Dinner for One: King Crab and Avocado Tian with Antipasto

Clayton’s working tonight, so it’s all Lolita time.  Although he’s a great consumer – as in he eats what I make without (much) complaining – there are dishes I prepare for myself that I don’t seem to ever make for him.  I don’t know why; there’s no real reason or rhyme, frankly – it’s just the way it is.  Tonight’s meal began with the leftovers from some huge-ass king crab legs we enjoyed for last night’s dinner, and a couple of odds and ends I picked up today at Trader Joe’s.  The result? An elegant but simple salad of nutty avocado and tender sweet crab meat, accompanied by an easy antipasti: a light but rich supper as delicious as it is beautiful.

King Crab and Avocado Tian with Antipasto

1 ripe avocado
1/3 lb fresh picked cooked crab meat
juice from 1 lemon
1 tbs mayonnaise
1 handful maché (lamb’s lettuce)
1 boll burrata cheese
2 slices prosciutto di parma, split and rolled into 4 tiny cigars
EVOO, sea salt, cracked black pepper, balsamic vinegar

Whole Foods had a special on King crab legs this weekend – something I’ve had a hankering for for a while now.  We bought 2 pounds, not realizing just how much meat these bad boys were going to yield.  I think we’ve established that we’ve never actually had King crab legs prior to these — likely only snow crab clusters — since neither of us can remember ever seeing such huge unbroken chunks of leg and knuckle meat before.  And it was so dense and packed that the discarded shells weighed next to nothing; we easily ‘harvested’ 30 oz of succulent pink deliciousness.  After gorging ourselves on not much more than crab and butter, we had about 1/2 lb leftover.

I pull my crab meat into nice sized hunks, and mix it with a little mayo and several teaspoons of lemon juice, along with some salt and pepper.  I just want the mayo to bind the crab – not make it gooey; I also just want the lemon juice to cancel out the egginess (eggyiness? eggyness?)  of the mayo – not make it lemony; and I just want the salt and pepper to brighten the salad – not overpower it.  The idea is crab and nothing but that which is needed to ‘hold it together’ for the sake of shaping the tian.

Speaking of which — here is how I’m shaping this “tian” – my stacked, formed salad of crab meat and avocado.  I’m not sure why it’s called a tian — in fact, although I see several examples of this term being used in this context online, traditionally a tian in French cooking is something completely different – either more like a vegetable tart, or an earthenware cooking device.  But when I envisioned this dish, it was as a perfectly shaped cylindrical layered salad.  And when I order a perfectly shaped cylindrical layered dish in a restaurant, it’s usually called a tian on the menu.  Hence my usage of the term.  Anyway, using my kitchen shears, I cut the ends off of a beer can to make a perfect form.  It would have been better to use a soup can, but all the cans I have in the house are designed to stack, so my can opener won’t work on their bottom sides.  (I figured this out only after dumping the contents of several cans of soup.)  Using a beer can just meant I had to be careful not to cut my fingers on the sharp edges.

I start by pressing my avocado, which I’ve blended with a dash of lemon juice, some salt, pepper, and EVOO, into a more-or-less flat 1″ thick layer on the bottom of my can.

Then I layer in the crab meat salad.

I vary carefully slide the can up and off the filling so it maintains its shape, pressing down on the crab meat to keep the filling on the plate.  Oiling the can a bit beforehand helped.

A basic antipasto of rolled prosciutto di parma, burrata cheese, capers, EVOO, and balsamic vinegar, along with some EVOO and lemon juice dressed maché, add extra dimensions to this already sophisticated presentation.  Crab and avocado, although not meant to co-exist in nature, seem destined for each other’s company on the plate: the sweet, tender sinews of crab absorb the buttery texture of the stone fruit’s green goodness, creating a harmonious marriage on the palate unrivaled in the realm of simple pleasures.  Along with a cold glass of sparkling rosé, this delectable dinner is truly a treat – tonight, for one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it for your sweetie whenever the mood strikes you…

Weeknight Wondermeal: Chicken Piccata, Simple Pasta, and EVOO Roasted Asparagus

Lolita has to admit to recent failures in the kitchen. A tough turkey breast; a failed carbonara (including a re-cook!); and although I can’t remember the specifics, I recall 3 temper tantrums in the kitchen since I last blogged, which means I screwed the pooch on something else, too.  So tonight I decided to go super basic, and I whipped together this here chicken piccata, comingled with buttered pasta tubes and crisp-headed, silken bodied roasted asparagus spears.  Quick, heartwarming, and delicious.  Looks like maybe Lolita’s got her mojo back.

