Thursday, another start of a four-day weekend, was spent in the kitchen. It was gorgeous outside, and it would have been a perfect day to lay on the beach, but all the travel, sand, and that return trip with sand stuck in your butt crack didn't sound too attractive, so I decided to devote it to an Umamimart-worthy cooking challenge.
A couple weeks ago, I made roasted tomato soup (so that I can still enjoy tomato, without a scratchy throat). I bought beautiful heirloom tomatoes and decided to recreate it.
2lbs. of tomato
Cut tomatoes, onions, and peel garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and salt and pepper it. Put in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Dump the whole thing into a pot, add about 3-4 cups of chicken broth, cook another 30 minutes.
You can also use regular consomme (MSG, but it does make it better). I think chicken stock by itself is a bit too weak.
Do you know natural umami is included in tomato, seaweed (the konbu kind), and mushrooms? I happen to have porcini mushroom powder on hand (I bought it in Italy last summer, but sat in the pantry for a year untouched), so I sprinkled some in.
After half hour of simmering, add handful of basil, and blend together until smooth. You can add a bit of cream if you would like.
This can be served hot or cold. And you thought I was using this as a starter, right? Especially with some of the No-Knead Bread I made would go pretty well to dip in the soup.
But read on...
I had a huge bunch of basil, so naturally I made pesto.
1/3 cup of pine nuts
3 cups of basil
1/2 cup of olive oil
Blend together. FYI, I didn't add any parmesan to the pesto. I think you are supposed to use it all immediately if you put cheese in it. I wasn't sure how long it would take me to use the pesto up, so I figured if needed, I would add the cheese later on.
Leftover basil stalks can be a nice flower arrangement for the table as well.
What to do with the pesto?
This is the main part of the challenge. I went to Chinatown, and bought a whole snapper. I've never filleted a fish in my life. I can gut a squid, or boil an octopus without fear, but something about the eyes, flesh and the whole appearance of a fish in general has made me not want to deal with it. One reason I decided not to cook lobster any more is that fear. Something about seafood with eyes/hands/claws freak me out too much.
But I was inspired by Yoko's Japanify posts, and decided I had to overcome my fear.
I will post a Japanify-esque post next week on how to fillet a fish. For now, all it matters are fresh pieces of snappers.
I forgot to take a picture, but fillet pieces are nicely chilled in the fridge.
I had bi-color sweet New Jersey corns, as well as roman beans.
Roman beans are a lot sweeter than regular green beans, and I simply sauteed them with butter, salt and pepper.
So you think I had roasted tomato soup as an appetizer, and snapper with a side of corn/roman beans?
Instead, I combined everything into One Hell of a Dish, to make it look restaurant-style.
First pour a bit of soup on the bottom of a plate.
Place corn/roman beans on the center.
Here comes the pesto. I smeared pesto on top of the skin of the fish, and pan fried them. Sprinkle salt and pepper, then smear pesto. I coated them with flour for extra crunchy outside.
Place fish on top of corn/beans.
One Hell of a Dish complete.
I overdid it. I should have served soup as is, with crusty bread, and served fish and corn/beans on the side.
Soup overpowered the rest. It was good, but each item would have been savored better if I served them separately. Oh well, at least it looked good, and my efforts of schlepping down to C-Town, having a bit of a surgeon's experience by cutting up the fish, and the whole apartment smelling like basil was not bad.
I am currently looking for a photographer who can come to my apartment every time I cook and take pictures. If I took all the pictures of this weekend full of cooking and baking, I wouldn't have to worry about what to post for next four weeks at least. Blueberry tart (easiest and the best recipe!), shelled mussels with leftover roasted tomato soup pasta, ground chicken/shiso/corn meatballs, deep fried eggplants soaked in dashi/daikon radish sauce, spicy ground beef/oyster sauce topping on chinese broccoli, just to name a few. I won't pay you, but you can taste all of them.