Girls on Food

Seattle

Whole Roasted Sicilian Style Branzino

Whole roasting a fish intimidated me for a long time. Clean out the insides? No thanks. It sounded a little too chef-y.  Far beyond my capabilities. Or, so I told myself.

But, a few years back, I was craving a dish my family made for years.  So, I decided if my Nonni can do it, so can I.  Now whole-roasting is one of my absolute favorite ways to prepare multiple types of fish!  Overcoming kitchen fears is the best!

If you are new to whole roasting fish, branzino (also, called Mediterranean sea bass) is a great place to start! It’s small in size and has a wonderful flaky white flesh! Due to prevalence on restaurant menus and increasing popularity, its easy to find at fish markets and specialty grocers year-round – regardless of where you live!

Branzino are native to Mediterranean waters although most of what’s available in North America is farmed off the coast of Greece. Nonetheless, this fish and method of preparation are extremely popular throughout the Mediterranean region – including where my family is from in Sicily! Using a simple salt crust technique to lock in the moisture, we can roast a moist, tender, flaky, and flavorful result every time!  Gorgeous, healthy, flavorful, and roasts to perfection in only 20 minutes; what’s not to love?

Lets get started!  The video shows the step-by-step method, and the full recipe is listed below!

Whole Roasted Sicilian Style Branzino

35 minutes, 2 servings per fish

For the Branzino:

1 – 1.5 lb. whole branzino (per 2 persons)*

½ tsp. kosher salt

½ sliced small lemon

½ small shallot, thinly sliced

2 fresh mint sprigs

kitchen twine

parchment lined baking sheet

For salt crust:

2 large egg whites

~ 1 lb. kosher salt

For serving:

2 tbsp. balsamic reduction**

1 tbsp. + drizzle high quality extra virgin olive oil (about 1 tsp.)

2 tbsp. freshly chopped mint leaves

juice from ½ lemon, divided

zest from ½ lemon

freshly cracked black pepper

½ tsp. plus more for seasoning

pinch of Himalayan pink salt

Roasted Asparagus:

1 small shallot, thinly sliced

½ lb. asparagus spears, ends trimmed

2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced

mint leaves for garnish

*At most seafood markets and specialty grocers, you can request that they gut the fish for you. Just make sure that they leave the tail and head alone! The fish must remain whole to lock in moisture!

**To make balsamic reduction, place ¼ c. balsamic vinegar on stovetop over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to medium, swirling every minute or so, continue to simmer for 4-5 more minutes until balsamic has reduced by about half (this will yield 2 tbsp.). Immediately transfer to a heatproof bowl and set aside. This can be done up to 2 days ahead if desired. Store in an airtight container if making ahead.

Arrange oven racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

If your fish has not already been gutted: make an incision from the belly side beginning just below the head and continuing to the tail end. Remove all guts and organs. Rinse inside and outside of the fish clean.

Once your fish has been gutted, season the inside of cleaned branzino with salt.  Arrange slices of lemon, sprigs of mint, and thin slices of shallots inside each fish.  Secure by wrapping fish with kitchen twine. (This step can be completed up to 2 hours ahead if wrapped and refrigerated.)

On a separate rimmed baking sheet, place trimmed asparagus, 1 tbsp. olive oil, ½ tsp. kosher salt, minced garlic cloves, and the small sliced shallot. Toss to coat asparagus. Set aside.

To make the paste for the salt crust, use a fork to combine about 1 lb. of salt with enough egg white to form a paste in a bowl.  For me, this was 2 large egg whites.  Spread a thin layer of the salt paste on the parchment paper lining the prepared baking sheet. You only need to cover the surface area where the fish will lay. This should use about 1/2 of the salt paste. Then place fish on top of salt paste layer and arrange remaining salt paste over the top of the fish in a thin layer. You want to cover the entire surface area of fish because the paste forms the crust that locks in both flavor and moisture.