Chicken Piccata, Simple Pasta, and EVOO Roasted Asparagus

3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 stick butter, divided
4 tbs flour
1/2 package pasta (these are super-long tubes of macaroni)
1 lemon
2 tbs salted capers, rinsed
1/4 cup white wine
parmigiano reggiano cheese
EVOO
1 lb fresh asparagus stalks
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup minced scallions
sea salt, cracked black pepper

I love asparagus.  I don’t love it’s resultant smell – but when I see perfectly erect, richly green, thin and supple stalks of fresh spears, I can’t help myself.

I snap off their woody ends, then flay the tough flesh from their roots.

I toss these very simply in EVOO, spread them out over a baking sheet, and sprinkle them with sea salt and cracked black pepper.  Into a 350°F oven they go, for about 20 minutes.

I spent 49¢ more per pound at Whole Foods to get “chicken cutlets”, when I should have just purchased the breasts themselves – considering how poorly butterflied these babies were.  No matter, I carved them into 4 roughly equal tenderloins…

… spread them flat on the counter within a large plastic bag…

… then pounded them all flat, in a cross-hatch pattern, with my sharpening steel.  I have a wooden mallet, but I always reach for my steel for some reason.  And it always tenderizes the hell out of my meat.

I get my largest, non-stick pan all nice and hot on the stovetop, where I melt a pat of butter and swirl of EVOO together until they foam.

I quickly, but thoroughly, dredge my chicken pieces in flour…

... then lay them gently in the pan, making sure not to crowd them together.

They’re like little pink and tan islands in the middle of a golden bubbling sea.

After about 5 minutes, or until there is a nice tan sear, I flip ‘em, cook ‘em for another 5 minutes, then move them to a plate tented with foil to keep warm.  Time to make the pan sauce.

A half cup of dry white wine, the juice of one lemon, 1/2 cup water, and high heat.

I bought this cute little jar of salted capers at the Salumeria in the North End, like, forever ago.  Two perfect tablespoons, which I rinse free of salt…

… before adding them — and a handful of chopped parsley, which I forgot to photograph (whoops!) — to the pan to simmer, flavor, and reduce with the sauce.

When the sauce has reduced, I swirl in a few tablespoons of butter before returning the chicken to the pan.  I let this simmer, flipping the chicken from time to time to coat with the sauce, for a couple minutes.

My asparagus spears have crispy little roasted heads and silky tender meaty stalks.  The chicken falls to pieces at the suggestion of my fork’s edge; its white juiciness is enrobed with satin lemon sauce, and offset by the salty buds of caper berries.  And served with some noodles tossed in butter, grated parmigiano reggiano, and chopped scallions for sopping.  After chucking several bad meals down the garbage chute, it was nice to whip this sweet supper together without even having to think about it, and in less than 30 minutes.  Lolita’s coming back… stay tuned!

Luscious Lobster Lasagna


Lolita loves herself a three-day weekend, and this July 4th provided just that – with perfect weather, no less!  Our little roof deck in the sky proved to be the prime place for this year’s fireworks.  In the past, the 18 story apartment complex a block away from us used to eclipse practically the whole light-show, and all we’d see was an intermittently glowing building with a few stray sparks escaping from the sides from time to time.  But the fire-barge must have moved up the Charles a bit – or the building moved down, which is highly improbable – because last night we could see almost all of the fireworks, and they were *beautiful*!  With the sounds of the Boston Pops and Martina McBride piping through my speakers from the TV indoors, Claytonious husbandius and I had excellent seats – with wine and cigars a’ smokin’ – for our town’s legendary Independence Day celebration.

