Summer Sole

I love how bright tasting this is. I’ve made it with orzo and quinoa and both are equally good. I was originally going to make this with tilapia but I got sole instead. This turned out to be a good thing— sole is so thin, I decided to roll it up and that worked really well here. Although there is some preparation involved with the vegetables, overall the dish keeps the simplicity I was looking for. Actually, after watching a show about tiny houses— the ones built on trailer beds— I realized this would work well for a tiny kitchen: you could easily do the fish in a toaster oven and you only need a two burner stove for the rest.

Options: There are always options. I mention trying quinoa instead of orzo above. I think couscous would also be a good base. The fish could be another sort of mild, white fish. I tried this with tilapia, but I wasn’t crazy about it. I’m sure there are other fishes that will work here, so I’ll keep an eye out. Snapper? You can top the fish with some toasted Panko at the end if you like some crunch. Or maybe ground nuts. I have a nut allergy so I can’t tell you if nuts are a possibility here. What other crunchy things are there? I also want to try adding some red pepper; maybe taking out the carrots and/or the squash. If there’s asparagus around, that would be good here too. I was thinking about adding some tarragon to the parsley sauce next time; I wonder if basil would work instead of the parsley? Lots of things could be really good here.

For this four person version, you’ll need:
• Two medium or one large filet of sole for each person (cut large ones in half lengthwise)
• Two cups of orzo
• Two crowns of broccoli
• Three carrots
• One or two yellow squash (depending on size)
• Garlic (I used four cloves vegetables and four in the sauce)
• One lemon
• Two cups of parsley leaves (I don’t like the stems, so I pluck the leaves)
• Salt, ground pepper, olive oil (or other mild oil)
Optional: sea salt flakes, fresh cracked pepper

Cooking equipment I used:
• Saute or frying pan for the vegetables (I used a 12″ frying pan)
• Sheet pan lined with parchment if needed for the fish (I used a 13×18 because that’s what I have, but it could be smaller, even a toaster oven pan)
• 3 qt saucepan for the orzo

Get the oven going at 400°F.

Start with the the sauce so it can have a little time for the flavors to come together. Combine about two cups of finely chopped parsley with the zest and juice of one lemon, around a third of a cup of olive oil, a teaspoon of salt, and one to four or more garlic cloves —finely chopped or run through a garlic press. I use the zest and juice of one lemon to be economical and as many a four cloves of garlic because I love garlic and around and enough olive oil to give it the consistency of a sauce. You could also blitz it in a small food processor or one of those bullet things.

Next, get a pot of water going on high for the orzo and set your bowls on the stove to warm.

While the water’s heating up, rinse and dry the sole. On a baking sheet, with parchment paper if needed, brush the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper and sea salt flakes; then roll the fish up bow to stern and repeat with olive oil, salt, and pepper on the outside. Set the fish aside.

Then set to work on your vegetables. Get the pan warming up on medium with a teaspoon or so of olive oil and a little salt. I cut the carrots and squash into thin half-moons and the broccoli into small half-florets (you can save the stems for slaw).

The water for the orzo should be ready now, so that can go in. It usually takes around nine minutes, but go with whatever the box says.

Then saute the vegetables. I turn the pan up to medium-high and put the carrots in first for a minute or so, then the broccoli, and then the squash. If you want to avoid using a pan, you could also boil the vegetables in with the orzo by adding the carrots the last four minutes and the broccoli and squash for the last three to two depending on the thickness. When the vegetables are almost ready, add one to four of more garlic cloves—finely chopped or run through a garlic press.

Once the orzo is in and the vegetables are sauteing, the fish can have its turn in the oven. The fish is ready when an instant read thermometer says 145ºF or when a fork or knife can easily go through the thickest part. This is somewhere around seven minutes.

Do I need to say ‘drain the orzo’?

Then it all comes together in a filling little bowl. I’m thinking next time I’ll give the finished bowls an extra splash of lemon and dash of sea salt flakes before it hits the table.

