Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

frittata, bluefish, Thai basil pesto, greens and other menu ideas

If you need to decompress and chill out, I highly recommend getting into the kitchen—as long as you go easy on yourself. Even those of us who have been cooking for decades still learn something new almost every time we cook or bake. That’s a nice way of saying we make mistakes but they’re no big deal. Just learn what you can and keep at it.

Bluefish with Thai basil pesto

My seafood share this week was bluefish and blue catfish. The catfish went in the freezer because we had too many leftovers. I was excited to get it because blue catfish is an invasive species. The more we can catch and eat, the better for our ecosystem.

Bluefish has a bad rep as a fishy fish, but it’s not fishy if it’s fresh. It will deteriorate (get fishy) if it’s exposed too long to oxygen or warm temps. My bluefish was full of robust flavor as fresh bluefish should be. I topped it with a mix of Thai basil pesto and panko breadcrumbs.

I grew a pot of Thai basil last year and it came in handy for Vietnamese and Thai recipes. A mix of Thai basil, cilantro and mint takes a dish to bright heights.

Here’s my recipe for Thai basil pesto.

  • 2 cups Thai basil leaves (some stems are fine too)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped into a few pieces
  • 1/2” piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons plain roasted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon agave, coconut palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (or lime juice)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
  • Grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree. Add just enough grapeseed oil to get to the desired consistency.

I freeze all my pesto in ice cube trays. Once the cubes are frozen, I transfer them to freezer bags so I can enjoy a hit of summer all year round.

coq au vin, bluefish, greens, frittata, Thai basil pesto and other menu ideas

Say good-bye to winter with coq au vin

This week’s culinary high point had to be slow cooker coq au vin, a recipe from Leite’s Culinaria. I’ve always had success with the recipes on this blog with the one exception of an excruciatingly sweet pecan pie bread pudding, but I should have known better when I saw how much sugar the recipe called for. The comments of official recipe testers are published with the post so you can (usually) get a feel for the recipe from their experience.

I don’t use my slow cooker that often but Jim was monopolizing the oven with some slow-roasted ribs so I changed plans and went with this recipe. Oh, man, it was so good. I made a giant batch and since there are only two of us, we had this three times this past week for dinner.

This recipe requires a good deal of prep before adding ingredients to the slow cooker. You have to brown the chicken thighs as well as the mushrooms, onions, etc. in separate batches. But this work is necessary to extract the maximum flavor—and it’s worth it.

Greens galore

What did we have on the side for the coq au vin, besides mashed potatoes? Greens, of course! What else would you expect from me?

Round one: collard and spinach sauté with bacon, red onion, carrot, poblano, orange bell and jalapeño.

Round two: kale and arugula sauté with bacon, red onion, jalapeño, mushroom and grape tomato.

frittata, bluefish, Thai basil pesto, greens and other menu ideas

There’s a reason I’m not a professional food blogger–my lackluster photography skills. Whatev!

Produce drawer frittata

One of my regular breakfasts is a wedge of frittata. I make a frittata once or twice a week, depending on my mood. It’s a healthy way to start the day since it’s chock full of veggies, and a great way to use up odds and ends in your produce drawer.

Gather any leftover cooked vegetables—greens are a regular ingredient in this house but most anything works. Sides, like roasted root vegetables or rice, work too. Whatever you think will taste good with eggs.

Pick through the produce drawer to find anything you might not use soon or ever, such as herbs, broccoli stems, half an onion, mushrooms, fennel stems, etc.

Chop or slice all your ingredients. Beat about 8 eggs in a bowl, add salt and pepper. Heat up a 10” or so non-stick pan, add oil and start sautéing the uncooked vegetables. I usually add half an onion to whatever else I have. You could add bacon or sausage if you want some protein.

Once the veggies are just about tender, mix in the cooked ingredients and let them warm up. Then pour the eggs over it all. Turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. Cook until the top is set.

If you want to add cheese, grate, slice or chop it and then sprinkle it over the top once the eggs have set. I take the pan off the heat and leave it covered so the cheese will melt. Feta cheese is really good on frittatas, but I use whatever is starting to look a bit sad in the deli drawer—or none at all.

You could save any herbs for the cheese stage so their flavor is more prominent. Slice the frittata into four wedges and you have breakfast for four mornings. I usually eat mine plain but it’s good with avocado or salsa too.

St. Patrick’s Day plans

I like making something Irish for St. Patrick’s Day. I’m defrosting some ground lamb right now to make shepherd’s pie for Sunday and Tuesday. My recipe is from The Irish Pub Cookbook by Margaret Johnson.

I’ve got spinach, arugula and radish greens in the refrigerator so I’ll add them to cabbage and give it all my usual greens treatment.

Wishing you all a relaxing and healthy weekend!

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