it was delicious! I made it with fish! Wednesday, Aug 22 2012 

A long time ago, while poking around on Allrecipes, I came across one particular review which stuck in my mind. The recipe was for tuna brushed with soy and coated with sesame seeds, lightly seared so that it was cooked on the outside but still raw in the middle; one reviewer gave it five stars and noted: “it was delicious! I made it with chicken tenders!”

Thinking about sesame-coated raw chicken still gives me the shivers.

Anyway, I thought of that review last night when I was making tilapia. I usually make tilapia with lemon and dill, but I had neither. Instead, I had a single tiny lime, and while brainstorming ideas, it occurred to me that Thomas Keller had a truly delectable recipe for creamed corn that involved lime and cayenne pepper. I know, fish and corn are not the same, but it seemed like a decent jumping-off point. Why not try the same flavor combination with fish?

So I did. The fish turned out very good, tangy (lime) and spicy (cayenne) with a lovely creamy background (butter and the tilapia). It’s a very good dish for summer. I gave K a taste when he came home, and he went digging into the leftovers for more. Success!

(As a bonus, this dish is very easy to put together even when a not-so-small infant is rolling around on the kitchen floor, getting underfoot and demanding attention.)

tilapia with lime and cayenne

Tilapia with Lime and Cayenne

Unfortunately I didn’t measure my quantities, so your guess is as good as mine.

Ingredients:
3 tilapia fillets
one small lime, zested and juiced
butter
salt
cayenne pepper

Directions:

Rub three small individual roasting dishes with butter. (Or rub a single big pan with butter.) Sprinkle the fillets lightly with salt on either side, and lay them into the roasting dishes/pan.

Squeeze some lime juice over each fillet and sprinkle with lime zest. I used about half of the juice for three fillets. (I made the rest into limeade.)

Very lightly dust the tops with a little cayenne pepper. Go easy; a little cayenne goes a long way.

Dot the fillets with tiny pats of butter.

Put the roasting pans into the oven, under the broiler. Check occasionally for doneness; when fish is done, it flakes when prodded by a fork. Mine were done with the outer edges were beginning to brown and crisp.

Eat and enjoy! I had my fillet over rice, with buttery drippings poured out of the pan.

summer CSA, weeks 10 and 11 Friday, Aug 17 2012 

I need to figure out what to do with all this corn.

Week 10 of the CSA: six ears of corn, cantaloupe, kale, green beans, tomatoes, summer squash, peaches, green peppers, and the usual eggs and bread (Great Harvest sourdough). I was pleased to find a vein of parmesan running through the sourdough when I cut it in half.

summer CSA, week 10

A good summer way to eat green beans: trim them (cut or pinch off the stem end), blanch them (cook them in boiling water and then plunge them into ice water to keep the crunch and the bright green color), and then toss them with sesame oil, ponzu sauce, garlic powder, and fresh ground pepper. If you don’t have ponzu, use soy sauce and a squeeze of citrus. Serve alongside, well, anything. Leftovers are also great straight out of the fridge.

Week 11 of the CSA: double corn! (I traded one eggplant for six ears of corn. I don’t usually avail myself of the trade table, but this seemed like too good a deal to pass up.) So: twelve ears of corn, a giant sangria watermelon, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, white potatoes, and the usual eggs and bread (Great Harvest challah).

summer CSA, week 10

The sangria watermelon is fantastic. Its flesh is dark red, intensely sweet, and incredibly juicy. I cut it up that very night and promptly proceeded to eat so much of it that my stomach felt physically swollen. I also had a grand time spitting seeds into a bowl.

I don’t know why, but a lot of the watermelon in stores these days is seedless, and it makes me sad. I think the best, sweetest bits of the watermelon are nestled softly around the seeds. Besides, one of my favorite memories of summer as a kid was the experience of sitting outside, munching watermelon, and spitting seeds into the grass on a twilight evening. I hope to recreate that experience for my kid one day.

adventures of a butterfly cookie cutter Wednesday, Aug 15 2012 

…or, how to get three desserts out of one cookie cutter. First, the background:

My sister is going to have a little baby girl! I’m tremendously excited. I have to constantly exert all sorts of self-control lest I buy every “my auntie is awesome!” onesie that I happen to come across. Anyway. Her friends did most of the hard work involved in throwing her a baby shower; all I did was to volunteer to contribute baked goods. The theme: butterflies.

I bought myself a tiny butterfly cookie cutter, about 1″ by 2″.

butterfly cookie cutter

I decided to make Linzer cookies with butterfly cutouts. I used this recipe by Ina Garten, who has never led me astray. They worked well, for the most part, except the whole process was rather time consuming. Because it was so warm in the kitchen, the dough kept getting too soft to cut properly. I had to chill the dough in the fridge, take out a section, quickly roll it and make cuts, and stick the cut cookies and the remaining dough back in the fridge again. Repeat as necessary.

