February – White Fish with Magic Green Sauce

February – White Fish with Magic Green Sauce

Have you heard of basa? It is a freshwater fish, a type of catfish and its Latin name is Pangasius bocurti. It was on sale at my local fishmonger recently and although they admitted it was farmed, they said it was raised with best practices according to their supplier. The fish is native to Southeast Asia and farmed in large numbers in pens around the Mekong River system in Vietnam, as well as China and Cambodia. There is some controversy between various seafood watch organizations as to the sustainability and environmental impact of farming it. The Seafood Importers Association of Australasia is a strong advocate, the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise Program does not recommend it, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch’s montereybayaquarium.org website rates it as a “good alternative” to catfish but with some caveats.

Basa is described as having large, white fillets with no bones, and flesh that is moist with a light, firm texture and a mild fish flavor. This makes basa a versatile species that can be used in a multitude of recipes and cooking styles.

I had great aspirations and was inspired to cook it according to the recipe posted for Goan Fish Curry by Caroline’s Cooking. But then it was 6 pm and I couldn’t find the coriander seeds and didn’t have a fresh tomato (it being the dead of winter and pouring rain outside). I quickly lost my ambition. The curry will have to wait, maybe this weekend. But, plain pan fried fish sounded very boring. What to do? Searching for inspiration I stumbled upon one of my old blog posts for Magic Green Sauce, written almost a year ago. Magic Green Sauce elevates almost any “plain” food straight up to heavenly. Try it on grilled chicken breasts or tofu, you will not be disappointed.

I made a few alterations to the basic recipe, using what items were on hand. Here is the recipe so you don’t need to look it up:

Magic Green Sauce (makes about 2 cups)

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup packed mixed parsley and cilantro, I added a few sprigs of mint (basil or Thai basil would have been lovely but I did not have any on hand)
  • I small piece (about an inch) of lemon grass (strictly optional but found in the back of the crisper drawer and love its aroma)
  • 1 jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • Juice of 1-2 limes (I like 2)
  • 1/2 cup water (I used coconut water)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup shelled cashews (original recipe uses pistachios)
  1. Pulse all the ingredients except the nuts in the bowl of your food processor until smooth and well incorporated.
  2. Add the pistachios or other nuts and blend until mostly smooth.
  3. Serve as a dip, a spread, or sauce. You may thin with additional water or oil if needed. I like mine the consistency of a thick mayonnaise.

This will keep for a week and is better if allowed to mellow for a few hours before using, if you have the time.

Magic Green Sauce

Magic Green Sauce

Magic Green Sauce

Magic Green Sauce

I prepared the fish simply, processing a couple of handfuls of cashews till the size of panko crumbs, lightly coating the fish in the nuts to have a crunchy outside. Then quickly sautéing the filets in coconut oil on medium high heat. It took only a few minutes. You could also use a coating of flour or panko break crumbs instead of the nuts. I wanted this to be gluten free.

Sauteed Basa with Magic Green Sauce

Sauteed Basa with Magic Green Sauce

The original recipe for Magic Green Sauce came from the blog A Pinch of Yum, one of my favorites.

Try this sauce with a tray of roasted vegetables as well.

Roasted cauliflower and sweet potatoes

Roasted cauliflower and sweet potatoes

Magic Green Sauce

Magic Green Sauce

I am taking this dish to Fiesta Friday #161 hosted by Angie. Her cohost this week is Laura @ Feast Wisely. Click on the link to join the fun and read the recipes brought to the virtual party by other bloggers.

February – Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts

February – Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts

Roasting is my preferred way of cooking Brussels sprouts, also cauliflower and many other vegetables. I have found that roasting at a high temperature produces a char that brings out their sweetness. You will find a basic recipe for oven roasting sprouts here.

Lately though, Brussels sprouts have been showing up as a first course on many restaurant menus. The preparations have been varied and include roasting, but also frying and even deep fat frying. The fried sprouts have been absolutely delicious! They arrive glistening with oil, the edges wonderfully crisp and charred to sweetness.

