Trout Roasted in Salt

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I recently read Bottomfeeder by Taras Grescoe, and it kind of rocked my seafood-lovin’ world. Grescoe writes in an entertaining, slightly curmudgeonly style, and what he presents very convincingly is that the end of the world is coming – our oceanic world stocked with a diverse abundance of fish and seafood, that is.

He reports that because over the past fifty years or so the premium, top of the chain predator fish like tuna, cod and swordfish have been fished out of existence, the world’s oceans will have nothing left to offer us but bottomfeeders and plenty of algae. That could means lots of jellyfish on the menu by the year 2025. Jellyfish fingers anyone?

How depressing! Just think that if more sustainable fishing practices are not put in place soon, our children’s children will never know the pleasure of eating fresh, wild seafood.

Mark Bittman wrote about the sad state of seafood in the New York Times the other day, too. Besides the fact that some people are of the opinion that Bittman might be verging on going vegan, I think it shows that the situation has reached a tipping point, and attention must be paid.

If you head over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website, you can print out a cute and handy pocket guide to help in the search for sustainable seafood. And now there’s a new guide for sushi, too!

Farm raised trout is one of the best, sustainable choices out there. Roasting the whole fish in a bed of salt couldn’t be easier, and because the salt helps the fish retain moisture as it cooks, the flesh remains tender and juicy. And no, it’s doesn’t taste at all salty.

Trout Roasted in Salt, Italian Fisherman Style

4 servings

4 whole trout, about 1 pound each
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 lemon, thinly sliced
4 sprigs each fresh basil, thyme or rosemary or a combination
Fresh ground black pepper
2 (3-pound) boxes kosher salt

•    Arrange rack in center of oven and heat to 400 degrees.
•    Pour the contents of one box of salt in a roasting pan large enough to hold the fish side by side. Pour the other box of salt into an ovenproof pan or baking dish. Put both pans in the oven to heat for 20 minutes.
•    In a small bowl, stir together the garlic and olive oil. Open trout like a book and drizzle the oil over the flesh, using your fingers to distribute it evenly. Arrange 2 lemon slices on one half of each trout and sprinkle with pepper; scatter with the herb sprigs and close.
•    Nestle the trout into the hot salt in the roasting pan and pour the remaining pan of salt over to cover, patting it down gently.
•    Roast 20 minutes; remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before scooping off the top layer of salt. Carefully lift the fish out of the pan with a spatula and transfer to a serving platter.
•    To serve, present each trout whole, or use a spatula to gently lift each fillet away from the skin, discarding the backbone.

Rosemary Lemon-Ginger Vodka Spritzers

A beachside refresher

Our vacation got off to a tremulous start – what with the 5.2 earthquake and all – but we managed to get everyone safely in the car and on the road to Rosemary Beach, our almost impossibly lovely destination on the Florida Panhandle.

This place is one of those scarily-proportioned planned “towns” that seem to spring up out of the swamp land as if by magic. What I mean by scary is just the absolute perfectness about it all; it’s so self-contained and pristinely designed that it just doesn’t seem real.

And, in keeping with the Mediterranean theme of the architecture, there are rosemary bushes springing up everywhere. I don’t think that rosemary would grow here as a native plant, but it does seem to thrive in this climate, because the plants seem to grow into large hedgerows.

Rosemary might just be my favorite herb and every spring I put out numerous small plants in my garden. I always hope that one or two of them will make it through the winter, but so far that hasn’t happened.

Seeing them casually growing here to the size of happy Great Danes kind of overwhelms me. I’m starting to feel like cooking something. Or maybe I’m just thirsty.

We came up with this refreshing cocktail recipe while lounging on the beach yesterday. It’s pretty good. Might be just about time for another!


Rosemary Lemon-Ginger Vodka Spritzers

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
¼ cup peeled, chopped fresh ginger
2 large springs rosemary, plus more to garnish
Pinch of fine sea salt (seems weird, but it really makes the syrup pop with flavor)
Fresh lemons, halved
Ice cold vodka
Chilled sparkling water

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the ginger, rosemary and salt; remove from the heat and let steep for about 10 minutes. Strain the syrup and chill.

