Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

A quick dinner recipe featuring golden tilefish with a spicy breadcrumb topping. Try it with any white fish fillets including cod, tilapia, flounder, snapper, bass, croaker, halibut or grouper.


I found some interesting info about golden tilefish on NOAA’s Fish Watch website. “The saying ‘you are what you eat’ rings true for this fish – they mainly feed on crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs, and people often describe the tilefish’s sweet flavor as similar to crab or lobster.”

To be honest, I can’t remember if that was true of our tilefish—but it sure was tasty. The next time I make tilefish, I’ll confirm whether it really does taste similar to lobster or crab. It’s a mild white fish with firm flesh. Most of the recipes I found either roasted or broiled the fish—my recipe here calls for roasting.

Golden Tilefish | Grabbing the Gusto

I flipped the fillet over so you could see both sides.
Golden Tilefish | Grabbing the Gusto

Tilefish is sometimes called “the clown of the sea” due to its iridescent stripes, white bellies, pink faces and blue under the eyes. I’m guessing they’re called tilefish because their skin looks like a mosaic of white tiles with greenish-brown grout. They burrow into the mud and sand sentiment in the bottom or sides of submarine canyons. Their burrows in canyon walls are called “pueblos” because they look like the pueblo communities of Native Americans in the southwestern United States.

Compared to other fish, tilefish live long lives, up to 50 years! Their average size at harvest is about two feet. Although most tilefish is caught by longline, my tilefish was caught the same way you and I fish, assuming you fish—pole and line.

When I saw tilefish’s flavor described as similar to crab, I decided to put one of my new spice blends to work—Obis One’s New Bay 33. This is Obis One’s, a black garlic farm, play on Old Bay. It includes black garlic and 32 other ingredients. The New Bay definitely took what could have been a ho-hum breadcrumb topping to a higher, tastier level.

New Bay Golden Tilefish recipe | Grabbing the Gusto

New Bay Golden Tilefish | Grabbing the Gusto

New Bay Golden Tilefish

You’ll need a small bowl and a foil-lined baking sheet or pan.

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon New Bay 33 seasoning or Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 pound tilefish fillets, or any white fish fillets such as cod, tilapia, flounder, snapper, bass, croaker, halibut or grouper — just be sure to adjust cooking time for thinner fillets
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. In a small bowl, combine butter, 1/2 tablespoon New Bay 33, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.

Line a baking sheet or pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place fillets on pan, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon New Bay 33, salt and pepper. Top with breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 15 minutes or until done.

Ribbonfish puttanesca is a quick, boldly-flavored dish of tomatoes, garlic, red pepper, black olives, capers, anchovies and herbs. You can substitute cod, snapper or bass for the ribbonfish.


I had never heard of ribbonfish before buying it at Locals Seafoods. It’s a popular fish in Asian markets but you don’t often see it elsewhere. It’s more likely to be found on the end of someone’s line as bait. But now that chefs are trying out more sustainable fish species, it’s only a matter of time before they discover ribbonfish.

Ribbonfish is also known as cutlassfish or hairtail. You can get a good look at this beasty-looking silvery, scaleless fish on my earlier post, Asian-Style Braised Ribbonfish. We both thought it was a great match for this bold Italian sauce—puttanesca.

If you’re an Italian food lover, you’ve probably heard the story behind puttanesca sauce, or whore’s sauce. The story goes that ladies of the evening would make puttanesca in between visits from customers. The sauce could be made quickly with ingredients that were in the cupboard—tomatoes, garlic, onion, anchovies, olives, capers and red pepper—and the aromas of the cooking sauce drew the men in. I’ve never included mint and red wine vinegar in puttanesca before but since the Fine Cooking recipe called for it, I figured I’d give it a try–I like those flavors in the sauce.

If the sight of anchovies in this recipe makes you want to hurl, I’m sorry about that. Anchovies are so misunderstood. I love them but I do love fishy fish too. They provide umami—meatiness, savoriness, oomph—to this sauce just like they do to Caesar salad dressing and all kinds of dishes where they lurk and you’d never know it. If you can’t bear them, go ahead and omit them, the other sauce ingredients are bold enough to carry on.

You may look at the photo below and wonder, where are the olives and capers? Well, I didn’t check the jars before going to the store and I had only five olives and about 1 tablespoon of capers, so they’re not easy to spot and were greatly missed. Don’t forget about puttanesca sauce when you want to make a quick pasta. It’s incredibly satisfying with a generous grating of Parmesan cheese (another umami source) and a generous pour of red wine.

