Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bringing NYC to the Infirm and Gall Bladder-Less

So I just got back from a FABULOUS--though hot and exhausting--trip to NYC. I saw FOUR shows in two days, plus got to see some wonderful friends. One night, we splurged on a fancy dinner on the Upper East Side at a restaurant called Rouge Tomate. We started with cocktails. My favorite was a Moscow Mule made with their spicy, housemade ginger beer. Once we sat down to dinner, the chef treated us to an amuse bouche of pumpernickel crumbs topped with beets tartare and a horseradish foam. For an appetizer, we had these lovely little toasts with different toppings--mine was avocado and sweet corn with blue crab. After that, I had this fabulous carrot gazpacho, and for my entree, I had branzino with couscous, fennel, almonds, apricot, asparagus, and purslane. YUM!

Unfortunately, my dear roommate couldn't go with me to the Big Apple, as she had to have her gall bladder out--poor thing! Of course, I brought her home some of the beloved Doughnut Plant doughnuts (the summery blueberry ones are to die for--perhaps literally, as one is not supposed to eat fatty foods for a month after gall bladder surgery, oops). On top of the sweet treats that I imported, I also wanted to make a special get well dinner for her that was reminiscent of the one that I had at Rouge Tomate. Not only was it delicious, but fairly healthful and lack-of-gall-bladder friendly as well.

We started with a Moscow Mule, which wasn't as awesome as the one made with homemade ginger beer, but using Reed's Extra Ginger Brew was a decent substitution. And the cocktail is so simple: Ice, juice of half a lime, 2 oz. citrus vodka (I'm a big fan of Sobieski), then fill up the glass the rest of the way with ginger beer. Very easy and very refreshing! (However, one is not supposed to drink for a month after gall bladder surgery either...oops again.)

Next, for our appetizer, I think I did an EXCELLENT job of cloning that carrot gazpacho. In fact, I'm not sure that mine wasn't a bit better, if I do say so myself. I didn't hide bits of veggies in the bottom of the bowl like they did at at restaurant, but I topped mine with some avocado slices and a big dollop of homemade roasted tomatillo salsa. YUM! And the gazpacho is fat-free and vegan, for those of you who care about such things.

Carrot Gazpacho

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 large carrots, scrubbed and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 quart vegetable stock
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or vinegar of your choice)
1 large seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 cup carrot, mango and ginger juice (or plain carrot juice), or to desired consistency
salt and pepper, to taste
sriracha, to taste (I used about a teaspoon)

To a large sauce pan, add the olive oil and cook the onions until they started to turn golden brown. Add the carrots and garlic, and cook another minute or two. Pour in the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and add the sherry vinegar. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until very smooth. Chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.

When the soup is thoroughly chilled, add the cucumber, carrot juice, salt and pepper, lime juice, and sriracha. Blend again until very smooth. Serve cold, garnished with any of the following: avocado slices, tomatillo salsa, sour cream, cilantro leaves and/or chives.

Lastly, for our entree, I prepared some glazed cod fillets and apricot and almond-studded version of my favorite Israeli couscous mix from Trader Joe's. So simple, so easy...so delicious! (Note: Tomate Rouge's version also had asparagus in it, so feel free to blanch some spears, slice them up, and throw them in as well, if you are of a mind to.)

Glazed Cod and Curried Couscous Blend with Fresh Apricots, Sliced Almonds, and Apricot Vinaigrette

1 3/4 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend (or just use plain Israeli couscous)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 large (or two small) apricots, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup apricot pepper jelly (or apricot jam)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (or vinegar of your choice)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the couscous blend, stir, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for ten minutes. Fluff with a fork, and stir in the almonds, chopped apricots, curry powder, salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the apricot pepper jelly (or apricot jam), olive oil, vinegar, and mustard. Add about half of the vinaigrette (just eyeball it) to the couscous mixture and stir gently to combine.

Season a pound to a pound and a half of a mild white fish of your choice--I used cod because it was on sale today--with a spice rub of your choice (I had them add lemon pepper and Asian ginger spice blends at the fish counter). Melt a tablespoon of butter on a stovetop griddle along with a tablespoon of olive oil. Brown the fish on both sides, and glaze with the remaining apricot vinaigrette when the fillets are almost done. Serve the fish on a bed of the couscous.

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