Braised Ribbonfish

My oh my, what big teeth you have.

Ribbonfish head from Grabbing the Gusto

That frightening head belongs to the ribbonfish we ate last night. Here it is on ice.

Ribbonfish from Grabbing the Gusto

Ribbonfish (aka cutlassfish) is popular in Asia – the Pacific variety comprises the 6th largest wild marine fishery by weight in the world. But, it’s usually a by-catch here that’s either thrown overboard or used for bait.

I had never seen or heard of a ribbonfish until a few weeks ago at Locals Seafood in the NC State Farmers Market. On the way to the market, I checked their Facebook page to make sure they were open and saw a link they posted to a ribbonfish recipe. I didn’t really read the recipe but the photo looked good and I had all the ingredients at home, so I took a chance and bought one pound of ribbonfish fillets.

When I was ready to make dinner I went back to the recipe. Yikes, the instructions were written in non-native speaker English. It sort of made sense, but I wanted something better. I looked but really couldn’t find a good recipe, so I started with the Chinese-English one and came up with something that made sense to me.

The first time I made this dish it came out surprisingly delicious. “Surprisingly” because I winged it. But, I forgot to take a photo. When I went to Locals Seafood on Saturday, they didn’t have any ribbonfish fillets – only a whole ribbonfish – that’s it in the photo above.

My first reaction was “forget it, I’ll buy something else.” I suddenly realized — I don’t think I’ve ever filleted a fish before. Could that be true? How did I miss learning that when I was with McCormick & Schmick’s? I’m pretty sure that was part of management training. Maybe I’ve just forgotten. Those weeks of training are a crazy blur in my mind. 

Steve and Amanda (I think it was Amanda) convinced me that it was an easy fish to fillet. And it’s about time I learn to fillet a fish – why should Jim have all the fun! Once home, we cut off the head and tail, and then cut the body in half. Jim showed me how to fillet by doing one side himself and then I did the other three sides.

This time I doubled my recipe – we’ll have it again tomorrow night – and I took a few photos. I’ll never win any prizes for them but at least you now have a good recipe that’s easy to understand. I made cauliflower faux fried rice as a side and added some leftover green beans and chard. 

My advice to you: be adventurous, buy unfamiliar local fish and learn to fillet too!

Braised ribbonfish from Grabbing the Gusto

Braised Ribbonfish

You’ll need a large pan with lid.

  • Canola oil
  • About 1/4 cup cornstarch (or flour)
  • 1 pound ribbonfish fillets, sliced crosswise into 4-6” pieces
  • 1/2 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • Medium onion, sliced
  • 1-1/2” piece of ginger, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Thai chili sauce, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Scallion greens, chopped, to taste

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large pan. Spread out the cornstarch on a plate. Dredge the skin side of the ribbonfish in cornstarch. Shake or wipe off any excess.

Sauté the pepper and onion until softened. Add ginger and garlic and sauté until the garlic begins to golden. Add soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, chili sauce and chicken broth. Bring to boil and cook about a minute, or until sugar is dissolved.

Add the fish, skin side down, cover and simmer on low or medium-low for 5-10 minutes or until fish is cooked. Taste for salt and add if needed. Sprinkle with black pepper and scallions. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Monkfish à l’Américaine

Swoon. I don’t use that word lightly. But this dish made me swoon.

Years ago I saw Jasper White make Lobster à l’Américaine on Julia Child’s Cooking with the Master Chefs show. I’ve never forgotten the sight of that dish, I could almost smell it, yet I never made it. It popped into my head last weekend when I read in Locals Seafood’s weekly email that they had monkfish at the farmers market.


(Photo by Alexander Mayrhofer/Wikimedia Commons)

Monkfish is called “poor man’s lobster” because of its sweet, firm white meat. It’s a hideous looking fish but its huge tail provides lots of succulent fillets. I went to the farmers market and bought four fillets, about one and a half pounds. Then I hunted for a Monkfish à l’Américaine recipe because I knew my time to make it had finally come.

Monkfish fillets

Monkfish fillets

I found the recipe I was looking for on Sam Hoffer’s My Carolina Kitchen blog. Even better, it was a recipe from Jacques Pepin’s Essential Pepin cookbook. I was in the hands of a master. I only made a few changes based on what I had on hand already. I used a few shallots instead of a leek, ground fennel instead of fennel seeds, and brandy instead of Armagnac or cognac.

