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Fish on Friday: Five More Fab Seafood Solutions

28 Mar
Spanish tapas: Mussels vinaigrette (make 'em the night before)

Spanish tapas: Mussels vinaigrette (make ’em the night before)

The last Friday in Lent is coming up. Why just pan-fry filets (again), when you could try some of these much more entertaining and tasty takes on seafood? This is Part Two of my Lenten seafood series. I know you’ll end up making them all year long. I certainly do!

Shrimp and Avocado Salad, Spiked with Chipotle (charming served in an avocado shell)

Shrimp and Avocado Salad, Spiked with Chipotle (charming served in an avocado shell)

Pasta al Tonno: One of the fastest pasta sauces known to man. (switch out the green olives for black) Deeply flavored

Pasta al Tonno: One of the fastest pasta sauces known to man. (Feel free to switch out the green olives for black and skip the capers) Deeply flavored!

Creamy, sweet, tangy, chunky, light Swedish Skagen Salad (the best shrimp salad EVER)

Creamy, sweet, tangy, chunky, light Swedish Skagen Salad (the best shrimp salad EVER)

Cioppino Latino...sí, sí, sí

Cioppino Latino…A San Fran Seafood Stew Classic with a special Latina twist

For more seafood recipes, click here!

Celeriac Remoulade (The Speed Dial Version)

18 Mar

Give celeriac an inch and it will take over your kitchen. Well, not quite, but I grated a bit into a salad for the first time in ages a couple of days ago, was reminded of my first celeriac remoulade in an even more distant past, and next thing you know, I was making a remoulade.

Looks a bit like an ugly planet, dunnit?

Looks a bit like an ugly planet, dunnit?

Mind you, no one else in my house eats mayonnaise – my mom is watching her cholesterol, my dad is still nominally on his crazy-ass diet which is vegan (except when he is “tasting” everyone else’s food), and my five-year-old is valiantly resisting the charms of potato salad, tuna salad, and anything else that tastes so nice with some mayo and would be so much easier to send him to school with.

So rather than make a batch of real mayonnaise that I couldn’t possibly finish eating before it went off, I resorted to scraping the last two tablespoons of Hellman’s whose Never-Say-Die longevity in the fridge is a wonder of the modern age (this jar dates back to the summer).

Celeriac cleans up real nice....

Celeriac cleans up real nice….

Continue reading

Don’t Judge a Vegetable By Its Cover: Celeriac

17 Mar

You are not alone. The cashier at our local grocery store didn’t know what it was either.

When I explained to her that it was celery root, or celeriac, I remembered the day when I first encountered celery root (beware, gentle reader, a somewhat Proustian moment is about to ensue).

I was a (not-very-enthusiastic and rather undocumented) jeune fille au pair in Paris – a nanny/housekeeper for a divorced, working mom with two kids. I understand Madame D. a lot better now that I am a single parent, but back then, all I could understand was that she was underpaying me for a lot of domestic work that didn’t let me take French lessons or frequent cafés in the manner which I thought more befitting my station. It didn’t even let me buy enough food. At the weekends, when I didn’t eat with the family, I skipped a lot of meals. In turn, Madame D. was clear that, while I had certain likeable qualities, I was pretty much an American brat who did not know much about anything at all. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle.

Celery root has a certain je ne sais quoi, non?

Celery root has a certain je ne sais quoi, non?

Anyhoo, I pretended not to be able to cook in order to avoid having to cook, but when she brought home this homely, knobbly, ugly softball of a vegetable, I was not faking my ignorance. I was truly mystified. Qu’est-ce que c’est? Or, in today’s common parlance: WTF?

Madame D. explained that because Americans are wasteful, they don’t use the bulby root of celery stalks, while the French, in their infinite superiority, understood its sublime nature and made it a national dish – celeriac remoulade (which we are not doing today, so don’t get excited, but coming soon!).

I nodded and watched her make the remoulade (celeriac slaw with mayo and mustard powder, basically) and it was indeed sublime ( breath of relief, as Madame. D. French or not, was not much of a cook, but since I was pretending not to be able to cook myself, I ate what I was given. And took seconds if they were ever offered, even if I shocked the family. I was hungry!!!!!).

