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Tilapia with Lemon Verbena Cream Sauce on Arugula & Potatoes

June 2, 2011

tilapia with lemon verbena cream sauce

new potatoes and arugula

lemon verbena cream sauce

I recently changed CSA’s from Farm Fresh to You (which I did for nearly 3 years) to Eatwell Farms–I’ve only received one shipment, but was 100% delighted with the first one which included strawberries, red and white spring onions, huge arugula, fava beans, lettuces, braising greens and best of all–fresh lemon verbena. Normally I don’t like my food to smell like bath products I use or my bath products to smell like food, but in this case, it was a new challenge–I’ve never cooked with the stuff. I almost decided to start making home made face products alla Lush cosmetics, but thought better of it and remembered my growling stomach.

Recipe: Tilapia with Lemon Verbena Cream Sauce on Arugula & New Potatoes
For Two

2 filets tilapia*
4-6 cups fresh arugula, chopped coarsly
6 small new (red) potatoes, sliced in 1/2 inch chunks
4 T creme fraiche
2 C fresh lemon verbena leaves**
1/2 small/medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 C wine
4 T olive oil
2 T white wine vinegar
4 T butter, divided
salt & fresh cracked pepper

For the sauce
Combine the onion, wine, and a generous few cranks of pepper in a sauce pan, and cook until almost translucent at medium heat. In a blender or food processor, add the lemon verbena leaves, white wine vinegar, olive oil and the slightly cooled onion mixture. Blend very well until evenly textured. Set aside and let cool. Just before serving, add creme fraiche and blend briefly to incorporate. Can be made ahead and refrigerated for several days. Flavor will mellow, however, and is most fragrant at room temperature, but most creamy/thick cool.

For the fish and potatoes
Using half the butter (2T), heat a large skillet to high heat and fry the potatoes until golden. If using a cast iron, turn off the heat and add the arugula, stirring to wilt. If using other pan, reduce heat to low and stir until arugula is wilted. Set aside and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat another skillet with other 2T of butter, and lightly salt/pepper the tilapia filets. Once butter is at medium high heat, add filets, turning when mostly cooked.

Serve fish on top of potatoes and arugula, topping at last moment with fresh sauce.

Great with a dry white wine like pinot blanc or pinot grigio from the north of Italy (Alto Adige region).

* You can substitute halibut, basa, or other mild fish of your choice.
** Fresh lemon verbena is not that easy to come by and dries out very quickly once picked. You can substitute cilantro, but it will produce a very different but equally delicious sauce.

appetizers desserts dinner Italian main courses one-pan recipes sauces seafood special occasion Spring Wine pairings

Scallops in Fava & Pea Puree, Littleneck Clams on White Beans, Sausage & Chard, Creme Fraiche Pannacotta with Strawberries

April 4, 2011

creme fraiche panna cotta with strawberries (sunday suppers at lucques)

I had occasion to cook last night– a Sunday– and was feeling pretty inspired by a very solid weekend of good eats. Friday night a feast in our back yard, Saturday a hike from our doorstep to the top of twin peaks, down into the mission for a stop at Delfina Pizzeria, an errand at Tartine (here’s a hint: it involved walnut bread, croissants and an eclair) and another at BiRite (which involved this steak) and yet another feast in our back yard.

There is a huge collection of cookbooks in my living room. You can tell they aren’t used often because they’re behind glass, stacked with ornamental things on top that would have to be moved to use them. I woke up around 9 on Sunday and tip toed into the living room to loot a few, returned to bed and did the most serious reading I’ve probably done since college…and the result, my final paper, if you will–this menu.

Scallop in Fava & Pea Puree from Amuse Bouche (slightly altered for scale and for oil content)
With Vouvray

Clams with White Beans, Sausage & Chard from Amuse Bouche (altered significantly)
With Vermentino from Sardegna

Creme Fraiche Pannacotta with Strawberries (From Sunday Suppers at Lucques — perfect as is but would use more milk/less cream next time)
with Moscato di Asti

Recipes Wine pairings

Chevre Stuffed Fried Zucchini Blossoms

August 14, 2010

You could also use pumpkin blossoms for this recipe, so long as they are not too large/brittle/old.

