Zuppa de Pesce & Peanut-butter Cupcakes

It’s DH’s birthday today, so dinner had to be a little special.  He requested this fish stew, from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.  It’s a classic in our household too, but made less often now that we have kids.  It’s not only time-consuming to make, but also time-consuming to shop for, because it includes fish heads as one of Marcella’s CRITICAL ingredients.  If you’ve ever read a Marcella Hazan recipe, you already know that they are chock full of instructions like “And in order to make this recipe correctly, you’ll need to have been born a Silician fisherman and wake up at the crack of dawn to harvest your own scallops…” which, depending on the kind of cook you are, is either a deal-breaker or something you roll your eyes at and then go buy whatever scallops happen to be available at Whole Foods.

In most cases, I am the second kind of cook.  I nod appreciatively at what Marcella is trying to accomplish and then I make the closest approximation I can using American supermarket ingredients because I live in New York City and do not own a farm or a private jet.  But before we had kids, we lived in a much trendier neighborhood, and in this neighborhood there was a Really Awesome Fish Place.  And one day, after having made this recipe numerous times with no fish heads at all and thinking it was already pretty great, I thought to myself, Hey, Self, I bet the Awesome Fish Place would save some heads for you if you asked them a day or two in advance.  And they did.  And that week I made the recipe with the heads included and OH MY GOD MARCELLA I AM SO SORRY I EVER DOUBTED YOU.  The flavor was SO MUCH RICHER.  So, in short, fish heads matter, but require extra shopping, and that’s why we don’t have this very often anymore.

(PS, if you live in NYC, do NOT order the “fish heads and bones for stock” package from FreshDirect thinking you will get fish heads just because they’re in the name of the product.  I’ve tried this twice now and each time have received a very disappointing package of fish spines with NO HEADS.  I have written to complain and suggest you do the same.)

(PPS, in spite of my devotion to following Marcella’s orders because she is always right, I’ve still altered the recipe because hers assumes you will be serving 8 people, that you have the kind of money that buys five or six different kinds of shellfish, and also that you have the time to fillet whole fish yourself.  And that you are willing to use “1 cup of Italian plum tomatoes from a can” instead of just dumping the whole damn can in because REALLY, THERE IS ONLY SO FAR ONE CAN BEND.  I’m not giving exact measurements here because the amounts can be adjusted as needed depending on how many people you’re feeding.)

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Pla Phad Prik King

Or, as the subtitle says, “fish with red curry sauce.”  I do not think this is entirely accurate, as when I went to Great Wall to find red curry paste, I also found (and purchased) “prik king” paste alongside it, which would indicate to me that they are subtly different dishes.  But I’m very very white, so what do I know?  I just love this recipe.  It’s either from Gourmet or Saveur, but Google isn’t telling me which.  Anyway.  Have I mentioned how much I love shopping at Great Wall?  Seriously worth the bus ride.

This is a catch-up post from Monday.  Sorry!

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Savory Oatmeal

Special lunch post!  Had to write this down so I know how to make it again because it was pretty crazy delicious.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • dash of Penzey’s Fox Point seasoning
  • dash of Penzey’s dried shallots
  • small handful of pine nuts
  • egg
  • cheddar cheese
  • butter, salt, pepper

Cook the oatmeal in the water with shallots and Fox Point.  Toast pine nuts in dry skillet, add to oatmeal.  Add butter to skillet, fry the egg.  Put the oatmeal in a bowl with the egg on top.  Grate cheese over everything.  Season with salt & pepper (you won’t need much salt, if any, because there’s already some in the Fox Point seasoning).

NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM.

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Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts and Pine Nuts

Lest you think I’m some kind of health nut, I made this recipe 4 or 5 times before I realized there wasn’t supposed to be pancetta in it.  Oops.  The original recipe from Gourmet is here – below is the way I always make it.

  • 1 lb whole wheat spaghetti or fettucini (I like the nuttiness of whole wheat in this dish, but regular pasta works fine too)
  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, sliced (use the food processor or a mandoline for this)
  • large handful of pine nuts (about 1/2 cup?)
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 3 tbsp cubed pancetta (I like the kind you can buy pre-cubed, but you can also cut the sliced kind into faux-lardons)
  • olive oil, salt, pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Heat the olive oil in a large chef’s pan.  Add pancetta, and cook until crispy.  Add onion, pine nuts, and sprouts, saute over med-high heat until starting to brown.   Season to taste.  Add pasta, toss together and add enough of the cooking liquid to moisten everything.

