About Mastering and Enjoying Home Cooking. Drink, Cook, and Live Well!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Small Fish Fry

Generally, highly predacious fish are higher in mercury than small fish. Fish are a great source of protein and contain healthy fats that will reduce your cholesterol and improve your health. Fish also contain omega-3 fatty acids that help keep your heart healthy. Fish with the highest mercury are listed below and one wants to limit their frequency in your diet.
·         Bluefish
·         Grouper
·         Sea Bass
·         Tuna (Canned Albacore, Yellow fin)
·         Marlin
·         Orange Roughy
·         Shark
·         Swordfish
·         Tilefish

Delta Smelt, Peter Johnson (More photos)
Smelts are a family of small anadronomous fish (sea run). They are common in the North American Great Lakes and in the lakes and seas of the northern part of Europe, and run in large schools along the coastline during their spring migration to their spawning streams. The family consists of some sixteen species in six genera. Smelt are known for their fine flavor and are high in important vitamins and minerals. These small fish are similar in appearance to sardines and anchovies. Smelt are low in mercury. In many cutlers, these fine fish are highly prized. Smelt are widely available in the freezer section of your supermarket, most often cleaned already. These fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

The Italians along the East coast of the US often eat smelts as part of Christmas-Eve dinner. In Japan, smelts are often battered (tempura) and deep fried. They are so crisp one can eat the whole fish including their bones.

1 pound smelts
1 egg yolk
1 cup very cold soda water
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup corn starch
3/4 cup rice flour or all-purpose flour
Peanut or light olive oil for frying

Heat oil on medium high to 370 F in a deep, heavy pot. Attach a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. Set a cookie rack over paper towels to drain cooked fish. Salt smelts. Thoroughly mix dry ingredients in a glass bowl. When the oil is at temperature, whisk the egg yolk with the soda water together, then stir into bowl of dry ingredients.
Dip a few smelts at a time in the thin batter, drain, and carefully release into the hot oil. Do this in sparse batches. Fry for 2-4 minutes, it should sizzle while cooking. Lay cooked fish on the rack to drain. Sequence another batch as soon as the temperature is restored.

Monday, April 28, 2014

White Zinfandel Poached Peaches with Minted Whipped Cream

In French, this would be called pêche pochée. Alternatively top the peach with the sauce and a dollop of Cream Fraiche. My friend Doug was allegic to strawberries so anytime I was making a strawberry dessert I made these for him.

5 large firm yellow cling peaches with no soft spots
2 cups white Zinfandel
1 cup Johannesburg Riesling
1/2 cup sugar

Minted Whipped Cream
½ teaspoon mint extract
1/2 pint heavy cream
2 tablespoon sugar
Garnish with mint leaves

The recipe is for four people but the extra peach is in case you mess one up. We need to remove the skins without damaging the peaches. Boil enough water in a large pot to immerse all the peaches at the same time. Immerse the peaches in the boiling water, using a large slotted spoon (or basket ladle), to spin them around so all surfaces get the hot water treatment. Leave these in for 2 ½ minutes then remove each peach to cool. While still warm, use the tip of the knife near the stem opening to pick up the skin and peel it from the peach. When all peeled, we are ready to poach these in a frying pan. Add all of the wine and the sugar and bring to a boil. When boiling, lower the peaches into the liquid. Using a large spoon, spoon the hot liquid over each peach to cook them slightly. With the liquid at a boil, continue to poach each in turn until a toothpick inserts fairly easily. Spoon out each peach to its own decorative serving bowl. Transfer a bit of the wine sauce from the larger spoon to a cold spoon so you can taste if it’s sweet enough. The sauce is recommended to be just sweet but not overly so. Reduce until there are just a few tablespoons to pour over each peach. Allow these to cool on the counter.

Whip the cream adding the sugar and mint extract at the end. Taste the cream. When the peaches are still a bit warm, Plop a dollop of cream over each peach and a spring of mint on top and serve.  

For a variation, try a rose of Cabernet and Chardonnay for the two wines.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Roast Leg of Lamb Sandwich

This is normally made from left over leg of lamb, but if you having a party, no reason you cannot cook a leg of lamb for sandwiches. This sandwich was inspired by the movie Meet Joe Black. Since I started making these, I found that toasted sourdough rolls and some horseradish make the sandwich even MORE delightful and tasty.

