Sunday, January 25, 2015

Gone Fishin'

As I have previously discussed, Sunday is the ugly stepsister of the week. It's lazy but cranky at the same time. You have this overwhelming, nagging urge to do something productive but you literally JUST CAN'T close your laptop. You say you're going to brunch at 11:30 and then end up getting day-drunk on Andre mimosas alone in your bathroom. Wait.

Fun fact: a bottle of Andre knocked a majority of my front tooth out on New Years 2013. It was a good look for me.
I wasn't kidding. But I like to think I rocked it.
Back to sucky Sundays though, I have a cure. Not a cure-all, mind you, but at least enough to make you feel accomplished and homey. Fish and chips.

I know what you're thinking, that sounds like a lot of work. But I swear it's not. And you will seriously reap the rewards afterwards.

Tommy and I went to the mercado central to buy fresh cod for the recipe, and this is the type of fish I would recommend
using. Tilapia fillets might work if that's all you have on  hand but I wouldn't bank on it. And besides, grocery stores are open in the States on Sundays so you really have no excuse.

I served the fish with an old recipe I had for wedge oven fries that I think was my mom's but I don't really remember. These oven fries are one of Tommy's favorite things but to be fair he loves the lowly potato in all its forms. They're salty and a little spicy and deliciously crunchy. Plus you really can just leave them and forget them, except to flip halfway through baking. Start to finish I would say that this dinner is only about 15 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of active cooking for the fish (20 minutes of baking for the fries). That seems reasonable, doesn't it? Tartar sauce and malt vinegar not optional. If you put ketchup on your fish and chips then honestly don't speak to me ever again.
Skinning fish like it's my job. Whammy!

For the Oven-Fried Potatoes:
3-4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 tsp. spicy paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt to taste

For the Fish:
4 6-oz. fillets, cut in half
1/3 c. cornmeal
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
2 egg whites
2 tbs. cold water
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt, to taste
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil for frying (or as needed)


To make the potatoes:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Arrange the potato wedges on a well-oiled or foil-lined baking sheet.

2. Coat the potatoes in the olive oil, shaking as needed to distribute the oil evenly. Sprinkle the paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper over the tops of the potatoes. Shake again to distribute the spices.


3. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy, flipping halfway through.

To make the fish:

1. On two separate soup plates, combine the egg white and water and whisk the dry ingredients except salt.

2. Pat the fish fillets dry, and dip first into the egg white and then into the cornmeal mix, making sure to coat well.

Shake off any excess cornmeal and set aside on a plate. Repeat with all the pieces of the fish. Do not stack.

3. Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed frying pan with high sides until not quite smoking. Add the fish in batches, making sure they don't touch each other. Cook fish for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Season with salt to taste.








Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cheesin'

I have written before about the fact that my grasp of millennial colloquialisms is shoddy at best (See "Sup, Shorty?"). I have been made fun of for my vocabulary on more than one occasion, and it hasn't bothered me since about the 8th grade. My vocabulary could kick your vocabulary's ass all the way around the playground and then steal its lunch money.

Violent vocabs aside, there is one common milleniword that I am quite fond of, and that is cheesing (typically pronounced with a dropped 'g').

This is the act of smiling so big that any number of things happen:
a. Your eyes disappear
b. You get chipmunk cheeks
c. You appear vaguely unbalanced

I personally love cheesin'. I'm happy and I know it and I want my insanely big grin to show it. Also I frequently don't know what to do with my face in pictures so it's either that or the "rock-on-stick-your-tongue-out" look which my parents hate and I did in at least 30% of my graduation pictures.

I could also do with a very large smile right now as I have been whacked out with a disgusting cold for over a week and now evidently have a sinus infection. See: my school kids are adorably disgusting fountains of boogers and microbes.

This recipe has cheesin' down to an art. Not only does it combine two fantastic desserts, cheesecake and cookies, but said cheesecake cookies are so delicious that you can't help but grin like an idiot.

