Posts Tagged ‘artichokes’

Several lovely, sunny warm days have convinced me that spring is coming.  I have to confess that I am not a huge seafood lover.  It’s not that I hate it, but it’s definitely not comfort-food.  I am most likely to want it in the summer when it’s hot and I want a meal that’s very light and fresh.  Summer’s not here yet, but these first days of spring have made me feel like breaking out the summery menus and that includes fish.  Whole Foods had great-looking artichokes the other day so I picked a couple up.  Artichokes, fresh fish and simple, savory muffins seemed like just the thing.  The artichokes and the muffins worked out great.  The fish…not so much.  Unfortunately, we didn’t know the fish monger down the street is closed on Mondays.  We didn’t feel like schlepping back to Whole Foods, let alone clear across town to the other fish store, so we decided to try the fish from the little market across the street.  Fortunately, we’d had a big lunch and the artichokes were pretty big.  Although I cooked the fish, we didn’t end up eating it – it just didn’t taste good.  The super-simple cooking technique I used absolutely depends on having the very best fish.  Not that I’d ever advocate aiming for less than the best, but, if by some chance you end up with an imperfect piece of fish, at least if you’re going to season it heavily, or put a bunch of sauce over or something then maybe you’ll have something to distract you from the less-than-perfect fish.

Artichokes were our first course (since the fish, theoretically, cooks in about the time it takes to eat the artichokes).  I like to flavor the cooking water for the artichokes with salt, lemon and coriander seeds.  Bring a pot of water to a boil (big enough to hold your artichokes comfortable, although they don’t need to be submerged).  When the water’s boiling add plenty of salt (about the same amount you’d add for cooking pasta –  I use about 3-4 tbs. for an 8 qt. pot), squeeze in the juice from half a lemon then toss in the squeezed lemon-half, and throw in a handful of coriander seeds.  Trim the stems off your artichokes (if you want) and trim the tops of the leaves off (again, optional).  Simmer the artichokes for 40-60 minutes.  The time will vary depending on the size of your artichokes.  You can tell they’re ready when the leaves towards the middle wiggle easily when you prod them with your finger (or a utensil).  My husband likes his artichokes with plain, melted butter.  My favorite is with Hollandaise sauce, but when it’s just the two of us I more often make mayonnaise (recipe below) because it’s quicker, easier and can be stored for a couple of days.

I have to thank my cousin Liz for teaching me this ultra-easy method for cooking fish.  No fault of hers that today’s fish wasn’t edible.  I’ve used this technique successfully many time and seen her do so many more.  You can use either fillets or steaks for this, but I wouldn’t use whole fish.  Rinse your fish in cold water and pat it dry with a paper towel.  Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper then put it skin-side down (if you’re using fillets) in a baking pan (I prefer to use glass or ceramic rather than metal).  Dot the top with butter (I like to be generous, but you can be stingy if you want).  If you can’t bear to cook with butter, use olive oil, but I like the flavor from the butter.  Pop it in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 400°.  Cook it for a while, but don’t overcook it.  It can go from not done to overcooked quite quickly so pay attention.  I can’t give you precise times because the times will vary widely depending on the type, freshness and thickness of your fish.  Unless you are using an extremely thin, delicate fish like sole, it will typically take at least 10 minutes and may take 20 or even a bit longer.  If your fish has substantial variation in thickness (as it might for example, if you end up with a fillet from near the tail end of a large fish like salmon), you may want to do what Liz does which is to cut off portions of fish and take them out of the oven as they’re ready while leaving thicker parts of the fish to cook a bit longer.  It doesn’t result in a very elegant presentation, but does mean every bit of the fish is cooked perfectly.  So how do you tell if it’s done?  Again, it varies a lot by fish and also by how cooked you like your fish.  For darker fleshed fishes like salmon, you may prefer your fish a little underdone.  For most white-fleshed fishes it’s done as soon as it is opaque throughout.  If you leave it until it “flakes easily” as most cookbooks instruct, you’ll probably find it overcooked.

Recipe:  Mayonnaise

Source: The Way to Cook by Julia Child

The Way to Cook by Julia Child

1 whole egg
2 egg yolks (Don’t throw the whites out! Put them in the freezer and when you’ve saved enough make an angel food cake.)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2-3 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2-2 cups oil (I like to use grapeseed oil because it has similar health characteristics to olive oil – Omega-3s and such – but is essentially flavorless so it will yield a nice, light, lemony mayonnaise.)

Put the egg, egg yolks and mustard into your blender (or food processor) and blend briefly (if you don’t have a machine, you can definitely do it by hand, just beat vigorously with a whisk).  Add 1-2 tsp. of the lemon juice and the salt.  Blend again.  Turn on the blender and pour the oil in very slowly.  Once you’ve added 1 1/2 cups of the oil, stop and taste.  You can add a little more of whatever you think it needs.  I almost always add extra lemon juice.  You can continue streaming in some more oil if you want – it will thin the mayo a bit.  You can keep this in the fridge for a couple of days, but not much more.

Recipe: Basic Muffins

2 cups sifted flour (sift before measuring)
2 tbs. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 cup milk (preferably whole)
1/4 cup (1/2 of a standard-sized stick in the US) melted butter

Preheat the oven to 400° and grease 12 muffin cups well.  Sift together the flour (yes, this is the second time you’ll sift it), sugar, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.  Beat the egg.  Add the milk and melted butter to it.  Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients.  Stir just enough to combine.  Your batter will be thick and very lumpy.  That’s good.  If you stir enough to get out all the lumps your muffins will be terrible.  Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups.  Fill each cup about 1/2-2/3 full.  Bake for about 25 minutes (they’ll be a lovely golden brown color) and serve fresh.  You aren’t going to get big, puffy, tall muffins, but they should have a nice light texture, crusty exterior and be a perfect accompaniment for a light meal.


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