Pan Roasted Cod & Vegetables Over Pasta

Have you ever seen an ad for one of those health spa getaways?  You know, where you go off to some gorgeous ranch in the middle of nowhere and 22 hours of your day are spent exercising & the remaining two hours meditating.  And of course all they give you after all that exercise is some boring, albeit healthy, ‘spa food’.  Who has ever thought such a trip actually qualifies as a ‘getaway’.

Don’t get me wrong, I eat healthy, do yoga and for the most try to keep my mind zen-like.   But if I am going to pay for an expensive vacation, give me some darn cupcakes & comfort food!

That said, when cooking in my own kitchen for any of my regular weeknight meals, sometimes keeping it light really is what I strive for and in this case, a healthy & light dish is exactly what I got.

Heck, if they put this dish in the ad, maybe I’d think about going.

Maybe.
8 oz. Cod filet (or other light, white fish)*
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp marjoram (or oregano)
Salt
Pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Splash of white wine (water or a little stock will do if there is no wine)
1/2 cup eggplant, cubed
Handful of green beans
1 cup penne pasta

Cook pasta according to directions.

In a bowl, place the cod and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil.  Add lemon zest, garlic, marjoram, pinch of salt and pepper.  Roll fish around so that it is fully coated.

Place 2 tsp olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat.  Once the olive oil is heated (about 1-2 minutes)  add the cod.  Cook 2 minutes and flip over.  Cook another 2 minutes before adding lemon juice and wine, scraping the bottom of the pan as it simmers.  Cook another minute before removing from the heat.

Season the green beans and eggplant lightly with salt and pepper.  Steam until the eggplant is tender and the green beans are still slightly crisp, about 10 -15 minutes (over low heat).

In the bottom of a bowl, place pasta, then vegetables and finally the fish on top.  Pour sauce over the dish.  Garnish with lemon zest and parsley.

* Serving in the photo is about 5oz.  I have special plans for the rest – stay tuned!

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Christmas Is All Around

I know it’s so cliche, but the holidays really snuck up on me this year.  Time was just flying by and poof we have our first big snow storm in New York and I’m traveling home to be with my family.  Doesn’t it seem as though we just waved goodbye to summer?

Truth be told, since this was my first Christmas since moving out of my parents house, it was quite sad not having a Christmas tree or other decorations to help stimulate that holiday feeling.  Instead, I improvised and bought a bunch of pine scented candles to use when I needed a little holiday spirit.  Definitely not as good as the real thing, but it helped.

The weekend before Christmas was really when I finally got into the spirit of things.  Shopping was finished (and started), cookies were baked, snowflakes fell, lots of wine was consumed and I got to spend a ‘fake Christmas’ with a wonderful person.

Speaking of cookies, here’s a couple of the iced sugar cookies we made

I used these recipes for sugar cookies & royal icing from Martha Stewart, which I must say are tried and true favorites.  I also made Martha’s recipes for Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti which are also fantastic.

For the chocolate lovers, I made an assortment of dark chocolate truffles.  Some were coated in crushed pistachios or hazelnuts.  Others looked like mini munchkins covered in red, green & white sprinkles.  Being resourceful, I also used some of the leftover royal icing to coat a couple.  Left for a few minutes, the icing dried creating a nice shell around the ganache center.

When all the baking and decorating commenced, I made a few goodie bags and boxes of treats as holiday giveaways.  To see the final gifts and some other homemade presents check out Blissful Bites on Facebook where all the photos can be found.

Truffles Sample Box

Finally after making it through the short work week, I made it back to Long Island on Christmas Eve. After getting home and unloading some of my bags, we all got ready and headed to mass f0r a surprisingly not packed service.  It really was a great way to start off the holiday and I was very excited to be back with my family.

From there, we headed to my Aunt’s house.  Every year for as long as I can remember we have gone there for Christmas Eve and second only to our New Years Day German Tradition, it is my favorite holiday.  It is the one holiday where all of my mom’s side of the family is together and although at times hectic, it is never short of memorable and always reminds me how lucky we all are to have such a close family.