They're not simple, they're kind of messy to make and they are almost absurdly high in calories. That being said, they are also very much worth it. The texture is incredibly light and fluffy, the blueberries are sweet and the lemon adds just the right amount of zing. If you've got a free afternoon, I highly recommend you bake them. As two of role models would say, treat yo self.


Note: I recommend you put the cubed cream cheese in the freezer until you are ready to assemble the cookies. If it is too warm, forming the cookies will be much messier and much more difficult.

Ingredients:
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 c. flour
1 1/2 c. blueberries 
1/2 package very cold cream cheese, cut into 1 tsp cubes

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats and set aside.

2. With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until it's light and fluffy. Blend in the lemon zest, juice and eggs. Make sure to scrape off any bits of zest that stick to the mixer paddle.

3. In a separate bowl whisk together the baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour. Incorporate into the wet ingredients in three batches, being careful not to over-mix.

4. Gently fold in the blueberries so as not to burst any. Refrigerate the dough for at least 15 – 20 minutes to make it stiff enough to roll.


5. For each cookie, roll 1 heaping tablespoon of dough into a ball. Flatten it slightly into a disc shape and place a 1 tsp cream cheese cube into the center. 


Form the dough around the cream cheese, creating a ball again.














6. Bake for about 10 - 14 minutes until the edges brown slightly. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for another 5-10 minutes.







Friday, January 16, 2015

Orzo I'm Told (Alternate Title: A Strongly-Worded Letter to My Immune System)

This is a really bad pun, I know. It's what I call a "Dad pun" -- corny enough your dad could have made it (mine especially...love you Daddyo). But I'm sick with a miserable cold so you know what, let me have my terrible corny puns.

As you can see above, this post could also be titled "A Strongly-Worded Letter to My Immune System." Seriously, I eat so many fruits and vegetables. I bathe myself in hand sanitizer during the school day. I drink tons of water. Why does my immune system hate me? YOU HAD ONE JOB. If I had to guess, it probably has something to do with the fact that the kids at school (who I love, don't get me wrong) are tiny fountains of boogers and germs. That's probably it. Yeah.

When I'm sick, there's only a few things I want: a fuzzy blanket, gallons of apple juice, saltine crackers and soup. Lots and lots of soup. I've eaten soup almost every day this week, some days for both lunch and dinner. Which is cool because this chicken soup with lemon and orzo lends itself well to being eaten for two meals a day.

Orzo is delicious, so I got that going for me.

Sorry this looks dumb; Google Blogger doesn't allow gifs because it's clinging to the Stone Age.

Anyway, this is a fantastic updated comfort-food soup. It takes your basic chicken soup and brightens it with the addition of fresh lemon juice and herbs. Also the orzo is a fun new take on adding noodles to soup. I guarantee you, once you make this it might be hard to go back to plain ol' chicken noodle. 

I personally like my soup very lemony so I add another squeeze of lemon juice just before serving but it's up to you. I also like my soup very brothy so this calls for kind of a lot of stock. If you like a thicker soup that's cool too.

Although I must say, I would do baaaaad things for a vat of matzoh ball soup from Max and Benny's deli in my hometown. So light and fluffy. They must cheat. They've got to be cheating. It's unnatural.

Ingredients:
2 tbs. EVOO, divided
1 lb. chicken breasts (boneless, skinless), cut into 1-inch chunks
3-4 garlic cloves, minced (to taste)
1 onion, diced
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, finely minced
8 c. chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary
Juice of 1 large lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbs. chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Heat 1 tbs. of the EVOO in a large stockpot or a Dutch oven over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste.

Add chicken to the stockpot and cook until golden, about 2-3 minutes; set aside.

2. Add remaining 1 tbs. of oil to the pot. Add garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring frequently until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in thyme until fragrant, about 1 minute.


3. Whisk in chicken stock, bay leaves and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil. Stir in orzo, rosemary and chicken. Reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender, about 10 minutes.


