Baked Cod

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How to break the code on cod? My husband has an absolute love for this fish. I, however, teeter on a more love hate relationship. Maybe it’s because for a long time this was his fish of choice, making it often and in the same way. Once or twice he cooked it encased in salt. Which was pretty good, but gosh darn, a mountainous waste of salt. And I mean a colossal waste. Given my ambivalence for this solid white fish, it came as a bit of a surprise when at the fish store I up and purchased cod. When I tell you I have a love hate relationship, it leans less on the love side, so I was seriously concerned about my decision making skills. Yet, as I wandered the store second guessing myself, my reasoning came into full view as I foraged through the vegetable section selecting only the best. That was it. The fact is that when I shop, I shop for the freshest items. Period, end of story. I don’t shop thinking I have to buy this or that. Since nothing seemed as fresh as the cod fish, it was a forgone conclusion that would be my choice. The first part of the cod decoding done.

As I got misted from the produce sprinklers reaching into the vegetable section, I tossed into my basket; carrots, Chinese cabbage, turnips and a variety of mushrooms.

Back home and determined to continue decoding the cod situation, I dreamed up with my own invention. Lucky for me my sister was around so I would have an ally in my cod corner. And JC’s cod the same way would take a rest for the day. Here’s how it went down.

Also, for some of my readers who might feel that my recipes seem easy to only me, I would like use this recipe as an example of an easy one pot meal. It’s chop, sauté, season and bake in the oven simple. I would love to hear your feedback, so comment away!!

The fresh line up; garlic, carrots, celery, Chinese cabbage.

The fresh line up; garlic, carrots, celery, Chinese cabbage.

Ingredients

1.5 lbs. Cod Fish
1 large turnip, sliced (approx. 1 c)
4.5 c Chinese or Nappa Cabbage, chopped
1.5 c carrots, sliced
2.5 c celery, sliced
3 garlic cloves. sliced
1 t salt
1/8 t black pepper
1//2 t turmeric (for the cod)
pinch of cumin (for the cod)
Magic 3 - olive oil, salt, pepper

Chop it all up. I decided to go long diagonals keeping everything looking the same and cooking the same.

Chop it all up. I decided to go long diagonals keeping everything looking the same and cooking the same.

Instructions

1.In a large sauté pan, add oil, carrots, celery, garlic and season with salt and pepper.

First cook down the heartier vegetables just until they are soft.

First cook down the heartier vegetables just until they are soft.

2. Sauté the vegetables until softened, then add cabbage. Cook until wilted.

3. Season the cod fillets with turmeric, cumin, salt and pepper.

Make sure that the fish is dry before you season.

Make sure that the fish is dry before you season.

4. Then make a spot in the pan by moving the vegetables to create a hole to place the fish. Add a drop of oil to ensure the fish does not stick.

Make a nice resting spot for the fish to reside while they cook in the oven.

Make a nice resting spot for the fish to reside while they cook in the oven.

5. Cook on the stove top for a few minutes then place in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. The fish should be soft and fall apart when pressed with a finger.

Delicate, mild and flaky, this lightly spiced fish melts into the softened vegetables perfectly.

Delicate, mild and flaky, this lightly spiced fish melts into the softened vegetables perfectly.

A one pot full of flavors that subtly meld together.

A one pot full of flavors that subtly meld together.

I served this dish with a mixture of mushrooms and black rice sautéd with scallions and onions. Cod - decoded and done to perfection. Jill loved this dish and has mentioned wanting to “relive” it again soon. I guess it was a success.

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Polenta & Parmigiano Crusted Cauliflower Slabs

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I really love cauliflower. I can’t say that I always did. As a kid, my mom used to disguise it by slathering the entire head with buttery bread crumbs. It gave the soft cauliflower a much needed texture and provided a yummy, crunchy flavor before hitting the softness of the veg. That crispy texture was everything. Maybe that’s where my need to crunchy foods emerged. Ah ha, case solved.

I have grown to love cauliflower more and more over the years, and have cut it up, roasted it up, spiced it up a few different ways. My famously easy Faux Creamy Cauliflower Soup launched this blog and is an all time favorite among my readers. I Spiced & Roasted it. I’ve made it into a cheesy dip and even put it in a vegetable soup. This cruciferous, nutritious vegetable is a versatile little bugger.

On this cauliflower adventure I traveled back to my youth, and that first encounter - cauliflower with a crunch. I decided to take the encrusted idea to a new level. As you know, I can’t eat bread, which means the crunch would have to come from something other than bread crumbs. But what? I dug into my Italian heritage looking for crusty, gluten free ideas. Voilá, aka Ecco in Italian. Not one thing Italian. 2 things Italian would do the trick. Polenta and Parmigiano Reggiano.

