Foodie In Training

Monday, December 22, 2008

Warmer Days: New Sandusky Fish Company

So, the temperature has been in the single digits the last two days. It was 1 last night when I got home. The windchill was -25. Now, having grown up in Northern Ohio, I'm sure that I've been in colder weather, but I don't remember it. Driveways are covered in jagged, uneven ice, making every step to the car a potential sprained ankle and a concussion.

Yesterday was the first day of winter. I love the changing seasons. I won't ever live in a place with a year round 80 degree climate. But when its this cold, you need something to look forward to. I know Chirstmas is a few days away, but the busy shopping and the snow covered Christmas lights weren't doing it for me.

I was reading a baseball article about the Indians new closer, Kerry Wood. And the article mentioned in passing that in just 52 days pitchers and catchers report!!! That day in late February when pitchers and catchers begin gearing up for the coming baseball season is my signal that Spring is here.

It reminds me of a warmer time. A time when you could enjoy the outside. Walk along the Lake in Sandusky, and eat a perch sandwich.

Yellow Lake Erie Perch (which is what I mean by "perch" in this post- not to be confused with some crappy European "White Perch", or Perch from a different great lake, which is certainly not as good as from Lake Erie) is best in the late summer and throughout the fall. When I moved back to the north coast in September, it was perfect time for eating lots of tasty perch. Now, there isn't a lot of variety as to what people around here do with perch. They catch it. They clean it. They bread it. They fry it. That's it. Perch has a distinct flavor to it, and I'm not sure how it would play in other preparations. Yellow perch is meaty and a little different in texture than a boring flaky piece of white fish. It has a little bite of distinct flavor, not fishy, but definitely fresh. Perch fillets are probably too small to make an appetizing dinner in anything besides their fried "fish and chips" type form.

I've caught perch a few times out on the lake. If you are on a boat and with someone that knows where to go you can spend a couple hours and catch dozens of them on a given October day. Getting someone to clean them can be a challenge, but then you can have your own fish fry. Just dredge and pan fry in plenty of oil. I'll save the details for next summer, when I'm sure we'll have a fish fry.

For now, I want to focus on my favorite place to get fresh Lake Erie Yellow Perch in Sandusky: The New Sandusky Fish Company. This little shack right on the Sandusky Bay is the perfect place for a perch sandwich or to get fresh perch by the pound to make your own. The back of the shop is usually open and in the summer and fall months, you can often see the boat loads of perch being dropped off. There is the guy scaling and deboning the fish and then they are brought to the kitchen where they are battered and fried- fresh to order. I perfer mine with a little tartar sauce and some lemon juice. A little coleslaw or fries, and you have yourself a great little meal to sit and enjoy on a park bench as you enjoy the beatiful Sandusky Bay. Just mind the bees and the seagulls!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A tasty disaster

Last year I made Holiday Biscotti for friends and family for Christmas and they were a huge hit!
I made two flavors: the holiday biscotti with pistachios and dried cranberries and chocolate chip and anise seed. Everyone raved about the pistachio and cranberry biscotti so I definitely wanted to make those again but I wanted to try a different recipe for the second kind of biscotti. I came across this espresso biscotti recipe and liked all the different ingredients and the espresso flavor. Now, I did not use the base recipe for the espresso biscotti, I used the ingredients and instructions for Giada's holiday biscotti. I also change it up a bit, I used a shot of espresso (not the powder) and mixed that in to the wet ingredients.
The espresso biscotti turned out really tasty, I love all the flavors so every bite is a combination of something different, the tart of the dried cranberries, crunch of almond, and sweetness of the apricot and chocolate. And of course the cranberry and pistachio biscotti turned out great!
The end result was tasty, but man was my kitchen a DISASTER! I swear, I could do nothing without spilling. I made the biscotti in the Kelsey's kitchen, which is great, but I wasn't using my kitchen tools so I got all flustered and made quite the mess in the kitchen. Last year everything went so smooth, that I guess I was due for a kitchen disaster.

I only made a batch of each because I was having such a hard time, but they turned out so tasty I plan to make more before Christmas. They make great gifts!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cranberry "sauce"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think when most people think of cranberry sauce they thing of something that comes from a can. Something that is like some weird jello texture molded into a can shape and then sliced into red discs that sit in a lonely bowl at Thanksgiving, never to be touched or heard of again.
Well, when I think of cranberry "sauce", I think of a delicious citrus-y and slightly chunky version that my mom makes. She hasn't made it the past couple Thanksgivings.
Well, this past week she bought a bunch of fresh cranberries and after making cranberry muffins and cranberry bread, she decided that she wanted to make her cranberry "sauce". Now, I keep putting "sauce" in quotes when referring to my mom's version because it is technically cranberry relish that she makes. Cranberry sauce really is supposed to be cooked and molded like a jelly: at least according to Alton Brown.
My mom's version comes from an old party cookbook. For a good large bowl full, here is the recipe from McCall's Illustrated Dinner Party Cookbook (copyright 1970!):
You need: 2 large navel oranges, 1 large red apple, 1 lb fresh cranberries (4 cups), and 1 1/2 cups sugar.

