One-Pan Barramundi on Greens and Onions with Dijon Sauce


One of my favorite fish preparations is to cook fillets right on top of vegetables. Could be tomatoes and chiles, eggplant and garlic, asparagus, celery and fennel, ratatouille (see below) or, as in this case, a big bunch of tender young greens stirred up with one big sautéed onion. Plain white fish is, after all, plain white fish. Vegetables make all the difference in the world. There’s still lemon, of course.

Below:  Ratatouille-Steamed Salmon with Jasmine Rice


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38 Power Foods, Week 11 — Spinach — B"L"T Risotto

Bacon, Spinach (the “L”), and Cherry Tomato Risotto
As a kid, spinach was not my thing.  It was that slimy stuff Popeye ate.  I didn’t care if he was strong.  If I had to eat spinach, I didn’t want to be strong.  I wanted nothing that slid whole cloth out of any can.
My own first child adored spinach.  By then, we’d reached the American culinary stage of  gorgeous gooey-cheesy baked spinach casseroles with crispy crumbled crackers on top.  Enabled by grocery store freezers filled with vegetables year-round, we chopped, mixed, added soup or cheese, and threw stuff into ovens to our heart’s content.  We were eating vegetables, weren’t we?  And we liked anything with cheese or sour cream or dried onion soup mix.

Fast forward to our awakening to spinach as a cold-weather vegetable.  To Fed-Ex produce departments continually full of the dirty stuff.  (Spinach was filthy then and still is if you grow it yourself or buy it at the farmer’s market.)  Press again and see the last few years of  clean “baby” spinach in plastic boxes we don’t know what to do with.  (Whole Foods recycles them, by the way; our own recyclers don’t.) 
However we’ve had spinach, it’s been pretty good for and to us.  Full of iron, vitamin C, folate, beta-carotene and vitamin K, this dark leafy, inexpensive and accessible green is beautiful!
Here spinach is mixed with baby kale for a powerful side.
I eat spinach nearly daily:
Herb-Spinach Egg White Omelet

If I don’t make an egg white omelet, I make salad or have spinach instead of lettuce on a sandwich or..

Alyce’s Tomatoed Cod on Fennel with Sauteed Spinach

 I might pair it with fennel as a side for my fish.

Yesterday, my tomatoes (volunteers left on their own for the summer) were picked by a neighbor and deposited on my back step.  She knew I’d been away; she’s a gardener.

These were volunteers from the yard and driveway.  I left them to see what’d happen over the summer. They took over the side bed.

Hybrids ready to eat; they were pretty tasty!

 Hot on the back porch, the tomato scent wafted dizzily through me when I reached down and picked up the container.  What to do with them besides pop one (ok, three) in my mouth as is?

My larder isn’t full yet; we’ve only been home from Colorado for a couple of days.  I did, however, have bacon in small packages in the freezer (one of my mainstays), rice in the pantry, and spinach (which serves as the L in BLT) in the frig.  Way back in the corner was an old chunk of Parmesan our house sitter hadn’t eaten.  B”L”T Risotto was born.  Need I tell you this was the risotto from heaven? (Neighbor got a bowl, too.) Try it today:

b “l” t risotto

2-3 pieces bacon, chopped into 1″ pieces
1T butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup arborio rice
Pinch crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 cup white wine
4-5 cups chicken stock, low sodium
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 – 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach leaves

Set table before you begin.

  1. In a heavy 4 qt saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat until nearly crisp and remove to a paper-towel lined plate leaving bacon fat in pot.  Set aside.   Add butter and onion to the saucepan.  Cook 4-5 minutes until onion is softened; add garlic and rice.  Stir in crushed red pepper, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper.  Stir well to coat rice.  Cook 1 minute or so. 
  2. Add white wine; raise heat a bit.  Cook a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until wine is absorbed. 
  3.  Add 2 cups warm chicken stock and cook about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until broth is absorbed.   Repeat.  Add last cup of broth (if rice is still too hard to eat–you want it between al dente and fall-apart tender.) Please relax about constantly stirring the risotto.  Pour a glass of wine, turn on the music, and stir only as necessary.
  4.  Stir in tomatoes, Parmesan, spinach, and reserved bacon. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.  
  5. Serve hot with steamed green beans or asparagus. (See below.)   Pass black pepper at table. 

I liked a crisp grassy Sancerre with this, but I like a crisp grassy Sancerre with almost anything.  Chardonnay, which is lovely with creamy dishes, would also drink.

    Note re seasonings:  The heat of the crushed red pepper is one that will build in your mouth as you eat the risotto; be careful not to add too much black pepper at the end.

