Sunday, September 28, 2014

Spanish Stuffed Squid

Do you have a favorite ingredient?  Your go-to ingredient in a pinch?  Something you feel eminently excited about?

For me, squid often finds its way into my weekly cooking repertoire.  Squid are plentiful, affordable, and, depending on the preparation, take only a few minutes to cook.  Something I can grab on my way home from work and have a meal on the table in minutes (especially if you buy them already cleaned).  And yes, even someone who is constantly thinking about food has trouble figuring out what to make for dinner on a daily basis.

At a minimum, squid need but a few minutes in a smoking hot wok or skillet.  One of my favorite preparations, which also happens to be super simple -- grilled whole squid (wood charcoal preferably), tender to perfection, drizzled with an olive oil-lemon-oregano dressing.

Looking back on previous posts, there have been a good number of squid dishes over the years: quick wok-fired squid dish with greens; squid with cherry tomatoes and sherry; squid in it's own ink; Zuni braised squid; squid and white beans with a balsamic reduction; and this one.

The key to squid: They need either a quick saute in a hot pan or a long braise (anything in between and you're left with rubbery cephalopods).  However, when cooked properly, squid are tender to the bite.  Perfect!

Squid are also ideal for stuffing.

Today, I stuffed the squid with rice, Spanish chorizo, toasted pine nuts, raisins, parsley, and the squid tentacles (squid stuffed with squid).  You can grill or pan-fry the squid until nicely browned, just a few minutes per side is all they need (make sure your pan is very hot and the squid are patted dry). Paired the squid with a roasted tomato salsa.

Squid + smoky, Spanish chorizo = happiness.  Life would be dull without chorizo. Very dull indeed.  

A smoky, Spanish chorizo, a thing of beauty...

The tentacles (and wings) of the squid get chopped and mixed with the rice stuffing...

I'll admit, squid are a bit tricky to stuff.  Haven't quite got my squid-stuffing technique down.  But once you stuff a bit of rice into the squid's cavity, they are easier to handle.

Alternatively, if you want to forgo the stuffing, you can prepare the rice filling, slice the squid into rings, saute the squid separately, and then add the sauteed squid to the rice filling.

Secure with a toothpick...

And, pan-fry or grill (a couple minutes per side)...remember, don't overcook.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Late Summer Ratatouille

Can't believe that fall is but a few days away.  I'm in complete denial.  Summer isn't over for me just yet. Today, I've prepared a late summer ratatouille.  My way of saying: Summer, I'm not quite ready to say goodbye. There are still plenty of summer vegetables to enjoy this time of year -- heirloom tomatoes, colorful bell peppers, summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, etc.  I've seen winter squash around, but refuse to acknowledge them for the time being.

What better way to enjoy the late summer bounty than with a simple and delicious ratatouille.  There are a good 10 pounds of vegetables that went into this ratatouille.  I may have gone a bit overboard on the veggies.  Nonetheless, have been enjoying the ratatouille for several days now.  And the best thing about a ratatouille is that it tastes even better reheated.

Making ratatouille is not difficult, though it does take a bit of preparation.  First, chop, slice, and/or mince the various vegetables.  Then, saute the vegetables, in stages, in a skillet with olive oil. Thereafter, into the oven until the vegetables are tender.  Most recipes call for a minimum of one hour cooking time, but this batch took several hours in the oven for the vegetables to soften to that perfect consistency and for the flavors to meld. The end result, tender to the bite, but still a bit chunky, and oh so delicious!

Ratatouille is an eminently versatile dish.  Serve it warm as the centerpiece of a meal, as an hors d'oeurve, or as an accompaniment to your favorite main dish.

I got a little fancy and put the ratatouille in a ring mold and piled monkfish on top...ratatouille with monkfish, a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, and fresh basil leaves. Yum!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sumac and Thyme Salmon Burgers

If I left it up to Patrick, we'd be eating salmon most nights of the week.  A typical conversation often goes something like this, me: "What do you want to have for dinner?"  Him: "Salmon."  Me: "Salmon again?!" 

Patrick likes what he likes and salmon it is.  He's perfectly content with salmon (sockeye, preferably), be it grilled, smoked, cured, sashimi, ceviche, etc., accompanied by a big side of sauteed greens.  No complaints whatsoever.

Me on the other hand, I crave new experiences, new flavors, new tastes.  I definitely enjoy salmon, but don't want to eat it, or seafood for that matter, every night of the week.  I like to mix things up, some nights fish or seafood, some nights vegetarian, some nights red meat or poultry, some nights eggs.

So tonight, salmon it is...

But, instead of grilling a fillet of salmon, decided to turn the salmon into a burger.  Kept the preparation to a minimum, using fresh herbs and spices -- sumac (which imparts a nice fruity-tart, lemony flavor), thyme, and parsley -- and was judicious with the filler, just enough bread crumbs and egg to bind the ingredients together without detracting from the taste.  There's lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and tzatziki to accompany the salmon burger, which is served on a toasted, buttery brioche bun.

And finally, the salmon burger is topped with these beautiful spring onion and radish microgreens [that I proudly grew myself, the extent of my urban gardening].  The microgreens are incredibly flavorful and packed with nutrients -- 4x to 6x  the amount of nutrients [vitamins and other phytonutrients] as compared to mature leaves of the same plant.

Refer to this post for growing microgreens on your windowsill.

I love the vibrant color of wild sockeye salmon.  For the salmon burger, I removed the skin and pin bones, and coarsely chopped (with a few strokes of a cleaver).  You could briefly pulse the salmon in a food processor, but the fewer appliances to clean the better in my opinion.  Thereafter, I just mixed in the remaining ingredients and formed into burgers and pan-fried.

BTW, don't discard the salmon skin, it's delish crisped up in skillet.  Hmm, crispy salmon skin handrolls? Just added them to my to-do list.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Grilled Peach Salad with A Walnut Dressing

Am experiencing a twinge of sadness given that Labor Day has come and gone.  I love the summer.  I particularly love the summer when I'm at the beach.  I particularly love the summer when I'm at the beach and floating somewhere in Mediterranean waters.  Why don't I live near the beach?

Oh summer, it's my favorite time of year.  Summer is not over quite yet.  It's still hot and humid here in D.C. (although, no beach in site).  Nonetheless, peach season is in full swing.  Peaches galore.  Ahh, summer...

Do you have any favorite peach recipes?  Sweet?  Savory?

This is a delectable little summer salad of grilled peaches.

I've made several slightly different iterations of this salad.  I love the addition of speck, a lightly smoked cured ham; prosciutto or Serrano ham works well if you can't find speck.  Bitterness from endive, radicchio, or other chicories, and pepperiness from the arugula balance the sweetness of the peaches.

I love fresh mozzarella (perhaps, smoked mozzarella), burrata, a goat's milk chevre, or even fresh ricotta.  Basil, Thai or Italian, lends a fresh element.

The dressing -- walnuts in a mixture of walnut oil, olive oil, and white wine vinegar -- adds a unique twist.

Serve with slices of grilled wholegrain, country bread brushed with olive oil and grubbed with garlic. For my D.C. friends, have you checked out this spot?  They have a very nice selection of breads.

Stay in the moment.  Summer's not over just yet...

The yellow, more squat peaches are donut peaches (also known as Saturn peaches).  They have a tropical note and taste like a cross between a peach and a mango.

Radicchio is in the chicory family.  In its natural state, radicchio has a pronounced bitterness to it, which pairs nicely with the sweetness of the peaches.  Radicchio is also nice when grilled.  Grilling tames the bitterness and imparts a welcome smoky, charred flavor.