There are few things I love more than a hot, steaming bowl of spicy, Sichuan Mapo Tofu. I always knew when my dad was making mapo tofu because the smell of fresh popping peppercorns would cause a coughing fit in our household. Mapo tofu is a Chinese comfort food composed primarily of ground pork, soft tofu, and lots of Sichuan spices. Served over a bowl of rice and you have a perfect senses-clearing meal. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category
Last week Chow.com sent me a recipe for a beverage called “Lucky Tiger.” I found the recipe rather timely considering I’d just returned from a trip to Southeast Asia, visiting Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
While in Thailand my travel buddy and I came across something called a “Lucky Buddha,” only this was no cocktail.
No, my friends, it’s the ol’ one-two punch trickeroo often used to dupe unsuspecting tourists. Let me layout the scenario: (more…)
As some of you know, about 9 months ago I decided to start this blog, SF Tao of Pao. I’ve always liked eating out, going out in the city and staying active and send friends recs on a regular basis. After about 5 friends asked me to start a blog they could use as a resource, I finally started to give it more thought.
One night while out with a couple friends in the Mission, we happened upon Regalito Rosticeria. I was taken back by the clean, authentic Mexican flavors, attention and care paid to putting out high quality dishes, and laid-back, intimate ambiance. That night I decided – more people need to know about this place. My companions for the evening and I brainstormed about potential names and the sub-categories of “Pao Chow”, “Pao Sip”, and “Pao Fit.”
I worked on the blog for a month, deciding which platform would best serve my needs, banking entries so I’d have a ready repository of reviews to pull on and garnering a bit of PR. A month later I launched the blog, not really expecting it to turn into anything other than a place to document my main passions in life: eating well, exploring and living well and healthily. I featured Regalito Rosticeria as the focal point of my first of two entries of “Mexicanitos” in the city: http://sftaoofpao.com/2009/10/24/mexicanitos-part-1-regalito/
Nine months later I’m a bit taken back by how much has transpired. From starting to write a SF Burger column for the Examiner (click here) to being connected with chefs, restauranteurs, ranchers, butchers and other food-related people, it’s really picked up. My most recent gig is with SF Station as a contributing food writer. It seems like I’ve come almost full circle, deciding to highlight Regalito’s chef, Thomas Pena and a couple of his tasty, pozole and costilla de puerco recipes for your enjoyment. Click here for the full review and recipes. I promise you’ll be salivating by the end.
Am really looking forward to see where this adventure takes me next, but one thing I know for sure. I will be full by the time I get there.
Recently my friend David had a large dinner party where the main event was one of my all-time favorite foods: STEAK. Determined to introduce him to the world outside of Russian Hill, I took David on a shopping trip to Rainbow Grocery for produce and up the hill to Bernal Heights all-women owned butchery shop, Avedanos, where we stocked up on multiple cuts of beef. Avedanos prides itself on offering hard-carved, locally-raised, antibiotic-free meats. Put those gender stereotypes aside – this crew of women knows how to wield meat cleavers, hack-saws and boning knives with the best of them.
Chateau Briand, filet mignon and ribeye were the choice cuts of the day and we also picked up one of the largest red onions I’ve ever set eyes on. Thanks to a recent dinner at Globe restaurant, where grilled red onions accompanied a perfect medium rare ribeye, I just had to have one to complement the evening’s beef tribute.
With the evening’s main event decided upon, the next natural question focused on sides. Baked potatoes, Point Reyes Blue Cheese salad and root vegetables quickly made the menu cut. For my contribution I opted for a popular crowd-pleaser: Pao’s Baked 4-Layer Mac &Cheese.
A bit of history about my relationship with cheese…Given my half-Asian roots, the diet I embraced growing up did not incorporate significant dairy. As such, for years it was hard for me to eat cheese without feeling a bit ill. Yet when I hit college, I decided my need for calcium demanded an increasing tolerance of dairy, and slowly started adding it into my diet. Years later, you can generally find anywhere from 3 to 4 different cheeses in my fridge at any time. The accompanying mac & cheese recipe pays homage to my love of cheese, creaminess, a slight punch of spice and just general baked goodness. I substituted rigatoni for regular macaroni for a heartier version of the dish. Liven it up with a touch of bacon and you’ve got the perfect accompaniment to an American meal.
