Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Menu ideas and recipes for striped bass, yellowfin tuna, tuna salad, meatloaf, blueberries, brown rice and black beans

Menu ideas and recipes for striped bass, yellowfin tuna, tuna salad, meatloaf, blueberries, brown rice and black beans

Striped bass and crunchy rice

Two words: crunchy rice. I’ve always heard people rave about the crunchy rice (tahdig) at the bottom of a pot of Persian rice and now I understand their obsession. I made this recipe for striped bass (instead of cod) with soy-caramelized onions and potatoes, but I used cooked white rice instead of the potatoes. Little did I know how good it would be. If the potatoes in the kitchen now are still hanging around later this week, I might make this again.

Menu ideas and recipes for striped bass, yellowfin tuna, tuna salad, meatloaf, blueberries, brown rice and black beans

Yellowfin tuna and tuna encore

The following night I was crunched for time and my original recipe plan wasn’t a great choice for yellowfin tuna. I looked at the condiment shelves in the frig and decided to sear the tuna, flip it and baste it with a mix of hoisin sauce and Kashmiri coconut hot sauce from Tattoo. Very tasty.

The next day, I chopped the leftover tuna (with sauce) and added chopped hard-boiled eggs, sweet onion, celery, pickled kale stems, cilantro, turmeric, black pepper and mayo for a crazy delicious tuna/egg salad.

Bulgogi meatloaf

This bulgogi meatloaf from Bon Appetit is the gift that keeps on giving. We had it for dinner twice and then I enjoyed a few meatloaf sandwiches for lunch. The gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) mayonnaise mixture I slathered all over my sandwiches took them to 11.

Menu ideas and recipes for striped bass, yellowfin tuna, tuna salad, meatloaf, blueberries, brown rice and black beans

Blueberry muffins

It’s blueberry season here in North Carolina. Jim and I both brought home a few pints so I made Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins. Jordan Marsh was a department store chain in Massachusetts that was famous for its big blueberry muffins—mine aren’t as big but they’re just as good.

Instant Pot staples

Peering into one of the top shelves of our kitchen cabinets, I spied some opened bags of brown rice and black beans that had been there a while. I pulled out my Instant Pot and cooked the brown rice first, and then the black beans. Since I didn’t have any immediate plans for the black beans, I froze them, but I used some of the brown rice—more on that next week—and froze the surplus.

Until next week, stay safe, stay well, take care.


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Menu ideas and recipes for shrimp, shrimp broth, kohlrabi, amberjack, ground pork, frozen peas and corn, and sweet potatoes

Quick shrimp dinner, plus a broth recipe

We’re starting to get North Carolina shrimp again in our seafood share. This simple yet excellent cumin-lime shrimp with ginger recipe doesn’t take long to make once you’ve shelled the shrimp. I added a little shrimp broth and butter to the sauce and served it over rice. It’s a keeper.

Whenever I get fresh local shrimp, I make a broth out of the shells, but this time the shrimp came with their heads, which takes the broth to a different level of goodness. My usual broth recipe is:

  • Shrimp shells/heads from 1# (or more) shrimp
  • 1/2 onion (chopped into large pieces)
  • 1/2 carrot (chopped into large pieces)
  • 1 celery stalk (chopped into large pieces)
  • 2 smooshed large garlic cloves
  • 8-12 peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves

Put all the ingredients in a pot—I didn’t have celery this time. Add water to at least 2” above shrimp—I fill it almost up to the top but allow at least an inch or two for foaming up. Bring the water to a boil then turn it down and simmer for at least 15 minutes, taste to see if it needs salt. I usually let it go longer than 15 minutes. Strain through a sieve and let cool.

Fill up an ice cube tray and/or measure out 1- to 3-cup portions in freezer bags so you have whatever quantity I need.

