Thursday, December 15 –
Yesterday was a rough day for me personally, and I really needed this dinner to cheer me up. It was one of those things that I had built my expectations up so high, that if it had been terrible it would have crushed me like a bug. Fortunately, Bermuda saved the day (my day, specifically) and I was not disappointed. It was not only good, it was different than dinners that I usually cook, so it was new and fun as well as tasty.
This dinner was especially interesting because it was not only made for a full house, but a house full of different food limitations. We had the guys, Wonderful Boyfriend, Roommate Extraordinaire, and LightsOn. We also had WingWoman (no soy or gluten) and Amine Chef (whole list of food issues). So I made this dinner in pieces and let people put the pieces they could eat onto their plates. The pieces: pan and oven roasted rockfish, caramelized artichokes, sauteed tofu, Spanish rice with a Bermuda twist, fennel salad, and my own addition (just to add a little character to the plate) of garlicky pepper mushrooms. Not only that, but WingWoman made another dessert (hooray!) that capped the night off. I had some wine already and LightsOn brought a couple more bottles, so the dinner prep was well lubricated with wine.
I decided to start with the rice dish – make bacon, pull the bacon out, saute the veggies in the bacon fat, add tomatoes and tomato paste (I used canned tomatoes to save time), add rice, thyme, and chicken stock, simmer. Dump into baking dish, cover, and put into oven. Super simple!
Once the rice dish was in the oven, I moved on to the fennel salad. Slice the fennel into thin strips, put into bowl. Zest and juice limes, mix with sugar and oil, whisk well. Pour over fennel and mix well with hands. I set it in the fridge until everything was ready to go. (I actually forgot about it until dinner was almost over, and it ended up being a palate-cleanser. Or something like that. Oops!)
Into the pan went the veggies for the coulis, which smelled amazing. This was the first time I’ve ever cooked with tamarind paste, and boy, it was good stuff! Amine Chef kindly brought me her immersion blender (which I need to buy, pronto!), making the pureeing easy. I didn’t strain it, I just put it into a bowl for people to scoop onto their plates in whatever amounts they wanted. On the side, for Amine Chef, I made sauteed carrots with a tamarind glaze. They turned out good but strong – I think I had the ration a little off.
Next I moved on to the artichokes (the frozen kind, for my low amine friend), which ended up in the pan covered for a little while, uncovered for a longer while, with oil, garlic salt, and black pepper. They browned nicely and evenly and required very little attention except for the occasional flip.
Then I got the fish deboned with Wonderful Boyfriend’s help, into the pan with a little oil, and browned just slightly on one side. I slipped them onto a baking sheet and into the oven (at the same temp as the rice, now out and resting) for 8 minutes. They came out juicy and tender.
As the fish were baking I put the tofu slices into the pan the fish came out of and lightly browned them on both sides. I also put my chopped mushrooms into a pan with some oil, a little salt, a ton of black pepper and about a blub of crushed garlic. Browned everything evenly and put it as a side dish on the table. Then I crumbled the bacon into the rice dish, mixing it all together. And… dinner was ready!
I’m pretty sure all six of us agreed that it was good instead of great. But the plates were all clean and there were no serious complaints (or food ending up in the garbage). There was a little wishing that it had more “kick”, so if you have guests that like a little spice in their meals, you might want to perk these recipes up a little. The flavor was good, the base for the sauce was great, it just didn’t have punch for the taste buds.
I had a lot of the coulis left over, so for leftovers tonight I’m going to add a bunch of chipotle and some peppers to it, simmer chicken in it and then shred it all for a messy southwest chicken dish.
WingWoman found a dessert that was basically banana, mango, and papaya with chocolate topping and whipped cream on top. Wonderful Boyfriend licked the plate. Need I say more?
Things I have learned: Last week, failing so epically that I had to spit food out was a real blow to my ego. Even though I’m not using my own recipes. I need to keep my faith going that this project is to learn and have fun, not get too proud about anything. That and friends and good food make even terrible days into wonderful evenings. Thank you to everyone who has participated so far, I look forward to having you around for many more of these. And to the people who want to come but haven’t, please join us!
Roast Rockfish, Pan Fried Tofu with Caramelized Artichokes, Shaved Fennel Salad, Red Pepper and Tamarind Coulis
- 6 oz. Portion rockfish (skin off)
- 20 oz. Slice of tofu (can get flavored tofu for added flavor)
- 2 tinned artichoke hearts, halved lengthways
- 1 bulb baby fennel
- 50 ml Virgin olive oil
- Juice and zest of one lime
- 1 lemon
- Half a teaspoon white sugar
- 2 red peppers
- 1 large shallot
- 2 oz. Tamarind paste
- Boiling water
- A little diced butter
- Salt and pepper
- Sprig of chervil
Red Pepper and Tamarind Coulis
1. Gently sauté red peppers and finely diced shallots in a little olive oil being careful not to add any color.
2. When peppers and shallots have softened and starting to stew, season with salt and pepper, then add a little boiling water until just covered.
3. Add tamarind paste and stir. Transfer to food processor and blend till smooth puree. Pass coulis through fine sieve.
4. Whisk in a little cold diced butter to add richness and sheen.
Citrus Vinaigrette with Shaved Fennel Salad
1. Whisk 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the juice and zest of the lime, add the sugar and season to taste.
2. Run fennel through mandolin (watching fingers) in long even strokes or very fine strips called ‘julienne’ which is the fennel cut finely length ways with a sharp knife.
3. Marinate fennel with vinaigrette. (If fennel has frizzy green leaves these can be finely chopped and added for extra flavor and garnish.)
Pan frying of Tofu and Artichoke Hearts
1. Place tofu in a pan with a little hot oil, lightly season, then shallow fry till golden all over.
2. Place artichoke halves face side (flat side) down in a little hot oil and caramelize till golden, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper.
Roasting of Rockfish
1. Place seasoned rockfish (rounded side/spine side) down in a lightly oiled preheated, nonstick pan.
2. Let it sit without moving for a couple of minutes over the heat allowing a golden crust to form.
3. Place fish in pan into a preheated hot oven and allow cook through. Approximately 8 minutes. Fish must feel firm to touch.
4. Remove pan from oven, gently turn fish over, and squeeze a good sprinkling of lemon juice over beautifully golden fish.
1. Spread the coulis on the bottom of warm plate or bowl by making a generous dot.
2. Place the panfried golden tofu on the dot just off centre with the artichoke halves running down next to it.
3. Then place the rockfish at a slight angle over tofu and artichokes, allowing you to see a little of the garnish and sauce on either side.
4. Top the rockfish with the shaved fennel salad, garnish with a sprig of chervil and serve.
Bermudan Spanish Rice
- 6 strips bacon
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 green bell pepper, minced
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes and their juices
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups rice, medium grain
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 cups water or chicken stock
METHOD / DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In an oven-proof casserole or a sauce pan, large enough to hold 4 cups of finished rice and fitted with a cover to be used in step 3 below, over high heat, cook the bacon until crisp, remove from pan, let cool, and crumble into small pieces.
In the pan drippings from the bacon, over medium heat, cook the onion for 3 minutes. Add the bell pepper and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato paste, the rice, salt, and pepper to taste, and the thyme, and sauté for 1 minute. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and place it into the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the rice from the oven. Using a fork, fluff the cooked rice and mix in the crisp crumbled bacon before serving.