Archive | January, 2012

Food for the Sole

18 Jan

I think I’ve mentioned before the different types of “days” we would have that caused kids to rejoice, parents to groan, and school to inevitably be cancelled.  Last year, we had the typical Snow Day.  That was followed in the spring with a Tsunami Day.  In California, we had a Fire Day and occasionally kept the kids inside for recess due to bad air conditions.  I thought that about capped off the tank of the types of “days” causing school closures; that is, until 8pm last night.

Our school district has a wonderfully effective automated alert system used for any type of information that masses of Coos Bay folk should need to know.  However, when I saw “Coos Bay School District” pop up on my caller ID last night, my thought immediately went to what any normal person would feel when work was calling their house way past the 9-5; I’m half-way through dinner, and not enough sips of a drink in to honestly say I couldn’t drive back in to help out with whatever circumstance arose.  But immediately when I answer I hear the familiar automated voice of our Business Director canceling school tomorrow due to, you ready for this, wind.  Wind?  Yes, wind.

Initially, the feeling of ecstatic yay-I-get-to-sleep-in-and-watch-the-Today-Show-!! jubilation came jumping out as I gloated to my husband (and replayed the message on speaker while dancing around the kitchen).  I even called my mom to relay the fun news.  A Wind Day!  I think she even called me a “Lucky Duck.”

But then, as what seems to be happening more and more lately, and at an alarmingly rate, the adult in me kicks in.  Wind?  We live on the Southern Oregon Coast, where hurricane 50+ mph winds is just a stormy winter Tuesday for us.  This was different.  One of the worst storms in years was about to hit the Pacific Northwest, putting Seattle under a blizzard and giving Coastal towns the jolt of a lifetime: 90 mph winds and heavy rain were expected – enough to keep little Siglet from walking in a straight line outside, enough to make us prepare a safe room incase the windows blew out, and definitely enough to close schools.

I know wind – my family had the fortunate experiences of living in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas, all giving us their share of tornadoes – one even on our moving day.  But for some reason, I didn’t feel prepared for this storm.  I know how the Arctic winds howl off the ocean in these parts, and even on a “good” day it can knock you off your feet and chill you to the bone.

When Rob and I went to bed last night, we knew it wouldn’t be pretty.  What neither of us expected was to feel the constant vibrations, shaking, and deafening jolts of winds and rains so harsh and angry that not even earthquakes can compare.  The shaking of an earthquake stops, eventually.  But these gusts of wind just kept on coming with a fast-ball-wind-up to smack our little house daring it to stand a chance.  The neighbor’s forgotten trashcan made hollow noises on the street, like a kid smacking a plastic toy on the wood floor.  The sound of the wind was completely anticipated, yet shocking, like violent waves of an ocean crashing into rocks.  By the morning time, after a night of on-and-off-jolted-out-of-I-finally-relaxed-sleep shenanigans, the wind was more like waves of nausea.

Rob got up and went to work – it was another military realization (for me) that while my profession was put on hold for safety for a day, his was more than expected to perform.  After a power outage that swept the Oregon Coast (Sig and I tried to take a nap in the daytime darkness, but it ended up being last night, round 2), I remembered the thing that Rob and I were so enjoying last night before our wind day preparations began: Dinner.

Our fishmonger had some beautiful Petrale Sole, and I splurged a bit to get some.  Even Rob was excited.  I thought about our usual Sole dishes – Sole Meuniere, Baked Sole, Stuffed Sole, or just plain pan seared with tarter sauce – they all sounded good.  But one thing sounded better: Cioppino.  It was a cold night, we knew a storm was coming, and the spicy warming fish soup just sounded perfect.

And it was.  This might be in the top ten.  I actually didn’t use any other fish that is usually called for in Cioppino because, 1) Rob won’t eat it, and 2) I wanted the subtle taste of the Sole to stand out.  I even left the pieces whole when putting them into the soup to let them delicately break as they saw fit, leaving big fresh pieces the stars among the humble veg and slurpable broth.  Topped with a simple but flavorful tarragon and caper aioli, the flavors were fantastic.

During a day like today, when turning off the outside and getting some sleep was not an option, I was so (so, so, so, so) glad there were leftovers.  Even as I write, the rain is constant and the wind is relentless, but at least Sig is taking a nap by the fire (actually, he’s so exhausted that his head is literally hanging off the edge of the couch… poor guy).  And I got my Cioppino.  Talk about comfort food.  Lucky me.

Sole Cioppino with Tarragon Caper Aioli
(serves 4)

  • ½ lb. Petrale or Dover Sole
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, diced (save about 1 tbsp of the frawns)
  • 1 large celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 1large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 can whole tomatoes, roughly chopped or broken up with your hands (discard can juice)
  • ½ c full bodied white wine (I used a buttery Chardonnay)
  • 2 c water
  • ½ a lemon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • s&p

 Tarragon Caper Aioli
(makes a large ½ c)

  • 3 large tbsp good mayo
  • zest of a whole lemon
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • a couple dashes of Tabasco Sauce
  • 3 tsp capers, roughly chopped
  • 2 full sprigs of tarragon, chopped
  • about 1 tbsp fennel frawns, chopped
  • s&p

 First, make the aioli – combine all ingredients in a small bowl and taste for seasoning.  Set aside (the longer this sits, the more married the flavors will become, which is a good thing). 

For the Cioppino, heat the butter in a large shallow pot over med-high heat.  Add the butter and a pinch of salt, and sauté until translucent.  Then, add in the fennel and celery, a pinch of salt, and sauté until soft.  Add the garlic and stir until it becomes fragrant, about 1 minute.  Pour in the wine, and let it simmer and reduce for about 2 minutes.  Add in the red pepper flakes and bay leaves, as well as the juice of ½ a lemon, and pour in the water.  Also, cut the half of the lemon just used into quarters.  Add the lemon quarters to the pot.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cover for about 5 minutes (this is an important step – it really creates a light and flavorful broth). 

