Baked Cod

baked.cod.final.jpg

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.

full.cod.meal.jpg
 

Stir Fried Greens with Crispy, Spicy Rice Noodles

finalplatter.jpg

We recently returned from 10 glorious, 87 degree days in Miami to the brutally stark contrast of 7” of snow and no food in the house. My immediate thought was of course our serious food shortage situation. So before more snow fell I needed to get to the grocery store and stock up. My second thought was to ensure that I stocked up on greens. And that is all due to our eating patterns during this last trip. Normally when we are in Miami we eat fairly lean. Lots of salads, fresh cut fruit and lighter fare. But this trip was indulgence, and more. More of everything and anything, including sun. So my NY shop was going to be all about getting back us back on track. I filled my cart with lots of produce to make soups and sautéd veggies. And I was on a good track except that as I was looking for true buckwheat noodles, meaning no wheat, just buckwheat a lady placed a package of rice noodles back on the shelf. What else could I do but grab them? Now with my shopping cart busting, and some noodles to make me smile, I went home. (Notice that I didn’t have a third thought of how cold it was. I was betting on the “let’s not focus on the mound of snow” attitude.)

First, I made two different soups which we slurped up for 2 days. But I really didn’t feel like slurping anymore and needed to chew on something, and not just drink my meals. As I stared down at all those greens stir fry was the immediate light bulb. And even though there was snow on the ground, I ventured out to the shed to get our plancha* as thoughts of stir fried noodles and veggies floated in my head and made my tummy gurgle.

*plancha = flat metal grilling surface or pan

A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Serious commitment to cooking.

A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Serious commitment to cooking.

I was fully aware that I was getting a jump start on dinner by cooking at 11am. So I resigned to the idea of eating this dish for lunchtime and making enough to share with ‘others’ (my hubby and sister) so they could enjoy at dinner time.

Here’s what I pulled out of the fridge.

A bounty of greens

A bounty of greens

Scallions, Cilantro, Swiss Chard, Carrot, Onion, Baby Kale, Baby Bok Choy.

First things first. You should know the drill by now. MISE EN PLACE, people. Cut it all up and ready it for stir frying. I grabbed just handful of each. This is stir fry so you can add as much of each as you like. Amounts are of no consequence here. Let me say that again. Amounts DO NOT matter. Use what you like or what you have.

Now that is a beautiful board full of chopped up veggies.

Now that is a beautiful board full of chopped up veggies.

Look at the vibrancy of that chard!

Look at the vibrancy of that chard!

I’m not usually a big fan of bok choy, but this fresh and tender and tossed with noodles, that’s another story.

I’m not usually a big fan of bok choy, but this fresh and tender and tossed with noodles, that’s another story.

Before I tackled stir frying the veggies, I cooked my rice noodles and set them aside. Then on my plancha, I added olive oil and two veggies at a time. I cooked each one separately to keep their integrity. Plus I wanted this dish to have the same feel and eating style as you often see in a big bowl of Asian soup. You know the kinds where all the toppings are sectioned off on the top of the soup and you stir them in as you wish.

I gathered my mise en place board of nutrients, and readied them up next to the plancha for easy grabbing. I only seasoned the veggies with salt, pepper and drizzle of sesame oil as each one cooked, then plated them onto a large platter before enhancing the noodles that were standing by.

The real seasonings was going on the noodles.

The rice noodles I just had to grab. I love me some noodles.

The rice noodles I just had to grab. I love me some noodles.

It fits perfectly over two burners. I love this plancha.

It fits perfectly over two burners. I love this plancha.

Bok Choy and onions getting stirred with love.

Bok Choy and onions getting stirred with love.