And what goes best with independence?  Why, lobster, of course!   Historically speaking, before lobster became all haute couture as they is today, they used to be so abundant on the shores of the Northeast colonies that the crustaceans would wash in with the tides, leaving creepy crawly banks of the critters all along the coast.  Back then, it was considered “poverty” food, good enough only for servants and slaves — so the irony of linking lobster with independence isn’t lost on Lolita.  Still, today it rings in at $8.99/lb (for hard-shell 1 1/2lbers at Yankee Lobster off of Fan Pier), and we have it seldom enough that it’s still super-special to me and mine.

Er, except the lobsters we bought for Sunday’s dinner were HUGE, and after eating claws, knuckles, and legs with truffled melted butter and all the side fixin’s, we were so stuffed that we saved our tails for Monday’s dinner.  “Lobster two nights in a row?” said Clayton, “Who do you think we are, the Rockefellers?”  No, thought I, not the Rockefellers — just their well fed neighbors from across the tracks.  That’s where a light but luscious lobster lasagna can be found, served with a quick salad and a glass of crisp white wine, for a delicious dinner al fresco on our nation’s day of Independence.  Yankee Doodle Yummy!

Luscious Lobster Lasagna

8oz cooked lobster meat (I used two tails)
1/2 package lasagna noodles
2 tbs butter
1 cup half n’ half
flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely diced carrots
1/2 cup finely diced celery
2 cups fresh baby spinach
1 cup ricotta cheese
6oz fresh mozzarella cheese
6oz Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 egg
iceberg lettuce, wedged
tomatoes
ranch dressing
capers
EVOO


Every time I make lasagna, it’s too big.  We have a craptastic freezer, and no microwave anyway, so making stuff to hold and eat days later isn’t feasible for us.  I also had a limited amount of lobster meat, so I decided to make a small loaf-pan’s worth of lasagna — which was just the right amount!  My noodles being the normal size, though, I had to break them up a bit to make them fit into the pyrex dish.  To make it easier to serve, I broke each noodle roughly in half before fitting them into the dish — I thought this would prevent the unfortunate squishing out of all the innards that sometimes happens with a gooey center.  In the long run, it was a good idea.

90° outside means it’s almost 100° in our pad, so cooking indoors is out of the question if we ever want to, er, wear clothing in the house during summer nights.  We’ve always been creative with Little Red, but we’d never boiled water on him before; I’m happy to say that he stepped up the challenge!  Since all I’m doing is cooking off my lasagna noodles so they’ll be easy to handle, I dump about 8 cups of salted water into my pasta boiler and set it, covered, over the preheated coils under Little Red’s grill.


He doesn’t close all the way, but this is close enough for government work.  It takes a while, but after about 30 minutes my water is boiling.  Boo-ya!  That’s one less preparation technique I need to suffer through indoors during the summer.


A glug of EVOO keeps my pasta sheets from sticking together.  I cook them to slightly less than al dente, since they’ll continue to cook when I bake off the casserole later, then I set them aside to hold in cold water until I need them.


These are the ingredients for my filling and sauce – more or less.  (There should be an egg in there, and some spinach – but I forgot to include them in this set-up shot.  Whoops.)


Here are my eggs.  These are so fresh from the farm they still have chicken funk stuck to them, so I have to wash the outsides, then my hands, before I can handle any more food.  Still – they were in a chicken yesterday, and will be in my belly tonight; that’s pretty darn fresh.


Not all my prep can be done outside, at least not while the sun’s setting and the bugs are flying madly about.  So I have to make my bechamel and filling inside – but all’s good, since it doesn’t take too long, and requires only a little heat.  I start by mincing my celery, carrots, and garlic.


I also chiffonade my spinach.  All these veggies will give my lasagna some crunch and texture, as well as simple garden flavors.


In my large skillet, I melt my butter and soften my garlic, before adding about a tablespoon of flour, which I whisk in well to make a roux.  I let this cook for a few moments over medium heat, allowing the roux to darken ever-so slightly.


