Tag Archives: quick

Cod in Parchment

A friend brought up a good point the other day.  This is a horrible time of the year to have to give something up for Lent.  Winter has us feeling defeated — with almost a foot of snow the other day after spring started to tease us.  Illness has us down — I’ve been sick with a cold virus (which led to a sinus infection, bronchitis, and an ear infection) for three weeks.  And maybe it’s not the time of the year, but politics and the news have me feeling pretty low.  I attempt to not get too political here (I had some pseudo-stalkers who didn’t like my politics on my old blog), but let’s just say that Republican governors who think it’s a good idea to propose 50% funding cuts to public universities are on my shit list.  Some people invest and innovate through a down turn.  Here in Pennsylvania, we slash, burn, and build more prisons.

Part of the cuts to our university have the potential to decimate our College of Agriculture.  This comes at a time when research on feeding the world using sustainable methods is more important than ever.  So I guess if I were to give up something for Lent (which I won’t because I’m a heathen), it would certainly not be the college that represents, and innovates in the top industry in our state.

Beyond, I think about my grandfather, who grew up on a farm and had a tractor business.  He never went to college.  And yet, through the availability of state-funded and regionalized public higher education, he was able to put my dad through college.   My dad started out as a teacher and went on to become a local businessman which allowed him to put me through college and a masters degree program at public, land grant institutions.  My siblings and I (and all of our spouses) graduated from public universities. My husband and I work at a public university (me not so much anymore).  My in-laws taught at a public university.  My mom, sister, and sister-in-law have degrees in education from public universities — my sister is a teacher at a public school and my sister-in-law works at a public university.   Without subsidized public higher education, where would we be?  I am not saying that any one of us is changing the world.  But I do know that we are educated citizens and productive members of society who contribute in positive ways.

And I might not remember how to conjugate all of the French verbs, but I do know that being exposed to the academy changed my worldview in a profound way.  At a time of economic and global turmoil, we need more, not fewer, educated citizens who are capable of challenging their own worldviews.  Education did not get us into this budget mess — our funding has been steady or decreasing for years.  But we realize that education will have to accept cuts to move forward.  Let’s just make sure that we are not cutting off our nose simply to spite our face.

“Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail.  What you gain at one end you lose at the other.  It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail.  It won’t fatten the dog.”  ~Mark Twain

Cod in Parchment

Since I was knee deep in education, rather than food, I should add that this is a perfect dish for those giving up meat for Lent.  It is also great for kids, as each person can customize what is in their packet and the surprise factor of opening it up at the table is always popular.  Feel free to use other flavorings, vegetables, or anything you have on hand!

Serves 4-6

1 1/3 pounds of Wild Cod (or similar mild white fish)
1 potato, peeled and sliced paper thin
1/2 of a large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 of a lemon, thinly sliced (remaining half used for juice and zest)
1/2 of a large carrot, grated or in ribbons using a vegetable peeler
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
6-8 large green olives, sliced
4-6 sprigs of fresh oregano, stemmed and chopped
Parchment Paper
4-6 T white wine

Herb Butter:
4 T butter
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
3/4 t salt
1/2 t Smoked Paprika
Freshly Ground Pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cut fish into 4-6 somewhat equal servings.  Cut parchment paper into 4-6 pieces that are roughly 13 inches by 13 inches.

2.  Make herb butter by combining butter, zest, garlic, salt, Smoked Paprika, and pepper.  Set aside.

3.  Take one square of parchment and make the first layer with several slices of the paper-thin potatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Top with a piece of fish seasoned with salt and pepper, then a few onions, some tomato slices, carrot ribbons, and a dollop of the herb butter. Place one or two lemon slices on top of that along with some chopped fresh oregano and a few green olives.  Drizzle with a bit of lemon juice and about 1 T white wine (per packet).  Gather up parchment into a purse, attempting to avoid any gaping holes for steam to escape.  Tightly tie the packets shut with kitchen twine and place on a baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining fish.

4.  Bake packets for about 18-20 minutes until you see them starting to bubble a bit. (You can cheat and open one up if you are unsure if they are done.)  Place each packet on a plate and open at the table.

Crispy Calamari Chopped Salad

Mark Bittman has me thinking again.  He has a way of doing that.  After reading his latest NYT piece, “Chop, Fry, Boil:  Eating for One, or 6 Billion,” I once again realize that people who like to cook have a way of making things way too complicated for those who don’t (Bittman is not one of those people). We teach using recipes, when we should actually be teaching with models and systems.  Whenever I talk to someone about cooking a meal, it’s always the same complaint:  “I can usually follow the recipes, but I have no idea how to pull the meal together and time things correctly.”  And that’s the problem  — getting a handle on the bigger picture is truly the hardest part of cooking when you are learning.  But recipes don’t help with this unless they are written in a “non-mise en place” manner.  (For the non-French speaking, mise en place means simply to have everything in its place and ready to go — chopped, toasted, sauteed, etc. — before cooking.)

