Baked Halibut with Tomatillo Salsa

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I bought a bag of tomatillos at the farmers market last week, with the goal of making tomatillo salsa. I had a vague recollection that I had seen a recipe on my favorite food blog, so I did a quick search, found the recipe and the three remaining ingredients I needed (scallions, jalapeños, garlic) and headed home – total farmers market cost for all four items was less than five dollars. I had enough cash leftover to get some berries, a gorgeous bouquet of dahlias, and a yummy bowl from my favorite food cart. I’m going to be so sad when market season comes to an end around here.

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Tomatillo picking tip from the farmer (or at least, from the guy selling tomatillos at the farmer’s booth): you want to pick the ones whose husks have already split open at the bottom. Just as an FYI.

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I’m a tomatillo novice, and always just assumed a tomatillo was a small green tomato in a husk. Turns out when you cut them open they have an almost eggplant-y texture, not like a tomato at all.

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This is all going in the blender, so it barely needs to be chopped at all. I took all the seeds out of my jalapeños, but if you wanted more of a kick you could leave some in.

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I didn’t have a lot of confidence that this would work in a blender, but there’s so much water in the tomatillos that it blended right up in seconds.

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This is clearly not technically “canned,” but so much cuter than storing in Tupperware. I spelled tomatillo wrong (tomatilla) on the labels because that’s what the recipe called it – oops!!

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I had planned to do the fish on the grill, along with veggie skewers, for my friend Scott’s birthday dinner last night. However, the woman at the fish market was clearly horrified by that idea, and not-so-gently informed me that it should either be baked or pan seared. Since I love the look of a pan seared piece of fish, but always find that I like halibut best baked (and its much easier), I did a combination of both:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat a small amount of olive oil in an oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Season the top of the fish with salt and pepper, and then dip in a small amount of flour (this will help give it the pretty, seared look). Place the fish, seasoned and floured side down (skin side up), and let cook for three minutes on the stovetop. After three minutes, flip each piece and move the pan to the oven (at this point I also added lime juice and lime slices to the pan). Cook for 4-7 minutes longer, depending upon the thickness of the fish (mine took about 10 minutes but it was very thick – check at about 5 minutes as you don’t want to overlook it. Fish should be opaque all the way through).

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Top with tomatillo salsa, and you have yourself an entrée that would cost $30 at a restaurant. I served this with rice pilaf, grilled veggie skewers, and a green salad, and homemade peach cobbler for dessert.  My friend Allison brought over an amazing bottle of Roussanne from her recent trip to Napa, and we had a lovely summer meal on the roof. These 80-degree days and 9 pm sunsets have really been spoiling us lately!

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Note: leftover salsa goes great on a cheese quesadilla, too!

Tomatillo/Tomatilla Salsa, from Smitten Kitchen:

10 tomatillos, husked and well washed, quartered
1/2 bunch scallions, roots and green ends trimmed, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, smashed
2 jalapeños, roughly chopped
Pinch of allspice
Salt to taste

Purée all ingredients together until very smooth, either in a blender or food processor. Season with salt to taste.

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Friday Faves

It’s ironic that all of this week’s favorites involve food or drink, since I’ve been on a juice cleanse for the better part of the week. I promise that in some cases (donut, flasks) I just took a picture – I didn’t actually eat them/drink from them. But in some cases (ice cream) I did, which is why I then need to juice cleanse!

How yummy does this Top Pot donut look? Sprinkles make everything so much cuter.

How have I never seen these before? Restoration Hardware really thinks of everything. Perfect for floating the Wenatchee River last weekend!

One of my very favorite flavors, in mini-size. I can totally pass up the normal size, but this one is pretty tough.

Al fresco lunch for my soon-to-be-Sister-in-Law’s bachelorette weekend in Leavenworth.  I love the mini Perrier bottles!

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My new Thursday night obsession – the QA Farmers Market

I hope everyone has a weekend filled with al fresco dining and lots of treats! Happy sunny Friday!

Pasta and Co. Black Bean and Couscous Salad

Some weeks it can be really hard to come up with a recipe to blog about, especially in the summer when so much of what we eat is just grilled meat and veggies. For the most part I’ve been blogging about new recipes, but this is something I’ve been making since college (and possibly even before college) – an oldie but a goodie, if you will. Sometimes I forget how much I love it, but then it shows up at a family barbecue (in this case, little Oliver’s birthday a couple weeks ago) and I’m reminded that it really is my favorite summer dish. And then I make it for another event (in this case, for my soon-to-be-sister-in-law’s bachelorette weekend in Leavenworth this past weekend), and everyone gets so excited about it that I realize it’s not just my favorite, it’s kind of a universal favorite.

