7 July 2008
Paper Chef was re-invigorated a few months ago (now with its own blog!), and I’ve been meaning to participate in it ever since, but I kept missing it for various (lame and not-so-lame) reasons. But not this month! I finally pulled off an entry.
The idea behind Paper Chef is that you have a weekend (nearly a week now) to design and execute an original dish — or an original take on a classic — using four ingredients revealed at the kick-off. Three ingredients are chosen randomly from a list, and the fourth is chosen by the host / judge for the month.
I didn’t exactly follow Hank’s specifications (this month’s judge). The ingredients for Paper Chef 31 are fresh oregano, walnuts, chickpeas or chickpea flour, and a fish steak. I’m not big on walnuts, but I have a ready supply of pecans (from my dad’s backyard trees) so I planned to make that substitution. Also, he listed certain kinds of fish steak, but I already had some salmon in the freezer so I used that instead of buying one from his list. But I just now (while typing this up) see he was actually more keen on it being a fish steak than fillet. I guess I’m really off base, but not for the reason I thought. Woops!
I decided to use chickpea flour to make a breading for the fish. “Chickpea flour” makes me think of Indian food, so I wanted to go with some Indian spicing – but the oregano sort of throws a monkey wrench in that plan. But I proceeded apace nonetheless. Poking around in the cupboards turned up some hazelnut meal, so I decided to use that for the nuts (rather than toast and grind some pecans). I had some fresh oregano from my CSA share, so I was set (even though slightly off track from the Regulation Ingredients). Read on for what I made.
- 1/4 cup chickpea flour
- 1/4 to 3/8 hazelnut flour
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp powdered cumin
- 1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne or powdered chiles
Grind together in mortar and pestle (or with a spoon, if your m&p is still packed away due to a long-lasting kitchen remodel):
- 1 Tab fresh oregano (or more!)
- 1 tsp cumin seed
and add to the flour.
I dredged the fish in the flour mixture, then remembered some ill-fated attempts to try breading without eggs. So then I beat 1 egg with a glop of milk (2 tablespoons, perhaps?), put the fillet in that, then dredged again in flour.
Heat up skillet, film with olive oil and add a tablespoon of butter.
Cook salmon in skillet.
And this is where things kind of went wrong. I don’t know if my skillet was too hot (I wasn’t using my ideal sauté pan – the person who’d made eggs for breakfast had not washed it!) or one of the ingredients was prone to burning or what, but the breading burned. Both sides! However, all was not lost. It didn’t taste burned – in fact, it was really quite good! The crunch of the breading was nice against the fish, and the cumin was distinguishable but not overwhelming. Cumin with salmon: this I will do again!
If I’d made this meal on the weekend instead of after work, I might have made “chickpea pancakes” or “chickpea pizza” from my favorite cookbook, but instead, I served this with naan (sticking to the Indian angle!). And to throw in a “traditional” flavor, I also served tossed green salad.
I didn’t take a picture because it looked pretty sad in its charred stated – I suppose I could have passed it off as “blackened salmon” but that wasn’t my intention, so I skipped the photo.
Here’s an alternative idea that I didn’t make: Prepare Spanish-style Spinach with Chickpeas (fabulous dish!), adding in a big handful of oregano with the greens. Prepare fish steak in a straightforward fashion (salt & pepper, then grill or broil or sauté). Serve on top of the greens and chickpeas, and top with toasted walnuts and/or a drizzle of walnut oil. Too bad I didn’t think of this earlier – I could have used up more greens from my fridge! Hmmm, maybe I’ll do it this coming weekend…