Thursday, July 29, 2010

Grilled Whole Red Tilapia and Striped Bass

this is a beautiful fish. once again i have found another reason to drive all the way to my favorite Chinese market, 99 Ranch. the fish selection is so outstanding, always fresh, whole, live and/or filleted..and when you buy it whole they will clean it for you while you wait. i never even knew there was a RED Tilapia. grilled whole and stuffed with lemon, tarragon and garlic i found this unbelievably meaty, moist and so clean..beautiful white flesh. alas, i have no photo of the finished product because i am new to grilling whole fish and sorry to say this one didn't turn out so pretty in the looks department, but the flavors well made up for the loss in visual. next time i will be a little more generous with oiling the's called GRILLING 101.


i guess this is a typical grilling fish. as i googled around for ideas on whole fish, this is the one that most often came up. not sure why being that there are so many others to chose from. the bass was quite good and did hold up well to the grill. it's a little slimmer than the Tilapia and makes for a nice presentation. nothing really WOW about this fish...just a nice white fish that takes on flavors well. i stuffed this one with lemon, thyme and garlic.

don't be afraid of the whole fish...

the presentation can be excellent if your game. the bummer i find hard to deal with is the tiny little "no-see-um" bones. just when you think you've got the prefect bone!... i know there is a skill to eating whole fish, but i have yet to conquer this seemingly difficult technique, although it won't keep me from trying. the flavor and moisture from cooking whole with all it's fatty omegas and those pesky bones really seems to make a difference.

Grilling Whole Fish

chose your fish wisely. trust your fish monger. i have found a few important things to look for when buying whole fish...
VISUAL...should look like it just flopped out of the water onto the ice.
the eyes should be clear not cloudy or marred.
the gills should be a nice fresh dark red and separate easily.
SMELL...if you question it at all, ask to inspect the fish and give it a good smell...if you smell ANYTHING don't buy it.
when you get your fish home inspect the inside and wash/cut out any bits that got left behind and dry it completely.
i found a great tutorial at for the next few steps found here
follow these easy step by step instructions or at least read through it for some good info.
choose some good flavors for your stuffing. there are so many possibilities. some nice fresh herbs and a few lemon slices is always quick and simple. i chose to sew my fish closed with a needle and cooking string, but it's not necessary if you handle your fish with care.

in conclusion...
oiling the grill is most important
don't forget to salt and pepper the inside
AND slash the fattest part of the fish on the outside for even cooking
learning how to serve the whole fish is equally important.
here are a few helpful sites to check out.
How to eat a whole fish #1
How to eat a whole fish #2

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Caveman Carrot Cake Cookies


well, first i give many props to SOG-Son of Grok...a fellow blogger that i believe, came up with this interesting recipe for a healthy, satisfying cookie.
these really are PRIMAL and definitely something a caveman would and could munch on for a tasty treat. the recipe was so easy, healthy looking and actually so flour, no butter and no sugar...that it intrigued me enough to run to the market and buy the little stubby mini carrots, dive into the pantry for the rest of the ingredients and make them right away. i'm always looking for something healthy to balance out all the pork fat i've been consuming and this seemed to fit the bill.

these are kind of a "what you see is what you get" kind of a cookie. the main ingredients are carrots, almonds, and guess work on the flavor profile there, but you'll be surprised how they actually DO taste like a carrot cake...well, the first bite does, then you find yourself munching mainly on almonds and semi raw carrots with a hint of coconut which isn't a bad thing at after treat guilt that's for sure. nothin' but good for ya in these chunky little patties.

a little warning to the real cookie lovers out there...these are not like any real carrot cake cookie you might expect. think HEALTHY, think RAW, think AGAIN if you're looking for a delicious treat with cream cheese frosting.

i just added a few more spices. next time i might play around with a little almond flour, a little more spice, more sweet and maybe grated carrots.