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Growing up, my aunts Barb and Nina made this salad for almost every family function. I was a picky child who didn’t like beans or onions (amongst a wide variety of other things), yet somehow I set those issues aside to gobble up what we all called “m&m salad” (due to the diced colored peppers that look like m&ms). For a long time I thought we had invented that clever name, but it turns out that’s what Pasta and Co. (where we first found the salad, and then the recipe) calls it.  The cookbook that it comes from is sadly out of print, but luckily I had the foresight to steal my mom’s copy, so I can share it with you all today.

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Although the actual recipe has you start with dried beans, I just dump in a (rinsed and drained) can as a time saver – although someday I’ll try it the proper way. Since couscous is the easiest thing in the world to make, ever, the only time committment this salad requires is the time to chop up the peppers, along with a few scallions and a handful of parsley. Whisk up the dressing and you’re all set.

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Since I was making this for a group of people I didn’t know, I followed the actual recipe – but in the past I’ve made it with quinoa instead of couscous and found it to be equally delicious.

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I was in charge of Saturday’s lunch for the bachelorette party, so on Friday morning I packaged up my couscous, threw in some fun treats for a cheese and charcuterie platter, and I was all ready for a picnic – just call me Ina Garten! You don’t even need a cooler if you’re packing it up for a long car ride, as it’s supposed to be served room temperature (just ask my aunt, who once packed a giant tupperware in her suitcase and checked it through to Hawaii – true story.  We all thought she was nuts until we were enjoying couscous all week).

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For the beans:
1 can black beans (see note, below)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground or cracked pepper
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled and put through a press

For the couscous:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp sherry wine vinegar
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled and put through a press
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups vegetable or defatted chicken stock
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups uncooked couscous (package will probably say “instant” or “quick cooking”)

For the veggies:
2/3 cup (about half of one small) red bell pepper, diced
2/3 cup (about half of one small) green bell pepper, diced
2/3 cup (about half of one small) yellow bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup sliced green onions (sliced 1/8″ thick on the diagonal)

To assemble:

1.  Prepare couscous according to package directions, or using stock and olive oil.

2. Drain and rinse beans, and toss with oil, vinegar, salt, cumin, pepper, Worcestershire, and garlic.

3. Whisk together all couscous dressing ingredients (oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper) and pour over couscous.

4. Add chopped veggies and beans to couscous.  Chill. It’s delicious right away, but always better the next day.

NOTE: the original recipe calls for you to soak your beans, which is a step I skip. When you prepare the salad using the full bean dressing  and the full couscous dressing, it can be pretty heavy (and delicious – if you want it to taste the way it tastes when you buy it at the store, do it this way). To lighten it up, however, I usually skip the bean dressing, since it’s almost identical to the couscous dressing – I just make sure to add a little Worcestershire to the couscous.  If it seems dry once everything is mixed together, you can always add a little extra oil and vinegar.  I sincerely hope that everyone tries this, and figures out how they like it best.

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Friday Faves

Well, we made it through yet another week – I’m so proud of all of us. Despite the fact that work has been crazy for me lately, I love how weekdays in the summer just feel like 4-5 annoying days between one weekend getaway and the next. I’m off to Leavenworth tonight for my soon-to-be-sister-in-law’s bachelorette party, and I’m looking forward to some wine and girl time – although a little nervous about the 97 degree temps. The food is made, my bags are packed (kind of), the car is gassed up – now all I need is for 5 pm to get here. In the meantime, some highlights from the week:

This morning got off to a great start as I was uncharacteristically ahead of schedule, so I had time before work to go to my favorite neighborhood coffee place. So much better than Starbucks, if only I could get it together to make it there every morning.

I attended what I thought was a charity golf tournament for Treehouse after work last night – I had been really stressing about my golf game (and golf outfit), so I was pleasantly surprised to learn it was actually just putt-putt. Still a gorgeous night on the (mini) golf course though!

You can’t tell from the sign, but these are called “dinnerplate” dahlias and they are the size of my head. I cannot wait until I have a yard large enough to plant some. Love dahlia season!

Delicious dinner at Cactus the other night – what is it about summer that makes me want to go to Cactus every night?

“1” and wave cookies for my little cous-nephew’s first birthday last weekend (cous-nephew is the technical term for one’s cousin’s baby boy, in case anyone was wondering:)). I still have a ways to go on my frosting techniques, but practice makes perfect, right?!