The cookies turned out well though. That’s cherry preserves in the middle.

Linzer butterfly cookies

Instead of rolling the cutout butterflies back into the dough, I baked them as well, with just a sprinkling of coarse sugar. Then I used them as toppers on Rolo pretzels. I hadn’t made Rolo pretzels before, but a coworker swears by them for easy entertaining. Basically, you put a Rolo candy on a pretzel, bake it until the Rolo is softened but not melting (about 3 min inside a 350 degree oven), and then smush a nut or something on top and let the whole thing cool to solidify. Since the kitchen was warm, these also went into the fridge to cool and set up after assembly. I’m glad the fridge was fairly empty that day. These also took some time to assemble, mostly because I had to unwrap each Rolo candy individually.

The shortbread butterflies worked beautifully with the caramel Rolos and the salty pretzels. Looked cute, too.

butterfly Rolo pretzels

Finally, because I still wasn’t done with the butterfly cookie cutter, I decided to make a butterfly version of Deb Perelman’s white and dark brownies. Essentially, she bakes up two batches of brownies (white and dark chocolate), and then proceeds to cut heart-shaped centers out of each piece and swaps them so that the colors contrast and the brownies are uber-cute. Check out her photos; they’re beautiful.

For some reason my white chocolate brownie batch came out thinner than the dark batch, but I was still able to painstakingly cut butterfly centers and swap them. (After chilling the cooked brownies. Everything needed to be chilled!) Also, thank goodness brownie material is sticky; whenever I cracked the corner of a brownie, I was able to unobtrusively press the cut together with my fingers. The end result turned out quite nicely.

butterfly brownies, white and dark

The shower went well, and I’m proud of my baked goods, but I think I’m ready to take a break from the butterfly cookie cutter.

(Photo credits: Linzer cookies and brownies from LB’s camera; Rolo butterflies from KL.)

BBT sandwiches Monday, Aug 6 2012 

Yesterday, while roaming the kitchen, I caught a glimpse of a beautiful meaty tomato sitting on the countertop. There are few things as wonderful as a perfectly ripe tomato at the height of summer, and suddenly I felt the need for a tomato sandwich. I turned to K. “I’m going to make a tomato sandwich with mayonnaise and basil,” I announced. “Want one?”

“With bacon?” he said, hopefully.

“I don’t want to go to the trouble of frying up bacon,” I said. “I want a sandwich now.”

“I’ll make bacon,” he said.

“In that case, I’ll wait for the bacon.”

It was worth it.

BBT sandwich recipe:
(BBT = bacon, basil, and tomato; recipe makes two sandwiches)

Assemble the ingredients: Toast four slices of bread and fry up four slices of bacon until crisp. Cut a ripe tomato into slices. (Thick slices, not those paper-thin translucent doilies of tomato that you get in fast-food restaurant burgers.) Wash a few leaves of basil and cut a garlic clove in half.

Assemble the sandwich: Gently rub one side of the toasted bread all over with the cut side of the garlic clove. (If you’re not gentle, you might rip the surface of the toast.) Spread mayonnaise onto the garlic side of the bread; use as much as you want. On one piece of bread, put down the basil leaves and cover with a layer of tomato slices. Crack some fresh pepper over the tomato. Top with a layer of bacon and the second piece of bread.

Eat. The bacon is crunchy, the tomato is sweet and juicy, the basil adds depth, and the garlic tang lingers after each bite. This is what summer tastes like. Make these now. You won’t regret it.

(No, of course there’s no picture. I didn’t take any pictures; I just ate the sandwich. No sane, hungry person would pause to take a picture before eating this sandwich.)

PS: The tomato in question was a purple Cherokee, from a friend’s garden. It’s a delightfully meaty tomato, with little in the way of seedy goop; great for sandwiches.

summer CSA, weeks 8 and 9 Sunday, Aug 5 2012 

The hot weather has really been putting a crimp in my cooking. Who wants to stand in front of a stove in this weather? I hope we get a break soon… I’m very grateful to the hard workers at the farm for toiling in the heat.

Week 8 of the CSA was a “bonus item” week so we got cheese instead of eggs; I chose a Colby jack. The rest of the pickup: kale, cantaloupe, corn, tomatoes (they look pale but they flushed up pretty quickly), peaches, bok choy, eggplant, green peppers, and bread (Great Harvest parmesan sourdough).

summer CSA, week 8

We managed to eat almost everything here, but I failed with the kale. Kale usually holds up pretty well in the fridge, but I waited too long and it was sadly slimy and brown by the time I pulled it out of the bag… two weeks later. It’s always sad to throw good CSA vegetables away.

Week 9 of the CSA: garlic, tomatoes, cantaloupe, eggplant, corn, peaches, zucchini, red potatoes, cucumbers, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest challah).

summer CSA, week 9

I’m always glad to see cantaloupe and peaches. No cooking required!