Smoked Sardines

If you told me at age ten that I would have a bad case of ‘sardine obsession’ in my twenties, I would have laughed in your face AND rolled my eyes.  ‘Sardines are gross!’ I would have told you.  But here I am, finding sneaky ways to bring sardines up in conversation, looking up sardine recipes at work and enjoying them for more lunches and dinners than I’d care to say.  For anyone who aligns with my ten year old self, let me tell you, they really aren’t gross at all.  In fact, they are quite delicious, versatile, healthy and cheap (and sustainable and low in mercury content)!  Canned sardines are not overly salty or fishy, like anchovies, and actually taste more like a mild canned tuna.  Grilled fresh sardines are also delicious but this post focuses on these, which I found in the grocery store:

I love smoked fish.  When I was a kid, my Dad, on occasion, would bring home smoked tuna from the local seafood store.  While I wouldn’t have touched sardines with ten foot pole at that time, I was totally into this smoked tuna.  Now that I know I like sardines, I knew I would love these too.

I think my original obsession began with the No Reservations ‘Brittany’ episode where Tony eats sardines that are jarred standing up in oil.  I never thought preserved fish could be gourmet or elegantly prepared or special in any way- until I watched this episode.

And here I am, obsessing about a can of fish.  Anyway, I ate them on water crackers with fresh squeezed lemon, fresh cilantro and a squeeze of sriracha.  It was great.

Tomorrow I will try them on a toasted bagel with olive oil and capers.  Yum.

Sesame Noodles with Cauliflower and Spinach

Well, I’m snowed in here in Philadelphia with about 15 inches of fluffy white on the ground and it has been GREAT!  I’ve spent the whole day taking care of things I’ve been putting off, cleaning, cooking and listening to the Into the Wild soundtrack.  Last night, against our better judgment, some friends and I went to our friend Neena’s house for dinner.  We traveled through a seemingly empty city, wondering if perhaps we should have just stayed put.  But Neena and her roommate, Melissa, had prepared a beautiful feast of roasted chicken, stuffed mushrooms, sesame noodles with greens and a squash and broccoli bread with feta and cheddar (this was so good- note to self: get recipe!) so it was difficult to think practically.    It ended up being a lovely evening with good friends, warming food and the inevitable snow ball fight.  We walked down to Broad Street to see if we could see City Hall through the snow but it was nowhere in sight.  There were so few cars on the road- I love it when the city shuts down.  It forces everyone to take a breather, relax and enjoy… until you have to dig your car out!

So, as I was putzing around today, I got a strong craving for more sesame noodles and luckily I had lots of ingredients in the house with which to make them.  I only had whole wheat spaghetti noodles in the house, which worked well, but the soba noodles that Neena used were much tastier.  Here is the recipe:

1/2 pound of noodles

1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped

3 cups of baby spinach

1″ ginger root, pressed

1 clove garlic, pressed

juice of half a lemon

1/4 c chopped cilantro

2-3 tablespoons soy sauce or liquid aminos

1.5 tablespoons sesame oil

a handful of chopped almonds

Sriracha to taste

Cook noodles in boiling water and add the chopped cauliflower when they have about 5 minutes of cooking time left.  Then put the raw spinach into a large mixing bowl.  Strain the pasta and cauliflower when cooked and add to spinach. Add the remaining ingredients and toss with tongs until well combined.  The heat of the noodles will cook the baby spinach to the perfect consistency.  If you use a heartier green such as kale or collards, I would add them to the boiling water about 2 minutes before the noodles are finish cooking.  Top with sriracha if you like-I still can’t get enough of that stuff!  This is really tasty hot or cold and serves  4 people.

Tuna Pate

There are always a few things in your pantry that seem to just sit there for months-  maybe even a year.  Canned tomatoes, kidney beans, tuna fish…  At a party over the holidays I hesitantly tried some tuna pate on a cracker. ‘ Tuna pate?’, you ask.   ‘Really?’  Well, yes, actually.  It’s really quite good.  And a great dish to make when you are down to the last items in the pantry.  And it’s cold out.  And you’re too tired to go to the grocery store.

2 cans tuna fish in olive oil – drained

1.5 tablespoons room temperature butter

1.5 tablespoons cream cheese

1 tablespoon capers

1 teaspoon onion powder

lemon juice to taste

a few dashes of white pepper

a few dashes of paprika

1 dash cayenne pepper

Put all ingredients in a food processor- or use an immersion blender like I did.  Process until all ingredients are fully incorporated.  This tastes great when eaten immediately on crackers – and even better if you refrigerate for a few hours.

Drink Some Booze, You Boozin’ Boozer.

Who needs a drink?  If you answered “yes” then chances are that you, like me, sometimes need a drink to take the “edge” off the day (some days have many sharp edges).  Here are some of my favorites ways to forget:

St. Germain and Bubbly

2 parts Champagne or Prosecco                                                                                                    1 part St. Germain

Garnish with a slice of strawberry, a red raspberry or do not garnish at all.  If you haven’t tried St. Germain- a silky, elegant liquor made of elderflowers- you must! Immediately!  You won’t be sorry.  It is delicious.

An alternative to this drink would be just to add a few dashes of Angostura Bitters to your bubbly for a certain je ne sais quoi.  Really! I don’t know what they put in that stuff because the recipe is secret, but it’s damn good.

