Home Category

Meals from the Pantry: Barramundi with tomato arugula salad and lemon vinaigrette

I was missing the fresh Mediterranean flavors of the fish dishes I had in Italy, so I “fished” out some wild barramundi from my freezer last night, and prepared a light, simple, and healthy Mediterranean inspired dinner for my hubby Jordan and me.

Barramundi with tomato arugula salad and lemon vinaigrette

Ingredients
Serves 2 people

2 six ounce skinless barramundi fillets (3/4″-1″ thick)

2 tablespoons butter

½ teaspoon minced fresh thyme

½ bunch fresh arugula

½ medium ripe tomato, cut into wedges

¼ cup lemon juice (squeezed from two fresh lemons)

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Grey salt or coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Cast iron skillet or sauté pan

+++

Lemon Vinaigrette
Whisk together lemon juice, a pinch of thyme, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Easy peasy!

+++

Time to cook!

    Season barramundi on both sides with salt, pepper and fresh thyme.

      Heat the sauté pan to medium-high.

        Add butter to coat the pan.

        Gently place each fish fillet in the pan (You should hear a wonderful ssshhhh! sound. That says you’ve got the right temp for a nice golden brown!).

        Don’t move the fish for 3-4 minutes so it gets a nice golden brown sear on one side.

        Flip the fish and reduce heat to medium.

        Cook for another 5-6 minutes or until it’s slightly firm in its thickest part or opaque in the center.

        Transfer fillets to a plate.

        In a bowl, toss together arugula, tomatoes, and enough lemon vinaigrette to evenly cover the veggies. You should have some vinaigrette pooled at the bottom of the bowl to drizzle over the fish.

        +++

        Serve salad with buttery fish draped over the top. Drizzle with lemon vinaigrette.

        I had some leftover wheatberries in the fridge too that I ate with the dish, so feel free to serve with a grain side dish like farro, quinoa or couscous for a healthful starch that pairs nicely.

        Enjoy free of guilt and imagine yourself dining along the Tuscan coast!

The Gingko Experiment: Let’s do this!

Despite my excursion to Italy (look for my mega post coming soon!), I made it back just in time to harvest those precious stinkers now stinkin’ up my front sidewalk! Since I am a total newbie, I decided to play it safe and experiment with a handful only. But friends, I can now say that I am part of the illustrious group of foragers, harvesters, and cooks of the gingko nut that has spanned generation upon generation…

Well, not really. I’m still pretty much a newb, but it was a lot of fun anyhow! At least maybe these little guys will help me stave off the coming winter flu season.

Gingko Nut Harvesting
Arm yourself with some rubber gloves! Don’t handle the gingko nuts with bare hands as they will cause major skin irritation.
Use a double plastic bag for gathering the nuts.
When ripe, the gingko nuts will be soft on the outside and a beautiful orange persimmon-y color. And of course, they’ll stink to high heaven!

Be mindful of any juicy bits that cling to your bag or your rubber gloves.

Gingko Nut Preparation
Its a good idea to wash your hands with your gloves on so as to control any smearing of the sticky stuff.
Get a clean bowl and get a pot of water boiling on the stove (size of pot will vary depending on how many nuts you have. Use your best judgment. I trust you!)
First squish off the stinky outer layer of the nut. Dispose of the fleshy pile immediately (I took the bag right out to the trash bin outside when I was done cleaning the nuts).

Rinse the nuts thoroughly so they are clean, and dry.

Gently crack open the nut shells (don’t be a knucklehead like me and be too heavy-handed!).

Remove the shells and you’re left with cute little nuts with a paper thin skin.

Pour some boiling water over them and let them soak for ~10 minutes.
Gently peel off the skins to reveal the gorgeous jade green nuts, then put them in a pot of boiling water.

Simmer for ~30 minutes, then drain.

I’m going to eat these beauties lightly pan fried with salt, but there are numerous preparations. You can grill them, roast them, stir fry them, and add them to soups like my friend Mr. Katsu does with his famous matsutake mushroom soup at Katsu in Chicago. Keep in mind, though, that these nuts are loaded with powerful antioxidants and numerous sources say that one should limit herself to eating only 5-10 per day.

Well…that wasn’t too bad I guess? Not so bad at all, in fact!

So if you are feeling adventurous and are fortunate enough for a gingko nut to cross your path, follow your nose and try these gems out! You won’t be disappointed.

This concludes The Gingko Experiment. Fin.

Check out The Gingko Experiment: The Beginning for some background to this fun project!

Viva Italia! …and a news alert for Kimchee lovers

It’s my first week back from exceptional, magical, romantic, beautiful, delicious Italy and I can’t wait to get my posts and pics up for all the meals we enjoyed there! Stay tuned…

But first, from an utterly different far off place, a breaking news alert! Homemade kimchee is under assault by a skyrocketing price jump of napa cabbage from $2.50 per head to a whopping $14 bucks! That’s just wrong, folks. Some speculate it’s due to a water reclamation project that has hijacked farmland that grows the cabbage.

Fingers crossed this just a “blip in the market” as noted in the article, but it’s an interested read. And for those who do dabble in the art of making kimchee, check it out: pickled prune and anchovy paste. Seriously.

The Gingko Experiment: The beginning

When we moved into our house here in Chicago nine years ago (did I just say nine?!), my parents came for a housewarming visit in the Fall. It was early September, and I was giving my Dad a tour of the front of the house.

“…and here is the front porch, Dad. Uh, Dad?”

No answer. I turned to face my Dad and sure enough, he was staring up into a couple of trees in front of the house and not listening to me one bit.

“Uh, what are you looking at? Did you see a squirrel or something?” I asked.

“Jeanne, do you know what these are?” he said using his whiny sarcastic voice to poke fun.

“You mean ‘trees’?” I replied, grinning. “Hey, by the way, something stinks. Smells like something died over here.”

He reached down and picked up what looked like a perfectly round jade-green grape.

“This is a gingko nut and these are gingko trees – one male and one female. How lucky you are!”

[Not a valid template]

If it wasn’t for my Dad and our Korean heritage, I may have spent these nine years not knowing the treasure that grew right in front of my house. Instead, the tree may have just been the source of a putrid stink from pulp staining the sidewalk brownish red as people squashed the nuts under their feet.

Gingko nut trees (also known as Maidenhair trees) are considered “living fossils” as they are biologically the oldest trees in the world. The Chinese especially revere the tree and its nuts as sacred. It is known as the Silver Almond Tree, White Nut Tree, or Ancestor Tree. The nuts are still used in East Asian cooking today, especially in Japan and Korea. In Korea, it’s popular to thread the nuts onto pine needles or skewers, and then grill them. In Japan, one may be lucky enough to find a gingko nut in a chawanmushi or matsutake mushroom soup. The gingko biloba extract is famous for its medicinal properties as well.

Today, I woke up to a refreshingly rainy September morning and thought of my father as the leaves of the gingko tree rippled outside my window. My forager instinct bloomed instantly and I anxiously went outside to reacquaint myself with the smelly gems.

Alas, the nuts still have yet to turn orange and slightly soft. And the stink certainly hasn’t reached its full potency.  I’ll need to wait a bit longer.

No matter. I can wait, my pretties!

Cooking them of course will be the next challenge; this being no easy feat. Preparing gingko nuts isn’t just stinky and messy, it can actually severely irritate the skin. There are days for drying as well before cooking can even begin.

But who doesn’t love a challenge? Stay tuned…