And I’m not kidding when I say that this is truly an easy, roast veg dish. As some of you have said, “oh, easy for you.” But this, my friends, is ridiculously easy.

Ingredients

1 large cauliflower head
1/4 c polenta
3/4 c Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 t salt
1/8 t pepper
Olive oil

You can either cut the cauliflower head into small florets or slice big slabs. I did both since you can really only get 3-4 slabs then little florets naturally fall off.

For this test run, I only used a 3 main ingredients. Call it the getting my feet wet before I dove in deep.

All this white will turn a beautiful golden brown.

All this white will turn a beautiful golden brown.

Instructions

  1. Wash, dry then cut the cauliflower into slabs

  2. Arrange the pieces on a baking sheet and drizzle them with oil, salt and pepper and bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile grate the cheese and set aside.

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Combine the polenta and cheese together.

Combine the polenta and cheese together.

4. Once the cauliflower is browned, flip them. Once flipped, douse them with the crunch factor, aka Polenta and Parm mix. Drizzle with more oil and back in the oven until browned and crunchy.

See those nicely browned spots. That equals yum.

See those nicely browned spots. That equals yum.

Make sure you coat all the surfaces. You’ll want that crunchy goodness everywhere.

Make sure you coat all the surfaces. You’ll want that crunchy goodness everywhere.

Up close and looking good.

Up close and looking good.

The polenta really adds the crunch factor. And I just loved that golden color. I kept it simple for this first revival of crunchy cauliflower, but I think you can imagine how easy it would be to spice these up and change the flavor profile. You could add turmeric and cumin for more Indian flavors. Or oregano and basil to amp up the Italian theme. Go for 5 spice or Caradom for an earthy flavor with a hint of sweet. Sky is the limit, my friends.

These make a perfect side dish for any meal. Or enjoy a slab with a large salad for lunch.

Easter Ideas - A Story From Past Posts

Some traditional Italian Easter appetizers.   Pizza Rustica   , fresh tomatoes and burrata, crisp fennel/olive oil.

Some traditional Italian Easter appetizers. Pizza Rustica , fresh tomatoes and burrata, crisp fennel/olive oil.

Here comes that bunny hopping down the lane. Chocolate and candy and weird marshmallow treats will fill grass lined baskets, for the strangest mash up of a religious holiday and spring rituals. Forget the odd Cadbury egg which oozes some strange goo from its center, or those spongey artificial colored bunnies. Let’s talk real food. Nutritious, delicious food. If you find yourself hosting this holiday clash of traditions, I’m here to help with some ideas. As we know, Easter marks the coming of Spring and all things fresh and new. But I believe revival is just as good as new, if not better. So, instead of overwhelming you with new recipes, why not resurrect a few from past posts to parse out some suggestions to guide you through the food choice conundrum.

Let’s start at the very beginning… A very good place to start. Appetizers. Here are few.

3 Dips a Dipping

Given that there are 3 distinct dips/flavors and 3 different hearty veggies for dipping in the recipe, you can serve just this for an appetizer and be done.

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5 Appetizers That Impress

This post featured 5 different appetizer options that fill the tummy and impress your guests. Pick one or two and call it a day.

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Smoked Trout Cucumber Bites

Crisp and refreshing, these are as easy as slice, scoop and top.

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Salad Course
Moving onto the next course, salads are ideal for an Easter dinner because it marks the freshness of spring. So, why not start the meal with salad first before you even bring out the main course. Here are a few ideas, including the one where I plated the salad and encouraged, (alright, maybe ‘forced’) my guests to eat it first. It worked, they ate it up.

Citrus Bowl Salad - One by One

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Graped Up Bibb Salad

A fresh salad that offers crisp fennel and hint of sweet pop from grapes. Easy and delicious.

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Pretty in Pink Salad

For a super special salad that serves both as an appetizer and salad course, try this gorgeous salad that features figs and burrata. This one will really wow your guests.

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Main Courses

Lamb is the Easter/Springtime king of meats. It is traditionally served for this holiday. But…

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…if you feel like doing what we have done a few times, switch it up and serve other meats. Here are a few ideas.

Oh So Yummy Osso Buco

This is hearty and with a sauce that makes it feel luxurious. Serve it with polenta or pasta and your guests will feel like royalty… well fed royalty.

A Belly Full of Pork
This is another hearty alternative to lamb that offers a rich sauce that can also be served with a starch such as potatoes, pasta or polenta.

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Roasted Lemon Sole
For those who may not eat meat, serve a lemon sole, simply roasted with parsley, onions and tomatoes. It’s light but makes a satisfying fish dish.