I served it with sautéed Johnston County kale from the farmers market and some quick Creole yellow rice from a box – it was the perfect match so I’m glad I was lazy and did that instead of making regular rice. This is a celebration meal – so good. And the leftovers were fantastic too.

If you can’t find monkfish, this sauce would be great with cod, halibut, mahi, snapper or any other meaty white fish. And, of course, lobster.

Monkfish à l'Américaine from Grabbing the Gusto

Monkfish à l’Américaine

Monkfish à l’Américaine

You’ll need a large pan with lid.

  • 1-1/2 to 2 pounds monkfish fillets 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/2” pieces – about 1 cup
  • 2 shallots, diced or 1 leek, trimmed leaving some green, cut into 1/2” pieces, about 1 cup
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2” pieces, about 1/2 cup
  • 1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2” pieces, about 1/3 cup
  • 1-1/4 cups chopped tomato – I used one 14 oz. can of petite diced tomato
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/2 cup fruity white wine
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

Cut monkfish into twelve pieces. Heat the oil in a large pan until hot but not smoking. Add the onion, leek, carrot and celery and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add tomato, tomato paste, garlic, herbs de Provence, salt, cayenne, fennel, wine, brandy and water. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Add fish to the pan. Cover and simmer gently over low heat for 15 minutes. Remove the fish from the pan and set aside on a plate. Take the pan off the heat and stir in butter. Then, either use an immersion blender to emulsify the vegetables into a fine puree or leave the sauce chunky — that’s what I did. Add the fish back into the sauce and sprinkle with the tarragon. Serve with rice.

Original recipe: Monkfish à l’Américaine, My Carolina Kitchen

Roasted Salmon with Shallot Grapefruit Sauce

Since citrus season is here, I’ve had grand ideas about preparing lots of dishes with oranges, grapefruits, kumquats, blood oranges and tangerines, but my supermarket isn’t cooperating. One day I see blood oranges but the next day they’re gone. The same with kumquats. Ruby red grapefruit, sorry, we’re pink. So it goes.

I grabbed two of those pink grapefruits for this winter citrusy dish from Ellie Krieger at the Cooking Channel. It’s a winner! Sweet shallots and honey, acidic yet sweetish grapefruit, hint of ginger and tarragon, and the lushness of salmon – well balanced and, of course, delicious.

If you have any winner recipes featuring citrus, please let me know. The season’s not over yet and I’m hoping to get my hands on some tangerines soon.

Roasted Salmon with Shallot Grapefruit Sauce

Roasted Salmon with Shallot Grapefruit Sauce

You’ll need a baking dish big enough to fit the fillets, small bowl for juice and small skillet.

  • 4 salmon fillets, 5 to 6 ounces each, or a large fillet of salmon cut into large pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 ruby red or pink grapefruits
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons honey – decrease the honey if the grapefruit is really sweet
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Optional: 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil or chopped tarragon

Preheat the oven to 350.  Place salmon in a baking dish, skin-side down, and roast until cooked through, about 10-18 minutes, depending on the thickness of fillets and your preference for doneness.

While the salmon is cooking prepare the sauce. Cut one of the grapefruits into sections by cutting off a slice from the top and bottom of the fruit, then standing it on one end, cut down the skin to remove the pith and peel. You’ll end up with a naked grapefruit. With a paring (small) knife, remove each segment of fruit from its casing by slicing down at an angle along each side of the casing and releasing the segment from the fruit. Cut the segments in half and set aside.

Squeeze the juice from the grapefruit carcass into a small bowl. Juice the other grapefruit into the bowl and set aside. 

In the skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the ginger, honey, cayenne pepper and grapefruit juice, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the sauce is reduced by about half, about 10 minutes. Add lemon juice and season with salt to taste. Optional: stir in butter off the heat.

Pour sauce over the salmon in the baking dish. Scatter the grapefruit pieces and basil (or tarragon) over the salmon.

Original recipe: Roasted Salmon with Shallot Grapefruit Sauce, Ellie Krieger, Cooking Channel

In the Kitchen: February 3, 2014

In an earlier post, I mentioned that my good kitchen juju faded one Tuesday night. It was bound to happen, I was overdue.

