Warning! This article may gross you out…

…but it may also get people to ask more questions about where the heck their food is coming from these days!

Toad-al shock: Couple find frog in bag of frozen veggies
This chilling tale of unexpected protein has changed a Michigan family’s life

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.