seafood


Even though I’ve never had a chance to eat at his restaurant, Eric Ripert is one of my favoritest chefs ever. Ok, so what I know of him is only from his television appearances – as Anthony Bourdain’s buddy on “No Reservations”, as a judge on various “Top Chef” episodes, and as a curious chef touring the world on his own show on PBS – but doesn’t he just seem like such a nice and easy-going guy who oh look, also happens to be one of the top chefs in the country??! Let’s hang out, Eric! (Before you mock me too much, let me point out that I even know of a few men who have what can only be described as “man crushes” on Eric Ripert. So there!)

Alright fine, so maybe I won’t actually get to hang out with Eric Ripert any time soon. But I got a copy of his book (thanks to the contests over at Serious Eats – yay!) so it’s almost as good, right?? Given the reputation of Le Bernardin though, I was pretty skeptical about whether any of the dishes in the book would be doable at home. I was imagining recipes asking for seafood I’ve never even heard of, so fresh that they’re still wiggling around, and exotic, crazy ingredients you have to mail-order from France. Thankfully, flipping through the book, we did manage to find a few that are totally doable at home, especially if you’re willing to make some substitutions. This scallops dish is one of them – we opted to use sea salt instead of ‘smoked viking salt’.

Say no to smoking vikings, I say!

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Seared Cod with Fennel Ragout

Wow, is it really the end of September already? That means, Nathan and I are getting married in less than month — yikes! Panic time!

Ok, I exaggerate – we’re actually doing pretty good as far as planning goes, so there’s really no need to panic. But you’ll still have to pardon me and my very-likely leave of absence from blogging once we get even closer to the wedding date, and then definitely when we’re on our honeymoon. But we’re going to Spain, possibly one of the best places in the world for eating, so I hope to come back with lots of delicious stories and pictures.

In the meantime, even though I don’t have much extra time for flipping through my cookbooks and scouring my favorite blogs to hunt down new recipes, I have some very lovely friends who will do the work for me. This one comes to us by way of my good friend and former roommate Ms. Laura. I was contemplating a strategy for this head of fennel sitting in the fridge when all of a sudden, my IM window popped up with a message from Laura telling me she just made this awesome recipe from Epicurious. Now, if that’s not divine intervention, I don’t know what is.

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Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp

I have to admit that when I first saw this recipe, I was skeptical. I mean I’m all for simple and quick foods, but this? This looked beyond simple – so far beyond that I doubt it can be anything but meh.

But then I saw it mentioned again, not once but twice, by two of my favorite bloggers no less. Luisa over at The Wednesday Chef called it a ‘minor miracle’ (!) and all Molly over at Orangette would say was that it was so perfect she’s still thinking about it. Really, can just throwing broccoli and shrimp in the oven really be that good? The only way to know is, of course, to try it for myself.

The result? Well, let’s just say that I recommend some slight amendments to your schedule tomorrow: cancel your dinner plans, run by the market on your way home, make a giant pan of this, and proceed to laugh maniacally at how you must have cheated the cooking gods by making something so amazingly delicious in less than half an hour.

So yeah, it really is that good.

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I’ve been making these Vietnamese summer rolls (or spring rolls, whichever you prefer) a lot lately. I first had a craving for them on a particularly hot day since it requires minimal stove time and makes for a refreshing light dinner. Besides, Nathan had bought a bag of frozen shrimps for a Thai curry or something, so I saw it as my duty to help clean out the freezer.

Then just last week, my lab was treated to a celebration dinner at Incanto, one of my favorite restaurants in the city, where we got to partake in a Whole Beast Feast. The whole beast in question was an 85 lb piggie and needless to say, it was both delicious and unforgettable. But as it turned out, our lab eyes were way bigger than our lab stomachs, leaving us with box after box of leftover roast pork. Vietnamese spring rolls come to the rescue again, as I substituted shredded roast pork for shrimp.

Finally, just today while looking for a snack during housecleaning, I stared into a fridge that I’m trying to clear out before our Boston trip next week. I spotted a random piece of fried tofu left over from a round of sandwich making, and that became Vietnamese summer rolls round #3.

Before I forget, thank you to my former roomie Kim for teaching me how to make these!

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Crab-Scented Risotto

A few weeks ago, a bunch of friends from work decided to get together for CrabFest 2008. A similar event was held in 2007 and it was such a success that people kept wondering when we would hold the 2008 version. If you remember though, we had a silly oil spill here that coincided with the usual start of crab season, so us crabby folks in the Bay Area have had to wait a while before we can feast on our local crawly friends, making us extra crabby. (Ha! Oh yes, I just went there.)