I next whisk in my half n’ half, continuing to cook over medium heat until the bechamel has begun to thicken.


Some salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg gets added for flavor…


… before the addition of my veggies, which I stir in very well.


This could almost be eaten as a soup – a primavera cream soup.  I allow this to simmer, encouraging the spinach to soften and release its color by continuing to mix well, and I add about 1/4 cup of freshly grated parmagiano reggiano to the mix before removing the pan from the heat.


In a separate bowl, I’ve mixed my ricotta, my fresh mozz (which I’ve torn from little balls into littler balls), my beaten egg, more parm, and some salt and pepper together.


It’s time to layer the lasagna.  I’ve greased up my loaf pan, and I start with a slather of my spinachy bechamel.


Then I lay two noodle halves over the base, stud them with some of my chopped lobster meat, and then I drop two or three healthy dollops of my cheese blend on top, before spooning another slather of spinach sauce over everything.  I repeat this process for about 5 layers.


After topping the lasagna with the last of the bechamel and some more grated parm, I place the whole pan onto Little Red’s grill before closing the lid and walking away for about 30 minutes.


The fireworks may fall in the east, but the western sky right now is a study in light and shadow that easily rivals what we’ll be watching shortly, after the moon is high and the sun has completely sunk past the horizon.


As a complement to the lobster lasagna, I’ve thrown together a super quick salad: wedges of iceberg lettuce and tiny ripe salted tomatoes, topped with capers, ranch dressing and EVOO.  Sometimes it’s the easiest things to make that are the most satisfying.


After 20 minutes or so, I check to see that my lasagna is bubbling hot, and nicely crispy brown on top.  I remove it from the grill and set it to rest, loosely covered, for about 15 minutes before cutting into it (which will help it set).


This white light lobster lasagna has an almost ethereal quality: it’s hot and filling, to be sure, but the tender shellfish chunks and fluffy puffy baked cheese are bright, fresh, buttery and garlicky flavors, offset by wee bits of carrots and celery.  The crunchy salad with the sharp briny capers brings balance to the palate, and each bite is better than the last.  As the night closes in and the Pops warm up for the 1812 Overture, Clayton and I celebrate our freedom by devouring our dinners with gusto.  Happy Independence Day, America!  Here’s hoping that some day soon, we’ll be able to celebrate the freedom and happiness of every man, woman, and child on the planet – regardless of what they look like, where they come from, who they love or what they worship.  World Peace, people – it’s not just for beauty queens.

Weeknight Wondermeal: Cape Cod Swordfish, with Mango, Mozzarella, and Caper Salad, and Lolita’s Potato Tots

When warmly sunny but still-cool-breezed perfect June evening skies fill with the sunset struggles of rising pink against descending blue… while the cottony cumulus clouds play witness to those resplendent dances, rippling their muscular ethereal striations across the horizontal distance… that’s when Little Red rears his domed head, warms his coiled tonsils, and yawns his PAC-MAN maw, inviting us to sear and sizzle something summery and sumptuous on the grated surface of his cavity’s heat.

Summer, for the Fountains, equals seafood, and a quick excursion to the North Shore yesterday yielded us two perfect swordfish steaks we wanted to prepare in the simplest and most straightforward way.  I learned this recipe from I don’t know where, but I do remember when: my friend John called me up out of the blue one afternoon, saying “I’ve been deep-sea fishing this morning, and I have a side of fresh-clubbed tuna; feel like cooking?”  (I thought I’d told this story before, but I hadn’t – even though I did make a variation on this recipe once already, a long long time – and another camera – ago …)

Of course I felt like cooking!  But I wanted to showcase the fish, and not focus on any extraneous flavors, and this recipe (the source of which I really can’t recall–is that plagiarism?) – a meringue of  mayonnaise with only a sprinkling of salt and pepper –  seemed the most honest way to go.  On that perfect night, it was a *perfect* dish.  Years later, tonight, it was a perfect preparation again, only this time with tuna’s less florid cousin, the fierce and compelling swordfish (I mean, what kind of evolutionary development lead to that mythical probiscus?  Well, I do work at Harvard; I can probably find someone to ask exactly that question…)

