Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Poor fish


Last night's menu, all cooked from Nancy Silverton's Mozza:

arugula salad with mushrooms and Piave cheese
pan-roasted halibut with green peppercorns
roasted cippoline onions

Thoughts and lessons:

1. I didn't want to make or eat this particular salad because it calls for raw mushrooms which I don't like. But one of the boons of this blog is that by limiting myself to a single book I end up trying dishes I never otherwise would. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. Like with this salad. Silverton instructs you "build" your salads, an instruction I had completely ignored because it seemed like a lot of work. I just tossed all the ingredients together in a big bowl on the assumption that it tastes the same. Not true! I went to the trouble of "building" these salads on individual plates and then drizzled dressing on top and they were spectacular. I haven't quite figured out why a carefully built salad is so much better than a tossed salad: is is the drizzled dressing? is it that the ingredients somehow maintain their integrity longer? I will be building more salads.

2. Piave cheese. Parmesan's friendly and affordable little brother. Not grainy or crumbly like Parmesan, but reminiscent. Never encountered before. Loved.

3. Halibut. Sigh. If we were all naturally slender and all felt morally at ease with eating mammals, would restaurants still bother with fish? Would I bother fish? I would not.  I feel bad that all those fish are dying because we want to be slim, not because we love them. Sushi is different. Sushi does justice to fish. Salmon is different, too. Or maybe this is just my personal taste? Very possible.

4. I've never cooked onions as a dish in their own right and the roasted cippolines was a delectable sweet-sour preparation. However, like all Nancy Silverton's recipes, it has too many steps (boil the onions, cook the onions in sauce on the stove top, roast the onions, and so on.) and is not something I will make again. Too much work for onions.

5. While I was making dinner, my sister, Justine, brought over a jar of negronis. I enjoyed two. I have drunk so little in the last few months that I forgot that alcohol is a gateway drug. To cookies.

6. In this case, the cookies were the marshmallow cornflake chocolate chip cookies from Milk Bar, baked by Isabel. Alcohol is a gateway drug to cookies and a Milk Bar cookie is a gateway drug to another Milk Bar cookie. These cookies fall into a category that Justine and I call "too delicious. Which is to say, they contain a very potent combination of salt, sugar, and fat that makes them impossible to stop eating. On the one hand, what a fantastic cookie! On the other hand, what a disaster. As far as I can tell, Milk Bar cookies are all too delicious. Biscotti are an example of a cookie that is not too delicious. Here's the recipe. You've been warned.

7. Tonight: pasta and Meyer lemon gelato.

Happy Valentine's Day.


  1. Re: fish, a lot of fish are blah, but I love halibut. Actually, our whole family does, and we live in the middle of the Midwest and have it for special occasions because it's so pricey.

    Re: those cookies, want to try, but afraid that won't be able to stop eating.

  2. "I forgot that alcohol is a gateway drug. To cookies." Made me laugh.

    Where does one get "milk powder"? I had firmly decided to skip Milk and its baked goods, but I feel myself softening...

  3. I've made the cornflake crunch to make the Milk Bar cookies. But, I'm afraid I'm going to eat the whole batch of crunch before I get the cookies made. Good stuff, that. I'm loving my Milk Bar cookbook.

    Also, the onions. I saute them in some olive oil, get them a little brown, then throw in some balsamic vinegar and slap it in a 350 oven until they're soft. Then I throw on some herbs. Super easy, super tasty! A little messy.

  4. One of the things I love about your blog is that I learn something every time I read it! Piave cheese is on my list! I love lobster, scallops, and salmon, but I feel as you do about fish - meh. I would generally rather eat a vegetarian meal than a fish meal. I always compose my salads (I think I got that from Julia Child), and I find I enjoy the process. A little fiddly, but they are so pretty this way, and they do taste better.

  5. Milk powder is just dry milk (e.g., Carnation), though Tosi calls for the full fat kind.

    I love sushi and I love fish with a crispy crust, but can leave all others.

  6. I don't love fish but I love shellfish. Fish is too soft and yielding.

    Swordfish isn't, but if you have ever worked in a restaurant kitchen you will never order swordfish. Ever.

    I eagerly await hearing of your pizza experience.

  7. Alcohol is a gateway drug to cookies--I am still giggling. I used the nonfat milk powder and my cookies are no less addictive. Agree on the composed salad--except for Caesar salads. BTW made the bagel bombs this morning for my coworkers--gone in a NY minute.

  8. A couple Saturday's ago I was standing listlessly at the fish counter and the fish guy told me to try hake. I had never heard of it, but I decided to try it because the recipe was easy. It comes as a whole-side piece without skin. I put it on a sheet pan, drizzled with garlic oil, salt, pepper and put a little white wine in the pan, baked for 20 minutes at 350. When it was done, squeezed some lemon over the top and served with pan roasted cherry tomatoes and mushrooms. It was delicious.

  9. is there a difference between paive and pecorino? I always sub parmesan with pecorino.

  10. That cookie recipe is getting slammed in the Daily Candy comments. Did you use bread flour? Did you half the butter?

  11. @ azure- I'll ask isabel what she did. The cookies spread more than was desirable, but they were delicious nonetheless. Will look at dc comments

  12. @ anonymous, I use pecorino instead of Parmesan too sometimes. Piave is a bit softer and sweeter. Less grainy.

  13. I've been reading your book and the blog and adore both. Thank you. This line, "Biscotti are an example of a cookie that is not too delicious" reminded me of the theory my best friend and I devised which associates guys with cookie types. Biscotti was always the guy I thought I wanted until I remembered he was dry, boring, and unsatisfying.

  14. @ Azure The spreading seems to be the issue both in the DC comments and in our own experience. Isabel babysat the cookies in the oven and was very frustrated by the first batch, but the second were good. She said she'd comment later. As to the flavor, I thought they were delicious, but that's quite literally a matter of taste.

  15. @Anonymous: I love your comparison of boyfriends to cookies.

    And I have to say, I love fish but I am a paranoid cook so I cannot cook it well. I almost always order it when I'm in a restaurant I trust because I can't make it but would seriously eat it all the time if I could. But of course, I am sure I only like it in restaurants because they probably use an entire stick of butter per fish, which I just can't bring myself to do at home.

  16. Fish? I love fish! i have the texture and the taste and the ease with which it cooks and I always order it in a restaurant because i feel more secure with fish than with mammals.....in a restaurant, that is.....

    as for alcohol and a gateway drug to cookies: yes and to cheese and bread and everything! what a great phrase: a gateway to cookies.

  17. The cookies were good, the baking times were definitely off. I just did everything the recipe said

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