Mexican Fish and Potato Stew with Green Rice

I have a pile of bills to pay and a million errands to run. (Actually 11. I have 11 separate stops I need to make this afternoon).  There are cases and cases of fruit that need prepping for jam and about 40 dozen eggs I need to sell. We had a really tasty dinner the other night, though, and before I get too swept up in the usual nonsense of Monday, I want to share this recipe with the internet universe.

One of my egg customers is an avid hunter and fisherman, and I end up doing a lot of bartering for beautiful fresh meats and seafood. This last week I ended up with a big piece of fresh cod.  Sure, I could have grilled it with lemon, or made a fish fry, but you gotta go big or go home, right?

Hence, a spicy fish and new-potato stew with rich spices, brightness from lime juice, chilis, cilantro and avocado, and tangy green rice cooked in tomatillo sauce and chicken broth.

One of the ingredients I’ve used is this canned spicy tomato sauce.  The only reason I buy it is the pretty picture on the label, since I could easily make it myself.  If you don’t want to buy it, just put in a can of plain old tomato purée or some diced tomatoes fresh from the garden.  The brand I used has some kick to it, so you can add a pinch of cayenne if you want to replicate the flavor.

Can I just say, totally off-topic here: It is REALLY amazing how expensive the cell phone bill can get if you just go a teeny little bit over your minutes.  I actually kind of feel like someone punched me in the face right now.

There are so many beautiful, well-written food blogs out there.  What the world is really lacking is more writing like this:

I hate Verizon.

Make this stew.

Spicy Mexican Fish and Potato Stew 

Serves: 4-6, depending on how hungry everyone is

Cooking Time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 piece of fresh cod, about 3/4 lb.
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 serrano chili, seeded and minced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c. roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1 7.75 oz. can of El Pato Spicy Tomato Sauce
  • 1 16 oz. can vegetable stock (or homemade)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1 avocado, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Season the raw cod with the coriander, cumin, garlic powder and oregano.

2 Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet. Add shallots, garlic and serrano chili and saute for 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat or until the shallots are translucent.  Add the fish to the skillet and saute for 3 minutes on each side. Add potatoes, vegetable broth, spicy tomato sauce, and half of the chopped cilantro. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. (Maybe more, maybe less: the cooking time for a stew depends on how hungry and how patient you are).

3. When the potatoes are cooked through and the broth has turned from a bright red liquid to a more caramelized reddish-brown thick sauce, the stew is ready to eat. Serve it over green rice with diced avocado, cilantro and lime juice. (The lime juice is vital.  Make sure to give each serving a liberal squeeze of juice right before digging in; the brightness of the lime and cilantro will balance out the richness of the spices).

Green Rice

Serves: 4-6

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. long-grain white rice
  • 1 1/2 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 7  oz. can of Embasa brand salsa verde (or homemade)
  • 1 small dried thai chili pepper
  • 3 3/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro

Heat up the olive oil in a medium sauce pan. Saute the garlic and chili pepper for 2 minutes. Add in the salsa verde and bring to a simmer. Add in the chicken broth and rice and bring everything to a boil. Stir, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chopped cilantro and season with sea salt. Fluff the cooked rice with a fork and serve with the fish stew. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fusilli With Artichokes and Chevre

I’ve been up to my elbows in jam, getting ready for the Taste Of Mendocino event in San Francisco on Monday.   You should come! hell, even if you live in Kansas, it’s not too late! There are going to be so many amazing vineyards there doing wine tasting that the booze alone should make it worthwhile. Plus there will be meat, cheese, eggs, jams, and so much more.

Anyway, yesterday I got home from the kitchen, essentially covered head to toe in sugary goop.  I wanted real food that was totally devoid of anything sweet.  This lovely little dish is easy to throw together if your feet hurt and you’re really hungry, and tangy lemon, olives, artichokes and white wine will make you forget all about any intense sugar experiences that you may have had recently.

