Starting Over and a New Recipe

A year later, I’ve decided to continue my adventure in blogging. 2013 brought lots of changes for me, most of them good.

I’m starting off with a Spanish tortilla recipe. If you’ve got images of Mexican restaurants and flattened corn or flour pancakes…this is something totally different. Think “frittata” and you’ll be much closer. This recipe is a frugal way to use up whatever you may have in the refrigerator. Don’t like/have kale? Use spinach, chard, or other green of your choice. Don’t have an onion? Use green onions (I call them scallions) or leeks. Don’t have ham? Use whatever left over meat you have in the fridge. The recipe is really forgiving…which is how cooking should be.

Kale and Potato Spanish Tortilla

Prep:
Active time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour-ish

Makes makes 6 serving ∙

Difficulty: Medium

INGREDIENTS

1 lb red potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
1 cup olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch kale, center ribs discarded
Diced ham (optional – I used it because I had some leftover in my fridge)
Diced/Shredded Cheese (optional – Again, I had some sliced cheese in my fridge I needed to use up)
7 large eggs
DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then reduce heat to moderately low and poach (in batches) potatoes and then onion, both until tender. Drain on paper towels. Remove all but one tablespoon oil from the skillet. (Save the removed oil and use it to flavor anything you’d like to have that yummy onion goodness in.)

Stack kale leaves and then roll them up like a cigar. Slice into thin ribbons. (This is called a “chiffonade”, if you want to impress people. :) ) Throw the kale into the skillet and saute until wilted. Remove from skillet.

Add another tablespoon of oil to skillet if necessary. Alternate potato, kale, and ham and cheese (if using) layers in the cast iron skillet, salt and peppering to taste.

Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl.

Pour egg mixture into skillet and cook over low heat until sides are set but center is still loose, about 12 minutes.

Shake skillet gently to make sure tortilla is not sticking (if it is sticking, loosen with a heat-proof plastic spatula). Place under broiler until the top is browned to your liking.

Serve warm straight from the pan, carving into slices like pie. Or serve the same way at room temperature. Or cut up into little pieces and use as appetizers. It’s your food, do what you want with it. :)

Sandy

So This is Christmas

Actually, the day after Christmas. But I think I can be forgiven for not actually posting ON Christmas…what with all the hustle and bustle and presents and booze and family. And booze. And the kids waking up at 3:30 am. And did I mention booze?

The big culinary feat this year actually occurred on Christmas Eve. I decided to attempt a riff on the Feast of Seven Fishes. For those of you who don’t know, the Feast of Seven Fishes is an Italian tradition (or Italian-American, depending on who you ask) served on Christmas Eve. According to my research, it began originally as a way to pass the time while devout Catholics were waiting to go to midnight mass. Being a holy time, believers refrained from eating meat (hence all the seafood) as a type of fast. The seven fish dishes (or 9, 11, or 13 depending on who you ask) are served over the period of hours leading up to the mass at midnight.

Now, my family isn’t Italian. We’re not particularly religious. We certainly weren’t going to midnight mass (did I mention the kids were awake at 3:30 am???) Still, it sounded like a fun idea – maybe a way to start a new tradition. But seven courses? NO ONE was going to wait around for seven courses – not with reindeer bait to be made, cookies to be left, and visions of sugarplums waiting to come dancing through heads. So I set out for an easier version that would still get me the 7 (not 9, 11 or 13 – no need to be an over-achiever the first time) required aquatic offerings.

Enter cioppino.

Like my family, cioppino is also not Italian.

Or Catholic.

(I assume.)

It is, however, a delightful soup/stew developed by fishermen off the coast of San Francisco that usually includes crab and whatever else happens to be plentiful while out at sea. One dish – sounded like the solution I was seeking. Having never made it before, I began pouring over various internet recipes trying to find the definitive recipe.

Turns out, there isn’t one.

What I ended up making was my version of a recipe created by Giada de Laurentiis changed to accommodate my crowd of ten (including two teenage boys), the seafood available, and my whims as I was cooking.

How did it turn out, you ask? AH-MAH-ZING! It was a hit with everyone, from the picky 9 year old to the grandparents and everyone in between. Seriously, lick the bowl clean deliciousness. Of course, we didn’t have to lick the bowl because we served it with lots of crusty break to soak up all the yummy brothy goodness.

The amounts I’m giving definitely make a HUGE portion – feel free to halve it. We ended up with plenty of leftovers – no problem there – like many stews, the flavors marry even better on the second day. (Just make sure you take out the seafood while you reheat the broth and then add it back in at the end to warm, lest you wind up with a bunch of rubbery bits.)