Pao’s 4 Layered Baked Mac & Cheese
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes (prep and cook)
Note: you will need a heavy-bottomed pan for making the cheese sauce. The bigger the pan, the better. Also recommend a large casserole dish. If you want to make this for fewer people, you can half the recipe but leftover mac-n-cheese is always in high demand.
- 1 lb pasta (rigatoni, elbow macaroni)
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 4 cups whole milk
- 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili powder depending on your taste palate
- 4 cups grated white cheddar cheese
- 4 cups grated mild cheddar cheese
- 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
- ½ red onion – sautéed in olive oil, seasoned with salt, chili powder and ground pepper
- ½ cup Italian style Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 pack frozen peas – thaw in bowl of cool water before adding
- Optional: 6 strips thick-cut bacon. Cooked and then chopped into small bits
1. Fill large pot with water and place on high heat. Add teaspoon of salt.
2. Once water comes to boil, add pasta. Boil for 8-9 minutes or till al dente. Drain in colander and rinse with cool water. Set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter large casserole dish; set aside
4. Melt butter in heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat.
5. Whisk in flour and cook about 1 minute, make sure to constantly stir so the mixture does not get clumpy.
6. Pour in milk one cup at a time, whisking continuously for about 8-10 minutes or until mixture is uniformly smooth and thick.
7. Add white cheddar, mild cheddar and sharp cheddar cheese. Stir until cheese is fully melted into mixture. Season with salt, pepper and either cayenne pepper or chili powder.
8. Add in cooked pasta and coat well with cheese. Fold in peas.
10. Optional step: if you opted for bacon, cook in a pan in its own fatty juices. Cut up bacon into small bits and fold into pasta mixture.
11. Pour mixture into buttered casserole dish. Top evenly with grated Gruyere and bread crumbs.
12. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 30-35 minutes. Keep warm in oven for 5 minutes. Check dish to ensure there is a crusty, browned top.
Forget your diet for the evening, break out the stretchy, elastic-waisted pants and let yourself indulge in this crispy, creamy, multi-dimensional dish sure to Pao Wow a room of guests.
Mary had a little lamb. Then I came along and slaughtered it. With a hacksaw. And cooked up the different lamb body parts in a week-long lamb feast. Apologies up front to any vegetarians who are reading this article. As a matter of fact you may want to close your browser; this post is not for the faint of heart. You know who you are: the ones who cringe at the thought of touching raw meat, seeing a drop of blood, or having to focus on unusual body parts for more than a few minutes. Luckily, I am not one of those people.
“Scary” Food and Activities Feels Like Home
Growing up I had a smattering of uncommon sightings in the Pao Kitchen: whole fish (head, eye, tail) you name it, we ate it. One giant pig leg, which my dad would chop with a cleaver to make my favorite dish: stewed pigs feet – yummy gelatinous, fatty, fall off the bone meat. Squid balls, fish balls, thousand year-old egg, quail eggs, chicken feet, cold thinly sliced pig ear. The list goes on and on and the point is that this exposure prepared me for only two emotions at my first butchery demo focused on lamb: enthusiasm and curiosity.
Hank Shaw – Hunter, Forager, Teacher
Hank Shaw was our guide for the day. A little bit about Hank. Hank is not some blogger who falls into the forgettable sea of online contributors. Hank differentiates himself as a hunter, angler, gardener, forager, cook and butcher. His refrigerator alone holds more diverse wild game than you can find at BiRite or Avedanos.
In Hank’s own words, “I write. I fish. I dig earth, raise plants, live for food and kill wild animals. I drink bourbon, Barolo or Budweiser with equal relish and wish I owned a farm. But most of all I think daily about new ways to cook and eat anything that walks, flies, swims, crawls, skitters, jumps – or grows.”
