Slow-Roasted Char with Fennel Salad

The meat of my Christmas Eve dinner this year was a tempting recipe from Bon Appetit.  A delicious fish with one of my favorites flavors; Roasted Char with Fennel Salad.

Ingredients

½ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced on a mandoline, divided
1¼ pounds arctic char or salmon fillet (we used salmon)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped preserved lemon peel (didn’t get that fancy, I threw some dried lemon zest in there)
½ cup dill fronds

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°. Bring vinegar, sugar, caraway seeds, 2 tsp. salt, and ⅓ cup water in a small saucepan to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and add garlic. Let sit until garlic is slightly softened, 10–15 minutes.
Add half of fennel and toss to coat. Let sit until fennel softens slightly and tastes pickled, 8–10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place char in a 2- or 3-qt. baking dish and coat with 1 Tbsp. oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until flesh easily flakes apart and a paring knife inserted into fish meets no resistance, 15–18 minutes.
Drain fennel mixture; discard liquid. Toss in a small bowl with lemon juice, preserved lemon, remaining 3 Tbsp. oil, and remaining fennel; season with salt and pepper. Mix in dill.
Serve char topped with fennel salad.

Do Ahead: Garlic and fennel can be pickled 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

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Melt…in…your…mouth.  That explains it all.  There was hardly any left.  The combo of flavors in the fennel, and the balance of soft and crunchy in the fennel from how it was prepped so was good.  I even forgot to mix in the dill, which would have made it even better.  I want more!

Raw artichoke & herb salad

Another one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook recipes I recently made as part of Christmas Eve dinner was the Raw artichoke & herb salad.  I took the super easy way out and did canned artichoke hearts though…

Yield: 2 Servings

Ingredients:
2 or 3 large globe artichokes (1 1/2 lb/700 g in total) (used 2-3 cans of artichoke hearts)
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cups/40g  arugula
1/2 cup/ 15 g torn mint leaves
1/2 cup/ 15 g torn cilantro leaves
1 oz/ 30 g pecorino toscano or romano cheese, thinly shaved
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

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Instructions:

Prepare a bowl with water mixed with half of the lemon juice.2.  Remove the stem from one artichoke and pull off the tough outer leaves.  Once you reach the softer, pale leaves, use a large, sharp knife to cut across the flower so that you are left with the bottom quarter.  Use a small, sharp knife to remove the outer layers of the artichoke until the base (or bottom) is exposed. Scrape out the hairy “choke” and put the base in the acidulated water.  Discard the rest, then repeat with the other artichokes. Drain the artichokes and pat dry with paper towels.  Using a mandoline (or a large, sharp knife), cut the artichokes into paper-thin slices and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Squeeze over the remaining lemon juice, add the olive oil, and toss well to coat.  You can leave the artichoke for up to a few hours if you like, at room temperature. (So I just sort of skipped this whole part and simply opened cans of artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed them).

When ready to serve, add the arugula, mint, and cilantro to the artichoke and season with a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Toss gently and arrange on serving plates.  Garnish with the pecorino shavings.

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What a delicious combination of flavors, between all ingredients.  Another one that will totally be made again!

Saffron rice with barberries, pistachio and mixed herbs

I was introduced to Yotam Ottolenghi‘s cookbooks a few months ago and finally have one of my own — Jerusalem.  The recipes and pictures are mouth-watering just when reading them.  I made Christmas Eve dinner for some friends and had to break the cookbook out.  One of the recipes I tried was Saffron rice with barberries, pistachio and mixed herbs.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 /40 g tbsp unsalted butter (I just used some olive oil)
2 cups/360g basmati rice, rinsed under cold water and drained
2 1/2 cups/560ml boiling water
1 tsp saffron threads, soaked for 30 minutes in 3 tbsp boiling water
1/4 cup/40g dried barberries, soaked for a few minutes in freshly boiled water with a pinch of sugar (I couldn’t find them after checking out several specialty stores, went with dried cranberries)
1 oz/30g dill, roughly chopped
2/3 oz/20g chervil, roughly chopped (nixed it because there was none at the store and it was such a small amount)
1/3 oz/10g tarragon, roughly chopped (used dry)
1/2 cup/60g slivered or crushed unsalted pistachios, lightly toasted
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