You really do need to try this. Trust me.

362 days and counting…

Christmas Eve Cioppino

Lightly adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Prep: 30 min
Cook: 60 miin
Yield: 15+ generous servings

Ingredients
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 large or two medium onions, chopped
6 large shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons fish sauce
8-10 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1 small can tomato paste
2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano diced tomatoes in juice
1 bottle dry white wine
10 cups fish stock
2 bottles clam juice
2-3 bay leaves
2 pounds manila clams, scrubbed
1 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded
1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound scallops
8 oz crab meat or two large Dungeness crabs, sectioned
2 lobster tails
2 1/2 pounds assorted firm-fleshed fish fillets such as halibut or cod, cut into 2-inch chunks

Directions

Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots, and a pinch of salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, fish stock, clam juice, fish sauce, and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.

Add the clams and mussels to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels begin to open, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp, scallops, lobster, crab, and fish. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, and the clams are completely open, stirring gently, about 5 minutes longer (discard any clams and mussels that do not open). Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and red pepper flakes.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with plenty of crusty bread for dipping.

Giving Thanks

On this, the day of giving thanks, here’s my list.

10. Mommy’s sippy cup

9. half & half in my coffee

8. I don’t live in Arizona

7. My bed, comfy blankets, and my fan

6. My ipad. As much as I am anti-Apple, it has pretty much replaced my desktop computer. Special thanks to Paprika

5.Food Inc. – watching it opened my eyes and I’ve been unable to close them ever since.

4. My job. I work in the most amazing school, with the most amazing staff that anyone could hope for. I actually had a nightmare once that I was leaving Prairie and I still remember the ache that put in my heart. I am so grateful to have the best, most fulfilling of jobs. Working where I do, I am triply blessed: I can always count on my colleagues for support, both professionally and personally; my students can be counted on to make me laugh and prove to me that I’m making a difference (love them!); and I am constantly amazed at how much the Prairie family has contributed to the lives of my own children. They flourish thanks to each and every staff member. Thank you.

3. My friends. I am someone who does not make or take friends lightly. As a result, I have many acquaintances, but far fewer “friends”. Luckily, the friends I have are incredible. I know that I can always pick up the phone (or the text, or the IM) and whether it’s been an hour, a week, or a year we can always catch up just where we left off. We don’t feel insulted when life makes us too busy to get together often and we aren’t burdened when life makes us lean on each other more. I love you all.

2. My family. I have the most amazing children. They are the loves of my life and the reason I breathe. After living away from “home” since the age 18, my parents left their comfortable life in California and moved five minutes away from me. Now, both the kids and I have the gift of having Grandpa and Grandma in our daily lives. I lean on them more than I should…and they spoil my kids more than they should. It’s probably an even trade. My sister and I are closer than we have been since we were kids (when she would let me hang out with her, four years older than me, and make me feel “cool”) She has shown me what individual strength means and she’s raised the best two nephews anyone could ask for – they have grown up to be fine young men. My brother and sister-in-law are the most wonderful couple I have ever known. Alone, they are both fantastic people, together, they complete each other in the best of ways. Kiko makes John a better man and John…makes Kiko dinner. :) My kids adore them…and I do, too.

1. My life. It has it’s share of rough moments, particularly in the past year, but as I sit here this morning, in a (still blissfully) quiet house, I can take stock of all I have. I live in a beautiful home and have more than enough to eat. I have an amazing network of family and friends. I have a job that I love and that pays the bills. I don’t have to worry about healthcare for myself or my family. I live in a country where I am free to express my opinion and where people are willing to serve to make sure that freedom continues. In short, despite all the…crudiness…that daily life throws at us, for me, life is good. And for that, I am thankful.

As I finish up my cup of coffee (with half and half) and look forward to day filled with the fulfilling work of cooking a feast, the smells that tempt the senses, and a table of delicious food to share with the people I love…I am thankful.

To all my blog friends, I hope today is as wonderful for you as I know it will be for me. Thank YOU for all you have contributed to my life. Happy Thanksgiving!

For the Love of Salmon

Okay, so I bought a chest freezer about two years ago. My thought was that I could fulfill my crunchy-granola desires for grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, wild-caught fish, etc by buying in bulk and still give my pocketbook a bit of a break.