I had relegated fried sprouts as a dish to eat in restaurants, a special treat. However, after frying some bacon for another dish, I ended up with about 6 tablespoons of aromatic bacon fat. The crisper drawer had some sprouts, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. This is clearly not a vegetarian dish, but I think it would be just as wonderful made with coconut oil and a few slices of fresh ginger. I don’t consider this recipe deep fat fried, but the sprouts are cooked in a generous quantity of oil or fat.

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

There really isn’t a recipe, here are just a few tips and instructions.

Trim the bottoms of the sprouts and remove any discolored or limp leaves. Cut the sprouts in half if small, quarter them if larger. Save any loose leaves that fall off.

Heat the oil on medium high until quite hot, add the sprouts and any extra leaves. Cook until brown with charred spots. Keep the heat fairly high as you want them to brown quickly on the outside but still retain some crunch in the middle. This method was much faster than my usual roasting but it did require more attention. I grated some fresh lime zest over the top to cut the richness, and added a pinch of flaked sea salt to finish. They were amazing! Probably not something I would do every day because of the larger amount of fat, but I highly recommend this way of preparing them. The edges were crispy and had a satisfying char. They were very sweet and wonderfully flavored by the bacon fat. Restaurant quality!

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts, lime zest

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts, lime zest

I am taking this to share at Fiesta Friday #159, a virtual blogging party hosted by Angie. This weeks co-hosts are Zeba @ Food For The Soul and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook

Click on the link to see all the yummy food the group has to share.

February – Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

February – Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

This recipe combines two of my favorite foods, chicken and tomato soup (don’t worry, it won’t call for that red and white can). Those flavors are especially welcome on a night like this, stormy and cold. We took the dogs for a walk on the beach just before the rain hit, the first drops fell as we were driving away from the parking lot.

Seaside Winter Beach

Seaside Winter Beach

Don’t you think a winter beach is special? It was empty of summer visitors, only the hardiest souls were out in the late afternoon. We only met two other couples, both with dogs chasing balls or sticks.  out. Our dogs were in heaven, excited by the wind, leaping into the air to catch the frisbee.

The beach was full of driftwood washed up by the waves onto the high tide line. I didn’t get a picture, unfortunately. The salvage groups have been out cutting up the logs.

Winter beach

Winter beach

I cooked this sous-vide, inspired by a post from Bewitching Kitchen for Chicken Korma-ish. But the dish could also be cooked in a skillet with the sauce. I will give instructions for both. Sous-vide means “under vacuum” and is a method of cooking in a water bath at a very carefully controlled temperature. Your food is encased in a food safe plastic bag, either under vacuum or the air having removed by displacement. Your food cannot overcook. It takes longer but the results are amazing. In this case, silky and moist chicken breasts.

I served this with both spiralized zucchini and pasta. Take your pick, it was delicious both ways.

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 4 tomatoes, sliced. I didn’t bother to skin them as I was going to puree them in the food processor.
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • thinly sliced basil or parsley, about 1/4 cup
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • toasted pine nuts for serving
  • garnish of chopped basil
  • pasta of any shape or spiralized vegetable

If making this in the summer with wonderful vine ripened tomatoes, you may not need to add the tomato paste. Since these were February tomatoes, green house grown, they could use a little help.

Method

  1. If using sous-vide, heat your water bath to 150 degrees F.
  2. Melt butter or heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  3. Add the shallot and saute until starting to soften.
  4. Add the garlic, do not let either the shallot or garlic brown. Saute for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the sliced tomatoes, cook until softened and starting to melt into the pan.