Fusilli With Artichokes And Chevre

As with most of my recipes, the point is not to hunt down specific ingredients but to make use of items in the pantry and the garden. Any olives or capers would be great in this recipe. Feel free to toss in some chicken or shrimp if you have some that needs using.  Roasted red peppers would work well too, but it’s not quite far enough into the summer for us to have peppers lying around.

Serves: 4 entree portions

Cooking Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh fusilli pasta
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 or 2 small spring onions, sliced very thinly (about the size of a shallot or a pearl onion)
  • 1 lb. frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
  • 2 tbs. spring onion tops, sliced thinly
  • 1 large asian mustard leaf, sliced into 1/2″ strips*
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh dill, minced
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 c. white wine
  • 1 quart of chunky tomato sauce**
  • 10 kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1/2 c. herbed chevre, crumbled (or whatever your favorite type of chevre is will be fine)
  • 1/4. c. shaved parmesan cheese
  • sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.

2. While the water comes to a boil, cook the sauce in a large saute pan: Heat the butter on medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and artichoke hearts and saute for 4-5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add lemon juice, white wine, dill, onion tops, and asian mustard greens and saute for 2-3 more minutes. Pour in tomato sauce and olives and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has reached your desired consistency. If it is too thick, add a splash of white wine. If it’s too thin, cook for another 4-5 minutes.

3. Cook fusilli according to package directions. Drain, and return to the pot. Pour the artichoke mixture over the noodles and gently stir everything together. Top with crumbled chevre, parmesan and a few sliced onion tops. (Optional: If you’re feeling motivated, put the pasta in a small casserole dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes to melt the cheese).

*Click here to see the greens that I’m referring to; I know this is a slightly obscure ingredient. Use any quick-cooking greens that you have around, like spinach or young kale leaves.

**We have lots of canned tomato sauce from last summer. If you don’t have it in your pantry, you can substitute any type of chunky tomato sauce that catches your eye in the grocery store.

Basil-Walnut Pesto

It’s been an aggravating week.  Normally I like to have my head in the clouds, thinking brilliant things like “strawberries are really pretty and taste good” and “i like flowers.” Yup. It is a conscious choice that I made…  if  my brain sounds like something that a second-grader might write as a caption for a picture drawn with crayons, it tends to mean that life is pretty damn good. (What this means about me as a person is something that I will worry about some other day).

Unfortunately this week has been an extravaganza of real-world headaches. It’s almost time to get the gardens planted, I have a pile of bills to sort through, and I need to get into the kitchen and make some spring jams for the farmers market. It’s the kind of week where, when I decide to cook something for the blog, my camera stops working and I almost burn out the motor on the blender.  Insert expletives here.

The solution? Fresh pasta, with a ton of cheese and olive oil.  Nothing like some carbs and a bottle of wine to cheer a girl up.

Basil-Walnut Pesto 

This pasta is also great on days when you’re not totally overwhelmed with life.  It’s actually really delicious pretty much all the time, even cold as leftovers. Pair it with some grilled chicken and an heirloom tomato salad and you’ve got yourself a summer dinner party. The key to this pesto pasta being so amazing is that is uses a ridiculous amount of cheese, with plenty in the pesto sauce but then a huge amount stirred in while the pasta is still hot.

Makes: about 1 1/2 pints (I use half for one meal and freeze the rest- this recipe makes about enough to coat 2 lbs. of fresh pasta).

Cook Time: about 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. fresh basil
  • 1 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 c. filted water
  • 1/2 c. walnuts (or pine-nuts, for tradition pesto)
  • 8 oz. parmesan cheese, shredded (4 oz. to go in the pesto, 4 oz. to stir into the cooked pasta when it’s hot off the stove)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 lb. fresh spaghetti noodles, for serving (although dry spaghetti is fine too- I just bought fresh spaghetti at the farmers market the other day and I wanted to use it)

1. Wash basil and remove leaves from the stems. Combine basil leaves, olive oil, water, walnuts, 4 oz. parmesan cheese, garlic, and pepper in a food processor and pulse to combine.  Scrape down the sides a few time to make sure everything is adequately blended together.

