Category Archives: fish

Sole Florentine

My career has me leading a somewhat non-traditional lifestyle.  Instead of the 9-5 routine than many are familiar with, I often leave my house in the early morning and don’t return until late at night.  My days are usually packed full of variety, but I have no concept of coming home for dinner at 6pm every night.

However…I love meals that I can make ahead for those nights (usually once or twice a week) when I AM planning to be home.  As much as I love to cook, I love the option of coming home and not having to think of  what to create for dinner.  When I think of things that can be made ahead of time, casseroles and crock-pot meals are usually are at the forefront.  However, I typically don’t really love cassseroles – mainly because I usually get bored them before they’re done since I have no idea how to cook for less than 20 people at a time- and my crock-pot requires a ladder to access so I have to REALLY want to use it. Besides, I’m fooling myself into thinking it’s summer and crock-pots make me think of winter.

So how does this tie into sole florentine?  As you all know by now, I love fish, but am very particular about it and have never attempted to prepare it ahead of time.  In my opinion, fish is the ultimate fast food (typically 10-15 minutes to go from raw to cooked) so there’s not exactly a lot of time to shave off.  I usually just broil or grill my fish, maybe making  a sauce if I have the time, but by the time I usually get home spending any longer than 15 minutes total of prep work is not of interest…which leads to repetition and then boredom.  When I came across this recipe for sole florentine in a Cooks Illustrated that can be made up to 24-hrs in advance, I knew I had to try it out….and now you should too, since you probably have almost everything you need and would just have to make a quick visit your favourite fish monger.

That’s sole (although red snapper or tilapia would probably be good), butter, shallots, garlic, heavy cream, cornstarch (late to the photoshoot…oops), frozen spinach, parmesan cheese, thyme, and Ritz crackers.

To start things off, defrost the spinach.

Dissolve some cornstarch in a bit of the cream and set it aside.

Heat up some butter.

And chop up a few shallots.

Introduce the shallots to the butter, and watch the sparks fly.

Chop up some garlic and some fresh thyme.

And instead of trying to get your camera to focus and adjust the lighting on the stove, concentrate on not burning the shallots and garlic.

Oh well, the show must go on.

Cream makes everything better.

And cornstarch makes everything thick, including ones waistline.

Which is why we’re adding spinach. Heavy cream is negated by leafy greens, so add 2 packages to even the score.

After a few minutes of whisking over a moderate flame, the sauce is made. No matter what your cardiologist says, salt + pepper will make it better.

Squeeze the moisture out of the spinach, and combine it with some of the sauce and a healthy amount of parmesan.

Pat the fish filets dry with paper towels, and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix up the spinach filling, and mound some in the middle of each filet.

Roll everything up, like the little presents that they are.

Place seam-side down in a buttered baking dish.

You didn’t think I would waste the leftover cream sauce, did you?

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

But before you bake it…

Make cracker crumbs.  Since I have no internal aggression, I used the mini-processor.

All dressed up with nowhere to go!

Except my stomach.

No apologies needed, due to the large proportion of spinach.

I could get used to this whole make-ahead lifestyle.

Balsamic Glazed Salmon

Last year my naturopath suggested I start taking fish oil supplements.  I’ve been gagging them down faithfully for the past year, but recently have decided to just incorporate more fish into my diet instead since it tastes WAY better.  With this in mind, I set out to glaze some salmon filets tonight and since they turned out so well I thought I’d share them with all of you.  Ready?

The goods:

Salmon, an orange, balsamic vinegar, honey, red pepper flakes, and rosemary.

Start by juicing half of a large orange, or a whole small one.  Or go ahead and use the bottled stuff that’s in your fridge; I don’t care.

Put the juice in a bowl – I think 1/4 c or so should be sufficient. Don’t worry about the pulp; it’s what makes the world go round.

Add about the same amount of balsamic vinegar to the OJ – I used the everyday stuff since I was going to reduce the whole thing down. Save the 40-yr aged balsamic for another time, my friends!

Throw in a whole sprig of rosemary too, just because you can. And because I said so.

And last, but certainly not least, a good pinch of red pepper flakes and about 2 TBSP of honey need to join the party.

Set the glaze aside while we make some magic happen with the salmon.

For the love of good fish everywhere, PLEASE be mindful of where you purchase your fish from. It makes a huge difference in the taste, and of course, sustainability. Whenever possible, I avoid purchasing fish at the grocery store and instead visit my local fishmonger.  I’ll get off my soapbox now, but you know you’ll hear my voice haunting you next time you even so much as think about buying fish at the grocery store.

