Parchment Fish with Black Bean, Coconut, and Lime Sauce

You know how much I love make-ahead dishes. My golden rule in my first book, Picture Perfect Parties, is to always do “one or two make-ahead dishes—one in the oven and one on the cooktop. This makes for a relaxed host!”

When perusing my archives recently, I stumbled upon this post from almost six years ago for parchment fish. My daughter Alex calls it fish in a bag which is essentially what it is. You use parchment to create little pouches of flavor.

The best part about this is that it’s a great “make-ahead” meal. When you’re having guests for a dinner party, just put these together in the morning, pop them into the fridge and pull them out right before guests arrive. Bring them to room temp and pop them into the oven for 20 minutes and voila… dinner is in the bag!

Parchment Fish with Black Bean, Coconut, and Lime Sauce
Serves 4

You will need:

– 4 1/2 lb. pieces of wild salmon (or other fish of your choice; I also like Sea Bass)
– 2 cups snow peas
– 1 red pepper – cut into thin strips about 1/8 ” wide X 4″ long
– 3/4 cup black bean sauce, available in most markets.
– 1 lime 1/2 for juice and 1/2 for slices
– 1 garlic clove minced
– 1 teaspoon soy sauce
– 1/4 cup coconut milk
– 4 parchment squares 16″x16″
– 1/2 cup cilantro leaves as garnish

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F

Wash and clean the salmon. Pat dry and remove the skin (you can have the fishmonger do this for you if you like).

In a small bowl combine black bean sauce, lime juice from 1/2 lime, and minced garlic, soy sauce, coconut milk. Whisk until combined.

Lay a bed for the fish of 5-6  snow peas, and 5-6 strips of pepper in the middle of the parchment. Lay the salmon on top of the veggies, and spoon 4 tablespoons over the salmon, garnish with a lime slice.

To make a package, fold 2 flaps on either side of the fish over the fish while holding the flaps shut in the middle of the fish, pull the opposite 2 flaps over and hold on top, and roll together so the fold rolls over the fish forming a package. Squeeze the roll tightly and wrap the ends of the roll under itself into the ends of the roll, securing it shut.

Place the packages into a ceramic baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.

I like to serve this over brown rice.

When you pull these out of the oven, place rice on the plate and open the package and carefully pour the fish with veggies and sauce over the rice, garnish with cilantro leaves and serve warm.

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Cheers to Watermelon

Watermelon is ripe and ready this time of year which means it’s time for Keith Robinson’s delicious batched cocktail recipe, the watermelon spritzer. It’s perfect for spring and summer. Try it this weekend with friends, and let me know what you think, or just make the entire batch for a weekend of easy refreshments for two.

Watermelon Spritzer
Serves 12

You will need:
– 6 cups watermelon juice
– 1 cups fresh lime juice
– 1 cups mint simple syrup
– 1 bottle white Bordeaux or white burgundy wine
– 1/2 bottle club soda
– Fresh mint, lime slices as garnish

To prepare:
In a pitcher combine all the ingredients and ice and stir. To serve add fresh mint and slice of lime as garnish to each glass.

Photo: The Raftermen

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Finished… Finito…All Done, the last photoshoot for La Fortezza Cookbook

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The Dapper David Loftus, photographer and fashion plate sipping the Rosé named for him.

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Chef Leo, garnishing the local dish, in an authentic Lunigiana cast iron cooking vessel, called a testa.

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Me at my new bar, that was a delivery saga let’s just say I was happy it arrived and was in one piece.

Ciao everyone!  I can’t believe I am saying this, but I am done with La Fortezza Cookbook. The manuscript? Check,. The recipe testing? Check. Edits? Check. Photo-shoots per season? Check.

