Boo-yeah(!)-baisse

I am ashamed to admit that the last few times I’ve even logged onto WordPress was to remove spam comments. It’s also the most traffic action my blog has seen lately. I feel a rant coming on about these stupid comments and what I can do to make them disappear but I’ll save it for another day. Although, if you have any advice on how to handle this pest problem, feel free to share.

I wish I had a more solid excuse as to why I’ve been MIA but between two major festive seasons (Christmas and Chinese New Year), finishing up my studies, relocating back home and just taking a break from real life, I can’t say I’ve been up to much. I’ll admit I’m getting a little bit stir-crazy without much purpose in my life, which is probably why I’ve decided to tiptoe back on here and update. Thankfully for you (and me!), I have lots of backlogged pictures. I pretty much never stay out of the kitchen for too long anyway so that’s never going to be a problem.

Bouillabaisse

I think there was a time when I was watching way too much Top Chef and got really fixated on making a Bouillabaisse. Of course I’d never had it before in my life but what does one do in this instance? Use Epicurious!

I stumbled upon this recipe and with some augmentation, like the omission of the lobster, I pretty much got everything I wanted.

You will really appreciate having a fresh loaf of baguette to go with this amazing hearty soup. I may have gone a bit crazy with the butter that was spread on the baguette too. Sooo good. Surprisingly, it was very, very filling and we ended up with so much leftovers that we froze the rest up to be had later.

If you’re wondering what on earth that round lump thing in the soup is, it’s the rouille and this is the thing that elevates the soup to a whole new level. I beg of you, do not forgot this important component to the dish!

And if you can’t already tell from the pictures, I kind of overcooked the fish. By the time we reheated the soup to have again the next day, most of the fish had dissolved. Oops. I am horrble at cooking fish. Just as well I’m not too crazy about them.

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Pistou Pizzazz

Salmon with Pepper and Beans and Almond Pistou

In a recent effort to eat healthier and cleaner, I made this for dinner. I resorted to my favourite recipe search engine, Epicurious, and found this recipe.

As usual, I made a few augmentations due to what I lacked in the pantry. I omitted the dill and sugar snap peas and went for chives and green beans instead. I can’t recommend this dish enough. It was so delicious and so healthy!

The pistou was what did it for me. It was crazy how fresh and addictive it was. I ended up using the leftovers for wraps that I would make for lunch or even just snacking on it by the spoonful. I know, it’s bizarre but gosh darn it, it was good.

Actually, I have a feeling I’ll be making the pistou again. It just goes with everything and it’s so flexible that I could just mix and match the ingredients as I pleased. I could use pine nuts or pecans, I could swap the herbs for thyme or parsley, I could put shallots and garlic in there as well. The possibilities are endless!

(Yes, I’ll be posting more now! I have so many backlogged entries!)


Sumac-down

As the days heat up and the sun stays out for longer, I find myself craving lighter food. Gone are the cravings for stews and soups and I am suddenly bludgeoned by my desire for seafood, salads and anything citrusy. I still wouldn’t say no to pork but I have been having less and less of that these days.

Actually, I’ve been eating lots of greasy pizzas and junk food because I’ve been lazy and I’ve been out a lot. I actually attended Stereosonic this year and rocked out with my c**k out, so to speak! So on Saturday I think I had a chocolate croissant (so good!), half a gourmet sausage, a Nando’s burger with oversalted fries and had dinner at 11 p.m. of… pizza. Healthy as ever! I’m convinced that with the amount of sweat I produced that day and the amount of energy I burned just by standing in the sun all day, those calories don’t count. Cough.

Thankfully, I did hit up the market on Friday (officially my favourite day to go marketing) and I went a little bit berserk. I forgot how awesome summer produce is. So many types of fruits! Vegetables! All the vibrant colours and lush greens! I was picking fruits up and sniffing them! I was grinning at all the vendors! I bought so many things, I blew my budget hard out of the water that now I don’t even want to look at my bank balance. Summer is a cook’s dream. Amazing produce that I used to fantasize about.

To satisfy my craving for fish, I made this awesome dish and it introduced me to two amazing ingredients that I had yet to touch: sumac and quinoa. Verdict on both of those: Lovelovelove!

Sumac-Spiced Barramundi

Sumac-Spiced Barramundi on Avocado Puree with Quinoa Salad

I nabbed this particular recipe off the latest issue of Delicious, their 100th issue. It’s a really good one so buy it if you haven’t yet.