Oh, did I mention Hank has been nominated for two James Beard awards and has accomplished all of this working out of his home in Sacramento? Yup, baller. Hank is knowledgeable, informative, and humble even though he could easily boast about not having bought meat for months since he just goes out in the forest, hunt an animal, skins it, butchers it and cooks it. But bragging is not Hank’s style…yet one more another reason to love him.
I found out about the butchery demo in SacTown through my Bay Area Blogger group started by Stephanie Stiavetti. One Saturday morning a few girlfriends and I piled into the car to head up the 80 freeway, eager to begin the four hour butchery lesson with a small group of other meat enthusiasts.
Equipment for the day? Hank recommends a variety of knives: a filet knife (usually more flexible, good for fish or helping to cut those finer pieces of meat), hacksaw (yes, the type you buy at Home Depot to cut through iron pipes), boning knife, and a cleaver. If you want to skip having to kill, bleed, skin and gut, just stop by a butchery shop to buy a lamb. Hank bought our 57 lb baby from a local shop in Orangevale and had them split the lamb in half so he could demo one side of it, and let us take a stab at the second half (pun intended).
Tricks of the Trade
Our lamb was a bit larger than normal, but considering we had to split the rewards between 12 people, bigger seemed to be better. Before beginning the demo, Hank reminded us that “Every body butchers differently. Butchery is a very personal thing.”
The day was full of helpful tips like making sure that we “worked from the extremities in – it makes it easier to work with, more compact” or the group’s personal favourite, that the whole point of butchery was to “free the meat.” I liked this concept that meat is a prisoner and by cutting through we were in a sense, setting it free.
We were encouraged to look for the joints and use gravity to our advantage with butchering. If you hit bone, you should stop for the most part and cut along it, working with the animal instead of against it. Exceptions to this are when you’re parting out the animal or finishing a cut with a hacksaw, as I did with a lamb shank.
My first experience with a hacksaw was exhilarating to say the least. It’s about 1-2 feet long with jagged edges. You have to handle it with confidence but also treat the tool with respect. Remember to keep the hacksaw at an angle and use a push and pull motion, allowing the saw to do the work, careful not to employ too much force.
The demo allowed us to cut up pretty much every part of the lamb. Shank, leg, tenderloin, regular loin, vertebrate, shoulder blade, even lamb belly. Lamb belly was one of the more delicate cuts and a smaller more flexible knife was used by my friend Christina to cut along the seam and “free the meat.” Lamb belly can be used in sausage, pate, as fajita meat, or even cured as bacon…mmmm lamb bacon.
The most popular cut among our group was the lamb tenderloin, which we were warned NOT to cut into given its intrinsic value. To cut tenderloin, use a more flexible boning knife and go up to the vertebrate. Use the knife to lightly slice right below the vertebrate, almost like a painter using his paint brush to lightly detail a piece of art.
Watching Hank cut up the lamb leg was one of the most captivating moments of the day. The front lamb leg is not attached to the main body by any bone so you use gravity and seam butchering to separate it from the main carcass. Hank pushed his finger between the leg and the body in search for a bubble looking film that resembles saran wrap. One graceful slice through the seam with a small boning knife and you can basically pull the leg apart from the body with just a bit of force (beware: bone-cracking sounds will accompany this part).
What about the ribs? Use a hacksaw or cleaver to chop off the rib rack. Cut off the sternum, the rounded bone at the top of the ribs, which keeps them joined together. The sternum is a great bone to use in soup or stock given its fatty quality.
One thing you want to be careful to avoid when butchering lamb is the silver skin. Silver skin is connective tissue and has a silvery quality to it. There is no reason to keep this so try and cut it out.
Now What? Cook that lamb!
The hard part is over, the animal has been broken down, the scraps set aside for sausage and the pieces cleaned up. What about cooking lamb? As experienced, there is no shortage of options.
Lamb loin is a great piece for roasting – usually taking about 90 minutes after seasoning and marinating. If you’re crunched for time, rub the loin generously with salt and pepper then cook it in a heavy pan or skillet. Put the fatty side face down on medium heat. The fat will render out and the side should get a bit crispy. “Kiss it” on the other side with a quick sear and serve medium rare with a buttery sauce. For the sauce sauté garlic, shallots, sage, thyme, rosemary in white wine or alcohol. Burn off the alcohol a bit and then add heavy cream and butter. Let the unctuous sauce thicken up and then spoon over the loin.