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Directions:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and stir in the rice, making sure the grains are well coated. Add the boiling water, a teaspoon of salt and some white pepper. Mix well, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook on a very low heat for 15 minutes. Don’t be tempted to uncover the pan – you need to let the rice to steam properly. –I had to go a bit longer than 15.
Remove the pan from the heat – all the water will have been absorbed by the rice – and pour the saffron water over about a quarter of the surface, leaving most of the rice white. Cover with a tea towel, reseal tightly with the lid and set aside for five to 10 minutes.
With a large spoon, transfer the white rice to a large bowl and fluff it up with a fork. Drain the barberries (again, just used cranberries) and stir them in, followed by the herbs and most of the pistachios, reserving a few to garnish. Fluff up the saffron rice in the pan, then fold gently into the white rice – don’t overmix: you don’t want the white grains to be stained by the yellow ones. Taste, adjust the seasoning and transfer to a shallow serving bowl. Scatter the remaining pistachios on top and serve warm or at room temperature.

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This was so good.  The nice taste from the saffron and all other flavors jumping together.  And the red and green colors coming together on Christmas Eve.  So glad I tried this!

Cream Cheese Find

Was having some smoked salmon, smoked trout and bagels, along with some other great food on Christmas morning.  But, can’t enjoy cream cheese because of lactose intolerance.  Was in the cheese section at Whole Foods on Christmas Eve seeing if I could find any spreadable goat or sheep’s milk cheese and didn’t see any so asked if they had suggestions.  I was taken to the other side of that area (had to walk by the olive bar and not grab anything) and handed a tub of (essentially) goat cream cheese, by Merci Chef! Score!

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When it was used the next morning on the bagels…wow.  So good.  It was like whipped cream cheese.  Soft, fluffy, smooth and a very nice delicate taste.  Will totally remember this for the future.

Mykonos Grill

Another restaurant tested…received a recommendation to check out Mykonos Grill in Rockville, MD from a good friend.  I had driven by it countless times (when going to Bed, Bath & Beyond) and was glad to hear it was worth checking out.

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Got there sort of early and the hostess asked if I had a reservation.  No, but was able to get a table for my friend and me.  Within 30 minutes that place was packed!  Wow, this place i obviously popular.

My friend and I split a bottle of Greek Red.  Can’t remember the name of it (no correlation to the amount we drank).

They come out with their warm bread and the super seasoned lemony olive oil — so good!

We ordered some Melitzanosalata right off the bat;  a smoked mousse (no dairy) eggplant froth, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs.  Similar to baba ghannoush.

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Based on their specials that night, we opted to split their roasted Branzino, a whole Mediterranean bass, white moist tender flakes, delicate flavor.  It was so nice.

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The servers were so nice, all the service was great, the place was packed and the dinner just melted in your mouth.  I can’t believe I had driven by this place so many times.  Glad I finally went.

 

Momoji

Recently dined at a sushi restaurant in Chinatown, DC, Momoji to be exact.  You walk in and they have a very small bright downstairs area or you can ask to go upstairs to a more quaint (sort 0f) Asian restaurant.

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photo source: momijidc.com

We were there right at the end of happy hour and there were some great prices on the menu that we were able to snag with 5 minutes left.  Note: you can only order 1 drink/per person at a time.  Even if you were the only person sitting at the table, you can only order one drink at a time.  You can’t stockpile pre-end of happy hour.  Really?

Cocktail-wise we opted for some asian beer and a pear drink.  That thing was pretty good.

They had some seasonal food on the menu and a Christmas roll came to the table.

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I ordered the squid salad…very good (sorry for the bad light in the picture).

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For main indulgence we got the Chirashi Dinner of 13 pcs sashimi (chef’s choice) over seasoned rice.  So good with several varieties of fish.  Every piece of that got finished!

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Overall good food.  Service was slow, happy hour had good prices.  Worth checking out if you’re in the area.

 

Founding Farmers

After one runs the MCRRC Jingle Bell Jog in shorts & tshirt, because of 60-degree weather in mid-December, why not continue the great day?

My friend and I visited Founding Farmers in Potomac for brunch.  I had heard mixed reviews on the restaurant, based on the locations, so was excited to give it a try.

 

Photo source: wearefoundingfarmers.com

Knowing the popularity of this place I made a reservation a few days ahead of time. So glad I did.  It was packed!

When we arrived the #1 priority was coffee. Good stuff. After skimming the menu I opted for a nice basic breakfast; you get to pick eggs, meat, bread, veggie.

I went for scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, wheat bread and a green salad.

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Very nicely cooked eggs. The salad was great. There were grapes tomatoes, avocados and almonds in there with a nice light dressing. The price was under $10.