Kohlrabi salad plus Menu ideas and recipes for shrimp, shrimp broth, amberjack, ground pork, frozen peas and corn, and sweet potatoes

What to do with the kohlrabi in your CSA share

It’s also the season for kohlrabi. I waited until I had enough to make kohlrabi salad with cilantro and lime. I didn’t have to supplement the kohlrabi with other veggies like the recipe suggested, although I did add a whole jalapeño (chopped). I’m eating the leftovers right now doused with some sriracha, it’s hitting the spot. Next time, I’ll add carrot for color.

I’ve used kohlrabi in sautés too:

Save the kohlrabi greens. Since they’re pretty hardy, I store them until I have other greens and then make a sauté out of all of them.

Amberjack with shichimi togarashi

I’m playing with shichimi togarashi spice blend these days—a mix of orange peel, black and white toasted sesame seeds, cayenne, ginger, Szechuan pepper and nori. It worked well on pan-fried amberjack fillets.

Refreshing Thai-style ground pork dish plus a peas and corn idea

I love this dish: herby pork larb with chile. My herb mix was cilantro, mint and basil. Once my Thai basil plants are big enough, I’ll use that instead of regular basil. I also subbed peanuts instead of jasmine rice powder, and habanero instead of bird’s eye chile.

The larb went really well with frozen peas and corn sautéed with garlic, curry powder and Aleppo pepper—a combo I will make again.

Sweet potato bread plus menu ideas and recipes for shrimp, shrimp broth, kohlrabi, amberjack, ground pork, and frozen peas and corn

Sweet potato bread

I wasn’t planning to bake anything last weekend but I a leftover baked sweet potato so decided to make cinnamon and spice sweet potato bread even though I only had about 1 cup of sweet potato, not 1-1/2 cups like the recipe instructed. It’s a good recipe, although I did cut back the sugar to 1 cup. Next time, I’ll add pecans.

Until next week, stay safe, stay well, take care.


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General Tso's bluefin tuna salad plus Menu ideas and recipes for soft shell crabs, pasta carbonara, tilefish, blackfin tuna, greens, strawberries, asparagus and gnocchi

Menu ideas and recipes for soft shell crabs, pasta carbonara, tilefish, blackfin tuna, tuna salad, greens, strawberries, asparagus and gnocchi

Softie season

The highlight of the week (in the non-pasta department) was soft shell crabs. I love when these exquisite creatures show up in my fish share. I cook them simply: dredge in flour, pan-fry in butter, then douse with lemon juice. I bought a dozen Pirate Pearls oysters when I was at the fish market and had a few beforehand, saving the rest for an afternoon delight on Saturday afternoon. I know what you’re thinking.

Smoked gouda carbonara plus menu ideas and recipes for soft shell crabs, tilefish, blackfin tuna, tuna salad, greens, strawberries, asparagus and gnocchi

Carbonara excess

The other highlight of the week was smoked gouda carbonara. Yes, you read that right. Travesty? Not in this house, although now I have a hankering for traditional carbonara. Oh my, this dish was really good. The onion and parsley I added made it even better. Pasta has always been and will always be my happy place.

More North Carolina fish

Another night we had pan-seared blueline tilefish in a white wine tomato basil sauce—a timely choice because my young basil plants needed pruning. I’ve relied on this recipe for years—it goes well with all kinds of fish. For the side, I roasted bite-sized pieces of potatoes and tossed them with sage pesto—a great combo.

I was planning to have the carbonara a second night but we ate too much on Sunday, and I thought the leftovers would make a better lunch, i.e., I didn’t want to share. So, plan B: pull some blackfin tuna from the freezer—and do what?

We’ve had a bottle of General Tso sauce in the cupboard since god only knows when—Jim bought it a long time ago—so I decided to give it a try. I seared chunks of tuna, then removed them from the pan. Sautéed red onion, poblano pepper, garlic and ginger, put the tuna back in with the gooey dark sauce (sugar and corn syrup were high on the ingredient list, ugh, but it served my purposes) along with a few generous spoons of sambal oelek (chile sauce) to balance out the sweetness. The results were pretty darn tasty.