As it turns out, Madame D. was correct that celeriac is good stuff, but this time, it wasn’t a case of Americans chopping off the best part of a plant out of stupidity. Celeriac (Apium graveolens rapaceum) is not at all the root of the celery stalk (Apium graveolens dulce) so ubiquitous in the American supermarket. They are all celery, but distinct forms of it. And in fact, it turns out to have a lot of uses in the Puerto Rican kitchen, but I have only just begun to explore that.

Which brings me back to the local IGA (independent grocery) and the lumpy celeriac sitting in a corner, ignored. I was actually charged with taking a salad to a St. Patrick’s Day dinner party and was hoping to find something novel to add to it. And there was my answer. The Mystery Root.


When you get your celery root ready, pop it into a bowl of cold salted water until ready to cut up. It will oxidize and like Princess Fiona, return to its natural ogre-like state.

When you get your celery root ready, pop it into a bowl of cold salted water until ready to cut up. It will oxidize and like Princess Fiona, return to its natural ogre-like state.

To prepare, rinse. Slice off each end and pare off the tough skin with a knife. plunge in cold salted water until ready to use. You can boil it with potatoes (1 part celeriac: 2-3 parts potato) in your favorite mashed potato recipe, or make remoulade (again, I may just make some today. I’ll keep you “posted”) or, do as I did: grate it raw into a green salad and add apples and grated carrot. Mustardy-mayonnaise-y dressings are good matches for the celeriac, which tastes a lot like…well, celery!



The Green Goddess Helps Those Who Help Themselves (A Salad Dressing)

17 Jan

So Marianne and I continue preparing food that encourages healthy eating and healthy weight for the new year. I like to make one meal a day a salad; as crunchy and varied as possible. Unless my mom is home making the powdered Italian stuff in the cruet (which I freely admit I love), I generally make my own, simple vinaigrettes or tahini-based dressings, but clearly it is time to branch out.

Do pack the tablespoon with the herbs; it is very hard to get an accurate measure of this, isn't it?

Do pack the tablespoon with the herbs; it is very hard to get an accurate measure of this, isn’t it?

Marianne’s brother, Peter, is famous for his Green Goddess dressing (and his pecan pie, but that’s for another day when I get his recipe!) and although I’d never had it before (see dressing history, below) , I happened upon a Green Goddess recipe in Food to Live By: The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook  (a personal favorite that Marianne’s boys gave me a few years ago, as it happens) and well…game on! Continue reading

Brassica, Bacon and an answer to: What do you do with kohlrabi?

9 Dec

Sometimes it is advisable to avoid the unknown. And sometimes you just have to stop being so yellow-bellied and confront your fears. Especially if your fear is merely an unfamiliar vegetable. And double especially if you can smear it in bacon grease.

Purple kohlrabi -- this is the root. They also come in green. The leaves are edible, but I didn't have those.

Purple kohlrabi — this is the root. They also come in green. The leaves are edible, but I didn’t have those.

I had picked up some kohlrabi from our CSA a while ago, no longer able to pass them off to Allison, who we share with, because she’d had enough. The truth is, I had no idea what a kohlrabi was, and in the frenzy that is the fall, dealing with the familiar hazards of life as a full time working single parent of a kindergartener, I didn’t have time for a new relationship. At least not a relationship with an unfamiliar vegetable. So I ignored them in the hopes that, like an annoying suitor, they would get the message and go away. “She’s just not that into you.”

Kohlrabi grated into salad

Kohlrabi grated into salad

But time passed and there were the neglected kohlrabi in their sturdy stubbornness, sitting in the fridge where I was pretty sure they would keep for a couple of weeks. I reluctantly turned my attention to their patient purple selves. And I was rewarded!

First I consulted A Field Guide to Produce, my bible for the market by Aliza Green where I found that it is a member of the Brassica family like cabbage, and that you could add it raw to salads. I figured that was an easy enough start, pared off the thick peel of one and grated it into a salad. Big success! It was cool and crunchy like radish, but without the bite; just a really pleasant addition to the flavor and texture. Thus emboldened, I decided to invent the following salad with cozy autumnal flavors, but with some refreshing crispness too.

Kohlrabi (or cabbage turnip) peeled and chunked

Kohlrabi (or cabbage turnip) peeled and chunked

Full disclosure: My mom, who usually likes whatever I make gave this a thumbs down. “Too much bacon flavor,” she said. Which to me is a thumbs up (Too much bacon? Really?). She pushed it to the side of her plate. For the dad, enabler that I am, I gave him his own vegan serving, raw with no saute in bacon or any other fat. He quite liked it. Leandro? He ate linguini with spinach and I didn’t even attempt to get him to try this. He’d already had bacon for breakfast anyway.

