Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Cooking - Thanks for Visiting!

After all the festivities, Christmas Goodies site is headed for a long winter's nap...

But don't miss stopping by our sister site, Holiday Goodies.

We've just started a new series: Bare Bones With Style. It stretches your budget with dishes that are easy to make. And best of all -- taste good.

You'll like it. 

Seven Fish Dishes: A Final Look

It's over.

The Seven Fish Dishes is a treasured memory for another year. We had friends Jeff & Renee, Daughters #1 and #2 and Daughter's partner Keith...and a threatening snowstorm, which fortunately held off until the next afternoon. 

So what worked -- and what didn't? 

*The bagna cauda was good -- but only when it was fresh. Leftovers were too garlic-y and fish-y. (Do Mexicans have to throw out the unused part, too?)

*The caviar and blini were a surprise success. The blinis' wholegrain nuttiness were a perfect complement to the salty caviar -- even to people at the table who announced, "I don't LIKE caviar."
    Done this way...they did.   (I made up the extra batter as buckwheat cakes the next morning, with maple syrup. Also a hit.)

*The crab cakes got overcooked. (And they're dry that way. Trust me.)

*Barely cooking -- or undercooking -- is best. A quick saute, if the shrimp was still too pink, was all that was needed. Undercooked,  the salmon was moist and full-flavored; keeping it warm completed the cooking process. But:

*Nobody wanted the salmon. They were all too full. (The leftovers got demolished the next afternoon. Turns out eating salmon with your fingers out of the refrigerator while standing around is a great pleasure.)

*The 'cleansers' and side dishes were important. A plain green salad. A mix of strawberries and blueberries, blended into a sort-of-smoothie. White rice, served smoking hot, to soak up the scampi juices. A mandarin orange, peeled and the segments eaten as needed.These give your mouth a 'refresher' break in between courses.

*We needed something fizzy. The wine was nice -- and the coffee was critical. But a champagne would have been lighter, and added to the 'cleanser' effect.

*Nothing heavy for dessert! A slice of British Christmas cake, a chocolate or two...and the coffee. That made for a nice finish, and a good foundation for a few hours of interesting talk afterward.

The only problem: doing the Seven Fish Dishes, and singing/playing for two services straight on Christmas Eve, really guts you out. Next year, we may do it on Christmas Day, instead. We -- and the kids too, it turns out -- were so beat that everyone went to bed soon after. The tree didn't even get decorated until Christmas Day...and the presents? Fortunately, we'd wrapped those earlier. 

Now it's time to rest up, enjoy the time off...and plan for the next celebration. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!

And it came to pass, that the Virgin delivered a Child...

Christ the Lord, our Savior. 

May your Christmastime be restful and illuminating. 

Seven Fish Dishes Finale: Salmon With Wasabi Salsa Verde

If you've been following along with the Seven Fish Dishes, you know we're almost done for this year. But there's still one to go -- and the crowning touch, as far as Daughter #1 is concerned:

Salmon, in all its juicy, rich-flavored glory.

Sometimes I bake a whole salmon. Sometimes I do fillets -- they're just as tender (provided you don't overcook them), and soak up more of whatever sauce you provide.

I've done a teriyaki version before -- but this year's salmon uses a Filipino-inspired sauce from Dale Talde's new cookbook, Asian-American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes From the Philippines to Brooklyn. 

I'm amazed how much I've enjoyed this irreverent mix of cuisines -- why not, they taste delicious! He includes such oddball recipes as Buttered Toast Ramen with Bacon & Eggs (really), as well as versions of Orange Beef, Kung Pao Chicken Wings and Pad Thai that will knock your socks off. Dale's Grilled Sweet Potato Skewers with soy sauce, maple and bacon, will be part of our Christmas dinner this year.