Do a slow, low heat braised roast of the shoulder blade. Even better, you can stuff lamb shoulder with just about anything, rolling it up and then tying it down with some string. Ideas for stuffing ingredients include shallots, fresh herbs like sage and rosemary and morels – a nice meaty mushroom that will suck up all those lamb juices.
If you have shanks, you’ve got to braise them. Season generously with salt and ground black pepper. Use a heavy pan and pour in a few table spoons of olive oil. Add the shanks and brown them for 10-12 minutes. Set the shanks aside. Add a chopped red onion, one head of garlic – sliced, several whole dried chile peppers for a kick of spice, rosemary, a bay leave, and thyme. Sauté for 3-4 minutes in olive oil. When the mixture starts to cook down, pour in about a cup of white wine, and then add ripe red tomatoes. Put the shanks back in the pan and add 3 cups of chicken broth. Allow the liquid to come to a fast boil, then remove from heat and put in the oven for 2 ½ hours at 325 degrees. The lamb should be tender and fall off the bone easily.
Other Lamb Bits
One word: sausage. You can buy a meat grinder for under $100 at different house ware shops. Hank chopped up several handfuls of lamb bits and combined them with a hunk of pure pork fat (can we say tasty?). Put that into a meat grinder then massage in a head of finely chopped garlic and some Greek herbs. Use real meat casings to stuff the sausage and voila! You have just made your first sausage.
Don’t let anything go to waste! Use those bones as a base for a stock or soup. I added water to my vertebrate and other bones, and then added a bay leave, spices, some pasta and a fresh bunch of herbs.
Spring time is here and you know what means. Colorful blossoms adorn shrubbery throughout the city, allergy season is in full swing, girls have packed up the winter wear and are busting out the sun dresses, and more importantly seasonal spring vegetables are announcing their arrival in CSA baskets, farmers markets and local grocery stores throughout the city.
Inspired by the different sets of produce, the girls of Farm and a Frying Pan and Sodium Girl opted for a “spring seasonal” theme for the latest monthly blogger dinner. Jillian and Christina prepared the tasty main dishes:
1) Asparagus and sweet pea risotto
2) Grilled prawn skewers with a chilli-flake and herb seasoning
Jess put on her baking apron and served up a healthy and irresistible Rhubarb & Berry cobbler that showcased her creative skills; evidenced by a rather resourceful substitution of limeade and ricotta cheese for milk when she realized she forgot to grab it at the store. That Jess Goldman…she is one smart and healthy cookie.
Baking and dessert-making are not my strong suits; I leave those skills to my older sister who can whip up a homemade strawberry baked Alaska or crumbly coffee cake faster than I open a box of powdered brownies. As such, I opted to contribute another side dish of roasted asparagus with shitake mushrooms and fresh ricotta cheese topping.
Right now is the optimal time to purchase asparagus as its high season is February through June. Asparagus comes in different forms, white, purple or traditional green. For this recipe I opted for two bushels of the traditional green, and ensured that my selections were bright, fresh and firm. These spears have a lot of health benefits: the vitamin E helps fight Type II diabetes, A & C are good cancer defenders, folate helps ward off heart disease and potassium can assist in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Considering that I eat a lot of red meat, it’s always good to diversify up the diet with some healthier vegetable options.
My other main ingredient was a handful of shitake mushrooms. You can purchase dried shitakes (which you would need to rehydrate before adding to the dish) or fresh ones at pretty much any market. We definitely went with fresh shrooms for this dish. Shitakes have an earthy quality that pack both a punch of flavour as well as multiple health benefits. Their compound lentinan helps to lower cholesterol, protect your body against cancer, and beefs up your immune system. The more “meaty” mushroom also has a smooth texture that soaks up seasonings and sautés like a sponge.
