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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Rice Noodle Rags with Stir Fry Veggies

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Yes, noodles again. It should be abundantly clear by now that I like noodles. It goes deep, my friends. My love for the noodle is profoundly imbedded in my DNA, pulling me toward them. A comfort that wraps me up like a warm blanket. And so, I am forever toying around with combinations of ingredients to conceal… I mean, accompany the noodle.

I resemble that joke about “have some coffee with your sugar.” That is my philosophy with noodles. If left to my own devices, I would eat them straight up plain. Not extra items need be added. However, I will admit that the other ingredients do enrich their flavor and bring more nutrients to the table. And for those reasons, I chop, dice and cook up noodle-enhancing ideas.

Let us start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. It didn’t actually start with the noodle. But instead, with pan on which I would be cooking. This stir fry noodle story actually was spawned by my husband’s complete and utter obsession with the Chef Frances Mallman. He is a world renown chef and an outdoorsman who loves to cook in the wild, and therefore has big grills and planchas. Thus the impetus for us buying a plancha.

What is a plancha, you ask? It is basically a flat metal plate for cooking. We purchased ours online from Little Griddle.

Funny thing is, I have used this plancha more frequently than my grilling, outdoorsman-mimicking husband. And that is how I came up with this stir fry a la plancha style dish. I was keen on using it, so I grabbed all my veggies and started thinking about what I would stir… fry up with love.

Don’t ask me why I had all these veggies in the house. That answer should be completely known to you all by now. I see it. It looks good. I get excited. I buy it. (It is then my job to figure out what to do with them once home.)

Now with the plancha perfectly situated on my stovetop (I’m less the outdoorswoman grilling type so I brought it indoors), I began stir frying up a storm.

I’m not going to give you amounts. This truly is about pulling out what you love and using it in whatever quantities you have or making it for the amount of people you need. (Hint, you can get an idea of amounts by looking at the photos.)

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ingredients

Baby Bok Choy, leaves separated
White or Nappa Cabbage, sliced
Purple Cabbage, sliced
Yellow & Orange Pepper, bite sized pieces
Bean Sprouts
Long Hot Pepper, sliced
scallions, thick slice
Red Onions, large dice
cilantro, chopped
Rice Noodle Rags
Turmeric
Cayenne Pepper, optional
Olive oil, salt, pepper

 
A bounty of good nutrients to counterbalance my rice noodle addiction.

A bounty of good nutrients to counterbalance my rice noodle addiction.

instructions

Chop and dice vegetables in bite sized pieces. Clearly you might not have a plancha like ours, so you can use an equivalent. A wok, of course, would be perfect or a large grill pan. Use what you have, the idea is to sauté/stir fry the vegetables over medium high heat. Meanwhile, soak the rice noodles in warm water for 15 minutes. Then submerge them in boiling water for another 5 minutes, and set aside.

Rice noodle rags soaking in warm water.

Rice noodle rags soaking in warm water.

I combined the sweet and hot peppers with the onions and scallions. Then add oil to the plancha and began stirring.

Look at that rainbow of colors. Also know as nutrients.

Rainbow equals nourishment for your body and soul.

Rainbow equals nourishment for your body and soul.

Then I add some turmeric and dash of cayenne pepper to the cabbage. If you don’t want any more heat, leave the cayenne out. There is spice in the long, hot peppers. Or make it spicier. Your call.

Cabbages getting turmeric-ed and spiced.

Cabbages getting turmeric-ed and spiced.

Remove the other veggies, then stir fry the cabbage separately, and do the same with the bok choy.

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The bok choy leaves are more tender than their stems which is why I didn’t cook these with the cabbage. I felt that each needed care with their cooking times to keep the veggies crisp but tender enough. Also, there was about 8 cups of bok choy, so the plancha would have been too crowded.

Bok Choy, bright green and vibrant.

Bok Choy, bright green and vibrant.

Once all the veggies are cooked, put them all back on the plancha and add the cooked rice noodles. Stir in the bean sprouts to warm through and stir all together. Top with freshly chopped cilantro, or if by chance you have made my tahini-peanut sauce, this would be a great place to use it. If not, this is great just as is.

Than is a boat load of goodness.

Than is a boat load of goodness.

Turned into a bowl full of yum.

Turned into a bowl full of yum.

Plancha or no plancha, find a way to stir fry up some nutrient packed veggies and toss in rice noodles for that warm blanket comfort feel. I promise you will continue to find ways to stir up noodles. If not, then you can add noodles to your veggies!

