a san francisco treat

A long long time ago, like practically right around the time I started writing this little blog, I posted a recipe about meatballs and a story about music, and how those things tie Chris and I together pretty succinctly. Coincidentally enough, I wrote that post right before we were about to head to California to do a little wine tasting, which is pretty much where we meet in the middle.

He usually picks the music, I pick the food, and we both pick the wine. Love it like that.

But a weekend or so ago, all we had to do was worry about the wine, which was easy because, well, we have a lot of it.

It’s one of those ideas that felt like it should have been something we thought of on our own, but we just aren’t the entrepreneurial type, as it turns out. We are certainly glad someone did. A San Francisco-based couple has a blog they call “Turntable Kitchen” where they pair food with music, and eventually they decided to take it another step and sell a monthly subscription to a dinner with music pairings. They send a record with a couple of songs, a link to a mixed CD they’ve made, and three recipes with a featured ingredient as well.

It’s genius. And again, why didn’t we think of the damn thing?!

For our first month’s dinner, we picked our ingredients on the way home from a hike around Mt Tam. It had been a nice, sunny day and we were ready for taking it easy. We grabbed our goods, grabbed showers, grabbed a bottle of wine from the cooler, and got our music listening/cook on.

For those of you who didn’t know, cioppino is a fish stew that originated in San Francisco. It has a subtle fennel flavor, and is loaded with tomatoes and practically overflowing with any kind of seafood you can imagine and truthfully, you can put whatever you damn well please into it.

It’s the perfect dish for taking it easy – you dump all of the sauce ingredients into the pot and let it simmer, you add your seafood, and you slurp it up over a nice glass or two of white wine. Meanwhile you can have some melt-in-your-mouth burrata on crostini and prepare the components for your dessert. Cioppino night is a laid-back, California type of night.

And the best part? you do it all while hanging out with the one you love – a day spent in the sun and amidst nature, and a night spent together in the kitchen, checking out some California tunes, which if I remember correctly, was a band called “NO”. But again, the music’s his deal, remember?

Cioppino
Adapted from Turntable Kitchen & Bon Appetit, December 2011; serves 4

time commitment: 1 hour, 30 minutes (45 active)

printable version

ingredients
3 T olive oil
1 fennel bulb, diced
1 1/2 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with juices
1 15 oz can of fish stock
1 c white wine (we adore Vermentino)
2 bay leaves
1 T fresh oregano
1 T fresh thyme
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (start with 1/2 t each and adjust as you see fit)
12 littleneck clams
12 mussels, cleaned and debearded
1/2 lb halibut, cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 lb bay scallops
1 lb large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
sourdough bread, for serving

instructions
Heat oil in a large heavy pot (Dutch oven, if you have it) over medium-high heat. Add fennel, onion, garlic, and green pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add diced tomatoes and juice, fish stock, wine, and spices (through salt). Mix together, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 45 minutes.
After the stew has simmered for about 45 minutes, add in the scallops, halibut, and shrimp. Once these start to turn opaque (3 minutes or so), stir in the clams and cover. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the mussels. Cook for 3-4 more minutes. Remove and discard of any clams/mussels that haven’t opened up at that point. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Ladle into 4 bowls and serve with nice crusty sourdough bread to carry that San Francisco treat all the way home.
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Fishy Alternative

Cod with Chorizo Mussels and Saffron Aioli

By now you’ve eaten just about all the turkey, or roast, or whatever it is you eat over the holidays – that you can stand, right? I mean, I do love me some sweet potato casserole, and I thoroughly enjoy being torn in three over all the pie choices. I can’t imagine skipping Aunt Faye’s chicken pastry, cornbread, and homemade buttermilk biscuits although I easily skip over the collard greens, as I have managed to do for 29 years now. Our families could feed a small village with all the sweets they prepare (not to mention the biscotti I made which is only slightly addictive), and let’s just say that the amount of treats I consume is no small accomplishment either.


mussels

But when it comes right down to it, as good as the holiday food is, for me there’s no better feeling than whipping up a special meal at home. And after all the poultry and beef I’m sure we’ve all consumed these past few weeks I have to admit I’m more than ready to veer away from the land animals for just a bit. (And I mean just a bit). That being said, I think it’s time to take a lil’ dip into the ocean. I found the perfect dish for you – one I’ve been meaning to share for quite some time now.

