Fish Wrapped with Leaves

 For some reason (Foodies will probably concur) I think this kind of thing is fun.  Breaks up the old cooking ruts.  Get a bunch of leaves, wrap up some fish with seasoning, and steam.  Those Asian bamboo steamers are great and come with several levels, so you can do lots or just other stuff at the same time.

I finely minced some kefir lime leaves, added ground "Grains of Paradise" (pepper will do) and salt.

Cut the banana leaf into two sections, about 10x12" or so each, set the fish on top (I used Ono, also known as Wahoo) then brushed the fillets with macadamia oil (olive would be fine), and patted on the seasoning.  Both sides.

Laid a pandan leaf, folded in half on top, then rolled it up and tied with another pandan leaf.  Or you could use cooking twine.  Hopefully, by this time your rice has almost finished cooking.

I had some tabbouleh left from the day before and got that out.

Now you get water boiling in the bottom of your wok, set the steamer on top with the lid on and let it steam about 5 minutes.


Maigret and the Chicken Paillard

Books and food, two of my favorite things, perhaps why I enjoy combining those subjects in a post.  The Inspector Maigret mystery series by Georges Simenon is one I've been working my way through.  Still more to go as he was a very prolific author, with close to 500 novels to his credit.  Simenon started very young, working as a newspaper reporter, which saw him visiting the seamier side of life in the city, but later provided plenty of material for his books.  The one I've just finished, Maigret and the Wine Merchant is typical.  They're all fairly lightweight, and not exactly cozy mysteries, but creative stories and interesting from a Parisian post-war perspective.  And I like his good relationship with Mrs. Maigret, who is always cooking up some delicious meal.

To go along with the French theme, we have a chicken breast, sort of a butterflied technique called paillard.  New to me, but maybe you all do up paillards on a regular basis.  I even had the grill, which had only ever been used, until lately for pancakes on the opposite side.  What a revelation, a use for something I already have.  Got to love that.  In case you're not familiar with the method, I'm going to lay it out for you from Serious Eats.  If you go to the link there will be photos of each step.


Asparagus Gratin and Rules of Civility

 Don't you just love coming across a new author, one who is witty, erudite, and just plain fun to read?  Rules of Civility, the very well-written debut novel of Amor Towles, hits all the high notes and then some, transporting us to the last years of the 1930's, .New York City prewar Cafe society,   Another time, and peopled with a cast of carefully drawn, singular characters, and an engaging narrative.  Highly recommended.

The book's heroine at one point determines that, being in a singular state at the time, is not going to stop her from enjoying a meal out on her birthday.  Dining alone was not usually something done by women.  Even today, it's not always an easy thing.  Assumptions are made.  She takes a taxi to a good French restaurant.

"After taking my name the maitre d' asked if I would like a glass of champagne while I waited.  It was only seven o'clock and less than half the tables were taken.  'Waiting for what?' I asked.  'Are you not meeting someone?'  'Not that I know of'.

This scenario is repeated with the waiter.  She perseveres however and orders an asparagus gratin and a glass of white wine, and for the entree, the specialty of the house: poussin stuffed with black truffle.

Now you have it. Where the urge came to make an asparagus gratin.  I've done various things with that lovely vegetable, but this was my first gratin.  Enough of a description was given to guide my selection of a recipe, and to make the appropriate adaptations.  Most had the stalks laid out whole, but I prefer eating them cut to a more reasonable size.


Skordalia and Horta - Not Just for Cretans

 I've just finished reading The Tomb of Zeus, by Barbara Cleverly, author of the terrific Joe Sandilands series.  This novel introduces her new series with protagonist, Laetitia Talbot, archeologist and occasional sleuth. The story takes place on a dig in Crete, where they will be searching for the legendary tomb of Zeus.  Of course a murder takes place and needs to be solved.

Her first night after arriving, Letty is served some local dishes, as her host, an eminent archeologist, is also a proponent of all things Cretan.  Their fare includes horta, and fried fish with Skordalia. His starter, which turns out to be a test of Letty's nerves, is a "chalky white mound of animal tissue folded in tightly curling waves and sitting in the middle of her plate...This culinary delicacy was surrounded by a moat of reddish-brown fluid..."  lamb's brains, just to see how she'd react.

I was not tempted to reproduce that particular dish, but the horta and skordalia piqued my interest.  Skordalia is a sauce (or dip) often served with fried, battered fish.  I wanted to try that.

When I visited Crete several years ago, it was during the off-season, and many restaurants were closed.  Nevertheless,  I do remember enjoying all of my meals. Complementary raki everywhere may have helped.  No one served me lamb's brains.