Sunday, August 30, 2015

easy way out

If there's anything that makes me more squeamish than sending a lobster to meet its maker via a boiling hot cauldron, it's the thought of cooking an entire octopus. I can't even wrap my head around it. I mean, who has tongs that big? How many tongs do you need? How many assistants do you need?

But my poor carnivorous heart loves octopus. Pulpo me any time. So I order it at restaurants, and just smile feebly as I scroll through recipes for my beloved cephalopod.

That is, until I found cooked and sliced octopus at my very favorite Asian grocery store, right next to the already sliced, sashimi-grade fish, and fresh uni. If my ob-gyn wasn't already telling me to lay off fish for mercury reasons, I'd move my dining table right in front of that section.

So when this recipe for Octopus Aguachile came across my inbox, I put octopus on the grocery list, and blast into making it for dinner. It is so easy, so delicious, and so endlessly adaptable, that I see all kinds of seafood in my future for this treatment. It could be a great fancy appetizer with chips for dipping, or serve it as I did, as fresh, summer-friendly tacos with your favorite handmade tortillas.

Octopus Aguachile Tacos
slightly adapted from Tasting Table
serves 8-10

For the octopus:
1 lb. cooked octopus, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
2 t. jalapeno oil
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
salt, to taste

For the charred jalapeno oil:
4 jalapenos, stemmed
1/2 c. olive oil

For the aguachile:
1 1/2 c. thinly sliced white onion, very thinly sliced
3/4 c. fresh lime juice, divided
salt, to taste
4 medium Persian cucumbers, cut into1/4-inch-wide half moons
4 T. jalapeno oil
2 avocados
2 T. olive oil
1 c. loosely packed cilantro, for garnish

1. Place the jalapenos on a sheet tray, and using a kitchen torch, heat the chiles until they are black and blistered all over. Combine the charred jalapenos and olive oil in a blender, and process until smooth. Stop to scrape down the sides of the blender as necessary. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the octopus, 2 t. jalapeno oil and 1/4 c. lime juice. Toss, season with salt and set aside.

3. In a small mixing bowl, combine the onions with 2 t. of the lime juice. Season with salt and allow to macerate for 10 to 15 minutes.

4. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the cucumber with 1/4 c. lime juice and 4 t. of the jalapeno oil. Season with salt and marinate for 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Cut each avocado in half and remove the pit. Using a large spoon, scoop each half, leaving the avocado as intact as possible. Place the avocado, pit side down, on a sheet tray and using a kitchen torch, heat the avocado until blackened (it should resemble avocado skin). Dice each half into 1/2-inch pieces, and place in a mixing bowl. Toss the avocado with 2 T. of olive oil and 2 T. of lime juice. Season with salt.

6. Toss the octopus with the cucumbers, avocado, macerated onions and cilantro. Serve room temperature or slightly chilled, with tortillas for tacos or chips for dipping.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

let's chill

I have so much catching up to do on this blog, but as I was sitting here trying to come up with adjectives for baked lamb ribs and a farro salad that involved roasted cauliflower, I figured I'd spare you the sweat, and talk about something you might actually want to make in this godforsaken heat wave.

Now, I'm not generally a fan of chilled soup. Gazpacho? Sounds like an excuse and a trick to charge me $10 for the privilege of eating salsa for dinner. No thanks. But for some reason, this Chilled Cream of Basil Soup called to me. Some of it was the excitement of being able to use 1 1/2 c. of basil from the first plant that's ever allowed me to collect that many leaves from it. Actually, that was probably most of it.

But I'm also a sucker for cashew cream, and the combination sounded unbeatable. It's fresh and light, and works equally well for dinner (Matt paired it with some leftover grilled salmon) and brunch (I had it the next day with a topping of corn fresh off the cob, diced bell pepper from the garden, and more basil and a side of avocado toast).

A little goes a long way as the cashews make for a filling serving, which means you get to share this deliciousness with more people!

Chilled Cream of Basil Soup
slightly adapted from With Food + Love
serves 4-6

2 c. raw cashews, soaked
2 c. filtered water, plus more for soaking
1 1/2 c. fresh basil leaves
1 c. lacinato kale
1 garlic clove
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. ground pepper
corn, bell pepper, and/or cucumber for garnish

1. In a large bowl, combine the cashews and enough water to cover them by an inch. Soak for four hours, then rinse and discard the soaking liquid.

2. In a blender pulse together the cashews and 2 c. water. Add the basil, kale, garlic, salt and pepper and blend until totally smooth. Transfer the blender jar to the refrigerator, and chill for at least one hour.

3. Divide the soup into 4 bowls for serving. Garnish with the chopped summer vegetables of your choice.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

has always been

This really isn't Italian Mac + Cheese at all. However, the alternate name for it, Vegetarian Carbonara, was even less inspiring.

What is inspiring is how even a poorly stocked pantry/fridge can turn out this dinner in about the amount of time it takes to cook pasta. If you felt like adding pancetta to make it more traditional and less vegetarian, knock yourself out, but you don't miss it here.

I love the simplicity - carbonara is always my favorite, followed closely by cacio e pepe. Hell, even before I knew the fancy Italian names for it, the Mizithra Cheese + Browned Butter pasta at The Old Spaghetti Factory was my go-to (may the Hollywood location rest in peace).

You just can't get more comforting than this.

Italian Mac + Cheese
from PopSugar
serves 4

1 lb. bucatini
2 eggs
1 c. grated Parmesan
2 T. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
black pepper, freshly ground

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, then liberally salt it until it tastes like ocean water. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions, or until al dente.

2. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and parmesan together in a large bowl and set aside. In a sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium, then add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add to the egg-parmesan mixture.

3. When the pasta is done, drain, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water. Toss the pasta with egg-parmesan-garlic mixture, stirring quickly until the eggs thicken and turn opaque. Thin out the sauce with reserved pasta water, 1 T. at a time, if necessary. Season with ground black pepper and salt. Serve immediately.