Notes: For olive oil, I use Columela or Nuñez de Prado— they both have a sort of spicy flavor, for sea salt flakes, I use Maldon, and for pepper, I use the Tellicherry variety. I use table salt for anything mixed in or cooked and save the sea salt flakes for finishing or roasting. Using these ingredients adds a little extra flavor to the dish and they’re getting much easier to find now.

Copyright © 2014 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Horiatki with Pasta

This is always my first ‘welcome to summer’ recipe. Although tomatoes won’t be in around where I live until July, they are not the star here so I don’t mind using those Kumato ones. This is a definite tiny kitchen recipe: just one pot for the pasta.

Pasta options: After trying penne and some sort of short ziti, I’ve settled on conchiglie. You could try bow ties or rotelle; there’s probably a lot of fun pastas that would work here.

Other options: You could add some oregano or maybe some sliced Pepperoncini.

Time note: I usually manage to get everything chopped and ready to go by the time the pasta is ready.

For this four person version, you’ll need:
• One pound conchiglie pasta
• Half cup of mayonnaise
• Quarter cup of white wine or rice wine vinegar
• Half cup of good tasting olive oil
• One to four or more cloves of garlic
• Four or five Kumato tomatoes
• Around eight or ten Kalamata olives
• Half a small red onion
• One cucumber
• A handful of parsley
• Around three ounces or more of crumbled feta
• Fresh cracked pepper
• Sea salt flakes

Get the pasta water going; add salt if you want.

Then get a big bowl, big enough to hold all the pasta and the rest of the stuff. I have three white mixing bowls that nest together, I use the largest one.

In a two cup Pyrex measuring cup, add the mayonnaise. Slowly add the vinegar while stirring, then slowly add the olive oil while stirring. Run as many cloves of garlic as you like through the garlic press ( I used four big ones) and add to the mixture. Add pepper to taste. Set aside.

Cut the tomatoes into a small dice. Put them in the bowl and sprinkle with sea salt flakes. Cut the olives into a small dice and add this to the mayonnaise mixture. Next cut the red onion into a small dice and add this to the mayonnaise mixture. Skin the cucumber and cut it in half; with a spoon, remove the seeds, then slice into strips and cut into a medium dice. Put these in the bowl around the tomatoes. Finely chop the parsley and add it to the bowl.

When your pasta is done, run it under cold water to cool it. Once it’s cooled, add it to the bowl and mix together. Then add the mayonnaise mixture and combine, and then add the feta and mix until just combined.

Put in your bowls and serve with? In my house it’s water with lemon.

Notes: For olive oil, I use Columela— it has a sort of spicy flavor, for sea salt flakes, I use Maldon, and for pepper, I use the Tellicherry variety. I use table salt for anything mixed in or cooked and save the sea salt flakes for finishing or roasting. Using these ingredients adds a little extra flavor to the dish and they’re getting much easier to find now.

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Hoisin Tsukune with Cabbage

If my mother saw me eating this, she would scream. When I was a kid, none of my food could touch. Sometimes we would have Swanson’s TV dinners and one section would invade the other; she would have to cut all of the mixed stuff out. And even then, I wasn’t happy because the molecules had been in contact. This was one of the first bowls I did. It was originally a bento box and I wondered how it would taste together. I was super surprised that I liked the combination, especially the rice and the cabbage salad. This is another recipe that can work in a tiny kitchen: you only need one burner —or a rice cooker—and a toaster oven for the meatballs.

Meatball options: I have been using ground chicken breast. I seem to like the kind of mild flavor here, but you could really use any kind of ground meat— pork, turkey, even tofu. I’m also thinking about swapping out the scallions for chives or chopped spinach.

Rice options: I used basmati when I took the picture because I’m trying to use up a ridiculously enormous bag I bought at an Indian market. I usually make it with short grain sushi rice, but I would really be happy with any rice— even brown rice. I also think quinoa would be a good option.