I have finally figured out how to make my fried zucchini blossoms less oily, more light and all around prettier. The secret is really two things: 1) Thin batter. The texture of crepe batter. 2) Use something carbonated in the batter. Don’t settle for sake, wine, water. Use champagne, beer, sparkling water.

For the stuffing

1/3lb fresh goat cheese, such as Capricho di Cabra
3 T pepitas (uncooked, dried pumpkin seeds)
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Bring goat cheese to room temperature, toast the pepitas lightly and mix everything together. Stuff the clean, dry zucchini blossoms with the mixture and fold the flowers closed on it. About a tablespoon per flower.

For the batter

1 C champagne, bubbly, beer, etc
3/4 cup tempura flour mix or 2/3 cup flour + some baking soda and salt

May need to adjust the batter ratio; start with the liquid in a bowl and add the flour mixture, gently mix with a fork, it should be somewhat lumpy and thin like crepe batter.


San Francisco Wine pairings

July’s Table Wine: Argentina’s Baguala Corte Tinto (red bargain wine)

July 13, 2010

A few weeks ago I ventured to my local Whole Foods in search of a case’s worth of new wines.

In my experience, wine selection at Whole Foods locations varies quite a bit by neighborhood and by staff, but the one in SOMA within San Francisco, while small, has a nice selection, with more than 50% of their wines being in the under $20, usually under $15 range. I have no problem paying for a good bottle of wine, but I do enjoy the thrill of discovering a very palatable wine under $12.

And lo, I managed to bring at least one great find home. This red wine from Argentina is really pleasant, drinkable, great with BBQ. It won’t age well, and doesn’t have the longest most interesting finish in the world, but for $8.99 without a case discount, it’s a real bargain with no nasty throat burning, lower acid than most wines in its price range, and its versatility. And, if you can find it locally, I’d definately recommend giving it a try. I went back and got a case.

Here’s one online source to check it out or buy it.

dinner Italian main courses pasta Recipes seafood special occasion Wine pairings

Tutto Mare – mixed seafood pasta

January 2, 2010
Tutto Mare - Mixed Seafood Pasta with shrimp, clams, scallops & crab

Tutto Mare - Mixed Seafood Pasta with shrimp, clams, scallops & crab

A New Year’s Day dinner recipe while we hosted Y’s brother & wife from HKG.

Pasta ingredients
semolina flour, ground finely (0 or 00 size)
wheat flour, ground finely (0 or 00 size)
2 eggs

Make pasta for four – recipe (double it), cut the noodles 1/3 inch wide, lay flat to wait to be cooked at end.

Sauce ingredients
1/3 yellow onion, diced finely
1-2 T fresh thyme or lemon-thyme
Parsley, washed & chopped fine
1 package ground saffron, or pinch infused into warm clam juice or fish stock
1/2 bottle clam juice or clam bouillion
8-10oz fish stock (can buy frozen in stores)
1/2 lb shrimp
1/2 lb bay diver scallops
1/3 lb fresh crab meat
10-12 small clams (smaller = more tender)
1/2 stick butter
champagne or dry white wine, 1 cup
olive oil
salt & pepper
vanilla salt (infuse salt with vanilla pod that has been cut/used and shake, reserve for future use)

Set water to heat on high in a very large pot while you heat a large skillet with high sides & with a fitting lid to medium heat.

Add half of the butter to the skillet and let melt, allowing water to sizzle off. Add the onion, and let cook until soft, but not colored. Add the thyme, and cook for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, heat to high a non-stick skillet and add the remaining butter. Once hot, add the scallops and some vanilla salt. Cook 1-2 minutes and add shrimp. When nearly done cooking, add 1/2 to 1 cup champagne or dry white wine, reduce until shrimps are cooked, remove shrimps & scallops and reserve, while continuing to reduce fluid.

To the high-sided skillet, once thyme is cooked 1 minute, add fish stock, clam juice, vanilla salt (use reason) & saffron, reducing by 1/4 to 1/2, and add clams to cook & cover it until they open. Once opened, add the liquid from the nonstick skillet and allow all to reduce.

Your water should be boiling now. Add a heaping table spoon of salt, and add the noodles to cook for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, add crab meat to saffron-clam mixture, to warm. When cooked, strain noodles and add to broth mixture, coating. Add the shrimp & scallops and cook 1 min on high heat. Adjust seasoning. Distribute into heated bowls and top with parsley.

