Saturday, January 28, 2023



Smoked trout served whole with a selection of classic accompaniments, from top left, capers, dill, horseradish, cream cheese, Dijon mustard and scallions.

A pair of bronzed smoked trout landed in my kitchen this week. My son Ben, returning from a hiking trip in the Sierra Nevada, brought them from Riofrío, a stopping place on the road from Granada to Málaga.

When the kids were growing up, we used to make the drive, once in a season, to the Sierra Nevada for skiing. On the way up, we usually stopped at a venta, a roadside eatery, for choto al ajillo, baby goat cooked with lots of garlic. On the way back, we stopped at Riofrío, to eat trout pulled fresh from the cold river and to buy a few smoked ones to bring home. 

The trout hatchery at Riofrío, established in the 1960s, has been supplanted by a caviar farm—sturgeon instead of trout. But the popular roadside restaurants still sell trout—as well as caviar!

The trout I’ve got are hot-smoked. They are first brined, then smoked with indirect heat, which both cooks and flavors the fish. Moisture is lost in smoking, so the flavor is concentrated. As trout is a fairly fatty fish, the flesh doesn't dry out in the process. Another version of smoked trout is cold-smoked trout, sold, thinly sliced in packets in most supermarkets. The silky fish resembles smoked salmon. 

Both farmed and wild-caught rainbow trout can have flesh color that ranges from white to pink to salmon-orange. What they eat affects their color. In the case of farmed trout, additives to fish feed contribute to the pink color. 

How to use smoked trout? Serve them, al natural, as pictured above, with a sauce or classic accompaniments such as capers, horseradish, hot mustard. Or remove skin and bones and serve the fillets with accompaniments or added to salads, soups, pasta or fish cakes.

Fillet of smoked trout here is served simply, with a side of vegetable sauté with butternut squash.

Toss flaked trout with pasta and vegetables. Garnish with capers or, as pictured, caperberries.

Use flaked trout with mashed potatoes to make fish cakes. The smokiness of the trout gives the cakes special flavor. Serve with a simple sauce. Caperberries, shown upper right, are the brined seed pods of the caper bush. The better-known small capers are the bud. 

Diced sautéed vegetables and flaked trout make a quick chowder. when added to chicken broth and rich milk.

Prepping the trout
It's easy to lift off the skin and bones from hot-smoked trout.

Because the trout is cooked in the smoking process, it's easy to separate flesh from the skin and bones. Remove and discard the head. With a thin knife, loosen the skin and carefully remove it. (Save the skin, if desired, and crisp it in a skillet to eat alongside the trout.) Separate the bony edges where the fins are attached. Use the knife or an offset spatula to lift the top fillet off of the spine. Pull the spine up, bringing most of the bones with it. Use tweezers to pluck out fine bones remaining in the flesh. Trout is ready to serve or to be flaked for use in salad, pasta, soup or cakes.

Vegetable Sauté with Squash
Pisto con Calabaza

This vegetable medley is a terrific side with any fish, meat or poultry meal. Serve it room temperature or even cold with lemon juice or vinegar added and it becomes an instant relish. It appears, as ingredient or accompaniment, in all of the following recipes.

Cut the vegetables in approximate ½-inch dice. Sauté them until they are just tender, but don’t let them get too soft. I precooked the potato and added it at the end of the sauté to make sure it didn’t get mushy. 

Diced bacon goes especially well with the trout, but is optional.

Dice vegetables to sauté.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ounce diced bacon, pancetta or fatty ham
2 cups diced butternut squash
½ cup chopped onions
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup diced red bell pepper
½ cup diced green pepper
1 cup diced cooked potato
Pinch of crushed fennel seeds
Pinch of oregano
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, optional

A colorful mix of vegetables is quickly sautéed.

Heat the oil with the bacon in a skillet. Add the squash, onions and garlic. Sauté them 3 minutes on medium-high heat. When squash just begins to brown, add the red and green pepper. Continue cooking, 3 minutes. 

Add the cooked potato, fennel, oregano, salt and pepper. Sauté 3 minutes or until vegetables reach desired doneness. 