Little did I know, I bought a magic freezer. Yes, that’s right, magic. Almost two years later and the thing is still as full as when I first stocked it. I’m not complaining, mind you. I love not having to buy all things protein. But just how does this happen? I swear, I can take anything out and the next time I open it, it’s still just as full. I’m not sure whether to be frightened or extremely thankful…

The one downside to the magic freezer (apart from wondering if the food I’m feeding my family is really coming from some supernatural underlord of the deep-freeze) is that I recently felt the need to go through it to see how the amazing masses of food were holding up. Despite my best intentioned, chamber-vac’ed efforts, it turns out there were some things thinking about freezer burn. So I unloaded everything on the garage floor (dear gracious – how many pounds of ground beef DID that cow make???) and restocked putting what needed to be used first on the top. And there, my friends, is the beginning of our journey to deliciousness…

Japanese Salmon over Linguine.

But not just any salmon. I’m talking take the two-year-old-beginning-to-show-its-age-in-ice-crystals-salmon and turn it into the most umami bundle of joy your face has ever seen. I’m talking stand-over-your-counter-and-dangle-the-noodles-in-your-gaping-maw-while-feverishly-avoiding-the-glances-of-your-kids-’cause-you’d-never-led-them-do-it kinda recipe.

Yes, my friends, this is what your mouth has been waiting for.

But there’s more! First, it’s salmon, which means you can get all righteous with your “I ate my omega-3′s” self. Second, serve it with whole grain linguine and you can feel good about getting those whole grains in there (despite the kids’ complaints that it’s not the linguine GRANDMA serves.) But really, let’s be serious – what we care about is the time factor. We work. We need to sleep. Somewhere in between, food needs to happen. That is where the beauty of this recipe shines though – five minutes to prep, ten minutes to cook. Fifteen minutes to all-out food-hero-mama deliciousness.

I’m good with that.

Japanese Salmon Over Linguine (adapted from Foodie With Family)

1/3 cup olive oil
4 skin-on salmon fillets (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 cloves of garlic, mashed to a paste
2-inch piece of ginger, mashed to a paste
1/2 bunch green onions (scallions)
1/4 cup light shoyu (can use regular soy sauce or tamari)
1/4 cup sake
1/2 pound linguine, cooked according to package instructions and drained

Instructions

In a 4-cup measuring cup, combine the shoyu and sake. Set aside. Trim the hairy ends from the green onions and slice the green onions quite thinly on an angle. Add the green onions to shoyu and sake and use a spoon to toss them, making sure all of the onions are evenly wet.

Pour the olive oil into a 12-inch high-sided skillet with a tight fitting lid. Blot the salmon fillets with a paper towel and then lay the fillets skin side up in the olive oil. Flip the fillets skin side down divide the garlic and ginger evenly among the fillets and rub them gently. Spoon about half of the shoyu/sake/onion mixture over the fillets, place the lid on the pan and turn the heat on to medium under the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the fillets are cooked most of the way up the sides. Gently flip them, add the remaining shoyu/sake/onion mixture, replace the lid and continue to cook for another couple of minutes: just until the salmon is opaque all the way through.

Remove the pan from the heat and pull the skin off of the fillets. It should come away quite easily. Discard the skin. Break the salmon up into large pieces and arrange them over the cooked linguine in a serving bowl. Pour the pan juices over the top of the salmon. Serve hot alongside a romaine or cabbage salad dressed with a ginger-miso dressing. Or serve room temperature. Or cold. Or just eat it all the first night because decisions are hard.

Let’s Get This Party Started!

So, day one of my adventure into blogging. Things are crazy right now with parent conferences, but I wanted to put two entries into the “Kids say the darndest things” category.

After taking the kids to the dentist this morning (we drive an hour to go to the COOLEST pediatric dentist), I treated the kids to McDs for breakfast (an infrequent treat by mom, to be sure.) Now, you should know that while not “overly political” with my kids, they are aware that there is an election going on and that their father and I have very different political views. Other than that, I try not to influence them. I want them to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions (or at least the conclusions they can come to being ages nine and seven.)

Having said that, as I was listening to them chat over their bleached flour english muffins and pancakes drizzled with (I’m sure) imitation maple syrup, I was struck by the innocence of this question:

B: “Mom, I don’t get it. If Obama is still president, why can’t he just vote Romney off?”

(For the record, they have NEVER watched any reality tv – neither have I, for that matter. But oh, if it were only that easy…)

Later on that evening, as I was snuggling with A, watching the Ohio coverage and listening to the commentators explain why demographics were important, I got this:

A: “I thought being a ‘senior’ meant you were a good student in college, not some old guy in his sixtes.”

Classic. :)