A good shot of vitamin A, vitamin K and vitamin B

A good shot of vitamin A, vitamin K and vitamin B

Once everything was stirred with love I got a slurry of spiced sauces ready. In a cup I mixed a tablespoon of red curry paste, a heaping tablespoon of Thai chili paste, half tablespoon of chili oil and 1/2 cup of olive oil, and a tad of sesame oil. I didn’t actually use all of it. You can use as much or as little heat as you desire.

noodles.stirfry2.jpg

Having left the scallions on the plancha, I dumped my cooked rice noodles onto the grill and drizzled the slurry on top, then let it cook away until some parts got crispy. I added in the cilantro, then I cut some more and added it to the top.

noodles.stirfry.jpg

Done and done. I couldn’t stop eating this. I think I ate too much. So much for eating light again. Sure there were greens, but in order to truly accomplish the lean eating I would have needed to swap the noodle to veggie ratio a bit. Something I recommend you do if you don’t want to rice noodle your way into a carb coma… like I pleasantly did. What can I say, I love noodles.

finalplate.jpg
 
DP-stirredwlove-ID1.jpg

Monday Night Dinner - Shared with Friends

full.meal2.jpg

In today’s world of hustle and bustle, technology and device driven social contact, there is one aspect (well, probably many) of our new reality that makes me truly long for days of yore.
Connection. Real, soulful, personal connection.
I miss those times when getting together with loved ones was easy, almost expected on a regular basis. When weekends were spent visiting friends and family, and not traveling in a car for hours to watch a little league, or spent in front of a computer trying to catch up on work. Nowadays, it takes calendars, a team of coordinators, pie charts and graphs and law firm to find a date that matches up for everyone. When I was younger, we had our midday meal at my grandmother’s house every Sunday in Brooklyn. It was known and expected and it was a comfort and joy to gather all together. When we moved out to Long Island, everyone then drove out to us for the day. We were a family, and friends were always welcome to join.

I long for those days. I’m not saying every Sunday but I do yearn for time spent enjoying a meal with people I love in a chill atmosphere just so we can catch up. I fully recognize some of the reasons why this has become difficult. People move further away from one another. Jobs and schedules are more demanding. Kids have extracurricular activities that require more time and attention. But I guess this new paradigm of life is what irks me. We put so much more emphasis on things that cause us stress, and less on carving out time to hang with people we care about. I know I might get some backlash about the kids’ activity portion. It brings joy, etc. But when did sports and violin practice consume 75% of a kids free time? When do they have time to socialize and be kids? Now, that is a whole other topic. But, you all get where I’m going.

 

So given that long diatribe, it completely warmed my heart that when my friend Tecla’s dad was back in NYC visiting from Tuscany, JuanCarlos and I were top of his list to visit. High on the list!! We were tickled Parmesano Reggiano. We made a date for a Monday night and as we were deciding where to meet, it was a no brainer to invite them to our home. Unfortunately, our dear friend Scott, Tecla’s hubby, was unable to join us, and he was missed.

tecla.babbo2.jpg
 

A simple meal is all that’s needed, since the purpose of the visit was spending time together. We did add an appetizer and soup because we wanted the evening to last longer. More time requires more food. Well, at least that’s my thinking.

Here is what we served, and the elegant, simple table setting we served it on.

Appetizer & Soup

Eggplant rounds with roasted tomato & goat cheese

Sliced eggplant dusted with flour, quick sauté, then placed on a baking. Top each one with a spoonful of roasted tomatoes (sauce), a dollop of goat cheese, some thyme leaves and drizzle of olive oil. Bake until cheese melts.

eggplant.rounds.jpg

Seafood Soup

This is the perfect starter on cold night. A light fish broth chock full of shrimp, monkfish, calamari and beans.

Simply sauté garlic, onions and parsley. Stir in cannellini beans to add a bit heartiness. Then add fish stock and bring to low rolling boil and add the fish. Cover and lower to a simmer until the fish is cooked through.

The same wine we enjoyed with Tecla’s dad in Italy on a visit to the winery. Perfect with the pork and the cake!

The same wine we enjoyed with Tecla’s dad in Italy on a visit to the winery. Perfect with the pork and the cake!

Main Course
Pork Roast
Oven roasted Heirloom Carrots
Oven roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Butter Sage
Quinoa with scallions

 
Photo credit: Tecla Palli-Sandler

Photo credit: Tecla Palli-Sandler

uncooked.pork2.jpg
Roasted Pork
Roasted vegetables & Quinoa
 

Cinque colore salad with oil cured olives

I’ve taken the traditional tri-colore salad and amped it up with a few more colors by way of citrus fruits and oil cured olives. I used both the juices from the grapefruit and oranges then added lemon, lime and zest whisked with olive oil, salt, pepper for the dressing. Fresh, bitter, sweet, sour, peppery. This hit all the right notes.