2 cups mini carrots
2 cups raw almonds (might try roasted...)
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
1 1/2 Tsp splenda (could use more)
2 teaspoon Coconut Oil
- 3 eggs

1. Combine all ingredients except eggs in food processor. Pulse until small but a little chunky. use your judgement. i wonder if the carrots should be shredded before going in the processor?
2. Combine mixture with eggs in a large mixing bowl.
3. Form into “patties”. this can be a little messy. just make them like you would a hamburger patty and flatten them. they, of course, WILL NOT RISE. place on a baking sheet. I made 14 with this batch.
4. Bake at 350 degrees until done. Mine took about 40 minutes.
5. Enjoy!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Duck Duck Soup

Duck Duck Soup...Stock, Broth and rendered Duck FAT...YUMMM !

what do you do when you bring home an absolutely beautiful whole roasted duck and no one is as excited as you are?...make soup. actually it's a 3 in one bonus. you'll end up with a flavorful soup, rich stock and the always sought after and ever so expensive rendered DUCK FAT.

the broth is fabulous and rich. i like to reduce about half of the pot and keep a bit in the freezer to use with quick sauteed veggies or add into a braising liquid for just about anything. the other half goes into the soup for the night.

i found my beautiful duck fully cooked at my favorite Asian market, 99 Ranch Market in Irvine, CA. i've been fascinated with duck for a while and never tried cooking a whole one myself. #1, they are pretty expensive in regular markets (about 25-30 bucks) and #2 i've heard they are kind of tricky to cook properly. the ratio of fat to meat is not even throughout the body so it seems one must control the cooking to get the perfect roast bird. when i saw this baby hanging in the deli section i was so excited, but immediately knew it would be pricey...not so. the whole cooked duck was only $14.00...i'll take 3 please. no, i just bought one, but you can bet i was back within the week getting another. i made Asian flavor Duck Rillettes with the second. i haven't posted about it yet, but oooh they were delicious.

so, since this duck was ALL MINE i took it apart piece by piece...totally enjoyed and devoured the wings, legs and thighs on their own and set aside the breasts for the soup or stew i knew i had to make with all this ducky goodness. the meat was a little seasoned and the skin was delicious and crispy. after wiping away the carnivorous debris, i was smart enough to keep all the bones and fatty skin from the parts i had eaten and, as you can see, i had the whole body/carcass...head to tail...with all it's flavorful fatty skin and bones. everybody into the pool. what i mean is everything goes in the pot except, of course, the breasts.

adapted from Chichajo @ 80 Breakfasts
original recipe and great blog found HERE

The bones (the whole carcass including head) of 1 Peking Duck (or roasted, as shown)
2 carrots, peeled and cut in large pieces
2 onions, peeled and cut in quarters
2-3 stalks of lemongrass, white part only, bashed
1-2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into rounds
2 jalepeno peppers halved
2 star anise
A few sprigs of cilantro
A few stalks spring onions (I used about 3)
Whole black peppercorns approx. 10 - 15
1/4 cup soy sauce

- Place everything in a stockpot and cover with water. The water should reach about an inch over the duck.
- Bring to a boil and skim off any scum that appears. Reduce to a simmer and cover pot. Let the stock simmer gently for 2-3 hours.
- Uncover pot and simmer for about 30 minutes more to reduce stock. Taste and either adjust seasoning or reduce further to deepen flavor.
strain, but do not use cheese cloth. use a regular fine strainer if you are interested in rendering as much of the duck fat as possible
- Portion as you prefer and let cool. Use immediately or store in the fridge if you’ll be using it in a couple of days…if not, freeze for future enjoyment

don't forget to render the duck fat. i like to pour the stock into 1 qt. containers and let it come to room temp. to let the fat rise to the top. then into the fridge for the fat to solidify. render the fat off each container and put into separate container...microwave the fat slightly back to liquid state and pour into an appropriate size container for storage. this will keep in the fridge like butter or you can freeze it for future use.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Scotch Eggs...Not Scottish at all...


not Scottish at all ??? then why are they call Scotch Eggs ?!!! they were actually invented by the famous London department store, FORTNUM & MASON in 1851 and they were originally wrapped in SCOTCH Beef...just a fun little foodie fact i found at Wikipedia.

i don't recall where i first saw these and got the bee in my bonnet, but i knew i had to try them. i'm all about a good full protein breakfast and quite often i have to eat it on the go. these are perfect...and so dang CUTE as well.

