Delicate Smoked Fish Dip with Charred Leeks and Capers

Making smoked fish dip-A Stack of Dishes

Looking for a smokey dip that doesn’t include bacon? I can’t say it’s an equal exchange, because really- what is?, but this smoked fish dip has great flavor in a light and delicate base, which makes it easy to indulge in.

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of smoked fish, and not just salmon. I grew up by the sea, and many of my school chums had families that fished those local waters (many of the others farmed the fields we drove past every day). Though I grew up on Long Island, it was far enough eastward to not have those glorious Jewish delis with their smoked sable and whitefish. Instead there was a guy, who is the son of a guy, who had been smoking his over-catch in his garage for decades.

 

Mixing the Smoked Fish Dip- A Stack of Dishes

The fishes that are best for capturing and infusing the flavor have the most fat, which is why salmon is such a favorite. My preferred fish is Bluefish. It was a bit of a bastard fish as a kid. Fresh it is grey in color, super oily, and it has a pretty decent fishy smell when cooked. Quite the opposite from say something like flounder or sole, which is virginal white, delicate and light- the princesses in the fish world. Bluefish, when smoked, is just so moist and buttery in texture. It can easily be mashed onto a cracker, no little annoying bones like trout, and a fraction of the cost of salmon.

Slicing leeks to be charred- A Stack of Dishes

The natural oiliness in the fish is not only the healthiest of fats you can eat, but it also means that when incorporating this fish into your recipes it becomes the flavor carrier. Most dips and spreads at a gathering are super fat bombs. One or two tablespoons can knock your diet socks right off- and who has just a tablespoon or two? I love them, I really do, and I’m not saying they shouldn’t be enjoyed, it’s just so super wonderful when you can enjoy something rich tasting and not have your liver end up in crisis. [Read more…]

Summer Bounty: Lavender Honeyed Seared Figs

Lavender Honeyed Seared Figs - A Stack of Dishes

Alas, once again I find myself in the throes of change. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, and for that I apologize. Know that my heart and mind has not been far from this place- I’ve just been overwhelmingly busy.

My life has once again taken me in a new direction. I am returning to New York City to begin again. The reasons are not complicated. I love a woman, she loves me, but we could not create an US that gave us joy and completion. It has been sad and frustrating, maddeningly so. In the end it was a realization of truth, which lead to a loving gesture to allow each other to go.

When I left Louisiana I spilled enough tears to overflow the bayou. It is indescribable the warmth and generosity of heart that the people have shown me there. I was an awkward scrappy Noo Yawk City gal who was quick to interrupt and spoke at a much faster cadence. My friends were patient, they were kind. Though I never lost my city edginess, I learned to slow down, smile more and breathe that Southern sultry air. I have come to recognize the drawling Southern accent as comforting, and I will sorely miss the “might could’s” and “fixin’ to’s”. Louisiana has left an indelible mark upon me.

Making Lavender Honey - A Stack of Dishes

Now that I am a returned New Yorker I see the city in a different light. Though I have visited plenty over the past two years, as a full time resident I feel it very differently. It’s true, New Yorkers are gruff and abrupt. I’ve heard quite a few “FU’s” and sharp bitter language between strangers that rattles my sensibility. Folks don’t slide and glide along, they often bump and butt against each other and the results are hissing cat standoffs. My reaction at first was to cringe, but now- now I find it endearing in a way. My NYer brethren, you make me smile. The truth about us city folk is that we may possess a scaly exterior, but inside there are tender golden hearts. There is generosity and community here too, you just have to patiently work past that tough outer skin.

And now begins the new. I found a sun filled studio apartment in Morningside Heights with a kitchen that is open and large enough to become a productive playground. I made an offer in May and it was accepted. Now I await the verdict of the board for my approval. It’s been three months of imagining and planning (Oh I can’t WAIT to show you!), but this trial is far from over. Welcome back to the Big Apple where no one buys an apartment without first tearing out much of their hair! In the end it will be worth it. I practice supreme patience.

In the meantime I am nested in my dear friend Claire’s apartment where she has generously cleared shelves and emptied a closet for me. Her cosy home is a safe gentle place to untangle myself from my past and reenter the new. I simply cannot fully express my gratitude- you should all be so fortunate to have such dearness in your life.

