Mussels with Tomato Broth and Goat Cheese

I can confidently state that mussels are in my top 3 of favorite seafood dishes. Although you can hardly consider them as a singular dish, especially with all the different broths like tomato, cream and beer that are used. With all these combinations I don’t think I’ll get tired of mussels anytime soon! But the best part of mussels is the ritual of eating them: breaking open the shell and taking a bite, and a sip of the broth. And of course, mopping up the sauce with some crusty bread. The flavor is usually savory from the broth and slightly sweet and oceany from the mussels. Delicious!

When we were along the southern coast of Turkey, we took a 2 day side trip to the island of Rhodes in Greece. For dinner, we went to this restaurant called Agalma in the Rhodes new town. As an appetizer, we had these mussels in a savory tomato broth that was sprinkled with goat cheese. We loved this dish and wanted to recreate it when we got home. If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, feel free to leave it out. But either way, pair this dish with our garlic bread and you’ve got a great meal!

Directions

  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the tomato juice and celery seeds. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Discard any mussels that are broken or do not shut when tapped.
  5. Add the mussels to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil.
  6. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, until mussels are open, about 3 minutes.
  7. Remove the mussels and place into a large bowl, leaving the broth in the pot.
  8. Add the cheese into the broth and whisk over low heat for 1 minute.
  9. Pour broth over mussels and serve.

Cook’s Notes

I didn’t buy tomato juice for this recipe. Our grocery store only sells them in huge bottles, and this recipe only calls for a little bit. Instead, I had regular tomato sauce (not spaghetti or pizza sauce) on hand and mixed 3/4 cup tomato sauce with 3/4 cup water to get the 1 1/2 cups tomato juice.

For some added flavor, we used herb goat cheese.

Sautéed Scallops with Ramps

Ramps season is here and we got our hands on some from the Union Square Greenmarket. If you love garlic and onions, then you’ve got to try ramps. They have a short growing season and can only be found in early spring. And what’s more, they’re wild; so the ramps we eat are foraged from wild populations. Apparently they’re finicky plants and difficult to cultivate. But I guess that’s what makes it exciting when the first bunches of ramps are spotted at markets and on restaurant menus. Since the foodie population has grown exponentially, at least in New York, I’ve seen blogs and Twitter handles dedicated to ramp-spotting. I suppose the ephemeral nature of the plant excites us to seek it out wherever possible during the few weeks of its season.

And what does it taste like exactly? Think of it as the flavors of garlic and a mild shallot combined. After all, it is part of the Allium genus, which also contains leeks, shallots, onions, scallions and garlic. So definitely have a post-ramp stick of gum at the ready. Or have a few sticks on hand since when they are in season, they’re everywhere. You can have them at breakfast – they’re great with eggs, as a side, or in them as an omlette. You can also have them at lunch and dinner with pasta, pizza, seafood…basically with anything you usually put garlic and onion in. The whole ramp, including the stem, can be eaten. They’re fast to cook (either whole or chopped up) and just need a quick sauté.  I cooked one bunch with eggs, which I didn’t photograph. The other bunch I used with wild Diver Scallops. This might be one of the easiest recipes I’ve posted. I cooked both the ramps and the scallops cleanly since I wanted their natural flavors to shine.

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a pan on medium-high heat.
  2. Sauté the ramps, season to taste, and set aside on a plate.
  3. Rinse scallops and pat dry. Season to taste.
  4. In the same or another pan, heat some more olive oil.
  5. Sear scallops for a few minutes (about 2) on each side.
  6. Plate scallops on top of ramps and serve immediately.

Broiled Striped Bass Fish Tacos

Yes, we’re still working our way through the fish caught from the fishing trip a month back. We’ve pan fried them, broiled them, miso glazed them, and used them in noodle soups. But after my trip to Pinche Taqueria a few weekends ago, I’ve been craving fish tacos again.

I’ve never made them before, but there was enough fish to experiment with. They’re actually quite easy to make. It just takes a little prep work beforehand with the condiments. For the fish, you want to use a white fish. Striped bass is a good choice, so is mahi mahi, which can be found in frozen fillet form in Trader Joe’s, or tilapia, also found at Trader Joe’s. The rest of the ingredients are relatively inexpensive, so the meal is quite affordable.

We were planning on eating these tacos for lunch since I had bought a whole chicken to be roasted for dinner. These tacos turned out so delicious that we ended up eating them again for dinner. I roasted the chicken the next day.

Directions

  1. Rinse the fillet under cold water and pat dry.
  2. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Drizzle olive oil on both sides.
  4. Broil 3 -4 minutes on each side.
  5. Mix together ingredients for the salsa.
  6. Mix together ingredients for the shredded cabbage.
  7. Heat the corn tortillas individually on a hot pan.
  8. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Cook’s Notes

I love tacos because they can be personalized. If you have space outdoors – grill the fish instead of broiling it. (They’re basically the same method – grilling is cooking over the flame from the bottom up and broiling is cooking with the flame from the top down. But since you can’t grill well indoors, broiling is the next best option.) The fish can also be pan fried, deep fried – however you like it!

The same is true for the condiments – they can be seasoned to fit your taste profile. If you want more acidity, add in more lime juice. If you want more hotness, add in more jalapeños. Also, keeping the seeds in the jalapeños will also increase the spice factor.

I like to prepare the condiments about 30 minutes before I start cooking the fish so that there is time for all the flavors to marinate together.

I also like the acidic flavor of the liquid in the salsa. I like to spoon the liquid onto one tortilla so that it soaks up the flavor. Then I place a fresh tortilla under it and them assemble the tacos.

Miso Glazed Striped Bass

Did I forget to tell you? A few weeks ago, my better half, and photographer of this site, went on a fishing trip off Montauk with some friends. They caught over 100 pounds of striped bass! A highly productive trip! We froze our share and are gradually working through it, slowly and steadily. The necessity of using this ingredient was partly how this recipe came to fruition. The other half of the realization of this recipe was inspiration.

It is a privilege to be able to dine in the inspirational restaurants of New York, to participate in the culinary narrative woven by the most prominent chefs. One of our favorite dishes is the black cod with miso (miso-marinated black cod) from Nobu. We love miso over here. It’s a versatile ingredient that is bold in flavor and has the ability to transform a frozen piece of fish into an elegant meal. It’s sweet, salty and savory.

Firm fish has the best textural complement for this marinade. Salmon and white fish, such as cod and striped bass, can be used. They have a texture that is both flaky and meaty. For white fish, the flavor is moist, mild and buttery. The fish takes in the complex flavors of the marinade while still preserving the natural taste of the meat. In some dishes, the flavors are too forward, loud, in your face. Here, the flavors are still showcased, but in a more delicate, refined and natural setting.

Directions

  1. Mix together the mirin, sugar, white miso and sesame oil for the marinade. Reserve a few tablespoons of the marinade, if desired, for a second layer of glaze when broiling.
  2. Marinade the fillet overnight and up to 24 hours.
  3. Before cooking, bring the marinated fillet up to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
  4. Set the oven rack so it’s 4 -6″ from the top heating element, for broiling.
  5. Place the fillet on a broiler pan and broil 2 minutes.
  6. Flip the fillet over, re-glaze if desired, and broil 3 minutes.
  7. Set the oven to 400F for baking.
  8. Move the rack to the middle of the oven.
  9. Bake for 5 minutes, until done.

Cook’s Notes

Since you are only flipping the fillet once, place the side you want to end up being on top face down first. This is why the broiling time post-flip is slightly longer than the time for the initial broil. You want a nice caramelization of the sugar on the side that will be facing up.

It’s important to bring the fish up to room temperature before you cook it. It will allow the fish to cook evenly and faster. Otherwise, the outside will become overdone and dry before the inside is cooked. But if you worry about letting the fish sit on your counter, 10 – 20 minutes on the counter will not produce much bacterial growth.

Sea Bream with Fennel, Olives, Lemon and Dill

You know when people say “I really should exercise (for example) more because it’s good for me,” but never get around to actually doing said activity? Eating seafood was it for me. I’d sometimes order it in restaurants and cook it once in a while at home. Seafood is great for you. It’s a good source of protein and healthy fats (omega-3s!). You’re supposed to get a few servings of it a week; and I’m starting to do just that.

I think Spring/Summer is a great time for seafood. It’s warm outside and the seafood is fresh and light, and perky with a splash of lemon. When I eat seafood, I don’t feel weighed down the same way I do after a meal of heavier proteins, like beef. Sea Breams are great in size. You can find ones small enough so that each person can get a whole fish. Presentation-wise, this looks definitely more appetizing than a fillet! And they can customize the types of filling they want. The only downside is that these fish have a lot of small bones, so watch out when eating!

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Rinse the fishes under cold water and pat dry.
  3. Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet and place fishes on top of it.
  4. Season the inside and outside of the fishes with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  5. Warm about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the fennel and cook until softening, about 4 minutes.
  6. Add in olives and garlic. Cook until flavors meld, about 2 minutes.
  7. Stuff the fishes with the fennel and olive mixture.
  8. Add in lemon slices and some fresh sprigs of dill.
  9. Fold the top of the butterflied fishes over the mixture and drizzle the outside with olive oil.
  10. Bake for about 15 minutes.