Tasty treasures in the clearance aisle

Originally appeared in the August 30, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Impulse buys.  When it comes to consumer compulsion—whether it be conversion to a “smart” phone, or giving in to that gotta-have-it gadget expertly positioned in the check-out lane—I typically have the wherewithal to stave off such temptation.  But when it comes to the gotta-have-it compunction of gastronomy, I must admit that I am a rather impressionable culinary consumer.

Take the centerpiece of this week’s dish: Swordfish.  I picked up this hearty specimen in the clearance section of my local market; and while I’m not ignorant to the likelihood that this product had at one time been frozen before being thawed and packaged, I still believe a cut of this stature has some redeeming qualities, particularly for those home-cooks with their eyes on their checking account, and their hearts (to mix metaphors) on the nourishment of their family.

There’s nothing wrong with snagging a clearance cut of meat or discount fillet of fish, but I implore you make haste (read, don’t procrastinate and let it linger in your fridge).  Enjoy your swordfish with a simply-dressed salad of thinly peeled asparagus and radicchio.

So don’t be self-conscious about surveying the clearance section at your local market.  Who knows what tasty treasures you’re apt to find.

 

Pan-seared swordfish with asparagus and radicchio

Serves 2

  • 1 large swordfish steak
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • A few pinches of sugar
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 4 – 6 ounces fresh asparagus, peeled lengthwise
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radicchio
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1.  Bring one quart of water to a boil.  Meanwhile, and using a vegetable peeler, thinly cut asparagus lengthwise.  Thinly slice radicchio and combine with fresh herbs.  When water is ready, add asparagus; blanch briefly (no more than 15 seconds) before thoroughly draining and plunging into ice water to stop the cooking process.  Drain again and combine with radicchio mixture.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, vinegar, red pepper, sugar, salt and pepper until mixture emulsifies.  Set aside.

2.  In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add a bit of olive oil.  Season swordfish with kosher salt and pepper before gently adding to pan.  Sear fish on both sides, allowing to cook as you do so, until exterior is golden.  After removing fish from pan, allow to rest for several minutes.

3.  Pour dressing over asparagus mixture and gently toss to coat.  Serve swordfish on top of the asparagus salad.

 

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Published in: on August 30, 2012 at 5:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Grilled chicken skewers with honey-lime corn salad

Skewer de force

Originally appeared in the August 23, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Back in culinary school, I was acquainted with a jovial bloke who had a comical hatred for, what he called, “food on sticks.”  I never really questioned my culinary comrade, just laughed along with everyone else at this particular idiosyncrasy.

Otherwise admiring my friend’s insight, I didn’t necessarily agree with his take on skewered fare.  For one, just about every noble cuisine has a version of the aforementioned execution—whether it be kebob (see also kabab, kibob) or satay or souvlaki; plus, cooking “food on sticks” can be a labor-light technique that yields savory, bite-sized servings.  My cast-iron grill has accumulated some signature flavors over the years, so it’s the cooking device of choice when it comes to skewers.

A caveat: Once again, this installment’s co-star carries the capability to transcend its side-dish status.  By not only complimenting the grilled chicken, the honey-lime corn salad is a pleasantly complicated recipe that you might find yourself employing over and over again either as a stand-alone dish, or pairing with a multitude of suitable proteins.

So as long as the refreshing weather lingers, fire up your grill and break out your sticks.  Don’t let the humble kebob get impaled by anybody’s bad rap.

Grilled chicken skewers with honey-lime corn salad

Serves 2 -3

  • 3 large, free-range chicken breasts
  • As needed, olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon each, chopped fresh basil and dill
  • 2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut from cob
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 5-6 cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese, chunked

1.  Cut each chicken breast into three large chunks and place in large bowl.  Pour in enough olive oil to generously coat the meat; add fresh basil and dill and gently toss, distributing evenly.  Allow meat to rest in fridge.

2.  Meanwhile, bring roughly 1 quart of water to a boil, and add in ¼ teaspoon of baking soda (this will help soften the kernel).  Add cut kernels to water, and cook for about 4-5 minutes (or until kernels are tender).  Thoroughly drain corn and allow to cool in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine lime juice and honey, and slowly whisk in olive oil to form a emulsion; season to taste with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.

3.  Preheat grill.  Remove chicken from fridge.  Using four sticks, arrange several large pieces of meat along two skewers each.  Season with salt and pepper and grill on all sides until meat is cooked; allow to rest.

4.  When corn has cooled, add honey-lime dressing, fresh cilantro, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, and gently fold together; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Serve with grilled chicken skewers.

Beer-batter fried green tomatoes with sweet beet dipping sauce

Fair food for the fried-inclined

Originally appeared in the August 2, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

With tomorrow being opening day for the 2012 Indiana State Fair, I thought it apt to emulate the deep-fried traditions of the Main Street walkway.  Specifically, the venerable, fried green tomato.  Of course there are numerous types of batters for deep-frying—tempura, egg-white, cornmeal, and beer batters are the first to come to mind.  So what I’ve created for this week’s recipe is a sort of hybrid, intended to please as many palates (ideally uninjured after sampling your deep-fried products) as possible.

First, when deep-frying at home (and I’ll invoke my father’s indefatigable advice), you can never be too careful—unless you’re using a pint-sized electric deep fryer, place your fry-pot on the back burner of the stove; and second (to invoke the shrewd demands of my former chefs) it’s critical that you maintain quality control—prepare everything in an assembly line from beginning prep to plating.

And what’s that purple concoction in the background?  I’m, glad you asked.  No tricks here: sweet beet dipping sauce, which is mind-numbingly simple.  All you do is incorporate a desired amount of canned-beet juice to mayonnaise.  That’s it—a pretty conservative shortcut that pairs nicely with a deep-fried icon.

Beer-batter fried green tomatoes with sweet beet dipping sauce

Serve 3 – 4

  • 2 large green tomatoes
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 fluid ounces amber ale beer
  • 8 ounces all-purpose flour (plus more for dredging)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (plus extra for finishing)
  • 3 tablespoons coarse cornmeal
  • As needed, mayonnaise
  • As needed, beet juice

1.  In a heavy-bottomed stockpot, add enough canola oil to reach hallway up sides of pot.  Using a candy thermometer, slowly heat oil to 375° F., and maintain at that temperature.

2.  Slice tomatoes into ¼-inch discs.  In a bowl, combine egg and beer; whisk until smooth.  In a separate, larger bowl, combine flour, baking powder, kosher salt, and cornmeal; whisk to combine.  Whisk the beer-egg mixture into the dry ingredients until batter is smooth.

3.  Place a small amount of all-purpose flour on a plate, and dredge each piece of tomato by lightly coating it with flour before immediately dipping the tomatoes into the batter (the flour will help the batter stick to the tomato).  In small batches, carefully place the battered tomatoes into the fry oil.  Gently flip the tomatoes after a minute or two, and fry until golden brown (this will take several minutes).  When crispy and golden, remove tomatoes, reserve on a small rack, and sprinkle with additional kosher salt.  For dipping sauce, combine desired amount of beet juice with mayonnaise.  Serve fried green tomatoes immediately.