22 December 2011

linguine al nero di seppia

We ate pasta every night for two weeks when we visited Italy. Never got tired of it. Spaghetti in Italy is so unlike what we were brought up to believe this dish is. Never once did we have a heavy tomato sauce with meatballs. Instead, we found pasta in Italy to light, simple and creative—always skilfully prepared with only fresh ingredients and wonderfully delicious olive oil.

One of our favorite discoveries was Linguine al Nero di Seppia, pasta prepared from squid ink. As many variations of this exist as there are cities in Italy. We ate it in Rome, Tuscany and Venice, and each time proved to be interestingly different and delicious in it's own way.

A few weeks ago, I made a version using black caviar as a key ingredient. We were craving for it again, so I got everything together to make it last night. Everything except the caviar. Fuelled by hunger and tenacity, I went to 4 grocery stores after work in search of a simple jar lumpfish caviar. There was none to be found. I'll admit that caviar may not be on everyone's shopping list, but in Chicago I could readily find it in any supermarket. Not here. I guess Canadians don't eat fish eggs.

What follows is variation I made up on the fly since caviar was unavailable. Next time I'm in the states, I guess I'll have to load up on lumpfish to make my other recipe.

4 tablespoons butter
6-8 small squid
12 white mushrooms, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoon lemon juice
8 ounces black squid ink pasta
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tsp lemon pepper
1 tsp Zatarain's Big & Zesty Garlic & Herb Creole Seasoning
chopped Italian parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in large skillet melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms, season with Zatarain's Big & Zesty Garlic & Herb Creole Seasoning. Remove from pan. Add another tbsp butter and squid, season with lemon pepper. Saute 2 minutes. Remove from skillet.

Melt remaining 1 tbsp butter. Add shallot; cook and stir until tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Add sour cream and heavy cream to the shallot mixture and cook until mixture just begins to simmer. Remove from heat. Add mushrooms, squid and accumulated cooking liquor. Add lemon juice.

When water comes to a boil, add pasta and cook. When pasta is al dente, drain, and add to skillet with sauce and toss.

Serve with lemon zest and chopped parsley.

19 December 2011

panko-crusted sablefish with black bean sauce

Part 2 of "When Is A Cod Not A Cod?"

Sablefish are a sleek, black-skinned fish from the cold, deep waters of the North Pacific, harvested on the west coast of Canada. Although commonly called “black cod,” this deep sea fish can live up to 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) below the sea. But it's not cod!

Sablefish is highly prized for an intensely rich, buttery flavour – hence the nickname “butterfish” – and for its fatty, delicate texture. It is considered a delicacy in many countries, and is somewhat similar to Chilean sea bass.

We're lucky to live near a historic fishing village where you can regularly buy fresh catch right off the boats. We often buy whole sablefish there. For this meal, I bypassed the boats and picked up some fillets at a trendy (and much more expensive) boutique fish monger in the city.

3 Sablefish fillets
Wheat flour
Panko breadcrumbs
Old Bay seasoning
1 Egg
3 Tsp Milk
Peanut oil

Black bean sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp. prepared Chinese black bean sauce or black bean garlic
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-size piece ginger, grated
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1/2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 red chili, minced
1 Tbsp. cornflour

Combine ingredients for black bean sauce and mix well. Heat sauce over low to medium heat, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Set aside and reheat when serving.

Season sablefish with Old Bay seasoning. Beat egg and combine with milk. Dredge dry fillets in flour. Dip floured filets in egg and milk, then dredge in panko.

Heat peanut oil and add fish one at a time to pan, sautéing 2-3 minutes per side (or until lightly browned). Remove from heat and place on aluminum foil covered baking sheet. Place in oven to keep warm.

Prepare vegetable and side dish. For this meal, I stir fried Brussels sprouts in peanut oil with a few splashes of soy sauce and lemon juice. Served on brown rice.

15 December 2011

seared lingcod with meyer lemon italian pico de gallo

Part 1 of “When Is A Cod Not A Cod?”

Lingcod are unique to the west coast of North America, with the center of abundance off the coast of British Columbia. They are found on the bottom of the Oceanside areas, occupying rocky areas at depths of 10 to 100 m (32 to 328 feet). Though not roasted acorn squash with chile vinaigretterelated to ling or cod, the name lingcod originated because it somewhat resembles those fish. But it's not cod!

Lingcod are voracious predators, feeding on nearly anything they can fit in their mouths including invertebrates and many species of fish, such as herring and salmon. One of their favorite foods are small octopus. They look positively prehistoric, don't they?

Having just returned from visiting my friend Tom in Florida, I brought back a suitcase full of homegrown meyer lemons picked from a tree in his back yard. They are juicy and much less acidic than regular lemons, with a slight hint of mandarin orange. A simple, thrown together pico de gallo works well with the mild flavor of lingcod, accentuating its melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Lingcod fillets
Olive oil
Mojo Mama Caribbean citrus seasoning

Italian Pico de gallo:
Chopped campari tomatoes
Chopped red onions
Meyer lemon juice
Chopped parsley
Olive oil

Season fillets with coarse salt, pepper, herbs or other flavors you enjoy. I used a Dry Mojo seasoning made by a company called Mojo Mama. This may only be available in Florida. Combine pico de gallo ingredients according to taste.

Melt butter and olive oil. Sauté fish about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from heat, plate and top with pico de gallo. Served here with wild rice and roasted acorn squash in chile vinaigrette.