Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Grilled trout

I haven't grilled trout for a couple of years, for no particular reason.
It's one of the tastiest fishes out there, is very pleasant to look at, raw or cooked, is widely available, doesn't cost anything, and is easy to grill. It's even easy to eat when served whole (as compared to other fish).

The only reason I can give for not cooking trout for so long is that most of my dinner guests don't want any farmed fish, and they don't go into the details. Farmed fish is bad, period. They don't want to know that trout farming doesn't really harm the environment, and that the farmed trout are pretty happy fish, and they taste almost as good as wild, if not better.

Anyway, this weekend I wanted to grill fish, and everything in the local store, wild or farmed, looked stale, except the trout. And the trout looked wonderful. And I had R. as my only guest, and he would eat anything I cook, even if it's farmed. So this is how I did it:

Wash and towel-dry two store-bought dressed trouts. Season with sea salt and fresh-ground pepper inside and out. Pick 4 sprigs of rosemary, wash and towel-dry them. Slice 1 lemon.
Place a few lemon slices and a sprig of rosemary inside the fish, and a lemon slice and a rosemary sprig outside. Tie with kitchen twine. Brush with olive oil.

Preheat the gas grill to 400 degrees.

Grill ove indirect heat 7 minutes per side, turning once.

Serve with sharp scissors to cut the thread, a heirloom tomato salad, a bowl for thread and bones, and a mojito (or a glass of California Sauvignon Blanc).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Beef skewers with mushroom pilaf

It's fall here, and this means the weather has to get bad on weekends. It's still sunny and the 90'es over the week, but Saturday comes and it starts raining.
Now I'm really sorry that I came back from Maui.

It rained this Saturday, so the trails in the hills got all muddy, and we couldn't go for a hike. So as soon as the rain stopped, we went to San Rafael downtown, to have an espresso and to go for a walk afterwards.

The main street was closed to traffic, and there were crowds, music, and delicious smells. We parked a couple of blocks from the event, and went to see what it's all about. It was BBQ and Blues Festival. The blues musicians competed on two stages, set at the opposite ends of the area, and there was a large span in the middle where you could actually hear both bands at the same time. And between the stages, huge southern barbeque grills, barbeque carts and barbeque vagons were making grilled corn, sausages, chicken, pork, and beef roasts, and filling the area with dense, wonderful smelling smoke. We sampled a few, and ordered the one we liked the best, a tri-tip roast sandwich from Jake's BBQ.

Unfortunately, the piece we sampled was the last one of a batch, and it takes about an hour to slow-roast a tri-tip. We didn't mind the wait. We hung there, drunk wine and beer, watched people, talked to Jake, and inhaled the barbeque smell. The next tri-tip roast was ready just as I was getting tired of hearing two bands at once.

So we got our tender medium-rare tri-tip slices on a sandwich roll, with "medium-hot" sauce that I could barely eat without crying. And to reward us for waiting, Jake gave as a jar of his dry rub. He also shared his roasing technique: toss the tri-tip in the dry rub, sear it over direct heat on both sides, then move it over indirect, and roast slowly to 120-125 degrees for rare or 130-135 for medium, about 1 hour. Slice against the grain.

I used Jake's dry rub for these beef kabobs: cut beef sirloin into 1 in cubes, tossed them with the dry rub, let sit for about an hour (meanwhile prepared the pilaf and heated the gas grill to about 400F). Threaded the meat on skewers, brushed with light olive oil, grilled, turning three times, about 9 minutes.

Garnished with Farmers Market heirloom tomatoes (I am researching colors and textures for my next food styling class, so the tomatoes have to be of at least two varieties), and tiny rosemary sprigs. Served over mushroom pilaf, to celebrate the Fall.

Mushroom Rice Pilaf

serves 2

2 Tbsp light olive oil
1 medium or 1/2 large onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
8 medium white mushrooms, coarsly chopped
2 Tbsp dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled
1/2 cup frozen baby peas
1 cup Basmati rice
2 cups hot water
6 drops black truffle oil (optional)
salt, pepper

Heat the oil in a large deep pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, sautee till the onion becomes transparent and starts to turn golden. Add the chopped mushrooms, frosen peas and dried porcini, add a little salt and pepper, turn up the heat to medium-high, stir until the liquid released by the mushrooms and peas evaporates. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the water, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Add the (optional) truffle oil, adjust the seasoning, fluff the pilaf with a fork, and serve.

Monday, September 14, 2009

September Market

Hello, dear readers!
For a reason that I don't understand myself I did come back from the beautiful Hawaii, and I owe you a post about food of Maui and Moloka'i. It's coming, it just takes a while to process all these pictures.

Meanwhile, I am back to my California life, and that includes going to the Farmers Market every Sunday. This is the best time of the year in the market. We have heirloom tomatoes at their best, Italian fennel, roasting pimenton (sweet peppers bred for thick flesh and smooth shape, so that they are easy to fire roast), figs, apples, and pears, various greens, including fava shoots and broccoli flowers. I had to restrain myself from getting wonderfully fragrant chanterelle mushrooms because they didn't fit into our dinner plan in any way, but I got ono fish fillets (for poke to relieve my Hawaiian nostalgia), sun-dried silky palm seaweed (to add to the poke, but it also turned out to be very tasty on its own, eaten out of the bag); and R., when he caught the smell of ripe guava fruits, went right to the stand and was not able to leave until we bought a few.

Fig and prosciutto salad
serves 2
2 cups mixed greens (baby lattuce, arugula, pea shoots, broccoli flowers, etc.)
1 fennel root, thinly sliced
1/2 cup walnuts
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt, pepper
8 Mission figs, halved
8 slices prosciutto, torn

Combine the greens, the fennel, and the walnuts in a salad bowl. Dress with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper, toss. Scatter the figs and prosciutto pieces on top.