2. Cook spaghetti in salted water. Drain, and return to the pot while still hot. Pour half the pesto sauce over the noodles. Add in remaining 4 oz. cheese. Gently fold everything together with a spatula to combine.  Add a crack of black pepper and sprinkle of cheese if you want. 

3. Pour a glass of wine, eat noodles, and stop thinking about stressful things.


By the way, if you make this and want to save the other half of the pesto sauce, pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top of it so that it doesn’t turn brown. It will keep in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months. It might last longer than that, but I love pesto so it doesn’t really survive that long in our house.

Wild Duck Cacciatore (Because It’s Freezing In The Kitchen, and I’m Not Going In There)

We’ve been having some real crap weather in Northern California.  I know I should be thankful for the rain since it means we won’t have to worry about a drought this year, but I’m not feeling it.  When I got home from the farmers market this past Saturday, we were getting pounded with freezing mix and high winds.  My “kitchen” (it’s a barn) has no hot water, no heat, no insulation, and poor lighting, and I was absolutely not going in there to start a cooking project….

Hence this delicious dinner, cooked in the warm, cozy “living room” (also a barn, but with insulation and wood stove):

wild duck alla cacciatora

I have a big cast iron dutch oven that I really don’t use very often, but on really cold days I can just throw a bunch of ingredients in the pot and set it on the wood stove, letting it simmer in my living room for the whole afternoon.  If I have the fire burning already, it’s such a convenient way to cook a big meal without a lot of trouble.  (I suppose this is really the pre-cursor to the electric crock-pot.) Whether you decide for the wood stove or a conventional oven,  I can’t emphasize enough that this dish is all about flexibility and convenience; no need to search out obscure ingredients and make life difficult.

If you do want to cook this on a wood stove, keep a good base of hot coals going to ensure an even temperature for your dutch oven.*

First you need a protein. I used wild duck, which is delicious.  It’s very low fat compared to farm-raised duck, so the stew doesn’t get greasy or feel too heavy; the duck adds a rich flavor vaguely like beef or lamb.

Season your meat with salt and pepper, and then sear in the hot dutch oven with some aromatics.  Since I was lazy and tired, (getting up at 6:30 a.m. picking lettuce in the pouring rain for the farmers market doesn’t always make for proper cooking technique) I didn’t mince the garlic, but it would be better if I did. I put the sprigs of fresh herbs in whole and pull them out later, before serving.

Pick out your favorite veggies, and dice them up for the stew pot while your meat is searing (or before you start cooking, if you’re into planning in advance).

i love me some parsnips

I wild-harvested these from the a forest grove in the product section of the grocery store. That’s right!  Whenever I shop at the grocery store I feel like a criminal, like I’m buying crack on a street corner.  I realize that this is totally irrational.  Anyway, though, the sweetness of the root vegetables pairs really well with duck, and the firm texture holds up really well in a stew.

Saute your vegetables in the fat from the meat for a few minutes. This develops the natural sugars in the vegetables and makes them taste amazing.  Once you’ve done that, you deglaze the pan with the red wine. (When you pour the red wine into the hot pan with all kinds of crusty pieces of duck fat stuck on it, you pull all of those intense flavors off the pan and into what will become the best sauce you’ve ever tasted).  Add some stock, and then some tomato sauce for body and thickness.

