When it’s 90 degrees, I mostly want to eat salad and grilled things. Although we don’t own a barbecue, we did receive a lovely Staub grill pan for an engagement present. It is about the most beautiful thing in our kitchen, and it seared a thick tuna filet in exactly four minutes. As usual, err on the side of undercooking — remove tuna when still quite pink. In other words, do as I say, not as I did. Damn! The tuna was still delicious; I just wish I had cooked it a minute less. The toppings are a wonderful mix of fresh, crunchy, sour, spicy and creamy.
Ceviche with beer is incredibly refreshing on a hot day. This recipe is easy and flexible. White-fleshed fish + citrus + spicy pepper + crisp vegetables + fresh herbs = ceviche. Habanero is an extremely spicy pepper that I happened to have in my fridge. Feel free to use half a pepper or to substitute a couple of jalepenos or serranos, which are much milder. Start by pulsing in two peppers, then mix into juice and add peppers to taste. But do use mint rather than the more traditional cilantro — it adds a wonderful cooling note that balances the peppers’ heat. Chilling the dishes is a nice touch.
Linguine with white clam sauce is a classic that your neighborhood red sauce joint should never mess up. Yet the dish does often fall short even in fancier places, with rubbery clams, soggy pasta or unbalanced seasonings. This recipe is adapted from How to Cook Everything, which means follow it and you can’t go too wrong. The variations are mine — celery, chives and jalepeno. It came out nice, with a sour garlicky broth and a little brightness from the fresh herbs. The worst thing you can do is overcook the clams. Five minutes is perfect — three first thing, two at the end mixed with pasta and broth. Remember never to store clams under water or in a plastic bag — just leave loose in a bowl in your fridge for up to a day or two before cooking. Clams are very sandy and salty, so do be sure to use several rinses and to undersalt your broth at first.
The Borough Hall farmer’s market sprang back to life last weekend, with a lot more than the usual winter fare of apples and hard cider. Okay, neither of those is a bad thing! But now there are baby yellow carrots, tiny turnips and plenty of fresh herbs. The info table happened to have a recipe for pan-fried fish cakes without breadcrumbs — perfect for Passover. I tried adding a little potato and making in steamer. They came out really nice — plump, bound well and very full of fresh fish and the spring flavors of cilantro and red onion. This recipe is versatile. Any type of white-fleshed fish works, as does any root vegetable. I am looking forward to making it into wantons next time.
Makes 6 or 7 good sized cakes. Serves 3 or 4 people.
This is largely based on a recipe by Thai food guru Andy Richter, founder of Pok Pok. I just added vegetables to give the dish body in place of the traditional jasmine rice. We have had amazing meals at the original Pok Pok in Portland as well as the new place near us in Red Hook. He is a true student of classic Thai cooking, especially street food — no pad Thai. I bought a bamboo steamer just to make this dish. So much fun — I loved cooking the sweet potatoes on one level and fish on another, and it left an amazing broth. We had the miso slaw w/ daikon on side.
The Saturday farmer’s market by Brooklyn Borough Hall has a good fish vendor year-round, and yesterday I could not walk by without grabbing sea scallops. Although I only tend to cook sea scallops for a special occasion, they are actually super easy. Heat oil in an iron skillet until nearly smoking and cook scallops a minute per side, literally. The important thing is getting good scallops — sashimi grade and dry-packed. Cheaper, wet-packed scallops are treated with a chemical and will likely be displayed in a pool of liquid – yuck. A trusty fish shop, Whole Foods or Fresh Direct (for you tri-staters) are all good bets. Just steer clear of Chinatown.