'imported' Spanish chorizo
Not to worry – ocean creatures are very friendly with chorizo. And where there’s Spanish chorizo, there’s usually some saffron floating around too. This here folks, this is no different. And it’s mighty fine. Mighty fine indeed.


saffron-infused lime juice

I know many of you will scoff at the dishes that have multiple components. This is totally one of them. But wait! I’m sure you’ll change your mind when I tell you one of those components is a few big fat egg-soaked sourdough croutons and one of the others is saffron mayo. Yes, saffron! and, mayo! and croutons! You’ll forget you’re eating fish – not that eating fish is a bad thing, but it isn’t pork stew, that’s for sure :). But this fishy dish? This one is rich and hearty enough to make you think you’re eating that stew again – a perfect seafood recipe for the cold nights.

awesome sourdough croutons
You know what’s also awesome about the croutons and mayo? They can both easily be used again, so you’re really doubling up on the fantasticness. The croutons are great in any soup or stew I can think of and can sop up those juices with grace. The mayo – oh boy – a perfect addition to a sandwich or burger – especially a chickpea-pesto burger with arugula. The rest of the dish is fairly easy, so if you remind yourself of the wonderful recycling properties of croutons and saffron mayo, you’ve got yourself one great meal and a whole lotta repeat variety to boot.

cod with aioli


Cod with Mussels, Chorizo, Fried Croutons & Saffron Mayonnaise
Adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2009; serves 4

printable version

ingredients

saffron mayo
1.5 t fresh lime juice
pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 T evoo
1/4 t hot pepper sauce

mussels
2 T olive oil
1/4 c chopped shallots
4 garlic cloves
1 t dried crushed red pepper
pinch of saffron threads
1/2 c dry white wine
2 lbs mussels, scrubbed and debearded
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 c smoked Spanish chorizo, diced
1/4 c finely diced seeded tomato
1/4 c finely diced roasted red pepper from jar
1 T chopped fresh parsley

fried croutons
2 large eggs
1/2 c low fat milk
1/4 t cayenne pepper
12 1-inch torn pieces sourdough bread (5 oz)

cod
1 8 oz bottle clam juice
1 c dry white wine
1 12-oz cod fillet, cut into 4 equal pieces
2 T olive oil

instructions
saffron mayonaise
Mix lime juice and saffron in small bowl. Let stand 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in mayonnaise, oil, and hot pepper sauce. Cover and chill at least 4 hours to allow flavors to develop. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.

mussels
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, crushed red pepper, and saffron and sauté 4 minutes. Add wine; bring to boil. Add mussels and thyme; cover and cook until mussels open, about 5 minutes (discard any mussels that do not open). Strain mussel broth into large saucepan; add chorizo, tomato, roasted pepper, and parsley to liquid. Remove mussels from shells. DO AHEAD: Mussels and cooking broth can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover separately and refrigerate.

fried croutons
Pour enough oil into heavy large saucepan to reach depth of 3 inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of pan. Heat oil to 350°F. Whisk eggs, milk, and cayenne in large bowl. Add bread; stir to coat. Let soak 2 minutes. Drain off excess liquid. Working in batches, add bread to hot oil and cook until brown, turning as necessary, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and drain.

cod
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring clam juice and wine to simmer in small saucepan. Pour into 7×5-inch baking dish. Add cod pieces to dish; sprinkle with salt and drizzle with oil. Bake until fish is opaque in center, basting with poaching liquid twice, about 8 minutes.

Bring mussel broth to simmer. Add mussels and heat through. Divide mussels and broth among 4 shallow soup bowls. Top each with piece of cod, 3 croutons, and dollop of saffron mayonnaise.

Building Mussels without Breakin’ a Sweat

thai green curry ingredients


We took our cats in for their annual vet visit a couple of weeks ago. And although my cat has always been on the larger side, she’s never been officially classified as fat. Well, not until this visit. We’d tried portioning out their food for the past year to avoid the inevitable weight gain, but we began to notice that my cat would eat not only her portion, but also the portion of her smaller, more timid sister. Two things wrong with that picture: my cat continues to eat too much, and the other cat doesn’t eat at all. Both will lead to poor outcomes…



