Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tribute to Owen's Fish Camp & Old Bay Cod with Kale

Tribute to Owen's Fish Camp & Old Bay Cod with Kale...I have to start this post with some background. I was recently in Sarasota FL on a work trip and I had one of the most memorable meals of my life. Okay, I know this is clearly memorable right now because it was only 3 weeks ago, but I feel quite sure this is being filed in a special part of my brain as "fantastic meals to remember forever" and will be there 15 years from now. Anywho, I was tipped off by a coworker about this hidden gem and boy was I glad. The place is called Owen's Fish Camp and it is located in a little old house, almost down a back alley covered with trees in a quiet part of downtown Sarasota.

Besides the fact that the decor is adorable and homey, the menu options were almost too much to bare. I was sad to be dining alone and thus unable to order one of everything and share with a crowd - I WILL be back and let me tell you I'll be back with a group so I can do just that. I took recommendations from the waitress and went with the Grilled Caesar to start (I can't get enough grilled romaine, that's a fact) which came with crispy little shrimp. For the main course I also took her recommendation to try their famous "Naked Fish". Here you could choose your fish and how it's cooked up along with two sides. I went with the option which she deemed "similar to grouper but even better" and chose blackened. Side note, every time I come down here for work I get blackened grouper at multiple meals, that is an absolute fav. I also went with her recommendations for sides, the collard greens and the garlic pasta.

The meal came and it took all of my might not to finish every last bite on that plate. The fish was exactly what she said, similar to grouper but even better - blackened to perfection. It had a little kick and came with a drizzle of lemon caper sauce atop which added the perfect bit of acidity. The sides were also unparalleled. The pasta, while extremely simple was a perfect starch - angel hair dressed in olive oil and crispy garlic nuzzled right next to the star of the show - the collards. I truly can't describe it, but my mouth is watering thinking about them. When I probed her after the meal, the waitress said that the collards are cooked in a mixture of bacon, vinegar, and cholula. Honestly perfection.

I finished the meal off with key lime pie smothered in homemade whipped cream (a serious weakness) and then drove back to the hotel wishing I was staying another night to come back for more.

Anyways, last night I had that meal on my mind and while I knew I would NEVER be able to recreate even one iota of that delectable experience, I made my own mild little version.

I sprinkled a fat piece of cod with old bay seasoning, lemon juice and olive oil before wrapping it in a foil packet and popping it in the oven for 20 min at 400 degrees.

At that point my little red potatoes had been roasting in there for about 25 minutes (they need a total of about 45 minutes) until they are golden and Dahlicious.

Lastly I served it up with kale which I sauteed in olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, a dash of old bay seasoning, and a sprinkle of red wine vinegar.

It was healthful and satisfying but it was no Owen's that's for sure. One day maybe I can hone in on my blackening skills and even learn that collards recipe... but until then I'll need to schedule more work trips down to Sarasota!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chorizo & White Fish Stoup

Chorizo & White Fish Stoup... it seems like as Sunday approaches each week I have a minor internal (sometimes external meaning I complain to my roommate) that I have NO idea how in the world I will come up with 4 dinners that week. And then, somehow, a menu comes together. I'd say 3 out of 4 are usually just mash ups of our favorite go- to's and usually one is unique. This week, laying in bed wide awake early Sunday AM I started thinking of what my unique item could be and I don't know where the thought flew in from but suddenly in my head I saw "chorizo and fish stoup!" (FYI a Stoup is what Rachel Ray calls a lovely dish which is neither a soup or a stew but rather... a stoup!). And so I did a quick Google search to see if such a thing made sense outside of my little head and sure enough it seemed like there were plenty of other folks on the world wide web who had in fact had the same epiphany.

After reading a few of those recipe's I knew the general gist of how I'd go about it. And then I suddenly remembered the Swanson's Mexican Tortilla Soup Broth that is to die for.

What I used:

  • 1/2 lb of ground chorizo from the butcher (you could also buy chorizo in a casing and cut into small pieces)
  • 1 lb white fish (I used cod and had the butcher cut it into hunks for the soup)
  • 1 box Swanson's Mexican Tortilla Soup Broth
  • 1 14oz can of diced tomatoes (I used ones with garlic, onion, basil for a little extra flavor)
  • 1/2 diced yellow onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 hand fulls of chopped Kale
  • 3 diced celery stalks
  • Juice of a lime
  • Bay leaves
  • Avocado (garnish)
How to:
In my lovely le creuset I browned the chorizo in olive oil. Now this chorizo was heavily seasoned with dark spices like paprika I assume so it was  a little hard to tell when it was cooked through (browned) but I sort of guessed from texture - it took 5-8 minutes I'd say.

Once the meat was browned I remove the chorizo and let it rest in a bowl while I added a little more olive oil, the onion, garlic, and celery. I cooked the veggies until they were translucent - this was also a great way to get up all the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Next I added my kale and let it slowly wilt into the already aromatic mixture of diced veggies. A pinch of salt and pepper were added.

Next I added back in the cooked chorizo and 3/4 of the can of diced tomatoes. I gave it a big stir and added the lime and bay leaves. I added the entire box of stock and brought it to a simmer for about 30 minutes.

Right before serving drop in your lovely chunks of white fish, if the soup is simmering it will only take about 3-5 minutes for the fish to be cooked through.

I served it up with a wedge of lime and hunks of avocado on top. You could also use some fresh herbs like cilantro or green onion - or even something cooling like sour cream!

The stew/soup was so Dahlicious, a tad spicy but in a flavorful way... not a burn your mouth way. Hope everyone like's this twist on your regular Mexican tortilla soup!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Picnic in the Park: Meatloaf

Picnic in the Park: Meatloaf... For those of you that live in a cold weather thriving metropolis you know how precious your outdoor summer time is. Dining al fresco isn't something we can enjoy all year round, and outdoor patios, balconies large enough for a table and chairs, and beaches aren't always at your disposal so sometimes you have to improvise. Last night was one of those nights, and we ventured about 5 blocks from our place to enjoy an early dinner in the park - picnic style.

I had already planned to make meatloaf, mushrooms, broccoli, and corn on Thursday earlier this week - then when we thought of the picnic idea I started thinking about the logistics (the engineer in me) - how to carry it, how to serve it, how to EAT it. I resolved to cook everything and even cut things up beforehand, put them in 3 separate tupper ware, and bring sturdy paper plates, napkins, as well as some regular silverware and serving spoons.

The Meal:
I use the same technique as these turkey meatballs - the secret is whisking 1 egg in a large bowl and adding about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs then let it stand for a few minutes until it becomes a paste. After that mix in your meat and whatever seasoning and voila - your loaf is ready to be baked! Last night I also slathered a bit of BBQ sauce on top before popping my 1.5lbs of ground chuck in the oven at 375 for about 35 minutes.

whisk 1 egg

add breadcrumbs - I use panko

mix into a paste

meatloaf pre bake

While that was cooking I steamed up two lovely corns on the cob and carefully sliced off the kernels. My roomie doesn't like eating it off the cob so on his behalf I did a little dirty work before to make it easier at the picnic (actually not much work involved in slicing corn off the cob :-)). Also for the corn instead of grilling or boiling it, I wrapped each cleaned cob in a damp paper towel, placed them on a plate and popped them in the microwave for 4-5 minutes.Perfectly steamed.

corn wrapped in damp paper towels to steam

Next I sauteed a bunch of broccoli florets in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I got them nice and charred on some edges then steamed them through. YUM.

Lastly, I sauteed a bunch of sliced baby bella's in olive oil, salt, and pepper over high heat until they were dark golden and tender.

The broccoli was scooped into a large glass tupperware and the corn followed suit in a smaller plastic one. For the main dish I cut the meatloaf into slices and loaded it into my largest glass tupperware, then topped it off with the sauteed mushrooms. I packed the tupperware in a plastic grocery bag, the silverware and napkins in a ziplock. Then I put it all in my lovely new Trader Joe's bag, handed the quilt to the big man and headed out for our picnic!

It was a delightful night and we look forward to doing it again soon! How do you eat home cooked meals outside in a big city?? Would love ideas!