cod poached in tomato broth

I've always been in favor of simplicity. To me, cozy nights in, snuggled on the couch with a favorite movie far outweigh a fancy night out on the town.  I will always choose a crinkled linen top and jeans over the latest designer trend. I wrap presents with brown paper and kitchen twine, not because it's the "cool" thing to do, but because I find that the gift on the inside is more important than the part that will be ripped to shreds. Such is my philosophy with food: simple cooking is better cooking. 

To me, an ingredient's integrity lies in its natural form. A carrot is best as a carrot. The less we fuss with that carrot, and the more we allow it to shine as itself, the more we will enjoy it. 

I didn't always feel this way. There was a time when I thought the more complex the recipe, the better it would taste. In an attempt to impress, I would often overcomplicate a dish with redundant ingredients, adding a little of this and a little of that, until the individual components of the dish were lost in a labyrinth of flavor. It wasn't until I starting really exploring my cooking style in culinary school -- the ingredients and cuisines that inspired me -- that I began to realize that the way I approach most of my life is also how I should approach food. That realization marked a turning point in how I cook. 

I'm here today to share a simple, yet flavorful take on poached fish -- buttery cod fillets gently cooked in a light tomato broth, flavored with herbs, shishito peppers, garlic, spring onion, capers, and red pepper flakes for a bit of heat. It's beautiful, summery, and deliciously uncomplicated. 


cod poached in tomato broth

This dish is deliciously comforting, but also light and summery. The tomato broth is flavored by fruity olive oil, herbs, and salty capers and serves as the poaching liquid for the cod, which is gently cooked until buttery soft. Everything is served together in one bowl, along with some oil-cured olives for a briny pop of flavor and some crusty bread to soak up all of the delicious broth. 

serves 4

 

ingredients

¼ cup olive oil, plus more for serving

3 spring onions, white parts only thinly sliced into rings

8 shishito peppers

2 garlic cloves, crushed + peeled

2 teaspoons salt-packed capers, rinsed

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

3 sprigs fresh parsley, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 (14.5 ounce) can high quality whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand

salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 (6-ounce) skinless cod fillets

freshly squeezed lemon juice, for serving

oil-cured olives, pitted, for serving

crusty bread, for serving

 

In a medium-sized dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, whole peppers, and garlic cloves and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and starting to brown and the peppers are slightly blistered, about 5 - 7 minutes. Add the capers, red pepper flakes, bay leaf and parsley sprigs and sauté for 1 - 2 minutes more. Add the white wine vinegar and cook until almost completely reduced, about 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, and their juice and 2 ½ cups of water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the broth is slightly reduced and flavorful. Season generously with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. 

Reduce the heat to low and add the cod fillets in one even layer in the pan. The broth should just cover each fillet. If it doesn't, cover the pan with a lid. Poach the cod, at a very slow simmer until opaque and cooked through, about 6 - 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish. Make sure to watch the pot very carefully during this stage -- bubbles should be barely breaking the surface. If the liquid gets too hot, the fish will turn rubbery and tough, rather than buttery and soft. Once cooked, remove the fillets and place each in its own shallow serving bowl. Divide the peppers between the bowls and pour over the broth, discarding the bay leaf and parsley. Garnish each bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Scatter the pitted olives and fresh parsley over top. Serve immediately with crusty bread for soaking up the delicious broth. 


roasted carrot + pine nut ravioli

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One of the things I look forward to most this time of year are sweet spring carrots. I welcome their delicate sugary snap after a long season of the bitter, trunk-like carrots of winter, and find myself incorporating them into as many meals as I can. While I enjoy them raw, dipped in a creamy hummus or simple vinaigrette, I especially love roasting them, which concentrates their flavor and sweetness. All spring long, I incorporate roasted carrots into our meals -- whether on their own, or topped with a bright herb pesto or a nut gremolata for some textural contrast. I serve them over creamy risotto, or purée them into warm, comforting soups. Most recently, I decided to incorporate them into a ravioli filling, which turned out so beautifully, I had to share it here with you.

Making homemade ravioli is definitely time-consuming, but if you do have the time, I really encourage you to try it. If you've never made pasta dough before, its simplicity will surprise you. It really is amazing what some flour, egg, and water can so easily become. 

I do hope you give this a try. And as always -- please let me know what you think. Hearing from you is what makes it all worth it. 


roasted carrot + pine nut ravioli

If you have the time, homemade ravioli is really worth the time and effort. In this version, the creamy ricotta, toasted pine nuts, and sweet, caramelized carrots work together in perfect harmony to create a filling that is rich in both flavor and texture. This is a perfect dish to make in the spring, when sweet, baby carrots are at their best.

 

for the pasta dough (makes about 8 ounces of dough):

1 cup flour, plus more if needed

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon water, plus more if needed

pinch of salt

semolina flour, for dusting

 

for the carrots + filling

10-12 small carrots, peeled + greens reserved for garnish

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

1/4 cup high quality ricotta cheese, homemade if possible

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

for garnish:

1/4 cup ricotta cheese or crème fraîche

extra virgin olive oil

coarsely ground black pepper

reserved carrot greens, roughly chopped

 

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First prepare the pasta dough: add the flour to a large work surface and form a mound. Make a well in the center, and carefully pour the egg, olive oil, and water into it (making sure it is completely surrounded by the flour). Add a pinch of salt. Using a fork, slowly incorporate the flour into the wet mixture, starting with the inner edges and working outward, until a shaggy, sticky dough starts to form. At this point, knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes, until completely smooth. Your dough should be dry enough that it does not stick to your work surface, but not so dry that it doesn't form a nice, smooth dough. If you find your dough to be too dry, add more water, a tiny sprinkle at a time. If your dough is too wet, you can also add more flour, again just a sprinkling at a time. Once your dough is completely smooth, wrap it tightly in plastic and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. On a sheet pan, toss the carrots with the olive oil, brown sugar, and a generous pinch of salt. Roast, turning once halfway through, until the carrots are tender and just beginning to caramelize on the outside, about 20 - 25 minutes (depending on the size of your carrots). Set aside to cool.

Line a plate with paper towels and spread the ricotta over it. Allow to drain for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a food processor, add the toasted pine nuts and process until finely ground. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Add 4 of the cooled, roasted carrots to the food processor and process until completely puréed (you should end up with approximately 1/2 cup of purée). Add to the mixing bowl with the pine nuts, along with the drained ricotta cheese and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste.

Unwrap the pasta dough and cut into quarters. Lightly dust a large work surface with semolina flour. Starting with the widest setting on a pasta roller, pass the first piece of dough through the rollers. Decrease the width of the rollers by one notch, and roll the dough through again. Continue in this method, decreasing the width by one notch each time, until you reach the second to thinnest setting (number 8 on the Atlas machine). Lay the rolled sheet of dough on top of the semolina flour-dusted surface. Roll the remaining 3 sheets of dough and arrange them side by side over the semolina flour (do not allow them to overlap, as they will stick to each other). 

To form the ravioli, spoon 2 teaspoon mounds of filling on the first sheet of dough, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Using a pastry brush, or your finger, lightly brush around the filling with water to moisten the dough. Carefully lay another sheet of dough on top of the first sheet, using your fingers to press out any air pockets that form around the mounds of filling. Using a small biscuit cutter (about 2 1/2-inches in diameter), cut around the mounds to form small, circular raviolis. Pinch the edges of each ravioli to make sure they are completely sealed. Place the formed raviolis in one layer on a plate dusted with more semolina flour. Repeat this process with the remaining 2 sheets of dough. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Liberally salt the water and add the ravioli. Cook until just tender, about 2 - 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the ravioli from the water. 

To serve, spoon a large dollop of ricotta cheese (or crème fraîche) on each plate. Arrange the ravioli and a few of the reserved roasted carrots over top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with coarse ground black pepper and a few chopped carrot greens.

 

yield: approximately 14 - 15 raviolis; serves 2 - 3

citrus + fennel winter salad

citrus + fennel winter salad

This salad is so simple, yet so good that I've already made it twice this week. Its flavors are clean and bright, making it an especially nice pairing with the otherwise heavy, slow-cooked dishes of the winter. Better yet, it will be on the table in just around 15 minutes, including the time it takes to toast the nuts. I find that macadamia nuts are really worth using here -- they have a rich, toasty sweetness that other nuts simply cannot replicate. You should be able to find them in the self-serve bins at any specialty market. 

The best thing about this salad is how versatile it is. If you have leftovers and are looking for something a bit heartier, like I was the other day, try adding some chopped Tuscan Kale and a spoonful of tahini to the dressing. Enjoy!

ingredients:

1/2 cup whole macadamia nuts

1 white grapefruit

1 blood orange

1 small bulb of fennel

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the macadamia nuts in a single layer on a sheet pan. Toast in the oven, shaking the pan periodically, until browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Once cool, chop coarsely.

While the nuts are toasting, cut the top and bottom from the grapefruit and rest it on end. Run a sharp knife down the sides of the fruit, starting at its top and following its curve to the bottom, to remove the skin and pith and expose the fruit. Once you have completely removed the skin, cut the grapefruit into supremes by slicing into the fruit in between each membrane, until you've removed all of its segments. Squeeze the leftover membrane into a bowl to catch any juice and reserve. Repeat process with the blood orange.

Remove the fennel tops from the bulb. Reserve a few fronds for garnish and discard the stems (or save for vegetable broth)! Using a mandolin on its thinnest setting, slice the bulb into fine shavings. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons of the reserved grapefruit juice with the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

In a large bowl, gently toss the grapefruit and orange supremes and fennel shavings. Dress lightly with the vinaigrette. Garnish with the chopped, toasted macadamia nuts and fennel fronds.

golden tilefish + mushrooms en papillote

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On our last day of culinary school, we picked numbers out of a bowl. The numbers would determine the menu we would be making for our final that day, and the time at which we would present. I unfolded my little white slip to reveal a "B2", written boldly in thick black ink. I would be making striped bass en papillote and pate a choux. I would be presenting first. Time starts now.

As luck would have it, I chose the better of the two menus. The alternative, a consommé and poulet grand-mere, consisted of seemingly endless components, and time would be much tighter for those students. Our fish, on the other hand, was relatively simple to prepare, and even more simple to present. There was no plating, no garnishing. Each package would be placed on a plate, left for each judge to open himself.

My tomato fondue and mushroom duxelles bubbled on the stove as I fileted my fish, dragging my filet knife across its bones just as I had practiced. I prepared my vegetables: cutting them into tiny toothpicks that I would later cook gently in butter and a splash of water. I cut my parchment paper into hearts, just like I had learned, as my pate a choux quietly puffed in the oven, just like it was supposed to. The unbearable nerves I had felt earlier that morning gave way to confidence and a sense of serenity. I was doing what I loved, and I was doing it well.

As I slid my golden, puffed packages from the oven two minutes before service, I felt a surge of pride. And, as I watched my judges rip the paper open in a puff of steam, I knew that everything I had worked for in those past months had paid off. It is a feeling that I will always associate with papillotes, and it is one that I hope I will never forget.


golden tilefish + mushrooms en papillote

Cooking en papillote is a classic French technique that involves steaming within a sealed parchment paper package. It is incredibly simple to prepare, but makes for a really special presentation. In this recipe, I took inspiration from the classic French fish en papillote that I made while in culinary school, which consists of a mushroom duxelles, tomato fondue, and fish that is topped with julienne carrots, leeks, and celery cooked a l'etuvee, a sprig of thyme, and a splash of white wine. To simplify things a bit, and to add some texture, I skipped the duxelles (which is really just finely minced mushrooms sautéed in butter and shallots), and sautéed large pieces of the mushrooms in butter and white wine. And, instead of the vegetables, I topped my fish with a large dollop of herbed butter, which melts beautifully while cooking to leave a pile of steamed herbs above the fish.

 

for the mushrooms:

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

6 oz assorted mushrooms, roughly chopped (I used a combination of shiitake, enoki, and shimeji)

1/4 cup white wine

salt

 

for the compound butter:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely minced

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely minced

1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely minced

1 teaspoon lemon zest

salt + freshly ground black pepper

 

for the papillotes:

2 pieces parchment paper, about 16-in x 13-in in size

10 oz golden tilefish, cut into 2 5 oz skinless filets (or other white, lean fish like monkfish or grouper)

salt + freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons white wine

1 egg white, lightly beaten

oil for brushing

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large sauté pan over high heat, add the butter and oil. Once the butter has melted, add the mushrooms. Sauté mushrooms, moving them very little, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the white wine and cook until the liquid has completely evaporated, 1 - 2 minutes longer. (It is important there is no excess liquid, as it will make the papillotes too wet when assembled). Season with salt to taste, remove from heat, and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the butter, tarragon, parsley, dill, and lemon zest. Mash with a fork to fully incorporate the herbs into the butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Place an empty sheet pan in the oven to preheat while you assemble the papillotes: fold one piece of parchment paper in half. Cut a half heart in the folded paper, so that when you unfold the parchment it will be in the shape of a full heart. Lay the heart open on a large working surface. Spoon half the mushrooms in a small pile on one side of the heart, about 1-inch from the crease. Top the pile with one of the fish filets and season with salt and pepper. Top the fish with a generous dollop of the compound butter (about 1 heaping tablespoon) and drizzle 1 teaspoon of white wine over the top. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush all along the edges of the heart with the egg white. Fold the heart in half, folding the empty side of the heart over the fish, and press the edges together to seal. Brush the top of the sealed edges with more egg wash, and starting at the top of the heart, make a series of short folds around the heart to seal. When you reach the end, fold the excess paper under the package. Repeat process with second piece of parchment. Bon Appétit has a great how-to video and step-by-step photos of this process here. (they don't use egg white in the video, but I highly suggest you do, as it helps to seal the package effectively). Brush the tops of both packages with a light coating of oil (this just prevents the parchment from burning).

Carefully remove the preheated pan from the oven and place both packages on it, side by side. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 11 minutes. After 11 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and use scissors to snip a little hole in the crease of each package. Return the pan to the oven for 30 seconds - 1 minute longer (this step is optional, but it will allow for a nicer presentation, as the bag will stay puffed when out of the oven). Remove the pan and carefully transfer each package to a plate and serve immediately.

*(Ripping open the package to reveal the fish and all of the delicious aromas is the best part, so make sure to save that part for after you've sat down to the table)!

 

Yield: 2 main course servings