capers

Okay. They say cardoon’s flavor and texture resembles artichokes. I like artichokes, a lot. But as everyone knows, they’re technically difficult to prepare. So many sharp rough leaves to remove before you get to the flavorful choke. Well, in that sense, cardoon isn’t too different, either. Cardoons don’t grow chokes. Instead you have to remove the leaves and thorns, peel the stalks, remove the stringy fiber from them, then boil the tough buggers for some 30 minutes before you’re ready to begin!

But I’m brave in the kitchen so I finally decided to endure the cardoon challenge.

cardoon with garlic, caper, green olive and anchovy

cardoon with garlic, caper, green olive and anchovy

Frankly, I have yet to decide if it was worth it. This is loads of work for a somehow mediocre flavored end result. Cardoon and artichoke plants look alike: both gorgeous with spindly long stalks and silvery green leaves. I have to agree cardoon does taste slightly like artichokes but the texture isn’t quite right, sort of like crunchy and watery celery stalks or maybe chayote. I love both celery and chayote but since I was primed for artichokes, this was a tragic disappointment.

I followed this recipe to clean and parboil my cardoon.

I started with a whole plant but by the end only ended up with about 2½ cups of the prepared veggie. I cooked them like I do artichoke hearts. This recipe is a variation of the one with mint and anchovy (without the mint since I didn’t have it) and my favorite one with lots of olives.

cardoon plant

cardoon plant

cardoon with garlic, caper, green olive and anchovy

2½ cups cooked cardoons
4 cloves garlic chopped fine
2 tbsp capers chopped
½ green olives chopped
2 anchovy fillets
½ to 1 bunch Italian parsley chopped
1½ dry white wine
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half lemon
Black pepper
salt

Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a saucepan followed by garlic and anchovies. Cook at low temperature for about a minute or so. Anchovies will dissolve. Bring temp to high then add capers, olives, parsley and cardoon. Toss to combine, add white wine, cover the pan and bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper, squeeze with lemon juice and finally add remaining of olive oil. Serve as a side dish, warm or at room temperature.

{ 3 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 }

poached King salmon in lemon butter sauce

poached King salmon in lemon butter sauce

I got this huge and expensive slab of King salmon at our favorite fish market in the Mission the other day. I wanted to try my hand at poaching salmon in court bouillon. Recipes for court bouillon abound! In the end what I realized is that this is just a clear broth. You can basically make with any vegetable you find in your refrigerator, plus some acidic agent, such as white wine or lemon juice. You don’t have to go all Julia Child about it and spend the entire day slaving in the kitchen, though that is fine, too. In my case I used what was at hand for a fairly traditional broth, with the addition of a stalk of lemon grass, which gave this broth a bit of a South East Asian flare.

king salmon poaching in lemon grass court bouillon

king salmon poaching in lemon grass court bouillon

poached King salmon in lemon butter sauce

3 ½ lb slab king salmon, skin on but de-scaled

for court bouillon:

½ cups dry white wine
1 whole scallion
½ onion
1 stalk of lemon grass, smashed with a cleaver
Black pepper corns
Kosher salt
1 stalk of celery
Few strands of parsley
1 piece of fennel stalk
1 carrot

for lemon butter sauce:

1 stick butter
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tbsp capers
4 tbsp chives chopped

Fill a pot with enough water to cover the salmon. Add all court bouillon ingredients to it, bring to a boil, reduce temperature and simmer for about 30 minutes. Discard vegetables. Let court bouillon cool down.

Lay salmon, skin-down, in a large pan so that it lies flat. Submerge with cooled court bouillon. Bring to a simmer and cook until done, about 10 to 15 minutes. If you choose to cut the salmon into smaller pieces before poaching, it may take as little as 3-5 minutes.

Using a large spatula carefully remove salmon from bath and place it on a serving platter. Keep warm.

Add butter and lemon juice to a saucepan on medium-high. Whisk until melted, remove from heat and add capers and 3 tbsp of chives. Mix well.

Sprinkle remaining chives over salmon and serve with lemon butter on the side.

Remember to keep the leftover broth and use it as a base for other soups. It is very aromatic.

On the night I served this, we had our friends Amie, Whitney, John, Chris and Valéria over for dinner. Amie and Whitney surprised us with a nice card, gift, some fruit tarts and a vegan chocolate cake celebrating our 3rd year wedding anniversary. It was a fun evening!