Dad’s Fancy Gin & Tonic

1 part Gin – I like Tanqueray or Beefeater                                                                          Tonic                                                                                                                                                            Wedge of Lime                                                                                                                                       Wedge of Orange                                                                                                                                    Fresh Mint Leaves

My dad made this for me once and I’m forever indebted to him for his genius.  Pour gin into a glass until it is 1/3 full.  Squeeze lime and orange wedge into the gin and add mint leaves.  Muddle (pound with spoon) citrus wedges and mint to release the essences into the gin.  Add ice and top off glass with tonic water.  Stir.  Sip.  Yummm.

Vodka Spritzer Lite – for the calorie watcher!

1 shot, ok TWO shots of vodka in a nice tall glass                                                                     selzer or club soda                                                                                                                                 any type of juice- I prefer grapefruit, orange or orangepeachmango (oooh la la!)

Pour the vodka over ice in a nice tall glass.  I like Svedka because it’s cheap, tastes good and gets the job done without leaving you with a nasty hangover- but use whatever you’d like.  Fill the glass almost to the top with seltzer or club soda.  Add a splash of citrusy juice and maybe squeeze a wedge of lime in there too.  Guaranteed to do the job quick without too many calories- plus it’s refreshing and dare I say- hydrating!  Hey, it’s called seltzer WATER.

Word to the wise: Be safe when you drink. Drink at home and make your friends come to you!

Everything but the Kitchen Sink: FRITTATAS!

Frittatas are another great way to use up the veggies in your kitchen.  You can easily customize them to your preferences.  My favorite combinations always include fresh herbs and goat cheese.  I love to slice potatoes or sweet potatoes and fry them with a slice or two of bacon and some chopped garlic and onions.  The addition of potatoes makes your frittata a bit heartier and more like a spanish tortilla-yummmmm.    Then I add whatever other veggies I have on hand- such as zucchini, squash, spinach, kale (once I even used spaghetti squash!) and sauté until tender.  Season the veggies with salt, pepper and fresh thyme or basil.  Whisk  some eggs and pour over the veggies.  Arrange the veggies evenly in the egg mixture and cook on the stove top until the bottom of the frittata is firm (the top will still be wet).  Top with some crumbled goat cheese (or whatever cheese you like) and thinly sliced tomatoes if you’d like.  Then pop under the broiler until the top is bubbly and lightly browned.  This will happen very quickly- some say to leave your hand on the oven handle when you are using the broiler, to resist the urge to go do something else and forget about your beautiful frittata as it quickly turns into a burnt mess that ruins your favorite pan… sigh… I loved that pan…

Top with more fresh herbs and enjoy.  Great for brunch or dinner!

End of Summer Invasion: Cucumbers and Zucchini

Cooking with a farm share delivery means that you cook what is in season.  Sometimes I feel like if I have to eat one more beet I just might… well use your imagination…  Toward the end of the summer we started getting a TON of cucumbers and zucchini.  At first, I was so excited to make zucchini bread and cucumber infused gin and tonics.  When I’d had my fill of those (didn’t take long), these little guys started to linger in the crisper drawer until they withered and aged and finally made the inevitable journey to veggie heaven, aka the compost bin.  This ALWAYS makes me feel guilty-  they didn’t even get a chance to be great!  Farm shares should not induce guilt.

And so, I dusted off the old imagination and came up with this:  Zucchini and Potato Fritters with Greek Yogurt, Smoked Salmon and Fresh Dill (with a side of cucumber salad!)  Behold:

Please excuse the terrible quality of this picture- it was taken with my cell phone.

Miraculously I had all of these items in my house.

To make the fritters, simply grate equal measures of potato and zucchini. Squeeze a bit of the moisture out when you finish grating.   Add an egg or two and a few tablespoons of flour to bind.  Season with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and onion powder.   Or if you prefer to grate fresh onion, be my guest.  I don’t like to torture myself or cry in my food.  Mix all ingredients together.  Heat up a few tablespoons of oil ( I like grapeseed) on medium heat in a large frying pan.  Form little flat fritters (about 1″ thick) and cook until deep brown on both sides.  Then top with a dollop of greek yogurt, sour cream, creme fraiche or whatever you prefer that’s creamy- even a schmear of cream cheese would work.  Top with wild-caught smoked salmon and a few sprigs of fresh dill.  Dust with a bit more salt and pepper and there you have it.  Not bad, huh?  The cucumber salad is just sliced cukes with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and a few dashes of white wine vinegar.  This meal was great for an end of the summer dinner and still delicious for lunch the next day.  Plus, no veggies were left to wither and die- my crisper drawer was empty and ready for the next delivery!

Grilled Chicken and Radicchio Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing

This salad is easy, delicious and filling.  Often I find that lettuce remains in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator for far to long after my farm share delivery – a sure sign I’m not eating enough salad.  When I found out that I was getting radicchio and romaine lettuce in my share, I made it a priority to use it first.  This salad is the result.  I made it a few weeks ago and forgot to post- so my apologies for not providing exact measurements.

Salad:  Top washed and dried radicchio and romaine lettuce with toasted chopped pecans, apple slices, crumbled blue cheese and grilled chicken.

Dressing:  Cook 4 slices of bacon in a frying pan.  Remove bacon and crumble on top of salad.  Deglaze pan with several tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.  Add freshly ground cracked pepper.  Drizzle on top of salad and enjoy!