cod poached in tomato broth

I’ve always been in favor of simplicity. To me, cozy nights in, snuggled on the couch with a favorite movie far outweigh a fancy night out on the town.  I will always choose a crinkled linen top and jeans over the latest designer trend. I wrap presents with brown paper and kitchen twine, not because it’s the “cool” thing to do, but because I find that the gift on the inside is more important than the part that will be ripped to shreds. Such is my philosophy with food: simple cooking is better cooking. 

To me, an ingredient’s integrity lies in its natural form. A carrot is best as a carrot. The less we fuss with that carrot, and the more we allow it to shine as itself, the more we will enjoy it. 

I didn’t always feel this way. There was a time when I thought the more complex the recipe, the better it would taste. In an attempt to impress, I would often overcomplicate a dish with redundant ingredients, adding a little of this and a little of that, until the individual components of the dish were lost in a labyrinth of flavor. It wasn’t until I starting really exploring my cooking style in culinary school — the ingredients and cuisines that inspired me — that I began to realize that the way I approach most of my life is also how I should approach food. That realization marked a turning point in how I cook. 

I’m here today to share a simple, yet flavorful take on poached fish — buttery cod fillets gently cooked in a light tomato broth, flavored with herbs, shishito peppers, garlic, spring onion, capers, and red pepper flakes for a bit of heat. It’s beautiful, summery, and deliciously uncomplicated. 


cod poached in tomato broth

This dish is deliciously comforting, but also light and summery. The tomato broth is flavored by fruity olive oil, herbs, and salty capers and serves as the poaching liquid for the cod, which is gently cooked until buttery soft. Everything is served together in one bowl, along with some oil-cured olives for a briny pop of flavor and some crusty bread to soak up all of the delicious broth. 

serves 4

 

ingredients

¼ cup olive oil, plus more for serving

3 spring onions, white parts only thinly sliced into rings

8 shishito peppers

2 garlic cloves, crushed + peeled

2 teaspoons salt-packed capers, rinsed

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

3 sprigs fresh parsley, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 (14.5 ounce) can high quality whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand

salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 (6-ounce) skinless cod fillets

freshly squeezed lemon juice, for serving

oil-cured olives, pitted, for serving

crusty bread, for serving

 

In a medium-sized dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, whole peppers, and garlic cloves and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and starting to brown and the peppers are slightly blistered, about 5 – 7 minutes. Add the capers, red pepper flakes, bay leaf and parsley sprigs and sauté for 1 – 2 minutes more. Add the white wine vinegar and cook until almost completely reduced, about 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, and their juice and 2 ½ cups of water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the broth is slightly reduced and flavorful. Season generously with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. 

Reduce the heat to low and add the cod fillets in one even layer in the pan. The broth should just cover each fillet. If it doesn’t, cover the pan with a lid. Poach the cod, at a very slow simmer until opaque and cooked through, about 6 – 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish. Make sure to watch the pot very carefully during this stage — bubbles should be barely breaking the surface. If the liquid gets too hot, the fish will turn rubbery and tough, rather than buttery and soft. Once cooked, remove the fillets and place each in its own shallow serving bowl. Divide the peppers between the bowls and pour over the broth, discarding the bay leaf and parsley. Garnish each bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Scatter the pitted olives and fresh parsley over top. Serve immediately with crusty bread for soaking up the delicious broth. 


golden tilefish + mushrooms en papillote

On our last day of culinary school, we picked numbers out of a bowl. The numbers would determine the menu we would be making for our final that day, and the time at which we would present. I unfolded my little white slip to reveal a “B2”, written boldly in thick black ink. I would be making striped bass en papillote and pate a choux. I would be presenting first. Time starts now.

As luck would have it, I chose the better of the two menus. The alternative, a consommé and poulet grand-mere, consisted of seemingly endless components, and time would be much tighter for those students. Our fish, on the other hand, was relatively simple to prepare, and even more simple to present. There was no plating, no garnishing. Each package would be placed on a plate, left for each judge to open himself.

My tomato fondue and mushroom duxelles bubbled on the stove as I fileted my fish, dragging my filet knife across its bones just as I had practiced. I prepared my vegetables: cutting them into tiny toothpicks that I would later cook gently in butter and a splash of water. I cut my parchment paper into hearts, just like I had learned, as my pate a choux quietly puffed in the oven, just like it was supposed to. The unbearable nerves I had felt earlier that morning gave way to confidence and a sense of serenity. I was doing what I loved, and I was doing it well.

