round the oven, and watch the gripping death match.

While you're at it, raise a toast to the decidedly old fashioned "meal."

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7.13.2005

Quick Bites: HerringFest

Herring Salad

I'm now officially in love with the herring. A trip last week to Grand Central Oyster Bar's Herring Festival struck me smitten with the briny, oily flesh of these little guys.

You see the split display with chives, egg and radish above, but my favorite item was the apple, beet, sour cream, dill pickle and herring salad off the appetizer menu. A gorgeous balance of sweet, salty, creamy, fatty and sour. Brilliant.

The herring run occurs in the late spring, and there's mere days left in the fest, so if you're herring-inclined, don't delay...

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6.16.2005