so easy to make. i chose the easiest route. basically you cover a hard boiled egg in your favorite sausage, dip that in some breadcrumbs and bake 'till the sausage is done. there are so many variations out there with more involved meat recipes, but why go there when there are so many wonderful fresh handmade sausages at your favorite markets. Bristol Farms has an incredible selection. their Chicken Apple Sausage with chunks of granny smith is so delicious as well as the Chicken Jezebel and Spicy Italian Turkey. my first batch was made with good ol'Jenny-O's Spicy Italian Turkey Sausage found at most major markets. so... fancy sausage or packaged store bought, these are easy, fun, portable, ADORABLE and kids will love them.

i chose to bake these. i'm not a fan of deep frying YET. i like to leave that to the professionals. deep frying scares me a bit and since i don't do alot of it (YET), the oil would be a one time use. seems like a waste. then there's the pain of getting rid of it, not spilling it, letting it cool enough to pour it back into the container you were hopefully smart enough to keep and finally throwing away some perfectly good frying oil. i must admit, i think i secretly would love to fry more things. i kind of wish i could have a mini fryer in the kitchen. shhhhhhh.

loosely adapted from Recipezaar #69970...

1 lb chicken, turkey or pork Italian sausage
4-5 large eggs, hard boiled (not too large)
flour (just a little to coat the eggs)
1 large egg
2 cups fine dry breadcrumbs (i used Panko). you don't need to use the whole 2 cups!!
1. remove meat from casing. one large sausage should cover 1 egg (a little less than 1/4 lb). use your judgement. i made 5 scotch eggs from a 1lb package of Jenny O Turkey Sausage for the first batch.
2. roll the eggs in flour. (this helps the meat stick to the egg)
3. wrap each egg evenly in a portion of meat, being sure they are covered completely. roll it around in your hands a bit to ensure even sausage coating.
4. beat the remaining egg in a small bowl
5. dip each egg/sausage ball in the beaten egg then coat thoroughly in breadcrumbs.
6. optional...chill for one hour...or don't...i didn't.
7. bake until golden brown on a cookie sheet (line with tin foil for easy clean up) at 375°F; about 30 minutes. mine took about 35 minutes.
these keep really well in the fridge for a few days. just warm in the microwave. i like to slice in half and eat like an apple...on the go. of course, you could fancy these up for a fun brunch treat. they make for such a cute presentation with the surprise egg inside.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


woops...i almost for got about this delicious soup. i'm so behind with my posts that i almost left this one behind. can't do that. this one is good and easy...a little time consuming if you're fussy about presentation like me. i think the sweetness of the apricots really works well with the savory roasted vegetables. i love the texture of lentils when they are cooked just right...tender to the bite, but still in their cute flying saucer shape. keep it monochromatic for an interesting presentation...anything orange is fun to work with. always bright, flavorful and comforting.


1 cup red (orange) lentils
4-5 cups good chicken stock (homemade best, of course)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion. diced
1-3 cloves garlic. minced
1 tsp oregano
a pinch of cayenne
salt and pepper to taste after cooking
3 carrots
2 cups banana squash or butternut. peeled, cubed
1 orange pepper large dice
5-10 garlic cloves for roasting (optional)
feta for topping (optional)
approx 10 dried apricots (whole)

make the lentil a soup pan saute the onion and garlic. add the stock and lentils and bring to a boil. lower heat and cook until tender. i like my lentils to keep their shape so i pull them before they get mushy. remember they will continue cooking as you reheat the soup. check seasoning.
roast your vegetables at 350 degrees approx 20 minutes. olive oil, salt, and pepper. keep an eye on them and stir to brown all sides
3 med. carrots. sliced large
2 cups small cubed squash. i used banana squash. peeled, of course
garlic...i always throw in a bunch of garlic cloves when roasting veg. just to have on hand and/or add this to the soup/stew for extra yummy goodness
saute the apricots...i used a little olive oil and sauteed, or rather, seared the dried apricots. you could saute them with a little garlic and onion if you wanted, but i didn't. i left them whole so i could brown each side....dice when browned

serving your soup/stew plate. if you're one of those "on-the-ball-cooks" you'll have everything hot at the same time...not so in this kitchen. i have to bring everything back to temp. before serving.

i like this soup thick and layered...lentils (drain off some broth if necessary) then roasted vegetables then crumbled feta (optional)then diced sauteed apricots on top.

note...stir and reheat lentils carefully because they can turn to mush and lose their shape quickly.