Ribbonfish Puttanesca recipe or substitute cod, bass or snapper  | Grabbing the Gusto

Ribbonfish Puttanesca | Grabbing the Gusto

Ribbonfish Puttanesca

You’ll need a large oven-safe skillet with a lid (or foil).

  • 1 pound ribbonfish fillets, cut into 3” pieces—you could substitute cod, snapper or bass
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced or chopped
  • 2 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 14.5 ounce cans petite-diced or diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup (or more) pitted Kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves or basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 tablespoon mint, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325 F. Season the fish with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and anchovies, and cook until the onions are nearly softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juice, olives, 2 tablespoons of the basil (or 3 tablespoons of the pesto) and capers. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have melted, about 8 minutes.

Nestle the fish fillets into the sauce as best as you can, spooning some of the sauce on top of the fish to keep it moist. Drizzle the fish with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Cover the pan with a lid or foil and cook in the oven until the fish is almost cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness.

When it’s done, transfer the fish to a serving plate or individual plates. If the sauce is thinner than you’d like, reduce it over medium-high heat. Stir the remaining tablespoon of basil, mint and vinegar into the sauce and spoon it over the fish.

Inspired by Braised Red Snapper Puttanesca, Fine Cooking


5 years ago on Grabbing the Gusto: Chipotle Chicken Burritos

Seriously swoonable: kale, chicken sausage, wild rice, Gruyère cheese, mushrooms and caramelized onions baked until golden, crusty perfection. 


Have you ever had the last bite of leftovers and felt a little sad? Dang, it was so good and now it’s gone. You make a note to self that you MUST make that again soon. Yup, that’s what I felt with this casserole.

I found the original recipe on the Half Baked Harvest blog. As usual, I made a few changes.

  • Added an onion to the mushroom mixture.
  • Changed the roux proportions a bit – less flour, more butter.
  • Added chicken sausage.
  • Cut the rice in half and used a mix of black and mahogany rice.
  • Caramelized the sweet onions while the rest of the dish was sautéing, instead of cooking them at the end.
Kale, Sausage & Wild Rice Casserole recipe | Grabbing the Gusto

Kale, Sausage & Wild Rice Casserole | Grabbing the Gusto

Black Japonica rice. Several months ago, I picked up a few packages of Lundberg Black Japonica rice when it was on sale. I decided to use it instead of wild rice in this recipe. I love wild rice, but am so glad I used this rice. Its flavor was nutty and sort of sweet, and meshed well with the other flavors in the dish.

Kale stems and ribs. Because of our CSA share, we cook a lot of greens in this house. And even during our weeks off from the CSA—our winter share is every other week—I end up buying greens from the farmers market. Most recipes tell you to use a knife to slice the thick ribs and stems away from the leaves. Sometimes that’s the best way to do that. You can go up and down the leaf or you can fold the leaf in half and slice once.

Or, you can put your fingers around the stem and pull your hand down, stripping the leaf from the stem with your hand until you get to the thin part of the rib, like you pull thyme or rosemary leaves off their woody stems.

But wait! You don’t have to throw those stem/ribs away. If they’re really woody, like the stems of some old collards are, then you might want to throw them on the compost pile—although a quick search will reveal recipes for using them. But if they’re kale, turnip, beet or other less woody-stemmed greens, you can chop them up and sauté them with your onions.

Affordable Gruyère. I hate it when I find a recipe, make a shopping list, get to the store, and the slim wedge of Gruyère that I want costs $14 or something like that. Ugh. Do I splurge or find a cheaper alternative? That used to be me. Now I stock up on Gruyère when I go to Trader Joes or BJs where it’s a lot less expensive and I freeze them in their packaging in sealable freezer bags. No more cheese conundrums.

I did some research before deciding to do this and found that hard cheeses like Gruyère freeze well. The cheese authorities don’t recommend freezing cheese that you will serve as is, but they say it’s no problem to freeze cheese that will end up being melted.

Saving time, washing pans. To make this recipe in the least amount of time, you’re going to need room on your stove for a saucepot for rice, a large skillet for the sweet onions, and a large deep pan for the rest of the dish. Start the rice right away because it takes the longest and you’ll need it for the casserole.