Alright, enough preaching – Let’s take a look at the piece of salmon I was working with:

Hmm.  I wasn’t crazy about the uneven shape and thickness, so I trimmed the filet and cut it into 2 adult sized and one child sized portion instead. I suggest you do the same.

While you’re heating a pan with a little bit of oil over medium-high heat, season the fish with salt and pepper.

Is the pan hot enough yet? When it is, lay the fish (skin-side up, if it has skin) in the hot pan.  I suggest turning the fan on, unless you enjoy taking periodic cooking breaks to fan the smoke away from the smoke detector. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

After about 4-5 minutes, flip the fish over.  Look at the beautiful golden crust that’s developed!

Let the fish cook for another 2-3 minutes, and then remove it from the heat and onto a plate.  Nothing is worse than overcooked fish, so we actually want it to be the slightest bit raw in the very middle. We’re going to tent it with foil while we make the glaze, and it’s going to be perfect by the time the glaze is done.  At least, I hope it is – I’ve never made this before so results are not yet guaranteed.

Wipe out the pan you used to cook the fish with a paper towel, and then pour the glaze mixture into it.  Let it boil for about 5 minutes or until it gets all thick and syrupy.

Take the rosemary out; it’s job is done and it’s time to say farwell.  Now, this may come as a shock to some of you but since I have a serious need for approval from Paula Deen, I thought I should add a smidgen of butter to the glaze to finish it off. Hey, at least I’m honest and took a picture!

Way better.

Are you ready for dinner yet? Let’s plate it up!

The fish is perfectly cooked, if I dare say so myself.  Balsamic glazed salmon sure is a good thing, but a good thing only becomes great when you act on it so please make some for yourself sooner rather than later!

fish en papillote

I love me a good piece of fish.  However, I AM picky about where my fish comes from, and that it’s fresh.  For me, this means that most of the time I go to the fish market, talk to the staff to see what is the freshest, and purchase based on their recommendation.  Sure, some of the time I go in with a specific fish in mind, but I also love to try new things…like the red snapper that the owner suggested today.

My philosophy when cooking fish is usually the simpler, the better.  Fish is one of the easiest things to cook, and a good fresh filet should be allowed to shine on its on accord.  Upon bringing the fish home from the market this afternoon, I opened up the fridge to see what might jump out at me to serve with it.  Here’s what I came up with, but please feel free to use whatever appeals to you!

I decided to cook the snapper en papillote, which is a fancy way of saying its cooked in a parchment paper packet.  I like this technique because it’s super easy and there is virtually no clean-up required, and I think you will too.  If you’ve never cooked fish this way, give it a try and see what you think.

How many pieces of fish do you want to make? Start by tearing twice as many large squares of parchment paper as pieces of fish.  Double layer them on your counter like so:

Place a few sprigs of some fresh herbs in the middle – I’m using parsley today, but you could try it with basil, cilantro, thyme, rosemary…or whatever you find in your fridge or garden!

Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.

Place the fish filets on top of the herbs.

Pretty easy so far, right? Now, we could stop here but I didn’t feel like it.  Instead, I spread some jarred bruschetta on top of each filet.  The jar was almost empty and it was taking up precious fridge real estate, so can you blame me?

Wow, that looks good, doesn’t it?!? Too bad I don’t eat raw fish.

Never one to quit at halftime, I wanted to add a few more things.  I guess I should take back what I said about keeping fish simple, huh?

Let’s dice up some zucchini…

Some cherry tomatoes…

A couple shallots (I changed my mind from the red onion that I had originally pulled out and photograped – I suggest you change your mind often when cooking too)…

Some garlic…

A couple sundried tomatoes (another random jar in the fridge).

And a handful of parsley.

Looks good so far!

Toss everything together, with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper if you feel so inclined.

Scoop some of the veggies on top of each piece of fish:

Fold the parchment together to make a sealed packet, like so:

Repeat until all packets are folded and ready to go.

Place the packets on a cookie sheet, and bake in a 450-degree oven for 10-15 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish you’re using). When you take it out of the oven, the packets are going to be filled with steam so please be careful when you open them! I love a good steam facial as much as the next girl, but eau de red snapper is not my favourite scent to steam with.  Consider yourself warned.

Are you ready for this?

This smells heavenly. Should we take a bite?

Perfection on a plate – the fish is moist and flaky, the veggies are tender but not mushy, and it only took a few minutes to throw together.  I hope you find fish en papillote as much of a good thing as I do!