Transfer both baking sheets to the oven and roast for about 20 minutes.  Roast fish on top rack and asparagus on bottom rack. After 20 minutes, remove fish from oven! Give asparagus a turn and roast 5 minutes longer.

Allow fish to rest for 4-5 minutes before removing the salt crust.  Use your hands and dull knife to peel away the salt crust.  It should come off very easily and often in large sections.  Discard salt crust.

Remove asparagus form the oven.

Remove the twine and try to remove as many additional bits of the salt crust as possible from the fish. Work carefully so that the fish doesn’t completely fall apart.

Transfer branzino onto the baking sheet with the asparagus. Working with one side at a time, make an incision down the spine of the fish and near the fish’s tail, so that the skin can easily be peeled and rolled away from the meat. Roll the skin away until you reach the fin/gill region. The fish’s skin worked hard to lock in the fish’s moisture and flavor in the oven. The combination of the steamed flesh and the skin’s contact with the salt paste will make it very easily peel off of the fish’s tender flaky tasty flesh. Carefully flip the fish over and repeat this step on the other side.

On a 1 – 1.5 lb. fish, the meat from one side of the fish is about one serving.

Add a squeeze of lemon juice, drizzle of olive oil, pinch of kosher salt and Himalayan pink salt, chopped mint leaves, lemon zest, and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve with roasted asparagus and crispy shallots. Garnish with slice of lemon and a few mint leaves.

Enjoy!

XO,

Maria


Don’t forget to share your recipe photos on Instagram by tagging @girlsonfoodblog and @almostproperly. We love seeing what you make!

 

Renzell: The Perfect App For Fine Dining Lovers

The world of foodie apps is like the wild west right now. Developers are striving to become the next big thing, but few apps offer anything unique to stand out from just being a local restaurant directory. I thought I had seen it all with these apps, until GOF blogger Marcie told me to check out an app called Renzell and it has since become my go-to restaurant directory app.

Cocktail from Redbird in LA, a restaurant you can survey on Renzell

Why Renzell?

It’s for those with impeccable taste –  What separates Renzell out from the other apps is a restaurant directory that is specifically hand-picked by Renzell staff of fine dining establishments in major metropolitan cities. This app isn’t here to help you find a new coffee shop, it’s to help you find the perfect special occasion spot. Think Marea in NYC, Redbird in LA and Alinea in Chicago.

Be undercover –  Members can rate restaurants anonymously through their surveys, which are scored based off overall numbers, no long write-ups required. Their surveys are broken down into categories like ambiance, service, food and cocktails. What I love about this so much is that it’s not public what scores users gave, so I can quietly and candidly score spots. See full list of restaurants here.

Prove it – There is also more accountability in the scores than other review apps. Members are encouraged to show proof of dining by providing a receipt from their visit. This makes me feel better when I read the scores, cause it’s lessening the likelihood of fake reviews.

Get rewarded! – The more you survey and/or provide proof of receipt, the more goodies you can get! Recent rewards include Starbucks gift cards, SoulCycle classes, a month of free Spotify premium and so much more.

With membership benefits, secure anonymity and consistent app functionality, I will consider myself a “lifer” Renzell member.

  • Featured image – Strozzapreti from Marea in New York, a restaurant you can survey on Renzell

Healthy Cioppino with Jammy Roasted Tomatoes

Up in the Pacific Northwest, we are officially entering the gray monotony of wet, cold, and miserable weather until spring. Which means its time for foods that warm me up! This usually puts what I am craving and what I should eat at a crossroads.

Carb-y creamy things may be delicious, but what about all those veggies I should be eating? Is anyone else feeling big time comfort food cravings as soon as the weather turns??

Instead of choosing between comfort food and health, I’m combining them with this cioppino! Its packed full of veggies, fish, fresh herbs, the most luscious broth, and an amazing secret flavor bomb ingredient: slow roasted cherry tomatoes! They are jammy and umami rich in the best possible way! They add incredible complexity and richness to the soup!

It’s the perfect light – yet filling – way to warm up on these cold wet days!!