Saute the onions and cabbage in bacon grease!

Saute the onions and cabbage in bacon grease!

So I, who quite liked it, will have plenty to take to the office tomorrow.

I am now out of kohlrabi, but absolutely ready to take this new relationship to the next level. I may have to update my Facebook status for this one.

Delicious autumnal-winter salad!

Delicious autumnal-winter salad!

Warm Kohlrabi, Cabbage and Apple Salad

1 Cup kohlrabi, pared and chopped into small cubes

1 Cup apple, peeled and chopped into small cubes

2 tsp bacon grease

1 Cup cabbage, cut into small squares

1 Tbs chopped onion

3 Tbs roasted sunflower seeds

Salt to taste

Place kohlrabi and apple in a bowl. In a small skillet, heat the bacon grease until liquid at medium heat. Add the cabbage and the onion, stir to coat, and sauté until very wilted. Add to the bowl and stir to combine. Stir in sunflower seeds, salt to taste, and serve warm.

Yuca Salad Revisited – You May Never Make Potato Salad Again

5 Dec

There is no better big-dinner, buffet, picnic, or other party dish in my arsenal than Yuca Salad (aka ensalada de yuca, yuca en escabeche). None. I kid you not.

Pimiento-stuffed olives

Pimiento-stuffed olives

It is easy, has big flavor, is unusual, goes with everything, is portable, and very cheap…it is even vegan, but no one has to know until they’ve tried it. I have served it to pretty much everyone I have ever cooked for (and if I haven’t done it for you yet, it is just a matter of time) and gotten rave reviews every time. Continue reading

Roasted Green Beans (Salvaging and Sweetening When Less than Farm Fresh)

27 Sep

We’ve had piles of green beans this season, both from Restoration Farm and from our own little beds. This means that sometimes they stay in the fridge longer than we meant them too.

Then, when the season is over, we’ll probably buy from the supermarket (ssshhhhhh – not particularly seasonally virtuous, but I am working on it) and they won’t have that snappy-sweet farm freshness that we have become used to in late summer. But now I have a new way to make them taste much, much better. Continue reading

Watermelon, Tomato and Feta Salad

2 Aug

I am just back from a speaking engagement in Puerto Rico, where I had the chance to visit with great friends and have some delicious meals! But…you’ll have to wait for that, as it deserves a juicier post than I have time for (secrets of Kendra’s delicious grilled lamb coming soon to this blog!).

Watermelon and Feta go so well together and so well with tomatoes!

However, rather than leave you high and dry, here is a bright new salad to entertain you. It takes minutes to prepare, and — if Dr. Oz is to be believed — the combination of watermelon and a bit of balsamic is a powerful enzyme that will aid in digestion and perhaps weight loss.

So here it is:  a fast and refreshing salad that use seasonal fruits and vegetables at their peak. And it’s pretty gorgeous too!

Serving suggestion: Mexican-style margarita glasses!

Watermelon, Tomato and Feta Salad


1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp balsamic vinegar

Pinch salt

Grating of pepper


20-30 grape tomatoes, sliced in half (about one Cup)

1 Cup watermelon, cubed to match the size of the tomato halves (seeded if necessary)

1 tsp fresh mint, chopped

½ Cup crumbled feta

In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients.

In a larger bowl, place watermelon, tomato, feta and mint. Pour dressing over. Stir in mint. Combine all gently and serve.

Chickpea and Tahini Salad III (Perfect Picnic Salad)

21 Jul

I am forever putting together cold chickpea salads for the summer.

Tahini is, of course, one of my favorite condiments for this purpose. For the uninitiated, it is a sesame paste, very thick, that keeps for a long time in the fridge and is critical to Middle Eastern cuisine. A tablespoon adds a depth of flavor, a teeny bit on the bitter side, and a thickness or creaminess of texture to sauces and dressings that I like a lot. Try a basic dressing from a Mediterranean Buffet , a   version with soy sauce, or another with tomatoes and herbs. Which I guess means I should call this Chick Pea and Tahini Salad IV, but whatever!)

