Sometimes I blow my own mind with my culinary brilliance. And sarcasm. And cheekiness. ("Cheeky" is probably my most favorite of my husband's South Africanisms. I also love when he says I "chirp" and "cluck." And that he pronounces "hooves" like "WHO-vz.")
What also blows my mind is its unfailing tendency to daydream about cooking and baking all.the.time. Especially at work. Here's how last night's dinner came about.
Meeting, 9:24 a.m.
I need to make something with the rest of the zucchini in the fridge. Should I make zucchini muffins? Pleh. I don't want anything sugary. [I notice a colleague's grosgrain ribbon necklace and it reminds me of the butternut squash ribbons in Sunday's lasagna.] Hmm. I'll bet the zucchini would be good peeled into ribbons and sauteed with the end-of-summer tomatoes and basil from our CSA box. Like a pasta-less pasta alla marinara.
Conference Call, 11:49 a.m.
I'll flavor the sauce with the remnants of the shallots, onions and garlic that are hanging around. And that Basque olive mix left over from whoknowswhen we last had people over. And a splash of the sauvignon blanc Laird opened last night. I'll let everything simmer and reduce, then add the zucchini ribbons at the end to steam and soften for a few minutes.
Staff Meeting, 2:32 p.m.
So this dish is going to be enough for me for dinner, but not for Laird. He's going to need protein. Steak? Salmon? Hmm. [Boring rundown of protein thought process deleted.]
Whole Foods, 6:44 p.m.
I'm not feeling the steak. The salmon looks icky. The black sea bass looks amazing. I'll season it with salt and pepper and either poach it with the tomato sauce, or pan roast it in olive oil and butter. [Mmm this cheese sample is delicious. I think I'll buy a wedge of it to put in my fridge and forget.]
Yep. I think about food all.the.time.
It helps me get through my days.
And here's a recipe to help you empty your fridge (or CSA box or garden) and summon the last bits of Summer.
Pan Roasted Black Sea Bass with Cheeky Zucchini Ribbons Alla Marinara
Makes two generous portions
Note: I honestly didn't measure anything that went into this dish, but I do know the weights of the zucchini, tomatoes and sea bass, so there's that. Everything else about this recipe is an (experienced) approximation. You should also know that when I cook, I season with salt and pepper throughout. However I don't really address this until the end of my recipes, when I usually instruct you to "season to taste with salt and pepper." So all I can say is, season as you wish.
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium shallot, minced
1/4 medium onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 lbs tomatoes, such as plum, cut into large dice
1/4 cup olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup chiffonade (of?) basil
1 1/2 lbs zucchini, sliced into long ribbons with a vegetable peeler
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
2 pieces black sea bass, about 1/2 lb each
1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet. Add the shallot, onion, garlic, tomatoes, olives and basil. Saute over medium heat until mixture softens and begins to form a sauce, about 7-10 minutes. Add the zucchini ribbons, toss to combine, and cook for about 3-5 minutes or until the zucchini begins to soften. (The zucchini releases quite a bit of liquid, so I removed it from the pan to a dish, then simmered and reduced the sauce for about 5 more minutes.
2. Meanwhile, season fish with salt and pepper. In another large pan or skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil with the butter until the butter solids begin to froth. Add the fish and cook for about 5-8 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Shhh, don't disturb the fish except to turn it over after the first side is cooked, otherwise you won't get a nice crust.
3. Pile zucchini ribbons in a pasta bowl or on a plate, arrange fish on top, and spoon marinara over.
4. Season to taste (at whatever point you wish) with salt and pepper. (See? Cheeky!)
P.S. Tony, this fish bone is for you.