Wine: we just ate it with leftover new years eve champagne.


Recipes vegan vegetarian Wine pairings

Troffiette with Pesto & Asparagus

June 21, 2009

Do yourself a favor and make the pesto from scratch if you have access to a food processor. It’s soooo much better than that stuff you’re tempted to buy at trader joe’s. Shame on you.

1/4 C pesto
1 C troffiette (substitute a pasta of similar size if you must)
1 bunch asparagus (~ 1/2 lb)
olive oil

Clean your asparagus and use a carrot peeler gently to remove the thick skin along the bottom. The result should not be white but a paler green from below the head down. Trim the ends off. Cut in pieces as in the picture.

Heat olive oil in non stick pan (about 2 tsp) at medium heat. Add asparagus and cook until bright. Meanwhile, boil the pasta until al dente (very important not to overcook for this one). When done, drain and add to asparagus, turning to low. Add the pesto, mix, and turn off heat immediately. Serve by itself or with some meat or other dish.

By the way, troffiette is a Ligurian specialty (as is Pesto aka “pesto genovese,” I’ve mentioned before basil grows like weeds in the seaside, Italian riviera hillside that is Liguria, let’s not even start to talk about the ligurian foccacia, lobster-like delicious seafood, or wines on this tangent), though it’s not impossible to find in the US or to make yourself. It’s a very easy to make shape, the hardest part is cutting the peice of pasta dough you’re going to work with small enough and using a fine enough ground wheat flour in its construction, as well as letting it rest long enough to cooperate with you. But I encourage you to try to find it or make it.

dinner Italian lunch main courses one-pan recipes pasta Recipes San Francisco sauces Wine pairings

Pasta Bolognese (From Marcella Ansaldo at Apicius in Florence)

May 15, 2009
tagliatelle bolognese

tagliatelle bolognese

I’ve posted about my favorite Italian comfort food before, but I’ve decided it’s time to wow you with its deliciousness in a way that will allow replication. This dish was the very first recipe (and demonstration of technique) I learned in Marcella Ansaldo’s introduction to Italian Regional Cuisine course at International Culinary School Apicius in Florence.  Marcella was fabulous and ended up to be one of my very favorite and most professional teachers while I was there.

Typically you’d make your own pasta (once you’ve done it a few times, it’s really not overwhelming), but if you’re in a hurry you could use dry pasta, preferably something with texture like rigatoni, penne, or egg fettucini.

Mirepoix (celery, carrot, onion small dice)

All of the measurements below are approximate. You’ll develop your own liking over time. Serves 4.

1 large carrot, small dice
2 stalks celery, small dice
1/2 medium/small onion, diced

1/2 C red wine
1/3lb lean ground beef
1/4lb ground pork
50g (1 quarter inch thick) slice of pancetta (if you can get it smoked, that’s the best option)
1.5-2 C san marzano or other good quality tomatoes, preferably whole
1 tsp chili flakes (this is non traditional)
olive oil
salt & pepper

Heat about 1T olive oil in a large sauce pan. Start your water to boil at the same time, or soon after. Sautee on medium low heat the onion, carrot, and celery which are chopped a small dice, evenly sized. You do not want to caramelize anything here–simply soften and cook. I remember Marcella telling us that Italians 1) do not like to see their vegetables and 2) do not over cook them like the French. Don’t forget the salt at this point, either.

Once softened but not brown, add the pancetta, diced the same size, and if it’s not smoked, allow it to cook until almost crispy (you may need to adjust the heat upwards). If it’s smoked, cook together for 1-2 minutes, and add the ground meat. You should mix the meat together first and make sure not too add too large of chunks. Once the meat is mostly cooked, crank the heat a bit up and add the wine*.

When the vapor coming from the pan is no longer astringent, add the chili flakes and the tomato, and reduce to simmer. Adjust salt & pepper.

Mix your sauce and pasta well in a large bowl/in the pasta pan and serve with good Parmesan (I will cry if you use the pre-grated stuff, seriously).

*If you’re smart, you’ll buy a dry, red Italian wine that you might actually want to drink not only because it will taste better, but because then you’ll have an appropriate wine to go with your dinner.