{ 6 comments }

Another great dish we found in Ottolenghi’s “Plenty” is this delightful and simple recipe for asparagus with eggs and capers. He calls it an “asparagus mimosa” in the book.

asparagus with hardboiled egg and capers

asparagus with hardboiled egg and capers

We actually had this same dish a couple of months ago at the stylish and trendy Contigo, a Catalan restaurant in the Noe Valley district here in San Francisco. Their food is all tapas-style and gorgeous. At Contigo, the dish is tweaked with the addition of tuna prosciutto, something I had never seen before. It resembled bonito flakes, those dried fish shavings used in dashi broth in Japanese cooking. It was delicious and I promised myself that I would make it at home but forgot with the craziness of our kitchen remodel.

Ottolenghi’s book arrived just before the end of asparagus season. Apparently Ottolengi himself came by, too. Turns out that he was the guest of honor at a special dinner at Contigo on July 12th. Bummer! Besides missing the chef wizard, we a great special menu! Oh well, there’s always next time.

asparagus with hardboiled egg and capers

3 lbs asparagus spears, woody parts at bottom discarded
3 organic eggs
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp capers with some of the brine
Sea salt
Black pepper

Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil, reduce temperature to medium low and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Turn temperature off. Let eggs sit in hot water for 4 minutes. Drain water and let eggs cool down to room temperature. Grate or chop fine.

Add ½ of the capers, some of the brine and olive oil to a bowl. Crush capers a bit with the help of a spoon. Set aside.

Add asparagus to a large pot of boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. Arrange asparagus on a serving platter and drizzle with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to coat. Add crushed caper sauce, capers and grated eggs. For cuteness leave tips of asparagus clear of dressing.

{ 6 comments }

This recipe is based upon one from Marcella Hazan’s Marcella Cucina. I really love her food. And she sounds like quite a firecracker too. I’ve read somewhere that she’s a big fan of bourbon. Anyone who can cook that well and loves bourbon is alright in my book. I’ve a copy of her autobiography, Amarcord: Marcella Remembers, somewhere around here. I really need to find it soon.

poblano peppers stuffed with Italian eggplant, anchovy and pepitas

poblano peppers stuffed with Italian eggplant, anchovy and pepitas

Her recipe uses yellow or red bell peppers and she makes a big point of having you char and remove the outer membrane. I’ve done that several times, but it is a nightmare. Though I have to agree, it makes the final dish more tender, I don’t think that the effort is worth it. Instead, I’ve steamed my peppers, like I did for the poblanos and reds stuffed with saffron rice.

As to the poblano versus the bell, I remain of the opinion that poblanos simply taste better whereas bells just taste sweet. To each cook his or her own, I suppose. I added pepitas for a bit of crunch and it seems to match the peppers well. I did have two small reds, which I also stuffed. Oddly, these two ended up being leftovers after Hegui and I gorged on the smokier Mexican peppers.

key ingredients for poblano peppers stuffed with Italian eggplant, anchovy and pepitas

key ingredients for poblano peppers stuffed with Italian eggplant, anchovy and pepitas

poblano peppers stuffed with Italian eggplant, anchovy and pepitas

4 to 6 poblano or red bell peppers
1 medium Italian eggplant (about a pound)
salt
2 tbsp pepitas
6 anchovy fillets
2 tbsp Italian parsley
1 tbsp capers
1 garlic clove, peeled
3 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
¼ tsp oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
1 Roma tomato, peeled and chopped
vegetable oil
black pepper to taste

Cut eggplant into about ½ inch dice. Toss with ample salt in a colander. Let sit for about 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Fry in vegetable oil until translucent and soft. Remove from oil to large bowl.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut poblano peppers in half and remove seeds and ribs. If using bell peppers, carefully cut tops off and remove seeds and ribs. Steam for ten minutes. Remove from heat and run under cold water to cool.

Toast pepitas in dry pan until slightly browned and popping. Set aside.

Coarsely chop garlic, capers, Italian parsley, and anchovies together. Add to eggplant. Add tomato, oregano, olive oil, pepitas, black pepper, and 2 tbsp panko to eggplant. Fold together.

Using two tablespoons, stuff peppers with filling, about one tbsp each. Place in a baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining panko. Bake 15 to 20 minutes.

Allow peppers to cool to room temperature before serving.



