Sunday, November 11, 2007

Return of the cook

For the past few weeks (months, even), I haven't exactly been eating healthy. My work schedule typically gets me home after 7pm, which often meant I was too tired to cook. So I got to-go food from work or went out to a restaurant with the Anthropologist, where I didn't really make the best food choices: I was eating a lot of fried foods, foods covered in cream sauces, and not entirely enough fruits and vegetables.

Last weekend, I declared I was going on a "detox" diet. Far be it from me to actually follow a fad diet (and I wasn't about to starve myself and only drink fruit juices or herbal concoctions) — what I really meant was that I was going to try to eat better. No more eating out. No more meat-and-carbs-only meals. And it was time to start cooking again.

After reading a couple articles on "detox" diets, I decided that, as a guideline, I would try to avoid processed foods (which I try to do anyway), as well as anything with a high sugar or fat content, including meat, and I would concentrate on getting my five to nine servings of produce, including lots of dark, leafy greens. Of course, I'm not always successful (dinner at Taco Bell doesn't exactly fit the criteria, does it?), but I'm happy that I'm cooking again and I feel healthier.

Tonight I decided to make a fish pie, which contained elements of recipes from both Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver. (I had both cookbooks open on the kitchen table and was studying them intently, which caused the Anthropologist to remark that I looked like I was working on a paper.) Served on the side were peas and Heinz baked beans, which apparently are the classic accompaniments to such a dish. It was really very good: a hearty meal for a cold, late autumn night.

Stay tuned for more! I know I often promise this kind of post or another, but I truly am going to try to post on a more regular basis — and a post about something is better than no post at all.

Fish pie
(adapted from Nigella's Feast and Jamie's The Naked Chef Takes Off)

1 large Russet potato, weighing about 1 lb, cut in 1-inch cubes
1/4 c butter, divided (alternatively, use olive oil)
2 handfuls of spinach
1/4 onion, diced
2 small carrots, halved lengthwise, then diced
1 tbsp flour
1 c milk, whole or otherwise
1 tsp herbes de Provence (or thyme or other herb mix)
1 pinch saffron, soaked in 1 tbsp warm water
1/2 lb white fish, like cod (I used tilapia), sliced into strips
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Boil potato in salted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Mash with butter or olive oil, pepper, or whatever else you like.

Meanwhile, wilt the spinach any way you like and set aside. Sauté the onion and carrots in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Melt 1 tbsp butter, then whisk in flour. Cook on low heat for a couple minutes, until golden. Gradually add the milk, whisking all the while, until the sauce becomes smooth and thick. Return the onion and carrots to the pan, along with the herbes de Provence (or whatever you're using) and the saffron. Cook for 5 minutes.

In a casserole dish large enough to fit everything (I used a large, deep ramekin*), put the spinach and the fish at the bottom with the lemon juice. Add the sauce on top, smoothing it out with a rubber spatula. Then add the mashed potato on top, making sure the sides are sealed so that no sauce can escape. Place the dish on a baking sheet (to catch any surprise drips) and bake for 25 minutes, until golden on top.

Serve with peas and English baked beans. Nigella and Jamie insist.

Serves 2-3.

*The Anthropologist thinks this sounds dirty.


Michael Doss said...

Welcome Back!

I've been doing a LOT more cooking for myself since giving up eggs and dairy while eating out. Processed foods are hard to give up sometimes, though cooking (not to mention eating) fresh foods makes it all worth it.

sher said...

Yes, welcome back. That fish pie must have been very good! (Sometimes I give into the lure of Taco Bell too!)

Teresa said...

Thanks, guys!