Once the rice is going, I start the sweet onions and let them cook. They require no maintenance for 25 minutes except occasional stirring. Then in another pan, I make the rest of the dish—the mushrooms, kale, sausage, white sauce, etc. If I’m done and the rice isn’t, I start cleaning up what I can. I use one more pan this way but it’s worth saving those 25 minutes.

Kale, Sausage & Wild Rice Casserole recipe | Grabbing the Gusto

Kale, Sausage & Wild Rice Casserole | Grabbing the Gusto

Kale, Sausage and Wild Rice Casserole

You’ll need a medium saucepot to cook the rice, 2- to 3-quart casserole dish, large skillet, large deep pan and 2-cup microwave-safe liquid measuring cup (or small saucepan).

  • 2 cups cooked wild or specialty rice – I used Lundberg Black Japonica (a mix of black and mahogany rice)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 or 2 large sweet onions, sliced into thin rings
  • 1/4 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 10 ounces to 1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 large bunches of kale, woody stems removed, sliced into 1” ribbons – about 12 lightly packed cups of ribbons
  • 9 ounces chicken and/or turkey sausage
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded

Get your rice going, according to package instructions, if it’s not already cooked. Grease the casserole dish with cooking spray.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sliced sweet onions and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are golden brown, about 25 minutes.

While those onions cook down, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the deep pan over medium heat. Add the chopped yellow onions, mushrooms, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring only occasionally, until soft and a bit caramelized, about 7 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low, add garlic, thyme and nutmeg, and cook about 1 minute.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Stir the kale and sausage into the mushroom mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is wilted. Push the ingredients as much as possible to the edges of the pan.

Add butter to the middle of the pan with the kale and let it melt. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.

Combine the milk and chicken broth in the measuring cup. Microwave until warm. If you don’t have a microwave, heat the milk and broth in a small saucepan until warm.

Pour the milk/broth mixture into the pan with the kale, stir it into the other ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook about 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Stir in the cream. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir the cooked rice into the kale mixture. Pour it all into the prepared casserole dish.

Sprinkle half the Gruyère over the casserole, then add the caramelized sweet onions and then top it with the remaining Gruyère. Bake the casserole for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the onions are crispy.

Inspired by Kale and Wild Rice Casserole, Half Baked Harvest


3 years ago on Grabbing the Gusto: Chipotle Hummus and Homemade Pita Chips

Ten recipes (and one bonus idea) for using leftover ricotta cheese before it goes bad–recipes that you might like even better than whatever you made with that ricotta.


It happened again. When I was done making spaghetti squash, sausage and spinach lasagna, I had about 1-1/2 cups of ricotta cheese leftover. But I didn’t have a plan for it. Three weeks later, I discovered the container of ricotta in the back of the frig. Pee-yoo. Down the sink it went.

That’s when I said to myself: I need a document full of ideas for using a 1/2 cup, 1 cup or 2 cups of leftover ricotta. I can select a recipe and add it to my menu file.

Menu file, you ask? Life is crazy. Life is also full of great recipe and meal ideas. But because life is crazy, if I don’t write those meal ideas down, they’re gone in a flash from my brain. There’s only so much room in there and I have to leave space for all the brilliant creative stuff–activating the Law of Attraction here. Anything I want to remember must be written down.

My menu file is where I capture ideas for meals and other kitchen projects for the coming week. I also keep track of perishable or “must use” ingredients on there too, like our CSA share or anything else that’s getting old in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry. I keep the list on the cloud so if I’m at the store, I can reference it easily.

But there’s a hitch. You have to remember to add all your perishables, like leftover ricotta, to the list. Oops. Oh well, things fall through the cracks occasionally.

After discovering the old ricotta, I started searching my recipe files and Pinterest boards for ricotta recipes and found quite a few. I added some ideas lurking in my brain—stuff does survive in there somehow, did a little research and came up with a good list. Then I thought, hey, why not share this with everyone. I’m not the only one who’s ever had surplus ricotta hanging around. So, here you go…

10 ways to use leftover ricotta | Grabbing the Gusto

One of my favorite ways to enjoy ricotta — canoli. (Creative Commons photo by


Ricotta on toast with berries. When I was the general manager of an Italian restaurant, I used to have ricotta on wheat toast with strawberries for breakfast almost every single day. I don’t know why I never got sick of it. Or, spread ricotta on toasted bagels, English muffins or sandwich thins and top it with whatever fruit is in season. A little ground flax seed or wheat germ adds texture.

