I met Marcella Hazan through a book club, remember those? Four books for a $1? Then more formally at an estate sale. Apparently the recently deceased had never opened the pages of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I paid a quarter, and went off, pleased with myself.
Gentle reader, her recipes are timeless, explicit, and surprising. Last night in her honor I made her mixed salad.
To start, I sliced half a red onion, and let it soak in cold water. She does require lettuce that I don't know where to buy: lamb's ears, chicory or escarole. I settled for what was on hand: arugula and romaine. Per her directions, I diced half a red pepper, substituted a diced celery rib for celery heart, grated a hearty peeled carrot, and diced a tomato. She also asks for half a fennel bulb and an artichoke heart, but I wasn't up to a shopping trip. I made do. I added half an avocado that was wandering about. I drained the red onion.
In a salad bowl I mixed it all the vegetables together, then salted them well. I shook some red wine vinegar over it, then added a glug or so of olive oil. I mixed again.
So fresh, so delightful, or, as she says: "There is just enough, so that what is missing from one mouthful of salad is suddenly and delightfully present in the next."
Yah, I've been neglectful. What happened? It was hot, and I didn't feel up to cooking. I was out of town and didn't have to cook, the academic year began, etc. etc. etc.
But here I am. I picked the fish up at Trader Joe's, it'a very mild white fish, boneless, skinless, ready to go for those of you who prefer minimal fuss and a little extra packaging. The cashier asked me how I made these and after I explained, a switch was pulled. My next post, it said, in flashing neon lights. Quick and Easy:
Defrost one pound according to packaging.
Saute a sliced white onion in a tablespoon of oil. When soft, to your desired golden brownness, add a minced garlic, and one or two diced tomatoes, a tablespoon of capers. Stir. Cover and simmer gently, until the tomatoes break down. Lay the filets on top, cover, and steam for 8 minutes until cooked through.
Serve on top of steamed rice, or rice pilaf.
Quicker and Easier:
Sprinkle defrosted filets with salt, pepper, tarragon (and/or basil and thyme, if you like)
Dredge in flour. (Don't worry if it gets lumpy or pasty, butter is our salvation). Lay filets on a clean plate. Melt on medium high a tablespoon of butter on a skillet large enough to hold all of the fish. When the butter bubbles down, add fish. After four minutes, turn the filets. Add more butter if it's all been absorbed. Lower heat and cook for another four minutes--or until cooked through.
Serve with sauteed spinach and risotto, or potato salad. Yum, yum.