Saturday, March 28, 2015

Baked whole red snapper with lemons and garlic

The first time I was ever presented with an entire baked fish to eat was in Haiti. I had just landed after a re-routed flight from Capetian to Port-au-Prince then back to Capetian (cattle on the runway, apparently), and was experiencing all kinds of new culture overstimulation just from the ride through the city via tap-tap from the airport to a place to eat. So when my plate turned up and the eyes of a fish were staring right back at me, I was a little stunned as to how to approach the meal. That was the first of many new culinary and cultural experiences in Haiti, and it all turned out better than I could have imagined. I loved the warmth of the people I met and their willingness to introduce me to their country and local customs.

In Australia we baked whole fish quite often. It's very easy to prepare when your fishmonger does the dirty work for you (gutting and descaling), and it always makes for a striking presentation at the table. We often serve it up directly off of the baking paper, but you could also transfer the fish to a platter and surround it with steamed or roasted vegetables.
baked red snapper, fresh from the oven and ready to to eat
The method below simply combines lemon slices, garlic, and some fresh parsley, but feel free to add whatever spices, herbs, or rubs you have on hand. Tomato slices are also delicious when baked in and around the fish. By baking in parchment paper the fish stays very moist while cooking through. Change this recipe up to suit your taste, and enjoy the looks on the faces of your fellow diners when you serve up an entire fish at the table!

Baked whole red snapper with lemons and garlic
Serves 4

1 whole red snapper (about 2 lbs, or 900g), gutted and descaled
1 lemon, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter, softened and chopped into chunks
pinch of freshly ground sea salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 390F / 200C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Tear off another sheet of parchment paper the same size and set aside.

Place about half of the lemon slices and half of the garlic slices onto the paper-lined baking tray, and place the fish on top. Place half of the butter, a few of the lemon slices, half of the parsley, and the remaining garlic slices into the cavity of the fish (where the guts were). Dot the remaining butter over the top of the fish, and place the remaining lemon slices on top. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, and parsley over the top. Place the second sheet of parchment paper over the baking tray, and crimp all four edges together with the bottom sheet of parchment paper.

Bake the fish at 390F / 200C for 35 minutes, then remove the top piece of parchment paper and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. The fish is done when the flesh from the center flakes easily with a fork.

Serve immediately (warning everyone to watch for bones as they eat!).

Storage tip: Remove any remaining fish from the bones, and store in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Roasted butternut & purple onions with tahini sauce & toasted pine nuts

Welcome to 2015 from Southern Spoon. In the spirit of positive and healthy starts, this year begins with a delicious dish that showcases roasted winter vegetables, dressed simply with fresh herbs, toasted nuts, and tahini sauce. This colorful platter of veggies will entice even the most stalwart of your hard to please low-vegetable eaters. One of my goals is to incorporate even more, and more variety, of vegetables into every meal.

This recipe is one of many that I prepared with my mom and sister from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's incredible cookbook Jerusalem, which I gifted to my sister for Christmas. We loved reading through Ottolenghi's portrayals of this ancient city's cuisine, which is deeply wrapped up in its culture-- a culture that is unfortunately so often the target of persecution, as we saw in Paris last week.
roasted butternut, purple onions and dressed with a creamy tahini garlic sauce
and sprinkled with parsley and toasted pine nuts for an easy, attractive, delicious side dish
The next couple of posts will celebrate the multicultural influences that make some of my favorite dishes absolutely delicious. How sad, and how dull, would it be for us all to live in a monocultural world? May our actions this year provide a little more understanding and tolerance and many special moments shared over food and drink with friends and family, who are each beautifully different than we are. Cheers from Texas.

Roasted butternut & purple onions with tahini sauce and toasted pine nuts
Serves 8
Adapted from Jerusalem

1 butternut squash, sliced into 4x1 inch wedges (skins can be removed or left on)
2 purple onions, sliced into 1/2-inch wide wedges
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4cup pine nuts
pinch each of freshly ground salt and pepper

Tahini sauce:
3 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons water
1 clove garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 475F / 240C. While the oven is preheating, make the tahini sauce. Whisk together sauce ingredients, adding enough water until the mixture is the consistency of runny honey. Set aside.

In a large bowl, carefully toss the squash and onions with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange squash and onion evenly on the greased baking tray in a single layer. Roast at 475F / 240C for 30-40 minutes, until onions are beginning to brown around the outer edges and squash is cooked through. In the last 3-5 minutes of roasting, place the pine nuts in a separate baking tray and place them in the oven with the vegetables to toast, watching closely to ensure they don't burn.

Arrange the squash and onion onto a serving platter, sprinkle parsley and pine nuts over the top, and drizzle the tahini sauce over the vegetables. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Storage tip: these roasted vegetables and sauce will keep, covered in the fridge, for 3-4 days.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pumpkin Salad with Avocado, Pecans, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

New Year's resolution-making already for 2015: more blogging! It's been over a month since I've posted, but since then: my job in Sydney finished, my Australian visa ran out, we've packed up and shipped all of our possessions, and I've moved back to Texas temporarily while I wait on the state department to approve the hubs to join me in the USofA. Needless to say, it's been busy.

But we're still cooking, and this is my first post from the Southern homeland I still call home. Have done a swift transfer from summer-weather salads to winter-themed dishes here in Texas, even though the weather is not quite frosty yet. The beautiful, delicious salad recipe shared below is just perfect for the holiday season, weather you're in the northern or the southern hemisphere. I made it in Sydney on Thanksgiving last month with my wonderful in-laws and will be making it again in Texas on Christmas for my family here.
This salad makes a beautiful addition to your holiday spread.
The sweet pumpkin, savory rocket (arugula) and crunchy pomegranate seeds and pecans make a mouthwatering combination, and the flavors are holiday season appropriate without adding another heavy, starchy side to your dinner table. I've used both kent pumpkin and acorn squash in this recipe with success, and butternut or any other slightly sweet squash would also work well. If you can't source avocados where you are (they're plentiful in Australia this time of year, and thankfully in Texas we have access to avos from Mexico and Cali), just leave them out-- the salad will still look and taste divine. This festive dish is also gluten-free, dairy-free, and paleo-friendly. Win.
pumpkin, avocado & acorn squash over greens, topped with toasted pecans,
pomegranate arils, and pomegranate vinaigrette
Hope to be back before the month and year are over, but all best to you for December. And especially warm wishes to my family and friends back in Sydney, where the past week has been a tense and difficult one. May peace abound as we move forward into the New Year.

Pumpkin Salad with Avocado, Pecans, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Serves 6-8
Adapted from How Sweet it Is

1 acorn squash, or half of a kent pumpkin or butternut squash (no need to remove the skin!)
4-5 cups rocket (arugula; can substitute shredded romaine or another lettuce)
1 avocado, sliced into long, 1/4 inch-wide slices
1/2 of a medium sized pomegranate (for about 1/2 cup pomegranate arils)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped into large chunks

Pomegranate Vinaigrette
makes 1/2 cup

3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
pinch each of freshly ground salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 395F/ 200C. Slice the squash or pumpkin into 1/4-inch slices (if using acorn squash, cut in half from bottom to top, then slice horizontally from bottom to top so you end up with scalloped slices of squash).

Place squash slices on a lightly greased or baking paper-lined baking tray, and place into a pre-heated oven. Roast at 395F/ 200C for 20-25 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through cooking, until the slices are cooked through and beginning to brown slightly. In the last 5-6 minutes of baking, place the pecans on another baking tray and place them in the oven to toast. Remove squash and pecans from oven and set aside to cool.

While the squash is roasting, remove the arils (seeds) from your pomegranate and set a 1/2 cup aside (refrigerate the remaining arils for another use). Then make the pomegranate vinaigrette by whisking all ingredients together thoroughly.

On your serving platter or bowl, arrange the rocket leaves, and pour half of the vinaigrette evenly over the leaves. Arrange the squash slices over the rocket, then arrange the avocado slices in between the squash slices. Pour the remaining vinaigrette evenly over the salad, and sprinkle the pomegranate arils and pecans on top. Serve immediately.

Salad will keep, covered in the fridge, for 24 hours.

* Prep tip: The squash can be roasted up to a day ahead and placed in the fridge, ready to be used when you are ready to assemble the salad. The vinaigrette can be mixed up and stored in the fridge up to two days before serving.