citrus.salad.cu.jpg

Dessert
Gluten Free, Dairy/Egg free chocolate tart. This is not my recipe. Nor did I make it exactly as the recipe stated, but this came out chocolatey, rich and delicious. I made a slightly altered version of Brandi’s Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cake. I didn’t have chocolate to shave over top so I created my own decoration with a random almond sliver swirl. I must have been channeling crop circles.

chocolate.tart2.jpg

Table Setting & Decor
It was a Monday night so there was not a ton of time for a formal table setting. It was more of a last minute task. So no time for ironing meant no tablecloth, and a need to display a napkin that no one would notice the wrinkles. Deep green colored velvet placemats kept with a winter warm theme. White dishes and gold charger popped nicely off the deep color mats and made it feel rich and elegant, but not pretentious. Just the right touch to make our guests feel special, yet not a lot work for me.

single.placesetting.green.jpg

The heartiness of my cabbage floral arrangement, plus elements from my Fall themed arrangement lasted long enough for me to arrange them at the end of the table with some candles to warm up the setting.

CabbageFinal4.jpg
Table setting with green velvet placemats, gold chargers, white plates and a soup bowl with gold trim.

Table setting with green velvet placemats, gold chargers, white plates and a soup bowl with gold trim.

There is nothing more satisfying than making a meal that nourishes the body and the soul, and sharing it!

tablesetting.green.jpg
Tecla and her dad, Paolo serving up food stirred with love.

Tecla and her dad, Paolo serving up food stirred with love.

JuanCarlos talking about the state of… If you want to know, you’ll have to join us for dinner.

JuanCarlos talking about the state of… If you want to know, you’ll have to join us for dinner.

JC.Tecla.Babbo.jpg

We had such a great night. We all love food, travel, family, and living life richly. So conversation was a flow as we enjoyed a simple meal together. Cherishing the time we each carved out for one another in our busy schedules, and realizing that anything worth enjoying takes a little effort. I’m glad we all made the effort. And even happier that we were on Paolo’s list during his short visit. Our turn next… in Italy!!

I hope that with all the rush of the holidays you, too, can carve our time in your schedules to share a meal, laughter and love with the people you love. Dig in, fork first!

Paolo, aka Babbo, digging into chocolate heaven.

Paolo, aka Babbo, digging into chocolate heaven.

 

5 Appetizers That Impress & Relieve Stress

DP.JC.722014.dec.holidays.jpg

Let’s face it, it’s not only during the holidays when we need easy appetizer ideas. Handy dandy, simple offerings are in demand throughout the year. These 5 appetizers can certainly be used anytime, but will surely be useful right about now.

Now when it comes to navigating entertaining, we can be the driver of our own roadmap. It’s up to us to take control. It can be as elaborate as a sit down plated meal with several courses. Or as simple as making a salad, a vegetable and protein. Or even simpler (and better!) a huge bowl of pasta. But it is up to each host/hostess to decide whether to make it complicated or easy. Admittedly, there are times when entertaining calls for a little more pizzazz. And I would venture to say that the holidays definitely require a little more brio. Believe it or not, adding an appetizer to any meal can elevate an evening. I always want my guests to feel special, whether it’s a weeknight meal, an weekend dinner or a big party celebration, and I’ve found that serving appetizers somehow ups the ante and makes any event feel special. But please, let’s not confuse special with hard and stressful.

How I plan out what appetizers I will serve depends on my mood, and it can swing full pendulum, from easy breezy all the way to ones that require a day of prep, cook time and time in plating. For me, it all comes down to how much experimenting I want to do, and how much time I have to play. But that’s just me. I like trying new things and being adventurous. But sometimes, I need speed and simplicity. Luckily, in my experimenting I have come up with a few apps that don’t take a ton of effort, and really please my guests.

Here are Apps that impress AND relieve stress.
(Disclaimer: In no means are these appetizers magical or medicinal in their ability to relieve stress. It’s soley their ease, and delicious impact that creates a stress free zone! Well, I might consider that magic.)

Shaved Parmigiano with Roasted Peppers & Hazelnuts

This is as easy as using a flick of the wrist. That is, one that is holding a vegetable peeler. Simply shave slices of Parmigiano Reggiano. Roll roasted pepper strips up into rosettes or twirls. (A good jarred kind is the way to go. Even I admit, roasting your own peppers is more work than it’s worth. This is definitely one time when homemade doesn’t make sense!) Arrange the platter as you like. I like all the peppers in the middle with the cheese acting like a moat. Then generously sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts. It seriously could not be simpler.