    Cook’s Note:  For ease of preparation, here’s how I do the asparagus or beans in the microwave while the last cup of broth is cooking away in the risotto pan:

    Just 2 minutes for rinsed (no more water) asparagus on high:

    Beans will take a couple of extra minutes unless they’re haricots verts.  Add a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of pepper.

    Sing a new song; eat risotto, too,

    38 Power Foods, Week 3 — Avocado– Chicken-Guacamole Salad

                                                                         Chicken-Guacamole Salad with a Big Squeeze of Fresh Lime… 

    If you live in the part of world where it’s summer, this is your dinner.  Because it’s just too hot to cook nearly anything.  Grill up a few chicken breasts at a time and you’ll have plenty for this meal and tomorrow’s, too.  (Chicken tacos?  Chicken salad sandwiches?)  This guacamole couldn’t be better or easier:  chop up a simple pico de gallo and stir it into avocados.  Some cut-up or sliced chicken, greens, some lime?  You’re already eating.   Buy your avocados a couple of days ahead and let them ripen on the counter or in a paper bag if your grocery doesn’t carry ripe avocados.   Try this:

    chicken-guacamole salad                             3-4 servings

    • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped roughly, divided
    • 1/2 cup fresh green pepper, chopped in 1/2″ pieces
    • 1/4 cup red sweet pepper, chopped in 1/2 ” pieces
    • 1/2 jalapeño, minus seeds and veins, very finely minced (for more heat, use the whole pepper)
    • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
    • 1 cup roughly chopped tomatoes
    • 2 ripe avocados,  peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
    • 1 cup cooked rice seasoned with a light sprinkle of salt and pepper
    • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
    • 1 Lime, cut in half  (Cut one of the halves into slices)
    • 2 chicken breasts, grilled and chopped
    • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
    • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar grated

    Mix cilantro through tomatoes in a large bowl, reserving 2 T cilantro.  Stir in avocados.   Mix the reserved 2 T cilantro into the cooked rice and add the rice to the guacamole salad. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Squeeze half of the lime over the salad. Add chopped chicken breasts and spinach and stir gently. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve mounded, with a piece of lime on each plate to use at table.

    Cook’s Notes: Don’t even have the energy to chop, stir, or cook?  Buy a roasted deli chicken and pre-made guac for an even easier meal.  Many shops now sell freshly-made pico de gallo or salsa.  The packages of microwave rice would work well for this dinner and would cut both time and kitchen heat.

    Wine?  Not.  It’s time for a margarita or a beer.  (Ok,  Sangria,  Riesling or an Oregon Pinot Blanc if you have to have wine.) 

    Dessert?  Lemon sorbet. 

    about avocados from the California avocado commission

                                                                                                                                                                                             courtesy ca avocado commission

    Calories, yes.  Cholesterol, no.

    Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. They also act as a “nutrient booster” by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha and beta-carotene and lutein, in foods that are eaten with the fruit.

    Avocados and Cardiovascular Disease

    Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but a healthy diet and exercise plan may help reduce your risk of developing the life-threatening illness.
    The American Heart Association (AHA) Dietary Guidelines recommend a diet that has at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, contains up to 30% of calories from fats (primarily unsaturated) and is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fats and sodium while being rich in potassium. Avocados can help you meet the AHA dietary guidelines because they have both monosaturated and polyunsaturated fat and contain potassium.


      Want more avocado recipes?

    If you liked this, you might like other avocado recipes like  Shrimp Cobb from More Time at the Table


    Pico de Gallo Halibut on Warm Rice Salad with Bacon Pintos from More Time at the Table

    Every Friday for the foreseeable future, I’ll be blogging one of the 38 healthiest ingredients from POWER FOODS : 150 DELICIOUS RECIPES WITH THE 38 HEALTHIEST INGREDIENTS by the editors of Whole Living Magazine. 

    38 Power Foods is a group effort!   Stop by these other blogs and see what they’re cooking each week as we team up to bring you some of the healthiest cooking available:

    Jill – SaucyCooks 

    Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
    As we go along, I’m guessing we’ll get some other writers involved.  If you’re interested in joining the gang writing each week, get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:

    two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood
      first three taken with my iphone

    Sweet Peas next door in front yard
    My hydrangeas from the west garden
    South garden hostas in bloom


    All the toys are mine, you see.  Right?


    Sing a new song,

    Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera–All from Trader Joe’s

    Welcome spring!