Succulent juicy grill-seared swordsteaks along with some pan-grilled potato tots (oh, yes,  you’re reading that right)  — a Lolita signature dish (that I just came up with) – and an alternatively sweet, salty, and milky side salad, this al fresco supper on our wee deck in the sky was a perfect meal for a Monday night.  Light, sumptuous substantial seafood, with bursting pillowy potato packets and a freshsharpsaltysweetcreamedcurd salad – incredible!  $21 and 45 minutes: a wonderful weeknight wondermeal anyone would love.

Cape Cod Swordfish, with Mango, Mozzarella, and Caper Salad, and Lolita’s Potato Tots

10-12 tiny little red/white potatoes
EVOO
2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 8z oz fresh swordfish (or tuna) steaks
mayonnaise
1 small mango
1 boll fresh mozzarella cheese
3 tbs capers
white balsamic vinegar
baby romaine lettuce

I wash and peel the middles (only) out of my spuds.  These tiny babies are barely an inch in diameter each; they elicited remarks from the man behind me in line at Whole Foods – he thought they looked delicious.  And they are, dear man; they are.

I toss them with EVOO, my chopped rosemary, some salt and pepper, and then I spread them out on a small, non-stick cake pan, which I set on my as-hot-as-it-gets (350-375°) electric grill.  What?  Using a non-stick cake-pan on a grill is a bad thing?  Well, you have to use what you have, and, frankly….

…  considering the way these babies cook in this set-up, my jerry-rig is inspired!  Every 10 minutes or so, I roll these little potato nuggets over a 1/4 turn in the hot spiced EVOO spread across the bottom of the pan.  Each side sears and crisps, just like the perfect crunchy crust of a pub-potato skin, while the insides bake to a creamy, ethereal consistency.  After 20 minutes, I…

… break out my swordfish steaks.  These babies are about 1/2″ thick.


The Cape Cod preparation, according to the mystery recipe I remember but can’t find, is nothing but a *very* healthy slathering of mayo.  I mean *VERY HEALTHY* – like 1 1/2 tbs per steak side.  Lots of it will fall off when you flip the steaks, so don’t be shy with the initial layer.

After covering completely with a thick layer of mayo, sprinkle heartily with salt and pepper.

Lay each steak mayo side down on the hot grill grate, then slather, salt, and pepper each upside.  Lower the lid, and roast for 8 minutes (or so).

Flip.  Roast another 5 minutes, or until the bottom mayo had browned and crusted, too.  Oh yeah.  All that moisturizing egg has been absorbed into my fish flesh,  and my sword is as juicy as a succulent tenderloin steak.

As my steaks have been cooking, I’ve cut a fresh mango and a boll of fresh mozzarella into chunks, and I’ve added them with a few tablespoons of briny pickled capers to a bowl of baby romaine lettuce leaves.  A sprinkling of balsamic vinegar, a glug or two of EVOO, some trusty salt and pepper, and a few tosses later my bowl is a beautiful salad.

As the sun sets in the west, my juicy seared swordfish steaks, my plump bursting packages of perfectly seared outside creamy inside potatoes, and my snappy creamy salad with sweet mango and salty capers fills my plate and palate with the fresh flavors of summer, sun, and satisfaction.   On my breezy deck, overlooking the rooftops of Cambridgeport, with the sun in my eyes and the sweetly scented breezes in my hair, this 30-45 minute outdoor dinner is just one of many coming in the next few months of Boston’s best season.
Cape Cod Swordfish, with Mango, Mozzarella, and Caper Salad, and Lolita’s Potato Tots

Cleetus (the Cod) Piccata and Cilantro Bibb Salad

Tonight was this season’s first Harvard Square Farmer’s Market delivery of the Cape Ann Fresh Catch Community Shared Fishery, and Cleetus the Cod made his way into our home, our hearts, and our stomachs scant hours after being yanked fresh from the Atlantic Ocean.  Why did I name him Cleetus?  Mainly for alliterative effect… one I worked out while walking in the gathering New England storm to the truck where he waited for me.  And Cleetus was KING SIZED; this bad boy was the biggest fish we’ve yet had over for dinner.

