Traveling the deep

At the Monterey Bay Aquarium there is an exhibit called Open Sea. It is a spectacle, awe-inspiring; a magnificent 90-foot window glows blue in the dark of the viewing room, and behind it, enormous tuna swim with shoals of sardines and green sea turtles. There are big sharks, 5,000 pound sunfish.

The water is so deep that looking at it, I feel something sort of like vertigo.

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Steinbeck’s Eden

fish tacos with herbed plum salsa

Steinbeck’s Eden is dry and dusty
The windrows grown of greener days
The well-pump handle is long since rusty
Windfall, rain and valley haze …
Just keep going wild honey
Somewhere northward of Monterey
Up above the fog it’s sunny
One more wonderful summer day.

~ From California Way by Tim Bluhm of The Mother Hips

Driving on Highway 1 – that is, riding along the edge of the continent with the spectacular expanse of the Pacific to the west and the tumbling California coastline to the east – never gets old for me. I drive on the storied highway almost weekly, but each time I feel like I’m seeing with new eyes. It is the only driving I do where my own enthusiasm mirrors that of my guys in their car seats. My heart soars along with theirs as they call out each new thing they see; the cliffs, the waves, the kite-surfers, and the cement mixers.

fish tacos with herbed plum salsa

Okay maybe not so much at the cement mixers.  Continue reading

One of these mornings – and our third winner!

the piano man

One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up singing
Then you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll take to the sky …
- George Gershwin, from Summertime

(And have you heard this beautiful version? Or seen this beautiful book? Yes yes).

Now of course you can scroll to the bottom and see if you were the winner of The Art of Simple Food – but before you do that, I think you should take a look at the wonderful comments people shared about food elitism, food access, the industrial food system … it does my heart tremendous good to read all of these thoughtful responses, to see how much and how deeply people are thinking about these things. It confirms my belief that concern about what we are eating and what access we have to food, for ourselves and for our communities, is pretty universal. So take a minute to look at that. Here’s another link just in case.

Now. Back to summertime for a minute.

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Variations on a theme – and our second winner!

If you’re here to see who won, you can cruise down to the bottom of the post … or just stay with me a moment while I muse on the idea of variations. I’ll be brief, since as Alana so perfectly put it – June is the month that pulls in all directions

Let’s start with this, then: see those pretty white things up top? They are Hakurei turnips. Also called Japanese salad turnips,  they’re crisp, sweet, juicy… and the tops are fabulous too. This past week, I had twelve – twelve! – bunches to play with.  Continue reading

One fish two fish red fish … green fish

(Yes, that’s a Dr. Seuss reference – I am continuing with the children’s literature theme for today :)

This is a quick post about a quick fish! I am not much of a wine drinker, but I am a sucker for white wine reductions. Herby ones with a kiss of butter are best of all.

This is my quick, “dirty” version of a delicate herbed white wine cream sauce. It is layered, but those layers are built quickly. The whole thing comes together in just a few minutes – enough time for you to oven-roast a pan of asparagus and slice some nice crusty bread for sauce-sopping. Tonight we added a salad of spring greens with apples, gorgonzola, almonds and cranberries. But really, for me, the sauce and the bread (and okay, the fish) would have been enough.

Use a nice white wine – it certainly needn’t be fancy, but should definitely be drinkable. You only use half a cup of wine in the sauce, so that leftover bottle will be at the table for dinner – make it tasty, and have a nice weekend.

Cheers!

Fish in Quick and Easy Herbed White Wine Sauce with lemon and butter
Lots of different fish will do well here – we have used sea bass, cod, halibut … use whatever is fresh and MSC certified. For us tonight that meant a long fillet of Alaska cod, which I cut in half before cooking so it would fit into my skillet without needing to be folded!

Fish fillet (ours was 3/4 pound, because that is a nice dinner for my family – but as long as it fits in your pan anything is fine – you’ll need to adjust your poaching time depending on the thickness of the cut. I have our fish monger remove the skin but you wouldn’t have to if you like it on.)
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups vegetable stock, warmed (I cheat and make mine with Rapunzel brand bouillon)
Juice and zest from one lemon
1/2 cup chardonnay or other white wine
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh garden herbs (tonight, I used lemon thyme, lemon verbena, and a few chives)
1 (more) tablespoon butter

Melt the (first) tablespoon of butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is warm and the butter melted, add the fish, skin side up, and let it cook for thirty seconds to a minute. Flip it over. Pour the warm vegetable stock into the pan, and simmer the fish to poach it (it should be opaque all the way through – for my cod, which was about 3/4 inch thick, this took only a couple minutes). Remove the fish from the pan and let it rest on a plate. Turn the heat up to high, and let the stock reduce until you have just a half cup or so left in the pan.

While the stock is reducing, chop your herbs and mix them with the lemon zest.

Once the stock is reduced, lower the heat slightly and add the wine and lemon juice. Swirl them around and let everything heat up, and then let it reduce again, so that the sauce thickens and starts to coat your spoon (this will take a few minutes). Once your sauce is looking sauce-like, turn off the heat. Swirl in the (second) tablespoon of butter and about a third of the herb-lemon zest mixture. Keep swirling while the butter melts.

Serve with the remaining herbs spread over top. And lots of crusty bread for sauce-sopping :)