fish & shellfish

Our friend John prepared this dish for us long ago. Completely delighted, I meant to ask for the recipe but kept forgetting. The southeast Asian mix of fresh garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chili pepper is divine.

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

Recently I was craving it so I decided to take the risk of making/mixing my own sauce. I may have made it a bit Japanese with the addition of mirin and rice vinegar for an extra bit of sweetness and tartness. You know rice just goes so well with these two flavors, right?

Another thing I find makes me eat with gusto is atypical use of cucumber, here served in a warm dish. I grew up eating cucumbers only in salads so enjoying them any other way is incredible. The cukes were warm but still crunchy. I think Persian or Japanese cucumbers work best for this dish.

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

1½ cups rice (Thai Jasmine, Basmati or Spanish)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lb wild caught shelled and deveined medium sized shrimp
6 Persian cucumbers
sea salt
1 clove of garlic
Chili pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

sauce:

juice of 5 large limes
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic
1 green or red chili pepper seeds partially removed
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp mirin
2 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves

Heat olive oil in a large pan, add rice and a sprinkle of salt. Toss to coat rice with oil. Add 2 and ½ cups of hot water. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce temperature to low, cover pan and cook for about 15-20 minutes until soft and water absorbed. Removed from heat and keep it covered for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut a ¼ inch top of the cucumber and rub cut sides together for good luck and good flavor. This will create a bit of a gooey slime that you should rinse away in cold water. Cut cucumber into ½ inch disks and soak in cold water. Repeat process for remainder.

Turn oven on to broil. Rinse and pat dry shrimp. Toss with juice of ½ lime, salt, chili flakes and one garlic clove that has been crushed. Spread shrimp loosely on a large baking sheet then broil for about 5 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let rest. For a delicious charred flavor and lovely grill marks use your outdoor grill.

To make the sauce, put garlic, sugar and pepper in a mortar and grind ingredients to a paste. Transfer to a bowl. Add lemon juice, mirin, fish sauce, soy sauce and cilantro. Toss to combine. This sauce should be salty, sweet, sour, and pungent with a spicy kick. Taste and adjust flavor with more of any of the ingredients. If you find my mix to strong you can dilute it with a bit of cold water. You should have around ¾ to 1 cup of sauce.

Drain cucumber slices and pat dry on a dish towel.

Mix rice, cucumber, shrimp and shrimp juices carefully not to break the rice too much. Drizzle most of the sauce over and carefully give it another toss. Taste and add more sauce if needed.

This is a delightful, simple, and chock full of flavor meal.

{ 4 comments }

Pasta à la Romana has been a Friday ritual at home ever since our friend Kristen taught us how to make it a few years ago. We enjoy it so much that we’ve even posted the recipe twice on the WC for your pleasure.

spaghetti with salt cod and tomato sauce

spaghetti with salt cod and tomato sauce

Last week I de-salted a large gorgeous piece of cod. The steaks looked so chunky that Steven suggested… no really hounded me to prepare it other than my customary Portuguese businessman’s cod or the classic bacalhoada. I’d been flirting with the idea of revisiting Vitória’s lovely arroz de bacalhau com broccolis, but my demanding spouse vetoed the plan.

look at these stunning pieces of salt cod fresh from their long soak

look at these stunning pieces of salt cod fresh from their long soak

Previously I’d seen a recipe for salt cod somewhat like I’m showing here today. That one didn’t require the desalinated fish be pre-cooked (via boiling), which is a real time-saver. Though since you omit the boiling step, you’ve got to really soak the fish extensively to get enough salt out.

spaghetti with salt cod and tomato sauce

1 lb spaghetti
~1 lb thick piece salt cod (soak for 2 days, changing water multiple times, keep refrigerated), drained and cut into 2-3 inch wide pieces
3 cloves garlic
1 Bay leaf
½ cup Italian parsley, chopped fine
20 pitted Kalamata olives, halved
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Sea salt
Black pepper
28oz can of diced tomatoes
½ tsp dried oregano
2 dry chili de arbol, broken
1 red scallion, chopped fine

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring it to a boil.

Add olive oil to a large skillet followed by the garlic. Cook on low heat until aromatic. Add cod fish pieces and sauté, turning occasionally so all sides brown. Add chili, bay leaf, parsley and scallion, cover and let herbs wilt and cook. Now remove the lid, add tomato and oregano, some salt and pepper, bring temperature to high then when boiling reduce again to medium and cook to reduce and thicken the sauce. Reduce temperature to low.