Cabbage salad options: This can really be anything. I used savoy and red cabbage, but green cabbage or napa or any cabbage you want will work. I have been adding carrot and scallions, but you could really use a lot of different things: peppers, radish, what else? kale?

Sauce options: You can use store bought hoisin sauce to coat the meatballs if you have one you like. I used to have one I liked, but it disappeared, so now I make one that is a little more tomatoey than most traditional ones. You could also add peppers or Sriracha to the sauce to take heat level up.

Time note: The meatballs take me around 10-15 minutes to make and then 25-30 minutes in the oven. Everything else comes together while the meatballs cook— unless you use a rice cooker, in which case the rice can take around 50 minutes.

For this four person version you’ll need:
• Around a pound to a pound and a third of ground chicken breast
• Two cups short grain white sushi rice
• Half cup or so of Panko
• One large egg
• Tablespoon or so of grated ginger
• Eight scallions
• One to four or more garlic cloves, depending on taste
• Toasted sesame seeds
• Four cups finely shredded Napa cabbage
• One cup finely shredded red cabbage
• One large carrot grated
• Rice Vinegar (around a half cup, plus two tablespoons)
• Two tablespoons of toasted sesame oil
• Half a cup of ketchup or chili sauce
• Quarter cup of soy sauce
• Two tablespoons of brown sugar or honey
• Two tablespoons of rice vinegar
• Two tablespoons of orange juice (if you have it around)
• Tablespoon of Canola oil (if cooking rice in pot)

Cooking equipment I used:
13×18 sheet pan for meatballs (or toaster oven pan)
Pot for rice—I used a 3 quart saucepan, or rice cooker

Get the oven going at 400º F and then start on the meatballs— unless you’re using a rice cooker, then get the rice going first. In a large bowl, beat the egg. Finely mince three scallions (white to light green parts) mince or run through the garlic press one to four cloves of garlic depending on taste (I used four) and mince or grate a tablespoon or so of ginger. Add all of this plus a half cup of Panko to the egg. Now I get my sheet pan out and put it next to the bowl. Add the ground chicken and mix everything together. I usually make the meatballs around two inches diameter, giving me around fourteen meatballs. They’ll spend about 30 minutes in the oven to get brown.

If you’re doing the rice on the stove top, get the pot going on high and mix one tablespoon of canola oil and two cups of rice in the pot stirring for a minute to coat the grains before adding three cups of water. Bring to a boil and then cook on low for 20 minutes.

Now get the cabbage salad ready. Finely shred (I used a little hand-held mandolin) around four cups of Savoy cabbage, put in a large bowl, and coat with around a half cup of rice vinegar. Finely shred around cup of red cabbage and add that, then grate a large carrot and add that, then finely slice three scallions (white and light green parts) and add that, tossing after each addition. Then finely slice the two remains scallions on a diagonal and set aside to garnish. Toss in two tablespoons of toasted sesame oil. Set the salad aside but keep tossing it every few minutes while you make the sauce, tasting once or twice to see if it needs something more. Sometimes I add a little sugar, sometimes I add some red pepper flakes.

I usually make the sauce in a two cup Pyrex measuring cup. Combine two tablespoons of brown sugar or honey with two tablespoons of rice vinegar to dissolve and then add around a half cup of ketchup or chili sauce, around a quarter cup soy sauce, and around two tablespoons of orange juice (I only add this if I have it around). Taste it to see if you want to add more soy sauce or whatever.

By now the meatballs should be done. In a bowl, toss the meatballs until coated with however much sauce you want. Then you can layer the rice, cabbage salad, meatballs and top with scallions and toasted sesame seeds. I try to pause for a moment her to appreciate how cool it looks before I dig in.

