Officially I go shopping for groceries once a week. This is when I stock up on things like cereal and paper towels and dog chew toys. On all other days of the week I just pick up the rest of what I need… eggs on the farm near my house, fruits from market number 1, vegetables from a market number 2, because I don’t like the selection at the first, sea food depending on the type from either an Italian or an Asian fishmonger( sometimes both), crusty bread from the old-world Italian store ( and not the one that houses the fishmonger), bagels freshly baked from only one shop, ricotta from another Italian store that make their own…meat from a slaughter farm….God forbid I need some specialty ingredients … I am surprised I don’t fly to Mexico for chili peppers. You get the point. I am driving in opposite directions wasting gas and not to mention time just to assemble dinner… because I can’t compromise on the quality of ingredients, timing of when they are freshest and because I am insane.
I also shop for too many meals at the time which makes things even more complicated. Say I want to make Spicy Spanish style muscles on Sunday, first I would have to make the stock and chorizo the weekend before (each requires its own shopping spree to different continents of suburban New Jersey). I will buy some of the vegetables on Thursday except the peppers because they didn’t look good that day and not basil, because who buys basil in advance? So Friday I would go hunting for peppers and white wine but buy no muscles or bread, because who buys these things in advance? Saturday, I will go get bread, because I need day old bread for charring, not two day bread, not same day bread…. One day old it must be. Finally on Sunday, I get around to buying the muscles (no more than 2 hrs in advance of cooking to assure ultimate freshness or most likely because I have no space in the fridge) only to get home and realize I forgot the basil after all. “Honey, can you go and pick up some basil for me, please, please? And not from the 20 nearest shops, go to the Italian store on the other side of the world, they have the BEST Basil!” Now time that story by ten or so dishes I cook in a week and you might just feel sorry for me. But this is not how I like to shop… I like to shop for one meal, one star ingredient that I can build a plate around.
Take last weekend, with fridge fully stocked with kid’s weekday meals I was free to go hunting just for Sunday dinner. With no ideas I just wanted to be inspired by something, and I was. The freshest local corn was too good to pass up and tarragon looked amazing….idea complete. I am going to make a summer corn salad and some kind of fish, whatever looks good in either this store or the next one… A simple meal with few in season ingredients, no extensive driving required (well, a little bit)…
For the Tile fish.
4 Tile fish filets, skin scored and pin bones removed
½ cup corn meal
3 tbs olive oil
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400F. Heat the olive oil in an oven safe pan until almost smoking. Season the fish with salt, black and cayenne pepper. Dip the skin side into corn meal and pan sear skin side down weighting down with another heavy pan. Sear for a minute or two or until the fish unsticks itself. Turn skin side up and transfer to the oven for 7-8 minutes.
Summer corn salad
5 ears of corn
1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
1.5 cups of roughly chopped frisee lettuce
1.5 tbs of chopped fresh tarragon + 1 tsp
1 tsp olive oil
1.5 tbs lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat a shallow skillet with olive oil. Cut the kernels of the corn and sauté on low for 3-4 minute tossing often. Add the tomatoes, tarragon, salt and pepper. Saute for a few more minutes than let cool to room temperature. Toss the corn and tomatoes with frisee lettuce and reserved tarragon, dress with lemon juice and salt and pepper if needed.
Tarragon and Basil Pesto.
I used this pesto as sauce for my orzo pasta and fish.
¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves
2 cups of fresh basil leaves
¼ cup pine nuts toasted
3 garlic cloves minced
Zest of ½ the lemon
2 tsp of lemon juice
Salt and pepper
¼ cup Parmesan cheese (I omit the cheese if serving with fish or sea food… greatest cooking sin every Italian will attest to is mixing fish and cheese)
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients and pulse until smooth. If your pest is coming out to thick, just add a little more olive oil or even a little water.
Serve tossed with pasta or as sauce for meat, fish, flat bread, bread dipping sauce, fried eggs topper or whatever you would normally put herbs on.
Summer on a plate, colorful and delicious! Now you have to excuse me, I have to go food shopping….