But it got even better… The next day, I chopped up the tuna in the leftover sauce to make tuna salad. I added sliced green cabbage and green onions, diced carrot, a big handful of chopped cilantro and some mayo. Wow. I’ve been having it in pita halves. I will be so sad when it is gone.

General Tso's bluefin tuna salad plus Menu ideas and recipes for soft shell crabs, pasta carbonara, tilefish, blackfin tuna, greens, strawberries, asparagus and gnocchi

Spring gnocchi

I had high hopes for this sheet pan gnocchi with asparagus, leeks and peas recipe, but I messed up. I followed the advice in the comments and didn’t cook my shelf-stable gnocchi (I was lazy). If I had boiled it first, it probably would have been soft inside and crunchy outside instead of chewy.

Otherwise, we liked the dish, although I used red onion instead of leeks, skipped the shallots, and added only dill pesto (which has parmesan in it) and lemon zest. Got to do what you got to do.

Greens of the week

I sautéed bacon, spring onions, carrots and garlic in a mix of grapeseed and walnut oil with cumin, coriander and red pepper flakes. Added some sliced dates and almonds, then kale, radish, turnip and kohlrabi greens. Very nice. After two nights, the rest went into a frittata with chopped broccoli stems and gruyère cheese.

Strawberries round 2

Strawberry season is on full blast right now so I bought another bucket—and then thought, what the heck am I going to do with all these strawberries? I know, make strawberry margaritas for happy hour on Saturday. Although a strange accompaniment to my oysters on the half shell, they were quite tasty.

Here’s the recipe I came up with:

  • Purée 1# strawberries in a blender.
  • Add 1/2 cup lime juice, 1 cup tequila, 1/4 cup triple sec and 1/3 cup agave syrup and blend again.
  • Pour over ice into pint glasses.

Sunday morning, I baked these fantastic strawberry scones to have with our breakfast frittata and leftover roasted potatoes. I didn’t make the glaze for the scones, they were just fine without it. And the rest of the strawberries? I froze them.

Until next week, stay safe, stay well, take care.


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Buttermilk honey bread plus menu ideas and recipes for striped mullet, flounder, salmon, dill, greens, eggs, leftovers and tequila…

Menu ideas and recipes for striped mullet, flounder, salmon, dill, bread, greens, eggs, leftovers and tequila…

Sauces for baked fish

Make a sauce, pesto or other condiment-type-thing once, then bring it back for encore performances. Last week, I baked striped mullet fillets and offered two sauces on the side, you might remember them from last week: chermoula and turmeric sauce.

The next night, I baked flounder and topped it with dill pesto. The dill pesto came back another night: tossed with roasted gnocchi, asparagus, red onions and peas, more on that next week.

Salmon coconut curry

We’re suckers for any spicy coconut curry recipe. In an attempt to use up some of the older items in the chest freezer, I dug out a bunch of wild salmon fillets from the deeps and made salmon and bok choy green coconut curry, except I used pac choi, a bok choy cousin. Dang, it was good, especially over the frozen cauliflower rice I found too.

Buttermilk honey bread plus menu ideas and recipes for striped mullet, flounder, salmon, dill, greens, eggs, leftovers and tequila…

Bread baking bandwagon

Now, let’s get something straight, I’ve always liked making bread, I’m not a Johnettey-come-lately bread baker, although I welcome all you newbies to our fold. I will never tire of the smell of bread rising and baking. This weekend we demolished a loaf of buttermilk honey bread, a recipe from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger, which is on sale for only $2.99 right now—Kindle version. The other loaf is in the freezer, for now.

Another greens variation

Sautéed greens are usually on our menu once a week. This week, the mix included kale, radish greens, turnip greens and green cabbage, along with bacon, spring onions, carrot, jalapeño, orange bell pepper, dried apricots and sliced almonds. I liked the hint of dried fruit sweetness and crunchy nuts.