    If you shop Trader Joe’s, you might know Israeli couscous–a bit more like round orzo than couscous.  Maybe you buy it?  And if you live in the metro D.C. area or read papers online, you might have read a recipe from the Washington Post a few weeks ago for a Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera.  I do not live in the D.C. area, though I did for years; these days my traveling husband occasionally brings me a WP home to Saint Paul.  I’m always glad to get it because it was the first paper away from Chicago to which I became really attached.   And as a food blogger, I like seeing what’s going on somewhere else food-wise.   If  you’re a regular reader, you know I rarely blog a recipe from a newspaper.  Until recently when I jumped on board the fun 50 Women Game-Changers in Food blogging adventure, I  blogged almost exclusively original recipes. This one’s yummy, though, and I wanted it on my own site–if only for my own self!  You can, and I did, buy everything you need to make this recipe at any Trader Joe’s.

    I don’t know how you feel about Trader Joe’s.  People praise it to the highest heavens and you would have thought our lives were being saved from the plague if you listened to the around-town chat before the store opened on its tight corner with underground parking.   I was in grad school at St. Thomas that summer, and even I heard about it.   And this is a city with fine, locally-owned groceries we can walk to in nearly every neighborhood.  The beauty of Saint Paul!

    So I’m of mixed emotions over what’s there–inside Trader Joe’s, I mean.  First off, I’m not drinking that wine not no-how.  Not even in Sangria.  I mean, have you tasted it?   I’d rather drink Coke and be sober.   Secondly, the produce (even though you can get cool things like fresh English peas) looks a little sad, a bit used, and not real green in both its meanings.  I mean, why wrap Italian parsley up on paper plates and in plastic?  The other thing is I have the sense (with no reason, I think) that some of this food might be processed in ways I wouldn’t like or in China maybe.   I feel like a snob.  And guess I am.  I repeat:  I have no basis for these feelings or ideas.  I even looked on the boxes of a few things I bought.  The Israeli couscous, for instance, says “Made in Israel.”  Duh.  The canned salmon is wild from Alaska.  Huh.

    The chef is always right.  This sign is right by my main prep space.  Just cookin’.

    But I go.  Once in a while.  I’ll only go at very specified times.  Like 10am on Tuesday.  If you try and shop at our Trader Joe’s in the afternoon, evening, or on the weekends, you just can’t get in and out of the parking lot or nearby streets.  The location, albeit the only one they could obtain in our city, is crowded, crowded.   While I’m there, I grab up stuff like sparkling pink lemonade in beautiful liter bottles, peanut-butter stuff pretzel chunks that are addictive, boxes of 100-calorie each scrumptious Belgian milk chocolate, and maybe even a plant or two.  Sometimes a little cheese, though I feel guilty not buying it at our local cheese shop, St. Paul Cheese, which is all of four blocks from my house.

    Just because I should, I did a little digging and, if you’d like, you can read a professional review–a bit dated– of Trader Joe’s here.  It’s all good.  Nothing to substantiate my weird, stuck up feelings.
    Well,  now that that’s off my chest…I can go on about the recipe.  Right?

    I tape upcoming recipes on the door.
    Things I’m testing or things I’d like to make sometime go up.  The couscous was up for a while before I got to it.

    A wonderfully simple all-in-one spring side dish (or summer-add whatever vegetables), we enjoyed this as a foil to a rosemary-roasted pork loin drizzled with homemade barbeque sauce for our second annual “Lilacs are Blooming” dinner party.  (A leek soup with a bit of bacon was the first course that night, but that’s another blog.)  Appearing and tasting something like  risotto, this is much easier; the couscous is cooked in only 10 minutes and the entire dish in about 15–no long-lived ladling and stirring.     My notes or changes are in red.   Try this:

    toasted israeli couscous primavera  courtesy WP/Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
      4 main-dish servings; 6 side-dish servings

    2T olive oil, divided
    2/3 c chopped scallions (1 bunch, white and light green parts)  I used ramps
    1 1/2 cups dried Israeli couscous
    Freshly ground black pepper
    1 3/4 cups no-salt added or homemade chicken broth, heated just to boiling
    Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon (2t zest, 2T juice)
    8 oz asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 1″ pieces
    1 cup frozen peas, defrosted, or blanched fresh peas
    2 oz baby spinach leaves
    Aleppo pepper to taste
    2T fresh parsley, chopped

    1. Heat 1 T of the oil in a 2-3 qt over medium heat.  Add the sallions; cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until just softened.
    2. Add the couscous and season with salt and pepper to taste; stir to combine.  Add the hot broth, lemon zest and juice.
    3. Bring to a boil and add asparagus and peas; cover.  Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat so the broth is barely bubbling at the edges, until the liquid has been absorbed and the couscous is cooked through.
    4. Combine the spinach, the parsley and the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large serving bowl.  Add the cooked couscous and vegetables and stir until the spinach has wilted.  
    5. Dust with aleppo pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Serve immediately.