As a side note, we ate it up with some Liguria Bakery Foccacia, which I am very pleased to say is being retailed at my neighborhood Andronico’s, for four times the price as at the bakery and not as fresh, but it is so freaking good and so inconvenient to get at the bakery that I am happy to pay it.

Recipes vegan vegetarian Wine pairings

Mixed Spring Vegetable Ragu on Polenta

May 3, 2009

It’s been hard to write lately, to give you something tasty to look at. I’ve been counting calories, learning to run, humbly saying no to my favorite morning pastries and the breakfast burritos I’ve become so fond of.

So tonight, I’ll try to sate you. I delighted in some zucchini from my farm shipment, fava beans from farmer’s market, celery that needed to be used (leftover from last week’s stock making), leftover san marzano tomatos and more.

1 cup polenta, cooked (3 cups water & 1tsp salt boiled, add the polenta and stir well for 10 minutes, add 1T butter & lots of grated parm at the very end)

1 lb fava beans (weight in pods; prep them by blanching in salted water, putting in cold water, removing skins)
1/2 large zucchini, sliced
1/2 large carrot or equivilent, medium dice
1/2 large yellow onion, large dice
2-3 stalks celery, diced
8-10 black olives (for shame, mine were from a can–thanks Mom!), rough chop
3-4 san marzano tomatoes or 1 cup marinara sauce
1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp chili flakes
olive oil
salt & pepper

For the sauce, start in a non-stick pan by heating 1 T olive oil. Add the celery, carrot, and onion, cooking at medium/medium low heat until carrots are bright, celery is more dull and onions are almost translucent. Add the minced rosemary, salt, and pepper. Cook 1 minute. Add the olives and zucchini, cook until zucchini have some color at medium/medium high heat. When zucchini still firm, but colored, add marinara sauce/tomatoes, fava beans, and chili flakes if desired and turn to medium low to simmer and combine.

Serve on top of the delicious polenta, or mixed with rigatoni. Serves 3-4.

Wine: A dry, hearty red like Chinati would be great with this. You could also go Sicilian with some Nero d’Avola

Wine pairings

Damn Fresh Sesame Crusted Halibut (Gomashio Halibut)

April 18, 2009

Dropped into the store looking for a good white grilling fish to go with some Urad Dal I made and some delicious organic salad greens, stared at the case for a minute a little disappointed at the two remaining halibut filets and spotted the fishmonger slicing and dicing a huge halibut! Well you can bet your pretty penny I did score myself some of that!

Just use your gas grill (and get yourself one, dummy, if you don’t have one!) and top your halibut in macadamia oil (or other high heat oil) then gomashio (ground toasted sesame seeds and sea salt). Don’t overcook it! Halibut dries out easily, and when you score something this fresh, you better respect!

Wine: We had some delicious, inexpensive Broadbent Vinho Verde.

Recipes Wine pairings

Quinoa with Asian Flank Steak, Bok Choy, Mushrooms & Ginger

March 18, 2009

1 C quinoa
1 1/4 C water

Wash quinoa with fine mesh strainer, then combine water and quinoa in a pan. Bring to boil, reduce to light simmer and add lid, cooking about 15 minutes until fluffy but not sticky.

Asian Flank Steak (“Bulgogi light”)
1.5 lb flank steak
olive oil
soy sauce
whiskey or other spirit (tawny port, brandy, etc)
6-10 garlic cloves
crushed red pepper
salt & pepper

Combine enough of the above ingredients to cover the flank steak. Marinade at least 30 minutes, and up to 1.5 days. Toss it onto the grill and cook until medium, medium well. Cut counter-grain.

Ginger Sesame Bok Choy & Mushrooms
3-4 heads baby bok choy
1 C mushrooms
1 tsp ginger powder (to taste)
salt & pepper
toasted sesame-salt mixture

In 1 T butter, heated and water gone, sautee sliced mushrooms until colored. Add ground sesame mixture generously, then additional pepper and touch of salt. Add ginger powder sprinkling as to not clump. Add bok choy stems, sliced moderate thinly. Cook until softened, add green part of bok choy. Cook until brightened, serve.

Serves 3-4

We had it with a cheap Cote du Rhone.