So anyway, after pondering various ideas, we came to a solution that will avoid both of the former scenarios. We’d feed the “non-fat” cat on the counter, since she can jump up with ease and the “fat” cat can’t, and we’d switch my cat to canned food to easily portion it out and guarantee that the other cat won’t eat it, since she refuses canned food. In trying out various brands of canned food, I’ve realized a thing or two. Some of them are true delicacies, especially for a cat! One kind I bought her was called “Savory salmon w/ lentils & ginger”. I mean, c’mon. It’s no wonder she didn’t like it. And after trying 5 different brands, I’ve come to the conclusion that she, like me, has turned into a Whole Foods snob! Their brand was the only one she ate every flavor of, and the only one she ate with pure excitement. Some, despite her normal tendency to eat all things in sight, were left untouched – overnight. Who would have thought a cat would be able to pick out organic cat food. Fortunately, their foods, unlike human food, are not too much more expensive than the brands at Petsmart.

tange & sasha

And so, in my attempt to find tasty, nutritious, balanced food for my cat, I also went on a mission to find ingredients for my weekend meals. Once I got over the fact that my cat and I now shop at the same store, I was then faced with the frustration of the WF move. The WF I normally buy groceries from is expanding and jumping a block south next month, so finding all ingredients I need at one store was like finding pizza in Chinatown. But no worries, because Dirk’s Seafood was just around the corner, and I knew they’d have the final ingredient on my list, mussels. Oh, I do love mussels.

And, I love curry, and Thai food in general, so a Thai version of clam chowder with mussels instead of clams was right on par with something I’d cook.


mussels in curry broth



The last dish I made with curry is one of my very favorites. Plus, I’d been on a break from coconut since early April, and I was ready to bring it back into my life.

I did make some changes to the original recipe. I’d gone to an Asian grocery a while back and stocked up on some hard-to-find ingredients, so I had Kaffir lime leaves and thai chiles in the freezer. I still added more lime flavor. I’m sure if you can’t find Kaffir lime leaves you could leave them out, but they do add a lot of Thai-ness to the dish. Actual kaffir limes look a lot like regular limes but are sort of bumpy, and they’re smaller. The leaves look like two leaves stuck together. And thai chilies can be bought in little bags with tons in one bag. They both freeze well and last a long time. The ones I had in the freezer are over a year old and are just as fragrant as when I bought them. Also, the recipe called for scallops, and that didn’t seem as good as more shrimp to me. So I doubled the shrimp and took out the scallops. And last, the recipe had no ginger! So I added some.


seafood with thai green curry


I tell you, straight up, this is one of the easiest dishes I’ve made in a long time. It’s full of veggies, seafood, and exotic, complex flavors. It’s actually healthy, although it looks too creamy to be low-fat. But it is. People get real excited about mussels, and the fact of the matter is that they really are a piece of cake to prepare. You literally dump them in a pot and close the lid. Voila. That being said, this recipe would be a true crowd-pleaser and a sure thing for company. And for those with dietary issues – gluten & dairy-free. Need I say more?

green curry broth

Thai Green Curry w/ Seafood
Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2009; Serves 4


printable recipe

ingredients
2 T unrefined peanut oil (could use standard refined but will not be as robust)
5 green onions, chopped, dark green parts separated from white and pale green parts
3 T minced fresh cilantro, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 T Thai green curry paste
1 1/4 cups water
1 can coconut milk (light works just fine)
2 red Thai chilies (or 1 red jalepeno chile)
2 kaffir lime leaves (or 2 T lime juice + 1 t zest)
zest of 1/2 lime
juice of 1/2 lime
1 t fresh grated ginger
1 T fish sauce (Thai kitchen brand is gluten free)
1 large carrot, peeled, thinly cut diagonally
4 cups thinly sliced bok choy
1 lb uncooked medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 lb green or black mussels, scrubbed, debearded
2 T chopped fresh basil
2 cups cooked white arborio rice

instructions

1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add white & pale green onion parts, 1 T cilantro, and garlic; saute until tender, about 2 minutes.


2. Add curry paste; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add water, coconut milk, chiles, lime leaves, lime zest, lime juice, ginger, and fish sauce. Bring to simmer. Add carrot; cover and cook until carrot is just tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Layer bok choy, shrimp & mussels in pan. Cover & simmer until mussels open and shrimp & bok choy are cooked, about 5 minutes.

4. Stir in dark green parts of onions, 2 T remaining cilantro, and basil.

5. Divide rice among 4 bowls. Ladle curry mixture over rice & serve.