Now, to the recipe!

Note: The soup is dairy free and gluten-free. The olive oil crostini is optional for serving!

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Let’s Meet for Lunch at Marmite in Seattle

Chophouse Row‘s newest addition is ready to serve you for lunch. Marmite (pronounced “mar meet”) has been a highly anticipated new restaurant in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle. It’s owners, Bruce and Sara Naftaly previously owned Le Gourmand, a well loved fine dining restaurant with French Classics that closed in 2012. Now they are back on the restaurant scene, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. It’s been a very chilly winter in Seattle, and no, it’s not always raining, except this week it has been a complete downpour, and no one can drive. But what better way to stay away from the crazy streets than to cozy up for lunch!

Marmite
1424 11th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
http://www.marmiteseattle.com/

 

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Let’s Taco About It!: Tacos Chukis in Seattle

Tacos are the universal go-to food for anyone who’s looking for something quick to eat, and they offer a unique versatility and variety. The thing that I like the most about them is that almost everyone you know loves to eat tacos! In fact, we as a society take eating tacos so seriously that we created “Taco Tuesday,” a day in the middle of the week dedicated to celebrate eating them.

Tacos Chukis
832 Dexter Ave, Seattle, WA 98109

You won’t be able to find a website for Tacos Chukis. I’ve heard that this place is like the Fight Club of tacos. Supposedly you don’t talk about Tacos Chukis unless someone is bringing you there for the first time, or you bump into it. In fact you only know about Tacos Chukis from Seattle natives like myself OR most likely you’ll see one of your friends post on either Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

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Empire Espresso & Amandine Bakeshop in Seattle

14794067_10154657478534628_798819453_nIf you’re a Seattlelite, coffee runs through your bloodstream. You’re constantly searching for the next best thing. Well, I’m here to tell you that Empire Espresso is stiff competition and with Amandine Bakeshop right by its side, you are bound to fall in love.

Empire Espresso has been around for 7 years, with locations in Capitol Hill and Columbia City. Owners Ian and Natural put a lot of thought into the process of making coffee, from the type of drinks they serve to the employees and even the milk. This attention to detail makes all the difference. They make their cashew milk in house, turn that into a Chai latte and you’re good to go!

amandine 2Need a pastry? Amandine Bakeshop bakes all of their goodies right in front of you.

amandine 3

Chef Sara Naftaly and her team provide most delicious assortment of daily macarons (featured: Lime + Tahitian Vanilla Bean, Guava + Cajeta and Indian Blood – Peach).

amandine 4

My favorite pastry? Their chocolate, carambar, sea-salt and hazelnut cookie.

amandine 5

When you visit, be prepared to get a slice of cake (featured: Buttermilk Cake with seasonal berry (mine was blueberry) and candied ginger). And if you’re feeling adventurous, try the macaron ice cream sandwiches!

Empire Espresso was also featured in Seattle Met Magazine for Best Coffee shop in Columbia City/ Capitol Hill. Treat yourself, grab a coffee and a pastry and enjoy their upstairs area.

Brittaney Hangs with the Seattle Fish Guys

Seattle Fish Guys
411 23rd Ave S Seattle, WA 98122
http://www.seattlefishguys.com

When most people think of Seattle, they typically think of grunge and gloom. The second thing you may think of is a gigantic fish being tossed around at Pike Place Market. Imagine a place where you get the same amazing seafood, but in a way less touristy area. That’s Seattle Fish Guys!

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img_0260Seattle Fish Guys opened this September in the heart of the Central District. The Guys kicked things off at their grand opening with a lion dance for good luck, a mussel eating contest and free samples for people in the neighborhood. The owners, Sal Panelo and Desiree Chinn, are Seattle natives who believe in high quality seafood and superb customer service.

