Shopping for fish can be intimidating. Maybe it’s the fact that half of them are staring at you from behind the counter, as if to say, “Jeez, how did I end up here?” So, if you’re going to do them—and yourself—justice, here’s how to rustle up a fine, fresh fillet. You need to use your eyes and your nose. Look for a cut where the flesh is moist and glistening, with no flat, brown edges. If the fish looks dull, take a pass. Same goes for any fillet with a fishy or ammonia smell. Don’t be shy about asking your fishmonger a few questions, like when the fish came in and from where. Most stores have regular shipments; knowing that schedule in advance can help you plan when to have fish. If black cod were in a band, it would be the bass player: steady, meaty, but not much of a soloist. It benefits from some jazzy front men and especially likes to swing with citrus high notes. You’ll find plenty of those riffs in this dish.
I really should have called this Lentil Inside-Out Salad. Here’s why: With most salads, you pour the dressing on at the end and coat the dish from the outside in. But in this salad, the lentils cool off in the fridge in a bath of dressing—in this case olive oil, vinegar, lemon, and cumin. They absorb all of this wonderful flavor, which is heightened by the addition of red bell pepper, kalamata olives, parsley, and mint.
This Mediterranean delight is like a vacation to the island of Crete without leaving your home. Le Puy lentils are resilient little things that hold their shape well throughout the cooking process, making them perfect for a salad.
Roasted chicken is such a staple for many people that I wanted to provide a zippy recipe that would avoid the all-too frequent pitfall of bland, dry results. Here, I’ve replaced the common rosemary-thyme rub with ginger, orange zest, and cinnamon, which are also appetite stimulants. Rubbing the spices under the skin, filling the cavity with more aromatics and orange juice, and then roasting the whole shebang makes for one moist, tasty bird!
A staple of Latin cuisine, this black bean soup rocks because it’s a nutritional powerhouse. Black beans are rich in protein and dietary fiber, and recent studies link black bean consumption to reduced rates of pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancers.
If ever there was a dish that proved I wasn’t Italian, it’s meatballs. And that’s kind of embarrassing, because not only do I love to make Italian food, I even studied (okay, suffered, but it amounted to the same thing) under an Italian signora on the Isle of Elba. But no matter how hard I tried, I could never figure out how to keep my meatballs from falling apart, until I tried basmati rice. Now my meatballs not only taste great, they also don’t disintegrate on the fork. These are actually mini meatballs, closer to the Latin-American version known as albondiguitas, with the ginger providing a little zing. If timing is an issue, the meatballs can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until you’re ready to cook them. Also, this recipe makes twice as many meatballs as you’ll need for the soup. To save the remainder for later, place them in the freezer for 1 hour to firm up, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.