Sumac-Spiced Barramundi with Quinoa Salad
Adapted from Delicious December 2010/January 2011 issue
Serves 2

Quinoa Salad
1/2 cup quinoa
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Lebanese cucumber, cut into matchsticks
60g pitted green olives, sliced
1 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
Seeds of 1/2 a pomegranate

1. Cook the quinoa according to packet instructions – mine said cook with 200ml of water but I ended up needing a little more than that. Drain and cool completely.

2. Whisk together lemon juice and oil, then season, Toss cooled quinoa in a bowl with dressing and remaining ingredients. Set aside.

Sumac-Spiced Barramundi and Avocado Puree
1/2 avocado, chopped
Juice of 1/4 lemon
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp sumac
2x180g barramundi fillets, skin on but deboned
2 Tbsp olive oil
15g unsalted butter

1. Place avocado, emon juice, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, tahini, cumin and 1 tsp sumac in a food processor and whiz until smooth. Set aside.

2. Season barraundi with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with remaining sumac. Heat olive oil in a frypan over medium heat. Cook fish, skin side down, for 2 minutes or until the skin is crisp. Carefully turn the fish, then add the butter. Cook the fish, basting with melted butter for a further 2-3 minutes until cooked through.

3. Serve by spreading a dollop of avocado puree on a plate, then topping with barramundi fillet and the quinoa salad.

One of my favourite parts of the dish was the quinoa salad. I love pomegranates in salads but this was just awesome. The balance of flavours was impressive and I made more than enough salad for four but between two of us, we ate it all.

I still have leftover avocado puree which I am uncertain what to do with but I wouldn’t mind making an encore performance of this dish at all!

Sumac can’t be found in supermarkets so hit up a deli if you want some. I highly recommend it too because it tastes just like the visible flavours on Arnott’s Shapes! Mmm, sumac!


Flexing

Fish

Blue Grenadier fillet with Lemongrass-Infused Lime Syrup, on Rocket, Caramelized Fennel and Orange salad

Ever get an idea in your head that you just can’t get out until you see it through? I get this way about food a lot. A few weeks back I was thinking about lemongrass and lime together in a non-spicy way. It’s a very common pairing in Thai food and I love it but I just wanted that aroma in a non-Asian cuisine. Through some strange thought process I knew I wanted it with fish (maybe because of the citrus) and it had to be an infusion of lemongrass in something sweet.

Then came my random scrambling for what components I wanted it with. I knew I wanted the fish crisp so I couldn’t have anything with sauce and I bumped into the recipe for this salad on the Epicurious application for iPhones. I’m one of those people who cooks with a laptop or an iPod Touch on the counter as often as I cook with a cookbook. I can’t help it, I like my technology close to me!

I’m going to attempt to write down this recipe but honestly, I was winging it most of the time.

Blue Grenadier fillet with lemongrass-infused lime syrup
2 Tbsp sugar
Lime juice (I used 2 whole limes)
1 lemongrass, sliced thinly
2 fillets of Blue Grenadier, skin on (actually, I just randomly picked the freshest white fish I could find at the market)

Fish

1. Clean fillets well, pat dry with paper towel. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Place sugar and lime juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. The rule is that the lime juice has to entirely cover the sugar. Heat over low-medium heat until sugar dissolves, then turn the fire down to as low as it will go and add in lemongrass. Continue heating until it looks like syrup, shiny-thick-glossy. Leave aside to cool.

3. Heat some olive oil up in a pan and gently fry the fillets until just done, but skin is crisp.

4. Plate on top of salad, brush on syrup with a brush, then garnish with the lemongrass.

For the salad, the recipe is here. This salad was picked because I’d never tried fennel before (I know, I know!) and apparently this caramelized fennel is the best way to test the waters if you’ve never had it before. It was also pretty great practicing my knife skills learning how to segment an orange. You see it done on TV and you think, “BAH EASY!” but not that easy for the first orange. A lot easier for the second orange once I figured out where to cut into. You should’ve seen my first orange, though. It was barely a spherical fruit anymore!

I’ve got another flavour idea in my brain that I really need to put to work soon before it fades. This time it’s going to be a dessert, so that will be a little more fun. Funny too, because I came up with the flavour for a dessert I’ve never even tried making. But I hear it’s easy so I reckon I’ll be okay.

It’s always fun to flex my brain this way and it is so satisfying to see it come together perfectly on the plate and on my palate. Even if it doesn’t, it’s all in the name of education so there’s no real loss there.