Tag Archives: fish

Odds and End Meals

When cooking for one, you end up with a lot of leftovers especially if, like me, you make big pots of some dishes. When my freezer fills up to a certain point, I stop cooking and start putting together the odds and ends and come up with meals.

I try not to have too many desserts in my freezer, cause I snack when I’m bored, so I give away as much as I can of the more successful results. But this means I get stuck with some things that aren’t suitable for gifting. Like a tray of peach crumble bars that were mostly crumble and very little peach. A while back, I bought a clamshell of mostly bruised and tasteless peaches that I had to throw away. So I ended up with a lot less fruit than I needed … which I didn’t realize until I was in the middle of baking with nothing else to add in to make up the shortage. A bit of apricot jam (ran out of ice cream) is making the bars a bit more palatable, at least.

Right now, I’m adding soup as often as I can to my meals. Biscuits or bread are a good filler.

Of course, I DO make new dishes. I snagged a double package of sausage filled tortellini on sale and cooked one up in a blush sauce. On its own, the pasta dish isn’t very filling, and I didn’t have any greens for salad in the house, so I served it with a savoury plate of polenta.

The rest of the polenta was patted out into a buttered 8″ by 8″ glass dish and refrigerated, prior to being fried up as a base for a jarred spaghetti-pesto sauce.

Chicken drumsticks are often found on sale. A bit of Italian seasoning sprinkled on top and unattended baking time and you’ve got the start of a great meal.

A bit of barbecue sauce and a different starch, and you’ve got a new meal.

Things get a bit tight just before payday or in the case of supply teachers, with no paycheques for 3 months, so a tuna macaroni salad with pasta and canned tuna bought on sale is filling and tasty too. I’d usually throw some diced celery into my salad but in this case, diced raw carrots made for a nice, crunchy bite and a bit of colour too.

Whenever I have coleslaw in the house, I’m tempted to make okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake. Another inexpensive and filling dish.

Sashimi Grade Ahi Tuna and Sushi Rolls

I’m bored and have nothing much to do these days except cook little throwaway dishes.

While visiting the city market on Sunday morning, I stopped to chat with the fish monger. He’s the closest source of “sashimi grade” ahi (yellow fin) tuna I have that I can buy before the sushi restaurants in town snap it all up.

I bought a small piece of vacuum packed tuna and made 3 kinds of sushi with it … one hosomaki (thin maki rolls with a single filling), 2 nigiri sushi and 2 gunkan (battleship) sushi.

I made the mistake of buying a package of 200 half nori sheets, so my maki rolls have been sloppy when I tried to stuff them with the usual 2 or 3 fillings I use. For a single ingredient, like tuna, tempura shrimp, a couple of very thin or one thick asparagus spear, the nori sheets are just fine. If you ever do this, you CAN slightly overlap the 2 half sheets and get more filling inside, but I haven’t yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Hosomaki – one inch diameter roll cut into 6-8 pieces

Nigiri sushi – an oval (~5 cm) of sushi rice, smeared with a bit of wasabi paste and covered with topping of raw fish, sweet Japanese omelet etc.

Not a great job of slicing the tuna but passable.

Gunkan sushi – 3-4 cm tall strip of nori wrapped around an oval (~5 cm) of sushi rice and topped with a loose filling like spicy tuna

Home made wasabi – enough for 1 or 2 people depending on how much they like their wasabi

1 heaping tsp wasabi powder**
1 tsp very cold water

In a small bowl, stir the two ingredients together with a single chopstick, about 10-15 min before you want to use your wasabi. Cover the bowl tightly with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Don’t make more wasabi than you’ll use as the hotness levels decreases dramatically with time.

** Your wasabi powder should be a pale green colour and in a sealed bag, preferably vacuum sealed. Once you open your package, store the rest in an small air tight container in the freezer.

Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar for Sushi Rice – makes 1/4 cup

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Stir until sugar and salt is dissolved and store in a small tightly sealed bottle in the fridge. Use 1 1/-2 tbsp per 1 cup sushi rice that’s been cooked with 1 1/3 cups of water.

Re-imagining Basic Recipes

So much for my ‘break’. But I’ve been having a lot of fun and couldn’t resist sharing some pictures.

Taking a recipe and re-thinking some elements to come up with something new and exciting is important for the daily cook. And those of us on a budget who can’t run out and buy exotic or expensive ingredients.

So, adding beet puree (only 2 tbsp to a 2 egg pasta recipe) to a basic pasta recipe and coming up with a very pretty pink pasta doesn’t take a lot of money, just some imagination, or google-fu in case your imagination is as limited as mine.

Making the Beet Pasta

Dressing the resulting pasta is another fun pastime.