    onion, garlic, and tomatoes

    onion, garlic, and tomatoes

  6. Add the tomato paste and salt, stir to mix.
  7. Put the contents of the skillet into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
  8. Add 1/3 cup of the cream and process again.
  9. For sous-vide:
    1. Add the diced chicken to a food safe plastic bag.
    2. Add the second 1/3 cup cream to the bag and mix.
    3. Add the contents of your blender or food processor and mix.
    4. Immerse the bag in the water and squeeze out the air.
    5. Cook for 2 hours, 3 is ok if you need to leave it longer.
  10. For traditional:
    1. Return the contents of the processor or blender to the skillet, add the second 1/3 cup cream and mix.
    2. Pour the sauce back into the skillet and heat on medium until just under the boil.
    3. Add the chicken and turn the heat to low.
    4. Cook until the chicken is done, about 10-15  minutes. Test a piece to make sure it is cooked all the way through.
Spiralized Zucchini

Spiralized Zucchini

There is a trick to using spiralized zucchini. Zucchini is mostly water. salting before using will help it retain the crispness. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of kosher salt and drain in a colander. Then dry on paper towels or a tea cloth before using. You will be amazed at the liquid that is released (and doesn’t water down your sauce). You can then add the zucchini to the hot sauce in the skillet to heat.

Tomato Cream Sauce Chicken with Zucchini

Tomato Cream Sauce Chicken with Zucchini

The chicken was fantastic!

Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

I am adding this post to the virtual blogging party at Fiesta Friday #158 hosted by Angie. The co-hosts this week are Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

February – Quick Chinese Chicken

February – Quick Chinese Chicken

This quick and delicious oriental chicken recipe came from the cookbook Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees, a great resource for Chinese cooking. There they call it Three Cup Chicken. It is perfect for the Chinese New Year celebration. The “standard” public holiday in Mainland China is the 7 days from the Chinese New Year’ Eve to day 6 of the lunar calendar new year. This year that took place January 27 to February 2.

The traditional holiday period may be as long as 23 days, starting 3 weeks before Chinese New Year’s Eve; and ending at the Lantern Festival (February 11th this year).

This is the year of the Fire Rooster. There are 12 animal signs in the Chinese zodiac, the rooster is the 10th sign. Additionally each year is also associated with one of the 5 elements, Gold (Metal), Wood, Water, Fire, or Earth. Both the zodiac sign and the element shape the astrology of the year. Element-sign combinations recur every 60 years. In general people born in a year of the Rooster are very observant. They are also hardworking, resourceful, courageous, confident, and talented.  If you are interested you can read more about them at this link.

Ingredients for 2-3 servings

  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. of bone in, skin on chicken thighs. Chop them crosswise into 2 pieces (the butcher did it for me).
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 thin slices of peeled fresh ginger root
  • 1/4 cup rice wine or sake, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, divided
  • 1/4 cup of toasted sesame oil
  • leaves from a bunch of Thai basil (I substituted fresh cilantro) and sliced scallion
  1. Put the chicken in a saucepan and cover with cool water. Bring it slowly to a simmer, skim off any scum that rises to the top, turn down the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Drain the chicken in a strainer over a bowl, save the cooking water for stock or to cook your rice.img_5669
  3. Heat a heavy saucepan or wok over high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of oil, add the ginger and fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the drained chicken and fry for another minute, add the 2 tablespoons of rice wine and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Continue to fry on high heat until the chicken is browned, another 2 minutes or so.
  5. If you are using a heavy bottomed skillet, you can leave the chicken in it. If using a wok, transfer the chicken to a Dutch oven or casserole. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of rice wine, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and the sesame oil. Cover and cook on low heat until the chicken is tender and the sauce is thickened, another 30 minutes or so.

    Chinese Clay Pot

    Chinese Clay Pot

  6. Stir in the chopped basil or cilantro and scallion before serving.
Quick Chinese Chicken

Quick Chinese Chicken

Serve with steamed rice, or baked sweet potatoes, and a green vegetable.