{ 7 comments }

Recently we got a very large piece of Norwegian salt cod at our favorite salt cod market in San Jose. It was about half of a fish, so it was extremely awkward and oddly shaped. Fortunately, L and F Fish have a jigsaw, so they cut it up for us into individual sized portions. It was freaky cool to watch.

salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

The codfish was excellent, perfectly cured and, after the extra work, in an ideal size. Two of the meatier pieces turned into this beautiful recipe. I froze the rest for another feast in the near future.

Using salt cod requires removing most of the salt before cooking. I used a different process for preparing the meatier parts of this cod fish compared to how I make bacalhoada. Instead of boiling the fish after prolonged soaking, I just scalded it to remove the skin and bones. This way, the fish retains more of its soft original texture and has a concentrated codfish flavor that is not overly fishy.

I was sort of inspired by Sean Timberlake’s description of a salted fish and johnnycakes dish he enjoyed on vacation recently in St. Marteen.

plate your own salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

plate-your-own salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

2 thick Norwegian salt cod fish steaks, soaked for 24hours, water changed at least three times
½ red bell pepper, cut in large squares
½ yellow bell pepper, cut in large squares
½ green bell pepper, cut in large squares
1 white onion, cubed
1 tbsp capers
¼ tsp sweet paprika
½ cup green Spanish or Greek olives pitted
½ cup kalamata olives pitted
2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp fish stock (see below)
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups crushed tomato
15 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
6 thick slices of white bread (I didn’t have true “Texas toast” so improvised with a sweet loaf from one of my favorite bakeries here, Acme Bread Company, which I cut into thick slices)

To prepare fish:

Bring two cups of water to a boil. Drain soaking codfish. Lay pieces in a large bowl with skin side up. Pour hot water over the skin and it will curl. Let cool a bit then carefully remove skin and bones. Place cleaned fish in another bowl lined with paper towels.

Make a fish stock by cooking bones and skin for about 10 minutes in boiling water. Chop the fish skin fine and return to stock. Remove any bits of fish flesh from bones. Discard bones but keep those tasty bits for the stock. This made more fish stock than we needed. Steven made a delicious Thai jasmine rice using some of the fish stock another day. Freeze remaining stock for another day.

Place a ¼ cup of olive oil in a large skillet. Bring the heat to high and give the pan a swirl to coat the bottom. Add about the equivalent of 5 cloves of minced garlic to the skillet and cook for about a minute or until aromatic. Gently slip codfish chunks in and cook for about 3-4 minutes, delicately turning them half way. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Return pan to burner. Add remaining olive oil followed by the chopped onion. Cook until translucent. Add about half the remaining garlic, the bell peppers, 2 tbsp fish stock, crushed tomatoes, paprika, green olives, bay leaves, and black pepper. Cook on high until the vegetables from a thick sauce. Delicately fold fish into sauce. Remove from heat but keep warm.

To prepare chickpea purée:

Add remaining garlic and a splash of olive oil into a pan. Let garlic cook for a minute then add chickpeas, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sauté for a couple of minutes to warm it through. Transfer chickpeas to food processor along with Kalamata olives and pulse until smooth. Add a few tablespoons of water if too thick. Return to pan and keep warm.

To assemble dish:

Place bread slices on a metal tray. Drizzle with olive oil then toast them on one side only. Rub fresh garlic on toasted side.

You can plate these before serving or serve each of the three elements: the cod, the chickpea purée and the toast, separately on a large platter. Either way, simply place a piece of toast on a large dish, toasted side up. Smear with some chickpea purée then spoon some codfish with sauce on top. Garnish with parsley. This is great with a crisp Rhône or Rhône style white wine like Domaine de la Becassonne or Domaine Pierre Gonon.

{ 3 comments }

very much marinated potato salad

by Stevie on October 14, 2010

This is a recipe that I was quite fond of in the Eighties but probably haven’t made since then. I rediscovered it recently in a small box while cleaning out some dusty, rarely used kitchen cabinets. I’d written it down on an index card then forgot about it. It tastes as good as I remembered, though I modified it from the original in that I added capers. I’m not sure that I even knew what a caper was in 1989. Funny.

very much marinated potato salad

very much marinated potato salad

very much marinated potato salad

6 to 7 medium red potatoes
2/3 cup olive oil
¾ cup wine vinegar (I used Italian white wine vinegar)
black pepper to taste
1½ tsp salt
5 scallions, minced
½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
½ green bell pepper, thinly sliced
¼ cup minced parsley
1 tbsp capers in brine
tomato cut in chunks to garnish (optional)

some key ingredients for very much marinated potato salad

some key ingredients for very much marinated potato salad

Wash potatoes thoroughly. Cut in half the long way then slice them thinly. I used a food processor for that, as I don’t have the patience or skill of Julia Child.