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Spring Salmon with Asparagus

The only part of this recipe where measure matters is for the rice and even there I haven’t found the need to be too precise. Perfect rice is perfect for you: add more water, less water, more salt, oil, a bay leaf, a chopped onion. In time, you’ll have a lot of perfect rice. I like baked brown rice— it turns out with a little more bite left to it. This also works well if you are roasting the asparagus since you can make double use of the heat your oven worked hard to get. I do try to make extra rice since it is so useful for so many things— even plain for a quick snack. But sometimes everyone is really hungry and the only thing left is a small prize of rice scrapings for whoever is cleaning the dishes. If you need to adapt this for a tiny kitchen, you can do the rice and salmon on a two burner stove and the asparagus in a toaster oven.

Asparagus options: If I am using medium to thick asparagus, I roast them. These seem to really like being roasted and will thank you with a smoky sweet flavor. If I have the thin asparagus, I trim their woody ends, leave them whole and drop them into boiling, salted water for two minutes at most and then run them under a bit of cold water and onto a kitchen towel. Then they would be strong enough to merrily jut out of the bowl and you could eat them by hand, dipping them in the sauce as you go. It’s always fun to use your fingers. If you can’t find asparagus, you could try broccoli or broccolini or any other greens.

Salmon options: I have been seeking out wild Sockeye, King, or Coho salmon because they have the deepest color. I’m not sure what goes on with farmed salmon, but they look like I do after a long winter—pale. Some even have natural color added. Something added is never natural. What color was it before? I would rather have a smaller piece of a salmon that lived the salmon life. And here you don’t need a big piece. I might try arctic char the next time.

Rice options: Instead of brown rice, you could use white rice, quinoa, couscous, or some sort of small pasta.

Sauce options: Greek yogurt has been finding its way into more of my cooking all the time, but I used to use mayonnaise and there are probably other things that would work well. Regular plain yogurt would be fine. The herbs could be anything: dill, tarragon, basil….

Time note: If you do the baked rice, it will take about 10 minutes to prep and boil the water and 50 minutes in the oven. Everything else will come together within that time. I usually manage to clean up the kitchen and check messages, email, etc. while things are cooking.

For this four person version, you’ll need:
• Around a quarter to a third of a pound per person for the salmon
• 3 cups of medium grain brown rice
• Two bunches of asparagus
• Plain Greek yogurt (small 5.3 oz.)
• Around a quarter to a third cup each of finely chopped chives and parsley— save some chives or parsley to garnish.
• Around 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
• Salt, ground pepper, olive or canola oil
Optional: sea salt flakes, fresh cracked pepper

Cooking Equipment I used:
• Frying pan for salmon (I used a 12″ pan for four pieces of salmon)
• 13×18 sheet pan for the asparagus
• Anchor Hocking 11 cup covered baking dish or 9×13 baking dish with foil to cover for the rice
• Four cup Pyrex measuring cup for boiling water

Make sure there is room in the oven for the baking dish with the rice on the top shelf and the baking sheet with the asparagus on the middle rack and get the oven going at 375º.

Next, get the rice going. This is my big, hoping for leftovers portion, but you can cut it in half or thirds:
• Mix 3 cups medium grain brown rice and 3/4 tsp table salt in the baking dish
• Bring 4 2/3 cups water to a boil in a pot or microwave in a four cup Pyrex measuring cup (it will  fit the extra 2/3 cup) or other microwave safe bowl.
•  Add the boiling water to the rice
• Stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil
• Cover and bake for about 50 minutes.

Once the rice is in, put the bowls on the stove to warm up and cut up the asparagus. I usually cut them on the bias (just because I like the way they look and it doesn’t take any more time here) in roughly 3 inch pieces. Discard (or compost) any really woody ends. Toss with a little olive oil. Spread on a baking sheet, sprinkle with sea salt flakes, and put them in the oven with the rice for the last half hour. When you take the rice out, move them up to the top rack and broil for a few minutes to get some nice brown spots going if you want.