Cold roast leg of lamb cut thin
Iceberg lettuce segments
Prepared hot horseradish to taste
1 tablespoon Best Food mayonnaise
Thin slices of red onion
One slice of roasted red bell pepper (optional)
Thin slices of English cucumber
Lightly toasted whole-wheat sandwich bread or butter toasted Sourdough rolls

Garnish plates with sprig of mint

Lightly toasted whole-wheat sandwich bread or butter sourdough roll and pan toast until golden. With bread somewhat cooled but still warm, spread on horseradish and mayonnaise on each side. Cover bottom slice with slices of cucumber, a slice of roasted red bell pepper, some segments of crisp cold iceberg lettuce, thin slices of roast Leg of lamb, a slice of red onion. Cover with other bread slice. Cut sandwich in half. Garnish plate with sprig of mint.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bruschetta di Pomodori Basilica (Tomato and Basil)

Bruschetta are toasted over coals or grilled while for crostini the bread is sautéed in olive oil. Either way the results are excellent. The tomatoes used should be perfectly ripe, fragrant and firm.

Best extra sourdough bread cut thin (1/4”)1
1-½ tablespoons of non-filtered extra virgin olive oil and more to brush each toasted slices.
1 pound home grown vine ripen tomatoes, seeded, and chopped into small ¼ cubes
A small bunch fresh chopped or torn basil2
1 pinch ground black pepper
Sea salt
3 large cloves of very finely chopped Italian red garlic
A pinch of red wine vinegar

Put chopped tomatoes, salt, and pepper, garlic, basil, olive oil and red wine vinegar in a bowl. Toss and let stand 1 hour. Do not refrigerate

When ready to serve, toast bread slices on your grill, brush with best olive oil, spoon over and spread a tablespoonful of the tomato mixture. Serve individual plates, two slices each, garnished with finely chopped chives.

When I have them, I use Early Girl tomatoes. They are GREAT!

A Spanish variation
Toast bread slices over coals or on a grill; rub toasted surface with cut garlic cloves, rub bread slices with a cut tomato. Serve two slices each per person. All that needed is a little salt.

  1. If the bread is cut across the loaf on a diagonal, the slices become longer.
  2. When basil is torn instead of chopped, it will not wilt as fast since the basil fractures along natural edges. Genovese (sweet Italian Pesto basil) is the most common basil but you can use whatever is growing in your garden.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chinese New Year Whole Steamed Fish

Chinese New Year (Gung Hay Fat Choy) ends winter and marks the start of a prosperous spring. The New Year's dinner is very large and sumptuous and traditionally includes dishes of meat, pork, chicken) and fish. When I worked in Silicon Valley I would organize am outing at Chinese restaurant to celebrate the event. Due to the ethnicity, most of my Chinese and Asian friend would attend. Twenty of us or so would gather around the circular tables and the lazy Susan center at each table would allow us to easily share the bounty. Each person orders their favorite dish to share. Despite the abundance of the dishes, the bill per person was usually under $25 each unless abalone or lobster was ordered. What a feast.

2 Tablespoons fermented black beans1
2 Cloves garlic, minced
2 Teaspoons minced ginger
1 Teaspoons salt
1 Teaspoons sugar
¼ Cup peanut oil
2 Teaspoons soy sauce or Tamari
1 Teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1¼ Pound sole (cleaned and gutted, triple washed, with head and tail intact)
2 Green onions (white and green parts), cut lengthwise to 2 inches long


Soak black beans in warm water for 15 minutes. Rinse beans with cold water. Mash bean with the tines of a fork. Add garlic, ginger, salt, peanut oil, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil to beans and stir to combine. Rinse fish and dry with paper towels. Place fish on an oiled heatproof plate that will fit in your steamer. Make 3 shallow slashes on each side where the flesh is thickest to promote cooking. Spread the fish inside and out with bean mixture. Cover with foil and refrigerate for an hour. Fill steamer with boiling water. Place plate in steamer, cover and steam until the fish is done, about 12 minutes. Add more boiling water as needed. Garnish with green onions.

  1. These are called dou chi in Mandarin, dul see in Cantonese, dau/tau xi in Vietnamese: To be found in Chinese and Southeast Asian markets. There are about a dollar for a ½ pound package. The flavor of black beans are pungent; for a milder flavor, use less of them. This flavor also works well with Mirin, a sweet cooking rice wine or even sherry.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Baked Tomatoes or Onions

Want to add another vegetable to the menu with no fuss? Bake some medium or large yellow or red onions with that other dish that you’re roasting. I put the whole onions in an oiled dish without peeling them and let them cook at 350 F, which usually works out to an hour in the oven or a shorter amount of time, if the oven is hotter. The onions steams in there own moisture and their natural sweetness make them appealing. To serve, cut them in half and lightly season.