Roasted Asparagus & Shitake Mushroom Recipe:
Two bushels of asparagus
15-20 fresh shitake mushrooms
5 cloves of garlic
½ cup white wine
3-4 table spoons unsalted butter
Fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley and tarragon (1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 plastic tub of ricotta cheese (surprisingly a low sodium cheese!)
Salt (optional – we skipped the salt given that Jess cannot eat sodium but use to season if you like)
1) Finely chop fresh herbs and garlic. Add to mixing bowl.
2) Add white wine, olive oil, lemon juice to bowl.
3) Melt butter and add to bowl.
4) Add pepper and salt according to taste
5) Mix all ingredients well in bowl
1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2) Chop off course ends of asparagus. Arrange on baking sheet in a single layer.
3) Slice shitake mushrooms (3-4 slices per mushroom) and arrange at end of asparagus spears.
4) Brush sauce and herb mixture generously over asparagus and mushrooms.
5) Roast about 12-15 minutes until tender.
Remove from heat and place on large serving platter. Spoon fresh ricotta in heaps over top and then Pao Chow it up!
I am heading to Oro Valley, Arizona this weekend to celebrate the marriage of two San Francisco friends. Albeit any run-in with authoritative immigration officials, the weekend should be a relaxing few days of sunshine, Pilates, desert hiking and of course celebrations!
Whenever I head out of town for a weekend getaway, I’m always faced with the challenge of a near empty fridge and still needing to cook a healthy, tasty dinner for myself. I do not want to make a trek to the local market just to stock up on perishable goods that will turn bad by the time I return from my escapade. As a result, the last day or two before my trip usually results in 1) Dining out at a favorite local spot 2) Playing the “What’s in your fridge?” game and creating a new recipe.
As I peered into my fridge last night, the challenge was looking a bit grim:
Eggs – brown cage-free from a local farm
Mt Tam Cheese from Cowgirl Creamery – quite tasty but not exactly a main course
Parsley (and lots of it)
Half an avocado
Half a fennel bulb
Thickly cut, bone-in pork chops
I evaluated the situation, determining if I would need to bite the bullet and head to the corner market for a few more greens. Yet call it the innovative spirit (or just pure laziness) but I decided I was going to make do with what I had and come up with a satisfying dinner…And that’s just what happened.
Resulting recipes? Check them out below…They were both complementary, easy to prepare (<20 minutes) and pretty healthy. Not to mention filling and satisfying in the flavor arena.
Fresh Parsley, Fennel, Pea and Avocado Salad with a Lemon Red Wine Vinaigrette
The fennel in this salad provides a welcome crunch that helps to offset the softer qualities of the peas and avocado. Parsley assists with a lively flavor profile and the lemon vinaigrette provides a light final touch.
Half bushel of parsley – finely chopped
Half fennel bulb – thinly sliced
Peas – preferably fresh but you can also use a can of peas if out of season
Avocado – diced
Shaved parmesan cheese
Vinaigrette: 1 lemon, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, olive oil (2-3 tablespoons)
1) Chop up all fresh ingredients and combine in bowl.
2) Shave strips of parmesan cheese into bowl – quantity according to taste preference.
3) Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together in smaller bowl.
4) Combine and toss thoroughly.
Mediterranean Spiced Parsley Pork Chop
I love pork chops, so much in fact that I’ve been known to take down 9 thinly cut pork chops in a single sitting. These spiced pork chops are easy to prepare with a quick sear on each side followed by a bake in the oven to seal in all those meaty juices. Recommend buying pork chops with a bit of fat in them as they will cook down slightly.
Thicker cut pork chops (bone-in preferred as it adds another layer of depth)
½ cup parsley – finely chopped
1) Ensure pork chops are at room temperature
2) Preheat oven to 425 degrees
3) Rub one teaspoon olive oil over each chop
4) Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder
5) Sprinkle Mediterranean spices on each side of pork chop (I’ll admit, I bought a pre-made Mediterranean spice mix from a local store but you can make your own using spices like thyme, marjoram, coriander, cumin, paprika)
6) Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in sauté pan over high heat
7) Add pork chops and sear on each side for about 4-5 minutes
8) Last minute in pan, add few tablespoons of parsley to cook down in oil, stir over pork chops
9) Take pork chops, oil, and parsley and place in oven safe baking dish
10) Bake for 10-12 minutes at 425 degrees
11) Remove from heat and let rest for a few minutes. Serve with salad!