 

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There’s nothing better than having a neighborhood fish monger, like Sal, with 32 years experience. Their seafood is fresh. One bite of the salmon poke and you’ll fall in love. They have a rotation of oysters, hearty shrimp and crab cocktails. If you need to warm up, they have a fantastic clam chowder. Check it out for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

brittaney-picture-at-seattle-fish-guys

Piece of the Middle East (in Seattle): Anar and Mamnoon Street

A couple of days ago, my friend and co-worker, Quinn and I had a great idea to indulge in our pun obsessions and decided to try a little piece of the Middle East (Get it?  Piece?  Middle East?).  Essentially doing a food crawl and sampling everything at a local Middle Eastern restaurant and its vegetarian sister restaurant next door.

Mamnoon Street
2020 6th Ave Seattle, WA 98121
http://www.mamnoonstreet.com

screenshot-2016-09-11-13-32-44The same people own both Mamnoon Street and Anar, Racha and Wassef Haroun.  They also own another restaurant in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, also called Mamnoon, but there you can sit down and enjoy cocktails with your food.

The Haroun’s came to the Pacific Northwest to work in the tech industry.  They decided to plant roots here and brought a bit of their Syrian/Lebanese heritage with them into the restaurant scene.  They have found their place amongst the foodies and have expanded their availability and visibility by opening up two more locations in the Amazon campus in downtown Seattle.

Our first stop during our food crawl was Mammon Street.  We opted to sit outside in the wind, as opposed to dining inside like a rational people would.  However, sitting outside when it’s NOT raining in Seattle is a treat one can enjoy when the opportunity arises.

img_1686I ordered both the lamb and chicken shawarma.  I had every intention of eating just a little bit of both to give a fair review, but as soon as I started to bite down into the lamb, I couldn’t stop.  I began to feel full right away, and I wasn’t even a 1/4 of the way finished with it.  So I knew that trying the chicken shawarma would have to wait until later, but it eventually went into the eager hands of my Uber driver later that afternoon.

Quinn wasn’t as ambitious as I was (since I suffer from eyes bigger than stomach syndrome), so he ordered a kefta arayess aka sandwich with a side of halloumi cheese.

img_1687Of course, there was no waiting to take a pic for this guy.  He’s all about business and just started noshing.  I was able to snag a little bite of the kefta arayess and was struck by the perfect balance of seasoning in the ground beef and the saltiness of the halloumi.

Eventually, Quinn gave up and decided he was full while I still wanted to go to Anar.

 

 

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Anar
2040 6th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
http://anar.life

img_1692Anar is right around the corner from Mamnoon Street.  The vibe inside looks like a typical juice bar with the display of fresh veggies.  I’ve been there before, and I die for their iced Turkish coffees.  But what I’m really all about is their lentil and brown rice dish called Mujadara.

Topped with pickled turnips and Greek yogurt, this dish is also extra filling.  I knew that I would be eating this for leftovers during the week because it might not look like a lot of food, but it’s a lot of food.  I did manage to take a few bites, but honestly I could have exploded at that point.

img_1693Also, I couldn’t leave without getting the chia seed pudding topped with apricot jam for the road.  Again, this is something to be enjoyed when you have room in your stomach.

The price points for both Mamnoon Street and Anar are relatively reasonable, and you get a huge bang for your buck.  I don’t recommend driving to their location because parking is awful in this part of downtown Seattle. If you are in the area and are looking for a better option than Thai food or a sub sandwich, either one of these fantastic places will be a welcome change for your taste buds!

Brittaney’s Berry Yummy Summer Smoothie

Whether you’re out berry picking or buying loads of berries, I have the perfect smoothie recipe for you; it’s also very healthy!

Brittaneys Smoothie

Berry Yummy Summer Smoothie 

What you’ll need:

1 cup blueberries (blueberries are one of the highest foods in antioxidants in the world!)

1 handful of blackberries (high in vitamin C)

1/2 cup of pineapple (to make things a little sweet, also high in Vitamin C)

1 handful of mint (promotes digestion and clears your palate)

Juice of 1 lemon (perfect for detoxification and high in Vitamin C)

1/2 cup of ice

Throw it all in a blender, and blend until smooth! Sit in the sun, and cool off with this delicious smoothie.