Shaved-Parm-w_Red-Peppers.jpg

Platter of Crunch - Fennel Bites & Cucumber Carrot Roll Ups

I always like having a platter with a fresh offering. Not only does it help to refresh the palate but it’s a satisfying treat for the vegetarians. Create a platter full of fresh vegetables. You can use whatever you like but I love big chunks of fennel drizzled with olive oil, course sea salt and pepper. Ribbons of English cucumber plain or rolled up with carrot shreds. The carrots were marinated in a basil balsamic vinaigrette. Check out the recipe here.

My method for platter arrangement is color blocking. I think this looks inviting. Do what pleases your eye and your palate.

Fresh fennel, cucumber and carrots are refreshing and crunchy.

Fresh fennel, cucumber and carrots are refreshing and crunchy.

Fresh Ricotta with Herbs & Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Well, if you took my advice in late summer and roasted a bunch of tomatoes and stored them away, then this one is as easy as opening that container. (Now you understand why I suggest this because the tomatoes can be used in so many ways.) But if you don’t have any roasted tomatoes in your freezer, making a fresh batch is not difficult. Click for The Great Tomato Caper post. For the rest of the dish, simply buy fresh ricotta and spoon it into a bowl creating a nice mound. Generously sprinkle course sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, chopped basil and drizzle with good olive oil. Arrange the roasted tomatoes around and serve with crusty bread.

This combo of sweet tomatoes with fresh creamy ricotta is one that will keep your guests coming back for another smattering.

This combo of sweet tomatoes with fresh creamy ricotta is one that will keep your guests coming back for another smattering.

Sauteéd mushrooms & polenta chips

This one takes a bit more time, but you can actually do some of this ahead of time. I’ve served this appetizer several different ways. Click here for the recipe. In this version I made the polenta squares thinner so they act more like a cracker. Your guests can make their own little bite with as much or as little sauteéd mushrooms as they want. Heck, if you also serve the Ricotta dish, guests can top their polenta squares with mushrooms and a bit of ricotta!

Polenta.Mushroom.Bites.jpg

Dry Cured Meat & Arugula Platter

This seriously could not be simpler than buying and arranging. Pick up your favorite dry cured meat and serve it up with some spicy baby arugula. Guests can roll up the meat with some zest greens for a crisp, salty bite. I love keeping it simple and rustic by serving it right on a wooden board.
Some dry cured meats that I like to serve: Bresaola, Prosciutto or Serrano ham, Capacollo, Mortadella, Coppa.

Cured.Meat.Platter.jpg

I hope these few ideas help keep your stress levels down this holiday season. I really don’t like that I keep repeating that, but it is true that the holidays, and entertaining can be just that - intense. I’m here to help in any way I can, because for me, gathering together with the people you love, serving them food you all love is a glorious thing. And something for which we can all be grateful.

Stirred with love, these apps are just as easy as the ones we download on our phones!

 

Spicy Eggplant, Potato, Carrot Hash

hash.final.jpg

Well, I’m back to my usual something from nothing tricks. The way I usually cook. Just pulling items out, in whatever quantities I have and figuring things out as I go. No real plan. Only agenda is to feed my hunger. When I’m in this mode, I don’t measure. But because I love you, I cut up whatever ingredients I took out and measured each one. This way you would have approximate amounts as a guide. For those of you who don’t necessarily need to follow a recipe for amounts, have fun. For those who usually use follow a recipe to a T, I encourage you to use your taste buds as a guide for judgement on approximating amounts. Look into a pot and say, I think that is enough onions, or carrots, or whatever. Once you get a feel for it, you will feel empowered. But, if you like sticking to a recipe, that’s cool, too.

