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Fried Calamari Tacos with Fried Caper Pickled Shallot and Lemon Aioli

16 Nov

This was a fun twist on a normal fish taco.  I made it on a week night, and it came together surprisingly quickly – no more than forty minutes from start to finish.  The aioli was creamy, with a punch of lemon and some heat from the raw garlic.  The pickled onions were slightly sweet, interspersed with a salty pop from the fried capers.  The calamari was tender and not at all rubbery, ensconced in a crunchy coating.  The spice from the cayenne was subtle, but added a nice bit of flavor to the calamari itself.  It made use of flavors that traditionally go well with fried calamari – lemon and garlic – but presented them in a different way that made this really interesting.  I would definitely make this again, especially the tarragon and garlic lemon aioli.

Fried Calamari Tacos with Fried Caper Pickled Shallot and Lemon Aioli

Fried Calamari Tacos:


1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tbs. dried parsley

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Canola oil, for frying

Lemon aioli (see below)

Fried caper pickled shallot (see below)

Six 6″ flour tortillas

In a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed  sauce pan, heat about 1″ of oil over medium heat until it just begins to bubble or reaches a temperature of 350º.

Mix together flour, dried parsley, garlic powder, pepper, salt, and pepper on a shallow plate.  Working in small batches, toss the squid in the flour mixture to coat.

Working in small batches, add the squid to the oil and cook about 1-2 minutes until golden brown and crispy.  Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.

Place about a tbs. of the lemon aioli on a tortilla.  Top with a handful of calamari and a handful of onion and fried caper slaw.  Serve immediately.

Lemon Aoili:

2 large egg yolks, room temperature

2 large garlic cloves, finely minced

2 tbs. fresh tarragon, finely minced

1 cup extra version olive oil

3-4 tbs. lemon juice

Put egg yolks, garlic, and tarragon in the bowl of a food processor or the bowl of an immersion blender attachment.  Process until the egg yolks get frothy and lighter in color.

With the machine running, very slowly pour in the olive oil, at first drop by drop and then in a thin stream.  Once the yolks have absorbed all of the olive oil, add lemon, salt, and pepper to taste.

Fried Caper Pickled Shallot:

2 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tbs. capers, thinly sliced

1 tbs. white sugar

1 tbs. rice wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

Toss together shallots, sugar, and vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Using the oil from above (before your fry the calamari), add capers to the oil.  Fry about 1 minute, using a mesh or spider strainer to remove.

Toss shallots with capers.  Serve on top of fried calamari.

Grilled Whole Branzino with Lemon-Oregano Emulsion

26 Aug

On Wednesday while I was at school, Zak let me know that he had taken a trip to Whole Foods to pick up some fish and after bs-ing a little bit with the fish monger while purchasing this branzino, the fish monger threw in some free salmon steaks.  SCORE!  He offered to cook up the salmon steaks on Wednesday and gave me the task of preparing this branzino on Thursday.

It was nice to have a whole day to brainstorm.  I knew I wanted to throw the fish on the grill.  This Mediterranean fish absorbs smoke beautifully, and the skin crisps up in such a way that I can’t describe its deliciousness.  I also wanted to pair it with lemon somehow, but was bored of simply stuffing the cavity and squeezing a few wedges over.  Instead, I decided to prepare a lemon sauce.  My new immersion blender that my sister-in-law got for us as a shower gift is super handy for whipping up sauces and emulsions, so I decided to make a lemon, Dijon, and oregano emulsion with a touch of mayonnaise for extra creaminess.

This turned out great.  Though simple, the smokiness of the sweet-fleshed grilled fish paired perfectly with the lemon-y, creamy emulsion.  The emulsion on its own was delicious, and I was happy to have leftovers while making breakfast the next morning – it makes for an excellent substitute for hollandaise, so I’ll post a recipe I made with it soon!

Grilled Whole Branzino with Lemon-Oregano Emulsion

Grilled Whole Branzino:

1 lb. whole branzino, cleaned and scaled

1/4 cup olive oil

1-2 tbs. dried oregano

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat a grill, either charcoal or gas.

Using a brush, brush fish, inside and out, with olive oil.  Liberally season all sides and center cavity of the fish with oregano, salt, and pepper.

Place on preheated grill and cook 7 minutes per side until flesh is opaque and flakes easily.  When flipping the fish, carefully separate the skin of the fish from the grill and flip in one fluid movement.  Cover grill once flipped.

Lemon-Oregano Emulsion:

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbs. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. mayonnaise

1 tbs. dried oregano

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

Combine lemon juice, mustard, mayonnaise, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Using an immersion blender, food processor, or whisk slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking/blending.

Serve over fish.

Ponzu-Marinated Seared Yellowfin Tuna

21 Aug

This seared tuna was a very special treat for us.  Though we often throw out tuna steaks as an option when we’re headed to the store to buy some fish, ahi or yellowfin tuna can be almost prohibitively expensive.  These tuna steaks were pricey, but they were so fresh looking and smelling that we couldn’t resist.  It is extremely important when you are searing tuna to choose fresh, high quality fish.  The center of the fish remains raw, so you have to be confident in your fishmonger to feel comfortable eating it.

Because the high quality fish was intended to be the star of this plate, I kept the marinade fairly simple – some ponzu, a bit of sesame oil, and a few aromatics.  All of the flavors are present in the finished dish, but the predominant flavor is that of ocean fresh tuna.  Served with some simple spinach and white rice, this was a delicious, healthy, and filing meal.

Ponzu-Marinated Seared Yellowfin Tuna

2 yellowfin tuna steaks (also known as ahi tuna), each weighing approximately 1/2 lb.