1. Grate the peel of one orange into a large bowl. Remove peel and white pulp from both oranges.
2. Quarter and core unpeeled apple. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Wash and drain cranberries, removing any stems. Coarsely chop cranberries and oragnes. Add fruits to the large bowl with the peel.3. Add sugar stirring gently until dissolved. Refrigerate, covered for several hours or overnight.
Now- my mom adds only 1/2 the sugar the recipe calls for. This is pretty much my mom's MO- she hates sugar. I think her version is plenty sweet and allows the tart cranberry flavor to come through, but maybe you would prefer it sweeter than we do. Also, she just puts all the ingredients (save the sugar) into a food processor or blender to really make everything into a fine relish. You don't want it to be liquid or mush, but you want everything to be in small bits- think the consistency of store bought pickle relish (though a bit thinner). The sugar should be folded in at the end, evenly mixed, but not in the food processor.
What's the end product good for? Well, it is wonderful with turkey breast, be it store bought lunch meat or on freshly carved off a holiday bird. It is also good on toast or muffins. I like it as a way to liven up any boring meat and potatoes type meal as a little side dish.
NOTE- Erin should add the pictures from my mom's cranberry sauce soon. **photos are posted, enjoy!**

Friday, December 5, 2008

Best Asian Cuisine on the East Side of Cincinnati

I started this post months ago and totally forgot about it. But I found it and decided to finish it today.

Once again, "Best" really means "our favorite". Another quick disclaimer, Asian is a really broad category. For purposes of this post, "Asian" means Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc. It does NOT mean South Asian (e.g., Indian- that gets its own post.) For better or worse, "Asian" gets thrown into one category for the purposes on this post and in American cuisine generally. At every Thai place, they have curry on the menu, at every Chinese place, there is sushi. It makes me wonder, in Tokyo is there a Italian restaurant that also has Greek Gyros and German sausages on the menu? I hope not.

BANGKOK BISTRO, Hyde Park: Probably our personal favorite, and likely the single restaurant we miss the most from Cincinnati. The biggest reason is that we simply don't have much Asain variety up here in Northern Ohio, especially in our small town of Sandusky. Bangkok features Thai food. Some great Pad Thai and varities of spicy Thai flavored noodle dishes. If you ask for 10 of 10 on their spiciness scale- you'll get it. Hit my threshold pretty spot on, in a good way. Erin enjoys a seafood noodle soup with a wide assortment of whole seafood in a perfectly seasoned broth.

DOODLES, Hyde Park: A chinese place that specializes in noodles. I enjoyed the Fiery Flat Rice Noodles and Cantonese pan fried noodles. Not nearly as spicy. Unlike generic chinese Restaurants, everything tastes so fresh and seasoned to order.

DANCING WASABI, Mt. Lookout: Little sushi place within walking distance from our old apartment. I enjoy sushi, but more as an appetizer than a meal. Although I never did it, I liked the idea that I could walk to a Sushi place from my apartment and order a spicy tuna roll at 3 AM. Just made me feel like I lived in a vibrant area; which Mt. Lookout was.

TEAK, Mt. Adams: Another Thai place. It is a little more pricy and elaborate than Bangkok Bistro. And their menu is even more vast and "pan-Asain" than the others.

Wild Ginger, Hyde Park: I think it started as Vietnamese, but has added dishes from all over Asia, especially Japan. They have also expanded since we left Cincinnati, I believe they now have Japanese steak house style seating along with a bigger sushi bar in addition to their normal seating.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pomegranates = Mesmerizing

Last week I bought two pomegranates and now I have a favorite fruit!! I've always loved pomegranate juice (when I can afford it) but had never bought a pomegranate and ate the seeds and used them in recipes.   I think pomegranates are the most beautiful fruit ever.  They are like bright, beautiful little jewels.  I'd almost rather wear them as jewelry then eat them!! 

I was a little nervous to get the seeds out without creating a huge mess or staining myself with the juice.  But I watched a few videos on You Tube and then felt comfortable.  And actually, it's really very easy.  I think they are just intimidating because they are very different than other fruits.  First you cut off the top little stem and then cut a little off the bottom (so it will sit up and not roll over).  Then, score the pomegranate as if your were going to cut it into quarters.  The pomegranates skin is very thin and the inside is just the pith so you easily rip open the pomegranate after it's been scored without breaking a lot of the seeds. 
 To prevent a big mess, fill a large bowl with water and submerge the pomegranate  while separating the seeds from the pith.  The white parts you can't eat will float to the top and the seeds will float to the bottom!! 

We mostly just ate them by the handful, but once, we added them to a salad with sliced fennel, green onion with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  

Oh yea, and they are sooo good for you. Filled with vitamins and antioxidants.