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La Fortezza, capture by David, his POV is perfection.   92DA59CE-8F04-440C-BA52-740073A6C28D_1_201_a

As you can imagine, shooting a seasonal cookbook in Italy has been a challenge. We had to cancel the very first shoot for the winter Chapter in February 2020. We were finally able to shoot the summer chapter August 2020, and with lots of restrictions and hurdles, we managed to shoot summer with me and my local chef Leo, then in October. I brought our workshop chef from the US which was no small feat. He, unfortunately, was going through some personal issues which did affect the quality of his work and the food which was another challenge on top of the other challenges was a lot for me to process. We soldiered on in March, hiring a new food stylist from England, the incredible Rosie Scott. All the while David Loftus, my photographer, was truly brilliant and consistent and created the most beautiful images. Rosie, our stylist from London, joined the team in March, along with our local chef Leo. We tackled the re-shoots from October’s shoot, as well as the new images for winter (yes, winter at the end of March. We lucked out with some unseasonably cold weather). Rosie and Leo knocked it out of the park. We had the crew back from London last week to shoot the final chapter, spring. With London lockdowns, endless covid 19 tests, daily temperature checks, travel restrictions, and tons of paperwork, we made it happen. My friend and superstar producer Barbara Pederzini was one of the reasons the shoot went so smoothly. She was my rock, to say the least.

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Daily temperature checks, Rosie and Charlie doing their temperature checks.

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With endless playlists, espressos, market runs, sunshine, heat, rain, and cold days, we had a great time. There were many many challenges, but I am beyond pleased with the recipes, and the images are outrageously gorgeous. This book, as we referred to it, will be “the most beautiful book in the world”. I am delighted that all of our local slow food purveyors’ stories are included, and the rich history of this little-known region of Italy, The Lunigiana, will be the star. I am proud and so excited to share it with all of you. Endless thank yous to David, Rosie, Leo, Barbara and of course, Charlie, Rosie’s lovely and helpful husband, who saved my ass driving to see the Shepherdess in Zeri…that’s another story for another time… dream team does not begin to describe this crew. Fin…xx

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Easy, yet Fancy Dinner:: Mussels in Wine

Easy yet elegant entertaining is something I like to think I specialize in. I love serving guests unexpected, unique meals that make them smile. One of my favorite ways to do just that is to serve mussels in wine.

Don’t be intimidated to cook mussels at home. It’s actually quite simple. Plus, you’ll inevitably wow your guests. They’ll be so impressed with your skills, and the presentation can be truly lovely. Just toss everything in a huge white bowl and serve the mussels family style.

This recipe is one of my favorites. Be sure to serve this dish alongside plenty of french bread for soaking up the goodness!

Mussels in Wine

You will need:
– 3 lbs mussels
– 1 small shallot diced
– 1 small clove of garlic minced
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 2 cups white wine*
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
– 1 cup marinara sauce (jarred sauce is fine, but here’s a pro-tip: leftover homemade sauce from the freezer is perfect for this recipe!)
– 1 cup chopped parsley

*Note: I always choose a cooking wine the same way I choose a drinking wine. If I wouldn’t drink it, I wouldn’t cook with it!

To prepare:
In a large stock pot, place shallots, garlic, oil and salt. Saute until the shallots are translucent. Add mussels, wine and butter. Cook until mussels open, discarding any mussels that have not opened. Add marinara, pepper flakes and parsley. Serve with crusty french bread.

 

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Strawberry and Mascarpone Tart

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Strawberry season is in full swing, and this strawberry and mascarpone tart is a great way to show off spring berries. It’s from Kieth Robinson’s feature in Atlanta Magazine’s Home from a few years ago when I was the entertaining editor. Trust me, it is as delicious as it looks!

Strawberry and Mascarpone Tart

For the crust, you will need:
– Crust – 2 cups AP flour
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup unsalted butter softened
– 1/2 cup powdered sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling, you will need:
– 1 pound mascarpone cheese (two cups)
– 1/4 cup powdered sugar
– 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon lemon zest
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– Three cups of fresh berries, cleaned

To prepare:
Mix together the flour and salt in a bowl.  In the bowl of the mixer cream butter and sugar until fluffy, add vanilla. beat in the flour mixture until just incorporated, do not over mix. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Press the chilled dough into a false bottom tart shell, prick the bottom with a fork.  Place it into a 350 degree oven until lightly browned, cool completely in the pan.

Mix together all ingredients for the filling, smooth into the cooled unmolded tart shell. Top with fresh strawberries.

Photo: The Raftermen

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