Last week was round 2 of the San Francisco cooking “club” with Jillian and Christina of Farm & a Frying, and Jess of Sodium Girl. You may remember my Pao Chow post introducing the evening’s theme of bold, spice-filled Moroccan cuisine (http://sftaoofpao.com/2010/03/23/moroccan-feast-with-foodie-friends/).
We parsed out the menu between the four of us. Jess produced a hearty vegetable couscous and savory lamb dish with matching cucumber yogurt topping (sodium-free of course). The girls of Farm and Frying Pan served up agave nectar sweetened Moroccan tea (Christina has cut out refined sugar from her diet of late) and homemade pita bread with Meyer lemon hummus.
For my offering, I opted to make a homemade chicken tagine. I found an amazing chicken tagine recipe in the Los Angeles Times a couple years back, when I called the City of Angels home. I kept that recipe for years; and after multiple uses, you can imagine how frayed its edges became, not to mention the multiple douses of Moroccan spices and sauces that adorned its face. A few apartment relocations later and I’ve unfortunately lost the recipe, but I remember most of it and have matched it up with a couple others to produce an updated 2010 version.
The key to any tagine is the abundance and availability of spices and lots of lemons. Ideally, you’d like to use preserved lemons for the strong lemony flavour that characterizes Moroccan food (you can make these easily by storing the lemons, juice and salt in a mason jar – check out Jillian’s recipe – http://www.farmandafryingpan.com/2010/03/preserved-lemons/). For our challenge though, salt was not an option so just make sure you have good quality citrus (I used Meyer lemons), quarter them, and add them to your tagine stew. If you are lucky enough to have a Moroccan tagine (round clay pot with a conical cover through which steam escapes, helping to slow cook the stew) use it! Otherwise any large pot should work for the recipe.
- two to four cloves of garlic, minced
- olive oil for pan-frying chicken and mixing marinade
- one whole chicken, parted out and make sure to leave the bones in – they add a lot of flavor, cut into serving sized pieces
- half teaspoon black pepper
- half teaspoon ground ginger
- pinch of saffron (fresh saffron is always best but remember not to overdose, saffron has a lot of flavour in just one of its red tendrils)
- one teaspoon cumin
- one teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons turmeric (use this according to your taste, I like turmeric and it’s burst of bitter flavour so I sometimes add more)
- one stick of cinnamon or a few pinches of ground cinnamon (optional)
- half bunch of cilantro – finely chopped
- two white onions, diced
- two cups chicken broth or stock (or water)
- one cup green olives (we left these out given the salt content but normally I add them to a tagine)
- two preserved lemons, quartered
- salt, to taste
- 1 red bell pepper – diced
- 2 medium zucchini – diced (this is a good substitute for green olives if you are leaving them out for sodium reasons; zucchini provides a similar texture to the dish)
- Mix 2 cloves minced garlic, some black pepper, and a spoonful of oil. Rub the chicken with the mixture and set aside for a few hours or overnight.
- Mix spices (pepper, ginger, saffron, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne pepper) in a bowl.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan. Sprinkle half of spice blend over chicken to flavor. Fry the chicken until all sides begin to brown. Set chicken aside on a plate.
- Add olive oil to tagine or pot. Add onions and remaining minced garlic. Add rest of spice blend. Sautee over high heat for about 10 minutes.
- Add chicken and browned bits from frying pan to pot and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Add chicken broth, stock, or water. Add olives and preserved lemons. Bring to broil. Reduce heat. Cover, but leave a crack for steam to escape. Simmer over medium low heat for 15 minutes.
- Add red bell pepper and zucchini and simmer uncovered another 15 minutes until vegetables are tender.
- Use a ladle to serve chicken tagine (with all its juices) over couscous.
Note, the longer a tagine has to slow simmer, the more its spice-filled flavors will infuse into the dish. I had leftover chicken tagine the next day and it was even better because the spices had a chance to settle into the entire dish. Makes an excellent lunch to Pao Chow in the office!
