Sunday, April 28, 2013

Whole Branzino with Roasted Tomatoes

If I could dispel any food myth, it would be that cooking fish is more finicky than cooking chicken breast or steak. I think fish tends to get a bad rep as being 'bland' or difficult to properly cook, and much of that most certainly has to do with the often poor selection of fish at regular grocery stores. Can you relate to buying fish  from the store and it smelling -- well, fishy!

Fresh fish really shouldn't.

It should smell like the salty water it came from. My way around this is to first and foremost to always tell the manager of your local fish department if this happens they are aware of the issue. Forming a relationship with your fishmonger is not only a great way to ensure you'll get the best service, but also a great way to learn about new ways to prepare seafood.

In my home kitchen, I like preparing a whole fish every once and a while. It may seem daunting if you've never tried making this at home before, but I assure you, it's a completely doable task, even on a busy weeknight. When buying a whole fish, make sure the fish doesn't have cloudy eyes (that's the first sign that it isn't fresh) -- its eyes should be clear. The flesh of the fish should look healthy and plump and the fish should smell like the ocean. If you have a little bit of a trek to make with your fish before taking it home, make sure you ask for a bag of ice so the fish stays nice and cool. You can also ask your fishmonger to scale and gut the fish -- it saves on prep time and means the fish is ready to go. I like to simply bake a whole fish in the oven with a few simple herbs and lemon -- and in this case deliciously sweet roasted tomatoes!

You'll know the fish is ready when it falls off the bone, or, in other words, when it's easy to remove the spine. If the bones are sticking to the flesh, the fish needs a few more minutes in the oven, Once you do this a couple times, you'll quickly get used to the process and be able to tell if the fish is ready. Like so many things in cooking, practice really does make perfect. When the fish is cooked though, you can really easily peel off the skin (with a small pairing knife or by simply pulling it off). With the fish on its side, you can then slice along the backbone with a sharp fileting knife to free the fillet. Once the backbone is removed, the second fillet will almost come off on its own.

These roasted tomatoes might be the star of the show though -- as they bake, they become incredibly sweet and plump -- a real treat, especially when topped with a little fleur de sel. I serve the dish with crisp green beans with a drizzle of olive oil, but a simple salad would be lovely as well.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Outdoor Entertaining Essentials

Although it snowed a little in Toronto yesterday (snowed!) I'm in full planning mode to setup my balcony for the warmer months. Last year, we planted tomatoes and a bounty of herbs -- and these will be making a full comeback this year! I'm also thinking of adding an array of succulents and pastel roses to the mix, I couldn't imagine not having this outdoor oasis --- it really adds to the vacation feel of a space.

My indoor hues revolve around greys, yellows and soft whites, but my outdoor decor is where the colours come to play. I'm loving patterned plates for a whimsical outdoor atmosphere, and some pastel-coloured cutlery. Paper straws are also a must for outdoorsy drinks, as is a bright and cherry carafe. Vibrant blues, playful mints and sunshine yellows are on my mind -- here are my favourites so far!

{1} Glazed Terracotta Salad Plate, West Elm {2} Foiled Dot Napkin Set, Anthropologie {3}Striped Paper Straws, Etsy {4} Ice cream Scoop, Ikea {5} Ikat Dot Napkin, West Elm {6}Ostron Flatware, Ikea {7} Melamine Plates, West Elm {8} Green Vintage Carafe, Indigo

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Chorizo and Arugula Scrambled Eggs

It you're anything like me, cooking really isn't just about the food. It's a social endeavour of sorts.I'll cook up a storm for friends and family any day of the week, but tend to shy away from elaborate concoctions when I'm cooking for myself.

Don't get me wrong, I'll indulge in a plateful of delicious cheese, cured meat and bread, or a rustic salad with a tangy dressing, but I usually keep it simple -- and quick. This dish is a new favourite I wanted to share. It's barely a recipe but just a pleasant mix of satisfying ingredients. Silky scrambled eggs cooked low and slow (none of those rubbery, overdone eggs here!), crispy chorizo & a handful of fresh arugula served on top of buttery Challah bread. {Toronto folks, the Challah bread from Harbord bakery is divine!}

I've enjoyed this for a lazy breakfast but it also makes a delicious (and easy!) breakfast-for-dinner option.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Potato Salad with Radishes, Asparagus and Capers

To say spring hasn't made its way in yet would be an understatement. But that doesn't mean your kitchen can't be ahead of the game. It's now Thanksgiving time in the Canadian Living Test Kitchen (there has been quite a lot of turkey, sides and desserts to develop and taste!) so I've been that much more eager to cook with fresh sunny products when I get back home.

For me, a vinaigrette-based potato salad loaded with veggies and colour is the best way to lighten up with the season. This one features baby kale leaves. If you haven't had these, I highly recommend them! These are more tender than adult kale leaves and a nice substitute for regular baby spinach or arugula -- they also hold up beautifully to dressing and don't really wilt or loose their shape which is nice for a make-ahead salad.

The real star of this dish, however, are radishes! When in my Parisian hometown, my mom and I often serve radishes as a simple, crunchy appetizer, enjoyed with a touch of butter and a little fleur de sel. I now love adding sliced radishes to salads - there's always something so pretty and quaint about a perfectly pink radish isn't there?
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