Baked Whole Fish With Tomatoes, Fennel & Fresh Herbs

August 5, 2013

I am obsessed with summer produce, and I find myself stopping by the open-air market in our town every other day to see what’s new (bonus: I’m learning all kinds of new words to butcher in Italian).

Pozzuoli is also a port town, so the seafood is fresh, abundant and inexpensive. Swordfish, octopus, clams, mussels, tuna – the options are endless. I used to be intimidated by the idea of cooking a whole fish until I realized how easy it is. Well, it’s incredibly easy when your fish guy will clean and scale the fish for you in about two minutes. I still haven’t mastered that art, and I’m happy to leave it to the professionals.

Brian and I have been experimenting with different ways to combine fresh produce with fresh fish, and this recipe is a new favorite. I love the sweetness of the tomatoes, the saltiness of the capers and the earthiness of the fennel. It’s adapted from a Jamie Oliver sea bass recipe – we used dorado. We also roasted vegetables in the same pan as the fish – starting the potatoes (skin on, chopped in large chunks) 20 minutes before the fish and adding the green beans with the fish.

baked fish


Olive oil
1 lb. fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
Fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
A glug of white wine
A pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper

2 whole fish (we used dorado), cleaned and scaled
3 T. Butter
½ bulb fennel, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1-2 T. capers, roughly chopped
Chopped fresh herbs (we used rosemary, oregano, thyme and parsley)
1 lemon, sliced
Aluminum foil

1. Heat olive oil in a small saucepan. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes, then add the rest of the sauce ingredients and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

2. In a separate frying pan, heat a small amount of olive oil and butter. Add the fennel and cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for another 5 minutes until golden brown.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

4. Mix the rest of the butter and the fresh herbs together in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, mix half of the tomato sauce with the fennel mixture.

5. Rinse the fish inside and out and pat dry with a paper towel. Place each fish on a large piece of aluminum foil.

6. Make three diagonal cuts down to the bone into one side of each fish. Stuff the cuts with herb butter. Stuff the inside cavity of the fish with the fennel-tomato mixture and two lemon slices.

7. Spoon the rest of the tomato sauce on top of the two fish. Add a splash of white wine and a little salt and pepper. Seal the foil packets, and place in a roasting pan.

8. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a few minutes, then carefully open the foil and serve. Pairs well with a crisp white wine. (One large fish should be enough to serve two people; we made two and saved one for leftovers.)


Booze-Braised Beef Short Ribs Two Ways

June 11, 2013

I don’t know why I’m so late to the party on braised short ribs. Did you know that they are delicious? Yes, you probably did, because I’m apparently the last one to figure it out. How have I been missing out all these years? Short ribs are also often slow-cooked in wine or beer, which makes them my new favorite food to cook. I do so love pouring an entire bottle of wine into a pot and letting it work its magic.

Here are two ways to make braised short ribs; both are incredibly tasty and surprisingly easy. They take about three hours to cook, but most of that is hands-off time in the oven. Ingredients and cook times are also very forgiving, so feel free to adapt, tweak and get a little crazy with your own version.

red wine-braised short ribs

Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs


3 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs
Small package of pancetta, diced
1 onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 T. tomato paste
1 bottle of red wine
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 cups beef or chicken stock
1 can pureed tomatoes
1-2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. brown sugar
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
Salt & pepper
Dried or fresh herbs – I used bay leaves, rosemary and thyme
Olive oil

1. In a large Dutch oven, cook pancetta over medium heat until lightly browned. Remove from pot and set to the side. Reserve drippings and add a little olive oil.

2. Dredge short ribs in flour and shake off excess. Sear ribs on all sides until browned, working in batches if necessary (about 10-15 minutes total for each batch). Remove ribs and let rest on a plate.

3. Add onion, shallot and carrots to the pot and cook for 2-5 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Add 3 T. flour and 1 T. tomato paste to the mixture and cook for another 2 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour in the bottle of wine (yes, all of it) and deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits and mixing them into the sauce. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until it is reduced by half.

5. Add herbs, garlic cloves, cooked pancetta and salt and pepper to the liquid. Place the short ribs meaty side down in the sauce, then stir in stock.

6. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2 hours at 350, then turn down to 325 and cook for another 30-45 minutes. Meat should be falling off the bone, and your mouth should be watering.

7. Serve with mashed potatoes or creamy polenta (this Pioneer Woman recipe is simple and delish). Feeds four people (or two with leftovers).

Beer-Braised Short Ribs


3 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs
1 onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
1 small can tomato paste
2 bottles of dark beer (I used a homebrew porter)
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 cups beef or chicken stock
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
Salt & pepper
Dried or fresh herbs – I used bay leaves, rosemary and thyme
Olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat 1 T. olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Dredge short ribs in flour and shake off excess. Sear ribs on all sides until browned, working in batches if necessary (about 10-15 minutes total for each batch). Remove ribs and let rest on a plate.

2. Add onion and shallot to the pot and cook for 2-5 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Add 5 T. flour, tomato paste and garlic to the mixture and cook for another 2 minutes.

