I eat bruschetta at least once a week. In fact, I’m getting ready to make it for lunch today. I like it simple, tomatoes tossed with olive oil and salt, maybe some torn fresh basil, piled onto toasted good bread that I sometimes rub with garlic. It’s light, and healthy, and easy, and perfect. When I’ve over done it, which is often (I had two dinners last night: a brie sandwich at 6 AND fish and chips at 10), this is what I revert back to.
For dinner, if I want something similar, but more elegant, or more hearty, I actually turn a piece of Chilean sea bass into bruschetta. The fish is thick, but buttery and flaky, and I sear it in olive oil, super simply, just until it’s crispy on the edges, and just cooked through. Then, and this is the secret, I rub it with a cut clove of garlic. Like with garlic bread, but it’s garlic fish. So good. Then, I pile it high with a salad of tomatoes, and olive oil, and basil, so all the tomato juices run down into the ravines in the fish, and the salad is so fresh and light you can’t help feeling like some virtuous kitchen saint, when really you’re eating something so good, you don’t care about actually being good. You’re going to love it, plus, it dresses up nice for company. Bon app!
Bruschetta Sea Bass
2 5 to 6-ounce boneless, skinless Chilean sea bass fillets
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
½ pint grape tomatoes
12 large basil leaves
1 clove garlic
Season the fish with salt. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Place the fish presentation-side-down in the hot oil, sear until golden brown, about 4½ minutes. Flip the fish, and sear another 2 to 2½ minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes in a mini food processor to a chunky chop (you can do this by hand too). Stir with basil and remaining olive oil, and salt.
When the fish is done, cut the garlic clove in half, and rub the cut end all over the hot fish. Divide the tomato salad over the top, or on the side, of the fish, and serve right away. Bon app!
As a London resident, I have become a bar-none fried fish fanatic. The juxtaposition of that crispy exterior with a soft and steaming interior of flaky fish is so scrumptious. And so satisfying. I use a po’ boy preparation on these mahi mahi fillets. Usually, I soak oysters in buttermilk, then coat them in a flour-cornmeal mixture before frying and stuffing them into soft French bread. For this fish, I whiz the buttermilk up with smoky, spicy chipotle in adobo, that infuses the fish with all that charred, vinegary heat. Only then do I coat it in that crispy cornmeal coating. Pile this hot, crispy, spicy fish onto a hoagie roll with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and mayo for a New Orleans-style po’ boy. Or slice it and bury it into the Chipotle Slaw tacos from a few weeks ago. Or serve it on a charred bun with some of next week’s Chipotle Ketchup. It’s simple, inexpensive, a little bit special, and seriously good.
In a blender, whiz together the buttermilk, chipotles, and adobo. Place in a large sealable baggie with the fish, and marinate for 1 hour.
Heat 1 inch of oil in a cast iron skillet, and preheat to 375°F. Mix together the salt, flour, and cornmeal. Dredge the fish in the coating, and then fry, two at a time, for 3 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with lemon wedges, or on a bun with chipotle cole slaw.
If there was ever a breakfast that you’d eat in a silk robe and really fluffy slippers, this is it. Huge chunks of fluffy egg, tempered with half and half. And best of all, studded and stirred with heady, earthy, better-than-anything black truffle butter. Could a day ever start out more luxuriously?
The trick to these eggs is to beat some soft black truffle butter into the eggs themselves, so that as the eggs cook, the butter melts in, leaving flecks of the extra-special ingredient like black gold all throughout mounds of fluffy moonlight eggs. The second trick is to move the eggs very little as they cook, so they form large fluffy clouds. Fluffy truffled scrambled eggs just screams bellinis in bed, but it’s also perfect for real life. It takes seconds to whip together, and uses only four ingredients.
2 teaspoons black truffle butter, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons, softened
Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Whisk together the eggs, half and half, salt and pepper, and 2 teaspoons softened black truffle butter until well combined.
Spray the skillet lightly with nonstick spray. Add the remaining truffle butter, and once it has melted, add the eggs. Allow it to cook for at least 20 seconds. Only then, drag a silicone spatula from the edges of the pan, to the center, moving the cooked egg from the bottom in big clumps, and making room for the uncooked egg to settle on the bottom of the pan. Do this a few more times, until the eggs are just set. They will cook for a total of about 2 minutes. Serve right away.
You know in the cartoons, when Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck has some genius idea, and a light bulb goes off in the corner of the screen? I may not have a tail or whiskers or feathers or be drawn in marker, but I swear that exact thing happened to me when I thought about mixing melted Camembert and pasta.
The method behind this easier-than-easy mac ‘n’ cheese comes from fondue. Sometimes, for a lazy fondue, I buy a small round wheel of brie. Wheels of brie come in little wooden boxes, and if you wrap those wooden boxes tightly in foil, nestle the brie in, and bake it for an hour, you have a seriously good fondue with no effort. Just cut away a little hole in the rind, and dip in your bread and apples like a man going ice fishing.
