My three most recent culinary re-contextualizations. That is to say, old foods in new contexts (or in the case of fennel, new foods in an old context).
First up, Sardines.
A sardine salad bento, that is:
This has to have been the best salad I have had in a very long time. Hands down. Romaine lettuce with pine nuts, scallions, and a fat chopped sardine that had been packed in olive oil. On the side: a hard boiled egg, a strawberry gummy, citrus-mustard dressing, and kiwi. The combo of grapefruit juice-dijon mustard-balsamic-olive oil in the dressing with the salty fish and the crunchy greens, creamy nuts, and sharp scallions was phenomenal. Unfortunately, I dropped my fork on the floor in the middle of eating this lunch, and could not get up to wash it, as I was in class at the time! Not to be deterred, I managed to finish the salad using fingers and spoon. A little messy/awkward, but effective.
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Shrimp and Corn Chowder with Fennel from the February issue of Real Simple.
I’m not a giant fan of clam chowder; I like a bowl of the New England kind every once in a while, but can’t eat too much of it at once (it starts to taste gloopy and too milky and potato-ey after a while). But this shrimp chowder was amazing! The fennel added a really nice taste and texture that broke up the mealiness of your normal potato-potato-potato background, and the spritz of lemon juice at the end gave the soup a nice zing and woke up the chowder from its flat-tasting natural state. Also, let’s face it – the texture of shrimp in a soup is just nicer than chewy old clams! The presentation of the soup was great, too. Pink shrimp, green fennel, yellow corn, and lovely crispy bacon crumbled on top (I did not fry the leeks in the grease as suggested, because I didn’t want the whole soup to taste like smoked meat). The bacon, in particular, made for the perfect finish — a little crunch and salt that contrasted the creamy soup and made the whole dish an awesome lunch. Admittedly, the soup was a little less fennel-y tasting the next day, which disappointed me a bit, but it was still very good — good enough to have multiple bowls at a sitting — and I will definitely make this again!
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In double chocolate cookies.
These cookies have a story behind them. I was having a friend over for tea on Saturday and, having promised her cookies, decided to try making Nigella’s Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies (I’ve seen the clip sooo many times on YouTube and have always wanted to try them, as the idea of freezing half the dough intrigues me). Unfortunately, when I went online to look for the recipe, I could only find it in metric measurements! I guess I could have converted, but I was a bit short on time, so instead I moseyed over to Real Simple (I am really growing to trust their recipes now) and looked up “Double Chocolate Cookies.” I ended up finding this recipe, which seemed almost the same as Nigella’s, except that it doesn’t have a packet of melted dark chocolate stirred into the batter, and it uses less chips. However, after getting out my ingredients, I found that I didn’t have enough chocolate chips (maybe only half as many as the recipe calls for), so I decided to substitute chopped up crystallized ginger in some of the cookies as an experiment, since I’d bought and enjoyed chocolate with ginger in it before. Turns out, it was a really great idea! I actually think I like these cookies more with ginger in them than I would have liked them with just more chocolate. They were gone in a snap, eaten by my guest, my roommates, and me (I baked only half the batch and froze the rest, but still — I had to smuggle the last cookie upstairs to get a photo of it before my third roommate got home and had a chance to eat it!) Changes I would make to this recipe next time: 1) The dough was a bit dry, so I added some milk, but I’d like to try Nigella’s idea of adding melted dark chocolate; I think it would help add some moisture and some richness to the cookies; 2) I would add more ginger, and slightly more chocolate chips, using only semisweet — milk seems too sweet for these cookies to me. 3) I would try to use a scoop instead of rolling the balls in my hand, and would make the cookies slightly smaller, as they took forever to bake in the 2″ size I used!