Mid-Week, Fish and Femmes

DSCN0655

This summer I decided to host a dinner party with all my girl friends since I felt I never got to hang out with them as a group as often as I’d like. After too many cocktails, too much food and just enough laughter, the evening ended with us dancing in our lingerie to cheesy pop music… that’s what my better-half likes to imagine, but enough with his stereotypical male fantasies.

The night was a huge success and I vowed to host dinner for my girls at least once per season. Well, the fall is rapidly coming to an end and invitations for dinner still hadn’t been sent out. Tuesday afternoon I found out that my live-in love was heading out for dinner, drink and cigars, so the perfect opportunity came up to invite the gals over. I happened to be perusing the Food & Wine section of the Globe and Mail, so menu ideas came up almost instantaneously. I sent out an email to my Chicas de Mtl mailing list and within a couple of hours half of them could make it on such a short notice. Not bad for a last minute, mid-week dinner!

Thanks to Ms. Waverman’s Weekend Menu, my Indian inspired dinner for four was set: Indian spiced swordfish served on a bed of turmeric creamed spinach, with coconut-mint basmati rice.

There is no need for me to elaborate on Ms. Waverman’s recipes since I pretty much prepared the dishes following her instructions, with the exception of omitting the cauliflower in her rice pilaf recipe and adding some frozen peas. I suck at making rice. It sticks, it burns, it overcooks, undercooks, boils over, dries out; I don’t know what it is about this grain but it never seems to end up the way cook books describe it. I do not have a rice cooker, nor do I plan to buy one until I have a kitchen big enough to hold all sorts of small appliances, dishes, pantries, etc. Essentially what I want is a small house built around a large kitchen… should be simple enough to find right? But I am determined to get this rice thing under control and until I do I will follow instructions as best I can. As for her Spiced Halibut recipe, I did not use halibut since it was not available that day at my local grocery store. I settled on swordfish, which nicely manned up to the Indian spices. The creamed spinach, however, is a recipe of my own creation. I served the meal with my home-made fid chutney, a recipe I got from the LCBO’s Fall issue of the Food&Drink.

Turmeric Creamed Spinach

  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup sliced onion
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp coconut milk or cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The proportions indicated are for a single-person side dish. Repeat x number times, with x representing the number of people eating. Bring a large pan up to a medium heat, drizzle with oil, add the onions and garlic to sauté for a couple of minutes or until soft. Add the spinach leaves and coconut milk. This may seem like a lot of spinach but it amazes me every time how much they shrink after cooking. Cover and let the spinach leaves sweat and soften. Remove the cover, add the turmeric, salt and pepper to taste and give it a good stir. Once the spinach is soft and well coated with the coconut milk and turmeric mixture, it is ready to serve.

Fig Chutney PreservesDSCN0388

This recipe is taken directly from the LCBO’s Food&Drink magazine. If you want to keep it in glass jars then I suggest you follow standard canning instructions.

  • 375 g ripe figs (green or black), trimmed
  • 1 serrano chili pepper, split (I used an ancho chili)
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 cloves
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 tsp finely grated ginger
  • l garlic clove, minced
  • ½ tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup water

Cut the figs in half or quarters depending on size and place in a bowl with the chili pepper, vinegar, sugar, cloves and cinnamon; stir to mix. Cover and leave to marinate at room temperature for 6 hours or overnight. Remove the chili pepper and scrape out the seeds. Dice the chili finely and set aside.

In a saucepan over medium low heat, add the oil and the onion. Cook until soft but not coloured then add the chili, ginger, garlic, mustard seeds and salt. Cook stirring constantly until the seeds begin to pop. Add the figs, all the juices and the water. Cook stirring often, until the mixture is thick and the figs are soft, about 25 minutes. At this point you are ready to proceed with the preserving process by packing the chutney in hot sterilized glass jars.

DSCN0656

Layla volunteered to bring dessert but in between a forgotten wallet and other daily mishaps, Jasmine came to the rescue. She made us a sweet mandarin cake, featured here. Though she claims it is the easiest cake, she still hasn’t shared her secret with us. Come on Jasmine, we’re all waiting! Hopefully she’ll get the hint and share the recipe with us.

Dinner was yet another success and the perfect mid-week break. I think it was just what we all needed to make it to the weekend!