I wish I had a scale so I could’ve weighed him, but I can tell you that dragging his fins home from work on the subway was both surreal, and exhausting.  Thank goodness eating him fortified me so well…

This is only 1/2 of Cleetus’s sweet sweet meat; the rest is waiting patiently in the freezer for a later application of cod chowder, or maybe cod fritters, or maybe codcakes.  We’ll see.  But for now, here’s about 1-1 1/4lb roughly (read: amateurishly) harvested cod fillets (which I’m proud to say were at least perfectly boneless and skinless, if not entirely successfully cut from the, er, carcass.)

I cut my fillet into 6 mostly equally sized strips, or fingers, or cutlets, or whateveryamacallem.

Salt and pepper all sides of the fish fingers liberally, and then dredge thoroughly in flour.

In a heavy bottomed skillet, heat a few tablespoons (enough to lightly coat the surface of your entire pan) over medium high heat.  Melt one tablespoon butter into the hot oil, and swirl well.

Carefully place your cod pieces into your hot sizzling butteroil, and shake the pan gently to keep any damp spots from sticking.  Sear gently over high heat for 5-6 minutes, or until nicely browned on the bottom, with a creeping cooked level working up the sides of each piece, leaving pink only on the very top centers.

When browned, carefully flip each piece with tongs and a spatula.  Swirl the pan to distribute the remaining oils well under each piece, and gently shake the pan to keep them from sticking.  Cook for another 5-6 minutes, until crispy.

Piccata is one of my favorite sauces, but I admit I’ve only ever used it over chicken, pork, or veal cutlets.  But I had literally nothing in the pantry but a lemon, some well-salted capers, some butter and, of course,…

…some wine.  Here’s some cheap, but drinkable and delightfully cookable, chardonnay.  I rinse my capers well…

… then add about 1 cup of wine, let reduce, then add my rinsed capers, the juice of one lemon, and — at the very last minute — one tbs butter.

Fresh, buttery leaves of Bibb lettuce tossed with cilantro, pinched fresh mozzarella, blood orange EVOO and white wine vinegar compliments the briny buttery goodness of Piccata’s pan sauce over tender fresh crunchy spears of pan-seared cod.  Bright as a spring morning sun, fresh as a moonlit spring night, and tasty like a tango of flavors gracefully prancing across the palate, and as satisfying as sex on the beach.  Or so I hear.  Keep your fingers crossed for me, folks, that our Mexican Christmas holiday happens the way we hope it will.

Until then, enjoying this sumptuous supper of sublime seafood and sweet salad will give me the … aaahhhhhhh… I need to make it through the week.

Caper Butter Black Back Flounder with Pasta Carbonara

After ten years of carlessness, Clayton’s new gig calls for transportation, so today we went car shopping.  It was dreary and rainy, cold and grey, and after surveying various car dealerships, we’ve got some ideas, but have made no decisions.  What it was easy to decide upon, however, was that we should take advantage of our Boston North Shore drive to purchase some fresh-from-the-Atlantic seafood.  Today’s catch: black-back flounder fillets, served with an easy simple fresh wavy ribbon pasta carbonara.

What you’ll need:

1/2 lb fresh pancetta
2 egg yolks
4 nests of fresh cut pasta (about 1/2 lb)
1 lemon
4 fillets of flounder (1 lb total)
flour
sea salt and pepper
5 cloves garlic
2 tbs olive oil
scallions
1/2 cup capers (rinsed of salt)

(optional: two fresh stuffed clams, which they had at the fishmonger’s, which we enjoyed as appetizers)

Oh, and 1 stick of butter.  Indulgence.  It makes life worth living.

This is a species of flounder I’d not yet tried, but we enjoy sole and turbot, so we thought we’d give this lovely a spin.  Whenever I try a new white fish like this, I do *nothing* but dredge it in flour, before pan-sauteeing it in browned butter.  To my mind, without a broiler (which I do not have), this is the simplest way to prepare this sort of fish while highlighting its natural sweet, tender succulence.