For this recipe, I shove some garlic and herbs down into a wheel of pungent Camembert and let the whole thing melt together in the little foil box. Then, I scoop out the inside of the cheese and put it in the blender with some starchy cooking water from the fusilli. The result is a perfectly creamy sauce, that tastes of roasted garlic, thyme, and that pungent Camembert flavor that gets stuck in the twists and turns of the al dente corkscrew pasta. It is so different, and addictive, and works as a big vegetarian bowl or as a side to a hearty meatloaf or roast chicken. It’s familiar, but that extra kick of the Camembert makes it different and special and really, really good.
It may not be reinventing the wheel. But it’s making damn good use of one.
Excerpted from my weekly column Franglais on The Huffington Post.
Oh-So-Easy Baked Camembert Corkscrews
8 ounces Camembert (the round one in the wooden box)
2 cloves garlic, halved
The leaves from 4 stems thyme
Salt and pepper
1 pound fusilli pasta
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Take the camembert out of the box, and cut the very top white rind off only the top of the cheese (leave the sides and bottom intact). Wrap the box the cheese came in completely and tightly in foil. Place the cheese cut side up back in its box. Season with salt and pepper. Top with the garlic and thyme. Close the box, place it on a small rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 1 hour.
Boil the pasta until al dente is salted water. Drain, reserving ½ cup cooking liquid. Add ¼ cup pasta cooking water to the blender, and scoop the melted cheese, leaving the white rind behind, into the blender as well. Purée until smooth, and return to the pasta pot.
Add the pasta back in, and toss to coat. Use the remaining pasta water to thin out the sauce if necessary. Serve right away.
I am obsessed with tuna burgers. They have that whole burger thing going on, with the bun, and the toppings, and the casualness of it all. I love that familiarity and simplicity. But I feel so much better after I eat tuna burgers than when I devour a bacon cheeseburger. And while tuna burgers may seem to be the exclusive domain of restaurants, they are actually even easier to make at home, by far, than the regular beef version.
This tuna burger is home-ground, and flavored with a sprinkle of soy sauce. I sear it, and serve it on a brioche roll with wasabi mayo, butter lettuce, and pickled ginger. It’s like a tuna roll on a bun. I leave the inside nice and rare, but the great thing about tuna burgers is that you can serve them exactly how you like them. They take five minutes to make, stretch a dollar, and double as both gourmet and comforting. I promise, these will be entering your regular rotation starting tonight. (And I’ll be eating them with you!)
Rare Japanese Tuna Burger with Wasabi Mayo and Pickled Ginger
Rare Japanese Tuna Burgers with Wasabi Mayo and Pickled Ginger
4 slider buns, halved horizontally
¾ pound fresh sushi-grade tuna steak
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon wasabi
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
Butter or Boston or Bibb lettuce
Preheat a large nonstick skillet on high heat, and place the buns, cut-side-down in the pan to lightly toast. Remove them when they are golden brown.
While the buns are toasting, cut the tuna into chunks. Put the chunks in a food processor with the soy sauce and a pinch of salt and pulse until the tuna has the same texture as ground beef. Take the tuna out of the food processor, and form into 4 patties.
Make the wasabi mayonnaise by whisking together the wasabi and the mayonnaise.
Make the burgers. With the pan on high heat, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the pan and immediately put the tuna burgers in. I cook them 30 to 60 seconds on each side, because I like them super rare. Use a slotted spatula to flip them over. Take the pan off the heat when you are done cooking the burgers.
Spread some wasabi mayo on each bun. Top the burger with some lettuce (I forgot it in the video, but you should use it!) and pickled ginger. Serve with cucumber salad on the side (I toss chunks of cucumbers with soy sauce and sesame seeds). You’re done!
There is a restaurant in Miami called Mercadito that has the most amazing guacamoles. There are about seven, in all different flavors. But my favorite is the chipotle. The smoky vinegariness is the kind of stuff I dream about, cutting through that fatty avocado. It just works.
This is my version, spicy, smoky, rich, and delicious. I usually pair it with hot black beans and stuff ungodly amounts of the stuff into warm corn tortillas. Extra cilantro never hurts.
Ras-el-hanout is a traditional Moroccan spice blend, one my great grandfather used to sell in Casablanca long before I was born. It translates to “head of the shop,” and every shop and household and grandmother has its own version which, in true Moroccan fashion, they all swear is the absolute best, most superior, unsurpassed in heaven or on earth. Its value stems from the use of sweet spices in a savory application, and it is traditionally used to season couscous. I, however, have been using it nonstop on seafood, adding it to calamari batter and sprinkling it on fish skin before searing. There’s an inherent sweetness and savoriness to seafood as well, and the match, well, unsurpassed in heaven or on earth.
With this simple, but special, rare seared tuna, I coat the tuna in ras-el-hanout, and let it marinate for hours, for the spices really penetrate the outer flesh of the fish. Then, I give it a quick sear, slice it up, and serve it with spicy harissa instead of wasabi, and lemon wedges instead of soy sauce. It’s like, my French Moroccan interpretation of tuna tataki.
Coat the outside of all the tuna with the ras-el-hanot. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat a skillet over high heat. Season the fish with salt, and add the canola oil to the pot. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the tuna to the pan. Sear 1 minute on the first side, and 1 minute on the second. Allow to rest 10 minutes, then slice. Serve with harissa and lemon wedges on the side.