Posts tagged ‘fish’

October 5, 2013

Grains of Paradise and Cayenne Oatmeal Cookies

Living in Houston I’ve learned that Texans LOVE spicy, hot food.  They serve everything with a side of Tabasco or hot salsa that makes your forehead sweat, and it’s already hot enough without the spicy food.  Eggs, steak, salads, burgers… everything is bursting with heat.  I spent my first few months in Houston downing gallons of milk every time I attempted to conquer the red salsa at our local Mexican restaurant.  Sadly, I never succeeded.  But in an effort to enbrace my new home I’ve tried to incorporate some spice into my classic recipes to satisfy my friends cravings.

Grains of Paradise and Cayenne Oatmeal Cookies

The thing I like about these cookies is that they don’t immediately smack you in the face with heat, it gradually hits at the end and lingers ever so slightly.  I didn’t want to mess with a classic too much, but I do think this takes a traditional oatmeal cookie to a more grown up level.  The cranberries add to the chewy texture of the oats and give it an added sweetness needed with the earthy spices. I purposely left out cinnamon, usually a staple in oatmeal cookies, as I didn’t want it to mask the other spices. 

The secret ingredient in these cookies is grains of paradise, a spice native to West Africa. I crushed the grains with my mortar and pestle which released the most heavenly aroma — a combination of black pepper, cardamom, coriander and citrus with a lingering scent of something floral and woodsy.  If you crack one between your teeth, the flavor follows in much the same order as the aroma.  If you only get one thing from this recipe I hope it’s an introduction to this wonderful spice.  The floral, peppery flavor is going to make a wonderful addition to just about all your favorite foods.  Your grilled steaks, fish, vegetables and potatoes will thank you.

If you’re looking for something a little more special, pop two cookies in the oven at 350 for a few minutes and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have a perfect ice cream sandwich. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you are adventurous)
  • 1 tsp. grains of paradise
  • 1 tsp.  baking soda
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped and toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups traditional Quaker Oats (not quick cook)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F
  2. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. This helps the cookies crisp by being closer to the heat source or at the very top where the heat accumulates.
  3. Place nuts in a small pan and toast on medium heat for 5-7 minutes.  As soon as they become fragrant take them off the heat and space them on the side to cool.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cayenne, grains of paradise and salt thoroughly and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, beat butter, white and brown sugar, and vanilla until the mixture changes color and becomes a smooth, pale white… this is what you want so you have light, fluffy cookies.
  6. Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
  7. Add oats, pecans and cranberries and stir until mixed well.
  8. Scoop dough on to ungreased cookie sheets, I use a mini ice cream scoop to make it easier.  I also spray the spoon with pam so the dough doesn’t stick.
  9. Bake for 8-10 more minutes until the cookies are golden brown
  10. Let the cookies cool on pan for 1 minute before placing on wire rack.
  11. Enjoy!

 

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September 25, 2011

Seared Petrale Sole

Growing up in San Francisco I was lucky to have access to come of the best fish in the country, one of my favorites is Petrale sole.  It’s a lean white fish about ½ an inch thick, with a mild favor that’s easily enhanced with mild spices and warm butter.  Petrale sole is exclusively found in the Pacific Ocean, but it’s close relative the Dover sole is more common on the east coast.  Both are beautifully delicate fish, perfect for a light dinner as we near the end of summer.

The key to cooking fish is cook it fast and don’t mess with it.  Fish already has great flavor, so I try to keep my methods and spices simple as to not overwhelm the natural taste.  I like to add a little touch of heat with either red pepper flakes or cayenne, but be light handed.  Good luck, and I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Petrale sole
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup semolina flour
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • Slice of lemon for garnish

Method

  • Mix flour, semolina, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper on a shallow plate.  I find it easier to dust the fish on a plate vs a bowl, and you also use up less flour in the process.
  • Preheat non stick frying pan to medium-high heat and add butter and olive oil
  • While the pan heats, lay the fish in the flour mixture and coat evenly.  It’s not like a batter, so it won’t be a thick layer, just an even dusting
  • Once the butter begins to foam, add fish and cook for 3 minutes
  • Flip and cook an additional 3 minutes.  Petrale sole is very thin, so it doesn’t take long.  You’re looking for a golden brown color on either side, which will give it a nice crust
  • Remove from pan and serve with a salad and potatoes

While I always encourage grilling, I would recommend it in this case.  Petrale sole will fall apart on the grill as it usually comes without skin and won’t stand up on the wire rack.  Leave grilling for something more hearty like salmon or tuna.

September 13, 2011

Aka Sushi, Best Sushi in Houston

Salt and vinegar potato chips, molten dark chocolate cake, fish and chips, bacon, and stick to your ribs homemade macaroni and cheese.  We all give into our cravings. Lucky for me, one of mine happens to be healthy.  There aren’t many places that make me as happy as a trip to my favorite sushi place in Houston, Aka Sushi.

You will not find better sushi for such a good price anywhere in Houston, let along anywhere in Texas.  I grew up in San Francisco, a mecca for fresh fish and great produce, so I think I can say with conviction I’ve tried my fair share of sushi.  Through all my travels, Aka is still at the top of my list.

Upon my first visit, I was eager to try about 20 different rolls on Aka’s enormous menu. They’re certainly on top of some of the better Japanese fusion trends.  I took some recommendations from the welcoming and very informative waiters, and was extremely pleased with all my selections.  Ask for Tony and Jay (they are my two pals and know me too well), they will steer you in the right direction.  Whether you’re the adventurous type, or a beginner sushi lover, they’ll be able to help you navigate the multitude of choices.

Here is my number one tip.  If there is anything you remember from this post, it has to be this.  Ask for a side of their creamy ginger dressing to go along with your sushi.  This is essential to enjoying the ultimate sushi experience.  It has a smooth, rich consistency and the combination of spicy ginger and tangy vinegar makes a perfect addition to any roll.  It’s heavenly, pure bliss!

I’ve tried most of their sushi rolls, and here are my top picks for both the adventurous and timid:

  • Tony’s roll a.k.a. flamin’: spicy salmon, tempura crunch, pepper tuna, avocado, tobiko, sesame seeds, eel sauce, honey wasabi To die for…probably the best roll I’ve ever had.)
  • Ninja roll: spicy tuna, cucumber, avocado; topped with blackened tuna, crumbled goat cheese, honey wasabi, balsamic soy (ask for it “Tony style” and they’ll add some fresh apple slices)
  • Crazy: spicy tuna, shrimp temp., cucumber, jalapeño, masago, sesame, spicy mayo
  • Spicy crunchy salmon: spicy salmon with tempura crunch
  • Spicy crunchy tuna:  spicy tuna with tempura crunch

Aka’s lunch and happy hour deals are unbeatable.   If you get a chance to visit please let me know how you like it and your favorite roll, I’m always looking to try something new!

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