I am adding this post to the virtual blogging party at Fiesta Friday #158 hosted by Angie. The co-hosts this week are Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

February 2017 – In My Kitchen

February 2017 – In My Kitchen

I cannot imagine a more perfect place to make an announcement. I am officially retired, starting today February 1st! This is the very first day and here I am, posting after several months away. I am so excited! It has been a crazy 5 months at work, I was thrown directly into the fray when we returned from our Ireland hiking trip in September. It has absolutely consumed me. But, I don’t even want to think about work right now. Right now I want to talk about what is new in my kitchen and read what is new in your own.

If you’d like to write an In My Kitchen post, send your link to Liz of Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things by the 10th of the month. And please stop by Liz’s blog to see and read the list of posts from kitchens around the world.

So, let’s get started!

To begin with, I have discovered sous vide. What is that? It is cooking under very carefully controlled temperatures in a water bath. Your food is encased in a food safe plastic bag and immersed in the warm water. You set the temperature of the water to the exact doneness you want the food, it cannot overcook. Sous vide translates as “under vacuum”.

Lamb chops, vacuum packed and ready for sous vide

Lamb chops, vacuum packed and ready for sous vide

You can then quickly sear the outside of your food in a very hot pan to brown and crisp it before serving.

Sous Vide

Sous Vide

I have wanted one for several years but they were terribly expensive, plus they were huge bulky appliances which took up too much space. This one is quite portable, clips on the side of any pot, and is easily stored. Even better the price has finally come down into the $200 range. I found them on sale before Christmas at $149, very reasonable. This small one is made by Joule, a company known for very high quality laboratory water baths. I have been experimenting with recipes, it is such a different approach. Don’t you think it is great fun to try a new technique? So far I have made a confit of chicken and duck with very little fat (and in only a few hours), chicken breasts which were marvelous (tender without a hint of dryness), lamb chops to die for, salmon steaks (no worry about overcooking), perfect carrots, and a few others. I will be posting recipes, so stay tuned. In the spirit of honesty I will admit to one failure, and the timing was unfortunate. I had volunteered to bring steaks to a holiday dinner party, the plan was to quickly finish them on the grill. They were not good at all although everyone was very polite. I know I shouldn’t try a new recipe when cooking for company, but I am entirely guilty of frequently disobeying the rule. I get so excited about a new recipe or method and want to immediately share it. Most of the time it turns out fine, not so much this time.

I think it was a problem with the steaks themselves. Expensive grass fed steaks do not always translate to delicious meat.

A second go was much more successful.

Joule Sous Vide

Joule Sous Vide

At our cabin in Fort Bragg, there is a new mini oven. Our old one gave up the ghost just before Christmas. It is very handy to have a second oven when entertaining. And, I find it is much more versatile than filling up the kitchen counter with a toaster and other appliances. It makes great toast.

New Breville Mini Oven

New Breville Mini Oven

In my kitchen I have tulips. It has been a wonderfully wet winter here and they are a sign of spring. I cannot grow tulips in the garden. They need more winter chill than we have, and the deer think they are a particular treat. These were a splurge when I saw them in the store. Aren’t they a lovely color?

Tulips

Tulips

In my kitchen, or rather on the kitchen table, we have plans and the beginning of lots of lists.

Plans for Fort Bragg Addition

Plans for Fort Bragg Addition

These are plans for a new bedroom and bath at our Fort Bragg house. The remodel was stage one, this is stage two with construction scheduled to start sometime in February. We will need a break in the rain before they can begin.

In my kitchen I have a new cookbook, this one by Diana Henry. I know she has been popular for some time and I cannot believe I just discovered her. This one was a James Beard award winner.

A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry

A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry

In my kitchen I have pu-erh tea. These little compacted teaspoons of fermented tea from China are individually wrapped. I love a dark tea but cannot drink English Breakfast without milk because it upsets my stomach. This tea is very dark and full flavored, but at the same time smooth and not tannic. One little cake will make an entire pot with refills.

Pu-erh tea

Pu-erh tea

Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh Tea

And lastly in my kitchen I have seed catalogs. The beginnings of a small spring garden now that I will have some time to nurture it.

Seed Catalogs

Seed Catalogs

What is new in your kitchen this past month?