After about 5 minutes, uncover the pot and add in the tomatoes, and simmer again, covered for another 5 minutes.  The soup should be chunky, but still have the presence of broth.  Taste for seasoning. 

Add in the whole Sole pieces – really nestle them into the soup, and cover again for about 3 minutes, until the Sole is cooked through.  Since Sole filets are very delicate and thin, they cook fast and will start to naturally break apart in the soup. 

Ladle into big bowls, and top with a dollop of the aioli.  Inhale the spicy, herby, sea-watery scent, and Enjoy!! 

OuchyWowWow

11 Jan

Before I get to explaining said phrase, let’s recap the wonderful holiday season:

Healthy Holidays - Bacon, Bourbon, and Garlic Bruschetta

 

Black Truffle Butter Turkey - OMG.

 

I DID attempt cutting down our tree... unlike some people I know.

 

Braised Lamb Shank - one of our faves.

 

Italian Cookie making day.

 

Cherry Bourbon Truffles - Rob couldn't get enough!

 

Finnish Cookies and Maple Pepper Glazed Pretzels - assorted holiday gifts

 

Mom with Turner and Sig... which puppy looks like the chunk-a-lunk?

 

Christmas Eve Tamales - shredded pork or green chili and cheese. Despite the needed fat to masa ratio, these were fluffy as clouds.

 

Christmas Dinner - Beef Wellington. We skyped my mom for the carving!

 

Mom's Asparagus and French Bread Strata - fantastic with my dad's Split Pea Soup

 

What I see in the kitchen every time I start cooking.

 

Happy 2012!  Supposedly, according to Mayan Calendar beliefs, we are doomed for an end-times catastrophe this year, so huzzah!  Let’s make the best of it!

Due to my lack of picture taking (except for when the camera is right next to me in the kitchen), I didn’t get any footage of the surprise Rob and my parents planned for my 30th birthday.  After a quick hug and peck on the cheek from my parents, I was promptly blindfolded and then fugitive-like pushed into the back seat of their car.  All occurring in the loading zone of John Wayne Airport (come to think of it, where was TSA?!).

After a short car ride, I was lead through a bit of a walk, all the while being told to “DUCK!” and “Don’t step in the puddle!” (to save the inference, I’ll tell you there was nothing to duck from, and absolutely no puddle, and lots of laughs from my Dad and Rob).  After one giant – and invisible – “step up,” and a few muffled giggles, the blindfold was removed to reveal my friends from Irvine sitting in my favorite Mexican restaurant ready to toast my 30th.  It was fantastic and I am so thankful to have such thoughtful and generous people in my life!  Thank you for the celebration, family and friends!

During my visit back home, we climbed rocks on the beach, had a martini at the Yard House, shopped more than Rob would have preferred, held (and considered) a Remmington shotgun (20 gauge), ate ham (a rarity in my family, to both my Dad’s and Rob’s dismay), and down-right enjoyed ourselves.  The trip back to Oregon was capped with an overnight trip in a swanky suite room in Portland, and a slight dreaded sense of that thing called “life” creeping back in a few days.

Then comes the OuchyWowWow.  At this point, most of the students that have had me as a teacher are now saying this phrase, and maybe even extending its extreme expression: OuchyWowWow Muchamugonga.  Years and years ago, when my sister was young, this became her phrase for any sort of cut, scrape, bump, or “booboo.”  Personally, I think her phrase explains the angst of a stubbed toe much more than the usual strongly-and-specifically-chosen-adult word, and it fits here:

I cut my finger.  Badly.  Chopping cabbage for one of our favorite dishes: Apple and Bacon Braised Cabbage.  The nail was almost completely gone, and I went so deep the nailbed was revealed (which is white, by the way.  I originally thought I had cut to the bone, which sent me into shock.  Shock is no fun.  I digress).  After Rob bandaged me up, made me drink some water and eat some food, we decided going to the emergency room was the responsible thing to do.  After a soft-cast and a hard tetanus shot, I knew cooking (let alone showering with two hands) was not in the cards for a while.

Especially two days later when I had to remove the bandage.  I told my mom about what happened through email, and she almost threw up.  Rob was there helping me, and he did throw up.  So I’ll refrain from details on this food blog and just say that I’ve never screamed in pain before… it was hands-down-unarguably OuchyWowWow Muchamugonga pain.

Thus, Rob had to cook.  And get this – he didn’t make pasta, nor steak!  Rob pulled out a great Southwest-style appetizer salad that was perfectly fresh and filling, ideal for the New Years Resolution I’ve already broken with ice cream.  He described it as “learning how to fish,” as I taught him how to make salad dressing, which really gave this salad zip and zing.  As he should be, he’s very proud of cooking for his wife, the cook.  Props, hubby!

So in honor of my Irish husband stretching his comfort cooking roots and taking care of me, here’s his Southwestern Bean Salad with Chipotle Lime Dressing (hold the fingers).

Southwestern Bean Salad 

  • 1 head Romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp grated pepper jack cheese 
  • roughly chopped cilantro, as garnish

Chipotle Lime Dressing 

  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • zest 1 lime
  • juice 1/2 lime
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped 
  • 1/2 tsp raw agave 
  • s&p 

In a large salad bowl, mix the salad ingredients together (saving the cilantro garnish for the end).  

In another bowl, mix all of the dressing ingredients together, season with s&p to taste.  

When ready to serve, pour desired amount of dressing over salad, and garnish with cilantro.  

Enjoy!  

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