Christmas many years ago, rocking some sweet 90’s shirts, nerdy glasses and awesome haircuts.

Not only is Christmas Eve a great holiday spent with my family, but my Aunt also shares my love of food and entertaining and always has quite the menu planned.  It’s a group effort though and everyone tries to pitch in where necessary.

Helping with the delicious salad filled with mixed greens, cranberries, walnuts, cheese and balsamic vinaigrette

Fantastic Filet Mignon grilled outside

Aunt B. makes the best creamed spinach

Uncle D. passing out some stuffed mushrooms

The cousins dominated in wine drinking

After we were all stuffed to the gills, it was time to open presents and let me tell you,  this was quite the foodie Christmas for me.  Be prepared to see lots of stews, braised meats and one pot meals in the coming winter months all thanks to this bad boy

A sloooooow cooker!!

I must thank my grandma who really outdid herself on this present.  I am so excited to use it!  I also was lucky enough to receive a Cuisinart Immersion Blender, a J.H. Henckels Knife Set (with butcher block holder) and 2 AWESOME cookbooks.  I really couldn’t be happier!

I don’t think anyone would argue that 2009 was an interesting and very often a difficult year.  But even without all of the generous gifts and delicious food, this holiday was able to put much into perspective and make many of us realize how much happiness and good fortune we still have all around us.

I hope you were all able to have a Merry Christmas and here’s to a Happy & Healthy New Year!

Poached Fish with Pistou & Pommes Anna

Poached Fish w Pistou and Pommes Anna

People often ask me why I love to cook so much, what is it about being in the kitchen that keeps drawing me back in there.  Over the years I’ve come up with numerous explanations ranging from the emotional thrill I get from cooking to the more practical logic that I just love to eat.

Deep down though there is the fascination with creating something.  I don’t care what anyone else says, to me cooking is an art form and should be treated as such.   Of course I enjoy creating my works of art for others but most importantly, I do it for myself.

What I love about the dish below is how a few humble ingredients can, with a little love and attention, be transformed into the perfect French inspired meal.

I started with a beautiful fresh piece of fish, lemon sole to be exact.  Having an overflowing bounty of fresh basil thanks to all the rain this summer,  I decided the mild fish would be wonderful paired with a tangy pistou,  France’s version of pesto, full of fragrant garlic & basil.  And lastly, to continue with the French theme,  I rounded out the meal with Pommes Anna.  Simplicity at its finest,  I knew the crunchy crust of potatoes would lend the perfect contrast of textures to the poached fish.

Poached Fish with Pistou and Pommes Anna

Printable Version

For the Fish

1 lb. lemon sole (or other mild, white fish)
2 cups white wine (I used a bottle of Chardonnay that I had open already)
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp  butter
Salt
Pepper

For the Pistou

1 1/2 cups basil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Pepper

For the Pommes Anna

1/2 lb. waxy potatoes, sliced thinly (I used about 8 medium sized red bliss potatoes)
1 1/2 tbsp melted butter
Salt
Pepper

Since it will take the longest in the oven, begin by making the Pommes Anna.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Brush the bottom and sides of a round baking dish with butter.  Begin to layer the potato slices in a circle, starting in the middle and working your way outward.  Once one layer is complete, brush the top with more butter and season with salt and pepper.  Repeat with remaining potato slices, brushing butter and seasoning after every layer.  Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven.  After half hour, remove aluminum foil and continue to bake uncovered for an additional 30-45 minutes.

While the Pommes Anna is baking, prepare the pistou.  Place basil, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor.  Pulse to blend on low speed a few times or until all of the ingredients are combined.  Set aside.

About 10 minutes before the Pommes Anna is done (it should be crispy on top) place fish in shallow baking dish.  Pour white wine and lemon juice over fish and then season with salt and pepper (fish should not be completely covered).  Place in oven and cook about 10 minutes or until fish is just firm and flaky.

Slice Pommes Anna in wedges and serve with fish and pistou.

Bon Appétit!