Boil spaghetti for about ¾ of the cooking time suggested on the package, mine was 10 so I cooked it for about 7 minutes. Drain.

Add pasta to sauce and carefully toss it around the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes more to finish. Lastly, toss in Kalamata olives and tomato halves.

{ 2 comments }

Pacific cod and caper kebabs

by Heguiberto on January 17, 2013

This is another great recipe from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. It uses capers! Hurrah!!! How can you go wrong with capers? Salted or brined, these tiny flower buds are alright with me. Yotam writes that caper bushes grow wild around the city of Jerusalem. They’re hardy and you can even find them growing out of cracks in the Wailing Wall (Muro das Lamentações in Portuguese). Isn’t that cool? I’d love to see that someday.

Pacific cod and caper kebabs

Pacific cod and caper kebabs

The original dish also uses quite a bit of dill too, an herb I sometimes find a bit over powering. I think it has to do with the smell of the lagoons around my home town in Brazil. The grasses that grew around those lagoons exhaled a strange dill scent and I always associate these smells with stagnant water. Alas! I think that I must have been a dog or a wolf in a past life. My sense of smell is powerful; which is good sometimes but as in this case, not too great at others. Anyway this dish is all about beautiful colors, flavors and, yes, aromas!

Pacific cod and caper kebabs

2lbs white boneless fish (I used wild pacific cod fillets)
½ cup Italian bread crumbs
½ cup panko break crumbs
1 large free range egg, beaten
5 tbsp capers in brine, rinsed and chopped
3 whole scallions, chopped fine
½ bunch fresh dill, chopped fine
Juice one large lemon
1½ tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil for frying

Cut the fillets into 3 inch pieces, place fish in the food processor and whiz for half a minute. Using a spatula push the fish down. Whiz it again for another half minute.

Transfer to a bowl, add lemon juice and beaten egg. In a separate bowl mix Italian bread crumbs, panko, turmeric, cumin, pepper, chopped capers, scallions, dill and salt together. Incorporate bread crumb mix into to fish using a spatula. Do not over mix.

Wet your hands with a bit of canola oil. Shape fish mixture into patties. Place patties on a wax paper lined tray. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Add some canola oil to a non-stick skillet on medium. Fry patties for about 3 minutes on each side. Serve hot with a side of eggplant baba ghanoush.

{ 3 comments }

I like the taste of the French/Italian/Spanish dish brandade. Usually made with salt cod, potatoes, dairy and spices, everything gets whipped together then baked in the oven till golden and delicious. Here’s a traditional brandade recipe from the New York Times.

Steven’s been after me about making this for a while. I won’t say how long. I keep promising I am going to but every time I gather the ingredients together I get distracted with other ideas. It isn’t quite “an issue” but… well, let’s just say that it’s high time that I pull this dish together.

“Brazilian” salt cod brandade

“Brazilian” salt cod brandade

My inspiration comes from the aforementioned traditional recipe and from my Dungeness crab casquinha de siri.

This is a crowd-pleaser that is perfect either as an elegant appetizer with crackers or slices of French baguette, or, like we had it, as a main course with a side of Israeli couscous and a mango and black bean salad to make a substantial meal.

Salt cod needs to be soaked in cold water for 24 to 48 hours with a few water changes to remove excess salt. I have some instructions on how to de-salt and pre-cook it here.

“Brazilian” salt cod brandade

2/3 lb prepared cod fish pieces (skinless and boneless)
2 Yukon gold potatoes, about 1lb, boiled and pureed (no lumps)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp onion, minced
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
½ tsp sweet paprika
4 peeled tomatoes (from a can this time of year) chopped
1-2 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 red Jalapeño pepper, minced, seeds and ribs discarded
4 tbsp light coconut milk
2 to 3 tbsp fine bread crumbs
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Ramekins (I used four medium sized ones)

Place cod pieces in the food processor and whiz for few seconds to break it down to small uniform bits but not into a paste.