If you’ve never been to a crab-eating party, what I can tell you is that the aftermath is not pretty, no matter how delicious the crabs were (and ours were quite excellent). There are crab shells everywhere and you tend to find random bits of crab meat in your hair or on your clothes. The home of the host inevitably smells like crab for a few days afterwards and let’s just say there’s a reason you don’t see many advertisements for crab-scented home fragrance.

But wait, there’s a silver (red?) lining to this crabby cloud! If you manage to leave the party with a little pile of crab shells (I like to take 3-4 of the big body pieces since no one really chews on those), you can go home and make yourself a big pot of crab stock. On a lazy night, you can cook up some somen noodles, heat some stock up, add soy sauce to taste, and have yourself a bowl of crab noodle soup for dinner. On a not-so-lazy night, you can make a crab-scented risotto like this one. Of course, you can put actual crab meat in the risotto too – just stir in cooked crab meat at the end.

(ps: Did you spot my oh-so-subtle method to make you jealous in the photo above? Ooo! Look at us! We ate at a fancy restaurant!)

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Is it weird that I’ve never gotten a flu shot?

I’ve lived 30 years of my life with the explicit mission of getting poked by as little number of needles as possible and it’s done me pretty well so far. But last week, I started to wonder if I need to reconsider my stated mission. Not that I’ve kept track, but looking back, I think I have gotten the flu every time I start to see flyers about getting your flu shots. Hmm…

When I was little, every time I would get sick, my parents would make me eat giant bowls of really bland noodles in a clear soup with a few chunks of fish floating around – what I dubbed ‘sicky noodles’. Even now, when I see ‘fish soup with noodles’ on any menu, I associate it with sickliness and avoid it at all cost. (“Why not order something with taste instead??”)

Unsurprisingly, being sick makes me not want to cook. Well, not much anyway. While I still can’t bring myself to cook ‘sicky noodles’, I have started to believe in the power of jook (or congee, or rice porridge, whatever you want to call it). Jook is probably on the comfort food list of every Cantonese person — even my sister who hated jook when she was young now craves it every so often.

So last Thursday, since I was just laying on the couch feeling miserable, I decided I might as well be useful and babysit a big cauldron of jook I can have for dinner. Jook is easy but takes quite a bit of time – when you’re down with the flu, though, time is something you’ve got plenty of.

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Would you eat a fish that’s blue?

The other day when I was at the Asian market, I randomly decided to be a good Chinese girl and attempt to steam a fish at home, Cantonese-style. If you’ve ever eaten with my family (or any Cantonese family), you already know that steamed fishes are one of these standard dishes that everyone born in Hong Kong is pretty much required to love. (If you don’t like steamed fish, you bring shame to the family!!) You start eating steamed fishes with the adults pretty much the same time you start to eat rice (instead of mushy rice porridge). By the time you’re entering elementary school, you’re already picking through tiny fish bones like an expert and you’ve already figured out which parts of the fish you like the best. For the record, my favorite parts are the collar area, the skin, and the air sac (yes, you can eat it). To this day, every time my parents visit, they insist on taking my sister and I to a nearby Cantonese restaurant to eat steamed fishes because they know we don’t make it at home. Well…I’m about to prove them wrong!

The art of selecting the right fish to steam has always been a mystery to me. So, standing in the midst of all the options at the seafood section of Sunset Super, I decided to call my dad. He recommended anything in the ‘cod’ family that ‘looked fresh’. Avoid ‘carp’, although it wasn’t clear to me why except my dad made a gross noise when I told him they had carp there too. How can a fish ‘look fresh’? From what I could gather, it means the skin is still shiny, the eyes are still clear not cloudy, and it general ‘looks good.’

Once I got off the phone, the fishmonger started trying to sell various fishes to me, including this blue fish. By ‘blue fish,’ I do not mean a fish with a blue price tag or even blue skin – the flesh of this fish was actually tinted electric blue! When I asked the guy why it was blue, all he would say was ‘It’s good for you! It’s like vegetables! The more colors, the better!’

Hmm. Interesting.

Rounding up all the science I’ve learned in grad school, I quickly decided that 1) fishes are, in fact, not like vegetables and 2) blue fishes are too sketchy even for me. And I eat the air sacs!

In the end, I took home a cute little 1.5 lb black cod with clear eyes. Sorry to steam you, little cod! But you certainly were quite delicious! (For those with issues with eating things that’re looking back at them, you can also steam fish steaks or fillets).

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