if your not into the fuss and presentation just throw everything in, serve and enjoy. i thought the sauteed apricots really worked well with the roasted veg, garlic and the kick of heat from the cayenne. sweet...savory...spicy equals YUM in my book

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Soy Ginger Pig Ears-Two Ways


not for the faint of heart...
BUT, i can now say with pride that i have conquered "THE EAR"

i have no idea what got into me. i saw them and had to buy them. so glad i did. what an interesting, bizarre and surprisingly delicious part of the pig. if you're a little daring or just curious and up for a challenge, please do try this. the texture alone is so odd. the outside is kind of soft, gelatinous, but the inside is crunchy? it's just skin and cartilage. hmmmm....very indescribable. very different one might say. ..i'm probably not selling you on this yet, huh?...well, just trust me. you'll only be out a few bucks, they're cheap, you'll have alot of fun, good conversation and another foodie notch in you belt at the least.

oh...i remember now, it was an article in the food section of the LA Times that caught my eye. i thought if the newspaper was going to put a recipe out there for the masses then i better get right to it before it gets to be old news...passe...i'm sure you've already heard alot of talk about the whole "nose to tail" concept...well, i'm slowly but surely making head-way...pardon the pun...i had to say it. i can't help myself...shoot me.

i found these at one of my favorite Mexican markets. you'll see them alot in Asian markets as well, but they are usually pre-sliced and don't have the extra chunk of meat these do at the base of the ear (quite possibly the best bite). i'm sure if you are near an Asian market, my favorite is 99 Ranch Market, they would butcher some any way you like. just look for what you think looks fresh (start by checking the date)...throw caution to the wind and buy a few.

i purchased 4 ears because i knew i would be trying a few different preparations. 2 ears would be fine for a 1st time ear eater. i was eatin' ears for a week because, of course, no one i knew was even the slightest bit interested in my little experiment...fasinated...intrigued...shocked and bewildered, but i definitely had NO TAKERS.

i decided to try 2 different preparations. the 1st photo and the small one to the right is braised, glazed and BBQ'd. deeelish!, but, i must say the ears were a bit unruly on the grill. they wanted to stick and char. i tried to skewer them whole to make them flat so that the grill would hit more surface. you should have seen my innovative skewering technique...i guess it worked, but next time i think i'll slice them, then grill them. there WILL be a next time.
below i sauteed the sliced ears with bacon..ooooh, now that was good. not too much to say about that recipe, just cook your bacon about 2/3 of the way then add in the sliced pig ears and continue cooking untill they look like they are crisping up a bit. use your judgement. serve plain as an appitizer or a side. i enjoyed it with a quick spicy slaw.

below is the initial ear cooking method i adapted from Gourmet Magazine Sept 2009. if you would like the full recipe click here for Thai Pigs' Ear SaladServes6 (side dish)
Active time:20 min. Start to finish:4 hr
September 2009
food editor Andrea Albin came up with this dish starring pigs’ ears;Braising the ears slowly in a robust brew of soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, and garlic brings out their tender side. Hold on to the braising broth and add it to sauces or stocks for an instant boost of flavor (as it cools, the broth will thicken considerably because of its high gelatin content).

1 lb pigs’ ears
8 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup sliced ginger
2 tablespoons sugar
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3 cilantro sprigs
1 fresh Thai chile, halved lengthwise (i used jalapeno)

Cook Pigs’ Ears:
•Shave any hair off of pigs’ ears with a razor. YIKES !!!... IMPORTANT NOTE: when i'm cooking odd body parts or things from open stock markets, i like to put the said parts in boiling water for about 5 minutes, drain and rinse. this makes me feel better about any bacteria or cross contamination that might be present. now you're ready....Transfer to a 3-qt heavy pot (or larger) with remaining ingredients and simmer, partially covered, until ears are tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
•Cool ears to room temperature in liquid, then drain (reserve liquid for another use)

