Monday, April 26, 2010

Fair-Weather Friend

I picked up this new cookbook at Half-Priced Books the other day, Simply Organic, A Cookbook for Sustainable, Seasonal and Local Ingredients by Jesse Ziff Cool. It had a couple recipes that looked good right off the bat and really pretty pictures. I like to buy cookbooks used because I am fickle about the ones I keep. This way, when I decide it isn't worth the shelf-space, it wasn't a huge waste of money. There is an inscription in the front of this one: Merry Christmas 2009! Love, Mom and Norman. Sweet, but I guess someone else is pretty fickle about their shelf-space also!

I spent quality time Friday waiting for my daughter in gymnastics reading all the recipes, marking the ones I want to try with post-its. I am happy to report that I have 16 post-its sticking out of this book! That is pretty good for fickle me.

The book is arranged by seasons; early spring, late spring, early summer, mid-summer, you get the picture. I marked one fall recipe, Autumn Vegetable Gratin and one winter recipe, Chicken with Dried Cherries, Capers and Chiles. All the rest of my post-its are sticking out of the spring and summer chapters. The post-it density is so lop-sided, it makes me wonder if it is me (I love tomatoes) or the cookbook (the winter recipes suck). If I was a stickler for organic, sustainable and local, we would have some serious problems come November!

Before the recession hit home, I was going every week to a local farmers market just down the street. It was just one farm, but they had a great variety of veggies. I liked knowing that these smiling farmers were the same ones tilling and planting. Ahhh! Organic, sustainable, local, and yummy. Healthy and guilt free for a price. Come late summer, though, panic sets in when the tomatoes are replaced by okra and greens. I am not from the south. Even fresh, local, sustainable okra is still okra. I just don't like it.

I love the idea of eating all organic, sustainable, seasonal... in the summer, when the eating is good. If I was a country girl, I guess I would can and preserve the bountiful summer harvest to use during the long cold winter. Somehow I just don't think that is going to happen. Not this year, at least.

Environmentally, there is no question that eating organic, local and sustainable is best. During the summer, as much local as possible! However, best for my family is eating fresh veggies from afar, rather than not eating fresh. Bad tomatoes are better than no tomatoes. Carrots for a snack in the dead of winter are far superior to anything processed. It is my guess that even Ms. Cool would agree that though Herb Stuff Artichokes are best in the early spring... eating them in November from South America is better than canned peas any day.  After all, I live in Texas. Artichokes are never local.

I don't really know if this week's recipe is seasonal or not... though I suspect not. However, until the farm-stand has "real" tomatoes, roasting the rock-hard ones you find at the store can be a nice tangy substitute. This is not quick eating, to be sure, but it worth the effort, and can be made ahead of time to help speed up the dinner time rush. I have made this recipe with Cod, Salmon and grilled chicken breasts. Though Salmon is my favorite, chicken is a nice substitute. Just sprinkle on some Herbs de Provence and a little garlic salt to season. Slice over beans and serve.

Salmon with White Beans and Roasted Tomatoes
*serves 4 with ample bean leftovers

2 lbs large tomatoes, cored and quartered
1lb cherry tomatoes, red and yellow if you can find them.
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil

1 large yellow onion, halved and cut into thin slices
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbl olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 cans Great Northern white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped and divided
2 tsp Herbs de Provence

1.5 lbs Salmon
Olive oil
Garlic Salt
Herbs de Provence
Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. In 9x13 glass baking dish, mix tomatoes, sugar salt and olive oil to coat. Roast for 35 to 50 minutes until cherry tomatoes are nicely browned and large tomatoes are falling apart.

In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat 2 tbl oil on Medium heat. Add slivered onions, salted liberally, cooking low and slow until slightly browned and very soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant. Add white beans, broth, half of the basil (hold remainder for garnish), and herbs. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, cooking for 15-20 minutes until some of the broth has evaporated and beans are very soft. Add in tomatoes and all their juices, stir to combine and adjust seasoning. Keep on low until ready to serve.

While beans are simmering, heat grill to high and make a tray for your salmon with a doubled sheet of foil. Olive oil the bottom of foil pan. Pat fish dry and season top of fish with garlic salt and herbs. Place seasoned side down on pan. Slide foil pan onto grill, adjusting heat to one notch under high. Grill 4-6 minutes on one side, checking to see if it is nicely browned. Flip Salmon with a large spatula and grill on skin-side for 4-5 minutes more, until cooked through, firm to the touch with only the slightest darkened flesh on the inside.
Break or slice salmon into serving sizes and serve over beans. Garnish with remaining basil.

Recipe Notes:
Tomatoes are ready to go into the oven!  This picture is from another meal that also roasts tomatoes, so you don't see the red and yellow cherry tomatoes in there.  They are cooked the same way, except if you have beefsteak or romas cut up, try to turn them cut side up.
Here the onions are just about ready.  A little browner and you are ready to add the garlic.

Add the beans, broth and spices and bring them toa boil.  I just figured out the Macro function on my camera, can you tell?

Ahhh, the tomatoes are in!  Costco had these great little yellow cherry tomatoes.  They are so good!
So, how do you turn a big piece of fish over on the grill?  Well, I think that you need these tools: a cookie sheet, big spatula and an old oven mitt.
Slide the cookie sheet under your foil pan and use the oven mitt to help bring the foil up and off of the flame.  Then stick your spatula under the fish to loosen it.  Get most of the fish under the spatula (as in the picture) and slightly tipping the cookie sheet, flip your fish. Maybe I need to video this?

The fish might come apart a bit, but with practice you should be able to keep it in one peice.  Then slide the foil back onto the flame.  Ta Da!


  1. I have a question for you. I have a hard time cooking with those beans, I feel like they are smooshy (yes, that is the technical term), looking a bit like raw turkey if not stirred carefully and leave a grainy film over everything else in the dish. I love the way they taste, but how to I stop them from making the dish look bad and a little grainy?

  2. Hmm. I don't think I have ever experience what you describe. Are you draining and rinsing them first? They certainly need to be rinsed well.
    You might want to try Cannellini beans instead, as they are a bit bigger and firmer. Let me know if that works!