Friday, December 11, 2009

Something Simple

We had just finished the leftover sausage pizza as an afternoon snack when I started thinking about what to cook for dinner. "I can't even think about eating something else right now," said Lissa. After we awoke from our ritual cat nap, she could start thinking about food, although the meal was requested to be something light...something simple. We started to brainstorm, and with the rain falling outside on a cool December night, I decided that I would prefer a pile of sauteed vegetables to a pile of salad.

Before I went to the store, I dropped by Cafe Mare to loan Jean-Pierre my Flavor Bible in hopes of spurring some combination inspiration (especially with a certain Tricholoma magnivelare). Then it was off to Shopper's Corner to get some (beautiful) fresh fillets of Petrale Sole. I also bought some swiss chard, and one lovely yellow brandywine tomato (I love, locally grown non-mealy heirloom tomatoes in December).

The culinary illumination for this meal comes from Italia. Italian cuisine lends itself to simplicity. If I learned nothing else about Italian food from working at Cafe Mare for six years it is this: use the best possible ingredients, and let them shine by keeping things simple. That was my plan for this night, and it worked out splendidly.

First thing was to prep my chard. I actually like to use the stems (though tough, that's usually where you'll find lots of fiber and nutrients in veggies) as well as the leaves. I cut the stems out and then slice them thinly. They will get sauteed in olive oil with some minced garlic for a couple of minutes, so to soften up before I add the sliced leaves and lemon juice. The leaves cook very quickly, so I will make sure to have everything I need on hand, as well as have everything else plated or ready to plate before I toss them in the pan.

Next I get my sauce for the fish going. I slice a quarter of a red onion, dice my fabulous tomato, pit a small handful of kalamata olives, and drain a couple tablespoons of capers. Now the assembly...a drizzle of olive oil meets a preheated pan (medium high), and onions jump in and soften until translucent. Then the tomatoes, olives and capers join in and the fire calms. A sprinkle of salt finds its way to the sauce, and before you know it, your simple sauce is a success.

Now the sole. It doesn't get much more simple than sole. Salt and pepper, lightly pan fry in a hot pan with olive oil, about 1 minute on each side. Be careful when you flip it that the sole does not fall apart (no one wants a broken sole), it's quite a delicate fish. That's it! Plate the sole, spoon the sauce over the top. If you haven't already tossed the chard leaves in the pan, do so, then sprinkle in some lemon juice and salt, toss a couple times, then plate alongside the sole. I chopped some fresh chives as a zingy garnish, and...finito. E guardate che bello...

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