Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cooking and kitchen matters

Most Saturday nights I fix myself an out-of-the-ordinary dinner, usually seafood. But I'm stuck in a rut--salmon, Dover sole, and scallops. And there's that long, long fish counter at Central Market, with all kinds of exotic choices. I told myself last week, as I bought salmon, that I had to branch out. So today I bought halibut. I've been a little leery of it--the last I had was some years ago in a chain seafood restaurant and it was dry and over cooked and bland to the point of tasteless. Farther back, I swear I remember my mom poaching halibut in milk in the oven--she loved fish but rarely cooked it, partly because you couldn't get good fresh fish in Chicago in the '50s and partly, I suspect, because she didn't know how. And then there was my meat-and-potatoes father. But I really do think I remember the poached halibut--not one of my better memories of mom's cooking, since she really was a great cook and got me started on lifelong cooking.

I found a halibut recipe on epicurious and set to work. It called for halibut on beet greens, with roasted beets and orange/dill gremolata. Of course I fudged a bit--I don't have dill and don't like it a lot anyway, but I have plentiful chives and oregano, so that's what I used for the gremolata. And I did not microwave the beets to loosen the peel, per the recipe--I boiled them the good old-fashioned way. But it was a delicious dish. You put sliced pre-cooked beets, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and part of the gremolata, at one end of a baking sheet and mound the greens, tossed with a bit of oil and salt and pepper, at the other end. Then put the fish on top of the greens, brush with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and the rest of the gremolata. It goes into a hot oven (450) for 8 minutes--and the fish was moist and wonderful, mild yet flavorful.

In the course of cooking that, I realized I had leftover veggies from a week ago that I hadn't cooked, so I boiled an ear of corn and sauteed some tiny delicate asparagus tips. Had a bit of each vegetable with the fish and still have beets and greens, corn, and asparagus to look forward to. I may treat myself to a chocolate sundae later but I'll have to let dinner settle a bit.

Speaking of food, I've been eating the steel-cut oatmeal, as I mentioned before. One thing I learned--a little bit will do you. One morning I ate a more than generous bowlful--that brown sugar was sooo goood--and was uncomfortably full all morning. I started lessening the portions and found a fairly small portion fills me up (Melinda says it expands like pasta in your stomach). At any rate, I carried the same banana to and from work for three days (it was pretty sad by then) for my mid-morning snack--but I never needed a snack and wasn't very hungry at lunch time. Of course, this morning I had salmon and eggs--and a toasted hot cross bun out of the freezer. So good, but I was full again.

One more kitchen matter: I'd been noticing an "off" odor. Emptied the garbage (I don't have a disposal) but that didn't get it. Wondered about a return of the rats, but this was a different smell. It was faint but sort of had an animal hint about it. I usually noticed it by the stove or sometimes I caught a whiff by the pantry (across my skinny kitchen from the stove). Today I dismantled and thoroughly cleaned the Jen-Air indoor grill--and emptied the grease jar underneath. I think that was the culprit--the grease drippings were rancid and smelled strongly of some lamb chops I cooked who knows how long ago. One of those tiny housekeeping chores we all have to remember to do.

Remember tonight--lights out from 8-9 p.m. I have to go look for a flashlight. And I'll probaby cheat and leave the computer and TV on, but at least I'll turn off all the lights. Even the outdoor lights?

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