Sweet potato breakfast gnocchi. Oh. My. God. Why didn’t I see this recipe before the demise of my ricotta? I’m about ready to go out and buy some so I can make this recipe from Food52—it’s originally from Emily at Five and Spice.

Pumpkin ricotta pancakes. Do a search and you’ll find lots of ricotta pancake recipes. I love the idea of pumpkin ricotta pancakes in the fall. Here’s a recipe from I Am a Food Blog.

Use leftover ricotta in this twice-baked butternut squash with ricotta and sage recipe from Coffee and Quinoa

Twice-baked butternut squash with ricotta and sage from Coffee and Quinoa

Twice-baked butternut squash with ricotta and sage. Doesn’t that look fabulous? I found the recipe on Coffee and Quinoa.


Lemon ricotta pancakes. Some pancake recipes call for more than 1/2 cup of ricotta, for example, these lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry sauce from Two Peas and Their Pod.

Sweet potato rounds with herbed ricotta, walnuts and dried cranberries. When the holidays roll around next year, remember this festive appetizer from The Roasted Root. I may not wait until the holidays.

Puff pastry rolls with kale, ricotta and feta. I could see serving these as an appetizer or having them for lunch. Find the recipe on Italian Food Forever.

Use leftover ricotta in this Eggplant Rollups recipe from Italian Food Forever

Eggplant Rollups from Italian Food Forever

Eggplant rollups (aka involtini di melanzane). Another one from Italian Food Forever that looks mouth-watering fantastic.

Spinach and ricotta gnocchi. I’ve long had my eye on this gnocchi verde (spinach and ricotta dumplings) recipe from Food52.

Lemon-basil ricotta pasta bake. This screams out spring to me. You can bet that as soon as asparagus is in season, this dish from Real Food & Ice Cream will be on our table.


Lemon ricotta pound cake. A perfect recipe from Alexandra Cooks for citrus season. I love the way that loaf shines—I can almost smell it.

And there are so many more good recipes out there. I have no excuse to ever let ricotta go bad again. As long as I add it to my menu file.

Do you have any favorite recipes for leftover ricotta?


3 years ago on Grabbing the Gusto: Salmon Noodle Casserole

5 years ago: Spicy Italian Stuffed Jalapenos

This creamed greens recipe includes pancetta, mushrooms, red bell and poblano peppers, onions and carrots. Try it with kale, tatsoi, spinach, collard, turnip or any other greens.


The creamed greens recipe I posted two months ago is really good, but I kept thinking it could be even better. It could be creamed greens deluxe.

And here it is: creamed greens deluxe. What makes it deluxe? I added pancetta, onion, carrot, red bell pepper, poblano pepper and mushrooms to my other more classic recipe. And, oh my, oh my, this one is really, really good. In fact, it’s fabulous.

I made this recipe with collard greens but you could use any type of greens—kale, tatsoi, spinach, turnip or whatever is in your refrigerator. Is it healthy? It could be worse. Take a look at the recipe and tell me what you think. It does have a lot of cream cheese but it’s low-fat cream cheese. There’s a handful of Parmesan cheese in there. But besides that, it looks pretty darn nutritious to me. Oh, I forgot about the pancetta and butter. I guess “healthy” is relative.

When you have a bunch of greens and you’re looking for something more interesting than the usual sauté, this recipe will come to your rescue. It’s seriously yummy yet not overly creamy—it does taste healthy.

Creamed Collards Deluxe recipe | Grabbing the Gusto

Creamed Collards Deluxe | Grabbing the Gusto

Creamed Collards (or Greens) Deluxe

You’ll need a large pot or Dutch oven with lid and steamer insert.

  • 18 ounces (or more) collards or other greens, like kale, tatsoi and/or spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced (2 slices) or 2 slices bacon, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 medium carrot, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 poblano pepper, diced
  • 7 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces low-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Place a steamer insert into a large Dutch oven or pot. Pour about an inch of water into the pot. Bring to a soft boil. Put greens on top of steamer, cover pot and let steam 5 minutes, or until wilted. Remove the steamer and greens from the pot and set aside. Wipe the pot dry.

Melt butter and heat oil in the pot over low heat. Once the butter is melted, add pancetta and cook a few minutes. Add onion, carrot, red bell pepper, poblano pepper and mushrooms, and cook 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook one minute, or until fragrant.