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Of course, the blog is filled with lots of other recipes and ideas, including table settings and flowers. Please browse, search and reminisce from past posts to help you plan a wonderful holiday meal to enjoy with your guests. Hosting is about sharing. Sharing food, drink, laughter and above all LOVE.

Happy Easter

 
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An African Flare Table Setting

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After a few months of hosting some less formal events, our most recent dinner party duties gave me the urge to set a more purposeful table. You know I love whimsy, as witnessed in the Brunch Table Setting, but I wanted more structure and a tad more elegance this go around. As I rummaged through my tablecloths and napkins to see what I could find I unearthed just the right ones. A few years ago while traveling in Italy, I purchased a tablecloth from one of the street vendors who brings textiles from Africa. I fell in love immediately with the bold yet earthy tones against the striking graphic print. Perfect choice to grace my table.

To continue on the African theme, I pulled out large hand carved wooden napkins rings that I purchased decades before. Back then, my tablecloth collection didn’t support such a purchase but I knew these would serve me well in the future. (If I only invested my money as well as I invest in “stuff futures”.) These unique napkin rings are among the most prized items I have collected over the years. I love using them because they make an undeniable statement. Who knew that this eclectic acquisition I procured so long ago at a Saks Fifth Avenue sale would be the star of so many table settings.

The face feels so peaceful to me.

The face feels so peaceful to me.

Pulling out the elements to this African Flare table setting. I opted not to use the orange napkins. I wanted to tablecloth to stand out and go with a more neutral napkin.

Pulling out the elements to this African Flare table setting. I opted not to use the orange napkins. I wanted to tablecloth to stand out and go with a more neutral napkin.

It’s evident that the tablecloth has a lot going on, so the flowers needed to be bright, a single color, and single variety. In this case, the simpler the better for the florals. I still wanted them to make a statement but decided not to create a single centerpiece. Another way to create impact is with multiples of the same. I chose all glasses vases to keep it as clean and understated as possible. I didn’t want the vases to be the attraction. I chose varying heights and sizes for visual interest and then just filled them up with white roses.

The purity of white roses is undeniable. Their elegance imparts immediate sophistication.

The purity of white roses is undeniable. Their elegance imparts immediate sophistication.

A statement, indeed.

A statement, indeed.

As I mentioned, the tablecloth print had plenty going on. Now, you also know I’m a big fan of using some sort of runner to focus the eye. So no shocker that I found a large linen remnant in my stock and fold it down the center of the table. I felt it broke up some the pattern and gave the eye a place to pause as well as provided an ideal location for all the flowers and candles. My deeper plot was convincing JuanCarlos that those items would remain at the center of the table during dinner and that we would plate the food instead of family style. For once I wanted my table design to remain in tact while dining. The hostess has to have it her way, at least once in a while.

The runner has golden tones to it that will work well with the gold notes on the plates and chargers.

The runner has golden tones to it that will work well with the gold notes on the plates and chargers.

Without even realizing it, I noticed that the candle sticks also fall in step with an Africa vibe.

Without even realizing it, I noticed that the candle sticks also fall in step with an Africa vibe.

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I love using chargers when I set a formal table. It adds a touch of special while grounding the place setting, especially if you are not using a placemat. Sometimes, I use both but there was already plenty going on on this table. The warm tones of the cloth begged for a few gold accents which the plates offered, plus added the sparkle I was looking for.

Besides the African Flare motif, it dawned on me that there was a secondary, underlying theme in the works. That of culling together disparate items collected over decades from various locations. So into the basement I went to dust off the mustard yellow water goblets I snagged at a vintage shop years ago. The tones worked perfectly with the color scheme and nestled up nicely against the white and red wine glasses.

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And there you have it. A more formal table setting with Africa Flare with finds from all over the place that didn’t feel too precious but still gave a sense of elegance. And although this may not be a traditional Easter table, I don’t see why this idea couldn’t grace your table for the upcoming holiday.

Since I pulled together pieces not only from different stores, but from different countries and different decades, I realize that you might not have these pieces in your arsenal. How many of you collect tablecloths, material swags, napkin rings and vintage glasses for decades? (Or maybe you do and were looking for a way to bring them altogether! Someone after my own heart.) But if not, I wanted to provide some help. I did a little bit of research in case you wanted to achieve a similar look. Below are a few links to help you achieve the same look.

African Theme Textiles/Accessories

Swahili African Modern

Tablecloths

Swahili African Modern

Etsy

Amazon

Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters

Table Runners

Etsy

Etsy

World Market

World Market

Napkins Rings

Etsy

Etsy

Overstock

World Market

Williams Sonoma

Williams Sonoma

Napkins

World Market

Urban Outfitters

Placemats

World Market

Williams Sonoma

I hope you found some of these links helpful in sparking ideas how on to mix and match, use blankets for tablecloths or just plain combine an interesting layering of cloths to create an African Flare table setting.