Smoked Trout Cakes
Tortitas de Trucha Ahumada

Fish cakes are served with sautéed vegetables and a crunchy salad of raw fennel and orange. Accompany with a simple sauce, mayonnaise, mustard and horseradish. 

One whole, 8 ½-ounce trout, after head, skin and bones were removed, produced 5 ounces (about 1 cup) of flaked meat, enough for this recipe.

Before frying, the patties are dredged in ground almond meal instead of flour or bread crumbs, so they are gluten-free. 

I crisped some of the trout skin in a skillet, chopped it and added to the patty mixture. The skin adds to the smoky flavor of the trout cakes. 

Serve the trout cakes with a sauce, if desired. I kept it simple: Dijon mustard and mayonnaise plus a little grated horseradish. I served the Vegetable Sauté with Squash as a side along with a salad of crisp, raw fennel and orange pieces. 

Flaked smoked trout.
Makes 6 (3 ½-inch cakes).

1 large potato (10 ounces)
1 medium egg, beaten
1 tablespoon finely chopped trout skin (optional)
½ ounce chopped ibérico or serrano ham (optional)
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
Grated lemon zest
1 cup flaked or chopped smoked trout
Salt, if needed
Freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup unsweetened almond meal
Olive oil for frying

Peel the potato, cut it in chunks and cook in salted water until soft enough to mash. Drain the potato. Place in a bowl. Use a potato masher or fork to mash it as smooth as possible. Mix in the beaten egg. Add the trout skin and ham, if using. Stir in the parsley, scallions and zest. Fold in the smoked trout. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Dredge cakes in almond meal.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Chilling firms the mixture, making it easier to form the patties.

Spread half the almond meal in a wide bowl or rimmed tray. Divide the trout mixture into 6 balls. Lightly oil your hands and pat the balls into discs. Place them in the almond meal. Spread remaining almond meal on top. Press the almond meal gently into the cakes. 

Cover a baking sheet with parchment. Carefully lift the cakes, they will be soft, and place them on the sheet. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet on medium-high. Fry the cakes until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove and drain briefly on absorbent paper. 

Chowder with Smoked Trout and Vegetables
Sopa de Trucha Ahumada y Pisto

Fish chowder with dill.

Serves 4.

6 cups chicken broth
1 cup evaporated milk
2 cups Vegetable Sauté with Squash (recipe above)
2 cups flaked smoked trout
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped dill or fennel leaves to garnish

Bring the broth to a boil. Lower heat and add the milk. Heat, but do not boil. Add the vegetables and heat thoroughly. Add the smoked trout, salt and pepper. Serve the chowder and garnish with dill or fennel.

Pasta with Smoked Trout and Squash
Pasta con Trucha Ahumada y Pisto

Simple to prepare, but big on flavor--sautéed vegetables, flaked smoked trout with pasta.

Allow about ½ cup of flaked trout per serving and, more or less, a similar amount of the vegetable sauté. 

Vegetable Sauté with Squash (recipe above)
Olive oil
Fettuccine or other pasta
Flaked smoked trout
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the vegetables in a skillet with a little oil. Cook the pasta. Add the pasta to the skillet and mix it with the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the trout and just warm the mixture. Serve immediately with a few capers to garnish.

Pictured is cold-smoked trout. It comes, thinly sliced like smoked salmon, in packets from the supermarket. Here, the slices are served on top of sliced cooked potato.

Saturday, January 21, 2023


In several recent recipes, I’ve called for “miso” in the ingredient list, although the recipes had nothing to do with Japanese cooking. And, I’ve noticed that a fellow blogger, Mad Dog, who posts Spanish/Catalan recipes, often lists “anchovy paste” as an ingredient, for example, in sopa de fideos or carne con tomate. A French acquaintance always adds Vietnamese nuoc mam fish sauce to his otherwise traditional Spanish paella. 

What’s going on here? Miso, a fermented soybean paste; anchovies, and Asian fermented fish sauces all add umami—the fifth taste element perceived by the taste buds, along with sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Umami means yummy, mouth-watering, big-time savory, Umami ingredients add depth of flavor and richness to foods. 
Umami ingredients pictured, clockwise from bottom left, miso, soy sauce,
 sun-dried tomatoes, bonito flakes, fish sauce, anchovies, slivered ibérico ham,
 aged cheese, shitake dry mushrooms and kombu seaweed. 