This sauce takes advantage of wasabi, a fiery Japanese horseradish that often accompanies sushi. Anyhow, here's Dale's:

(makes about 1/2 cup)

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots   (yes, you can substitute onion -- but chop it fine)
1/2 teaspoon Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon wasabi oil, plus more to taste (or substitute 1/4 teaspoon wasabi paste, to start)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons very finely chopped cilantro

Stir first five ingredients together; add olive oil, whisking as you go. Just before serving, stir in cilantro -- add more wasabi, if the mixture's not spicy enough. Drizzle across Baked Salmon (see below).
     Dale serves this sauce brushed on steak after it's grilled rare.


1 whole salmon (about 1/2 pound for each person)
   or 1/2 fillet for every guest   (1 fillet each, if you're not talking Seven Fish Dishes)
1 lemon, squeezed for the juice, then sliced
garlic -- garlic salt or powder, or chopped fresh garlic (2 cloves ought to do it)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line your baking pan with foil. (These guys can get messy, and the fishy smell penetrating -- using foil lets you get rid of it quickly.) Add salmon, drizzle lemon juice over, then add the lemon slices. Sprinkle lightly with garlic. Bake for 20 min. (fillets) or 40 min. (whole salmon) -- fish is done when it's opaque white and flakes easily. Serve drizzled with wasabi sauce.

    If you're cooking Seven Fish Dishes, let this bake with other dishes, then stay warm on the back of the stove until just before serving. (Undercook, rather than overcook -- it will finish cooking while it's staying warm.) Pop back into the oven briefly, if need be, before serving.

Seven Fish Dishes: Bagna Cauda

We're keeping up with the Seven Fish Dishes, for Christmas Eve. If you're curious, the menu is here -- and it's full of recipes that are either easy to make, or can be made ahead. We don't have much time on Christmas Eve -- the Brick and I generally are pegged to sing, play piano/keyboard or both for our church services. If I have a few dishes done ahead of time, it's easy to put them out, uncork a bottle of wine, and talk to our guests as they hang out in the kitchen. If I'm lucky, I can even get them to chop celery, or shell a pound of shrimp while they're waiting.

Today's dish:  Bagna Cauda, a garlicky dip, rich with anchovies. The name comes from its native Italy (figures, huh), and means, in Piedmont dialect, "hot dip" or "hot bath." Similar dishes are served in Argentina and Mexico, as well.
     I bought dried anchovies during our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta; they should also be available in Hispanic stores. Or substitute a tin of anchovies, if you like.

Anchovies, in the flesh. (Or scales.) In Michigan, we called these smelt.

Bagna Cauda is easily made up to a day beforehand, and stored in the fridge until ready for use. (Garnish it with sliced red peppers for a festive look.) Serve with fresh vegetables, crackers or crusty French bread to scoop up its garlicky goodness.

(our version is via Epicurious.com; go here for the full post.)

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 12 anchovy fillets   (or 1 cup dried anchovies)
  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
Whir all ingredients together in a blender; cook 15 min. over low heat, stirring frequently. (May be refrigerated at this point.) Serve warm, in either a slow cooker or over a heater.

"Bagna Cauda a la ChampaquĆ­ 019" by Fernando Lopez Anido - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons (Wikipedia0

Tomorrow:  Salmon with Wasabi Salsa Verde

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Seven Fish Dishes: North Carolina-style Crab Cakes

I'm up to my hips in seafood as our family gets ready for the Seven Fish Dishes celebration on Christmas Eve. We've done this many years...it's one of the things our daughters look forward most to. (I confess:  the Brick and I do, too.)

You'll find the basic menu for 2015 here. Today's offering: Crab cakes (or crabcakes), done in the style of the Brick's native state. Growing up in Jacksonville, NC (near Camp LeJeune -- his dad was a Navy medical corpsman stationed on a Marine base), the Brick was used to fresh seafood all the time. In fact, his mom used to meet the shrimpers as they came back into port, to buy a bucket or two. The boys got the crab themselves -- they fished for it off the pier, with strings tied to chicken necks.