 

Watercress, Cucumber & Herbed Butter Tea Sandwiches

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There are a ton of ways to say it…

Ask and you shall receive

Put it out there

Tell the universe what you want

Whatever saying you espouse, it’s all based on energy and the Laws of Attraction. If you want something, all you have to do is ask. Once you float an idea out there, the universe, full of energy, tries to provide you with the answer. I can attest to this theory in dozens of real life examples. I could go on and on about the “careful what you wish for“ statement. Which seems a bit more negative in tone than it’s true meaning. But it heeds the warning of be mindful of what you put forth because your wish will probably be granted. And so mine was. Sure, it had been brewing for some time, but the universe doesn’t have deadlines. It delivers what you need when you need it.

Now granted this is not one of those major life altering wishes. It was way more frivolous. More like a desire and Saturday morning daydream. None the less, it was a wish. I had been wanting to throw a tea party for the longest time. I know, you are thinking; Really, after all that blabber on the universe providing and it’s energy and that is what you wished for? It was. No judgement, please. However, I had two big hesitations. One, I can’t eat bread, and two, who would I invite? The latter is an easy challenge to overcome. The former, well that is another story entirely, which is why I have never thrown a tea party. BUT, out there I put the thought. Floating around like whisper waiting to be heard. And so, there was a cosmic little giggle when I was recently asked to cater a tea party. And there it was… Call it serendipity. Call it fate. Call it my prayers were answered. Call it whatever you like, but I asked and I received. And the funny part of it was, it literally answered all the challenges. Since it wasn’t MY tea party I didn’t have to eat the bread, or figure out who to invite. Talk about wishes coming true.

This is one of the easiest and most classic tea sandwiches.

Ingredients

Black Rye Bread
Watercress
English Cucumber, thin round slices

Herbed Butter, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 T chives, chopped
2 T parsley
1 T lemon juice
Lemon zest
1 t salt

 

Instructions

1.First things first, make the herbed butter. Start with softened room temperature unsalted butter. It is important that the butter is really soft so the added ingredients can be blended in thoroughly and easily. Chop the herbs. Then using a mixer with a paddle attachment, blend together. Add the lemon juice, zest and salt to taste, mix a bit more but do not over mix. Set aside and leave at room temperature so it is easy to spread on the bread.

The best part about this butter is that you can place it in plastic wrap, roll it up like a log and freeze. You can then slice it anytime you want. Add it to rice or noodles or to finish a steak or fish.

I made a a lot because I had to make plenty of sandwiches. I froze the leftovers

I made a a lot because I had to make plenty of sandwiches. I froze the leftovers

2. Wash and thoroughly dry the watercress. Thinly slice the cucumber into rounds.

3. Get all the ingredients ready, placing the bread out.

4. Heavily butter one side, then lightly butter the other side of the bread. Then place the cucumber down first.

Line everything up to create your own assembly line. Of course, I made way more than you will need, but the concept still works even for a few sandwiches.

Line everything up to create your own assembly line. Of course, I made way more than you will need, but the concept still works even for a few sandwiches.

I placed 3 slices in a row x3. This way when I cut the bread into finger sandwiches I used the cucumber rows as my guide to create 3 bite sized sandwiches.

I placed 3 slices in a row x3. This way when I cut the bread into finger sandwiches I used the cucumber rows as my guide to create 3 bite sized sandwiches.

5. Pile the watercress on top. Close the sandwich and trim the crusts. Then cut the full sandwich into smaller finger sandwich pieces. I chose to cut these into thirds. You can also cut them in quarters to create squares or on a diagonal to create diamonds. Your choice. It tastes the same no matter the shape. It’s all about your visual preference, so do what turns you on.

When only using but a few ingredients freshness is of the utmost importance.

When only using but a few ingredients freshness is of the utmost importance.

I needed plenty of finger sandwiches for my event. Assembly line work is in my blood and makes the task go faster.

I needed plenty of finger sandwiches for my event. Assembly line work is in my blood and makes the task go faster.

The scraps. Just as edible, if you like the crust.

The scraps. Just as edible, if you like the crust.

This sandwich has such a wonderful flavor profile. The butter provides a huge amount by giving you sweet, salt and herbaceous notes. The watercress is slightly peppery and the cucumber is crisp and cool. The bread, well that is down right comforting while also adding an earthiness. This simple little sandwich packs a powerful big punch.

I hope your wishes all come true. Remember to be mindful of what you ask… the universe is listening.

 
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