Somewhat confined to the home, one seeks to find new things to put mind and attention to. From time to time I do my crafts or sewing or do something in the yard (you can read about it here). My family enjoys eating and I get satisfaction from the creativity of cooking. As we reach the end of month four in seclusion – Hotel California as I like to call it with music in my head – I’ve found myself experimenting in the past week or two.
Experimenting is probably an incorrect term. My cooking has been driven either by recipes I’ve saved for the proverbial rainy day or by recipes received in my in-box from various digital newsletters I subscribe to. These days, another influence is what I find in the market or receive in my various food foraging adventures. Here are the latest results that came out of my kitchen.
Inspired by recipes. A recipe Pan-Seared Cod with Preserved-Lemon Aioli came into my in-box from Food and Wine. This was a 2008 recipe from Melissa Rubel Jacobson. I had two jars of preserved lemons in my fridge – one commercially made, another was a gift from a friend. The cod from my recent birthday shopping expedition to an Asian market was in the freezer. Why not?
First, I made the aioli (no pictures). I used my easy 20-second mayo recipe, from Saveur magazine (https://www.saveur.com/article/recipes/20-second-mayo/) to get the 1 cup of mayonnaise. Added to that was 1 finely chopped preserved lemon (use only the peel), 1 chopped clove of garlic, 2 tbsps. water, and 3 tbsps. of extra virgin olive oil (add a pinch of cayenne if you’d like). That’s the aioli.
Next the fish, 4 skinless 6-oz fillets. Season with salt and pepper, I dredged them in panko for the crunchy effect. Cook over a moderate high heat, turn only once, until golden outside, about 10 minutes total. A while ago, I made some scallion oil (https://food52.com/recipes/70013-scallion-oil-chinese-mother-sauce-1). I used it to cook the fish, added flavor. Serve with the aioli.
Quite a while ago, I’d saved a recipe for turkey congee. Congee is an Asian rice porridge. The breakfast buffet at our hotel in Seoul always includes some variety of congee. My first taste was during a trip to New York a number of years ago with Constant Companion. A few weeks ago a friend gave me a turkey to cook. Of course, I saved the carcass for future use. The future came and the chance to try this recipe, another one from Saveur (https://www.saveur.com/leftover-thanksgiving-turkey-congee-recipe/).
Put the carcass with 2 stalks of celery and 1 carrot, roughly chopped, and 1 quartered onion into 14 cups of water. I also put in a small chicken carcass from a recent meal. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook til stock is reduced to about 8 cups (it took about 3 hours). Remove from the pan, when cooled take the meat and discard the bones. Strain the stock and discard the solids.
In a 4-quart saucepan combine the stock with 1 stalk of celery and 1 carrot, roughly chopped and 1 cup of rice (I used long grain). Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. The rice absorbs most of the liquid and its flavor. I found the meat from the bones was enough; you can add more more, cooked turkey if you want and cook for 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper and top servings with cilantro and chopped scallions.
Food Foraging. The next recipes were made possible by food foraging which brought us cherry tomatoes, beautiful plums, and sliced fuji apples last week. I’ve never understood buying pre-sliced apples. I know some preservative is used to keep them crisp and white, but I’d much rather stick to whole apples.
Cherry tomatoes. Daughter thought they were past their peak, so I halved them tossed in olive oil, thyme, and some salt to roast in a 375 degree F oven for about ½ hour. Next was to use them in a tomato galette, care of Bon Appetit (https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/tomato-galette). I use a ready-made pie crust. I did not use the full amount of cheese, just grated Tillamook white cheese to cover to crust, then topped with the roasted tomatoes, and 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves. After folding in the edges, brush beaten eggs, or just water along the edges. Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 55-65 minutes.
Plums. Such a luscious fruit. In a recent food distribution, included was a bag of lovely plums among the variety of salads. This time, I went to my good friend Google to find a cake, on The Brick Kitchen (https://www.thebrickkitchen.com/2017/02/plum-pistachio-lemon-cake/). Two things writing this blog has done is make me fluent in “Google” and introduce me to many, many other interesting blogs written by others all over the world.
Plum, Pistachio, & Lemon Cake was a hit and beautiful, too. Preheat the open at 350 degrees F and grease and line a springform pan with parchment paper. Process 1 cup of shelled pistachios finely and set aside. Next, cream 1 cup of sugar and 6.5 oz. of butter.* Add 4 eggs, one at a time. Fold in 1 ¼ cup almond flour, the pistachios, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp vanilla, and lemon zest from one lemon. Pour this very thick batter into the prepared baking tin and top with the plum halves, cut side up. Bake for 45- 50 minutes. You can make a glaze with ½ cup powdered sugar and 1-2 tbsp. squeezed lemon juice. Sprinkle chopped pistachios on top for serving.
*I substituted oil in place of the butter; it might have changed the texture of the cake, but it was delicious. Highly recommended and not at all difficult.
The Sliced Apples. Daughter is not crazy about galettes. Her preference was for a real pie with top and bottom crusts. Pie it was, something I rarely if ever have baked. I pulled out several cookbooks including the much beloved Joy of Cooking (sorry Julia). Using pieces of the recipes from each I concocted this pie.
First, the pre-made pie crust in my greased pie pan. Next the pre-sliced apples tossed with brown sugar, a little salt, a bit of flour, and about a tablespoon of cognac. The Williams Sonoma Baking book showed how to make a lattice crust. Part of my undergraduate degree included weaving, so I thought I’d do the lattice.
It was beautiful, but a failure! We think fuji apples are not for pie and that something went wrong with the crust. I looked and looked, but no instructions were given to pre-bake the bottom crust.
Time to repurpose. All these years of watching Chopped has made me confident to take one thing and transform it into another. The next morning, I got rid of the ill-fated crust and put the apples and as much of the brown sugar caramel around them into a saucepan with water – apple compote. It took a long time to cook down, does not look appetizing in its brownness, but is really good.
As we await the coming Tropical Storm, hoping predictions are correct and the hurricane will bypass us, I’m thinking of that preserved lemon aioli. It would make a very tasty tuna salad. An easy dinner ahead.