This is a healthy recipe I saw on Chow.com and modified it slightly to my taste. It’s a quick and easy meal that takes about 15-20 minutes to prepare and cook. The blend of cumin and jalapenos pack a punch of spice, that is complemented with the acidity of the tomatoes and lime juice. Mackerel has more fish oil and sometimes yields a slightly fishier taste than other options from the sea. I love this deep sea flavour but if you’re more of a mild-tasting fish fan, feel free to substitute (Tilapia would be a good second choice). Mackerel is also a bit saltier so I recommend using sodium sparingly when seasoning.
We found our Mackerel at 99 Ranch (Asian markets throughout Bay area) but you can probably find more organic selections at a fish market or Whole Foods. Just ask the fish guy to cut it up in a few different sections and to remove the fins. Be careful of bones when you are eating.
For a side dish, I opted to make a broccoli rabe sautéed with white onion, a touch of white wine, salt, freshly ground pepper and a spicy Puerto Rican vinegar sauce. Get your Pao Chow on.
4 (1-inch-thick) mackerel fillets (about 1 pound), fins removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
2-3 medium jalapeños, thinly sliced
3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
Freshly squeezed lime juice from 1 lime
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Season fish generously on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Squeeze half of lime juice onto fish; set aside.
- Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté about 1-2 minutes. Add jalapeños, tomatoes, cumin, remaining half lime and salt & pepper. Cook for 4 minutes. Remove mixture from pan and place in oven-safe Pyrex dish.
- Place mackerel pieces in pan juices. Cook on each side for 2-3 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove fish from pan and place in Pyrex dish on top of tomato/jalapeno mixture. Scrape all bits from frying pan and place over fish/jalapeno mixture.
- Place Pyrex dish in oven and bake additional 5 minutes.
- Remove from oven. Plate fish with tomato/jalapeno mixture on top. Garnish with lime slice
You may remember that a couple weeks back I cooked a huge Puerto Rican feast with Jess of Sodium Girl (http://sodiumgirl.wordpress.com/). Little did I know that this would be the first of many recurring “cooking club” dinners with little Ms. Hold the Salt Herself.
Since our first fiesta puertorriquena was such a smashing success, we decided, why not make this a regular event, and better yet, invite our other “Foodie” friends? For the next cook club installment, we enlisted the help of our sustainable/organic gurus, Christina and Jillian, of Farm & Frying Pan (http://www.farmandafryingpan.com/).
The challenge for the evening? Come up with a themed dinner dedicated to two of our favorite hobbies: EATING and COOKING.
The meal would have to be:
1) Sodium free or low in sodium (Sodium Girl requisite)
2) Include sustainable, organic ingredients (Farm & Frying Pan reqs)
3) Have bold, ethnic flavor combinations (SF Tao of Pao focus)
Thinking of what would work with these three requirements, we excitedly opted for a Moroccan-themed dinner. If you’ve been to Morocco or enjoyed the cuisine, you’ll know that the food culture centers upon the incorporation of a diversity of colorful spices like turmeric, cumin, cinnamon to name a few. Preserved lemons and olives provide a good amount of acidic bite to many a meal and meats like beef and lamb are plentiful.
I remember walking through the countryside town of Tetuan while visiting Morocco a few years back (this was also within 2 hours of almost getting launched off a camel!). I leisurely strolled down a tight cobblestone path through the main part of town, dodging chickens, local people and vendors, who were selling everything from huge barrels of olive varieties, to fresh rabbits hanging by their toes, to vibrant spices.
I came back from Morocco determined to not only eat more of the boldly flavored cuisines, but to also incorporate it as a regular offering from the Pao Kitchen. I’ll have you know, I learned how to make one heck of a Chicken Tagine in the last few years!
Back to the topic at hand though, the Moroccan Foodie Feast. The menu looks like we’ll have chicken tagine (hold the preserved lemons given the salt challenge), lamb, homemade hummus and Moroccan mint tea, not to mention a heaping amount of vegetable couscous. Look forward to the recipes in the next week!