Paul, Albus and I spent the week in New Lebanon, NY with my grandparents. Complete with fields to run through, gardens to tend, a pond to swim in, and plenty to cook and eat! Did I mention that it was a million degrees out this week. Normally I am an anti-air conditioner kind-of person – Rise above the elements! as my grandpa says – but it’s just too damn hot and I was very, very, very grateful for the artificial relief of cold blasting into my face!
This is not the kind of weather for a heavy meal (it’s probably not the kind of weather to turn the oven on either, but I caved on that one and turned the AC up…my morals go right out the window when there is sweat in my eyes)
When I want something that’s satisfying yet light I go for a nice flaky white fish. This time I grabbed Halibut and cooked it up with leeks, tomatoes and Kalamata olives. As a side I made a quick summer Risotto.
You may guffaw when I say this, but I don’t think Risotto is as difficult as the stereotype would have you believe. Tedious, yes. but not difficult. and when you add fresh basil, lemon zest, a ton of garlic, and baby peas it makes a perfect summer side dish.
12 cloves of garlic – roughly chopped
½ a large shallot (about 2 tbspn) – thinly sliced
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ cups of arborrio rice – wide short grain white rice
17 oz coconut water
4+ cups of fish stock – may need more or less, it varies evey time
1/8 cup lemon juice
2 tbspn lemon zest
4 tbspn fresh basil – finely chopped
salt and pepper
Start by cooking the shallots and garlic with the olive oil and butter, and a heaping tsp of salt and pepper, over medium heat in a large heavy bottom stock pot/dutch oven. While these cook, heat the stock and the coconut water in a sauce pan on the stove over medium heat, bring to a simmer and then turn it to low. Once the veggies are sweaty (soft and translucent) add the rice.
Stir the rice in and allow it toast for a few minutes – this helps release the starch which creates the creamy texture later.
Now it’s time to begin adding your stock – which should never be cold, room temp is ok, but simmering is better. Add ONLY A CUP of stock to the rice – this is clutch for risotto, if you dump all the liquid in at once it will never become creamy, just a mushy mess. Stir and cover the pot, check it after a few minutes. Once the liquid is absorbed stir the rice again and add another cup of stock, stir and cover.
This is what I mean by easy but tedious. Keep going like this until the rice is cooked through – I taste it after the third cup of stock is absorbed.
You should see the rice starting to become creamy at this point. When the rice is just undercooked uncover the pot, add a final cup of stock and stir continuously until the liquid is absorbed. It should now be especially creamy.
Now is also the time to add the last three ingredients and more salt and pepper if it needs it.
The Beauty of being a chef/cook is that you get to taste everything, including the wine. This is what I do while waiting for the stock to absorb in between stirrings…
Then on to the fish…well really the fish was in the oven first so that it all finishes at the same time…so, then on to the fish recipe!
Braised Halibut with Leeks, Tomatoes and Kalamata Olives in a white wine fish broth:
½ cup of pittied Kalamata Olives – roughly chopped
¼ cup of roughly chopped basil – I just threw in two handfulls
12 cloves of garlic – roughly minced
1 giant leek – cut into small, half-moon pieces and rinsed very well!
3 cups of cherry tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil
1+ lb of Halibut – cut into six pieces (add more fish if you’re serving more people)
½ cup dry white wine
1 – 2 cups of fish stock
Combine the first 6 ingredients in a roasting pan, toss to combine then flatten out evenly. Press the fish pieces down into the veggies so that the sides are covered, but the top is still exposed – don’t make the fish touch each other, each piece should be surrounded by veg.
Generously sprinkle the whole thing with salt and pepper, pour over the wine followed by enough fish stock to barley cover the conents – you want enough broth so that you can see it on the surface, but not covering everything.
Cover the dish with tin foil and bake at 375’ F for 40 minutes, then uncover, raise the temp to 405’F and bake for another 15 minutes. The broth will keep the fish from drying out while the veggies have the chance to brown. Serve over rice, and be sure to spoon some of the broth over the top!
Alas the dog will be very depressed when we head back to Brooklyn tomorrow…me too if truth be told. Especially this time of year, I find the city is too crowded and really just too grandiose for me. Maybe I’m just falling for the “back-to-the-land” trend of my generation or perhaps I really was a pioneer woman in another life, either way over the past few years I am moving steadily towards packing up and moving out of NY to start a farm
and my boys seem to like country living too (sickeningly cute isn’t it? This just makes me happy).
Maybe soon this will turn into a fresh from the farm blog, but for now I will content myself with fresh ingredients from summer farmers markets and meandering through Prospect Park :)