This time I had dill in the fridge needing to be used up so I figured I would try it. The result was fresh and good. Mint would be a terrific substitute or addition. You can really go in many directions with this one! You can mix it with rice or use it to top a green salad or just eat it right out of the mixing bowl with a spoon while standing in front of the fridge (not that I would ever do that. Uh-uh. Not me).

Light and fresh – perfect side for supper!

Chickpea and Tahini Salad III

1 Tbs lemon juice or red wine vinegar (start with half a tablespoon and increase to your taste)

1 Tbs tahini

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs dill, chopped

28oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbs red onion (a quarter of a medium red onion), sliced thin

Mix or whisk lemon juice or vinegar and tahini together in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix well.

Serenata (a Lenten favorite that is a hot weather favorite too)

2 Jul

Bacalao — if you are not a fan — is an insulting thing to call someone; to the bacalao-averse it is a smelly, salty, fibrous fish; it is yucky and you can’t stomach it or even smell it cooking in the house.

Bacalao — if you are a fan — is the magical, durable, sustaining food of seafarers and coastal folks from far flung places; a protein source that won’t go off without refrigeration; a salty treat that tastes great with rice, in fritters, in any number of ways, the flavor of Lenten Fridays and Christmas buffets.

Bacalao is dried salt cod (called saltfish on many of the Caribbean Islands) and if you don’t like it, you may want to stop reading now.

If you do like it, I hope you will try it as serenata, a dish very popular in Puerto Rico, that I am told doesn’t come from Spain, but was developed in the Caribbean. It may have been the dish traditionally served to a successful suitor after he serenaded his intended under the window on a warm, tropical palm-swaying kind of evening.

Then again, maybe not. Since salt cod must be desalinated ahead of time, the intended must have known when her suitor was coming and what her answer would be, well in advance of the event. Hardly a romantic surprise. But I love me an apocryphal story as much as the next person!

If I were waiting for a suitor to turn up in order to eat serenata, it would be a long time before I had it again. But me being me, I don’t wait.

We eat serenata during Lent on Fridays, but I like it any time. It combines a strong salty fish with bland tubers (which we in Puerto Rico call viandas); I like to mush it up all together on my plate with abundant oil for a a dense and salty mashed potato-type of experience.

My dad found a breadfruit somewhere the other day (I suspect he shook someone down for it, but whatever you have to do in New York to get a tropical breadfruit seems justifiable to me. I asked no questions). Breadfruit is one of my absolute favorite things to eat in this whole blessed world. Set the dense creaminess of breadfruit against the power of bacalao and I am in heaven. So I started soaking my fish immediately. Chowing down was like mainlining the memories of so many amazing days and adventures…I felt almost drunk on the event!

Notes: Atlantic cod is on the naughty list of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (for more info, click here) but I got Alaskan Pollock, which seems to be okay for the moment, although wild-caught Alaskan is the most recommended. I try.

For a delightful read on the fascinating history of cod, get Cod: A biography of the fish that changed the world, by one of my favorite food researchers and writers, Mark Kurlansky!

Full disclosure: My son will not touch bacalao, hates the smell and — every time he smells a funky smell somewhere, he calls it bacalao. He’ll grow into it.

For a variation on Bacalao a la vizcaina (with tomato sauce), click here

Serenata (desalination begins the night before or morning before cooking. The rest of the prep is only 15 minutes)

  1. Bacalao: 1lb. dried salt cod, desalinated and rehydrated according to the following directions: To desalinate: Place cod in abundant cold water in the evening or in the morning. Before going to bed or to work, change the water. Upon waking or returning from work, change the water again. When ready to cook, place bacalao in a pot with abundant water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium, simmer for 3-5 minutes, drain and allow to cool.
  2.  Stodge: 1-2 lbs potatoes/yautía/yuca/breadfruit/malanga (taro) or other tuberous root vegetable. Peeled and boiled until fully cooked through (from 15-30 minutes, depending on density of tuber) and kept warm
  3. Dressing — 4 Tbs olive oil;1 tsp capers; 10 pimiento-stuffed olives, sliced; ½ cup red onion, chopped; 10 grape tomatoes, quartered (Plus additional olive oil for drizzling and salt to taste).

4. Optional: avocado slices, hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced

Flake cooled bacalao in to a bowl. Add all the ingredients in C. Mix well and serve with tubers, additional oil and optional avocado and eggs.

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