Not My Mama’s Catfish……

 

Spiced catfish, braised greens and cheesy grits with poblano pepper.

There are some foods in my life that I don’t eat because of past experience, poor expectations or dietary sensitivity. Cat fish falls I to the poor expectations category.

During World War II, my father was stationed in Ft. Leonardwood, MO and my mother was there. I remember during my childhood my mother talking about her experiences there. She talked about going to the farmers market and buying catfish. It was alive when she took it home in a bucket. She talked about how it was a bottom feeder and had the flavor of the muddy Mississippr river. We never had it when I was a child.

So, it was a shock when I liked it. Granted, I didn’t have to kill or filet the fish.  I think it was farm raised and the muddy taste was not there.  The grits had cheddar cheese and cooked poblano pepper added. The collard greens were braised.  The meal was above average. I do thank Blue Apron for introducing me to another new food.

Disaster, Despair, Redemption and Reveling: Chicken Tortilla Soup

 

Spicy Chicken Soup

This was supposed to be chicken tortilla soup. Things started well and then just went awry. This was a Blue Apron offering and I ended up changing it quite a bit.

As you can see, there are no tortillas slices. I burnt them.  They would have added a layer that would have cut down on the spicy flavor of the broth.  When I tasted the broth, it was just too spicy for me. I didn’t like the flavor. The broth was not thickening probably because I rinsed the cannellini beans too much. The chicken was good.  The rainbow chard and beans were good.

I ended up adding a tablespoon of tomato paste which made it less spicy. It did really change the soup.  I also added a spoonful of crème fraîche to ease the spiciness as well.

So, I have no idea how this was supposed to taste but I liked the flavors after I made my unexpected alterations.

Dinner Winner: Carmelized Meyer Lemon Spaghetti 

 

Carmelized Meyer Lemon Spaghetti

This is one of the dinners I got from Blue Apron this week.  In the past, I have not paid attention to vegetarian dishes. There have been so many past potlucks where I have eaten vegetarian dishes that have been tasteless.  As I am learning, anyone can produce tasteless food but to me it was more obvious in what I have eaten of vegetarian food in the past.

First, this dish was easy to make. Secondly, the taste was fantastic. It was normal spaghetti but the layers of flavor added to the spaghetti made it something to remember and put it into the food I will make again file.  Meyer lemons are in season in the winter and have a sweeter, more vivid taste than normal lemons. After deseeding  the quartered lemon, it was marinated with some sugar and cut into eight pieces. I had zested the rind for two teaspoons of zest.

The base of the dish was cooking the marinated lemon, three cloves of garlic,  a thinly sliced shallot and some crushed red pepper for just a bit of heat.  The smell coming up from the pan made my mouth water. The recipe called for toasting some panko breadcrumbs with a garlic clove.  I added the cooked pasta to the lemon mixture with some butter, the lemon zest and some pasta water and mixed it all up.

When I added it to the plated dish, I topped it with the toasted bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. It was like music in my mouth.  The lemony pasta with a hint of sugar and garlic topped with the crunchy toasted breadcrumbs.  The Parmesan added especially to the great smell and the parsley added a note of a fresh flavor.  This one is definitely one I will do again.

A Cooking Experiment for Hannukuh

Last Sunday, I decided to cook some food that might be a part of a Hannukuh dinner. There are so many possibililities to celebrate the food traditions of diverse ethnic and religious holidays that this year I am going to try to incorporate some of foods into my life.

I have known about latkes as long as I can remember and had never had them.  With as assist from Blue Apron, I had a menu which included roast chicken, cabbage, celeriac and apple chutney and latkes. I bought a chicken breast to add to the chicken thighs sent by Blue Apron. I have learned from Blue Apron that the recipes they send is a suggestion and have learned to change the recipe if desired. One the past, my rule had been to follow the recipes the first time and then adjust the recipe for my taste.i will say that I am learning a lot of new technique and how to use spices to enhance my cooking.
The meal was both a failure and a success. The food tasted good. The presentation was sad. It was a meal without color.

Roast Chicken, diced celariac with onion, latkes and roast cabbage with apple chutney

I did learn I have a tendency to cook foods at a lower heat than the optimum. I suppose it is fear of burning. It means that the color on food does not have a chance to develop. I also had some apple chutney on the side for the latkes. My Blue Apron cooking project was specifically for me to learn how to cook better food. I can still say I am learning. I can also say my food is so much better.

My New Take on Winter Vegetables

 

Celariac (Celery Root)

I have always enjoyed cooking. But somehow, over time, my cooking got stuck. I wasn’t doing anything new. I changed things. I tweaked things. But, they were all variations on a theme.

This last May, I just was not in the mood to cook or even eat. So, I took the drastic action of ordering Blue Apron which is a food subscription service. I get three meals for two each week. So, I figured I would have dinner for six days a week.  At this point, I don’t get the shipment every week.

It has changed the way I cook and think about cooking. I have been introduced to seasonal veggies in a big way. I’m using spices, veggies, proteins and more that I have not tried before. It opened a new world. And I’m trying things I never would have attempted. I’m learning a lot.

Last week, I got some celeriac or celery root. I checked and it is in my grocery store and was just one of those things I didn’t notice.  I had seen it on restaurant menus as celeriac purée and never tried it.

The meal I prepared was chicken meatballs, braised kale and spiced cleariac mash. So I cooked it. My first day was not all that successful. I didn’t use all of the spices given to me for the chicken meatballs and they turned out to be really under-seasoned. The kale had a bit of vinegar added to it so it was not bitter and really was good. I mashed the celariac and it was a just not mashed enough.

Chicken meatballs, braised kale and spiced mashed celariac

 

The leftovers deserved a makeover. The kale was gone so I added steamed spinach. I really mashed the celariac and added a little butter, salt and pepper. I added a dipping sauce of soy glaze and rice wine vinegar for the tasteless meatballs. I also sautéed some parsnips.

 

Chicken meatballs, spinach, sautéed parsnips, mashed celariac and soy dipping sauce

This was really good. Both celariac and parsnips have not been a part of my cooking in the past. I’m glad I found them. The best part is learning how to raise a failed meal to a place where it is enjoyable eating.

Different for me: Homemade Eggplant Parmesan

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I decided to sort of make up a recipe for something that resembles eggplant Parmesan. It just hit the spot and was quite good. There were three slices of breaded eggplant in the bottom covered with spaghetti meat sauce. Then, a few gratings of Parmesan Reggiano. Then a layer of spinach. I added another layer of meat sauce over the spinach. And on the top, more grated cheese. I put it in a medium oven for one half hour. There was much less cheese than usual but I used very good very flavorful cheese. It is much lighter than most Eggplant Parmesan which is just what I wanted,.