Catching up… and getting back to basics.

You might not be exactly sure what this has to do with seafood, but stick with me and you’ll see.  One of the things we push at Cod & Capers is: know where your food comes from.  Ask questions.  Eat local when possible.  Great ingredients don’t need covering up, fancy sauces, or coatings.

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost two whole years since we have posted here!  Far too much time has gone by.  We moved to a new home, joyfully accepted the added responsibilities of caring for ill and aging family members, and have been busy with life in general.  We have also sadly experienced the overall upset that occurs when a family member is faced with serious health challenges.  Life has been a little bit difficult lately and I hate to admit it, but nothing fancy (or even blog-worthy) has been happening in this kitchen for quite some time.

I might not be feeling well enough to cook extravagant meals, but I have used some of my downtime to get back to basics and teach the kids about where their food comes from.  (I apologize in advance for all the cell phone pictures.  Apparently, getting out my camera is another thing I haven’t been doing.)

We have a Meyer Lemon tree that gave us over 200 pounds of lemons this winter.  (Seriously… look at all the Meyer Lemons on this tree!)  We made everything from Lemon Marmalade to Lemon Curd (and enough Lemonade Concentrate to last two kids at least a year) and then I taught them how to can it so it stays preserved until next time the tree gives us lemons.  We even made (and canned) Salsa and Marinara Sauce from their homegrown tomatoes.  The boys have really learned a lot in the last two years.

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Florida Strawberries are in season right now, so we made our annual batch of jam (enough to get us through until next year).  Normally, I would compost the green tops of the berries.  This year, we soaked them in vinegar and made Strawberry Vinaigrette by reducing the vinegar and adding sugar & lemon juice (the result was a ton of salad dressing from something we were going to THROW AWAY).

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You may remember from previous posts that we have kept hens (for eggs) for over ten years now.  During the last year, we added more chickens to our flock and even started hatching our own!

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Something we have been trying to remind the boys of is not to be wasteful.  A question that came up when hatching our own chicks is what to do with the males that will not be providing us with eggs.  After some thoughtful discussion, the boys decided that they would like to raise them for meat.  We are willing to give them all the experiences they are open to, so we made a go at it.  We raised the first two roosters that the boys hatched themselves until they were around 14 weeks old, at which point we decided to cull them.  Not only did this yield a completely delicious chicken dinner, but it was another excellent lesson in using ALL of what is given to us.  We used the entire animal.  I made over 8 quarts of stock with just two roosters, they ate chicken for dinner… everyone was happy.  I am thankful that they were able to experience hatching, raising, and caring for an animal before having the opportunity to see that chicken doesn’t just come from a package in a grocery store.



My favorite way to grill chicken is to remove the backbone and flatten the chicken.  (The best part is that I got to use the backbone for stock!)  We marinated one with garlic, sliced Meyer Lemons, and fresh Rosemary.  We left the other one plain and slathered it with BBQ Sauce while it was grilling.

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A meal this special called for homemade Macaroni & Cheese, Buttermilk Biscuits (with homemade Strawberry Jam), and a Spinach Salad with our Strawberry Vinaigrette.

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So what does it all have to do with seafood?  Well, not much… but the moral of the story is that it’s important to take a step back once in a while and really SEE where our food comes from.  Spend an extra hour in the kitchen making jam instead of buying jelly… even if it’s just once.  When I see how hard a fisherman has to work to bring in a load of fish or how hard an aquaculture farmer has to work to harvest just one shipment of fish or shrimp, it makes me appreciate every morsel we put on our plates.  Food is more than something that comes out of a package from a supermarket.  Whether it’s wild, farmed, or homegrown… take the time to really appreciate it and give thanks for it.  Don’t be wasteful.  We can all take a lesson from our grandparents and get back to basics.




Herb-Crusted Golden Tilefish with Lemon-Leek Risotto

We had some GORGEOUS Golden Tilefish come into the store last week.  I could not resist them… their tastiness is topped only by their stunning appearance.  Even though they are a little goofy-looking, it is one of the only fish I can think of that retains its beautiful markings and coloration even after it is harvested.  The taste and texture of Tilefish is fairly similar to Grouper.  If Tilefish isn’t available where you live, you could easily substitute Cod, Grouper, or any other mild flaky fish in this recipe.  Salmon would even work!

We started with a basic risotto recipe and jazzed it up with leeks and lemon.  We were lucky enough to come across some Meyer lemons in the grocery store and they added a really nice touch.  Risotto is a labor of love.  It really isn’t labor-intensive, it just requires a little bit of patience and you definitely have to pay attention to it.  Adding the liquid in stages develops the starches and creates a creamy sauce.

Lemon-Leek Risotto

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup Arborio rice
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (low sodium)
  • 1/2 cup grated or shaved parmesan cheese
  • zest and juice of one half lemon (we used the juice of a whole Meyer lemon since they are slightly milder)

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In a heavy-bottom pan, melt butter over medium heat.  (Meanwhile, keep the chicken or vegetable stock hot in a pan on another burner.)  Add leeks and shallots and sauté until soft, around 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed by the rice.  Raise the heat to medium-high and add one cup of heated stock to the rice.   Stir frequently until the broth is absorbed.  Repeat this process until you have used all the broth, making sure the broth is absorbed before each addition.  The rice will be al denté and creamy.  Stir in the parmesan, lemon zest, and lemon juice at the end.  This is best when served immediately.  Alternately, you could cover it and set it aside until you are ready to use it.  You may need to stir in a little additional liquid over low heat if you feel it has thickened too much during this time.

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Herb-Crusted Golden Tilefish

  • Tilefish
  • Egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with 1/4 cup milk or water)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Fresh garlic clove, finely minced
  • Finely chopped fresh herbs (we used thyme and sage)

Mix the zest, garlic, and herbs into the breadcrumbs.  Portion the Tilefish and dip the top side in the egg wash, and then into the breadcrumbs.  You don’t need to bread or coat the entire piece of fish… just the top.  Set the fish aside.

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Heat a small amount of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pan.  Put the fish, coated side down in the pan.  Make sure there is a little room between the pieces so they brown rather than steam.  After the breadcrumbs have browned and it has formed a crust, remove the fish from the pan and place on a baking sheet.  Transfer to a 400-degree oven and bake until the fish is cooked through.  (This took about 5-7 minutes for us and will vary depending on the thickness of the fish you use.)

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All that is left to do it build your plate!  We started with the risotto and nestled the fish on top.  I was recently gifted some amazing products from Zia Pia Imports and one of the things I have really been wanting to try is the Lemon Balsamic Glaze.  If you have ever used a Balsamic glaze, it is the same sort of idea except it comes from a milder white balsamic and has an amazing lemon flavor.  It is sweet and a little bit drizzled over the top of the fish really cut the acidity of the lemon in our risotto and balanced the dish AMAZINGLY well.  I can’t wait to find more uses for it.

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