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you’re all getting ready to head out somewhere sunny, too – make sure to pack your sunscreen!

Zucchini and Ricotta Galette

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I realize I just did a galette posting a couple weeks ago, but I’m doing another one for a few reasons: (1) it’s the only mildly interesting thing I’ve cooked in the past few weeks, (2) it was delicious, and (3) when I brought it to a girlfriend’s house for dinner last week everyone asked for the recipe, which I think means its worth sharing with all of you as well.

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Can we talk about my mandoline for a minute? I love it so much, and only wish I had more excuses/opportunities to use it in day to day life. I added it to my birthday gift wish list after seeing this blog posting last November, but so far I’ve only used it for potatoes, and now zucchini. Definitely look for my salted caramel apple tart this fall (I also want to make this one, and possibly this version this summer – although not sure how well the mandoline works on softer fruit, if anyone has any insight please advise).

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I was inspired to make this upon finding pie crust dough in my freezer, but I’ve made Smitten Kitchen’s sour cream crust in the past and its divine. If you wanted to use a store-bought crust, however, this would be a really easy dinner to throw together (especially if you use a mandoline).

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Yummy cheese filling – this is ricotta with parmesan and fresh mozzarella, but I think feta or chèvre would be really good here too.

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Top with sliced zucchini and drizzle with a little garlic-infused olive oil.

The recipe says to leave a two inch border when filling the crust with cheese and veggies, but I think next time I’ll roll out a larger crust so that I can have a bit more of a border and my galette might look a little prettier. The crust shrinks so much when it bakes that I think you need at least 3-4 inches to make it look as pretty as it does in Deb’s pics.

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Shower with basil chiffonade and voila! Good friends, great conversation, hip cocktails (thanks Sarah!!) and a pastry crust filled with cheese and fresh summer produce, what more could you ever want on a gorgeous (albeit not as warm as it was supposed to be) Seattle evening?   If you want to try this at home, you can find the recipe here – and let me know if your crust turns out a lot prettier than mine did!

 

Friday Faves

I spent an amazing three days in Hood River, Oregon last weekend celebrating the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends.  After a late night on Friday and a very late night on Saturday, however, it’s pretty much taken me the entire week to recover.  At “29 again” (and again) I just don’t bounce back quite like I used to – gone are the days of back to back late nights on the weekend, followed by functioning like a normal/productive human being Monday through Friday.  Does this mean I’m officially old?   Totally worth every exhausted minute, though.  A few highlights from my loooooooooong week:

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“Spa water” – cucumber + lime + mint. I love keeping a pitcher in the fridge so that I’m more motivated to hydrate.

My aunt Molly and I share a love of granola (remember this?) – when I stopped by her house on my way out of Portland last weekend she sent me home with a yummy bottle of pinot gris and this bag of deliciousness – it’s made with coconut oil and coconut sugar and has been my after-dinner treat every night this week.  Healthy granola and pinot gris, best goody bag I could ever ask for.

Wine in a can, and with a bendy straw – what could be cuter?

Delicious Sunday night dinner at Cuoco – handmade parmigiano cappelletti with morel mushrooms, arugula, and peas; vanilla panna cotta with strawberries and Dahlia Bakery cookies + cappuccino.  It’s totally healthy as long as you’re sharing, right?

A few of my favorite details from Molly and Patrick’s wedding: hand-chalked welcome sign, gorgeous floral centerpieces, blueberry mojitos with striped straws being passed around during cocktail hour, and of course the spectacular Mt. Hood backdrop. It was such a fun weekend celebrating with old friends and new, and the perfect kick off to Wedding Season 2013. Congrats Molls and Pat!

 

Fourth of July Faves

In honor of one of my favorite holidays, this week’s favorites are a day early and appropriately themed.  To me, the Fourth of July really symbolizes the beginning of summer.  I have so many wonderful memories of celebrating our nation’s independence – decorating our bikes to ride in the neighborhood parade, watching the biggest fireworks show west of the Mississippi (at least it used to be!), and of course making as many red, white, and blue treats as I could think of for backyard barbeques or picnics on the beach.

 {patriotic glassybaby duo: happiness and blue bird}

{healthy treat: coconut water blended with frozen strawberries and a blueberry swizzle stick}

{my summer obsession: striped straws}

{new red and white striped skirt from the Banana sale + navy C bracelet}

{classic Fourth of July dessert: flag cake }

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, and hopefully a four day weekend! Happy Birthday, America!