Combine potato slices, olive oil, vinegar, black pepper and salt in a large cooking pot. Bring to a boil then lower to simmer. Cover and cook for about thirty minutes or until potatoes are just tender. Remove from heat and cool completely. I refrigerated mine over night.

Before serving, fold in remaining ingredients. Garnish with tomato chunks, if you like (I forgot). This is a great alternative to potato salad with mayonnaise. We ate it with a leafy green salad for a meal before visiting friends for late evening drinks. It would also be perfect as a side for barbecue or part of a picnic lunch in Wine Country.

{ 1 comment }

I never know what to do with the extra firm high-protein tofu. It feels like a rubber brick and doesn’t really taste that much better either. We had two blocks of the stuff sitting around for a while and I wanted to make something before they reached their expiration dates.

Mediterranean lemon tofu with artichokes, olives and herbs


I used to make something like this dish with chicken breasts. I’d only use capers, olives, herbs, sometimes artichoke hearts and lemon juice, all sautéed in olive oil with salt and pepper. The chicken lent the dish a great flavor that was highlighted by the flour mixture on the outside. But those days are long gone…

I still like the recipe. The problem with tofu is its lack of flavor. Here I’ve tried to intensify it with a briny bath, anchovies and wine with lemon juice. We liked it. I’m going to try a similar preparation for “tofu parmesan” or perhaps tofu with mushrooms and cream sauce sometime soon. Yum!

Mediterranean lemon tofu with artichokes, olives and herbs

16 oz package high-protein or extra firm tofu
Kosher salt
2 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp Italian bread crumbs
2 tsp parmesan cheese (optional)
¼ tsp pasilla chili powder or similar
¼ tsp dried basil
Black pepper to taste
5 anchovy fillets
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
4 tbsp. live oil
½ cup dry white wine
Juice of half lemon
½ cup mixed green and black olives, sliced
½ cup fresh herbs like thyme, basil, parsley, chopped
2 spring onions, shredded into 1 inch strips
Lemon slices
2/3 cup frozen artichoke hearts (optional)
½ red bell pepper, sliced thinly (optional)
1 Anaheim pepper, sliced thinly (optional)
1/3 cup edamame, cooked per package directions (optional)
2 tbsp. capers with some brine (optional)
Crushed red pepper to taste (optional)

Slice tofu across the longest direction into about 1 cm thick slices. Cut each rectangular slice into two triangles. Place triangles in a small bowl with a tablespoon of salt. Fill with warm water and let sit for 30 minutes. The brine will infuse some flavor into the tofu.

Meanwhile, if using artichoke hearts, sauté with salt, olive oil and a clove of garlic until heated through and slightly caramelized. Discard garlic clove and set aside.

If using fresh peppers, sauté them with some salt and olive oil until just tender. Set aside.

Mix flour, bread crumbs, cheese, pasilla powder, dried basil, black pepper and some salt together in a large dish. Drain and rinse soaking tofu. Let drip dry then toss in flour mixture.

Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add anchovies then tofu slices. Fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from pan. Add garlic and sauté for a minute until fragrant. Add artichoke hearts, edamame and peppers if using. Mix with garlic. Return tofu to pan and fold gently. Cook for a few minutes then add white wine. Allow to cook on medium until liquid reduces. Fold in olives, fresh herbs, spring onion, lemon slices, and capers. Squeeze lemon juice over everything. Adjust salt. Add crushed red pepper and more black pepper if desired.

Serve with white rice or perhaps potatoes.

{ 2 comments }

grilled vegetable tapenade

March 23, 2010

Did you know that the word tapenade comes from tapéno, which in Provençal means capers? Tapenade is normally made mostly of black olives and lesser amounts of capers, anchovies, olive oil and spices. It’s strange that this amazing paste derives its name from capers, whereas the major ingredient is actually olives. I love anything made […]

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homemade artichoke dip

January 8, 2010

I like artichoke dips but don’t care for the premade kind. To me these always taste off. Perhaps it’s the preservatives used to keep the color? Anyway, I “invented” this recipe by looking at the list of ingredients on the packages of industrial type artichoke dips and improvised. Really this is similar to making American […]

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