Poke-nom Go: Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max Food Truck

Each day from Monday to Friday between 11:00 am – 2:00 pm, different food trucks park in front of the Starbucks Headquarters located in SODO (South Downtown Seattle).  On Fridays, Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max is there in a sea foam green truck on the south end of the parking lot.

Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max
5300 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118
Food truck schedule found at
http://www.samchoyspoke.com
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The first time I came here was a few weeks ago while I was working out of an office nearby.  So I decided to go back again today, because I can’t seem to get enough of that good stuff.

As the self proclaimed “God Father of poke”, Sam Choy has been bringing poke to the Pacific Northwest since 2013.  His concept is to introduce poke, “amongst other delicious island dishes, to a wide audience.”

 

Poke Rice Bowl

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I ordered the poke rice bowl with salmon in spicy shoyu and added avocado.  Something fresh, light and flavorful without being too fussy sounded appetizing and this did not disappoint. It’s also more than enough food for one person.  For those who don’t like uncooked fish, they can sear yours or cook it all the way if you request it.  There is also a tofu poke option for people who don’t eat fish or are vegetarian.

Mac Salad

IMG_1522Whenever I go to a Hawaiian food joint, I have to try the mac salad.  Otherwise I feel like I just got a burger without the french fries.  It just has to be ordered or it’s not a complete meal.

 

The mac salad had the right combination of salty and light sweetness, with the pop of onion bursting in my mouth.  I asked to add spam which was cooked on the slightly over done/burnt side, but I liked it that way.  I thought it enhanced the flavor profile and created a smoky taste.

Other things on their menu include Aloha Chicken, Kalua Pulled Pork, Loco Moco (ground beef cooked and served over rice) poke wraps and salads, and their version of Masubi (seaweed wrapped around sticky rice and a slice of spam).

This is not some hokey poke…see what I did there?  I love food puns!!!  But Sam Choy will be quick to tell you “mo poke, mo betta!”

Check out their website and see where their food trucks are scheduled, or go visit their restaurant in the Hillman City neighborhood in the Rainier Valley.

Gimme Shelter: The Shelter Lounge in Seattle

Before I even knew what the Shelter Lounge was, I could tell it was the place to be.

I saw the new restaurant for the first time just a few days after it opened. Already, it was filled with patrons who looked like they had claimed their stake on its lake view seats years ago.

The Shelter Lounge, it became clear to me, was the Central Perk to the “Friends” of Green Lake (sub cocktails and craft beer for coffee). I decided then that it was my mission to get inside.

Shelter Lounge Green Lake

7110 E Green Lake Drive N

Seattle, WA  98115

(206) 420-7452

theshelterlounge.com

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Lovin’ the rock walls.

From the boisterous atmosphere to the colorful list of cocktail options to the stunning view of Green Lake, the Shelter Lounge offers a fun niche for neighbors and friends to take “shelter” in. And, although it didn’t appear sports-bar-esque from the outside, it definitely is on the inside. I’m thinking Seahawks season will be extra exciting this year for the Twelves of this neighborhood.

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Just two of the many TVs.

Because there were so many cocktail options and I’m the least decisive person I know, I chose the first drink that stood out to me to make things easy. Wait, does that make me decisive then? The El Pato cocktail is made with Flor de Cana White Rum, Giffard Banana, Chocolate Bitters, Coconut Milk, and Lime. I’ve never been a rum girl, but I may be rethinking my alcohol preferences. What a delicious and summery drink! According to my waitress, it’s also a huge hit among the lake lovers here. We like to pretend we live on the beach, ya feel?

After I thought I had finished the entire thing (I knew I was done because it made the slurping noise everybody loves hates), my waitress came to remove my glass, but told me she wouldn’t take it yet because there was still some left…apparently, people get overly possessive of their El Patos. I tried to insist that I indeed was done and she could take it, but she must have experienced some seriously thirsty customers in her one month of working at the Shelter Lounge, because she would not. take it. away. Not bad, just funny.