Serve with LOTS of parmesan cheese.

iPhoto issues continue, but Dylan liked this even better than the lasagna.  Maybe because I let him have a “grown-up fork” for twirling.

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Chicken-Spinach-Artichoke-Mushroom Lasagna

This is a catch-up post from Wednesday – it’s been a hectic week.  I can’t tell where this recipe came from based on the card – Cooking Club of America, maybe?  At any rate, I’ve lightened it up considerably here.  The original sauce has 2 cups EACH of whole milk and cream.  First of all, I’m not buying special milk and cream for one dish, and second of all, HOLY COW THAT’S A LOT OF HEAVY CREAM.  So I swapped the 2 cups of cream out for a combination of the liquid I’d normally squeeze out of the frozen spinach and some homemade chicken broth from the freezer.  Don’t worry, though, I made up for it by adding what was probably a lot of extra cheese. Read the rest of this entry »

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Turkey Burgers with Mint-Yogurt Sauce

This is a Cooking Club of America recipe, and seriously lives up to the hype.  Even if you make these with ground turkey breast (fat free but also flavor free) they’ll still turn out pretty darn good.  I make them more or less according to the recipe except for the part where I never measure anything and tend to assume that any recipe calling for fewer than 4 cloves of garlic must be a typo.  (Oh, and I always make a double recipe since ground meat is generally sold in 1 lb packages and not 8 oz.  Seriously cooking magazines, STOP DOING THIS.  It’s like when pasta recipes call for 12 oz of dry pasta.  Have you ever seen a box of pasta that wasn’t 16 oz?  Frell that, I’m cooking the whole box and will have extra SO THERE.  See also: recipes that call for chopped onions by the cup rather than the number of onions.  Pet peeves, I haz them.)

Ahem.  Anyway, you can find the recipe for these here http://www.cookingclub.com/recipes/articletype/articleview/articleid/7112/turkey-burgers-with-mint-yogurt-sauce.

Dylan looking at turkey burgers

"If I eat all my tater tots, can I have more tater tots?"

Dylan Report: He ate 1/4 of a burger and roughly his own weight in tater tots and ketchup.  Those are vegetables, right?  (I didn’t even bother serving him any of the mint-yogurt sauce, as I know from experience that he will not eat anything with raw garlic in it.)

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Chicken Curry With Cashews

Every time I make this, I wonder why we don’t eat it more often.  It’s a cheater’s curry, made with curry powder instead of a customized blend of spices, but it’s incredibly tasty and takes barely any active cooking time at all.  I bet it would work great in the slow cooker – note to self: try that sometime!

The original recipe is from Gourmet and can be found here on Epicurious.  The recipe as I made it tonight is after the jump.

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Chicken Fajita Chili

My brain is too fried to say anything funny or interesting about this chili.  It’s a chicken chili, with bell peppers in it, hence “fajita chili.”  It’s from a magazine, don’t know which one.  Been in the index card box a while, and we make it pretty often because it’s quick and easy and tasty and falls nicely into the “spicy bowl of stuff over rice” genre that we love so much.

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Smoky Chicken Pasta

This is one of those recipes where I  *finally* decided to write down the changes I made right there on the index card next to the original recipe.  Primarily, this is so that I can hand the card to DH some day and say “Make this” without having to add “but instead of vegetable oil use pancetta and add a diced onion and leave out the heavy cream, oh, and make sure the goat cheese is the kind coated with pepper.”  Also I’m writing it down here so there’s a record even if the index card gets all smeared.  Ta-da!

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Catch-up post!

Friday – chicken enchiladas.  This is an America’s Test Kitchen recipe and as such requires very little re-jiggering, so I’m just going to post the link.  Chicken Enchiladas With Red Chile Sauce. Yes, it’s behind a paywal l, but you can see it for free if you sign up for the 14-day trial.

Saturday – keema.  Husband cooking!  DH’s father is a diplomat, meaning DH grew up traveling all over the world.  This recipe comes from my mother-in-law from when they lived in India.  It can be made with beef (easier to get in the US) or lamb (more authentic for obvious reasons).  This week we made it with some of the amazing ground beef my parents gave us from the 1/4-cow they bought direct from a farm. OMGYUM.

Like nearly all Indian recipes, the list of ingredients is long, but most of them are spices and therefore this recipe is far less intimidating than it looks. Read the rest of this entry »

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