We bought this lovely pancetta at Duckworth Beach Gourmet, where we also purchased our pasta for tonight, and a boll of fresh mozzarella and two links of house-made sweet italian sausage for tomorrow’s dinner (or Monday night’s).  I diced it small, then diced it even smaller again.

This meal needs to be executed quickly, with all dished cooking simultaneously.  I set up a pot of water to boil on a back burner, to boil my pasta; I set up a large skillet also on a back burner, on high heat, melting butter, to pan-sear my flounder; and I set up my wok, on medium heat, with 2 tablespoons of EVOO to sautee my pancetta and cook my pasta sauce.

Sautee your pancetta, tossing often, to fully  cook and crisp through.

Add two of your floured flouder fillets to the hot, sizzling butter in your large skillet.  Sear for 4-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, your pancetta should be crisping nicely on each edge.

Add your minced garlic to the pan, lowering the heat so that you don’t brown the garlic.

Here’s how to flip your fish — once it’s browned nicely on one side (for lefties, do the opposite of this procedure): holding the handle of your pan in your left hand, tilt it to the right, and slide the right-most fillet onto a plastic spatula.  Pick that fillet up, and – while it’s elevated – shake/slide the remaining fillet to the bottom/tilted-down right-side of the pan.  Flip the fillet from your spatula onto its uncooked side on the left side of your now-held level pan.  Then, pick up the fillet now on the right side, tilt your pan right-side downwards, sliding/shaking the freshly flipped fillet to the bottom edge, and flip the elevated fillet uncooked-side down onto the now vacant left side of the pan.  It’s like a three-card monty sort of switcharoo, only with two cards… of fish.

Once each side is cooked fully, remove to your plates and keep warm. Cook as many fillets as you need per person (this is two per), then add 1/4 cup capers to your still sizzling butter, then squeeze the juice of one lemon into the pan, cooking over high heat and stirring well, to make your simple brown butter caper sauce.

Oh, I;ve dropped my fresh pasta into my boiling water.  It only needs about 4 minutes to cook.

Once cooked to a nice al dente, strain your pasta — reserving at least a 1/2 to 1 cup of the starchy cooking water for your sauce — into your cooked pancetta and garlic blend.  Toss well, coating all your pasta with the sweet savory meat bits and fats.

Separate your yolks, beat them, and add them to your hot pasta and pancetta, which has now been removed from the heat.  Whisk very well, very rapidly, adding enough of your reserved cooking water to the pan to achieve the right consistency.  If you have some fresh grated parmesan, add about 1/2 cup here.  Stir well… very very well, but very very quickly.  This will cool fast.

My firm but flaky flounder fillets are dressed with my simple caper brown pan butter.  My firm and frilly fresh pasta is dressed with pancetta, garlic, and egg yolks, cooked creamy and richly in its own heat.  A light but induglent meal, pulled fresh from today’s storm-tossed Atlantic coast, crafted by artisans from the North Shore, and concocted by lil’ ol’ me.

Simplest Steamed Salmon with Spuds and Chard

I had an eye doctor’s appointment today, during which I was shot in the peepers several times with those puffs of air, which my ninja-like reflexes deflected so efficiently that my colorless and humorless doctor had to drop sticky crap into them instead, effectively blinding me for the rest of the day. Luckily, Clayton had accompanied me to the Rx, so he led me guide-dog style to Whole Foods, where I felt around for some stuff for dinner. Simple was key for this evening, so I purchased what I needed for one of the Fountain household staple dinners.

What you’ll need:

1 lb fresh coho salmon filet
1 bunch fresh rainbow chard
little red potatoes
one red onion
one lemon
salted capers
½ cup mayonnaise
scallions
olive oil
white vinegar
sea salt
cracked black pepper
rosemary (not pictured)
garden herb blend (not pictured, bit in this case oregano, thai basil, and Italian basil)

The glorious red onion.