I first bought miso when, preparing an all-vegetarian holiday dinner, I needed something to punch-up the gravy. My local “health food store” had only hatcho miso, a dark, almost black, paste the consistency of peanut butter. It was brilliant, giving the gravy a deep, beefy color and meaty taste. 

The flavor-enhancing effect comes from the presence in the food of glutamic acid, one of the amino acids that are components of protein. The glutamic acid bonds with other amino acids to produce the savory, mouth-watering effect. 
Here are foods, a few vegetarian, that are high in umami-making glutamates: seafood, especially molluscs, and cured fish (bonito flakes, anchovy paste); mushrooms, especially dried shitake; fermented pastes and sauces such as soy, tamari, nuoc mam, kecap; fermented foods such as kimchi; seaweed, especially kombu; fruits and vegetables such as oranges and tomatoes (especially sun-dried tomatoes; meat, especially dry-cured ham and cured sausages. 

Of course, you could just add a spoonful of umami powder—MSG, monosodium glutamate, also known by its original Japanese name, aji-no-moto. It appears in many packaged foods, such as soups. Oddly enough, I have been unable to find it where I shop, although it is available on-line at Amazon España. 

I continue to experiment with miso, as you can see in my recipe for arroz with ibérico pork. That rice dish gets a triple umami whammy, with ibérico pork, ham broth and a smidgen of miso. Today, I’m using miso to make a flavorful stock for sopa de ajo, a vegetarian version of Spanish garlic soup.

A robust Castillian garlic soup: chunks of bread soak up the savory broth. Pimentón and, in this variation, dark miso paste, give the soup its color. 

Poach eggs right in the soup.

Sopa de ajo, perfect for chill winter days.

Throw some greens, chard maybe, into the soup if you like.

Eggs can be poached in the soup or, poach them in a separate pan, add them to the soup bowls at the last minute. Keep the yolks runny--use the spoon to break up the egg into the bread-thickened broth.

Garlic Soup with Miso
Sopa de Ajo con Miso

Taking a cue from Japan’s iconic miso soup, I added miso to a very traditional sopa de ajo, Castillian garlic soup. Originally a peasant soup, made with garlic, olive oil, bread and water—basically vegetarian—garlic soup now is usually made with chicken or meat stock with diced ibérico ham adding umami. I’ve reverted to a vegetarian version, using miso to punch up the flavor.

Diced seitan (wheat gluten) subs for the ham that usually goes into garlic soup. If you want a vegan soup, substitute cubes of silken tofu for the eggs.

Miso (left) goes into this garlic soup.

Serves 4.

8-10 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup olive oil
8-10 slices baguette
1 ounce seitan or smoked tofu, diced
2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika)
6 cups vegetarian stock (recipe follows)
1 teaspoon miso
4 eggs
Chopped parsley or scallions to garnish

Cut the cloves of garlic in half lengthwise. If they have a green sprout in the center, remove it with the tip of a knife. Slice the garlic crosswise and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a wide, deep pan such as a cazuela or Dutch oven. Add the slices of bread and brown them on both sides. Remove and reserve them. Add the diced seitan to the pan with 1 tablespoon more oil and fry until it is browned. Skim it out.

Add remaining oil to the pan on medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and fry it, stirring, until it begins to turn golden. Take care that the garlic doesn’t burn. 

Add fried bread to the soup while it cooks.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pimentón. Immediately add the stock. Return the pan to the heat. Add all but 4 slices of the toasted bread. Heat the soup, but do not let it boil. Cook, stirring frequently to break up the bread into small pieces. Cook 20 minutes.

Remove ½ cup of the hot stock and add to the miso. Stir to dissolve the miso. 

Return the fried seitan to the soup. Stir in the miso. Break eggs, one by one, into a saucer and slide them into the hot soup. Cook on low heat until the whites are set but yolks still very runny. Remove the pan from the heat. 

Serve the soup, sprinkled with parsley, in the same pan or ladled into soup bowls. 