On Sunday I had picked up four chicken thighs at the farmers market. Total weight: .80 pound. What itty bitty little thighs! The word “precious” crossed my mind. It’s remarkable how healthy-looking the skin of a fresh farm chicken looks compared to a supermarket chicken. But next time, I’ll go for a bigger bird.

I picked the wrong recipe for my little thighs or, more likely, I should have made more adjustments to the recipe I had — Stovetop Roast Chicken with Lemon Herb Sauce from Cook’s Illustrated. I think I overcooked the chicken. The sauce was fabulous but the meat, what there was of it, wasn’t that great. Tasty but tough.

Unlike my fabulous Smoky, Spicy Collard Greens, the Spaghetti with Collard Pesto and Mushrooms I made as a side for the chicken wasn’t that good either. I was so disappointed. I love pesto and I love greens. I was looking forward to a new world of pestos. It was better the next day doused with hot sauce and some of the chicken’s leftover lemon-herb sauce. Next time I’ll try to find a recipe that has lots of good comments and give collard pesto another try. My other side that night was an old reliable: Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Parmesan.

collard greens

Collard greens
(Photo by Feeb/Flickr CC license)

A few days later I made snapper with fennel, leeks, bell peppers and tomatoes. It’s a Martha Rose Shulman recipe from the New York Times that I often make with cod or mahi mahi. Alongside the fish I served a mix of roasted root vegetables including one I hadn’t heard of before it turned up in our CSA share: Gilfeather turnip – an heirloom rutabaga/turnip cross. I tossed wedges of turnip with sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, red onions, rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper in olive oil and roasted them at 400 until they were tender.

On Saturday, I made vegetable stock out of a bunch of remains I had in the refrigerator: stems from leeks, greens and fennel, plus onions, carrots, celery, sprigs of thyme, bay leaf, a small bunch of parsley and some peppercorns. It will be used for lentil soup one of these days.

I’m keeping a plastic sealable bag in the freezer for stock ingredients. Whenever I’m chopping, I toss the leftover bits in the bag. If you want to go down the vegetable stock path, this post from The Kitchn has good advice.

I wanted to make an easy meal for Sunday, so I chose Pesto Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Roasted Brussels Sprouts from the Gimme Some Oven blog. An easy meal that still required three pots/pans, grrr, but was worth the extra dishwashing. I used basil pesto and spicy chicken sausage from my freezer and whole-wheat penne.

I’m a little behind in my In the Kitchen posts already, so you’ll hear more cooking tales soon.

Brussels sprouts on the stalk

Brussels sprouts on the stalk
(Photo by Morten Copenhagen/Wikimedia Commons)

Smoky, Spicy Collard Greens for Collard-Phobes

My world of greens has expanded since belonging to a CSA. I’ve always loved chard, kale and spinach, but this past year I’ve also become fond of turnip greens, beet greens, kohlrabi greens, tatsoi, even radish greens. But I’ve had a tough time with collard greens, a real NC staple.

Our CSA would often give us a choice: kale or collard greens. I always went for kale since Jim didn’t seem to think much of collards. But when I was at the farmers market, I bought some baby collards. I’m so glad I did.

I combined the ingredients from two recipes on the Whole Foods Market website – Smoky Collard Greens and Spicy Collard Greens. My lord, it was delicious. So well balanced with lots of flavor but not enough to mask the good, yes, I said good, collard flavor.

If you’re not a fan of collards, this recipe might change your mind. Try it first with baby collards, not the foot-long (or more) older leaves. But if that’s all you can find, I’m sure they will still be fantastic with this recipe. You just might have to add more liquid and cook them a bit longer. I’m finally ready to give the big boys a try.

Smoky, Spicy Collard Greens recipe from Grabbing the Gusto

Smoky, Spicy Collard Greens

You’ll need a large skillet with lid.

  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1 bunch collard greens, thick stems removed, leaves sliced crosswise and rinsed, but not dried
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • At least 1 cup of chicken broth, vegetable broth and/or water

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and bacon, cook for 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno, cook for 1 minute. Add greens with water still clinging to the leaves, stirring often until wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add vinegar, paprika, salt, pepper and about 1 cup of chicken broth and/or water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered until the pan is nearly dry and collard greens are very tender, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on their age and heat of stove. Add more broth/water during cooking if the greens get too dry.