Leftovers frittata

What do you do with leftover greens or any other orphaned vegetable in your refrigerator? Make a frittata. I usually start by sautéing an onion (or spring onions) and then add whatever looks sad in the produce drawer—for this one, I had arugula that wasn’t going to make it to the next salad. Broccoli stems make regular appearances.

I’m making one tomorrow morning with leftover sautéed greens—they’ve made two dinner appearances already so it’s time for them to retire permanently. You could add meat, rice, potatoes and definitely herbs. Avocado makes a great topping. I sometimes top the frittata with cheese—I think Gruyère’s on this one but I’ve used all kinds of cheese. Feta doesn’t really melt but it’s excellent on top.

One more thing, I don’t bake my frittatas. After I add the beaten eggs to the pan—all the other ingredients are cooked or heated up first—I turn the burner to the lowest setting, put a lid on it and cook until the top has just about set. Then I take the pan off the heat, add cheese and cover it again until the cheese melts. I suppose you could put it in the oven and do the same thing but for some reason I never do.

Arugula frittata plus menu ideas and recipes for striped mullet, flounder, salmon, dill, bread, greens, leftovers and tequila…

Tequila happy hour with NC cheese

The highlight of the week might have been our Saturday happy hour cocktail, although the curry was right up there. We loved this retox cocktail featuring muddled jalapeño slices, maple syrup, lime juice (instead of lemon) and reposado tequila. On the side, Hickory Grove cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery was a nice balancing act to the tart heat.

I’d make these cocktails again today (they are soooo good) but I have a bucket of strawberries so I’m going to make strawberry margaritas—not frozen, although I’ll use the blender to purée the strawberries along with the liquids. I’ll report back next week.

Stay-at-home cooking with Rachael

I’ve always been a Rachael Ray fan. I know she has haters, but, in my experience, her recipes always turn out well. And, let’s face it, her garbage bowl is a brilliant idea. I use a compost container now but when I lived alone, I always cooked with a garbage bowl nearby. Plus, she shares my birthday (day, not year) so we’re birthday buddies too.

Her husband has been filming videos of her cooking at home. She said she misses talking to people as she cooks. I love when she riffs on menu ideas. Sometimes I think she’s had a few glasses of wine or John’s cocktails before the filming starts, who knows, but she’s a lovable kitchen companion.

Until next week, stay safe, stay well, take care.


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Menu ideas and recipes for stuffed flounder, striped bass, basil pesto, sage-walnut pesto, winter squash, chicken, spring risotto and quick bread

Menu ideas and recipes for stuffed flounder, striped bass, basil pesto, sage-walnut pesto, winter squash, chicken drumsticks, spring risotto and quick bread

Stuffed flounder

I’m constantly jotting down and pinning recipe ideas, including one recently for stuffed flounder. But when it came time to make the dish, I found myself ignoring the recipe and winging it instead. And you know what? The results were fantastic.

No real measurements here, sorry. Into a bowl went a package of thawed and squeezed (of its water) frozen spinach, a few ounces of softened cream cheese, maybe a quarter cup of grated parmesan, a handful of chopped parsley, a good sprinkling of garlic powder, and maybe a half cup of Italian and panko breadcrumbs mixed together. Mix it all up and top the fillets with the stuffing. Bake until the fish is done, and wow. Trust your gut, people.

Herb pesto bonanza

The next night I topped striped bass with homemade basil pesto. I make lots of basil pesto during the summer from my potted plants out on the deck and freeze it for the rest of the year.

Because I have a surplus of sage right now, I made sage-walnut pesto last weekend and stored it in the refrigerator. I also made dill pesto this week but I’ll tell you about that next time. Later in the week, I warmed the sage pesto up and tossed it with roasted caramelized kabocha squash, a good combo.