3. Pour in both bottles of beer and deglaze the pan. Let the sauce simmer until it is thick and bubbling, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in balsamic, Worcestershire sauce, cocoa powder, herbs, salt and pepper.

4. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2 hours at 350, then turn down to 325 and cook for another 30-45 minutes.

7. Serve with mashed potatoes or polenta. Feeds four people (or two with leftovers).

Recipes I used for inspiration:

Roast Pork & Almond Sauce over Noodles

August 5, 2012

Been trying to cook some healthy options and I’ll be posting a few I’ve found that are really good.  We had grilled up a pork tenderloin and had leftover pork.  So I used that pork with this recipe.  Super quick and easy since the pork was already cooked.  I’m sure their way is super tasty too.

1/2 pound pork tenderloin
8 oz uncooked pasta (I used a whole grain angel hair)
1/4 cup almond butter
2 1/2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
1 cup thinly sliced green onions

For the pork, you can do what they did or what I did.  We grilled up a pork tenderloin the day before and only ate half.  I took the other half and cut into thin strips and heated in the oven at 350 for 5-10 minutes or until warm.

While cooking the pasta, you can start making the sauce.  Mix all ingredients together and once pasta is done, add 2 tablespoons of the pasta water.  Top each bowl of pasta with pork, sauce and sprinkle some sliced green onions.  Serves about 4.

Note, I was worried that our pork tenderloin was pre-seasoned with lemon and garlic and would make the dish taste funny.  It did not.  It was crazy delicious and maybe more enjoyable since this whole process took practically no time when you don’t have to cook the pork.

Here’s a crappy picture of the tasty dish:


Crock-Pot Greek Chicken Pitas With Tzatziki Sauce

October 25, 2011

I am obsessed with tzatziki sauce. It’s gotten to the point where I will actually plan entire meals around it. Mmmm. Delicious tzatziki sauce… and whatever I’ve drowned in it.

This recipe was super easy and turned out finger-lickin’ delicious.


1 lb. to 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oregano
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

1. Throw all of the ingredients into the Crock-Pot, mixing so the seasoning is evenly coating the chicken.

2. Cook on low for about 8 hours, or until the chicken is tender and falls apart easily when you touch it with a fork.

3. Remove chicken from the slow cooker and shred it on a plate using two forks. Put the chicken back in the cooker with the juices and leave on warm until you are ready to eat.

4. About 1-2 hours before you eat, make the tzatziki sauce and refrigerate to let the flavors mingle. This has been my go-to recipe lately; it is so tasty, especially when you make it with white wine vinegar.

5. Spoon chicken and tzatziki sauce onto warm pita bread and serve with tomato, lettuce and feta (I like it with hot sauce as well).

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

October 5, 2011

When I’m experimenting with a new recipe, I always get nervous.  Especially when I’m cooking for a crowd… and it happens to be gumbo… and everyone expects me to naturally know how to make it.  Before this, I had never made a gumbo from scratch.  I made it once before, but I used the Savoie’s Roux sold in grocery stores back in Louisiana.  And even then, it didn’t turn out that great. And while I’d made a roux before, it was always a light roux for etouffees and such, never a dark one.

My mother shared a horror story from her first attempt at making gumbo from scratch.  She messed up on the roux and the whole thing turned to such a mess that she wouldn’t even let my dad taste it. From that point on, she only used Savoie’s premade roux.

A couple of weekends ago, I took a swing at a homemade gumbo to rally support for the Saints game.  I went to Emeril for advice and basically used this recipe. Below is what I did.

½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green bell peppers
1 bunch green onions
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tblsp Emeril’s Seasoning (recipe below)
3 bay leaves
9 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 pounds smoked sausage, cut into bite size pieces
2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
Hot sauce
Steamed white rice

Emeril’s Seasoning (you’ll end up with much more than you need, but it will leave you with seasoning for the future):

2 ½ Tblsp paprika
2 Tblsp salt
2 Tblsp garlic powder
1 Tblsp black pepper
1 Tblsp onion powder
1 Tblsp cayenne pepper
1 Tblsp dried oregano
1 Tblsp dried thyme

Now if you read Emeril’s recipe, he does a lot more work with the meat.  I took my mom’s advice and skipped that whole process.  Too much work and our way turned out fantastic with a lot less effort.  You’ll see below.

First off, chop up all the veggies.  I used 2 large white onions, 1 bunch of celery, 2 green bell peppers and 1 bunch of green onions.  When chopping up the green onions, take the bottom half and add to the veggie mixture, the top half (aka the green part), you can chop and place to the side in a small bowl for garnishing later.

Making the roux: combine vegetable oil and flour in a very large pot.  Cook over medium heat, constantly stirring until the roux is the color of a dark chocolate.  Emeril said about 20-25 minutes.  I stirred for a good 35-40 minutes.

Now you’ll add the veggie mixture you’ve previously chopped.  Stir for about 5 minutes, until they start to soften. Add in Emeril’s Seasoning, salt, cayenne, and bay leaves.  Stir for about 2 minutes and then slowly start to add the chicken stock.  Bring up to a boil.  Once the mixture is mostly combined, drop in the chopped, uncooked chicken and sausage, reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking, uncovered, for at least an hour.

