Tag Archives: capers

Roasted Branzino with Lemon, Oregano, and Capers


I don’t have a bucket list in general, let alone a food bucket list.  But I do have a mind that sees something interesting and once captured, it stays and stays.  This particular oddity of mine isn’t limited to food, but because food is what I think of most, I can guarantee my mind is full of ideas just waiting for an opportunity to try.

Perhaps I do have a food bucket list.

Let’s take branzino for example.  I know.  I’d never heard of it before, but probably read about it in Saveur or something.  I love those experiences.  I read about something new and my curiosity is piqued.  Sometimes, that’s enough I think, realizing that in one lifetime, I can’t possibly fit every whim or fancy into reality.  I tell myself some things are best left for whimsy.

But I’m caught off guard occasionally.  Frequently would be more accurate, but who’s keeping score?  This past winter as I shopped for holiday menu ingredients, I spotted fresh, whole Branzino resting on a bed of ice behind the glass case at the market and without hesitation asked the clerk for two.  As I was waiting, a couple eased forward, looking at the Branzino as well, and I heard them talking about it in hushed tones, sharing memories of how it had been prepared and how much they enjoyed it.  When the clerk asked them about their selection, they responded with a request to have it “dressed.”

I, on the other hand, just wanted the whole fish — or two.  This means I left the store with the entire fish — guts and all and not a clue what to do with it.

For what it’s worth, I think the very best things in life come from experiences that haven’t been planned.  That’s a good lesson for me — someone who plans to the nth degree.  Obsessively.

Have you ever gutted a fish?  I hadn’t until this particular time, and I’ll spare you the details of my experience simply because I chose not to put my fishy hands on my camera, but am happy to say I pulled it off famously.

This is an extremely simple and classic preparation of Branzino which is also known as European Seabass.  If you’re someone who enjoys a light, tender piece of fish and likes to experiment a bit with ingredients, then this recipe is for you.

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Fresh Roasted Pepper and Olive Bruschetta

There are some flavor combinations I never tire of regardless of what time of the year it is.  The classic flavors of basil and tomato with a sprinkle of minced red onion, squirt of lemon, and drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil will always entice me. Equally delicious are chopped fresh tomatos, green onions, cilantro, and jalapenos with lime juice — a combination so perfect, I can easily skip the tortilla chips and head right for a spoon to enjoy the salty-tart-spicy flavor that would never be the same without cilantro.  I think I love cilantro even more than basil.

But another combination has come close to pushing both of the others aside as being tops in my mind — or my mouth:  roasted peppers, capers, and briny olives. Ironically, the flavors in this combination would work quite well with many of the others I’ve mentioned, but I enjoy them in a mix like this one — assertively delicious with the unexpected addition of anchovies.

Anchovies?  Those little fish in the can with the curly lid that when I’m ordering a pizza to go topped with “the works” I always politely decline?  The little salty things whose absence would leave a Caesar’s salad an unappetizing plate of flavorless lettuce, and pasta puttanesca without anything to be sassy about beyond a sprinkle of dried red pepper flakes.

Do any of us ever really say we like anchovies?  Probably not, but the key to learning to stop avoiding them is to see them as an ingredient to be mixed with others instead of sitting on top of a pizza.  If the anchovies were mixed into the tomato sauce instead, it would intensify the flavor leaving us to wonder what made it so good.

Think about it.  How many other ingredients which enhance one another when mixed together are basically unpleasant when eaten alone?  Capers.  I’ve tasted them just to see, and they’re quite bitter.  Or in most recipes which call for capers, the directions will advise rinsing them first.  For years, I did just that, and to make sure I understood why, I tasted the brine.  Not pleasant.  But when it’s mixed into many other ingredients, it’s quite fabulous.  Soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar — all are less than pleasant when tasted alone.

Freshly roasted peppers, on the other hand, are perfect alone sprinkled lightly with salt, but they’re truly delicious in this mix. It’s perfect tossed with pasta for a salad when you don’t feel like cooking, or spooned over grilled meat or fish.  It’s helps make an omelet interesting and is especially excellent spread over a piece of crusty bread slathered with goat cheese.

It’s the best party food even if you’re the only one at the party, because then you don’t have to share.

Be brave.  Don’t forget the anchovies.

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Bittman Salads: 3 Delicious Choices

Radishes

 

Since I began working my way through Mark Bittman’s “101 Simple Salads for the Season”, I’ve not quite been able to keep up with the goal I set to make at least five salads in a seven day week.  Most of the time, it’s simply that I was missing a key ingredient, or I hadn’t planned on making a trip to the market for the third time in three days.  I’ve planned ahead, but even that has caused some problems because we all know that fresh produce won’t wait forever to be used.  On weekends, I’ve been able to make a salad for my lunch, and then another for dinner, so I’ve made up a bit of time, but the goal isn’t necessarily to make all the salads by a particular date; instead, it is simply to make all the salads.

