White Wine Braised Mahi Mahi with Fennel, Mushrooms and Carrots

Last Saturday and Sunday was one of those weekends where I was around town, running errands and never got around to going to the grocery store. I had also forgotten to place a Fresh Direct order that Thursday. So this is a post based on what I scraped together from my fridge, freezer and pantry.

I always have some staple ingredients that I buy seconds of when the first is running low So what do I keep on hand?

In the pantry: chicken broth (boxed liquid and bouillon form), dried herbs, spices, basic baking ingredients (sugars, all-purpose flour baking soda/powder, and yeast), canned ingredients (tomatoes, beans, tuna, anchovies, sardines), oils, vinegars, Asian sauces (like fish sauce and soy sauce), light coconut milk, onions, garlic, rice, oats (rolled and steel cut), dried pasta and ginger.

In the fridge: eggs, mushrooms, carrots, soy milk, butter, white miso pasta, Asian sauces (like sriracha, chili oil, and hoisin), lemons, limes and (almost always) white wine.

In the freezer: frozen peas, corn kernels, dumplings, blueberries, edamame, meats, and fish fillets.

I usually buy a family pack of chicken thighs and freeze them. You can usually find a deal on the price per pound for family packs. I also get frozen fish fillets from Trader Joe’s. They’re very fresh (don’t smell fishy after defrosting) and affordable. They have the common fishes: salmon, mahi mahi, tuna, swordfish, cod, tilapia, and catfish.

Frozen foods are in general cheaper than their fresh counterparts. And they usually have equal, if not higher, levels of nutrients. For fruits and vegetables, they’re flash frozen when harvested so they’re at their nutrient level peak. By the time you purchase the fresh kind in the store, they might have already passed the peak and are in nutrient decline. Seafood is usually flash frozen right after the catch so they’re also really fresh.

If you can’t make it to the store, you can still cook up delicious dishes if you have these staples on hand. For example, with defrosted chicken thighs. You can marinade them in olive oil+balsamic vinegar+dried rosemary or sriracha+lime juice+lime zest+ginger and then broil them. It’s always nice to have items in reserve.

Directions

  1. Rinse the fillet under cold water and pat dry.
  2. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. In a pan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoon olive oil.
  4. Add fennel and carrots to the pan. Cook on medium heat until starting to soften, 3 – 5 minutes.
  5. Add in mushrooms. Add in more oil, if necessary. Cook 1 -2 minutes.
  6. Add in thyme, coriander and garlic. Cook 1 -2 minutes.
  7. Add in lemon juice and white wine.
  8. Place fillet in pan, on top of the vegetable mixture.
  9. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook until done, about 6 minutes.
  10. Serve fillet with vegetables and top with some of the braising liquid.

Mediterranean Mussels

After a week of rain, it seems like summer is finally starting in New York City. Summer for me has always been associated with trips to the beach, especially Outer Banks, and of course fresh seafood. Oceans, sand, that fresh seawater smell, a pot of mussels and a beer…mmm. But actually, it’s more like mussels and beer sans the ocean and breeze.

To get my mussels fix in New York City, I’ve always gone to Cafe de Bruxelles. That is, until it closed last year. I haven’t been able to find a great alternative since then. Petite Abeille is OK, La Sirene is good – but only has a few types of mussels as appetizers. I bought the Bloomspot deal for The Mussel Pot, but haven’t gone yet. Is it any good? Until I try it out, I get my mussels fix at home. It’s pretty hard to mess up mussels.

As I’ve been cooking more fish and shellfish, I’ve come to realize that cooking seafood is not as difficult as it seems. To keep the integrity of the main ingredient, all that is needed is really just a squeeze of a lemon wedge. Usually only a handful of additional ingredients are needed to lift the taste of the dish. While the delicate meat can be intimidating, timing is key in order to keep fish from becoming overcooked. Since the fish is the star, it’s important to get fresh, high quality seafood. This can definitely get expensive, especially in New York City. However, I’ve just discovered that seafood from Fresh Direct is very good in quality, assortment and also reasonably priced as compared to the products from Whole Foods and Wild Edibles. The ingredients from this and the next post are all from the order I received this morning!

And remember, as with all savory cooking the amount of ingredients can be adjusted depending on how garlicky, spicy, sweet etc. you’d like the dish to taste.

Directions

  1. In a soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil.
  2. Add the fennel and cook about 5 minutes until soft.
  3. Add the shallot and garlic, cook 2-3 minutes until soft.
  4. Add the jamon serrano and olives, cook 1-2 minutes for the flavors to blend.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Pour in the white wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  7. Reduce heat to low and add mussels. Cover and let cook for 5 minutes, until all mussels are open. Discard any mussels that do not open.
  8. Pour mussels and sauce into a large bowl and enjoy with crusty bread!