A Pretentious Beach Picnic in a Jar

Summer-time is vacation time. I recently enjoyed a short trip to the beautiful beaches in the state I now call home, so I will return to our regularly scheduled programming shortly. Before heading out to enjoy sand, sun, and surf though, I was sure to pack a cooler with a few home-made items so that I could enjoy a pretentious picnic on the beach (because for some reason, the thought of a snooty picnic with appropriately paired Chardonnay greatly amuses me).

We packed all of the food in jars, two of the recipes coming from the great Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table (I really love this cookbook–not pictured were the cheez-it-like crackers from this book we also made and brought on the trip). In one jar is cured salmon–incredibly simple to prepare, a beautiful red color, and surprisingly refreshing beach-food. In another, we had the matching olive oil cured potatoes,… click to read more…

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Lemon and Herb Grilled Whole Rockfish

As the weather warms with hints of summer’s imminent arrival, you might find yourself itching for a reason to enjoy more of your meals outside. I’ve certainly found myself drawn to the grill more and more as of late, and in this case, I wanted a simple meal that felt more…provençal?

I prepared this meal with one of my absolute favorite fish dishes in mind. Preparation is wonderfully simple: start with a whole fish and stuff the belly cavity with as much in the way of aromatics as you can possibly fit in there, oil the fish generously, and grill it until cooked through. This is the kind of dinner that costs you at most 10 minutes of effortful time, and after that, all you need to do is wait. The flavors are clean and delightful–a clean brininess, smoke tinges from the grill, and perfume of lemon, thyme, and rosemary throughout, all intermingled on delicate, moist flakes… click to read more…

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Chicken & Shrimp Jambalaya

I’ve never been to New Orleans, but have always been smitten with its cuisine. Ingredient-wise, it seems simple and unassuming, but the opinions and passion about the right way to do it–well that’s another story. Whatever the case, its all delicious to me. I’ve only come close to doing a Cajun/Creole dish before, borrowing some of the style/flavor, but not going all out. I felt long overdue to actually try a real dish, so I opted for one of the well known stars: jambalaya.

Chicken & Shrimp Jambalaya

Jambalaya has its roots in paella. The core idea: its a rice dish with a very strongly flavored stock, a hearty mix of proteins (e.g. in my case, chicken, shrimp, and andouille sausage), and a very zesty blend of herbs, spice, and of course, the Holy Trinity (pepper, onion, celery). It sounds deceptively simple–almost kind of plain, but then you smell it and taste it, and its another story entirely.

This was… click to read more…

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Sea Bass with Lemongrass and Coconut Cream Sauce

Since my wife first discovered she was pregnant, we hadn’t had a whole lot of fish, and since Ramya was born, I’ve been vowing to fix that and get fish back into our regular line-up. I’ve had Asian sorts of flavors on my mind lately and armed with an ample supply of lemongrass, thought this was the perfect opportunity for a good, simple sauce that would go perfectly with a simply prepared white fish, in this case, Chilean Sea Bass.

Sea Bass with Lemongrass and Coconut Cream Sauce

The sauce was excellent–not a lot of it, but intensely flavored. The lemongrass-ginger-lemon combo was a great foil to the anisey flavor of the tarragon and the highly reduced wine and coconut syrup gave the sauce a great, full flavored back-bone. This, of course, is all a complement to the star: the fish. Since that is so simply prepared (sautéed in butter), you’ll want high quality fish or this will fall flat on its… click to read more…

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Butternut Squash Gumbo

Creole cooking is a wonderful thing–you’ve got traditional Mediterranean influences (e.g. French, Spanish, Italian) strong, zesty southern elements (e.g. Carribean, American), and even African flavors. Its one of those styles of cooking that brings a whole lot of great stuff together to make something truly amazing. I wanted to take a classic Creole dish (gumbo) and see if I could spin it in a way that would fit my Thanksgiving menu by adding a bit of autumn to the mix (via butternut squash) as I thought it would be fun change from butternut squash soup.

Now for those of you haven’t had gumbo before, the first thing you need to do is correct this immediately. Seriously! Gumbo is almost stew like–thick, hearty, smoky, spicy, and full of a wide variety of things that’ll warm your bones. Some like to load their gumbo up with poultry (duck, chicken), others beef (veal, brisket), some pork (andouille sausage,… click to read more…

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Creamy Avocado Soup

Somehow, I’ve gotten a bit behind on some of my posts, so despite the fact that the leaves have already changed colors, let’s take a moment to pretend its still summer. What do you say? This soup is so delightfully simple, you could make it in a hurry any day of the week. If you love avocados, you’ll love this–creamy and served cold, the toughest decision is what you’ll want to serve along with this Creamy Avocado Soup.

As you can see, the brilliant plating I had in mind looked a little silly when all put together, but ah well, you win some, you lose some. Flavor-wise though, I was delighted–I cooked some bacon, crumbled it on top, and then sautéed some fresh, local shrimp in the bacon fat (shelled, deveined, and cooked for 3-4 minutes) to go along with this soup and make it more of a self-contained meal. Plus, both the sweet flavor of the shrimp the… click to read more…

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