Stir in lemon juice and parsley; season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.



This recipe is lightly adapted from DamnDelicious.com

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fritters, Not Quitters

Yesterday morning I woke up with a sore throat.

Yesterday afternoon I felt like a truck hit me.

Last night, I was reasonably sure death was imminent.

Then this morning, when Tommy and I awoke to an extended barrage of cannon fire at exactly 9:15, I was sure we were both done for. But apparently that was just for some unknown festival.

I still felt miserable when Tommy rolled out of bed and inquired about breakfast. Before coming down with this stupid cold, I had said I would make him banana fritters with fresh strawberry sauce. He gallantly told me I didn't have to cook, that I could just tell him what to do, but I decided to soldier on. Strawberry sauce was perhaps a bit far-reaching but I could handle the fritter.

Let me pause here a moment to discuss briefly the lowly fritter. It's just an ingredient of your choice mushed up with egg and flour and fried to golden, crunchy perfection. My Auntie Jasmine is from Jamaica and she makes the finest banana fritters known to man. They're so light and crunchy that if you don't grab one right off the bat they'll rise up and float away. I have no idea how she does it. Everything that woman cooks is magic. Don't even get me started on her chicken curry.

Because I have watched her make them about 6 dozen times, I know the drill. Mashed up bananas, eggs, flour, milk and a generous shake or two of cinnamon and nutmeg. Don't let them burn.

It's not hard.

And what you end up with is a tiny, self-contained banana-bread type thing that combines all the best parts of breakfast foods: crunchy, a little greasy, sweet and piping hot. Even with a throat coated in glass shards and a head full of gunk (where in the sam hill does it all come from??? QUESTIONS THAT NEED ANSWERS) I can make banana fritters. And you can too. Happy Sunday.

Ingredients:
(Makes about 6 3-inch fritters)
3 bananas, roughly mashed
2 eggs
2 heaping tbs. flour
Splash of milk
Hefty pinch of cinnamon
Smaller pinch of nutmeg
1/2 c. vegetable oil

1. Combine banana, egg and flour in a medium bowl, mash to combine.

2. Heat oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-low heat.

3. Add milk just to wet the mixture, it shouldn't be too runny. Add cinnamon and nutmeg.


4. Using a 1/4 measuring cup, drop the batter into the hot oil.


Let cook for about a minute on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with more cinnamon and drizzle with honey if desired.






Friday, December 19, 2014

Ring...ring...ring...

Hi there.

You've reached the blog of Jessica Suss. I'm sorry I'm not here to post right now, but I will be out of the country until after the New Year. Please leave a message after the post. If this is an emergency, please close out this window and dial your nearest Sur Le Table.

Happy holidays and stay hungry!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Faux Sho


If you know anything about me, you know that I'm not about the faux unless it's fur. I don't wear knockoff designers and nothing makes my lip curl like fake Armani Code perfume. I'm sorry, but it smells like a baby prostitute. And typically that fake Gucci bag looks just that--fake. I'd much rather have my no-name bag that I paid a reasonable price for and that won't fall apart after three months than a questionable representation of the greatest the fashion world has to offer.

Because let's not kid ourselves, everybody can tell.


Sometimes, however, you just have to go faux. Fur is a notable example because unless you live in Saskatchewan, Russia or the North Pole, it's just not cold enough to warrant wearing a dead animal. Yes, I'm judging your chinchilla coat. I would throw red paint on you too, you heartless wench. My future chinchilla George Costanza and I hate your guts.

Another slightly less politically-charged reason to go faux is if you can't digest spaghetti Alfredo but are having a terrible craving for it.

Wait, what?

Oh yes indeed--faux spaghetti Alfredo is on the menu tonight and it is goddamn delicious with about a third of the calories. Plus spinach!