Carefully remove the ears from the broth, place them on a parchment paper-lined plate, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. if you are not using them all keep them in the cooking liquid in the fridge. Save the flavorful broth for a yummy Asian flavor stock. Once braised pig ears have been chilled, they can be tightly wrapped in plastic and frozen until ready to use. i kept mine suspended in the gelatinous broth (completely covered)and used as needed for the week.
#1...let me reiterate that refrigeration is key. these things are quite flubbery (for lack of a better word) and unwieldy when first out of the braise. once they are cooled they are much easier to handle and slice for any preparation you choose. now they are ready to take on any flavors hot or cold...they are even good as is , but 1st timers might need a little something more to disguise the wierd factor.
this part was adapted from the LA Times article by Russ Parsons and is great served as an appetizer or over a spicy slaw as shown in photos
Cut the bacon crosswise into thin strips and cook in a skillet over medium heat. Cut the pig ear into similarly sized strips (cut the ear lengthwise into halves or thirds, then slice crosswise into thin strips). When the bacon is almost done, about 10 minutes, add the pig ear and cook, stirring frequently, until the bacon has finished browning, about 3 more minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon and pig ear slices to a medium bowl, draining well and reserving the fat. keep the fat if you are interested in using it for a dressing as suggested in the LA Times recipe. i just threw together a fresh light slaw using olive oil and lime juice with jalapeno and cilantro.
QUICK is the forth and you know i'll be lighting up the BBQ with some baby back ribs, but i think i'll run out right now and pick up a few ears. i told you there would be a next time. ...done, i bought SIX!

another quick note if you make it down this far...

remember i mentioned the extra meaty skin part at the base of the ear (shown at the forfront of the pic above...well, i glazed that with some Soy Vay-Hoisin Garlic sauce and threw it in the oven at about 450 with a watchful eye, turning as necessary. when they started to snap crackle and pop i took them out to cool. these could have been the best bites ever! a little fatty, a little moist meat with some crispy glazed skin and just a hint of crunchy cartilidge. i know you think i'm crazy, but i even got my mother to try this bite. she won't admit to it now, but i know she is a secret Pig Parts Lover.

Thursday, July 1, 2010



i never thought i'd see the day that i could honestly say...I LOVE TOFU !

well, i'm not really that in love with it...i am a pork lover that's for sure. if you can wrap it in bacon or cook it with duck fat i'm all over it. hey...i think the next tofu creation/experiment will have to be confit tofu wrapped in bacon...hmmmmm good idea, i might try that this weekend. but seriously, i do really like this recipe. if you're a little unsure about the tofu try it with chicken, i did and it was super fabulous. friends told me it was one of their favorites and demanded the recipe.


i found this while googling around for recipes with TOFU. i guess Daring cooks took on the satay challenge a while back and i came across this great idea from a fellow blogger... Mango & Tomato. i've always loved satay with it's yummy peanut dipping sauce so this seemed like a safe way to break into the world of TOFU
below is just the satay marinade recipe i found at Mango & Tomato. i'm sure her peanut sauce is fabulous, but i used another due to ingredients on hand. the one i made turned out incredibly finger lickin' good.
1/2 small onion
2 garlic cloves
2 cm piece of ginger
2 T lemon juice
1 T soy sauce
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1. Puree all ingredients in the food processor (how easy is that?).
2. Marinade cubed tofu covered for 2 hours in the refrigerator.
3. Saute the tofu on all sides till golden brown (I used coconut oil).
i only used 1 block of tofu, but this is enough for 2
if using chicken (1.5-2 lbs boneless, skinless) cut in large cubes
i sauteed the tofu
i skewered and grilled the chicken
tip for chicken...wrap in foil as soon as it's just done to keep in moisture)
found here at Recipekitchen

1/2 cup peanut butter, creamy (i used 1/4 creamy and 1/4 chunky)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbl. lemon juice
2 Tbl. brown sugar
3/4 tsp. ground ginger (i added a little grated fresh ginger as well)
1/2 tsp. red pepper, crushed flakes
heat all ingredients in a sauce pan on low-medium heat. stir well about 5 minutes so all flavors will meld. add more water if it's too thick. it will thicken as it cools so if serving at room temp. be aware of this. the sauce saves well for leftovers. just give it a stir and a reheat.
to my amazement the tofu held up quite well the following day. good as new with a quick microwave (don't over nuke)..quite resilient i must say.
i will definitely be making this again, with both TOFU (in the fridge right now) and with Chicken. it's easy and a sure bet for Satay lovers. keep the recipe out because you'll be asked for it i'm sure.

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