Note: this is when I got super nervous. The liquid appeared to just be chicken stock soup with flecks of roux stirring around.  It was not appetizing in the least.  But after you let the gumbo simmer for a good long while, it all comes together and looks and tastes the way it should.  Like heaven.

Somewhere in the simmering time, sprinkle in a few hefty shakes of hot sauce.

Serve up over rice, with a sprinkling of those reserved green onions and perhaps a tasty side of garlic bread.  I’ll be honest.  I am very picky in the world of Cajun food outside of Louisiana.  And this was so much more than satisfactory.  It was crazy delicious. I was proud to serve this to several people who’d never actually tasted gumbo.  Success.  Try it. Do it. Now.  The weather is perfect.

Eggplant Parmesan with Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Sauce

May 25, 2011

I’ve been drooling over this recipe for quite some time.  And last night, I finally tried it.  I started cooking just before 7 and we didn’t eat til about 930.  But it was definitely worth it.  I pulled the recipe from Bobby Flay.

Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Sauce:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large jar of roasted red peppers (drained and chopped) or 3 large roasted red peppers (seeded and chopped)
2 (28 ounce) cans of plum tomatoes and juice
1 (28 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
bunch of fresh basil and oregano finely chopped
salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat the olive oil.  Add the onions and cook til soft.  Mix in the garlic and red pepper flakes.  Continue cooking a few minutes.  Add the red peppers and cook for another few minutes.  Pour in all those tomatoes but be careful it splashes.  Simmer for about 25 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Take off heat and let it cool for about ten minutes.  Transfer the sauce to a food processor or blender and mix until smooth.  Pour back into the pot and return to heat.  Pour in basil, oregano, salt and pepper.  I added several pinches of sugar to even out the sauce.  Store for later use or just remove from heat until you’re ready to put everything together.


2 eggplants, cut into 1/2″ rounds (you’ll need 12 or 18 rounds depending on how many layers you want)
Italian breadcrumbs
eggs, beaten
vegetable oil, for frying
salt & pepper
fresh mozzarella thinly sliced
shredded mozzarella
grated pecorino romano, asiago, parmesan (I found a blend that was so tasty)

Preheat the oven to 400.  Now you can start breading and frying the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into 1/2″ rounds.  Salt and pepper the slices.  I had way too much eggplant.  For a 9×13″ dish, I used 12 eggplant rounds and had 2 layers.  You could have more layers or use a different size dish and need different amounts of eggplant.

Take each round and dredge in flour, dip in egg, shaking off excess, then coat in breadcrumbs.  Once you’ve finished all of that you can fry.  Heat about two inches of vegetable oil to 350.  Fry eggplant until golden.

Next step is assembling.  Coat bottom of dish with sauce, then layer fried eggplant with more sauce and plenty of grated and shredded cheese.  Continue til you’ve finished all your layers. Use the fresh mozzarella for the top.  You’ll know that the dish is done cooking when the mozzarella has started to brown.  Takes about 30-35 minutes.  It took much longer than I thought it would, but it was oh so good.  And even Greg loved it.  And he previously claimed that he didn’t like eggplant. (*cough* gillie, you should try this on brian *cough*)

Pork and Pinto Beans

April 7, 2011

We eat a lot of Mexicanish food at my house. A lot. It’s cheap, it’s fresh, it’s easy…and we love it. I like quinoa and black beans more than is normal or healthy, but I decided that I wanted to have a couple more burrito ideas in my arsenal, just in case. I stumbled on this amazing-looking recipe, tweaked it a bit and gave it a shot yesterday. (Seriously, take a look at the photo on that blog. Don’t you want to eat that?)

After a couple of glasses on wine last night, I sampled the finished product and tipsily dubbed it “meaty beans.” This is the best burrito filling/nacho topping/taco meat I have ever had. And those of you who know me know that I take my burritos seriously. Very seriously.


3 lb. boneless pork butt, trimmed of most of its fat
1 lb. dried pinto beans
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
2 4-oz. cans fire-roasted diced green chiles
4 cups water
2 chopped white onions
2 diced jalapenos (with seeds)
6-8 minced cloves of garlic
3 tbsp. ground cumin
3 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. Tony’s
2 tsp. ancho chile powder
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne

Place the trimmed pork butt in a large (I used a 7-quart) dutch oven. Pour the dried beans on top of the pork butt. You don’t need to soak the beans before you cook them. They have plenty of time to soften up in the pot.

Dump the rest of the ingredients in the dutch oven. Give them a stir to incorporate all the spices, then put on the lid and place the pot in a 250-degree oven. Cook the pork and pinto beans for eight to nine hours, pulling it out around hour five to add another cup of water if it looks a little dry. Shred up the meat and enjoy!

If you don’t want to run your oven all day, you might be able to use a Crock-Pot set to low, but my biggest slow cooker isn’t large enough to accommodate all the ingredients.

I realize that this recipe makes a lot, but it appears that it would freeze really well. Also, it’s so delicious that you’ll probably eat the whole vat. I can also vouch for the fact that the leftovers are even better than the freshly finished product.