AND as usual, the impetus for this creation emerged when I remembered buying white eggplant, but neglected to make it during the week. Panic struck when I wondered if I waited too long. Then relief filled my heart when I saw they were still in good shape. And so the story began; out came the eggplant, and with the fridge door swung wide open I started pulling ones item out at a time, looking through the drawers and shelves, and cupboards to see what else might be available.

hash.setup.jpg

Here’s what I came up with. After I pulled everything out and chopped it up, I would have just starting cooking. But as promised, I measured it all for you. I very much appreciate that you take the time to read and try these recipes so I want to make experimenting easy and fun.

ingredients

  • White eggplant (4 c cubed)

  • Heirloom carrots (2 c cubed)

  • Long hot peppers (1/2 c sliced)

  • Red onions (2.5 c sliced)

  • Idaho Potatoes (4 c cubed)

(You will need 3/4c oil, salt and pepper to taste.)

When I saw this pile of gorgeous veg, I immediately thought HASH. No, not the kind you smoke; the yummy, crispy kind you usually have with eggs. Only I planned on making it as a side dish for dinner.

Since each of these ingredients takes different cooking times, my approach was to cook each separately and then bring them all together at the end. While I was cooking my mind kept ping ponging thoughts on whether this would need a salsa. There was mint, parsley and cilantro standing by in the fridge. It got me thinking about making a chimichurri style dressing to brighten the whole thing up in the end.

Salsa Ingredients

1/4 c fresh mint leaves
1/3 c Olive Oil (you can use less if you want it less liquidy)
1 large garlic clove
1 T, shallot, minced (optional)
1/2 t lemon zest
squeeze of lemon juice
Salt, preferably coarse

I use a mortar and pestle but you can also use a mini blender to combine the ingredients.

Here’s how this something from nothing adventure turned out.

The salsa line up.

The salsa line up.

Instructions

  1. Cut and slice all the ingredients as noted above.

Heirloom carrots. Yellow and purple gorgeous chunks.

Heirloom carrots. Yellow and purple gorgeous chunks.

What a beautiful array of potatoes, onions, spicy peppers, white eggplant. Ready and willing.

What a beautiful array of potatoes, onions, spicy peppers, white eggplant. Ready and willing.

2. Start with the potatoes first because they will take the longest. Add them into a hot cast iron skillet with 1/4 c oil, add salt and pepper. Then turn the heat to medium low. Once they are crispy on the outside and tender in the middle, remove them and set aside.

Nice bite sized chunks.

Nice bite sized chunks.

Is there anything more satisfying than crispy potatoes? I think not.

Is there anything more satisfying than crispy potatoes? I think not.

3. In the same pan, add 1/4 c oil, then add the eggplant and half the sliced onions, salt and pepper. Cook until they have a nice crust. Remove and set aside.

eggplant.onions.jpg
Get a good sear so the eggplant don’t get mushy. You want a nice bite to them.

Get a good sear so the eggplant don’t get mushy. You want a nice bite to them.

4. In the same pan, add 1/4 c oil, carrots, remainder of the onions and peppers. Cook until done.

Look at how bright and vibrant this looks.

Look at how bright and vibrant this looks.

Cook until the vegetables are softened and nicely caramelized.

Cook until the vegetables are softened and nicely caramelized.

5. Add everything back in the pan and cook until all the flavors meld together.

Add everything together to combine and let the flavors marry.

Add everything together to combine and let the flavors marry.

6. Make the Chimichurri style salsa by smashing garlic, cilantro, salt in a mortar and pestle (or a mini blender). Add some lemon zest and juice and oil and whisk together.

The salt and pepper act as a abrasive to mince the mint.

The salt and pepper act as a abrasive to mince the mint.

Lemon zest brightens and makes all the ingredients sing.

Lemon zest brightens and makes all the ingredients sing.

I made my salsa more on the liquidy side so I could drizzle it on. You can add as much or as little oil as you desire.

I made my salsa more on the liquidy side so I could drizzle it on. You can add as much or as little oil as you desire.

A medley of robust flavors.

A medley of robust flavors.

The combo of the vegetables was quite tasty. The zesty salsa only amped up all the flavors. I ate it for lunch, dinner, and I might have even had a little for breakfast, too. I even added some broccolini to it.

With some sautéd broccolini, this made a tasty lunch dish.

With some sautéd broccolini, this made a tasty lunch dish.

Other uses:

  • Put this combo instead an omelette, or just scramble it into eggs

  • Grilled flank steak or shrimp and serve it fajita style

  • Smash it together, form patties and sear them into little pancakes

    I leave the rest of the serving ideas to your imagination. What’s in your fridge this weekend? Go explore!