Throw a lid on the pot and let it cook, covered, for a few hours. This roasts the meat and cooks the vegetables.  Then take the lid off for another hour and let the sauce slowly reduce, concentrating the flavors and achieving the right thickness.  You can always add more red wine or stock if you need more broth.  Remember to re-season with salt and pepper before you serve the stew.  Serve over mashed potatoes, buttered egg noodles, brown rice, quinoa, or whatever you think tastes the best drowned in juicy stew goodness.  A loaf of bread good be a good thing here too.  I decided to make the Wild Stinging Nettle Spaetzle from Hunter Gardener Angler Cook instead of plain old noodles.  Spaetzle taste like a cross between a dumpling and an egg noodle, and are the perfect medium for soaking up the saucy good part of stews just like this one.   Hank Shaw’s recipe for nettle spaetzle paired well with my duck stew, with the brightness of the greens balancing out the richness of the duck.  If you want to give them a whirl, go here for my full post on how to process nettles and make the dumplings.

duck alla cacciatora on wild stinging nettle spaetzle

Wild Duck alla Cacciatora ….   Fire up that woodstove!

This is a cacciatore in the loosest sense of the word, meaning a “hunter’s style” braised meat dish with wine and vegetables.

Special Equipment: Cast Iron Dutch Oven, Woodstove*

Cooking Time: 7 hours, with 20 minutes of active cooking

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 California wild ducks** (enough for 1 1/2 c. shredded cooked meat)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • fresh herbs: 1 sprig marjoram, 1 sprig sage, 3 sprigs thyme, 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 parsnip
  • 2 large carrots, sliced into rounds
  • 1 large parsnip, sliced into rounds
  • 1 medium rutabaga, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 garnet yam, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 c. zinfandel, or whatever red wine you have open
  • 1 pint of chunky tomato sauce (I have this in my pantry, but you can substitute 1 16-oz can of crushed tomatoes. Just know that you’ll need to add some more seasonings, since my sauce is already seasoned in the jar)
  • 1/2 pint chicken stock (or 1 8 oz. can of low-sodium chicken broth)
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper

Start a fire in the wood stove and set a cast iron dutch oven on top of it to preheat. (This is the dutch oven I use; It has feet on it so the whole bottom of the pot doesn’t sit on the stove.  It’s really meant more for cooking directly in the fire, but I like the low, consistent temperature that I get using this method.)

Season ducks with salt and  fresh cracked pepper.  Once the pan is hot, add in the two ducks, fresh herbs, and minced garlic.  The ducks will release fat into the pan, but feel free to add an extra tablespoon or two of olive oil if you think the pan is too dry and the garlic is burning.  Put the lid on the pan, and cook for 10 minutes.
The duck should be sizzling and starting to get a little color at this point (add more wood to the fire if it’s not hot enough).  Add in chopped root vegetables and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the red wine, followed by the chicken stock, tomato sauce, and parsley. Give the pot a stir or two to mix everything together, cover, and cook for about four hours. Open the lid and stir the stew every so often.  If the fire gets really hot and it starts bubbling like crazy you may want to add more stock to prevent anything from sticking.
Uncover the pot.  Remove the ducks.  (At this point I discard the skin because I don’t enjoy eating that much fat, but if you like it, leave it in). Pull the meat off of the bones and discard the carcasses (or reserve them for duck stock or soup). Shred the meat into smaller pieces, whatever size you’d like in your stew. Return the meat to the pot and cook, uncovered, for one more hour or until the stew reaches the desired consistency.  If the stew reduces too much, add some more stock or red wine to the pot to thin the broth out again.  Season with salt and pepper, and serve over spaetzle, noodles, rice or mashed potatoes.

*If you’re not the wood stove – cast iron type, this recipe will work with a conventional oven and any type of dutch oven.  Start the cacciatore on top of the stove to sear the duck and saute the vegetables, and once you add liquid, move the pot to the oven and cook at 300 degrees for 3 hours.

**Meat substitutions that I would recommend: two chicken quarters, 1 lb of beef stew meat, pork tenderloin, or 1 lamb shank or 1 lb. of lamb stew meat. Be creative though, this is just a stew with meat, wine, and root veggies.