When asked, “What is your favorite food?,” I of course respond with, “Italian.” Italian food for me is like breathing air…not so much a preference or choice, but a genetic obligation that is synonymous with life. As a child, my school lunches included prosciutto, provolone, and roasted red peppers on homemade bread. Sides rarely if ever included chips or cookies, but rather fresh fruit, Piemontese chocolates, and cheeses. I’m grateful for growing up like this in America for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s freaking delicious and healthy, and I’m grateful that as a child I ate what is now a ‘fashionable trend’ in society. Secondly, because we mostly ate ‘off the boat’ authentic Italian, our appetites developed a love and amorous curiosity for food from all around the world, turning my brother and I into hardcore foodies.
Although Italian reigns supreme on my personal list of favorite cuisine, I have several food addictions that mostly arrive from the far east. Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese – all of them, irresistible, have several specialties that I find myself craving and indulging in on a frequent basis. I am a novice when cooking with the bold flavors of that region, but I am not intimidated to take chances, listen to my stomach, and create my own creations that pay respect to a style and culture of cooking that is very different from my ‘every day’ food.
This light and moderately healthy Asian-inspired dish is cooked and served in a broth with fresh, exotic flavors. Buon Apetito!
1 lb. cod loin (or substitute your favorite protein – tofu, chicken, pork)
3.5 oz. sliced shitake mushrooms
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 small stalk of lemongrass (remove outer shell layers and chop inner stalk finely)
1 medium ripe tomato, diced
2 green onions
Zest of one lemon
1 can of cream of coconut
Cut the fish (or protein) into approximate 3″ x 2″ pieces. Soak in the cream of coconut for about 1 hour (reserve 2 tablespoons).Prepare the remaining ingredients in the meantime:Heat 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil in a medium skillet on high. Remove the pieces of fish and shake excess liquid before placing in the pan. Add the lemon zest and salt and pepper to your preference. Cook for a few minutes (without turning) so that some of the liquid evaporates. Add all of the other ingredients – shitake mushrooms, green onion, tomato, lemongrass, cilantro, ginger, and about 2 tbsp. of the cream of coconut. Cover and cook for about five minutes. Uncover, add the vegetable broth, gently stir to well incorporate, and reduce heat to medium, cooking for about 20-25 minutes (or until the fish is ‘flaking’ and cooked). Serve with a side of rice or rice noodles or all alone with a complementary fresh salad.