Since normal Alfredo uses a ton of butter and heavy cream, I can't eat it unless I want to be miserable for anywhere between the next four and 24 hours. This alternative, "faux" spaghetti Alfredo nicely captures the richness of the sauce with its combo of cheeses while not sacrificing too much in the flavor department. It's not an exact replica but I would say it's pretty close. And because it's not so fattening, you can eat more of it! Isn't that how the whole healthy eating thing works?

The recipe is incredibly easy but does involve blending to make the sauce smooth so be prepared for that. Whisking will not cut it.

Feel free to adjust seasonings as you see fit. This recipe would work equally well with fresh garlic as garlic powder (maybe even better) and you can nix the crushed reds for a more traditional flavor. I just put them in everything. You can also use whole grain spaghetti if you hate both yourself and food.

Ingredients:
1/2 lb. spaghetti, cooked al dente
1/4 c. reduced fat cottage cheese
1/2 c. plain nonfat yogurt
3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. fresh parmesan cheese, finely grated plus more for serving
1/2 tsp. each kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic powder
1/4 tsp. crushed reds
2-3 c. raw spinach, rinsed and drained

1. Combine cottage cheese, yogurt, milk and parmesan in a medium pot. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly until it reaches a simmer. Add spices and whisk again to combine.


2. Remove from heat and blend carefully until very smooth. Return to pot and add cooked spaghetti, mixing to combine over low heat.


3. Add the raw spinach to the pot. Stir and cover for about two minutes, or until spinach is wilted. Serve with extra grated parmesan.



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Spice Up Your Life

As many of my friends know, I love a good latte.

Pumpkin spice, vanilla, plain old skim milk. My go-to Starbucks order in the winter is, 9 times out of 10, a grande skim latte with an extra shot of espresso. I have tried many of the seasonal varieties as well, with varying results. I found the eggnog latte to be palatable, but overly sweet towards the bottom. The gingerbread latte tasted like a plate of burned Christmas cookies. The toffee nut latte was absurdly delicious but definitely not worth all those calories.

Back in Alicante, I experimented with making my own pumpkin spice lattes with incredible results. I recently bought too much pumpkin for the filling of my Friendsgiving 2.0 (coming soon, I promise!) pie and decided to reserve some for later pumpkin spice lattes.

However when I slit open the vacuum-sealed package today, I was greeted with an unpleasant smell and some very squishy pumpkin. Ever the optimist, I rinsed the pumpkin and steamed it briefly in the hopes that it would perk up. It didn't. It tasted like an acidic dishrag.

Into the trash it went.

But I really, really wanted a pretty latte to perk up my afternoon. Unfortunately they don't have things like molasses or flavor extracts here so both homemade gingerbread and almond toffee were out. What I did have was a cabinet of spices at my disposal and some very good quality coffee, so I decided to experiment.

What I came up with was delicious: a combination of warming, wintery spices and strong-verging-on-espresso coffee topped with fluffy mountains of whipped cream.

Take that, pumpkin spice. You've got competition.

I know it seems like there's almost too much seasoning in the milk but remember that the coffee is very strong and you don't want the flavors of the spices to be masked. Of course if you like your coffee weaker, add less spice.

But if you like weak coffee then I don't know if I want to be friends with you. Dunkin' Donuts drinkers, I'm looking at you. That shit is vile.

Now without further ado, I give you....winter-spiced lattes.

PS: aside from coffee-brewing time, these take about 5 minutes to put together. That's less time than you would have to wait at your local coffee joint. And you don't have to change out of your pajamas.

Ingredients
2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. strong, freshly brewed coffee
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 tbs. vanilla extract
Whipped cream and another pinch of cinnamon to finish, if desired (you're a monster if you don't want whipped cream on this latte, just saying)

1. In a medium saucepan, combine milk and vanilla extract. Whisk well to combine.


2. Add spices and scald milk (heat until it's too hot to comfortably dip a finger in).


3. Combine coffee and milk mixture in two mugs. Top with whipped cream and extra cinnamon.