Shrimp Scampi … a very romantic shrimp supper for two

Browned Butter and Sage … a more modest meatless pasta dish with a generous grating of Grana Padano cheese

No changes in this dish from the basic recipe I posted before, but the pictures are MUCH nicer.

I haven’t made these onigiri (Japanese rice patties) in ages. You can leave them plain or fill them with anything from the classic umeboshi which are a type of pickled ‘plums’, dried bonito flakes moistened with soy sauce or a very Western tuna salad. The onigiri may also be eaten as is or grilled, basted with soy sauce and then grilled again briefly. Wrapping a strip of nori around the rice patty keeps your fingers clean, but you’ll want to wait til the last minute so the seaweed stays nice and crispy.

I learned a fun way to shape/pack sushi rice into a round ball. Simply take 2 small round bottomed bowls, rinse them with water so the rice doesn’t stick, add your rice to the bottom bowl, put the other bowl on top and SHAKE back and forth for a minute or so.

Crack open the ball of rice on a moistened sheet of food wrap over which you’ve sprinkled some salt, and add your filling. Tighten the plastic wrap around the ball and filling and squeeze it tightly, then form into a triangle shape.

Plain Onigiri – wrap a strip of nori around the patty before eating

Yaki Onigiri – I like to add a bit of wasabi to the onigiri before wrapping the nori around it and eating.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies become cookie cups … I used 3-4 tbsp to make balls which were placed into muffin tins sprayed with cooking spray. The cookies and cups were baked together for 15-16 min at 350 deg F and then I used the bottom of a shot glass to press down the cookie in the muffin tins to make a ‘cup’. The cups were allowed to cool for 5 minutes before being removed from the muffin tins and transferred to the cooling rack to cool completely.

I’ll fill the cups and share pictures soon.

Fasole Batuta (Mashed White Beans) and Bacalao (Salt Cod) Cakes

I thought I’d share the recipes for these two dishes from my Christmas eve day menu, in case anyone is interested in making them.

Fasole Batuta/Mashed White Bean Dip

Fasole Batuta/Mashed White Bean Dip

2 cups cooked white beans (cannellini, Great Northern or navy beans)
1/4 cup cooking liquid from beans or water
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely diced white onion and 1 finely minced garlic, sauteed in 1 tsp vegetable or olive oil until tender and lightly browned**

**NOTE: You can use raw onion and garlic but the texture of the dip will be smoother and the taste milder if you saute them first.

In a food processor combine the above and puree until smooth. Scrape down the sides a couple of time, taste for additional seasoning and liquid. If making with warm beans and liquid, remember the dip will thicken as it cools so you may want to add a splash more water.

Optional Garnish: 1/4 cup finely diced white onion sauteed slowly in 2 tbsp vegetable oil until golden brown in a small frying pan over medium heat. Remove the onion to a small bowl and add 1/4 tsp Hungarian paprika to the oil. Cook for a minute or so to toast the paprika. Form a shallow circle in the middle of your bowl of bean dip with the back of a large soup spoon. Spoon the paprika flavoured oil into the circle and sprinkle the browned onion over the top. Serve with crackers, pita bread wedges, warm buns or vegetable sticks.


Bacalao/Salt Cod Cakes

Bacalao/Salt Cod Cakes – makes 12 logs or patties

8 oz/ 225 g salt cod cut into 3-4 inch portions
2 medium/large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tsp vegtable oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp each salt and ground black pepper
1 /2 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2-3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup all purpose flour, divided
1 cup dried, plain breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil for frying

The night before, soak the cod in a large bowl of cold water replacing the water a couple of times. Keep refrigerated. Taste a bit of the cod after 12 hrs and if it’s too salty, continue soaking. Otherwise, drain the cod, flake or coarsely chop and refrigerate until needed.

In a small frying pan, saute the onion and garlic in the vegetable oil until translucent and lightly browned. Transfer the onion and garlic to a plate covered with a doubled piece of paper towel to drain off the excess oil.

Place cubed potatoes in a saucepan filled with salted water, bring to a boil, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes, return the saucepan back to the heat over medium heat and cook, stirring for 1 minute, to help dry out the potatoes.

Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and mash. Add flaked cod, sauteed onion and garlic, thyme, salt and pepper  and 1/2 cup of the flour and stir well to combine.

Using 1/4 cup portions, form into 3 inch long logs or 3 inch diameter and 1 inch tall patties.

Set up a crumbing station with flour, beaten eggs and bread crumbs in 3 separate shallow bowls. Coat the logs or patties and set aside on a clean, dry plate while heating the vegetable oil to 350 deg F in a 9-10 inch cast iron skillet for shallow frying. You’ll want the oil to be about 1 inch deep.

Fry the logs/patties, turning once, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels.

