Tuesday, February 16, 2016

adaptation

I can get a little intrigued by recipes, and though none come to mind just now some of them that sound bad simply are bad. Some are bad but you see possibilities. Some you just have to try in spite of knowing they can’t be right. Adapt them. Make them right.
I subscribe to a few on-line food blogs, some by friends and some by people such as Ruth Reichl, the former restaurant critic and head of Gourmet Magazine. The New York Times has one called What to cook this week that appears in my inbox a few times a week. Last week they had a technique that they said was for those gawdawful store-bought winter tomatoes (first, of course, they had to give us a lecture on how sick and tired they were of the ‘eat local’ imperative): halve them and put them in a casserole, add some herbs and a Bunch of olive oil – way too much, like 5 or 6 cups (who would do that?) and roast them at 250° for a couple of hours. Well, I would never go out and buy 2 ½ pounds of grocery store tomatoes but I had a 2.5 pound package of end-of-season Pratico tomatoes that hadn’t been perfectly ripe when I froze them, and I got them out and halved them and put them in a clay casserole and sprinkled them with rosemary, bay leaf, and thyme, 6 whole, peeled cloves of garlic, a couple of slices of ginger, then poured over maybe a cup and a half of olive oil. Roasted them for a couple of hours.
The result was about 2 cups of jammy tomatoes, about 1+ cup of tomato-y olive oil, and a couple of cups of tomato broth. A long time ago – in the parlance of credulous seekers of whatever was new— it was called tomato water and it made a big ‘splash’, ha ha, but I will simply call it tomato broth.
A lot of the jammy tomatoes were smeared onto a pizza, along with a drizzle of the tomato-y olive oil, but what was really good were some cod loins that I seared in the tomato olive oil, then plopped into bowls of the tomato broth along with some of the tomatoes and some of the buckwheat noodles called soba. Now that was delicious.
What are cod loins, you ask. This, from Great British Chefs: “As cod can be a large fish, the fillet is often too big for a single portion. It is therefore possible to buy the cod loin, which is cut from the middle section or fattest part of the fillet. Succulent loins are short and fat compared to longer cod fillets and they are considered the prime cut.” Doh!
This circumvents the problem of cooking the skinny end – the mermaid fin – along with the fat breast meat of a regular fillet, the mermaid swisher needing far less time to cook than the brawny chest. The loin, for the privileged few, for a buck more, is a piece of cod about 1 ½ inches square and maybe 4 inches long. It is amazing how good fresh well-treated fish can taste when done right.
You can find these at Green Mountain Fresh on State Street across from the courthouse in Rutland. GMF really is the place to buy your fresh fish nowadays – Boston Harbor one day, on your dinner table the next. They have frozen and farmed fish, too. I usually prefer frozen fish, as they are flash frozen on the ship when caught, but these are so fresh... why take that extra step.  The E-Z Peel shrimp are more delicious than I like to say, and they are farmed in Ecuador. What makes them so delicious? I wonder!
And I’m not saying this because John gave us passes to the Boston Seafood Show in a couple of weeks, either.
Anyway, that little fish stew/soup/broth was really good.
If you have some frozen whole tomatoes or want to buy some at the grocery store or hydroponic ones from somewhere fairly close, try out roasting them with quite a bit of olive oil and garlic and herbs as I outlined above. And use them any way you like. But do try this:
Cod loins in Tomato Broth
(serves 2)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato olive oil
  • 1 lb cod loins cut in squares
  • 3 cups tomato broth (you can flesh what you have out with chicken broth or other veggie broth
  • some pinches of the jammy tomatoes
  • 6 large green olives, pitted
  • 3 scallions cut diagonally including the green tops
  • a small bunch of cilantro, chopped finely
  • 3 ounces soba (buckwheat) noodles cooked to package directions
Heat the oven to 375°.
Heat the olive oil in a hot sauté pan over medium heat, scatter in the cod loins, let them cook for a minute and turn them. they’ll get slightly brown on all 4 sides. Don’t cook them too much. Take from the heat. Add the broth, the tomatoes and the green olives. Place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t overcook the cod. Make sure they’re still translucent in the center.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles. The usual directions are to add them to a sufficient amount of boiling water (not 7 gallons as the package says, but sufficient) and cook for 5 minutes, drain, refresh in cold water and drain again.
Ready to serve? Divide the noodles into two bowls. Divide the cod and broth into two bowls, scatter with the scallions and cilantro. Eat up.
PS: You may drizzle the hot soup with a little Jeon sauce – equal parts of soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil.
Adaptation – it’s the name of the game!
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