    Author’s Notes:  Couscous cooks quickly, and when it’s done, it will stick to the pan.   Keep a close eye on it, and stir every few minutes.  After cooking, the couscou will clump together if you let the dish sit too long.  Serve immediately, or add more oil if you plan to make the dish ahead of time.  Vegetable broth can be substituted for the chicken broth if desired.

    My notes:  I didn’t add more oil, but I did add more broth to keep the dish moist.  I made it  right before our guests arrived for dinner, turned it off, and reheated it for serving.  It was tender,  moist, quite warm, and was not over-cooked even though I had kept it covered.

    Made Derby pies for a friend’s Derby party…

    Congratulations to Poor Man’s Feast--the blogging winner for the James Beard Awards!  Give a shout-out!

    Sing a new song,

    Bacon Caprese or Make Cheese While the Sun Shines

    While food trends wax and wane (Remember cupcakes?), I never-ha!-fall into the kitschy traps other foodies do.  I did make gingerbread cupcakes for Super Bowl a couple of years ago, but I would have done that anyway.  And you aren’t reading about pork belly here, though I’ve nothing against it.  But I fall off the wagon a bit about bacon.  While I am definitely NOT a bacon fanatic (and it’s on menus in quite odd places), my husband definitely IS.  But he has been a bacon fanatic since Eisenhower was president.
    His favorite movie moment is in “Grumpier Old Men,”

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    Let’s Diet-You go First or Hot Springs Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

    Let’s diet.
    You go first.

    In an effort to increase health (which includes weight loss), I’ve been on a kick to include more vegetables in our diet, and have been eating a lot of stir-fries, etc.  While we like Thai food a lot, I had a craving for something like that, but with more Mediterranean flavors….   Read that olive oil, lemon, basil, garlic and so on. 

    Yesterday, we had a huge old frittata for breakfast, trying to use up a bunch of eggs before our delivery arrives on Monday and we then have more eggs than at Easter.  Lots of vegetables (and a tiny slice of ham) went into that, but I still had tons left.  Also, dinner promised to include meat and pasta, so lunch needed to be all vegetables for balance.

    Salad?  No, I was tired of it.  I wanted real food but didn’t want rice, pasta, bread, meat or dairy for caloric purposes.   HMMMM…  I  finally just pulled stuff out of the vegetable bin, grabbed a huge saute pan, and cranked it up.   You could call this a French stir-fry, maybe?

    Big yum and absolutely no guilt.  Try it with whatever YOU have.

    Here’s what I did….

    Hot Springs Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
    serves 2

    3t olive oil, divided
    6 c fresh spinach
    1/4 c fresh parsley leaves, whole
    ½ medium red onion, diced/divided
    1 stalk celery, diced
    ½ yellow bell pepper, diced
    2 small zucchini sliced about 1/3” thick
    1 small yellow squash, sliced about 1/3” thick                                     
    6-8 stalks asparagus, well-trimmed, cut into 1” pieces

    1 clove garlic, grated or smashed and minced                     
    1/4 t kosher salt               
    1/8 t fresh ground pepper
    Pinch of crushed red pepper, optional
    8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
    4T fresh basil, chiffonade (sliced very thinly)
    2T fresh lemon juice

     (Above, right:  cooking spinach, parsley leaves and red onion)

    Vinaigrette: 2T each olive oil and fresh lemon juice, good pinches of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper (Whisk together well in small bowl.  This makes plenty; you might want less.)

    In a large skillet, warm 2t olive oil. Add spinach, parsley leaves, and half of the red onion. Saute over medium heat, until spinach has begun to wilt. Remove from pan and divide into two large, shallow bowls, pushing spinach to the edges of the bowl to form a ring.

    Put other 1t olive oil into skillet and add rest of onion, celery, pepper, squashes and asparagus. Saute over medium heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper. Add crushed red pepper if desired. Saute another 2 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat. Spoon these veggies into the middles of the bowls so that they are surrounded by the spinach ring. At center of each bowl, make a little mound of the cut cherry tomatoes and then sprinkle entire dish with the fresh basil. Squeeze fresh lemon over all. Drizzle with dressing and eat hot, warm or at room temperature.

                    Cooking the squash, asparagus, celergy, onions, garlic and peppers

    Need more to eat?  Serve with some whole wheat baguette or cook a little pasta or rice to go under the “salad.”

    Wine?   Chenin Blanc (or Vouvray) would do nicely…off-setting the acid from the lemon.

    Dessert?  A strawberry or two.

                                 The hot salad, ready for its close-up….

    Spring a new song,


    …….Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day…..
    I went to Bergen-Belsen once.
    I don’t think I’ll forget.