As I slid my golden, puffed packages from the oven two minutes before service, I felt a surge of pride. And, as I watched my judges rip the paper open in a puff of steam, I knew that everything I had worked for in those past months had paid off. It is a feeling that I will always associate with papillotes, and it is one that I hope I will never forget.


golden tilefish + mushrooms en papillote

Cooking en papillote is a classic French technique that involves steaming within a sealed parchment paper package. It is incredibly simple to prepare, but makes for a really special presentation. In this recipe, I took inspiration from the classic French fish en papillote that I made while in culinary school, which consists of a mushroom duxelles, tomato fondue, and fish that is topped with julienne carrots, leeks, and celery cooked a l’etuvee, a sprig of thyme, and a splash of white wine. To simplify things a bit, and to add some texture, I skipped the duxelles (which is really just finely minced mushrooms sautéed in butter and shallots), and sautéed large pieces of the mushrooms in butter and white wine. And, instead of the vegetables, I topped my fish with a large dollop of herbed butter, which melts beautifully while cooking to leave a pile of steamed herbs above the fish.

 

for the mushrooms:

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

6 oz assorted mushrooms, roughly chopped (I used a combination of shiitake, enoki, and shimeji)

1/4 cup white wine

salt

 

for the compound butter:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely minced

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely minced

1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely minced

1 teaspoon lemon zest

salt + freshly ground black pepper

 

for the papillotes:

2 pieces parchment paper, about 16-in x 13-in in size

10 oz golden tilefish, cut into 2 5 oz skinless filets (or other white, lean fish like monkfish or grouper)

salt + freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons white wine

1 egg white, lightly beaten

oil for brushing

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large sauté pan over high heat, add the butter and oil. Once the butter has melted, add the mushrooms. Sauté mushrooms, moving them very little, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the white wine and cook until the liquid has completely evaporated, 1 – 2 minutes longer. (It is important there is no excess liquid, as it will make the papillotes too wet when assembled). Season with salt to taste, remove from heat, and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the butter, tarragon, parsley, dill, and lemon zest. Mash with a fork to fully incorporate the herbs into the butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Place an empty sheet pan in the oven to preheat while you assemble the papillotes: fold one piece of parchment paper in half. Cut a half heart in the folded paper, so that when you unfold the parchment it will be in the shape of a full heart. Lay the heart open on a large working surface. Spoon half the mushrooms in a small pile on one side of the heart, about 1-inch from the crease. Top the pile with one of the fish filets and season with salt and pepper. Top the fish with a generous dollop of the compound butter (about 1 heaping tablespoon) and drizzle 1 teaspoon of white wine over the top. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush all along the edges of the heart with the egg white. Fold the heart in half, folding the empty side of the heart over the fish, and press the edges together to seal. Brush the top of the sealed edges with more egg wash, and starting at the top of the heart, make a series of short folds around the heart to seal. When you reach the end, fold the excess paper under the package. Repeat process with second piece of parchment. Bon Appétit has a great how-to video and step-by-step photos of this process here. (they don’t use egg white in the video, but I highly suggest you do, as it helps to seal the package effectively). Brush the tops of both packages with a light coating of oil (this just prevents the parchment from burning).

Carefully remove the preheated pan from the oven and place both packages on it, side by side. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 11 minutes. After 11 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and use scissors to snip a little hole in the crease of each package. Return the pan to the oven for 30 seconds – 1 minute longer (this step is optional, but it will allow for a nicer presentation, as the bag will stay puffed when out of the oven). Remove the pan and carefully transfer each package to a plate and serve immediately.

*(Ripping open the package to reveal the fish and all of the delicious aromas is the best part, so make sure to save that part for after you’ve sat down to the table)!

 

Yield: 2 main course servings


cauliflower + parsnip soup

Around this time of year, I can think of no better way to spend a day than standing over a slowly simmering pot of soup. For me, it’s a way to unwind. I find calm in watching the steam rise in lazy curls from the pot, and of bowing my head over them to inhale deeply. Nothing is hurried, nothing sudden. There is no urgency, no pressure.

After a particularly demanding week in culinary school, I longed for this slowness in the kitchen, and set out to make a soup that would be as comforting to prepare as it would be to enjoy. A couple heads of cauliflower and a handful of parsnips promised a simple, yet warming combination of autumnal flavors. To that I added some thyme and bay leaves, which released their herbaceous and lively aromas as they simmered along with the vegetables. After cooking, I added a touch of heavy cream and sweet, roasted garlic for richness and depth.  All in all, a mere seven ingredients flavor this dish – each one working together with the next to complement and balance, yet also receiving the attention it deserves.


cauliflower + parsnip soup

Like all of the soups I love, this soup demands nothing. There are no elaborate cooking techniques, no unique ingredients – just a simple, wholesome combination of cauliflower, parsnips, and roasted garlic. The perfect dish to curl up with on a chilly fall day.

