Category Archives: Seafood

Roast Sea Bass with Chickpea Puree and Parsley Sauce

DSC_4941Many moons ago, I had a friend who I met at my first job in New York.  She was lots of fun and we hit it off right away.  We’ve since lost touch, but I still look back on those days fondly.  She showed me the grittier side of New York, when I was still caught up in an image of New York consisting primarily of my Upper West Side neighborhood.  She grew up in a suburb of New York and had endless stories about sneaking into Manhattan as a teenager.   She would go to clubs, drink alcohol, experiment with drugs, and get involved with older men.  Having grown up in a very small town in Minnesota myself, it all sounded to scandalous and exciting to me.  I felt like I missed out on an important teenage rite of passage.

My friend—I’ll call her Sara—was always very encouraging to me on the dating front.  She persuaded me to jump headfirst into dating and gave me the confidence to believe that New York men would find me charming.  One morning Sara came into the office and said she had someone in mind for me; she wanted to set us up on a blind date.  The guy she had in mind worked as a fishmonger in her neighborhood, and apparently he was really nice and very handsome.  She said he looked like Tyson Beckford, the male model (remember him??).  Of course I immediately felt inept and had a million reasons why it would not be a good idea for me to date someone who looked like a MALE MODEL.  But Sara would not hear any of it.  She insisted we meet each other and was sure that we would each enjoy the other’s company.
DSC_4920He and I met up at a bar/restaurant in the Lower East Side that I frequented on the weekends.  I figured even if we didn’t hit it off, I knew the place had good food and excellent live music.  She was right:  he was gorgeous and looked uncannily like Tyson Beckford.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have much else to offer.  He was boring as hell.  At one point, we started discussing movies and I started to perk up a bit since I am an avid movie-goer and love talking about interesting films.  However, I’ll never forget when he said, “I don’t think there’s such a thing as a ‘bad movie’.”  That’s when I knew the date was over.  Done.  Finished.  Check, please!

Dud or not, I guess you could say he was thoughtful, if not somewhat oddball-ish about his thoughtfulness.  Because he worked as a fishmonger, he brought me a COUPLE OF POUNDS of swordfish.  On the date.  He brought it to the restaurant, like it was a box of chocolates.  I think Sara must have told him that I liked to cook.  At the time I remember thinking:  Ok, well this is something.  I’ll learn how to make swordfish!  But when I opened up the package the next day it stunk to the high heavens.  I swear to god that fish was rotten, which means a man brought me a bag of rotten fish on a date.  To this day, I can’t eat swordfish.  In fact, I can’t really eat any steak-like (white) fish that is reminiscent of swordfish.  I’ll eat tuna all the live-long day.
DSC_4930That said, I think it’s curious that I was not able to eat this sea bass that I made the other night.  I’ve had sea bass countless times at restaurants in New York and it’s always delicious.  I’d never attempted making it before, simply because it is a mucho expensive fish.  However, I figured it was worth the splurge since I would be sharing the recipe on my blog.  There is absolutely no chopping of anything for this recipe, but you do have to own a food processor, as many things need to be pureed.  I loved the chickpea puree and the parsley sauce.  I could have eaten 10 bowls of each of these.  But the fish was just too evocative of that horrible swordfish experience and I couldn’t get past the texture.  If you like meaty fish, you will really enjoy this dish.  My husband raved about the fish and couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t eat it.  He likened it to me turning down a good burger.  Touché.
DSC_4936Roast Sea Bass with Chickpea Puree and Parsley Sauce
Adapted from Food and Wine

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp. hot paprika
Four 6-oz. skinless sea bass fillets (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick)
4 fresh bay leaves
4 small rosemary springs, plus 1/2 tsp. minced rosemary
2 cups lightly packed parsley leaves
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Two 15-oz. cans chickpeas. rinsed and drained
1/2 small garlic glove

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and line and rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.  In a medium baking dish, mix 1/4 cup of the olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon of the lemon zest and the paprika.  Season the fish with salt and pepper.
3.  Add the fish to the marinade and turn to coat, then nestle the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs between the fillets.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4.  Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the parsley with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the water and puree until nearly smooth.  With the machine on, gradually add 1/2 cup of the oil until incorporated.  Season the parsley sauce with salt and pepper.
5.  In a food processor, combine the chickpeas with the garlic, minced rosemary, 1 cup of water and the remaining 1/4 cup of oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice; puree until smooth.  Scrape the puree into a medium saucepan and season with salt and pepper.  Stir over moderately low heat until hot, about 5 minutes; keep warm over very low heat.
6.  Remove the fish from the marinade.  Gently roll up the fillets and set them seam side down on the prepared baking sheet.
7.  Roast for about 12 minutes, until just cooked through.  Spoon the chickpea puree onto plates and top with the fish.  Drizzle on the parsley sauce and serve.

Scallops with Pumpkin Risotto

DSC_4097I feel embarrassed writing about this.  Maybe it’s the feminist in me that wishes I could overcome this debilitating habit that so many women (people, really) struggle with.  I have food issues.  It feels so narcissistic to dwell on something that makes me so self-conscious.  It’s definitely improved over the last decade but it is a constant struggle.  From what I’ve learned about food issues/disorders, they are an ongoing battle that don’t really ever go away but can be managed with the right tools.  I am prone to negative thoughts naturally, and eating certain foods seems to increase those negative thoughts.
DSC_4068I am never not aware of when and what my next meal will be.  I love food and I also have a sweet tooth, which makes managing my diet exhausting at times.  I used to be unaware of how food affected my mood and my body.  I would overeat, feel lethargic and negative about myself, and never make the connection of how my body felt after consuming certain foods.  I just thought I would be happier if I was thinner.  Just sharing this makes me squirm in my seat.  It’s so cliché.  I guess I’m a cliché.  Over the years I have educated myself on healthy eating habits- how sugar, carbs, gluten, etc. affect the body as well as the mind.  I read somewhere recently that people who struggle with anxiety and depression should avoid sugar as much as possible; sugar causes inflammation and increases anxiety.  I don’t want to cut sugar out of my diet completely, but it’s a slippery slope.   Even eating a small serving of sugar often sets off neurons in my brain begging for more.  I can usually tame the beast if I’m in a good place mentally.  But if I’m already struggling with something when I eat sugar, I tend to eat too much of it.  Then I feel sick and beat myself up mentally for not controlling myself.
DSC_4078I feel like everyone is constantly trying to strike the right balance in their lives.  I guess one’s diet is no exception.  I’ve started making a kale-banana-blackberry smoothie every morning for breakfast.  And I’ve gotten much better about eating a couple of servings of vegetables every day.  But come 3 or 4pm, I am clamoring for a cookie or a muffin.  Something sweet and carb-heavy to comfort my anxious self.  Sometimes an apple will cut it, but I have to really convince myself that it is better for me.  Some days it doesn’t satisfy my sweet tooth, but I eat it anyway.  I’m also improving on balancing those rich, carb-heavy foods that I love with smaller portions.
DSC_4085I love risotto but I hardly ever order it at a restaurant.  Just thinking about the calorie count will make me uneasy.  But I don’t want to avoid certain foods anymore simply because I’m afraid of what the voice inside my head will say.  I have never made homemade risotto for fear that I would eat it all and get fat.  But it’s a new year and I am trying a new approach to foods that scare me.   I can eat them every once in a while in moderation and not degrade myself for doing so.  Right.  I can.  I totally can.
DSC_4081This pumpkin risotto blew.  my.  mind.  It is, dare I say, the ultimate comfort food.  If you’ve never made risotto, or never even tried risotto, this is the recipe to start with.   It’s rich and creamy, and the squash and onions add a nice touch of sweetness.  The parmesan cheese creates depth and a nice saltiness to balance the pumpkin and onions.   The most important part of making risotto is to keep stirring when incorporating the stock into the rice.  Also, be sure to pat the scallops dry.  This will ensure a nice, crisp crust when sauteing them.  Enjoy every bite of it, and if that negative voice pops up, tell it to go to hell.
DSC_4087Scallops with Pumpkin Risotto
Adapted from Gourmet

Yield:  4 servings

For Risotto
1-1/4 cups diced, peeled, and seeded small butternut squash (you will have squash left over)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup Arborio rice
1 oz. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For Scallops
20 large sea scallops (1-1/2 lbs.), tough muscle removed from side of each if necessary
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh sage
2 tablespoons white truffle oil (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°F.

Make Risotto:
1.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place diced squash on baking sheet.
2.  Roast squash until tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
3.  Bring stock and water to a simmer in a small saucepan and keep at a light simmer.
4.  Cook onion in a large saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3-5 minutes.
5.  Add rice and cook, stirring 1 minute.
6.  Add 1 cup simmering stock and cook at a strong simmer, stirring constantly, until stock is absorbed.
7.  Continue simmering, adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, about 18 minutes total.  (There may be broth left over.)
8.  Remove from heat and stir in diced squash, cheese, and butter, stirring until butter is melted.  Add salt and pepper and cover to keep warm.

Prepare Scallops:
1.  Pat scallops dry and season with salt.
2.  Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté scallops, turning once, until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
3.  Transfer scallops to a bowl with a slotted spoon and discard any oil remaining in skillet (do not clean skillet).
4.  Cook butter in same skillet over moderate heat until it foams and turns light brown.
5.  Add sage and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
6.  Remove from heat and stir in truffle oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve:
Put one cup of risotto on a plate, place 5 scallops on top, and drizzle sage-butter sauce on top of scallops.