This version is a variation on Aboutfood.com. Don't stir the mixture too hard, or shred the crab too fine -- you want some heft there.

  • 1 pound backfin Blue crab meat or other lump crab meat
  • 8 saltine crackers (crushed)
  • 4 chopped green onions
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp mustard   (use the grainy stuff, if possible)
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
Mix everything but oil together (gently!), shape into six cakes and refrigerate for at least an hour. Fry in vegetable oil approx. 3-5 min. on each side. (Baking them works too, but is not quite as flavorful. Spray with cooking spray, and bake approx. 15-20 min. at 400 degrees.) Serve with tartar sauce, ranch dressing, or just a squeeze of lemon.  Makes enough for 2-3 people, or up to 8 as part of the Seven Fish Dishes.

Photo from Aboutfood.com

Tomorrow:  Bagna Cauda

Monday, December 21, 2015

Seven Fish Dishes: Caviar and Blini

Welcome back for this year's rendition of our Seven Fish Dishes celebration! 

First on the docket for our menu of Seven Fish Dishes is an unusual one:

Caviar with tender little pancakes called blini (or blintchik or blintchiki) -- Russian names for crepes. These are best-known in the Soviet Union served just before Lent...but we like them year-round.

You can serve these with all sorts of sauces and flavorings -- but this year, I'm making use of a jar of black caviar I bought during a recent trip to Mexico. It adds a gentle-but-spicy note to the creamy sour cream and the whole-grain of the blini. But unless you're lavish, or a bazillionaire, only add a few eggs to each little pancake. (Those fish eggs are expensive.)

After all...

And if you need that in context:

Here's the recipe:


  • 2 cups warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 (.25 ounce) envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour    (or whole wheat)
  • 4 eggs, beaten

  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour


  1. Pour warm milk into a large bowl, then sprinkle yeast onto the milk, and allow to soften for 5 minutes. Stir in sugar and buckwheat flour; cover, and let rise for 1 hour.
  2. Stir in the eggs, sour cream, heavy cream, salt, and flour until a batter forms. Cover again, and let rise for 2 hours.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray, then pour in small amounts of batter to form 1 1/2-inch blinis. Cook until the blinis begin to set and dry, and the bubbles begin to burst, about 2 minutes. Flip over, and continue cooking until browned on the other side, about 1 minute.

Makes about ten blini, depending on how big you make them. (I'll be making these ahead of time and storing them in the refrigerator, with wax paper between each. Warm in an oven before proceeding. They freeze well, too.)

To serve: dollop each baby pancake with sour cream, then a scant half-teaspoon of caviar. (Or substitute smoked salmon, if you want to continue the 'fishy' theme.) Arrange on a platter, and serve with style! (Blini can also be served with jam and various sauces, like the photo below. They're good that way, too.)

You'll find the allrecipes.com version here -- with more photos and reviews.

Seven Fish Dishes Is Back!

   Every year on Christmas Eve at the Brick house, we indulge in something unusual:

SEVEN fish dishes, for the birth of the King.

We've been doing this for more than a decade now -- maybe even two. It's connected to an old Italian custom to celebrate the Seven Sacraments. (You know -- birth, baptism, marriage, death -- that sort of thing.) 

No, we're not Italian. But the Savior is the boss at our house, and we want to celebrate His birthday in a memorable way. Besides, it's a wonderful way to slow down, if only for an evening, savor a glass of wine, and enjoy some wonderful food with our family and good friends. 

This year's menu:

Clam Chowder*
   *cheating this year and using canned chowder -- but I'll beef it up with an extra can of chopped clams.

Angels on Horseback  (a perennial favorite)

Bagna Cauda (with crusty French bread)

Caviar with Blini

Crab Cakes, North Carolina-style

Shrimp Scampi   (another often-requested dish)

Baked Salmon with Wasabi Salsa Verde

You'll find recipes for the *bold* items now -- just click on the links. The rest will come, day by day. Look for them soon!