 

ingredients:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 1/2 cups chopped white onion (about 2 small onions)

2 heads cauliflower, greens removed

2 pounds of parsnips (about 4 medium-large), peeled and ends trimmed

3 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus leaves for garnish

2 bay leaves

2 heads of garlic

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish

1 cup heavy cream

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a heavy-bottomed large dutch oven or stock pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onions and sweat, stirring occasionally, until translucent and just beginning to brown on the edges, about 10 – 15 minutes.

While the onions cook, prepare the cauliflower and parsnips: remove the greens from the stems of the cauliflower and cut the stems into 1-inch sized chunks. Separate the heads into florets. Reserve 2 heaping cups of the florets and set aside. Add the rest of the cauliflower to a large bowl. Peel the parsnips and cut into 1-inch sized pieces. Add the parsnips to the bowl with the cauliflower.

Once the onions are translucent, add the parsnips and cauliflower and increase the heat to medium. Cook for 15 minutes, until vegetables are just beginning to brown on the edges. Add 8 cups of water, the thyme sprigs, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, prepare the garlic and roasted cauliflower garnish: Separate the reserved 2 heaping cups of florets into even smaller florets. Spread evenly in one layer on a sheet pan. Cut the garlic heads in half horizontally, keeping the peels on, and arrange next to the cauliflower. Drizzle everything with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt. Transfer to the preheated oven and roast. After about 25 – 30 minutes, once cauliflower is browned, remove from the pan and set aside. Allow garlic to continue roasting for an additional 10 – 15 minutes until soft and browned on the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Once soup has simmered for 45 minutes and the vegetables are tender, remove from heat. Carefully remove the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme (the leaves will have fallen off by this point) and discard. Squeeze the roasted garlic from the peels into the soup, being careful not to get any peels into the pot. Working in batches, or with an immersion blender, puree the soup until completely smooth. If using a blender, transfer the soup back to the pot after its pureed to rewarm. 

Add the heavy cream and adjust the seasoning to taste (I added 3 teaspoons of salt and a few cracks of black pepper). If soup is too thick for your liking, you can add a bit of water at this point (though I didn’t need to).

Serve the soup in bowls and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle roasted cauliflower florets and thyme leaves over the top as garnish.

 

yield: approximately 3 quarts of soup; serves 6

join our Italian holiday table + a giveaway!

Twinkling lights are beginning to dot the city’s streets, quietly marking the start of the holiday season, and with it the promise of festive gatherings and celebrations. It’s a busy time of a year, but also a joyous one — a time to remind ourselves of what really matters, to relish in the joy of giving, and to cherish moments with the ones we love.

To me, the holiday celebrations are defined by their meals — humble, comforting dishes that serve to gather my loved ones around the table. So, when Colavita Olive Oils and Perugina Chocolates asked me to create a holiday inspired meal, I knew I had to make something that would do just that.

This meal is a holiday classic at its best. Everyone’s favorite — roast chicken — is browned in olive oil in a cast iron skillet until its skin is crisp and crackling. It then roasts on a bed of onions until succulent and juicy. The pan drippings are used to make a sauce, to which a reduced balsamic vinegar is added for depth of flavor and a welcomed sweetness. Add to that a creamy, herbed polenta, caramelized, roasted carrots, and a festive dessert of almond cookies dipped in chocolate, and you have yourself a meal that is worthy of a holiday celebration. It’s simple, yet special. Delicious, yet unassuming. It’s a meal that is sure to bring your loved ones around the table.

Let’s not forget about the giveaway! This post was sponsored by Colavita Olive Oils and Perugina Chocolates, and they have generously offered to give away the basket of their products that you see below to one of you! The basket includes a wide array of olive oils, vinegars, pastas, chocolates and more. Click here to enter


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roasted chicken with herbed polenta + rainbow carrots

 

prep time: 45 minutes

inactive time: 2 hours

cook time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

 

for the chicken + balsamic glaze:

1 [5 – 6] pound chicken

kosher salt

5 tablespoons Colavita Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 sprig of fresh sage

2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into large wedges

2 cups low sodium chicken stock [preferably homemade]

1/2 cup Colavita Aged Balsamic Vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon unsalted cold butter

 

for the carrots:

1 bunch of rainbow carrots [about 12 – 14], peeled, greens trimmed, and split in half lengthwise [if you can’t find rainbow, orange carrots work perfectly here too]

2 tablespoons Colavita Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil

kosher salt

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds, for garnish

Parmesan cheese shavings, for garnish

 

for the polenta:

4 cups water

1 cup Colavita Polenta

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

First, prepare the chicken: remove the giblets and trim the wing tips. Rinse the body cavity and pat dry all over with paper towels. Season liberally with salt all over, including inside the body cavity. Place on a sheet pan, uncovered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours [better if overnight]. 