You really only need ½ of an onion this large, if you are cooking for two (and generously, at that), so I put half away in a plastic baggie for tomorrow. I love the milk that leaks out of these juicy babies when you slice them… although the sympathetic eye leakage I could live without.

The lovely wee red potatoes. I quarter 1lb, thinking to make extra spudchard for Clayton to enjoy later with lunch.

Chuck them into a deep bowl with a healthy dosage of EVOO and some sea salt and cracked black.

This is some of our rosemary from this past summer. Clayton always has plates of herbs drying around the house. Lucky for him, I’m too short to reach most of the shelves, and since we’re usually together when I cook he always gets the high stuff down. On the rare occasion when I channel my inner monkey and climb, I inevitably upset a paper plate filled with herbs in different stages of dehydration. Then I spend my quality time cleaning it all up.

A healthy handful and some Dr. Evil-style palm-rubbing and you’ll made flakes of dried rosemary leaves. Sprinkle them over your spuds.

Spread your potato quarters over a flat baking sheet, pouring most of the residual seasoned EVOO onto the pan, too. Give it a good shake, and stick it into a preheated 400° oven.

But don’t clean that bowl yet! You’ll need it!

Throw your lovely sliced onions into it, and scrape all the herbs clinging to the sides down and stir everything together.

Add a few glugs of white vinegar…

… a few glugs more of EVOO, and the juice of ½ a lemon to the pan. You should have enough marinade to cover your fun-onions.

Here’s another of Clayton’s dried herb blends: a mix of a couple of basils and oregano. I fill a palm, smack it to it’s mate, rub ‘em together over the bowl, and…

Voila! Mix well, and set aside so the onions can pickle in this quick sweet sauce.

Salted capers – a must for ANY kitchen! I just refilled my supply at the Salumeria Italiana in Boston. Take about 4oz and place them in a sieve (or a mesh thingy, like me).

And rinse them. My little kitchen-man tries to catch a draught… I don’t have kids, but I have a collection of clay men I’ve made (excluding the husband Clay-ton.) Some people think they’re freaky, but I love their weird Harlequin faces.

Rinsed and ready.

Using my fine new chef’s knife, I chop ‘em up real good like.

Add your chopped capers to some mayonnaise, as well as the juice of the other ½ lemon and about 2 tbs of EVOO.

A pinch of two of black pepper and a healthy mixing is all you need. Set this sauce aside so your flavors can blend.

Check your spuds. See how the edges on the pan have started to crisp and crawl up the sides? This is good. Give the pan a good shake, distributing the sizzling oil nicely across the surface, and stick this back in the oven.

Salmon. So pink. So perfect.

Place it into your bamboo steamer, cover, and set to cook. It will need about 10-15 minutes on full steam. It’s hard to overcook with this method, so you can confidently walk away.

Chard. So colorful. Most people I know don’t know what to do with chards and kales, but I’ve learned to love these fantastic leaves of green, shot through with brilliant rich color. Chop off the end stems.

Roll your chard into a cigar and slice into ½” thick bands.

Remember your onions? They’ve been soaking in this dressing for about 20 minutes now, and they should be soft and melting. The thinner you slice them, the softer they’ll be. Tonight, I wanted toothsome.

Add your chard to your onions and dressing and mix very well.

Your potatoes should be nicely seared on at least one, if not two, of its raw spudie edges. There will also be a lot of sizzling oil in the pan…

Dump *everything* — potatoes and oil – over your chardonions, allowing the heat from the still roasting spuds and their sizzling juices to wilt the greens with contact.

Mix VERY well, flipping everything together several times, distributing all the heat and melting the chard into soft and well seasoned strips.

Sweetly steamed salmon slathered with caper-lemon aioli, served with crunchy-edged, soft-centered spuds tossed with well-seasoned rainbow chard – an incredibly simple meal, but with oh-so-satisfying results. This is one of our favorite meals – it takes very little effort, is very healthy (even despite the extra glugs of EVOO), and works all year round. Even the royalty of Stormalong Harbor recognizes a good meal when they see one…