While your at it, slice some large tomatoes in half, oil there tops with olive oil, and roast these as well for half and hour or longer until they look done. Season to serve.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Pineapple Empanadas

1 Pie crust
1 8-Ounce can Dole crushed pineapple in heavy syrup
1/2 Cup Smuckers apricot preserves
1/2 Cup course white bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon lime juice
3 Tablespoons softened butter
Tiny pich of salt
Pinch of white pepper
1 Egg, beaten with 1 t water
3 Tablespoons sugar
Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Roll out dough on a large floured surface and cut circles about 3 ½ inches in diameter (roughly 12 circles).
Cook pineapple, apricot preserves, bread crumbs, lime juice, butter, and half the syrup from the pineapples in a frying pan until thickened. Correct the seasoning. Let cool.
Making one at a time, spread a heaping teaspoon of cool pineapple filling across the center of each round, leaving a border. Fold the round in half, then pinch the edges of the Empanadas to seal and crimp it decoratively. Repeat.

Place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet, and brush each empanadas with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with sugar (you can use large crystal sugar.) . Make a small vent hole at the highest point at the center of each pastry to prevent ruptures. Bake until golden brown at 350 F

Pozole Rojo

This is a traditional Mexican thick stew from the coast of Jalisco made with pork, field corn, red chile pods, onion, garlic, and broth.
2 Cups chile colorado sauce (see recipe)
8 Cloves minced garlic
1 Quart pork stock from broiled pork neck bones, strained, defatted
4 Pounds boston butt pork roast into bite size pieces
1 Teaspoon ground Mexican oregano
1 Large white onion, chopped
Two 30-ounce cans white hominy
8 Corn tortillas, cut into strips
Corn oil for frying tortillas strips
Salt and pepper


Shredded lettuce, slices of Hass avocado, shredded cabbage, cilantro, radishes, chopped sweet onion, sliced tomatoes, crisp fried tortillas strips and fresh limes

Rinse and drain hominy and reserve. Wash pork, cut into pieces, plunge into boiling water for two minutes, rinse in warm water twice then place in large pot. Cover with  pork stock. Simmer of low for 1 ½ hour until pork is tender. Add to pot chile colorado sauce, onion, hominy. Simmer pozole 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cut tortilla into strips ½ inch wide and fry in batches in a frying pan with hot corn oil. Drain on paper towels.

Prepare garnishments of shredded iceburg lettuce, slices of Hass avocado, shredded cabbage, chopped cilantro, radishes, chopped sweet onion, and fresh limes

Correct seasonings. Serve large bowls of pozole with tortilla strips and bowls of garnisments.

Chile Colorado Sauce

Chile Colorado (sometimes spelled Chili Colorado) is a Mexican dish featuring a red sauce and tender pieces of beef. It is also used to describe a rojo sauce. Ancho, Pasilla and Guajillo chiles are typical of a rojo sauce.

2 Dried Pasilla chilies (dried form of the Chilaca chile), stemmed, de-ribbed, seeded
2 Dried Ancho (dried poblano pepper) chilies, stemmed, de-ribbed, seeded
Optional smoky dried chipotle peppers
Optional aji amarilli powder
4 Cups chicken bone broth
2 Cloves garlic
Optional, 1 White onion, minced
5 Tablespoon lard or rendered fatback
5 Tablespoon flour
1 Teaspoon vinegar
Optional 1 or more teaspoons of sugar - (see text)
Optional put two teaspoon of quality beef bouillion powder for increased flavor1

Wash then toast damp chilies on a dry hot griddle until just fragrant making sure they don’t burn and become bitter (30~40 seconds). Cover with hot water, soak an hour. Drain and discard water. Use a blender, add softened chilies, garlic and chicken broth and blend very smooth. Sieve through a fine strainer. Mince onion and sauté in lard until soft. Stir in flour, stir and cook 5 minutes on medium. Add chiles and cook 15 minutes or more. Cooking removes grainy texture. Optional put two teaspoon of quality beef bouillion powder to taste. Correct seasoning. Add a small touch of sugar (1 teaspoon) if any bit­terness is detected.

1. A beef flavor is for a more Tex-Mex version.