Original recipes: Smoky Collard Greens, Spicy Collard Greens, Whole Foods Market

In the Kitchen: January 28, 2014

My kitchen saw a lot of fish the week before last. One night I made Sicilian Tuna and Potatoes (which I already wrote about) and Slow-Roasted Green Beans. The green beans were so good they deserve their own post, but until then you can find the recipe on Bon Appetit.

Slow-Roasted Green Beans recipe

Slow-Roasted Green Beans

We had a lot of different salad greens from our CSA – lettuce, spinach, arugula, frisée and chickweed — plus I had a head of radicchio in the refrigerator – leftover from making Roasted Butternut Squash with Radicchio and Parmesan. On my next dinner duty night, I made two big salads and topped each one with a fillet of pan-roasted salmon. The skin was so crispy that Jim thought there was bacon in the salad!

Even though the salads would have been enough, I wanted something else on the side. (This kind of attitude is why I can never lose weight.) One of the pins on my Pinterest “vegetable recipes to try” board was Crispy Baked Portobello Mushroom Fries from the Closet Cooking blog. I served a marinara sauce on the side. To make that, I quickly sautéed some diced onion and garlic and added a 14 ounce can of crushed tomatoes to it along with red pepper flakes, basil, parsley, salt and pepper.

Baked Portobello Mushroom Fries with Marinara Sauce

Baked Portobello Mushroom Fries with Marinara Sauce

The “fries” didn’t wow me but they were good – something different and a good side dish for the salad.

On Sunday morning that week, we went for a six-mile hike in Umstead Park and stopped by the NC State Farmers Market on the way home. I wanted to get some fish for dinner from Locals Seafood. On the way there I looked at their Facebook page to make sure they would be open. They had just posted a photo of a fish I had never seen – ribbonfish – along with a link to a horribly written and hard to understand Chinese recipe.

But that recipe gave me an idea. I used its ingredients as the basis of another creation. I sautéed bell pepper, onion, ginger and garlic, then added a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, Thai chili sauce and chicken broth, and the fish. Once cooked, I topped it with a lot of chopped scallion greens. Boy oh boy, it was good. I’m making it again soon. And since I forgot to take a photo, I’ll share the recipe (and photo) after I make it. Alongside the ribbonfish I served sautéed arugula and spinach – the last of my CSA greens until the spring – and spicy, roasted sweet potato cubes.

A satisfying week in the kitchen. But my good kitchen juju faded last Tuesday night – more about that soon.

Sicilian Tuna and Potatoes

Last week I found a decent looking, big piece of tuna on sale at my local supermarket (Lowes Foods). Jim’s not into the usual ahi preparation – seared on the outside, raw in the middle – so I had to come up with something different. I couldn’t find a recipe that fit my mood so I combined a bunch of flavors and came up with my own recipe.

I had a bunch of leftover black garlic roasted potatoes – that was my start. Scanning the frig, I saw fennel, red bell pepper, herbs and lemon. I started writing down ingredients and then put them into cooking order. The resulting dish was full of flavor. Real comfort food.

Why Sicilian tuna? Because tuna, fennel, peppers, capers and lemon conjure up an image of lunch alongside a rocky Sicilian shore.

If you don’t happen to have roasted potatoes lying around, you could take time to make some or use white beans instead. The rest of the dish takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. 

Sicilian Tuna and Potatoes recipe from Grabbing the Gusto

Sicilian Tuna and Potatoes

You’ll need a large sauté pan.

  • Olive oil
  • Large piece of tuna
  • Medium onion or leek, sliced
  • Fennel, green stems removed, trimmed, sliced
  • Red, orange or yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Roasted potato cubes or wedges
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Lemon juice, to taste
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • Garnish: chopped fresh parsley and basil

Heat oil. Sauté tuna on both sides until it’s cooked to your liking. Remove to a plate.

Add more oil if needed. Sauté onion, fennel and red bell pepper until softened. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, ground fennel and capers, stirring frequently, until fragrant and sizzling but not browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until softened.

Add wine, bring to simmer and cook about 1 minute. Stir in tuna, potatoes, parsley, basil, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper and cook a few minutes. Turn off heat. Stir in butter if you’re using it. Taste for salt and pepper and add more, if needed. You could also sprinkle it with a little more parsley and basil.