Mustard Roasted Fish from the Barefoot Contessa

Ina Garten Mustard-Roasted FishLike most people, I prefer fresh fish to be cooked as simply as possible: quickly grilled with a dollop of olive oil and salt and pepper. Covering up the subtle taste of fish in a thick sauce is no way to respect our finned friend. Unless you are a fisherman or are dating a fish monger, it is unlikely that you will be fortunate enough to find a “fresh” fish to grill. Furthermore, the lingering smell of cooked fish in an apartment complex is roughly equivalent to mildewed workout clothes in a gym bag.

When our mercury levels are low, we will occasionally opt for seared tuna or swordfish, but – for the most part – we prefer to eat grilled or raw fish at a restaurant, preferably Japanese. As reported earlier, buying fish from a supermarket is courting hepatitis or worse and should be avoided. As such, I was not particularly thrilled to learn that Mamacita had bought some Branzino that was on sale at Whole Foods supermarket. (Editor’s Note: There is a reason why the stock price of Whole Foods is down over 30% this year).

Rather than subject me to the painful task of carbon-dating the age of the “fresh” fish, Mamacita had the good sense to bake the fish in a lovely mustard sauce. The recipe is from Ina Garten’s cookbook, Back to Basics.

Barefoot Contessa’s Mustard-Roasted Fish

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 (8-ounce) fish fillets such as red snapper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces crème fraiche
  • 3 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs whole-grain mustard
  • 2 Tbs minced shallots
  • 2 tsp drained capers

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425º
  2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper (ovenproof baking dish is OK).  Place the fillets skin down on the sheet pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. Combine the crème fraiche, the two mustards, shallots, capers, 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in a small bowl.  Spoon the sauce evenly over the fish fillets, making sure that the fillets are entirely covered.
  4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes defending on thickness, until the fish is barely done.
  5. Serve at room temperature with sauce from the pan over the top.

Frankly, I enjoyed it.

 

Duqqa: An Egyptian Gourmet Delight

duqqa300You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy Dakka or Duqqa, an Egyptian side dish consisting of crushed nuts, herbs and spices. There are many variations to this lovely side dish, but this particular recipe comes from The Union Square Cafe, courtesy of our good friend, Ginger B., who had the could sense to ask for it during a recent visit to USD.   It makes a lovely house-warming dish and is best served at room temperature with slices of bread or warmed pita bread.  Some of our friends will often use it to raise the taste profile of a grilled skinless chicken breast or farm-raised tilapia or catfish.  Even vegetarians are surprised that vegetables taste better when dipped in Duqqa.

Duqqa from Union Square Cafe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 cups toasted pistachios
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground fennel seed
  • 2 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp chopped oregano
  • 2 tsp chopped rosemary

Preparation

  1. Roast the pistachios, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds separately. Lightly grind the pumpkin and sunflower seeds in a food processor.
  2. Crush the pistachios with the side of a knife or a rolling pin and mix with the seeds.
  3. Dissolve the salt in the lemon juice and toss with the nut mix.
  4. Then toss the nut mixture with the fennel, coriander, and black pepper. Set aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a pan until just hot to the touch. Add the oregano and rosemary and stir til you hear it crackle.
  6. Immediately pour the oil over the nuts and mix evenly.
  7. Let the Duqqa cool to room temperature, then the wrap tightly and refrigerate.
  8. When serving allow the mixture to come to room temperature.

Used occasionally, this mixture should last three months or so.

Farewell Robin Williams

I am very sad to learn of the passing of Robin Williams.  I wouldn’t begin to speculate on the “reasons” for the depression which apparently caused him to take his own life, but I will say that his irreverent humor brought laughter and a sense of relief to millions when faced with their own angst.  

Robin had so many great roles, but – in my opinion – none better than his role as a disc jockey in Good Morning Viet Nam.

Yes, Good Morning Vietnam was released in 1987 – long after the war was over – but for many it depicted the lunacy of war seen from the perspective of the average “Joe Blow” whose life is on the line while the bureaucrats manipulate the “true” levers of power. Sorry Wikipedia, but there is no such thing as a “war comedy.”

Robin, you will be sorely missed and I deeply respect your integrity and valor. Heaven will be a better place with your sense of humor. I won’t forget you Robin.