Serve with tartar sauce or ketchup, whatever you prefer.

Romanian-Themed Christmas Eve Supper: Fasole Batuta (Mashed White Beans) and Bacalao (Salt Cod)

My mom did 99% of the cooking at our house. However, one dish that my dad could, and did make, twice a year, was the white beans that were featured in this menu. I’ve not been able to find it in any of my google searches of Romanian dishes so I wonder if the pairing of mashed white beans (Great Northern, navy, or cannellini) and soaked salt cod was unique to our family.

Pieces of dry, salted cod would be soaked overnight in several changes of cold water, placed in the bottom of a baking dish and then the pureed cooked and seasoned beans would be layered on top. The dish would be baked at 350 deg F for about half an hour, and then my dad would pour 2-3 tablespoons of oil flavoured with fried onions and paprika over the top and serve large spoonfuls to each of us. A white bean and noodle soup, made with the bean cooking liquid and a cup or so of mashed beans, would precede the beans and cod.

I decided to break up the pairing and instead serve 3 separate dishes: the soup mentioned above, a mashed white bean dip/spread and salt cod cakes. And because I thought I might still be hungry, I made a quick pasta dish with jarred sauce and a seafood medley.


Fasole batuta cu ceapa caramelizata (Mashed White Beans with Caramelized Onions)

I made the rolls from a recipe posted on a FB bread baking group I belong to.

Salted Cod Cakes


White bean and noodle soup


Florentine Seafood Medley over Fettuccine

Memorial plate … buns and dried Romanian sausage

Waiting for Mos Craciun (Santa Claus)

Steelhead Trout 2 Ways: #2 Trout Florentine

The 2 portions of trout from the large fillet I bought were cooked using  the classic Florentine (florentine = with spinach) recipe below.

I served it with Mexican style rice for a complete and very filling meal.

And it looked pretty on the plate, too.

Baked Trout Florentine – serves 4

1/4 cup (75 mL) butter
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced or 1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 shallot, thinly sliced or 2 tbsp finely diced whites of green onion
2 tsp (10 mL) lemon juice
2 bunches fresh spinach, (about 1 lb/500 g total)**
1/2 tsp (2 mL) lemon zest
4 trout fillets, (about 6 oz/175 g each)
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
1/4 cup (60 mL) pine nuts

** I used a 10 oz (300 gm) package of frozen spinach, defrosted

Preheat the oven to 425 deg Fahrenheit (220 deg C).

Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan just until they get lightly browned. (If you forget, as I did, put the baking dish under the broiler for a few minutes but be careful not to burn the nuts.)

In a small skillet, cook butter over medium heat until it just starts to brown, about 2 minutes.

Stir in garlic and shallot; cook just until tender, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice. Pour half into a 13- x 9-inch (3 L) glass baking dish.

If using fresh spinach: Rinse and shake off water. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat; cook spinach, in batches and stirring often, just until wilted. Transfer to colander; let cool enough to handle.

Continue from here if using frozen spinach: Press out the liquid then coarsely chop the spinach.

Toss with lemon zest. Arrange over butter mixture.

Arrange the trout over the spinach in the baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the remaining butter mixture. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the top.

Roast in preheated oven until fish flakes easily when tested with fork, about 8 minutes.

Serve with rice, couscous or whatever starch you prefer.

Steelhead Trout 2 Ways: #1 Pan Fried Trout with Hollandaise Sauce and Fiddleheads

I bought a lovely fillet of steelhead trout a while ago and waited to cook it until I was inspired.

Unfortunately, inspiration is an elusive thing so when, a few days ago, I saw that fresh fiddleheads were available at a local grocery store I thought I’d pair the two … saving my creativity for another day. But who wants to eat 4 portions of trout all cooked the same way?

Not me.

So, I skinned the fillet and cut it into 5 portions, each roughly 6 oz in size. The 2 prettiest were saved for tomorrow’s meal while I coated the rest in seasoned flour (salt, pepper and paprika) and pan fried them in vegetable oil over medium heat for ~ 2 1/2 minutes per side.

The fiddleheads were boiled until they were tender (10-12 min) in salted water, then sauteed in vegetable oil in which prosciutto strips had been crisped, along with the white portion of a couple of stalks of green onion. A sprinkling of Romano cheese (you can use Parmesan too) added an additional salty note to the fiddleheads. It wasn’t really needed but it was good. The couscous was cooked in chicken broth and then lime zest and sliced green onion tops were stirred into the warm couscous.

I’ve made this blender hollandaise before. The only change I made was to replace the lemon juice and white wine vinegar with 2 tbsp of lime juice. All I had was red wine vinegar in my pantry … plus I didn’t want to waste the lime by only using the zest.