27 September 2007

It's What's for Dinner

Fall is my favorite time of the year in Oh-hia-ia. We have a lovely few weeks when the days aren't blistering hot but are still warm enough to be without jacket, scarf and hat, the nights are cool and crisp, and we open the doors and windows, turning off the air conditioning and not yet needing the heat.

The harvest begins to come in, and after a summer of abundant strawberries and blueberries, which I miss when they're gone, tomatoes, peppers of every color and heat level, and beans and potatoes and huge bunches of fresh herbs are available at the farmer's market I like to visit on the weekends.

Walking around the farmer's market makes me inspired to create menus of only fresh seasonal things, which is how we should all cook all year round, but that is fairly difficult in this climate. It also makes me miss my sister in New York dreadfully, because she was the person who introduced me to the market and we used to meet there for an early morning breakfast on Sundays and do our shopping together. Going it alone is lots less fun.

Deals abound there; two weeks ago, I took $23, and came home with 4 of my canvas shopping bags full to bursting with celery, cilantro, green beans, cherry hot peppers, ginger, garlic, some late strawberries (from California, I suspect, but the stall owner was reluctant to say that they weren't local) double yolk eggs (they're HUGE), even some local cheese. Last week my mum and I went, and I got more double yolk eggs, an enormous bunch of basil and another of dill, radishes, more green beans, more berries, yellow tomatoes, 10 pounds of baking potatoes for $3, lemons, limes, onion. My fridge is full of possibilities.

My cooking is always low fat and lately I've been trying for lower carb, cutting out pasta almost entirely :( and not making rice at all either. But that does not mean that we don't eat well. Cooking doesn't have to be a miserable chore; I enjoy it very much, especially when I have so many ideas that I end up making entirely too much stuff and have lots of leftovers to play with.

I'm also having far too much fun playing with our digital camera, a small 5 megapixel that a client gave to DH for fixing their computer. So are ya ready for some food porn?

First up as an appetizer is a Caprese salad; tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, salt, pepper, fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil. I could eat this every day.

Then the green beans. I dump them out on the cutting board, cut the ends off, cut them into manageable chunks, rinse them, and then steam them for a scant few minutes with salt, pepper, slivered almonds and a weee hint of garlic. Baked potatoes as a side with the green beans. Now I know I said I was trying for lower carb and we all know that potatoes are a no-no when it comes to low carb. But, baked, without sour cream and cheese and bacon, they're not so terrible for you. I baked two of them, but we split one, and the second one is in the fridge for another day.Then the main event, tilapia grilled with basil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, salt, pepper and a very small amount of olive oil. Fish sticks to the grill horribly, so I wrap it in foil packets and it steams inside them. Bonus, your house doesn't smell fishy because they cook outside. Here's how you make the packets, which were inspired by Hugh Carpenter's Fast Fish cookbook. The fish lies diagonally on a square of tinfoil that has been rubbed with olive oil to ensure that the fish doesn't end up plastered to the tinfoil. Fold up the bottom point of the square.Fold in the two sides of the square.Flip the packet over to begin to close it up.

Fold down the remaining flap to seal the packet.Four packets of fishy goodness. I make more than two fillets because tilapia fillets can be small, and they always shrink while cooking, so sometimes they're too small. DH always wants more than one, and I eat the second left over filet for lunch the next day.

I didn't remember to take a picture when they came off the grill, so you will have to just trust me that they were beautiful and yummy. We eat fish at least twice a week, once you get over being afraid of cooking it, it is a wonderful addition to your diet. Lean, and full of good things.

I got over the fear of preparing it by taking a class taught by the aforementioned Hugh Carpenter, where he taught how to select fresh fish from the grocery store, how to cook it, how to season it, and what to avoid. His cookbook, Fast Fish, is a great jumping-off point for the beginner. There are two recipes from the book that I use on a regular basis, but mostly now I use it for inspiration and guidance, not necessarily for a particular recipe.

I never buy fish that the fishmonger has listed as "previously frozen" because it isn't as good. If nothing looks good at the store that day, we're not having fish. I make usually salmon and tilapia, but I'll experiment with other things from time to time. I look for whatever is freshest and least expensive; last week my local mega-mart had Mahi-Mahi, a Hawaiian fish that is wonderful stuff, but they wanted $17.99 a pound for it. No thanks.

Tonight we're having a salad made with leftover salmon, which was grilled with dill, lemon, and olive oil, plus Italian greens made from radish leaves. Yum. The freshness of the veggies right now is so wonderful.

1 comment:

Dawna said...

Food porn!!!

Yeah, I love this time of year too... my absolute favourite time of year. The sun is in Libra, and the time is ruled by romantic, beautiful, graceful Venus. How can anyone NOT love autumn?