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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.

Clam and Corn Soup with Kale and Barley

21 Sep

Yesterday, I was feeling under-the-weather enough that I stayed home from work and skipped my evening class.  So for dinner, I wanted soup.  Luckily, I had a quart of clam broth leftover from a recent clam bake at my parents house.  I also wanted something healthy.  Therefore, I knew this soup was the perfect place for the every-so-slightly wilted kale I had from our CSA pick up this past Saturday.  Kale is full of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, and tons of other vitamins and nutrients.  Some leftover corn cobs (and frozen kernels) served to lend a hearty sweetness and substance to the broth.  Finally, whole grains in the form of pearled barley are also a wealth of healthy goodness.

But the healthiness of this dish isn’t the main attraction – it’s the taste.  The briney broth is infused with the sweetness of the corn, a slightly bitter herbaceousness from the kale, and a toothsome texture from the barley.  Zak bumped it up a notch by adding a leftover artichoke heart stuffed pepper.  I was happily surprised by how hearty and good this clam and corn soup was without the addition of any cream.  It still had all the lovely flavors of a chowder, but was more of a hearty soup or stew due to the lack of cream.

Clam and Corn Soup with Kale and Barley

1 quart clam broth leftover from a clam bake, or 1/2 qt. chicken broth and 1/2 qt. clam juice

1 tbs. butter, if necessary (see note below)

1 small onion, roughly chopped, if necessary (see note below)

3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped, if necessary (see below)

3 cobs corn, kernels removed and reserved

1 cup pearled barley

3 cups kale, roughly chopped

[Note:  The leftover clam broth I used had some onions and garlic in it.  If you are using chicken broth/clam juice combination, first melt 1 tbs. of butter in a medium stock pot and sauté 1 small, roughly chopped onion and 3-4 cloves garlic, also roughly chopped, until tender.]

Add clam broth and corn cobs to a medium stock pot.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Add barley and cover.  Simmer over medium heat for forty five minutes to an hour, until barley is tender.

Add corn and kale.  Simmer 3-5 minutes until corn is heated through and kale is wilted.  Serve immediately.

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.

Pickled Shallots and Sardines on Blue Cheese Toast

24 Jul

This is a pictureless post, because it’s something I eat for lunch in the office and I haven’t been able to either get my wits about me enough in the morning to remember to pack the camera or get a picture that looks like more than a blurry blob with my super crappy cell phone in our not-so-well-lighted lunch room.  But the results are so delicious – and such a great way to use the pickled shallots I recently posted – that I absolutely could not resist posting it.

This lunch is super inappropriate to eat in the office.  Sardines plus blue cheese plus pickles = smelly factory.  So I always make sure I have plenty of gum in my purse for after.  Because as a huge lover of both sardines and blue cheese, once I started thinking about this dish I absolutely could not get it out of my mind.  Also, since we went on vacation a bit back, I had been holding off on grocery shopping until we’d received our first week’s CSA share – so things were looking a bit sparse in both the pantry and refrigerator.

Those lean times tend to be when I make some of my favorite dishes, and this is no exception.  So much that I made it again a few days later, when my pantry and fridge were fully stocked.  This open-faced sandwich is definitely not for the faint of heart (err … palate).  The blue cheese is pungent and rich and creamy.  The sardines are, well, sardine-y – briney and delicious.  The pickles are packed with a punch of coriander and vinegar, cutting through the richness of the cheese and fishiness of the sardines.  Balanced with a punch of mustard, this whole dish is spot on.

Pickled Shallots and Sardines on Blue Cheese Toast

4 slices whole wheat bread

1 can sardines packed in oil or water (your preference), chilled and drained, roughly chopped

1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles

1/3 cup pickled shallots and garlic, thinly sliced

2 tbs. pickling liquid from pickled shallots and garlic

1 heaping tsp. Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Lightly toast the whole wheat bread.  Top each slice with half of the blue cheese crumbles.

Transfer either to a preheated broiler or place in the microwave for about thirty seconds until cheese is bubbling and melting.

Meanwhile, whisk together the pickle juice and mustard.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Top each cheesy toast slice with sardines, sliced pickles, and a tablespoon or so of the pickle juice mixture.

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