What else can you do with sage-walnut pesto? Maybe I’ll add it to fish, otherwise it would be great on roasted potatoes or root veggies. Stuffed in turkey, chicken or pork cutlets? I’ll freeze what I don’t use this week.

Turmeric chicken

In a chicken-buying frenzy at Mae Farms a few weeks ago, I took home two pounds of drumsticks they were selling from Dawnbreaker Farms. Farm chicken looks so much better than supermarket chicken—it’s pinker and not water-logged and puffed up like it’s on roids.

I made this turmeric chicken recipe. Oh my, it was so good. I added extra water to the sauce and now I have leftover sauce too. I’m tempted to slurp it down plain but will resist and use it on something else, maybe eggs or rice.

Menu ideas and recipes for stuffed flounder, striped bass, basil pesto, sage-walnut pesto, winter squash, chicken, spring risotto and quick bread

Local cheese

I also picked up a jalapeno chevre log from Goat Lady Dairy while I was at the Mae Farms shop in the Raleigh State Farmers Market. I’m giving into my cheese cravings during this pandemic because they help support local dairies.

Spring risotto

Never has risotto been so easy. I made lemon risotto with asparagus, peas and leeks in the Instant Pot, a forgiving method. After releasing the steam, I left it for a few hours while we hung out on the deck. When I came back in, I finished the recipe. The rice didn’t have that bite like regular risotto but it tasted fantastic so no biggie.

Menu ideas and recipes for stuffed flounder, striped bass, basil pesto, sage-walnut pesto, winter squash, chicken, spring risotto and quick bread

Quick bread for Sunday morning

I can’t seem to keep my flour canister full, which is a problem when the supermarket shelves are bare. Thankfully, I have a few extra bags in my pantry (aka my office). Last weekend, I made cinnamon swirl quick bread for Sunday breakfast—and Sunday snacks and dessert.

I chose this recipe because I had all the ingredients in house, including some very old buttermilk—however, regular buttermilk will do just fine for the recipe. Somehow the bread disappeared by the next morning.

Until next week, stay safe, stay well, take care.


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Creative Commons photo of the pretty goat by Kaleb Tapp via Unsplash

 

Menu ideas and recipes for crab, macaroni and cheese, speckled sea trout, chermoula, fish fillets, black beans and strawberries

Special macaroni and cheese

Delicious Miss Brown on the Food Network made crab macaroni and cheese a few weekends ago. I was entranced so ordered a pound of lump crab from Locals Seafood along with my usual weekly fish share. Last Sunday, we feasted. Wow. Cue horn fanfare… the highlight of the week.

Menu ideas and recipes for crab, macaroni and cheese, speckled sea trout, chermoula, fish fillets, black beans and strawberries

Boxed macaroni and cheese made special

Bored with boxed mac ‘n’ cheese? Here’s an idea. When Jim is working, he doesn’t always have time to make everything from scratch like I do, so he relies on sides like boxed macaroni and cheese. But he does take the time to zhuzh it up by adding sautéed onion, jalapeños (or pickled jalapeños) and/or ham (or kielbasa).

Speckled sea trout with chermoula

I made chermoula to put on top of baked speckled sea trout. My chermoula recipe is a mix of parsley, cilantro, mint, rosemary, lemon juice, garlic, and ground spices—fennel, cumin, white pepper—plus red pepper flakes and olive oil. You can use it on all kinds of things besides fish—chicken, pork and eggs come to mind. I put it on steamed asparagus later in the week. I can imagine it on white beans, chickpeas, potatoes or roasted vegetables, or swirled into yogurt or sour cream for a dip.

Simple fish prep

When in a pinch, you can put fish fillets in an oiled baking dish and top them with…

  • Lemon juice, melted butter, Aleppo pepper flakes (or regular red pepper flakes) and salt
  • Basil pesto – or any pesto – mixed with room temperature butter
  • Breadcrumbs mixed with melted butter, parmesan cheese, garlic powder and salt – you could also add dried herbs like basil, oregano or thyme, and Dijon mustard
  • Ritz (or other) crackers tossed with melted butter, lemon zest, garlic powder and salt

Black bean bake

Did you stock up on canned or dried beans? This cheesy spicy black bean bake was a side for us but it would also make a great dip. I added sautéed onion, jalapeno and garlic to ours.