Vegetarian Soup Stock with Miso
Caldo Vegetariano con Miso

Miso beefs up the stock pot. Onion skins add color. 

Dark hatcho miso paste.
This deeply flavorful stock based on miso is a good starting point for soups, sauces and gravy. Hatcho (black) miso contributes color as well as flavor, but white or red miso can also be used. 

I learned from a Japanese cookbook that kombu should be skimmed out of the stock-pot before the liquid comes to a boil, so that it doesn’t become bitter. And, miso, the star ingredient, should never boil or it loses its healthful properties (pro-biotic enzymes). Nevertheless, it still adds flavor, so I wasn’t too finnicky about cooking it.

Crank up the umami--miso, tomatoes, mushrooms.

Makes about 6 cups stock.

½ ounce dried shitake mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
8 cups water
1 onion, not peeled
4 cloves
1 leek, cut in thirds
¼ turnip, peeled
1 stalk celery
1 carrot, peeled
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes or chopped fresh tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Sprig of thyme
2-inch piece of kombu
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ lemon
1 tablespoon miso
Salt, if needed

Dry shitake mushrooms.

Place the mushrooms in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the boiling water over them. Allow the mushrooms to soak 30 minutes to hydrate them.

Place the 8 cups of water in a soup pot. Add the mushrooms and their liquid. Cut the onion in half. Stick the cloves into the onion halves. Add both halves of the onion, (onion skins add color to the stock). Add the leek, turnip, celery, carrot and tomatoes. 

Kombu seaweed.
Add bay leaf, thyme, kombu, peppercorns and lemon. Bring the water to a boil. Skim off any froth that rises to the top. Skim out the kombu. Lower heat so the water bubbles gently. Cover and cook 30 minutes.

Place the miso in a small bowl. Ladle ½ cup of the hot stock over the miso. Stir until the miso paste is dissolved. Add the miso to the stock pot. Taste the stock and add salt, if needed. 

Uncover the pot and cook 15 minutes longer. Do not boil. Remove from the heat and let the stock stand 15 minutes. Carefully pour it through a colander. (Save vegetables for another use, if desired. Discard herbs and lemon.) Pour the stock through a fine sieve. Store it, covered and refrigerated, until ready to use for soup.

More garlic soup recipes:

Saturday, January 14, 2023



Bitter orange tree in my garden.

Sure, you could make marmalade. But, not if  you’re the city of Sevilla, where ornamental bitter oranges are emblematic. Sevilla has some 50,000 urban orange trees, creating a major headache for the crews which, during January and February, must pick the fruit before it rots and falls. The oranges on city streets cannot be used for making commercial marmalade because the leaves and skin of the fruit absorb contaminants. 

A pilot project started in Sevilla in 2020 uses street oranges to make juice, which, in fermenting, creates methane that can be converted into biofuel to generate electricity to power the city’s residual water treatment plants. So far, this accounts for only about 3.5 percent of the fruit collected. With funding, the project may continue to expand. Another 7.7 percent of oranges goes to dumps where some become compost. The lion’s share—88.8 percent—is used for industrial purposes such as the distillation of essential oils and to manufacture livestock feed. (These figures are from an article in Diario de Sevilla.)

These oranges, native to China, were first planted in Spain by the Romans. But it was the Moors (Arabs) who extended the plantings widely. The essential oils were used medicinally and as a fragrance. The naranja amarga, known in English as the “Seville orange,” is not actually bitter. The peel is bitter, the juice is sour. Really sour. As mouth-puckeringly tart as lemons. 

Sour oranges can be used in any way you use lemons. Squeeze some on vegetables (brilliant with artichokes and asparagus); on fried fish, in salads. The juice makes a terrific vinaigrette. Or, use it to make a classic orange sauce as in Duck a l'Orange. Biofuel, anybody?

A variation on classic Duck a l'Orange, here made with duck breast. The sauce is made with the juice of sour oranges.

Coleslaw with a difference--shredded cabbage, fennel and carrots are mixed with pieces of sweet orange and dressed with a sour orange vinaigrette.