Now make the sauce. Mix the Greek yogurt, or any plain yogurt or mayonnaise, with a handful of fresh minced chives and parsley. You can also try adding mint. Or maybe some tarragon could work. Squeeze in enough lemon juice to get the taste and consistency you like (I’ve been using around two tablespoons) and add a dash of salt and a little fresh ground pepper. Set it aside to let the flavor come together.

When the rice has about fifteen minutes left, set a pan or a griddle on the stove and let it get good and hot. Prepare your salmon: rinse, dry, remove any bones, season with a little table salt and ground or fresh cracked pepper. Sear the flesh side, turning after it releases from the pan and has a little crust to it; I don’t find that I need any oil here, I just have to wait for the pan to let it go after a few minutes. Sear the other side a few minutes and let the skin crisp up, someone at the table will probably love a side dish of crispy salmon skins. Turn the heat down and let it finish cooking, anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes depending on how thick it is and how done you want it to be. Sneak a peek with a sharp knife if you’re not sure. I always do this because I’m never sure. When the salmon is almost done, take out the rice and move the asparagus to the top rack and broil for a few minutes.

It’s ready. Remove the skins from the salmon if you want. Or leave them on. Assemble your little bowl with as much or as little as you want. Top with a few chive batons if you’re in the mood.

Why a bowl? You can use any kind of dish, but I like a bowl. I like to cup my hand around the bowl while I’m eating to share a little of the food’s warmth with my hands. The best part is at the end: holding the bowl helps you get every last bit out.

Notes: For olive oil, I use Columela— it has a sort of spicy flavor, for sea salt flakes, I use Maldon, and for pepper, I use the Tellicherry variety. I use table salt for anything mixed in or cooked and save the sea salt flakes for finishing or roasting. Using these ingredients adds a little extra flavor to the dish and they’re getting much easier to find now.

Copyright © 2014 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Lemon Polpette with Spinach

I never thought I would like meatballs with lemon in them, but over the years I kept seeing recipes putting lemon in meatballs, so I thought I would give it a try. Now I hardly ever make any of my other standard meatball recipes— recipes that took many moons to perfect. Although there is some preparation involved with the meatballs, overall the dish keeps the simplicity I was looking for. Actually, after watching a show about tiny houses— the ones built on trailer beds— I realized this would work well for a tiny kitchen: you could easily do the meatballs in a toaster oven and you only need a two burner stove for the rest.

Options: The lemon goes really well with spinach and probably other greens too— maybe chard or kale. I’ve been alternating between two sauces: one is Marcella Hazan’s classic with the onion and butter— which I won’t put here since it’s easy to look up— and the other is a kind of basic sauce with a little wine kick. These meatballs are all beef, but you can make them with a combination of beef, veal, and pork, or you can make them with ground chicken or turkey— maybe even tofu. I’m using 90% organic grass-fed beef because I think it has the most tender texture and a really clean beef flavor. I also make this with a panade of crusty Tuscan bread soaked in milk, but you could substitute with Panko, bread crumbs, or saltines. I usually make this with gemelli pasta but I could only find strozzapreti this time. Any pasta could work here; wagon wheels could be fun.

Timing note: It takes me about 10-15 minutes to make the meatballs and then they take around a half hour in the oven. Once the meatballs go into the sauce, I like to let them simmer for 20-25 minutes, but you can skip this step and have the meal done in less than 45 minutes. I usually check email or clean up while they simmer.

For this four person version, you’ll need:
• Around a pound and a third of 90% lean organic grass-fed beef
• One pound of gemelli pasta
• Large slice of Tuscan or Italian bread (around 1″ thick)
• A half cup or so of whole milk
• One large egg
• One tablespoon each of lemon zest and juice (or more, or less to taste)
• Garlic (I used four cloves in the meatballs and four in the sauce)
• Salt & pepper
• Olive oil (or other mild oil)
• Small yellow onion (or half a large one)
• Half cup of red wine
• 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Organic)
• 8 oz fresh baby spinach (or other greens)— save a few leaves to garnish
• One teaspoon crushed rosemary
Optional: fresh cracked pepper, Parmesan or Romano

Cooking equipment I used:
• Saute or saucepan (I used a 3 qt All-Clad lidded saute pan)
• 13×18 sheet pan for meatballs (or toaster oven pan)
• 4 qt stock pot for pasta and spinach

Put a rack in the upper third and get the oven going at 400ºF.