So, my plan for the next few weeks is to teach 7 basic meals using a systems focus.  We will talk about soups, curries, pizzas, salads, rice and beans, tacos, and stir fries.  The goal is to give you a meal for each day of the week that you can confidently play with using the ingredients you have on hand.  The meals will be cheap (less than $15 to serve 4 people), easy (done in 30-60 minutes), healthy (whole grain and light on meat), family friendly, and flexible for many types of ingredients.  Because once you know the method for a stir fry or a hearty soup, you can rework it endlessly and never get bored with it.  And the “recipes” may not look like my normal ones (and may seem longer because of it).  I will try to focus on listing the ingredients, but not indicating how to prepare them in the ingredients list (e.g. I won’t write “2 onions, finely chopped”).  Instead, I will work the preparation into the directions so you can save time by chopping onions while water is coming to the boil, etc.  Mise en place is necessary for a restaurant kitchen, but it’s not always realistic for the home cook who is trying to get dinner on the table while doing third grade homework with children hanging off his/her legs.

I think by giving you models and showing you how I would actually cook a meal like this with logical instructions, rather than recipe notation, you can increase the repertoire of meals you cook on a regular basis and start to cook based on intuition rather than following a recipe word for word.  And when you get to that place, I can almost guarantee that you will begin to enjoy cooking more because it becomes an expression of creativity and more of a challenge.  So, our first recipe in the “Cuizoo Arsenal” is a Crispy Calamari Chopped Salad.

A main course salad like this needs only a few components:  salad greens or cabbage, some protein (fish, chicken, beans, or tofu all work), extra chopped veggies, some nuts or seeds, fruit or cheese if you like, and a dressing.  Use the veggies that you have, or the ones that your family loves the most.  We like chopped salads with a creamy dressing, but feel free to use a vinaigrette too.  Making your own dressing takes all of 1 or 2 minutes and is so much more flavorful and healthy than a bottled variety (Here’s my recipe for Balsamic Vinaigrette which you can leave as is or tweak with herbs, mustard, etc.).  In this salad, I lightly fried our calamari, but it would be equally good sauteed or grilled if you don’t feel like frying.  And this easily feeds 4-6 people for less than $15.

Variations I could easily envision would include a Leftover BBQ Chicken Salad with greens, thawed corn, avocado, tomatoes, Jack cheese,and a creamy cilantro dressing; a Turkey, Dried Cranberry, and Pecan Salad with greens, carrots, celery, chopped apples, white cheddar cheese, and an Apple Cider Vinaigrette; a Vegetarian Greek Salad with greens, chick peas, roasted red peppers, green onions, feta cheese and a basic Greek Vinaigrette; or a Pizza Salad with greens, peppers, tomatoes, torn basil, some crisped prosciutto, rustic croutons, mozzarella, and a Basil Vinaigrette.  The key is to take flavor combinations that you enjoy and convert them into a salad.

I’m looking forward to this challenge and I hope it gets you in the kitchen more in 2011!

Crispy Calamari Chopped Salad

Serves 4-6

3/4 pound of calamari (squid) bodies (Not tentacles —Here’s a before and after pic)
1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds
Large bunch of salad greens (or enough to fill a large salad bowl or spinner)
1 cucumber
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes
2-3 radishes
1 lemon
3/4 cup of corn starch or arrowroot starch (or flour if you like)
Smoked Paprika (or Chipotle Powder if you want it spicier)
Salt and Pepper

Thousand Island Dressing:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup low fat plain yogurt
1 T low fat milk
1 T pickle relish
1 T finely chopped onion
1 T chopped parsley
1/4 t salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon Juice

1.  Preheat the oven (or toaster oven) to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Clean squid bodies by making sure there are no remnants of cartilage, etc. inside the pouch.  Slice in thin rings and toss with juice of 1/2 of a lemon, salt and pepper, and a bit of smoked paprika.  Let marinate while you prep the veggies and toast the pumpkin seeds.

2.  Put pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and toast for 10-12 minutes in preheated oven.

2.  While pumpkin seeds toast, place salad greens in a salad spinner or bowl to wash.  Meanwhile, wash cucumber and slice in half lengthwise.  Using a spoon, scrape out the cucumber middle to remove the seeds.  Cut the halves into quarters lengthwise and cross cut to make bite sized pieces.  Wash the tomatoes and set aside. Wash and trim radishes, quarter them, and chop into bite sized pieces.  Remove the salad greens from their rinsing water, and spin or towel dry. Tear dry salad greens into bite sized pieces if necessary and place in a large salad bowl with chopped cucumbers and tomatoes.

3.  Finely chop onion and parsley for dressing.  Make the dressing by combining mayo, yogurt, milk, relish, onion, parsley, salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper.  Thin with a little leftover lemon juice if needed.  Place in refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

4.  Preheat a large saute pan with a thin layer of olive oil in it over medium high heat. On one plate (oven safe), place a double thickness of paper towels and set aside. On another plate, mix cornstarch (or arrowroot) with some salt, pepper, and a bit of smoked paprika or chipotle powder.   Take about 1/3 of the calamari rings and dredge in the cornstarch or arrowroot mixture.  Shake off excess and lightly fry in the preheated saute pan.  They will take only about 1-2 minutes per side.  When they start to look just golden, flip them with tongs and cook about 30 seconds more. (Don’t overcook your seafood!)  Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper-towel lined plate and stick it in your still warm oven (shouldn’t be on, just warm from toasting the seeds).  Repeat with the remaining calamari until it is all fried (if you need to, add a bit more oil to the pan).  When it is done, remove the warming plate from the oven and toss the calamari with a bit of salt and more Smoked Paprika or Chipotle Powder.

5.  Assemble the salad by tossing the vegetables with most of the prepared dressing (reserving about 1/4 cup).  Mix in pumpkin seeds and either place on a platter or leave in a large bowl.  Top with Fried Calamari and serve with additional dressing if needed.