1/4 cup ponzu

3 tbs. sesame oil

2 scallions, white and dark green parts only

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. ginger, grated

Freshly cracked black pepper

2 tbs. canola oil

Whisk together ponzu, sesame oil, scallions, garlic, ginger, and black pepper.  Place tuna steaks in a large ziplock bag and pour marinade over.  Marinate at least an hour, turning often to ensure even marination.

Coat either a cast iron grill pan or cast iron skillet with canola oil.  Heat over high heat until oil is shimmering and a drop of water placed on the pan evaporates.

Place tuna on the grill.  Cook roughly one minute and fifteen seconds per side per 1/2 inch of thickness to ensure a seared outside and cool center.

Serve immediately.

Whole Grilled Golden Trout and Grilled Corn

31 Jul

This whole grilled golden trout stuffed with lemon, dill, and garlic served alongside an ear of grilled Ohio sweet corn is tasty summer simplicity at its finest.  The golden trout is lightly perfumed with the citrus of the lemon and flavors of dill and garlic with crispy, lightly charred skin and tender, flaky flesh.  The natural sweetness of the corn is coaxed to a new level from the caramelization on the grill, making this some of the best corn I’ve ever eaten.  The husks prevent the kernels from burning, while allowing the smokey charcoal flavors of the grill to make their mark.

I cooked the corn on the grill first before cooking the fish because our grill is tiny and it acted as a great appetizer.  If you have a big grill, then there’s no need to do that.

Whole Grilled Golden Trout and Grilled Corn

Whole Grilled Golden Trout:

1 whole golden trout, weighing approximately 1 lb.

1 lemon, cut into half moon shapes

1/4-1/2 cup dill fronds

3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/3 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Non-stick cooking spray

1 lemon, for serving

Make sure all cavities in the fish are empty and trim off all fins using a pair of kitchen scissors.  Cut three deep slashes in each side of the fish, to but not through the bone.

Rub fish inside and out with olive oil.  Season the inside of the cavity of the fish, the slits cut into the fish, and both sides of the fish liberally with salt and pepper.

Squeeze a tablespoon or so of lemon juice into the cavity of the fish.  Stuff the cavity of the fish with most of the lemon wedges, dill, and most of the chopped garlic.  Stuff remaining chopped garlic into each of slits cut into the fish.  Place a few slices of lemon both under and on top of the fish.

Let marinate, refrigerated, for about an hour (not necessary but I believe helpful).

Preheat your grill to medium-hot.  Make sure your grill grate is clean and very hot.  Spray the grill with non-stick cooking spray.

Add fish, removing any lemon wedges stuck to the bottom and placing on top.  Let cook, without touching for 5-8 minutes.  Using a spatula and tongs, carefully un-stick the fish from the grate of the grill.  Let cook another 3-4 minutes, for a total of 8-12 minutes.  Remove the lemon wedges from the top of the fish.

Carefully flip the fish.  Replace the lemon slices and cook another 5-8 minutes before carefully un-sticking from the grate of the grill.  Cook another 3-4 minutes.

When cooked through, the flesh of the fish should be opaque and semi-firm to the touch.  The skin of the fish will be darkened and even charred in some areas, and the internal temperature should reach 140º.

Carefully remove to a serving dish and serve immediately with another lemon for squeezing.

Grilled Corn:

2 ears corn

2-3 tbs. olive oil

Butter, to taste

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Take corn and pull back outer green husks without removing them.  Remove the silk of the corn and discard.

Brush the kernels of the corn with olive oil and season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Reposition the husks back over the kernels.

Place corn on grill heated to medium heat.  Grill approximately 20 minutes, turning as necessary to keep from charring, covered.  When cooked through, the corn will flex in your hands without breaking (be sure to wear oven mitts), the husks will be darkened and charred in places, and the kernels will slightly darker in color and tender.

Mushroom and Silken Tofu in Dashi-Miso Broth

27 Jul

I’ve made this soup a couple of times now, and each time we enjoy it more than the last.  It is excellent both with and without noodles – the long, springy enoki’s add enough of a “noodle-y” texture, but it’s definitely pumped up to a full meal with the addition of the ramen.  This soup is reminiscent of a simple miso soup, but the added fire-y heat of the sriracha and plethora of meaty mushrooms makes it more interesting and more substantial.

This soup is incredibly easy and the “hardest” part is separating all the mushrooms from one another.  Mostly, you just boil water and throw a bunch of ingredients in a stock pot.  Still, the deep umami of the dashi, miso, and mushrooms, spice of the sriracha, fresh crunch of the scallions, and wonderful textures of the mushrooms combine in a way that makes this soup taste like it should have been a lot more work than it was.  The unique combination of flavors and textures is addictive, leading to inevitably licked-clean bowls.

Mushroom and Silken Tofu in Dashi-Miso Broth

1 block silken tofu, cut into large chunks

8 cups water

8 tsp. dashi powder

2 1/2 tbs. white miso

1 tsp. canola oil

1 package enoki mushrooms, separated

1 package white beech mushrooms, separated

1/3 cup sweet onion, thinly sliced

3 tbs. soy sauce

2 tbs. sriracha

Freshly cracked black pepper

2-3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped, for garnish

Ramen noodles, cooked, for serving (optional)

In a medium sauce pan, bring water to a rolling boil.  Whisk in dashi and miso until no more clumps remain. Cover and reduce to a simmer.

In a large sauce pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add mushrooms, soy sauce, and sriracha.  Stir well to distribute the soy sauce and sriracha.  Cook 3-4 minutes until mushrooms and beginning to tender.

Carefully add chunks of silken tofu.  Pour miso-dashi broth over the tofu and mushrooms.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Serve immediately, placing cooked ramen noodles in the bowl first and ladeling soup over.  Garnish with scallions.

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