SEA BASS THE PORTUGESE WAY

Before traveling abroad, I had been trying to incorporate more fish into my diet. Not surprising to me, the prices of fresh fish and intimidation factor of cooking something so different limited my progress in meeting that goal. But as soon as I tasted whole grilled fish in Lisbon, fresh paella in Barcelona, and another whole grilled fish in Paris, I knew I had to make more of an effort. The whole sea bass I had in Lisbon was so simply grilled, embellished with only roasted potatoes and a small iceberg lettuce salad on the side. The fish itself was the main event, and for good reason. It was so light and tender, satisfying but not overly satiating. The skin was slightly crispy and perfectly salty. I had to recreate it at home! And surprisingly, it wasn't costly or difficult at all! Whole sea bass happened to be on sale at Whole Foods, so I took it as a sign that now was the time to get over my intimidation of cooking fish and decided to try to recreate my favorite Portuguese meal. For $7, yes, only $7, I roasted an entire sea bass! I wanted to grill it like they had at the restaurant, but unfortunately since we just moved, we haven't bought a propane tank for our grill yet. But roasting it in the oven was actually so incredibly easy that I'll be sure to roast fish just as often as I grill it even when we have our new tank. So, moral of the story- don't be intimidated in trying something new in the kitchen! What's the worst that can happen? It doesn't turn out the way you wanted it to, so you try again! Sounds like fun to me:) I have spent so many years avoiding cooking fish... and now that I know how easy it was, I wish I had just tried to do it the first time I thought about it! I guess I just needed a trip to Lisbon:)


roasted whole sea bass

1 lb whole sea bass (ask your butcher to clean out the organs, etc.- Although I knew I wanted to roast the whole fish and de-bone myself as I ate it, I made the mistake of refusing the offer for the fish to be cleaned because I thought that they would remove the bones, but when I opened up the fish I realized it wasn't exactlyyyyyyy as clean as the ones I had eaten abroad haha)
Salt
Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Rinse your fish well and then coat with olive oil, and then salt generously. Bake on a cookie sheet for 20-25 minutes, then broil on high for about 2-3 minutes until the top is slightly charred. Serve with roasted potatoes (Bake quartered potatoes at 425 for 20 minutes, flipping half way-I seasoned mine with thyme and salt!) and you're good to go! It's that easy!

CATALAN CHICKEN WITH ALMOND, CHOCOLATE, and PARSLEY PICADA

Whew, it's been a busy past few months! Though we've had Stems and Savories on our minds, it's been hard to find time to cook, take pictures, and post our recipes. I just got back from a trip to Europe- a trip I've been dying to take since high school! While I was on the plane for eight hours, I was reflecting on what is important to me in my life and what I need to start making more time for. What came to mind? Stems and Savories, of course. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day bustle and think that taking time to do what we love will take away from the time we need to spend on our work. But I think taking time for yourself is actually one of the most important things you can do to increase your work productivity. From yoga teacher training to moving to traveling to sending out my manuscript for review... there's always something taking my time. Although those things make me happy, sometimes you just need to do what your heart is calling for to re-find your balance. And for me, that was a night cooking in the kitchen and a night posting to Stems and Savories.

The food abroad was amazing. Absolutely amazing. I'm going to try to re-create some dishes that I had over the next few months, and I'm crossing my fingers they turn out well enough to post! Since I spent some time in Barcelona, I figured I'd start with a Catalan Chicken recipe that I actually made in a cooking class at Cooks of Crocus Hill in college. I only took two classes from them, one where I learned to make French food (try this savory tart!), and one where I learned how to make some Spanish dishes, but both classes were absolutely fantastic and make up some of my greatest off-campus memories from college. I actually took this class with my research mentor, which was probably the best way to celebrate our friendship and love for cooking:)

This is one of my favorite recipes ever. The bread crumbs, almonds, chocolate, and parsley mixture used to thicken the sauce is absolutely phenomenal. I hope you enjoy for now, and know that I will try to find some more time in the kitchen in the coming weeks!


catalan chicken with almond, chocolate, and parsley picada

2 pounds chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2/3 cup finely chopped onion
14 1/2 ounce can of whole tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
1/4 cup Oloroso sherry
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
One 3-inch strip of orange peel
1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 slice of peasant bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Large pinch of saffron threads
Small pinch of aniseeds
Small pinch of ground cloves

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook over moderately high heat until browned, 4 minute per side. Transfer to a plate. Add the onion to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until softened, for about five minutes. Add the broth, sherry, bay leaf, orange peel, and thyme and bring to a boil. Add the chicken, cover, and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, turning once. Meanwhile, toast the bread and almonds on a baking sheet for 8 minutes. Then heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a skillet, add the garlic, and cook over moderate heat for about 3 minutes until golden. Transfer to a food processor with the bread and almonds, then add the chocolate, parsley, cinnamon, saffron, aniseeds, and cloves. Process this mixture to a picada paste. Stir the picada into the sauce that the chicken is boiling in and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes until the sauce thickens. Discard the bay leaf and orange peel, season with salt and pepper, and serve with freshly grated manchego cheese.