Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Mighty Sword

Soy and Jalapeno Marinated Swordfish with Sesame Roasted Potatoes and Greens
After seemingly endless fish dishes for the past several weeks, what is this temporary pescatarian to do? I really love salmon. I mean, ours is a truly passionate affair - but there are only so many times I can make it for my husband before he opts for Burger King instead. Enter the mighty swordfish - a surprisingly mild and "meaty" fish. It doesn't flake like salmon or cod and instead offers an almost chicken-like bite. I found a couple of lovely steaks at Trader Joe's and decided to make use of my recently invigorated garden greens. This was a good meal for two. Quick to make and light enough for our recently warmer and sunnier evening hours, but still extremely satisfying. Pairs great with a chilled glass of Pinot Gris . . . mmmm!

- 2 5-7 oz. swordfish steaks
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into 1" chunks
- 1 small Yukon Gold or similar potatoes, quartered
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- a couple of handfuls of fresh garden greens (arugula, baby lettuce, etc.)
- 1 tomato, sliced

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and diced jalapeno pepper. Place swordfish steaks in a shallow dish (such as a pie dish) and season both sides with salt and pepper. Pour soy sauce mixture over steaks and cover evenly. Cover dish with plastic wrap and allow fish to marinate in refrigerator for at least one hour. (A great way to plan ahead is to whip up the marinade in the morning before work - when you get home, dinner is only about 25 minutes away!)

To roast the potatoes, preheat the oven to 425˚F and line a baking sheet with foil spritzed with cooking spray. Toss together potato chunks with garlic powder, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, sesame seeds, and salt and pepper. Spread potatoes out evenly on prepared baking sheet. Roast in oven for about 20-25 minutes until the potatoes have become soften and slightly browned on the edges. Remove from oven.

To assemble and complete the meal, divide greens and tomato slices among two plates and top with equal portions of roasted potatoes. To sear the fish, heat butter and remaining Tbsp. of olive oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, arrange fish in pan, reserving marinade. Sear for 2-3 minutes, turn over and sear the other side for 2-3 minutes. The fish should be lightly browned and still opaque in the middle. Remove fish from heat and tent with foil while you prepare the pan sauce.

While fish rests, lower heat to medium and pour reserved marinade into the remaining oils in pan. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. The sauce will bubble and thicken quickly - about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Top each plate of greens, tomatoes, and potatoes with a swordfish steak then divide pan sauce amongst portions and pour over the fish. Eat up! It's good!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Cassoulet . . . You Say?

Vegetarian Cassoulet
Our book club (or as my husband likes to call it - "drunk club") typically chooses a rather tasty title. We are all foodies as well as readers and enjoy gathering together over a meal and wine with our book. We have read many "food books" (Michael Pollon's Cooked or Julia Child's My Life in France come to mind), but even when the book is not a specific chef biography or book about "food culture" - we enjoy preparing a meal somehow connected with the chosen text. Our most recent choice was the Christopher Moore's comic quasi-historical romp through the late 19th century Parisian art scene, Sacré Bleu. Obviously this put French cuisine on the menu . . . wine, cheese, bread, etc. As host this time around I decided to make the main dish, but my Lenten vegetarianism posed a challenge to create something hearty and somehow culturally relevant to the novel, but also meat-free. A slow-cooked cassoulet seemed right, but these rich bean stews are traditionally cooked with ample quantities of sausage and any number of other varieties of animal flesh. I came up with this rich tasting version which is filling and hits all the right flavor notes. It is also easily made vegan by substituting the butter for the toasted breadcrumbs with olive oil. It was an enjoyable meal - perfect to feed a crowd.

- 1 lb. dried cannelini beans (soaked in water overnight and drained)
- 2-4 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 lb. tofu Italian sausage ("soy-sage"), sliced into disks
- 4 medium leeks (white and light green parts), rinsed and chopped
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 3 sticks of celery, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
-  several springs of fresh thyme, oregano, and parsley tied up in an herb sachet or herb infuser
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 c. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 2 c. dry white wine - such as pinot gris
- 28 oz. whole tomatoes and their juices
- 1 qt. vegetable broth
- salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 small handfuls finely chopped parsley
- 2 c. of dried breadcrumbs
- 2 Tbsp. of butter (or olive oil)
In a large, heavy pot (such as a Dutch oven), heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium. Add sliced "soy-sage" to oil and brown gently, turning occasionally with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to overcook.

Remove browned "soy-sage" from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate. Add 2 more Tbsp. if pan has become dry. Add chopped leeks to hot oil and stir gently, cooking until leeks begin to soften, season with salt and pepper and add carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook over medium 5-7 minutes until vegetables are soft and fragrant. Season with additional salt and pepper.

Turn heat to medium-high and add tomato paste and sugar to vegetable mix. Cook, stirring constantly for one minute. Then add tomatoes and their juices, bay leaves, herb sachet, beans, wine, and broth. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low (or low depending on your range) and allow mixture to simmer gently for 2-3 hours, until beans become soft and cooked through. (You may need to add more liquid as the mixture cooks if it starts to look dry. Check and stir periodically.)

Sometime in the LONG process of slow-cooking, toast the bread crumbs by melting butter (or heating olive oil) in a medium pan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and one small handful of chopped parsley and stir gently over heat until the breadcrumbs become toasty and caramel-colored. Remove from heat and set aside.

When the beans have softened (most of the liquid should be soaked in at this point, but the mixture shouldn't be "dry"), heat the oven to 350˚F.  Remove the herb sachet and bay leaves from the pot and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the browned "soy-sage" and remaining chopped parsley to bean mixture and stir to combine. Remove from heat and sprinkle evenly with toasted breadcrumbs. Bake cassoulet in oven for 30-40 minutes. Remove and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. It goes great with crusty bread and wine!