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Hello, El Pato!

Moving on to food.

Naturally, my indecisive-impulsive behavior transcended into dinnertime, therefore leading me to choose the least compatible combination of food and drink. Who pairs “coconut tropical island getaway” with “carbs, hot sauce, and more carbs”? This foodie. Good thing it was delicious.

Complete with cucumbers, radishes, onions, carrots, cheddar cheese, “5- Spice Pickles”, Sriracha mayo, and three slices of bread , the Veggie Dagwood Sando is the vegetarian dream. It is also, might I add, really REALLY hot. Or maybe I’m just a baby. Either way, my strange food/drink choice actually proved perfect, as the coconut milk complemented the heat that Sando brought into my life. Really though, what is in those 5-Spice Pickles?? More like Five-Hundred-Spice Pickles. Any more and my coping mechanisms would have left me four El Patos deep. Profitable move, chef.

If the heat kills me, at least I'll die satisfied.
If the heat kills me, at least I’ll die satisfied.

Pickle-induced tears aside, I will definitely be headed back to chill at the Shelter Lounge soon. I loved my drink and my food. What a great place to live a fifteen-minute walk from! SO MANY MORE UNIQUE COCKTAILS TO TRY.

Before I go, I’ll also share that I even risked my life to get a photo of the restaurant from the outside. I’m going to blame oncoming cars and my Android for the far from premium photography quality. Enjoy.

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Who wouldn’t want to hang out here?!

Cheers foodies! xoxo

There Goes My Gyro: Mr. Gyros in Seattle

Mr. Gyros Seattle

I know Seattleites have a sorry reputation as food snobs – lots of kale, juice cleanses, vegan-paleo-hippy salads – you get the picture. Like it or not, often times, I fall into that crazy Seattle eater-type myself. I’m a firm believer in the power of produce, plant based meals and healthy side of Seattle-made craft kombucha. Lucky for Mr. Gyros and me, I’m also a firm believer in the power of a good gyro. And the gyro after which Mr. Gyros is respectfully named, dear readers, is an outstanding example of a good gyro.

Mr. Gyros 

8411 Greenwood Ave N

Seattle, WA 98103

206-706-7472

http://mrgyroseattle.com

The menu is simple, but chock full of options. I always get the lamb gyro.  It’s seasoned with love, and the lamb comes right off the spit. The whole things gets wrapped perfectly in it’s pita next to creamy tzatziki and hummus. Always opt for the basket –  a side of Greek fries (fries topped with feta cheese and spices).  For those of you wanting a meatless option, the falafel is a treat – spiced and cooked to just the right combination of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Lamb Gyro Mr. Gyro

Be prepared for messy eating (especially if you indulge in my recommended lamb gyro). There is hummus, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, onions and (obviously) lamb all fighting for a spot in your mouth. The flavors compliment, and are just exciting enough to make one feel as if they are not eating a meal that cost less than $10 bucks and took less than 5 minutes to prepare.

Mr. Gyros is, admittedly, a Seattle institution. I would like to say it’s the city’s best kept secret, but, alas, the secret of the awesome Mediterrian food is out. Mr. Gyros has won several awards, including being ranked one of the top 100 restaurants in the US on Yelp. You’d think all that fame would go to their heads, but you’d be mistaken. Mr. Gyros is potentially the friendliest place I’ve ever eaten. I see the owners, who happen to be brothers, (Sammi and Joni)  all the time – because they are often slicing meats and rolling pitas behind the counter. They feed me gyros and don’t judge me for eating un-lady – like amounts of lamb.

Mr Gyros Seattle

I’m a Greenwood girl myself, so I always head to the tiny cafe located gloriously close-by. There are three locations of the gyro wonderland to choose from, plus a Mr. Gyros food truck that makes the rounds. I always get my meal to-go – even when there is a line out the door things move quickly.

The only bad thing about Mr. Gyros? They aren’t open on Sunday. Check the times before you go, and bring on the gyro.