Start with the meatballs.  I like this recipe best when I make a panade with a large slice of crusty Tuscan or Italian bread in milk. If you want to do this, you need to get this going first. In a small bowl, break the bread into small pieces and add about a half cup of milk and then use a fork to kind of smush the bread and milk together; you’ll need to keep coming back and smushing it while you work on the other stuff. You may need to add more milk. If you don’t want to use bread, you can use a half cup of Panko or bread crumbs or even eight smashed-up saltines. You can soak these in milk or just add to the rest of the mix dry.

Next, line your sheet pan with parchment or foil if needed. In a large bowl, beat up one egg. To this you add around a tablespoon of lemon zest, around a tablespoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of crushed rosemary, minced or pressed garlic (I ran four cloves through the garlic press last time I made this but you may want to start with one), and around a teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Add the bread mixture or crumbs and the meat and mix everything together. Now you can make the meatballs. I have been making them a medium size, around two inches giving me 16 meatballs. If you are doing this in a toaster oven, you will need to make 8 larger meatballs. Once you have them done put them in the oven. They’ll take around twenty-five, maybe thirty minutes to get nice and brown.

Set your bowls on the stove to warm.

Next up is the sauce. As I mentioned before, I’ve been alternating between Marcella Hazan’s classic sauce and this basic one. In a large saute or saucepan (you’ll need room to put the meatballs in later if you want) add a few tablespoons of good-tasting olive oil and get that warming up on medium while you finely chop a small yellow onion or half of a large one and add to the oil. Turn the heat up to kind of sizzle but not brown the onions. Add a teaspoon of salt. Finely chop or put through the press however many cloves of garlic you want (I used four again). Add the garlic to the onions and saute until the onions are sort of translucent. Now deglaze the pan with a half cup of red wine and let it reduce to about half. Then add one 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. You can taste it now and see if it needs more salt or some pepper. If you think you want more sauce, you can add a 14.5 oz can of tomato sauce. Let this kind of simmer/bubble on medium/low with the lid slightly ajar.

When the meatballs are done, add them to the sauce.

There’s a little bit of a lag here depending on how you want to do this. I like to let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for 20-25 minutes, so I usually don’t start the pasta water until the meatballs go in the sauce. I use the time to clean up the prep area or go through the mail, whatever.

So, depending on your timing— gemelli usually takes 12-13 minutes— once the meatballs are in the sauce, get your pasta water started on high, salting it if you want, and get out the colander. Also get the spinach out. When the pasta is three minutes from finished, add the spinach, mixing it with the pasta as it wilts— if you try kale or chard, they may need an extra minute. You could probably add the spinach to the sauce— and I may try that— my worry is it will make the sauce taste bitter.

Once the pasta and spinach are drained, it’s ready. You can top with some Parmesan or Romano or both. A friend mentioned maybe goat cheese or feta. I’ll have to warm up to that idea a little bit. I guess fresh basil too— that wouldn’t clash with the spinach, would it? I’ve been garnishing it with a few fresh spinach leaves.

Notes: For olive oil, I use Columela or Nuñez de Prado— they both have a sort of spicy flavor, for sea salt flakes, I use Maldon, and for pepper, I use the Tellicherry variety. I use table salt for anything mixed in or cooked and save the sea salt flakes for finishing or roasting. Using these ingredients adds a little extra flavor to the dish and they’re getting much easier to find now. I also use grass-fed organic beef all the time now— the flavor, and especially the texture, are better.

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved