Foodie bliss

Every now and again I find myself enjoying what I describe as a gastronomical religious experience. I’m a food snob, I admit it. I love good food, the rest isn’t worth the calories. I recently had one of those meals in Austin, Texas.

Do you know who Tyson Cole is? Only the latest recipient of the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest, an honor that celebrates how he expresses his genius on plate after plate at Uchi and its little sister dining room, Uchiko.

On the recommendation of a local, I had a meal at Uchiko my last night in town. You can read all about it over at Eating Our Words. I thumbed through their cookbook while I ate my Fried Milk dessert, immediately knew I had to own a copy. Armed with the cookbook featuring fantastic cooking techniques and my lingering Uchiko-buzz, I attempted a new dish inspired by Cole and his cookbook (by the way, you really should a copy of it). You can click on this link to see more of the Uchiko food porn shots.

I came across a recipe for tuna steak coupled with compressed watermelon and other fancy accoutrements I chose to skip. I don’t really have a recipe for this, I’ll simply walk you through the method. This was very easy and quick to put together. I decided to allow the tuna steaks to marinate for about an hour and at the same time this allowed me time to dehydrate the watermelon slices.

Tuna Steaks with Dehydrated Watermelon
serves 2

For the steaks:
2 tuna steaks, marinated
Marinade:
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
Crushed black pepper
Sea salt

Dehydrated Watermelon
4 watermelon slices (about 1/2-in thick)
Fish sauce
Cooling rack
Remove any seeds and sprinkle each side of the watermelon slices with a couple drops of the fish sauce. Then place them on the cooling rack over a cookie sheet and allow some of the liquid to drain out of the watermelon.

Peach & Habanero Sauce
2-3 ripe peaches, peeled & diced
Water
Pinch of salt
Habanero sauce, to taste
Throw everything, except the water, into a small saucepan. Add enough water just to come to the tops of the peach cubes, bring it to a slow boil/heavy simmer and cook until the peaches have softened to mush. Keep warm.

Sear the steaks in a nonstick skillet, we like ours medium rare, but cook it to your preference. Lay 2 slices of watermelon, spread a bit of the peach sauce and top with the seared tuna steaks.

I know this combination of ingredients may sound odd, but it really works. The tuna steaks were simply flavored, so you can really appreciate their flavor. The watermelon, which is always just mildly sweet, is accented by the complex saltiness of the fish sauce and all of this balanced out by the fresh sweetness and spiciness of the peach sauce. It was a perfectly harmonized dish.

Enjoy!
Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

If by sea.

My seafood obsession¬†is well documented. If you were to do a search on this here blog, you will probably find that fish and/or seafood appear¬†more often than anything else. The Hubbz says I have the ocean(s) running through my veins and¬†I suppose he’s partly right. After all, I grew up with quick and easy access to the Atlantic and the Pacific and to all the goodness harnessed within their waters.

Yesterday I made my required stop by the Asian market, the one place in Houston where I know I will find seafood-a-plenty, all on display, glistening and fresh. I had to stop myself from buying everything I saw and craved, reminding myself of my limited freezer. I can almost imagine that is how those midnight shoppers feel when they go into the stores on Black Friday. Frantically going through the options and picking up marked down items to fill their carts.

This time, I’m going back to¬†one of my all-time-standbys: Al¬†Ajillo¬†(garlic sauce), with yet, another twist. The addition of cream to end up with a silky, creamy sauce. I also used cod fillets, instead of my usual snapper or red fish or shrimp. It was so good and super easy and¬†it came together in a snap. This will work with almost any fish, I even think it would be great to sub the fish with chicken or pork cutlets.

Cod in Creamy Garlic Sauce

1 lb cod fillets, seasoned with a sprinkling of salt and pepper
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cp onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 cp parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cp sherry or white wine
1/4 cp heavy cream

You will need to use a saute pan with a lid. On medium-high, heat the olive oil and butter until melted, then add the onions. Cook onions until translucent before adding the garlic, bay leaf and parsley, cook for 2 or 3 more minutes.

 

Bring the temperature to high and add the sherry, stirring constantly and allowing  the alcohol to cook down. Add the fillets, giving them a turn to make sure both sides enjoy the sauciness.

Allow them to cook for about 2 minutes per side (this may vary depending on thickness). Add the cream and swirl the pan around to distribute the cream evenly. Turn off the heat and cover with the lid, allow the steam and heat contained in the pan to continue cooking the fish.

Serve it over white rice or with steamed veggies.


Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Honey, I’m home!!!

Do you ever want to do so much you end up doing nothing at all? Constantly adding items to a mental to-do list that never comes to fruition? Meaning to share some wonderful experience, but never actually picking up the phone or sit before the keyboard? I hope I’m not alone in this crazy little world, but that’s where or what’s been going on with me. Work is crazy busy, they’re REALLY making me work for my money. Add to that new business responsibilities and last minute travel and you end up with a MIA blogger.

I’ve missed my times with you guys, I hope you’ve missed my updates too. Even The Hubbz finally said to me ‘Blog, baby, blog!’ Honey, this one’s for you.

I went to Portland for a bit over a week to attend a conference and I had so much good food and beer. I’ve been dying¬†to tell you all about it, but I also wanted to share the pictures I shot of the scenery¬†so I haven’t. Why you ask? Because I have about 600 shots to review¬†and select the good ones before I can share them with you. That means that I haven’t finish picking, but then I haven’t posted anything else because I keep wanting to share the pictures! Do you see how this crazy cycle has been spinning? So, I decided to go back to what I promised you from day one. Food. I will talk to you about a few dishes I’ve put together in the past few weeks, a few dishes that will rock your world really hard. Promise.

Fish. I don’t know what to call this one, but I’ll tell you how it came about. Have you heard of fish a la Veracruzana? Usually snapper. It is a Mexican recipe, hailing from the province of Veracruz. It is fish cooked in a tangy and flavorful sauce that features tomato, herbs, olives, capers and¬† spices.¬†I had some fillets in the freezer and started out thinking I would prepare them that way.

As the day progressed, I kept thinking about how to Caribbeanize¬†the recipe. A bit of curry came to mind, a bit of serranos¬†for spice. What the heck, let’s make it creamy and add a bit of coconut milk. Yep. That’s what I did, and let me tell you, The Hubbz and I ate more than we needed to AND fought over the leftovers… I won. I’m such a lucky girl! Wanna know the details? Yes you do!

Pescado¬†a la Caribe√Īa (Caribbean Fish)

1 lb fish fillets
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 serrano pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tomato, chopped
1/3 cp sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cp sherry or white wine
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp anise seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cp coconut milk
Water
Fajita seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste

Season the fillets with a sprinkling of fajita seasoning, if not available, salt & pepper works just fine; set aside. In a large saucepan, heat up the oil and add the onions and bell pepper, cooking them until softened. Once the onions are translucent, add the serrano, garlic and continue to cook for a minute or so, just make sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

Lower the temperature to about medium and add the sundried and fresh tomatoes, curry, anise and cinnamon. Use the sherry to deglaze the pan and remove any bits that may have gotten stuck to the bottom of the pan. Allow the sherry/wine to evaporate before adding the coconut milk and water. Season as necessary.

This sauce will cook down for about 20-30 minutes to allow all the flavors to meld together, so you want enough liquid in the pan to allow the fillets to cook. I would say that by the time it cooks down you’ll want to have about 1/2-inch of liquid. I added about 1 cp of water in addition to the coconut milk.

Once this sauce cooks down, simply drop in the fillets, making sure to pour some of the sauce over each one. Cover the pan with a lid and cook the fish for about 5 minutes or until the fillets flake nicely. Serve over rice and wait until you have that first bite, YOU.WILL.NOT.BELIEVE.THE.AWESOME.

Did I mention I got a new camera? I’m still learning it, but here are a few more shots.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Raising the dead

I think I’ve hinted at the fact that Panama is a big seafood country. I may have also shared that we love to party. Overindulgence is quite common to us. When it happens, you hear of various remedies and traditions to¬† cure a persistent hangover. One such remedy: Levanta¬†muerto (raise the dead).

I’m uncertain where the restorative quality of a caldillo¬†de mariscos comes from, or if they are real. What I do know is that it makes for excellent cold weather, hot weather, bad mood, happy mood and comfort food food.

I love seafood soups, but I wanted this broth to be light and filled with the flavors from the sea without being too fishy. So when I went to my fish market, I picked up some mild fish and asked for the carcass to be bagged separately. I then used it to make a deliciously flavored broth.

*To make the broth, I added the fish carcass, shrimp peels (no heads), 1/2 an onion, a few garlic cloves, carrots and celery to a generous pot of water that was seasoned with salt & pepper. I allowed it to simmer for a few minutes, strained and reserved the broth. Here’s how it comes together:

Caldillo de Mariscos (Seafood soup)

Seafood broth*
Clams, scrubbed
Fish (red fish, tilapia or similar), cubed
Shrimp, peeled & deveined
Culantro leaves
Fresh thyme
Yuca, peeled & cubed
Sea salt & pepper

After straining the broth, I returned it to the pot, added the pieces of yuca, chopped culantro leaves (you can substitute with cilantro), a bit of finely chopped thyme, adjust the seasoning as needed. Allow it to cook until the yuca is fork-tender.

While the yuca is cooking, I seasoned the fish and shrimp with 1 tsp of Jugo Maggi (substitute with Worcestershire),  then reduced the temperature to bring the broth to a slow simmer and added the fish, shrimp and clams. Allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes, just until the clams open up. Serve with white rice or crusty bread.

Want to see more food porn? Follow this link. Yeah, baby!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Chef Morimoto vs Chef It Yourself

Last week¬†Houston enjoyed a healthy dose of real¬†Winter weather (finally!),¬†on Wednesday¬†I was manning a booth for Dress For Success Houston at my neighborhood Whole Foods, the location¬†was appropriate¬†for food thoughts. There I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner, I knew that¬†The Hubbz would enjoy something warm and comforting as much as I would, so a soup of some sort seemed in order. Something creamy, rich, with fish and Panamanian flavor, that’s what I wanted.¬†CHOWDER!

I quickly started jotting things down, instead of clams, fish. No potatoes, let’s use chayote¬†instead. Skip the cream and go for some coconut milk and some salty, fatty pork was mandatory. So I ended up with El Fish Chowder-o. It was delicious, I used some leftover rice to thicken it up a bit and should’ve¬†ran it through the blender, but I got lazy and hungry. Aside: Hubbz, if I had a handy immersion blender I would’ve never skipped this step…, hint, hint. No matter. I took a whisk and made sure all the rice grains were completely obliterated and it was pretty velvety.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with Iron Chef Morimoto. Well, let me tell you. I know you will have some doubts about this part of the story, but I’ve never lied to you and never will. On day 2 of El Chowder-o, The Hubbz¬†and I were watching Iron Chef Morimoto¬†battle Chef Mehta, the mystery ingredient: Coconut. Morimoto¬†proceeds to work his magic with coconut in every conceivable variation and then it happened. He started making a clam chowder. He cooked a bit of rice in coconut milk and used it as a thickener for the chowder and added more coconut milk to make the broth. Of course my dish styling wasn’t as gorgeous as his, but I had a Morimoto genius moment!

El Fish Chowder-O

1 lb fish (I used some striped bass and salmon), cubed
Salt pork or bacon, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 culantro leaves or 3 cilantro sprigs
about 6 cps broth
1/2 cp rice, cooked
1 can coconut milk
2 chayotes, peeled & cubed
3 green onions, diced
Salt & black pepper

In medium pot, render the fat from the bacon, add the garlic and cook until soften, add the coconut milk, broth and rice, season with salt and pepper, simmer for about 30 minutes until rice disintegrates. At this point you can run it through the blender to get a smooth broth.

Return to the pot and add the chayote, allowing to cook until fork tender. Once the chayote is cooked, add the fish and 1/2 of the green onions. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the fish is cooked and flaky. Add the rest of the green onions and serve with crusty French bread.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris