I had to miss an entry last week because, as you know, I was in Rome and cooking just wasn’t in the cards unfortunately. I would have loved to have snapped up many a precious-looking ingredient in their markets and gone home to play with them, but alas, it wasn’t to be. This week was a bit of a hodge podge back at home as we tried to settle into our routine again. Plus we were both dashing hither and yon which made planning a little difficult, but here you are, the five (interesting) things I cooked this week.
When I was first back from Rome, I was desperate for a mouthful that didn’t taste like anything we’d been eating in Italy. I wanted something comforting and soothing and healthy. Asian made the most sense to my taste buds so I bought myself a lovely piece of black sea bass, a handful of pungent shiitake mushrooms and some udon noodles and went home ready to play. Tyler Florence has a recipe like this in his Eat This cookbook, but I don’t care for the broth he makes using kombucha and bento flakes. There’s just not enough depth in it. This recipe may look daunting, but it’s a go-to for me on a busy weeknight because it really takes very little time, and requires almost none of the incessant chopping required of other Asian dishes. Just keep a good stock of basic Asian ingredients in your pantry and you can pull this together with ease. Here’s what I did:
1 quart of water
2 pieces of kombucha
5 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Let all of these ingredients come to a boil and then turn off the heat and allow the flavors to infuse for about half an hour. Now drain the stock into the bowl of a wok and taste it. At this point I add: 1/4 cup white miso paste, 2 tablespoons palm sugar (or caster sugar or honey), 2 tablespoons soy. Taste and taste and taste again. Make it how you want balancing these flavors until they are just how you want it – a little bit of sweet and salty and spicy for me.
2 fillets of nice white fish (sea bass or halibut is a good choice)
2 inch piece of ginger cut into thin slices
4 oz. dry udon noodles (cook to package directions, rinse under cold water and set aside)
handful of fresh shiitakes, cut in half
2 heads baby bok choy or asparagus or sliced green cabbage or snow peas or a combination
3 scallions, cut into half inch lengths
toasted sesame seeds
Spray the levels of your bamboo steamer with non-stick spray. Now arrange your fish filets in one level, seasoning with salt and pepper and lay the slices of ginger and some fresh cilantro leaves on top. In the second level place your bok choy (or whatever green veggies you’re using). Heat up the broth in your wok, add the mushrooms and scallions to it and now place your steamer into the liquid. Let it steam for about 10 minutes or until your fish is cooked (I slide a paring knife into the middle of the fish and then touch the knife tip to my bottom lip. If it’s warm on my lip, the fish is ready). Divide the cooked udon noodles into your large serving bowls and CAREFULLY remove the steamer from the broth. Brush away the ginger and cilantro on top of the fish and rrange it on top of the noodles with the steamed veg around the sides. Now ladle the broth over your dish. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro.
Hot Cross Buns….well, you’ll be hearing more about these little confections from me soon. I’m writing an article about them for today.com in the run up to Easter, when they are traditionally eaten here in the UK and many other European countries. I will be including a recipe with my article and this week I’ve been testing some by combining what I think are the best parts of various recipes out there. Let’s just say, it hasn’t been going to plan. As part of my research I’ve visited a couple of the best bakeries in London and my attempts at hot cross buns taste NOTHING like what they’re offering (and yet, I’ve still been snacking on mine when I need a fix). I’ve got just a couple more days to get it right, and right it will be. But stay tuned for my article which should be up next week and give these traditional (they date back to the 14th century) little cakes a try.
You might remember one of my earlier posts when I went on and on about my dislike of sweet potatoes. They probably don’t deserve my poor opinion of them and after discovering yet another tasty way to prepare them, I’m almost ready to place them in my yummy vegetable category. These sweet potato crisps are reminiscent of the Terra Chips that you can buy (well, back in the US you can buy them) and they’re a terrifically easy way to transform this orange, overly sweet, vegetable masquerading as a potato into a delicious side dish or snack. First, preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Now, simply take your sweet potato, don’t even peel it, and cut them into thin rounds using a mandoline. Now, dear readers, if you enjoy cooking at all, please go get yourself one of these. Mandolines, I think are shrouded in a certain amount of fear due to their original big metal French predecessors. No more! Now you can head off to your local Williams Sonoma and pick up an OXO mandoline for around $30 or if your city has a Chinatown, get yourself down there and pick up a Japanese mandoline for next to nothing. They’re super useful in the kitchen and your end product will look that much more professional. Ok, where was I? In a small bowl mix together olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Brush this mixture on to a baking sheet and arrange your slices of sweet potato on the baking sheet in rows (they can overlap a bit because they will shrink as they cook). Using your brush, coat the top of your potatoes with more seasoned oil. Pop them into the oven for 20 minutes, remove them and allow them to sit for an additional 4 minutes so they crisp up. They’re now ready to devour.
I’m desperately trying to get my dear husband to eat oats in the morning. He won’t touch the oatmeal I make, but I came across a delicious sounding recipe for museli in Beatrice Peltre’s La Tartine Gourmande cookbook (one of my absolute favorites – I highly recommend it). Essentially, you soak one cup of your quick cook oats in one cup of apple juice and let that sit overnight in the fridge. The next morning take a handful of raspberries (or whichever berry you might have around) and cook this with a teaspoon of sugar to create and juicy sauce. Toast some flaked almonds, chop a couple of tablespoons of pistachios and grate half a pink lady apple. Now to assemble (this serves 2): place the oats in the bottom of your bowl, top with a little of the raspberry sauce, some apple, both of your nuts, now add a few dollops of plain yoghurt, drizzle on a little bit of honey and a squeeze of lime juice. Oh, my, is this delicious! I’ve already stocked up on apple juice and raspberries so I can make this all the time…..and my husband ate every last bite.
Finally, something refreshing and light. A fennel, lemon and mint salad. Again, I’m championing what I think is a much overlooked vegetable, fennel, with it’s hearty crunch and delicious aniseedy flavor. This recipe will require you to pull out your mandolines once more and simply thinly slice 2 fennel bulbs (make sure to remove the tough core at the base before you do so). Now, with a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from one lemon and cut it into thin, little matchstick, slices. Remove the leaves from your stalks of fresh mint – no need for chopping, leave them whole. Now mix this all together with a good amount of salt and pepper. About a half hour before you want to serve this dish add the juice of your lemon and a good amount of olive oil. Give this a good stir and let it all marinate. It’s absolutely delicious as it is or, if you want to be a little indulgent, you can add some fresh mozzarella (really use good quality here as it does make a difference) or burratta. It’s really, really good…..