Complaints: they wondered why we wanted jam for our bread and brought us maybe a single serving for the two of us. It frustrated them to bring more.

Then we got the check. It was just over $20 — my friend ordered the sausage, mushroom & spinach pan scramble.  We were floored (in a good way)! Then we noticed they didn’t charge us for the coffee (not a major cost to the restaurant). After we gave the waitress the credit card to run, she came back and let us know she forgot to charge us the $3+ each for the coffee and would now need to include it. Seemed like something unnecessary based on the fact that it was her fault and it was only coffee.  Not worth the fight.

Cava Mezze

It’s definitely the time of year to try new places. A recent restaurant visit took me to Cava Mezze in Rockville, MD.  This is the real restaurant vs the fast-food version, which is Cava Grill.

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The restaurant offers a wide selection of shared plates (like tapas) and good drink menu.

They start you off with super warm pita bread and nice olive oil and harissa.


After looking over the wine list, we opted for a house wine, Black of Kalavryta. Wow! It’s labeled as a dry Greek red.  Got a slight hint of leather and some great dark cherries and strawberries.

Jumping ahead, we asked if we could buy bottles to take home, and it was not possible. Going to do some research as to who makes this stuff.

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The waitress suggested 2-3 tapas per person, so we ordered 2 each to start and sort of share.

Taramosalata — salmon roe, lemon, breadcrumbs.  First I had to look up what this really is.  Per Wikipedia: Taramasalata is a Greek and Turkish meze made from tarama, the salted and cured roe of the cod, carp, or grey mullet mixed. Let me tell you: tasty!

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Roasted Cauliflower — cumin, olive oil, fried capers, lemon yogurt. Such a nice taste from the roasting and apparently the yogurt was amazing!!

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Octopus — grilled octopus, black beluga lentils, green harissa.  OMG, enough said.

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Lamb Chops — two baby chops, crisped potatoes, extra virgin olive oil. Perfectly done.

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This was a phenomenal dinner. The only thing bad is that it had taken me so long to get there. It is a small place so when you check it out, make a reservation.

 

Bark Bites

Human aren’t the only ones who deserve homemade goodies during the holidays.  Pups do too!  Had to pull out my recipe for Bark Bites (I can’t remember where I actually found this and I gave it this name).

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup oil (I used canola)
2 eggs
3 tbsp peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup oatmeal

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Blend wet ingredients together.  Whisk dry ingredients together and mix into wet mixture to form ball of dough.  Roll out and shape.

Instead of getting fancy with cookie cutters (like I think the recipe originally said), I just use a pizza cutter.  Dogs really don’t care what these things look like.  And that way you get a heck of a lot more treats out of this dough.  I probably got 5-6 dozen.

Put onto a non-stick cookie tray or lightly greased one.  Cook 20 minutes at 400 degrees F.  Turn off oven and allow the biscuits to cool in oven until crisp and hard.  Store in airtight container.

When you think about it, this is all stuff we eat.  Couldn’t taste bad.  I think it’s just missing sugar (yes, this means I had to take a little bite at the end).

Woof, bark, devour.  Good dog!

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Gourmet Popcorn

Had a party to attend the other night and wanted to take something a little different.  After flipping through a recent issue of Food & Wine came across a good sounding recipe — Popcorn with Sesame-Glazed Pistachios. All flavors sounded perfect so to the kitchen I went.

Ingredients

1/3 cup vegetable oil (I made air popped stuff in a microwave container I have, so didn’t need this oil)
1/2 cup popping corn
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 cups shelled unsalted pistachios (8 ounces)

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Directions

-Preheat the oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, combine the vegetable oil and popcorn, cover and cook over moderate heat until the corn starts to pop. Cook, shaking the pan until the popping stops, 
3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the popcorn to a large bowl and season lightly with salt.
-Wipe out the saucepan. Add the olive oil, sugar, sesame seeds, soy sauce, garlic powder and 2 teaspoons of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Add the pistachios and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Scrape the pistachios onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until bubbling. Scrape the pistachio mixture into the popcorn and toss well. Let cool before serving.

Make Ahead
The mix can be made early in the day and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

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Prep-wise, not as easy as I expected.  The pistachios did not get crusted/coated.  I got clumps of sesame seeds with soy sauce and a glaze over the pistachios.  But, overall, the taste was nonetheless delicious.  So, was glad I tried the recipe.  Would totally make it again.