Heat olive oil in a non stick pan, add onion and Jalapeño. Sauté until soft, add garlic and continue cooking for few more seconds until aromatic. Add tomatoes and let them break apart in the heat. Add cod, paprika, parsley, salt, pepper, coconut milk and mix everything together to warm through. Add potato and about one tablespoon bread crumbs. Mix to incorporate everything. Texture should look like that of a potato puree.

Fill your ramekins with the salt cod mix, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, top with a sprinkle of bread crumbs, and then grated parmesan cheese. Broil to give the crust a golden color (remember you’ve already cooked everything on the stove). Remove from oven a serve.

{ 4 comments }

This recipe was adapted from health. Old fashioned but I think making a come-back: after all you make it with horseradish and panko breadcrumbs. That’s real style.

halibut in horseradish panko crust

halibut in horseradish panko crust

Straightforward to make, and really tasty, I’ve already served it a couple of times at home. This is perfect for the holidays. I made it over Thanksgiving with a larger piece of fish which I baked about 40 minutes and served family style.

halibut in horseradish panko crust

4 6oz skinless halibut fillets (only the freshest!)
2 tbsp prepared horseradish
2 tbsp fat free sour cream
2 cloves garlic, mashed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
½ to ¾ cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

Pre heat the oven to 400F. Line a baking tray with wax paper. Brush paper with olive oil.

Mix horseradish, sour cream, garlic, parsley and a pinch of salt together. Set aside.

Rinse and dry halibut fillets in paper towels. Place fillets on baking tray few inches apart from each other. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper, drizzle with some olive oil. Top each fillet with a spoonful of the horseradish mix then cover with panko bread crumbs. Bake it in the oven for about 7-8 minutes and voila! You will have a juicy fillet of fish with a nice golden brown crust.

Serve with some sautéed spinach and garlic mash potatoes. Don’t forget to have a glass of red wine too! Always the best with fish ;)

happy holidays from our kitchen to yours

happy holidays from our kitchen to yours

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When I was in Brazil recently my niece took me to a fun restaurant in São Paulo that offered dishes from South East Asia, Peru, Japan and northern Brazil. The flavors were very exciting. We ordered a lot so we could taste everything. For my main course I had a white fleshed Brazilian fish served in a thick green curry with coconut broth that was divine! The fish was ultra fresh and the curry well balanced. It came with a bowl of perfectly cooked fragrant jasmine rice.

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

This eating out experience reminded me of the green curry we made while in Chiang Mai several years ago in a traditional Thai cooking class. I realized that I had never actually made it home, despite my vows to the contrary throughout our glorious trip to that lovely country, until now.

I prepared the green curry from scratch. You can refrigerate the leftovers for later use.

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

for the curry paste:

dried spices:

1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ pepper corns

fresh ingredients:

1 inch piece of galangal root, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bunch cilantro, stems, leaves and roots
3 tbsp minced lemon grass (white and tender part)
4 kaffir lemon leaves, cut thinly, center stem removed
5 small shallots
10 to 15 Thai green chilies
1 cup Thai basil
10 cloves garlic
1 tbsp salt

preserved ingredients:

1 tbsp shrimp paste

Place dry ingredients in shallow pan and toast until aromatic. Let cool. Grind in a coffee mill.

Add all fresh spices plus shrimp paste to food processor and whiz until mix turns into a paste. Use a spatula to push down spices so it blends uniformly. Add dry spices and blend again. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside.

Steven and I at Thai cooking school in Chiang Mai--in 2005

Steven and I at Thai cooking school in Chiang Mai–in 2005

for the dish proper:

2 cups coconut milk
1 lb fresh cod, cut into chunks
A few leaves of Thai basil
1 tsp brown sugar
1 chili pepper cut into small rounds
1 kaffir lime leaf
3-4 spoons green curry paste (prepared above)
1 tbsp canola oil
2-3 tbsp fish sauce

Heat up canola oil in a pan, add green curry paste and cook for a couple of minutes without burning. Add coconut milk, sugar, kaffir leaf and bring to a quick boil. Reduce temperature to low, add fish sauce. Taste it, adding more fish sauce if needed. Lay cod fish over sauce and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. Add basil leaves and chili pepper. Remove from heat and serve with Thai rice.

{ 1 comment }

I have always wanted to try making a salt crusted fish, really ever since Emeril Lagasse made it on his show about ten years ago. It was so impressive when he cracked the fish out of its salty shell. He didn’t even need that trademark expression to pique my interest.

salt crusted red snapper with lemon and olive oil

salt crusted red snapper with lemon and olive oil

This dish is simple—yes, simple. And it makes quite an impression for a dinner party, which is when I made this recipe for the first time. Two of our guests, Aime and Whitney, had just ordered this at an over-priced restaurant in Las Vegas for a whopping $150—for a single fish at that.

I used the recipe from epicurious which was much simpler than Tyler Florence’s. I made two since I had a group of five. This was perfect and even left a bit of fish for Clarence to enjoy later.

salt crusted red snapper with lemon and olive oil

2 pounds Kosher salt
1 cup water
2 pound whole red snapper, cleaned
1 lemon
Olive oil

here I am patting the salt over the red snapper

here I am patting the salt over the red snapper

it's time for the oven

it’s time for the oven

the guests are enjoying themselves as I work in the kitchen

the guests are enjoying themselves as I work in the kitchen

just out of the oven it looks like dirty snow

just out of the oven it looks like dirty snow

my first ever salt crusted red snapper

my first ever salt crusted red snapper

Pre-heat oven to 450F.

Cut lemon in half then slice one half into three or four rounds. Fill fish’s cavity with lemon slices.
Pour water into salt and mix. Press about half of the moistened salt in the bottom of a baking sheet. Place fish on top. Press remaining salt over entire fish to make a bright white mound. Bake 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove from oven and crack open salt crust with a wooden spoon, meat tenderizer or what have you. This is the most impressive part of the entire process though messy, too. I performed this step in the kitchen, made a huge mess, and delighted my company.

Place fish on serving platter. Drizzle with some olive oil and lemon juice from reserved half lemon. Garnish and enjoy.

I served this with a hearty lentil and caramelized onion rice as we were drinking red wine that night.

{ 7 comments }

These Yukon gold potatoes came from our community garden plot! I am so excited about that fact. Have you ever grown potatoes? Well, I haven’t before. And we never planted them to begin with—they just “came with” the new plot. These are super yellow and lovely. I wonder if they were planted intentionally? The person who used to have our plot composted, so she could have dumped them in as table scraps or something. Well, whatever the reason, we were able to harvest about 5 lbs of gorgeous potatoes in less than four months. One day we started digging and the spuds kept on surfacing. Wow!

clams with Yukon gold potatoes

clams with Yukon gold potatoes

Yukon gold potatoes harvested from our community garden plot

Yukon gold potatoes harvested from our community garden plot

I’m continually enchanted with growing some of the produce we eat. It is magical and right now (mid-summer) every other day when I come to the garden I am surprised at how fast things develop. We’ve been getting lots of sun and that is making our plants happy.

This recipe is sort of a cross between a clam chowder and Vichyssoise soup. The clam sauce is inspired by this recipe, an excellently traditional way to enjoy fresh clams.

clams with Yukon gold potatoes

3 lbs medium to small sized clams, rinsed and clean
2 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1½ cups dry white wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped fine
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
small bunch chopped chives

Bring a pot of water to a boil; add a little salt and the cubed potatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes or until tender, transfer to a colander to drain. Set aside.

Heat up 3 tbsp olive oil in a skillet, add shallot first then garlic and cook until aromatic. Toss in clams and let them sizzle for a couple of minutes without burning the garlic/shallot mix. Add wine and shake the pan to coat everything with juices. Cover and let cook on high until clams start to open. Transfer clams to a bowl as they begin to open and keep warm. Discard the ones that don’t open, if any. Pour juices over boiled potatoes and blend until smooth using a stick blender. If too thick add a bit of hot water. Adjust taste with salt. Return potato to the skillet and warm through. Toss in chives, the clams and drizzle with the remainder of the olive oil. Serve at once.

{ 2 comments }

halibut en papilote

April 27, 2012

A throw back to the past? Maybe, but the thing is I had never prepared fish this way before using the actual parchment paper. It’s a snap with tin foil, but the result is not as dramatic and pretty. I made this for five people, so reduce or increase your proportions accordingly. The approach is […]

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classic pan fried mahi-mahi

April 23, 2012

These mahi-mahi steaks were wild caught from Hawaii. I purchased them at Sun Fat in the Mission. Among the many good things about food that arrives at your table super-fresh like this fish is that you don’t need to fuss with it too much to bring out the best flavor. I always go for the […]

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