A few of you have mentioned that you’d like to get this book.  It’s not a book — it’s a list that was printed last month in The New York Times.  Each “salad” is really only a suggested list of ingredients and quantities mentioned only occasionally with phrases such as, “not a lot,” “a few,” “a bit,” and “loads.”  I think that’s what I enjoy best about this experience.  Cooking, or in this case, making salad isn’t necessarily about exact amounts of anything when you want something light and healthy without a lot of fuss.  It’s more about learning what will taste well together and which textures contrast appealingly.  It’s also about being able to relax a bit on dealing with a specific recipe, experimenting, and tasting as you go to decide how much of a particular flavor you enjoy.

As I’ve made each salad, I’ve only kept notes about what I’ve included in each salad, ingredients I’ve added, if any, and only occasionally, the quantities of dressing ingredients.  We don’t use bottled or packaged salad dressing , so experimenting with flavors is always something we enjoy.  If a dressing works especially well, then I will keep a quantity list, but even then, the amounts will be estimates.  There are no measuring cups or spoons — only squirts, glugs, and dollops of this and that along the way.

I’ve featured salads Nos. 29, 13, and 14 in respective posts, but in keeping with the spirit of simplicity, I’ve decided to group more of them together in a single post.  We’ll see how that goes.  In the meantime, make a salad!  Fourteen down, seemingly a million to go.

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Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Capers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the busy season for my husband so that means dinner is later with each passing week.  There is no complaint from me because I’ve gotten used to it over the last many years — and I’m not the one working late.

The later schedule allows me to think a bit longer about dinner if I’ve procrastinated, or, as in this case, have something ready that takes almost no time to prepare because it’s a) classified as something that can be made ahead of time — as in the day before; or b) it’s left-over.  You’re welcome to choose whichever version you’d like, but I’m going with choice a because that’s what I did.

Pork shoulder was on sale for some ridiculously low price if i purchased two roasts wrapped together, so I thought, what the heck.  Each weighed about 4-5 lbs.  I separated them when I got home, freezing them in ziplock bags knowing that I’d find something that struck my fancy.

My fancy ended up being Pulled-Pork Sandwiches but I had to roast the pork to begin with.  Now you could enjoy the slowly roasted pork for dinner one night, then the pulled-pork sandwiches the next, but my roast wasn’t all that big and I know that had we eaten it after it came out of the oven, there wouldn’t have been enough for the sandwiches.

This recipe caught my eye because of the capers.  I can’t get enough of those sun-dried and brined flower buds that grow in the Mediterranean region.  In fact, I no longer rinse them as most recipes advise, because I enjoy the tang the brine adds to whatever it is I’m cooking.  There’s never enough brine to lose the unique flavor of the capers no matter what I’m making — especially with this recipe.

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Seared Yellowfin with Kalamatas and Capers

Yellowfin with Kalamatas and Capers

My husband has been on a diet.  Sitting at a desk most of the day catches up with you when you least expect it, right?  When we returned from Italy this summer, he decided he was going to do something about it, paying close attention to what he ate, and getting regular exercise.

Since I’m the resident cook, I suggested that he might consider not going back for seconds at dinner, and that I’d help by reducing the quantity of food I cook.  I also suggested that instead of having a protein, starch, and vegetable with bread, that I’d focus on only a main dish, and a side dish.  The only exception would be to add a salad — and even then, the salad could replace the side dish.

He’s done his part by going to the gym we pay for in our HOA fees between 4-6 times a week doing both cardio work on the treadmill or reclining bike and then some weights.  I’ve done my part as well, and last night he informed me that he’s lost 11 pounds.  In two months, that’s the best sort of weight loss since it will most likely stay off over the long haul.  Outside of the numbers on the scale, I did notice yesterday that his trousers are riding a bit higher than before, and that the tailoring he had done when he purchased them to let them out will now have to be redone to take them in.

We won’t discuss whether any of this food regime has had any effect on my body, but I will say that it certainly can’t hurt.  I try to do my three miles three times a week and limit my portions.

We’ve been eating quite a bit of fish lately, and he said this meal was exactly what he wanted after he’d finished it.  Since I’ve tried many variations on it, I’ll agree that this is excellent, and is extremely quick and easy to prepare.  Because I’ve also experimented with a variety of types of fish, I know that it will taste good with the type you enjoy best.

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