Roasted & Spiced Cabbage Slabs

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Sometimes plain. Sometimes not.
Sometimes spiced, making it hot.

This little rhyme reminded me of an old commercial for chocolate bars. 
'Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don't.' 

I realized it's exactly the same when adding spices. Sometimes you feel like spicing things up a bit while others times not.  It got me thinking about the last few recipes I posted.  In the category of 'sometimes plain', my recent post for a quick, pull together stir fry didn't utilize any spices. That recipe was all about letting the vegetables do the talking.  In the 'sometimes not' category, my recipe for cauliflower was all about zinging up the veg and making them sing.

Although I'm not feeling like a nut, I am definitely yearning more spice lately.  It could just be 2018, as many things are being spiced up for me this year. My 2017 was a bit bland, but 2018 is shaping up to be banging.

So with that, here's another spiced up idea for slabs of vegetables.  Given the recent slabbing of cauliflower and dousing with spices, the heads of cabbage were destined to meet the same fate.

Normally, my first 3 thoughts for using cabbage are:

  1. Slaw
  2. Soup
  3. Stir fry

On first viewing, I see cabbage and think of slaw. Hence being at the top of the list.  Then soup, then stir fry.  Since slaw is usually cold food/warm weather food- scratch that.  Number two on the list is soup and that completely fits the cold weather/warm food criteria, and was actually my intention when I bought them.  However, I just wasn't feeling soupy. And third on the list was stir fry.  And as you know, of the three cabbages I bought, the Savoy cabbage actually did make it into the stir fry recipe. But now I had two other heads staring back at me.  My need for variety coupled with my recent desire for spice was screaming at me, 'You can't make stir fry again!'   

Which forced me to add #4 to my hit list...

Roast it, baby!

Hey, this is not such a far fetched idea.  I roast everything.  Much like the cauliflower, it was time to heat things up both in temperature and flavor.

Once again, not wanting a big fuss because I had no idea how this would turn out or what I would serve this with, I kept the prep fairly simple.

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Ingredients

1 small purple cabbage, cut in 3/4 - 1" slabs
1 small green cabbage, cut in 3/4 - 1" slabs
1 rounded t each of cayenne, turmeric, paprika
1 t salt
¼ t red pepper flakes
1 heaping T freshly grated ginger
1 heaping T grated garlic
4-5 T olive oil

Instructions

Cut the cabbage in thick slabs and place them on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 T oil.

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In small bowl, mix the cayenne, turmeric and paprika. Then sprinkle the mixture on both sides of the cabbage slabs.

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In another small bowl, grate the ginger and garlic, add the red pepper flakes, salt and oil.  Mix and then brush on each slab.

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Roast in a 425 degree oven until soft in the middle and a little crisp on the edges, turning them to ensure they are well roasted on both sides. 

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Once they were done I will admit I wasn't sure what I would do with big spicy slabs.  Certainly, they could be served as a side dish with jasmine rice and grilled chicken or fish.  This would be great with Tikka Chicken and a cucumber yogurt sauce. But I didn't have any of that made, so I packed them up and stored them in the fridge.  As the next day dawned, these spiced cabbages solved a lunch dilemma.  I decided they would be the feature in Indian inspired tacos.  I sautéd some spinach and warmed the cabbage. Grilled corn tortillas melting some cheese on them. Then filled them with the vegetables and topping it with sour cream.  Quite the tasty bite.

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Last Minute Stir Fry - Everything You Have

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Oh the panic!  What to make?  I know that doesn't sound like the me who is the cheerleader for 'don't worry, 'just throw something together.' Yet that was the overwhelming feeling I had last week when I got entrenched in work, looked up at the clock, realized it was 7pm and I hadn't started dinner.  Not only was nothing prepped or cooking at that hour but I really had no clue what I was going to make. And, tick tock, my sister was due to arrive. 
It's time like these when one really needs to rely on the Houdini skill set of making something appear out of nowhere.  Sure, I had produce in the fridge.  Some of which were destined for future recipe ideas for the blog, but, oh boy, did these seem like random items.  Fear not, as nothing is ever random or can't party together.  You just need to ruminate on what unites them.  (I venture to say that that is true in all aspects of life.)

Upon grabbing every produce item I could find, I sectioned off what I thought would work.  As I stared at them, pondering their destiny, I wondered what common thread would weave this tale... 

