For some reason – a fridge full of interesting food? An unexpected, surprising surge of energy? New recipes on my desktop? Wonderful, appreciative praise from Constant Companion? Whatever the source of my motivation, I started last week with a “to cook” list and pretty much followed it.
When I saw the lovely, whole red snappers at a recent excursion to Costco, I could not resist. It was a day of splurges – the snappers, wild salmon, and the usual cod fillets (I have 2 branzino in the freezer waiting for their day, no need for more).
Meal #1 was roasted snapper with vegetable risotto on the side. The easiest way to prepare the fish was to simply roast them. After cleaning, cut several slits on each side of the fish; insert thinly sliced onion with salt and pepper inside the cavities. Before slipping them into the moderate (350 F) oven, spray or brush with some olive oil. Twenty minutes was all they needed to brown the skin and leave the meat nice and flakey.
Long ago when a certain nearby cookware store offered early morning (free) technique classes, I learned how to cook risotto. It’s been a while since we’ve had it. A box of cut up butternut squash and a container of mirepoix, diced carrots, celery, and onions, in the vegetable drawer cried out for this rice dish that the family enjoys. I started in the morning making a vegetable broth with miscellaneous vegetable ends and cuttings saved in the freezer (see 12-20-21 post). Later in the day, after straining the resultant broth, I added the carrots and celery from the mirepoix along with salt and cooked a bit more.
To assemble the risotto, first the mirepoix chopped onions were browned in a skillet with olive oil. Next, in went the chopped butternut squash to soften. When that was done, I added one cup of white wine. After that was absorbed, I added ladles full of warm vegetable broth and stirred, though you do not have to stir constantly. We learned in those long-ago and missed classes, that when you draw a line in the rice mixture and the pan is dry it’s time to add more broth.
Because Constant Companion is not always good with dairy and I find the butter and cheese heavy, neither of those ingredients are added to the rice as it finishes cooking.*
*Note: Some six years ago I had the opportunity to savor risotto cooked in Milan – such a rich and creamy approach to special rice. The chef kindly shared her recipe. She, too, does not add the cheese, though I think her rice was started in a mix of olive oil and butter. Delicious.
Meal #2, thanks to the doctor’s office. This past week was my annual check-up. The doctor had a list and I had my list, too (but I forgot one thing … so much for lists). Waiting for him to materialize I looked through a recent Good Housekeeping magazine. The recipe for Beef Bourguignon Meatloaf came home folded up in my purse because of the box of mushrooms waiting for a good use in the fridge.
For this dish, brown 3 chopped shallots in olive oil in a skillet. Reserve about 1/3 of the shallots. Add the rest to ¼ pinot noir*, 2 Tbsp Worchester sauce (I replace this miso), 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard, ½ Tbsp tomato paste, 1 ½ tsp fresh thyme, ¾ tsp kosher salt and ½ tsp pepper. In a separate bowl, mix 1 large egg with ½ cup plain bread crumbs.
*For the wine in the recipe and the risotto recipe, I used whatever leftover white or red wine from some dinner or other also waiting to be used in the fridge. Remember, I think that in reference to so-called “cooking wine,” it was Julia Child who instructed if it’s not wine you would drink, certainly, don’t cook with it.
Add all of the above ingredients to 1 ½ pound of ground beef (I mixed ground turkey with beef for this recipe). Spread mixture evenly in a loaf pan, pyrex pan, or just shape into 2 loafs. Bake in a 400 F oven for 30-35 minutes.
While the meatloaf cooks, heat 2 Tbsp butter or olive oil in a large skillet. Add 10 oz of sliced crimini mushrooms and brown. Reduce the heat to medium and add 1 grated or chopped garlic clove and the reserved shallots. Add 2 tsp tomato paste, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, and ½ cup pinot noir, stirring to incorporate. Simmer to reduce by half.
Serve meatloaf with the mushrooms. Side dishes were more of the cut up butternut squash tossed in oil and salt and roasted in the same oven as the meatloaf and sauteed, sliced zucchini.
Meal #3. During the extended stay in Hotel California, I watched several zooms with cookbook author Leah Koenig. Her monthly e-mail now comes to my inbox, this week with a recipe for Chicken with Potatoes and Leeks. From her to you, with appreciation. Chicken, Potatoes, and Leeks* were all present and waiting in my fridge. Here’s the recipe if your curiosity if piqued and you have the necessary ingredients – you need lots of garlic, too. Enjoy.
* I have to come up with a use for the 2 leeks remaining in the fridge sometime this week. The trimmings from those I used are stashed in the freezer for the next time I need a broth.
Cooking oils, funny thing. I grew up in a Greek-Jewish household. As a youngster my mother took me on shopping excursions all over Pittsburgh, especially to the Greek wholesaler, Stamoulis. Back then, daily goods like feta, olives, filo dough, and olive oil were not available in the supermarket. Now everyone uses the ubiquitous EVOO. Back then, it was just olive oil, and from Greece the best. Recently, I had the opportunity to try butternut squash seed oil … it’s ok, added to my stable of olive oils. Who would have thought?
I wrote this last night as CC and I were sitting down to a quiet dinner of wonderful leftovers. Who knows what cooking or other inspirations next week will bring.