To make a drink, squeeze fresh lemon juice to taste into a glass filled with ice. Pour in 2 ounces vodka and about 1 tablespoon syrup. Top off with the sparkling water. Take a sip, and add more syrup if you like. Add a rosemary spring for garnish. Cheers!

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Copyright (c) 2008 FamilyStyle Food

Homemade Rosemary Potato Gnocchi

Leave the gun, take the gnocchi
We have just a few traditions in our house that we abide by with comforting regularity, and one of them is spending the holidays during the last few weeks of the year with my sister-in-law L, otherwise known as YaYa, and her husband S, The Old Man.

Because they teach at a university, they have the benefit of a long vacation break between semesters. Because we have a few children, we make them fly out of Logan Airport at holiday time to visit us. It’s a win-win situation, really.

When I tell people that we have relatives moving in for a few weeks over the holidays, they usually groan in sympathy. I know they’re probably imagining a scene out of a John Candy movie, where crazy Uncle Jack overstays his visit, starts drinking beer at lunch, terrorizes the children and stops up the toilet.

While we definitely start drinking lots more alcohol and we have actually called upon the services of Roto Rooter at least once this past month, to say that we look forward to the visit is putting it mildly. We live for it.

Who wouldn’t? For us, it’s all about celebrating and feasting; for two whole weeks we feel like we’re on vacation. By unplugging ourselves from our usual routine we can really get into the spirit of things. We cook together just about every night. We make multiple trips to the wine store to restock, and depending on our mood, stay up too late listening to music, talking or playing our favorite obscure board game, Who Killed Dr. Lucky.

We manage to keep up a fun spirit of camaraderie in the kitchen; everyone gravitates toward a job, depending on the menu. T and The Old Man team up for things like crabcakes and their famous pumpkin ravioli, while YaYa is mistress of salads and table setting. She also helps me plan our list of menus, because somebody needs to be in charge.

Although, this year, because I just finished reading Phoebe Damrosch’s book Service Included, we took to calling each other “chef” – with the just the right tone of irony, of course – because Thomas Keller runs his kitchen with a sense of democracy, that’s how all the employees at Per Se are instructed to communicate, apparently.

This was our Year of the Gnocchi. We used a recipe from chef Charlie Palmer’s cool waterproof book, the Practical Guide to the New American Kitchen. We all agreed that these were as light, tasty and fluffy as potato dumplings could be. I think that baking the potatoes (rather than boiling them) makes for lighter gnocchi; they don’t absorb all that water and can just merge gracefully with the flour and egg.


The lost art of gnocchi rolling

If you don’t have a neat ridged gnocchi board, you can use a fork to make distinctive grooves in each dumpling. However, you will miss out on the pleasure of feeling just like an Italian mama.

Potato Rosemary Gnocchi

Serves 6, generously
Adapted from a recipe by Charlie Palmer

3 large baking potatoes, about 2 pounds total
2 egg yolks
2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons olive oil (if sauteeing)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Poke the potatoes a few times with a fork and place directly on the oven rack. Bake 25 –30 minutes, until fork-tender. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and push them through a food mill or ricer into a large bowl.

Add the salt and egg yolk, and 2 cups of flour and mix together. Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and knead, adding more flour if needed, until a soft (but not sticky), smooth dough forms.

Divide the dough into portions the size of your hand, and roll each into a rope about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into 1-inch lengths. If you’re inclined, roll each gnocchi firmly over a gnocchi board or the concave side of a fork. Arrange the gnocchi on a floured baking sheet as you go.

Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil; drop the gnocchi in batches into the water and boil until they bob to the surface, about 3 minutes.

At this point, you can sauce them up as you please, or lay them out on a tray and freeze them (transfer them to zippered bags when they’re solid) so that you have an emergency late-night gnocchi stash on hand .
If you want to sauté the gnocchi, set up an ice bath with a colander set into a large bowl of ice water. Remove the gnocchi from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and immediately drop them into the colander. Drain and toss with the olive oil.

Just before serving, sauté the gnocchi in melted butter, garlic and some spinach or dandelion greens. Pass the grated Parmesan.


Gnocchi getting a toss in the pan

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Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food