Menu ideas and recipes for crab, macaroni and cheese, speckled sea trout, chermoula, fish fillets, black beans and strawberries

Strawberries

It’s strawberry season here. Jim brought home a big bucket from a local farm. He made fruit salad twice and I made a strawberry cake from Smitten Kitchen. If you make this cake, store it in the refrigerator, otherwise the strawberries might go off a bit.

Some of my other favorite strawberry recipes are:

We’ve had a lot of rain lately so the next bucket might be bland. When I encounter bland or watery strawberries, I roast them – it concentrates the natural sugars. Cut the berries in halves or quarters, toss them with a mix of maple (or brown) and white sugar, and roast them in a 375 or 400 oven until they look a bit shriveled but not burnt.

Until next week, stay safe, stay well, take care.


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Menu ideas and recipes for catfish, triggerfish, rigatoni with pork ragu, asparagus, donuts and growing spring onions from scraps

Catfish and triggerfish

I’ve been making this Thai Style Catfish recipe for years. However, instead of using regular granulated sugar like the recipe suggests, I use brown or palm sugar, and I sprinkle chopped cilantro all over the fish when it comes out of the oven. I’m not a big fan of the farmed catfish you find in supermarkets—it tastes mushy and musty to me. Find yourself a good source of local wild catfish or premium farmed catfish, you’ll taste the difference.

One of our favorite dishes growing up was Mummy Lorraine cod, even more so than Mummy Lorraine macaroni aka American chop suey—the school lunch name. My mum’s cod is still a favorite but I make it with local fish. Last week, I topped triggerfish (one of my favorites) with a mix of crushed Ritz crackers, melted butter, lemon zest and garlic salt—that’s the recipe. Bake until done, sooo good—and easy.

Menu ideas and recipes for catfish, triggerfish, rigatoni with pork ragu, asparagus, donuts and growing spring onions from scraps

Ragu and rigatoni

It’s hard to pick a highlight this week because everything was so good. Our Sunday meal took more time so maybe it deserves the crown: rigatoni with spicy Calabrese style pork ragù. I’ve made this a few times before but this week, instead of Italian sausage, I used Portuguese chourico. I forgot it was supposed to simmer for four hours, whoops. According to my notes, this wasn’t the first time I forgot. I simmered it for an hour or so and it was fantastic.

Asparagus

It’s asparagus season here. The asparagus in the farmers market is usually triple the price of asparagus on sale in the supermarket, but it tastes so much better, so I always treat myself to a few bunches during the season.

But this year, I’ve noticed the prices in the farmers market are much lower than years past, probably because they have more on their hands than usual because they’re not selling to restaurants. I’m not doing anything outlandish with asparagus. I simply steam the spears and served them with melted lemon butter.

Menu ideas and recipes for catfish, triggerfish, rigatoni with pork ragu, asparagus, donuts and growing spring onions from scraps

Donuts

I had a hankering for donuts on Sunday morning so I made a recipe I’d been saving for a while: Ina Garten’s cinnamon baked doughnuts. You probably have everything you need to make them, except maybe two donut pans, but Amazon can quickly help you there. The recipe made more batter than I needed—not a problem since I baked the remainder in a small dish—and took longer than the prescribed 17 minutes to bake. But talk about easy!

Spring onions

Did you know you can bring spring/green onions (scallions) back to life? I’ve been doing this for years but apparently it’s now a quarantine thing. When chopping spring onions, leave about an inch or two of the white part above the root. Put them (root down) in a glass of water with the cut stem above the water. After a while, a new green stem will sprout from the cut stem.

Until next week, stay safe, stay well, take care.


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