The same vinaigrette used for the coleslaw is poured over roast salmon. The vinaigrette is made with equal parts sour orange juice and extra virgin olive oil, a half-teaspoon of sesame oil, grated ginger, grated (sweet) orange zest, and chile paste to taste. 

Roast fillet of salmon with a side of slaw, both dressed with sour orange vinaigrette and speckled with black sesame.

Sour orange sponge pudding, baked in oven-proof cups.

Duck Breast a l’Orange
Magret de Pato a la Naranja

Classic French Duck a l’Orange is actually Canard au Bigarade—duck with a sauce made with sour oranges—not, a la Julia Child, with sweet oranges. Bigarade is the Provençal name for the Seville bitter orange. So tangy is the sauce that it really needs the addition of caramel, which both deepens the color of the sauce and sweetens it.

Although the classic recipe calls for roast duck, I’m making a version using magret, boneless duck breast, that cooks in minutes. 

Starting point for the orange sauce is a deeply flavored brown stock. Make it with beef bones or pieces of duck carcass that have been browned in the oven. Add aromatics and herbs and canned tomatoes for depth of color. Take care not to add too much salt, as the stock is going to be reduced, which concentrates the salt.

You can make caramel (melt sugar until dark brown, dissolve it in some water or vinegar to make it  sauce consistency) or, as I chose to do, use store-bought bottled liquid caramel (look for it on the shelves with the baking and pudding ingredients). 

Sour oranges for juicing.

Makes enough orange sauce for 3 duck breasts or 1 whole roast duck.

1 orange (bitter or sweet)
1 ½ cups brown stock (beef and/or duck)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 ½ cups sour orange juice, strained
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons liquid caramel
2 tablespoons rendered duck fat or butter
Duck breasts, each about 14 ounces
Sweet orange segments to garnish (optional)

Use a vegetable peeler or zester to remove the zest from the orange without any white pith . Cut the zest into julienne slivers. Blanch the zest in boiling water 1 minute and drain. Return the zest to the pan with fresh water, bring again to a boil. Cook sweet orange zest 4 minutes and drain. If using bitter orange peel, cook it 10 minutes. Drain well. Pat dry and reserve the slivered zest.

Place ¼ cup of the stock in a small bowl with the cornstarch. Stir to blend. Combine the remaining stock and sour orange juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half (about 20 minutes). Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and whisk in the liquid caramel. (Sauce can be made in advance. Reheat when duck is ready to serve.) Before serving, whisk duck fat or butter into the hot sauce.

Score the fat of the duck breast.

For the duck breast: Use a sharp knife to score the fatty side of the duck breast in a diagonal cross-hatch, without cutting into the flesh. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat a heavy skillet on medium heat. Brown the duck breast, fat side down, until fat is crisped and browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Very carefully drain off excess fat. Turn the duck breast and cook until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the breast on end to brown the edges. The duck should be browned on the outside and rare in the center.

Remove to a cutting board and allow it to stand 10 minutes. Slice crosswise into ½-inch slices. Arrange slices on a platter or individual plates. Spoon some of the sauce over the duck. Sprinkle with the strips of zest. Garnish, if desired, with sweet orange segments. 

Tangy orange sauce complements the rich and fatty duck breast. The segments used as garnish are sweet orange.

Duck breast is usually served rare. Strips of blanched orange zest garnish the duck.

Sour Orange Sponge Pudding
Flan Bizcochado de Naranja Amarga

This is based on an old favorite dessert recipe, Lemon Sponge Pudding (in The Joy of Cooking by Rombauer and Becker). I like it tart! I’ve used less sugar than called for in the original recipe, even though I have substituted sour orange juice for sweet. 

Serves 4.

½ cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon grated zest from a sweet orange
2 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup sour orange juice
1 cup evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Cream together the sugar and butter. Add the zest. Beat in the egg yolks. Beat in the orange juice. Add the flour and milk.

Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter. 

Grease 4 custard cups or oven-proof pudding bowls. Set them in a pan with 1 inch of hot water. Ladle the batter into the cups. Bake until the pudding is set, 40 minutes.  Serve the puddings in the custard cups in which they baked.

More recipes using bitter oranges: