Week 1: #52WeeksofVivianH

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Week one of our 52 Weeks of Vivian certainly did not get off to a slow start (read more about what we’re doing here). As we flipped through Deep Run Roots for a first dsc_0011.jpgrecipe, we wanted to find something special, since it was my birthday. We both knew that anything we chose out of this book would be delicious, which definitely made our job easier.  It was fun to get a sense of what’s in the book and check out all of the great photos…it made us excited to try lots of the recipes in the coming year.

Ultimately, we decided on the

Miso Flounder with Cucumber Noodles and Gingered Collards (page 254).

As anticipated, it was delightful.  We’ve learned when attempting exciting new recipes, we had a slightly challenging time finding a couple of ingredients…but nothing that a trip to Whole Foods couldn’t fix for us. Once we found all of the things we needed, we got to work.  Before I tell you about it, I’d like to point out that we have zero training in cooking. I took a foods class in high school, but we just followed some basic recipes, and really there was no instruction on cooking, we oddly just cooked food, so I can’t call that training by any stretch. We both enjoy cooking, especially cooking together, which is the best part DSC_0016of doing the #52WeeksofVivianH! My favorite mister and I like to try new recipes and techniques…this recipe definitely combined both of those. We used a spiralizer on cucumbers, which I had never done and all I can say is, move over zoodles…hello cucoodles (is that a thing? I’m not sure about that name). Once the noodles were made, they marinated in a flavorful (and not overly-complicated) mixture, so that portion was relatively easy (thanks, Chef Vivian!).

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The collards were also reasonably straightforward. We cook a fair quantity of greens on a regular basis, so it wasn’t anything very different- the only big change was not stirring it (note to self: read through the entire recipe prior to getting started).  The whole point was allowing the collards to caramelize in the pan, so you want to let them cook on their own without you fussing with them for a bit (there are some funny notes in the book about it). Once we knew what we were doing, it turned out really well…okay, it was better than that- the collards were actually one of my favorite parts of the meal. I love bitter greens and the ginger really elevated them- I think this preparation will become part of our rotation. We were laughing throughout the recipes (the writing is very engaging), but one of our favorites was measuring pepper in ‘turns’ of the pepper mill. At first, we thought it was strange/cute, but now, we just plain love it. We fresh-grind pepper when we’re cooking, and it is so much easier to measure by turns of the pepper mills than trying to grind it and then dump it into tiny measuring spoons- so thank you, Deep Run Roots. I wish more recipes measured pepper in that way.

Finally, we tended to the fish…although to be honest, my chef-esque husband was dealing with the fish while I was working the collards (he’s a champion). We are so blessed to live in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, which means we have access to all kinds of DSC_0023a.jpgamazing seafood. We have some favorite ‘spots’ for getting our pesce-treats. If we’re having shrimp, we typically go to Geechie Seafood in Mt. Pleasant. For our flounder, we went to the Boone Hall Farm Store (we get our cluster oysters from them, too). The mister did a wonderful job preparing it, and he was over the moon on the miso sauce. We had a little bit of trouble figuring out how much butter* went into the sauce (it was the full amount from the ingredients list, divided), but ultimately got it all sorted out. He said, “[the] fish is delish”…and it was definitely true. Flounder is a good one to cook (even if you’re not an experienced fish-maker, or overly hot on fish). It cooks pretty quickly and is a very mild fish. Just remember- get fresh fish and try for something that’s available where you live.

The fresher the ingredients are, the better your end result will be.

On the plate, These three items went perfectly together. The fish was accompanied by the miso sauce…it was complex, thick, and made the whole thing feel pretty decadent. The DSC_0038a.jpgspicy factor of the sauce was very pleasant. It wasn’t hot initially, but left a slight lingering heat in your mouth, which is my favorite type of spicy food. I felt like the sauce might have been a little ‘buttery’, while on the other hand, my dining partner thought it was perfect.  I really appreciated the cucumber noodles as a counterpoint to the fish with the miso sauce. They were light, refreshing, and crunchy. The mint revitalized my mouth and made me want to go back for more fish. The collards were the first thing gone from my plate. I ate it all pretty much immediately, which is unlike me since I typically save my favorite thing for last. The mister loved all of the different textures, which I couldn’t agree with more. It was beautiful on the plate and interesting in your mouth. We both appreciated that Chef Vivian’s plating isn’t overly complicated, so it’s something we found that we were able to effectively replicate.

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We paired this with a delightful Pine Ridge Chardonnay (2015, Dijon Clones) since it was a special occasion…we love Pine Ridge wines. Someone also enjoyed the leftover sake, too during dinner. We both definitely enjoyed cooking these more ‘fancy’ meals together- we typically do Blue Apron most nights. We also had fun with taking photos of our process and of the final product (although none of our dirty/decimated plates at the end). There was also a lot of moving stuff around and making it look nicer than it really was…I’ll try to include some real-deal process photos so y’all can see what our cooking really looks like next week. We also wanted to share our notes- we use a Rocketbook to take notes as we cook and while we eat. I used them to write the post, and the original notes are linked at the bottom of the post in case you want to see them.

From start to eating, this recipe took approximately 1 hour & 15 minutes, which was over an hour of quality date-night time…I loved it!  We’ll wrap up each post with a simple question: Would you pay for this? We both said yes. The mister said the sauce DSC_0020was the star of this delicious show.  I said it was a fantastic birthday dinner…and it certainly was. This dinner gave us great momentum to continue our project. The food was really good and we’re already looking forward to next week. I think we’re going to have a wonderful year and this project is going to make it even better.

Which part of birthday dinner sounds most interesting to you?

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*We used ghee, see this post for more information about dairy.

Our cooking/eating notes are here.

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