FFWD – Sablefish with Double Carrots

Sablefish

One of the things you learn when taking part in a virtual cooking club is that there’s no such thing as universal. I don’t just mean time zones or even seasons, though our southern hemisphere friends have had to put up a valiant effort in the face of a schedule based on North American food cycles. Whether or not you’re able to complete the week’s assignment as written can depend on whether you’re urban or rural, on the coast or in the interior, near the equator or near the permafrost line.

We’ve had lively discussions about whether or not certain vegetables would be available when we wanted them and the substitutions we’ve seen give us insight into the personalities of our fellow cooks as often as they teach us about the regions where they live.

I’ve been pretty lucky in finding the ingredients I need, but it seems in the fish category there are a lot of Atlantic choices that don’t appear regularly in West Coast markets. This week’s dish called for monkfish, a fish that needs to clock a lot of food miles to find its way to Vancouver. I decided to look for a sustainable alternative and asked for some advice.

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There was some nice BC sablefish at the fishmonger, so I went with that. It was a good choice for this dish – the flesh is rich and stands up well against the intensity of the carrots. Carrots cooked in carrot juice sounds a little strange, but the result is tender medallions in a sauce boosted with butter and fresh rosemary. This would have been nice with mashed potatoes or celery root purée, and that’s what I’d serve it with for a dinner party. Tonight, though, I was more than satisfied with the fish and carrots. I suspect the bits of bacon added at the end were what made me feel I had a well-rounded meal.

Back-of-the-Card Cheese and Olive Bread

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This quick bread is the reason this week’s post became a French Saturday entry. After dinner, I really wanted to bake something. Baking is an excellent antidote to a busy week for me. So, I took a look at my catch up list and got to work on this one. I had some Asiago cheese in the fridge to use up and I made a vegan tapenade (for what it’s worth in a loaf full of milk and cheese), but those were my only deviations from the recipe.

There’s so much Asiago packed into this bread that I’d nearly classify it as a bread-studded olive cheese, rather than a cheese and olive loaf. It’s full of Mediterranean flavours, with the tapenade and lemon zest providing bright notes against the sharpness of the Asiago.

My only regret is that I don’t have any bubbly wine to accompany this loaf. I urge you to pick some up before you attempt this recipe, which you can find on Dorie’s website.

Here are the links to the rest of the French Fridays crew’s posts on this week’s recipe: Monkfish and Double Carrots. And go way back to June of last year for a look at everyone’s Back-of-the-Card Cheese and Olive Bread.

Tuna and Mango Ceviche – A French Fridays Catch Up

Ceviche

There are certain advantages to being an omnivore who lives with a vegan. I will happily eat the meals I cook for Kevin, but there is now an undercurrent of “more for me” when I’m making French Fridays dishes. Though there are lots of dishes – more than you might guess – that work for vegans in Around My French Table, there are many glorious meals that are decidedly not vegan-friendly.

This ceviche is one of them. I’m getting lots of practice in minification à la Mardi, because even a dedicated omnivore can’t be expected to finish meals meant for four, especially when they’re as perishable as ceviche. For this recipe, I decided to make enough for a generous appetizer for one. I headed down to the local sustainable seafood store for 100 grams of Ahi tuna and made about one-quarter of the recipe.

Dorie’s ceviche is sweet with mango, creamy with avocado, tart with lime, and rich with tuna. There is crunch from the onions and heat from the hot sauce. There’s just as much going on visually, too. Though I didn’t really want to share, I wished I did have someone there to admire it. (Not Kevin, because giving up sushi was quite a sacrifice for him and I didn’t want to torture him.) No matter, I’m filing this away for a dinner party idea someday. This dish would look gorgeous in a pretty bowl, set inside another pretty bowl filled with ice. Whatever followed would have to be absolutely smashing, though, to compete.

If you’re worried about making ceviche at home, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook will set your mind at ease, give you some tips and a recipe you can try, too. You can find Dorie’s version in Around My French Table. It’s yet another recipe that’s worth the price of the cookbook.

Find links to the rest of the French Fridays crew’s posts here: Tuna and Mango Ceviche

FFWD – Halibut with Capers, Cornichons, and Brown Butter Sauce

Halibut

If you follow French Fridays, you might notice that the fish in the dish above isn’t the one called for in this week’s recipe. My local fishmonger is an Ocean Wise establishment, which means they carry only sustainable seafood. It also means there was no skate in sight there, as it’s currently being over-fished worldwide. So instead of skate, I picked up halibut, which is a firm-fleshed recommended alternative. It’s also one of my favourites, so I was pleased to make the substitution.

A lot of conversations about ethical and healthful eating in my house revolve around my partner’s choice to move toward veganism and my philosophy of eating meat less often than I eat vegetarian. But another important part of all this, for me, is where food comes from. Sourcing wild or humanely raised meat is something I strive toward (though I don’t always succeed). I also think the same attention needs to be paid to non-animal food, as well. So, I’ve been following the controversy around Jeanette Winterson and the rabbit with interest. Many of these questions are being discussed in the wake of the Twitter frenzy her photos created. There certainly doesn’t seem to be one answer to the question of what ethical eating looks like.

In the case of this French Friday, the sustainable choice was also a delicious one. If only all ethical decisions had outcomes so rewarding. Halibut was perfect for pan-frying and serving with tangy, brown butter sauce. I couldn’t believe how well the cornichons fit into to the dish – their crunchy tartness was a nice contrast to the tender fish. I usually bake fish, but this dish reminded me that I should get my skillet out more often.

Not much else is needed for accompaniment, as Dorie points out in the head note to this recipe, so buttery rice and steamed vegetables made good companions for the fish – a perfect summer meal.

I cheated and just took a quick snapshot of the dish after saucing it, because I was eager to eat and didn’t feel like letting that beautiful halibut get cold. If you want some gorgeous photos of this week’s dish, you’ll have to go and see what the rest of my French Fridays colleagues got up to: Skate with Capers, Cornichons, and Brown Butter Sauce

FFWD – Crab & Grapefruit Salad

The finished salad

This is the time of year that I start getting excited about the upcoming growing season. In a few weeks, the Farmers’ Market will be moving back to its summer locations, one just a short walk away from my house. Last weekend, we got a load of soil for our garden beds and this weekend, we’re picking up some compost. I’m sketching out my square-foot gardening rotation for the vegetable beds and thinking about which herbs I’ll plant this year in containers.

One side effect of this excitement is that I have a harder time buying out-of-season vegetables and herbs from the store. This summer’s crop is so close, now. So, I didn’t buy fresh mint for this week’s recipe, but added some dried mint to the dressing, instead. I couldn’t find any ruby red grapefruit, either, so had to settle for a yellow-fleshed variety.

Mise en place

I went to our local fishmonger to pick up some real crab. It’s a little expensive, but it’s sustainable, delicious, and (unlike fake crab) gluten-free. This salad justified splurging a bit. Cucumber, grapefruit, orange pepper, and green onion complement the flavour of the crab, as does the olive oil-grapefruit dressing. I added a little cayenne to the dressing along with the mint.

I can’t decide if this salad is more reminiscent of country club fare or the sort of treat you might find on a beach holiday buffet table. Either way, it’s welcome on my plate.

A closer view

You can find many other blogged descriptions of this week’s FFWD recipe here: Crab & Grapefruit Salad

FFWD – Mussels and Chorizo With or Without Pasta

The mussels ready for scrubbing and debearding.

I’m not sure who decided that a pound of mussels was a single serving, but this week’s dish proves it to be a generous calculation. I halved the recipe and was able to feed five people. Granted, we ate it with some lovely spinach rice pasta from Tinkyada and some even lovelier bread from one of my favourite bakeries, so I guess that helped stretch the portions. Regardless, we were all well-satisfied with the meal.

The onion, red pepper, and garlic before their introduction to the cutting board.

I’d spent the day with my nieces, providing a little back up as they attempted their first Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. They succeeded brilliantly, I must say – the chocolate truffle tart they made was a fantastic finish to our meal.

It was a great way to spend the day. Earlier, my mother shared the kitchen with us as she made a creamy lentil soup for our lunch. I provided troubleshooting advice and a little bit of hands on help for the girls as they worked their way through the stages of their tart construction. I also got them started on their first blog post, then left them together, side by side, as they chose and edited their photos and wrote the text.

What was once a lovely, whole chorizo sausage and is now bite-sized morsels.

Later on, I started working on the mussels and chorizo pasta. This is one of those recipes where more time is taken in preparation than in the actual cooking. Chopping the vegetables, frying the chorizo, and debearding the mussels were the difficult parts of this recipe. Which is to say, there weren’t really any difficult parts. In fact, cooking the pasta – a completely hands off task – was the one thing I had to budget time for.

So, just when the truffle tart came out of the oven, I put the pasta on and by the time it was cooked, everything was ready to go into another pot for the main event. The total cooking time is about 15 minutes, from cooking down the vegetables to steaming the mussels. It’s hard to believe a meal this impressive is quick enough for a weeknight dinner.

A plateful at the table.

I hadn’t cooked mussels before, but I’m definitely over that apprehension now. I’m also looking forward to baking and cooking again with family, soon.

Mussels and chorizo up close

You can find many other blogged descriptions of this week’s FFWD recipe here: Mussels and Chorizo With or Without Pasta