Rice Sticks.  The perfect item to string them together.  Let the chopping, stirring and combining begin.

From the top left: Enoki mushrooms, spinach, Cremini mushrooms, scallions, Shitake mushrooms, garlic, snow peas, parsley, onion, red cabbage (which at the last minute I opted not to include), and savory cabbage which seemed to be camera shy and slipped out of the shot.

From the top left: Enoki mushrooms, spinach, Cremini mushrooms, scallions, Shitake mushrooms, garlic, snow peas, parsley, onion, red cabbage (which at the last minute I opted not to include), and savory cabbage which seemed to be camera shy and slipped out of the shot.

Ingredients

Vegetable Stir Fry (These were the amounts that I grabbed.  It was enough for 2 servings.  Increase for your needs.  Also, you can add more of any items that suits your fancy but these proportions created a good blend of flavors.)

3-4 T olive oil
1 T sesame oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove
6-7 Shitake mushrooms, sliced
8-10 Cremini mushrooms, rough chop
1 - 7oz package of Enoki mushrooms
1.5 c snow peas, cut on diagonal
2 c Savory cabbage, chopped
3 c baby spinach, rough chop
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 c parsley, rough chop
salt and pepper to taste
fresh grated ginger (optional)

Rice Noodle Stir Fry
1/2 pkg Rice Stick Noodles (you can also use a wider rice noodle, or rags)
1/2 onion, sliced
1 garlic clove
1/3 heaping c chives, fine chop
2 T olive oil
1 T sesame oil

Whenever I have a lot of ingredients that don't need to be cooked all at the same time instead of the usual mise en place ( prepping everything first), I opt to chop what needs to be cooked first. Then while those are cooking, I continue to prep the remaining ingredients.  Ah, multitasking. It's a glorious thing.  To help make this recipe easier, I listed the ingredients above in the order they should be prepped and cooked. 

Instructions

Let the rice stick noodles soak in warm water until softened.  Do not cook these, just soak them first.

Rice Noodle sticks.  You can use whatever style you prefer.  A wider noodle would also work well.

Rice Noodle sticks.  You can use whatever style you prefer.  A wider noodle would also work well.

In a large skillet, sauté the onions and garlic in olive and sesame oils until translucent. Add the Shitake and Cremini mushrooms, allowing them to get a nice sear before adding the Enoki mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper. If you are adding the freshly grated ginger, add that at this time. 

An earthy mix that starts the flavor base.

An earthy mix that starts the flavor base.

While the mushrooms are cooking, in a separate sauté pan, add oils, onions, garlic and chives and cook until softened.  Add the rice stick noodles and stir until all the noodles are coated with the oil.  You might need to add some of the soaking liquid to avoid them clumping together.  Season with salt.

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Once the mushrooms have a good sear, then add the snow peas and allow to soften but still have crunch.  Next add the cabbage and spinach and stir until just wilted. Then add the scallions and parsley. Taste for seasoning and adjust according.

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To serve, you can combine the noodles and vegetables together. We opted for noodles on the bottom and stir fry on the top.  I didn't use grated ginger because Jill isn't a fan. (What!!?? I know, it's a crime.  Even though I didn't add it for our dinner, I am absolutely sure it would be a great addition to the dish.)

So sure, this is another easy, something from nothing, pull it out the air kind of dish, but here is the funny part.  I realize that I always say this or that recipe is easy.  And I truly mean it. So when my sister, Jill, enjoyed this meal so much she went back for seconds, a very rare occasion since she eats the amount of tiny bird, I told her it was easy, she could totally make it. Her response, "You say that about everything you make. It's easy for YOU."  But when I recounted what I did she said, "Well, I guess that IS easy."  So there you have it.  From the mouth of my muse, if she thinks it's easy, so will you.

Spicy Crunch Slaw

Slaw is perfect for a crowd and perfect for pairing with a variety of proteins, especially ones prepared on the grilled. One of the reasons it's ideal for a large amount of people;  Cabbage. Since it is the base for slaw, the sheer density of this cruciferous veg creates a huge volume.  Next best thing, if you not making it for a crowd, is it's ideal to chop it all up once over the weekend and have extra batches all week long as side dish for lunches or dinners.  The reason I stated 3+ ways is that for years now, I have been making various versions of this spicy crunch slaw depending on what is fresh and crisp at the store and which dressing I stir up that day. The important factor to this slaw is finding items with great crunch factor, and then pairing it with the dressing you like or best goes with your meal.

Since JC and I avoid mayo due to our egg allergy, my dressing eliminates the creamy mayo and replaces it with a tangy, spicy one.  Which I believe provides the perfect, sharp complement to a ton of main courses, ie: pulled pork sandwiches, plain ole pork, burgers, seared tuna, grilled chicken, roasted or sautéd fish. Shall I go on...

Let the chopping begin!

This version's line up of crunchy crunch veggies. Each trying to out crunch the next.

This version's line up of crunchy crunch veggies. Each trying to out crunch the next.

INGREDIENTS

(This makes a huge amount that will easily feed at least 12+.  What I do if I have less people is I only dress the amount I need and keep the rest of the chopped veggies in an airtight plastic container or bag.  It stays fresh for a while and then you can dress close to the time of serving. I suggest at least 1/2 hr prior to allow it to really soak in. One important note if you are saving it for during the week; leave the cucumber out and cut that right before serving. It's the only vegetable that will get watery and soaky if you let it sit. )
 

8 c Napa cabbage, shredded
6 c Purple cabbage
1/2 jicama, cut into strips
1 English cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, sliced on diagonal
1 c celery, thinly sliced
1 c fennel, thinly sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced, also on the diagonal
1 c red onion, thinly sliced
Mint or cilantro, whichever you prefer
(Also, please remember that it's just slaw, so amounts are arbitrary.  If you want more celery, add it.  If you only have 3 scallions, so be it.  Seriously, don't stress over the amounts.  I have never measured anything, but have here to give some guidelines.)

Slices of celery, thin enough to mingle but thick enough to provide crunch.

Slices of celery, thin enough to mingle but thick enough to provide crunch.

Jicama. Love this root vegetable. Its flavor is the cross between an apple and a pear. You have to peel the rough brown outer layer, then cut into slices

Jicama. Love this root vegetable. Its flavor is the cross between an apple and a pear. You have to peel the rough brown outer layer, then cut into slices

Jicama cut into strips

Jicama cut into strips

Raw red onion provides a bit of a spicy bite.

Raw red onion provides a bit of a spicy bite.

DRESSING

1 c red wine vinegar
1/2 c rice wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 line
1/2 large jalapeño, finely chopped
1 t Thai chili paste
Olive oil
salt, pepper

Whisk together.  Add more chili paste or jalapeño if you want more heat. (If you still want to have the creamy factor see dressing options below.)

 

Dressing Options
                  
Thai Style Dressing
1/4 c Canola or Peanut Oil (if you only have olive oil, use that)      
2/3 c chunky peanut butter  
1/3 c Tahini
1 T Thai chili paste
Cilantro, chopped
juice of a lime
1/3 c rice wine vinegar
salt, pepper

Creamy Version: 
Use the base dressing recipe above using less oil then add mayo or a smashed avocado to it.

 
 

Ingredient Options

Fresh raw corn, cut off the cob  
Red, Yellow, Orange peppers
Snow peas                       
Snap peas
Radishes   
Arugula
Peanuts  
Cashews  

Slaw with mayo dressing version

Slaw with mayo dressing version

Instructions

Chop, slice, cut the vegetables in thin slices.  I usually use a mandolin because it's fast and easy giving you consistent cuts. But a knife does the trick too.  Another important note when slicing and chopping is to make the pieces similar.  Harder crunchier veg should be thinner than ones that are not, ie: cucumber can be a thicker cut.

Toss all the cut ingredients with the dressing of our choice and set in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour before serving. It's better when the dressing breaks down the rawness of the veggies ever so slightly and allows the salad to absorb that spice.

As I mentioned above, the crunch factor is what you are looking for here.  With the dozens of times I have prepared this salad,  I have altered it according to what is fresh or in season switching out the dressings too. Below are several ingredients that I have used in the past that crunch nicely with, or can replace some of the ingredients above plus two other dressing options. I do recommend that you keep the cabbage as one of the mainstays in this salad.  As you can see, the possibilities for creating a crunchy slaw are entirely up to you.  It can be different every time and still be full of spicy flavor. Hey, if you don't like spice, just leave it out.

Here's a version I recently made using cabbage, celery, fennel, cucumber, red onion, scallion with the Thai style dressing topping it with chopped peanuts and extra cilantro

This salad gets better the next day, and because it's so crunchy it last several days.  However, be forewarned, you might not have leftovers!  So whichever ingredient mix you choose, Crunch away!