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking, and allow to sit at room temperature. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of the olive oil all over the chicken and massage into the skin. Fill the cavity with the sprigs of thyme, rosemary, and sage. Using butchers twine, tie the legs together. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken, breast side down. Sear the chicken over high heat until the skin on the breast is golden brown, about 4 – 5 minutes. [Try not to move the chicken during this step, unless to quickly peek at the color, as it will not brown nicely]. Once golden brown, turn off the heat and flip the chicken onto its back. Arrange the onion wedges around the chicken and transfer the skillet to the preheated oven. Roast, making sure to flip the onions every 30 minutes so they don’t burn. The chicken is done when a thermometer reads 165 degrees F when inserted into the meaty part of the thigh, away from the bone [this should take about an hour and a half]. If the onions are browning too quickly, you can remove them and set aside while the chicken finishes roasting.

Once the chicken has been roasting for about an hour, prepare the carrots: spread the carrots evenly over a sheet pan, so that they lay in one layer. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Transfer to the oven with the chicken, and roast until tender and slightly browned, about 35 – 40 minutes, shaking the pan once halfway through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a serving platter and tossing with the pomegranate seeds and shavings of Parmesan cheese. 

Once the chicken is done, use tongs to lift it out of the pan, and allow the juices to drain from its cavity back into the skillet. Set aside on a carving board, cover in aluminum foil, and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. If you haven’t already, remove the onions from the skillet and set those aside as well. Using a spoon, skim the clear layer of fat from the top of the skillet, making sure not to discard any of the brown juices. Place the skillet back over the stovetop and heat over high heat. Once the juices start to bubble, add the chicken stock and use a wooden spoon to scrape all of the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Bring the stock to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes. 

While stock is simmering, add the balsamic vinegar to a small sauté pan over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until vinegar thickens and becomes a glaze-like consistency, about 10 minutes. Whisk the balsamic glaze into the simmering chicken stock. 

Once the stock and balsamic mixture is reduced and thickened [it should coat the back of a spoon], remove it from the heat and add the chopped thyme and cold butter. Swirl until the butter has melted completely. Transfer to a small sauce pitcher, and cover to keep warm. 

Lastly, prepare the polenta: bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a stock pot or large sauce pan. Once boiling, slowly pour in the polenta while whisking. Reduce the heat and cook the polenta, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the Parmesan cheese, heavy cream, thyme, and rosemary. Stir to combine and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Spoon the polenta onto plates immediately [see note below] and arrange the chicken over top. Drizzle with the balsamic sauce and serve the carrots on the side. 

 

Note: if the polenta is too thick, or starts to solidify as it cools, whisk in a drizzle of heavy cream or milk [a little at a time] until the desired consistency is reached. 

 

Yield: 6 servings


chocolate dipped almond cookies

 

prep time: 20 minutes

inactive time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

cook time: 20 minutes

 

ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons almond paste

3/4 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 cup slivered almonds

3 1/2 ounces [1 bar] Perugina Bittersweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 1/2 ounces [1 bar] Perugina White Chocolate, coarsely chopped

 

Add the butter, almond paste, and sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed, scraping down the bowl as needed, until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour and salt. Stop the mixer just when the dough comes together.

Remove the dough from the bowl of the mixer and wrap in plastic wrap. Form into a fat log and place in the refrigerator. Chill until firm; at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper.

Once log of dough has chilled, remove from the refrigerator, unwrap, and cut in half. On a clean work surface, roll each half into a log about 2-inches in diameter. Slice each log into 1/4-inch-thick medallions and arrange the cookies on the lined sheet pans, making sure to leave some space between each cookie. Transfer to the oven and bake until cookies are just barely golden around the edges, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

While cookies cool, add the slivered almonds to a dry pan over medium heat. Toast, shaking the pan frequently, until lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle almonds into a bowl, and set aside.

Add the two types of chopped chocolate into two separate small bowls and melt in 30 second intervals in the microwave, making sure to stir the chocolate at the end of every interval [should take about 1 1/2 minutes per bowl in total]. Set aside.

To finish the cookies: once completely cool, dip each cookie halfway into the melted chocolate and shake off the excess. Place onto a parchment-lined sheet pan to cool. Repeat until all the cookies have been dipped, half in the bittersweet chocolate, and half in the white chocolate. While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle the toasted almonds over the cookies, pressing them gently into the chocolate. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill until chocolate is completely hardened. Cookies can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Yield: approximately 24 cookies