So here I am dear ones. I am back, in all respects, and it is now you that I turn my attention to. I have missed you.

One of my first acts of nesting here was to purchase a batch of herbs for my windowsill. They sit in front of me at my writing place so that I might look upon them as I think. To my left, in the corner I placed the lavender. I’ve never kept lavender before or even considered it for a potting, but this particular plant caught my eye at the farmer’s market, and that wink completely seduced me. Lavender is a fantastic thinking plant. I love its simple grace to gaze upon, and when my mind wanders I appreciate the refreshing scent it gives me when I stroke the leaves. And so naturally it wasn’t long before it made it’s way into a recipe.

Lavender in my window

Figs grew beautifully in Louisiana into beautiful plump jewels. My dear friend Candy Peavy handed me a bucketful last year that made me swoon with delight. Her tree hugs an outer wall of her home espalier style with elegant grandeur. It reaches up to the roof ridge with wide open arms. She has tended it beautifully, and it’s thanks to her is to drip sublime fruits off of it’s limbs. Whenever I drove past I always slowed to admire her gorgeous tree.

Here in NYC rich purple figs are everywhere on fruit market stands, tempting me at every turn. Late one recent afternoon at the end of a long walk, I grabbed myself a basket and headed home. I eyed them on the counter for a bit (that is after enjoying one or two), and my mind turned to the lavender.

Sliced Figs - A Stack of Dishes

I thought a fragrant honey would be perfect match for my ruby fruits. After snipping a stalk off my plant, I simply plucked the flower buds and put them into a small pot with a glug of honey. I gently warmed the little pot over a low flame and then set that aside for a few minutes to steep. The figs I sliced in half and seared in a cast iron pan to gently enhance their natural sweetness.  After a few minutes onto the plate they went, along with a dosing of fresh goat cheese and chopped toasted almonds- to be topped with the warm lavender honey. Salty, sweet, fragrant, with the mild crunch of almonds and fig seeds. Heavenly!

In this instance I gobbled these up myself, but think of these as a quick and delightful dish to accompany some of that summer rose wine you’re drinking with friends.

It is with friends and for friends that I believe the world exists. Gathering and sharing is what grounds us, connects us and feeds our souls. I have learned this to be more true than ever. In the kitchen cooking, behind my camera photographing, and writing has always been my solace, my joy and my best playground. I am supremely grateful for it.

It’s good to be back amongst you. Thanks for waiting for me.

drops

 

Country Pate {Pate de Campagne}

Pork and Turkey Country Pate ~ A Stack of Dishes

The cooler weather is finally settling in to Louisiana. I should hardly say a thing about it since some of my Northern friends are already suffering storms and foul weather. “Cooler weather” here means the horrible chore of having to put on a jacket, and I hate to tell you that a scarf is non unheard of at 66 degrees. (Yes, 66 is considered nippy to me now. *sigh*) Be that as it may, this is where we are at, and we must all flow where we are.

As the days shorten The Wife and I find ourselves pulling together dinner parties in lieu of the sunset cocktails on the porch. This is a wonderland for us. The Wife is in charge of the family “wine cellar”, a job that she takes on with passion and with great talent. Me, I have the joy of delving into the kitchen and creating more complicated and time intensive dishes.

Recently we had a small dinner party. The Wife chose a gorgeous Italian Prosecco to serve to our guests as they gathered and settled. We have learned that some of the best evenings start off with a little sparkle. As an accompaniment, my mind went to something earthy, something savory, with a hint of sweet to offset the wine. I wanted something special and yet, not overly stuffy. When I lived in Manhattan there were plenty of options for pre made pates of several types- but that’s not so much the case here. I also discovered when discussing this idea with a few friends was that not so many folks are as keen on liver as I am. This I find not surprising, but just so sad. I simply adore liver pate and could easily overindulge with abandon. 

When I first moved here I found the lack of provisions an obstacle, but these days I have come to accept it as de rigeur. I remind myself not to complain when there are so many other wonderful things about living here. Besides, it has forced me to become more honed to the basic  kitchen arts, which does my heart good. The art of making pate however does not demand fine skills. I would say the challenge lies less in the technique and more in the balance of flavors. [Read more…]