Add cream cheese to pot, break up with spatula and let it melt into the pan. Once it’s mostly melted, stir in the steamed greens. Stir in Parmesan. Pour in 1/3 cup milk, stir and add more milk if it’s not creamy enough. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

A comforting Italian recipe featuring dogfish with a sauce of tomato, fennel, onion, carrot, pancetta and white wine, and topped with a gremolata of parsley, pine nuts and lemon. You could substitute cod, monkfish, shark or swordfish for dogfish.


In addition to our winter CSA share from In Good Heart Farm, we’re also getting a CSF (community supported fishery) share from Locals Seafoods. Every week for eight weeks, I’m going to the Raleigh State Farmers Market to pick up two pounds of fish from Locals Seafoods.

What do I love about being part of this CSF?

  • I have a regular source of fish from North Carolina fishermen—fish from American waters, not industrial fish farms in Asia or South America.
  • I’m supporting my state’s fishing community and hopefully helping them to make a living.
  • I’m introduced to new species, like dogfish, that are sustainable fisheries but never seen in mainstream markets and restaurants. Instead, supermarkets and chain restaurants sell a limited number of species, most of them from other countries and no longer available here because they’ve been overfished. We export our best fish (like wild salmon) and import crap fish.
  • We get to enjoy fresh fish. Fresh fresh fresh. No smelly fish here. And none of that mushy texture you get with frozen fish.
  • If you do a search for dogfish, you won’t find many recipes like you would for other species, so I’m forced to adapt and develop recipes. In this case, I adapted a recipe for monkfish from David Leite’s blog. My recipe development skills are going to get a workout and they need it.

Yup, we’re going to be spoiled for eight weeks. We’re having one fish for dinner on Thursday (the day I pick up my share) and the other on Friday. I have the leftovers for lunch or, if there’s enough for two, we have leftovers for dinner on Sunday. Will we get sick of fish? I hope not. The only negative is the hour it takes for the roundtrip to/from Raleigh but I’m trying to combine it with other errands. The things we do for love of fish.

Smooth Dogfish Fillets | Grabbing the Gusto

Smooth Dogfish Fillets | Grabbing the Gusto

So, let’s get down to business: what’s dogfish like? Here’s what Locals Seafoods says—and I agree:

“A scavenger’s diet of shellfish, mollusks and a host of smaller sea creatures contribute to the slight sweetness of dogfish. The skinless fillets are boneless with a firm white flesh.”

Boneless–that’s a bonus.

You can find smooth dogfish (aka Atlantic bluenose) in North Carolina waters and spiny dogfish further north. Both are in the shark family. They travel and feed in schools, like a pack of hunting dogs, hence their name. Like other sharks, dogfish need to be bled, dressed and stored properly to avoid having the waste product (urea) found naturally in their blood convert to ammonia. If your dogfish (or any kind of shark) fillets smell of ammonia or spoiled, hand them back and take your business elsewhere.

If you don’t have access to dogfish, you can substitute cod, swordfish, shark or monkfish in this recipe. Since the New England cod fishery is in sad shape, many chefs up north are using dogfish in place of cod. In England, dogfish is frequently used in fish and chips—that’s where most of the U.S. dogfish have gone in the past since it was considered a trash fish here.

Trash fish, ha! That’s not what you’ll think if you try this recipe. Osso buco is normally made with veal shanks, but the usual preparation is fantastic with fish. Gremolata, the traditional topping for osso buco, adds a touch of brightness to the dish. It’s usually made with made with parsley, lemon and garlic, but I omitted the garlic and added pine nuts instead. Feel free to omit the pine nuts or substitute walnuts for them. You could definitely add garlic or black garlic to the mix.

I served the dogfish with a quick quinoa/brown rice mix from a package and absolutely fantastic creamed collard greens—I’ll share that recipe soon. I think this dish would be great with polenta or the traditional side, risotto.

Dogfish Osso Buco | Grabbing the Gusto

Dogfish Osso Buco | Grabbing the Gusto

Dogfish Osso Buco

You’ll need a plate for dredging, large pan with lid, foil, and small food processor or small bowl.

  • 1 pound dogfish, cut into 8 pieces – or substitute cod, swordfish, shark or monkfish
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 ounces pancetta, minced (2 slices) or bacon
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 medium carrot, diced
  • 1/4 fennel bulb, diced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup diced grape, cherry, plum or canned tomatoes


  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest (or 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest + 1/2 tablespoon orange zest)

Dredge the fish in flour and season with salt and pepper. Toss the excess flour and wipe off the plate.

Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Sear the fish pieces on one side until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn them over, add the pancetta to the pan, and sear the fish on the other side for 2 minutes. Remove the fish and pancetta to the clean dredging plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Turn the heat down to medium. Add the onion, carrot and fennel to the pan and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are starting to caramelize, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Spread the vegetables over the bottom of the pan and place the fish and pancetta over them. Pour the wine and tomatoes into the pan, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so the liquid is just simmering, cover the pan, and simmer for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the parsley, pine nuts and lemon zest in a small food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Set aside. If you don’t have a food processor, chop everything together, making sure to mix the ingredients thoroughly.

Serve the fish topped with the tomato mixture and gremolata.

Inspired by Monkfish Osso Buco with Pancetta and Carrots, Leite’s Culinaria


4 years ago on Grabbing the Gusto: Shrimp with Spicy Orange Sauce

This  sweet and savory, ham and cheese French toast is the breakfast of my dreams and perfect for a Valentine’s Day breakfast. Ham and cheese combined with onion, garlic, maple syrup, brown sugar and cayenne–swooningly delicious.


On New Year’s Day we woke up hungry. New Year’s Day is also my honey’s birthday so I wanted to make a better-than-average breakfast for him that morning. I already had an idea that had started percolating the night before.

For our New Year’s Eve celebration, I made Italian meatballs in marinara sauce – a recipe I’m still perfecting. The ideal meatball is almost within grasp but not quite there yet. Stay tuned for that story. 2015 is the year of the meatball.

I put out hoagie rolls and grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese to go along with the meatballs. As usual, I bought too many rolls and ended up having a bunch leftover. And that’s when I started thinking about a way to use them instead of consigning them to the freezer.

It was obvious, or at least obvious to me: French toast. But not just any French toast would do. I wanted to make a serious stuffed and baked French toast with both sweet and savory breakfasty flavors. I found ham in the freezer and quickly defrosted a big slice. Then I started cooking some onion and garlic. Cheddar cheese? Check. Maple? Indeed. A touch of cayenne for some heat. And a bit of brown sugar for some sweetness.

Oh my, oh my. Best French toast ever! I mean EVER! I was pretty proud of myself that morning. And I guess I still am.

The next time you’re having overnight guests, want to treat your sweetie, or feel deserving of a seriously tasty and filling breakfast (and why wouldn’t you), whip this up. You can prep it the night before or just allow some time in the morning. Most stuffed French toast recipes call for letting it rest for at least an hour before baking, but I couldn’t wait that long. Could you bake it right away? Probably, but I’m guessing the bread wouldn’t have enough time to absorb the batter, and the more batter it absorbs the better. It was pretty darn tasty with only a 30-minute sit. I think it would be absolutely fantastic with challah, brioche, or any type of sweet bread. Hoagie rolls are a bit too bready so next time I’ll probably use whole wheat bread. Hmm, do I have any bread in the frig?

Sweet and Savory Ham and Cheese French Toast | Grabbing the Gusto

Sweet and Savory Ham and Cheese French Toast | Grabbing the Gusto

Ham and Cheese Sweet and Savory French Toast

You’ll need a small skillet, medium bowl and baking dish – I used a 10” x 10”.

  • Butter
  • Small to medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup half and half or light cream
  • 1/2 cup milk – I used 2%
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • Salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 5 soft white hoagie rolls or 8 to 10 slices bread – or the equivalent of whatever you have
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup chopped ham – enough to lightly cover the bread
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese – enough to lightly cover the bread
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
  • Maple syrup, for serving

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the onion until it’s softened. Add garlic and cook for one minute.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the half and half, milk, maple syrup, eggs and a pinch of salt.

Spray baking dish (mine was a 10” x 10”) with cooking spray. Dip each piece of half the bread in the batter and arrange it along the bottom of the dish. Scatter the onion mixture, ham, cheese, brown sugar and cayenne over the bread. Dip the remaining bread in the batter and arrange them on top. Re-whisk the remaining batter and pour it over the bread. Press down gently. Let the stuffed French toast sit in the fridge for 30 minutes, or up to overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 and bake until the top of the French toast is cooked though and the tops are browned, about 25-30 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes. Slice and serve warm with maple syrup.


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