Like most people, I find it frustratingly easy to get stuck in a cooking rut. While I still find appealing the meals I tend to cart out on a regular basis, I do get a bit tired looking at the same presentations. I could blame this on my child, and the fact that he is not blessed with the most adventurous of palates, but the truth is, my child’s pickiness is only partly to blame. The rest of the blame lies with all the usual suspects: time (or lack thereof), forgetfulness (I was supposed to buy what at the store?), and, occasionally, laziness (we just spent two hours biking around the city and now I have to make dinner? Watch me as I head to the cupboard that contains all the take out menus).
In order to alleviate this rather common problem of constantly repeating dinners, I have decided that, instead of reverting to the usual meals several times a month, I will instead lay out all my usual dinner suspects, then attempt to mix and match them as I see fit. Essentially, I can use many of the same ingredients, but I will have to use them in a different fashion, and in a way that deems the meal to be a distant relation of the original meal, but in no way the same animal. Well, unless, of course, it really is the same animal, as in the case of this stuffed sole.
My inspiration dish is this wonderful and simple panko-crusted sole dinner that is a summer staple for us. Though I like it a great deal, I have definitely been feeling as though I could stand to see this fish presented in a different way. Taking cues from the panko and lemon I normally use in the dish, I grabbed an onion, some herbs, and an almost empty jar of Kalamata olives, and, with no real end point in mind, started to fiddle around. The end result, so varied in texture and flavors, with great zing from the herbs and lemon and a wonderful burst of fruitiness and saltiness from the olives, was a delight. Though I am sure that most of my meal reformations will not go as smoothly as this one, I can at least squeeze a bit of comfort out of knowing that my experiment is not one of total lunacy. I managed to make at least one standard meal into something new and appealing, which, if nothing else, managed to feed not only us, but also my creative confidence.
Last Year: Rhubarb Bread Pudding
Olive, Lemon, and Herb-Stuffed Sole Recipe
1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds thin sole filets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup finely chopped Kalamata olives
¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 small lemon, zested and then sliced into thin rounds
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a small baking dish and set aside.
In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat, then add onions, reduce heat to low, and sauté gently for about 10 minutes, until onions are soft and just starting to turn golden at the edges. Turn off the heat under the pan, and stir in panko bread crumbs, olives, pine nuts, mint, Italian parsley, and lemon zest. Stir to combine thoroughly, then add salt and pepper to taste.
Season sole filets with salt and pepper. Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of panko mixture on one end of a filet, then carefully roll up the filet, encasing the mixture inside. It is all right if some of the filling escapes, as it inevitably will. Place the rolled filet in the prepared baking dish. Continue filling all the filets in this manner, placing each one in the baking dish. When all the filets have been filled and rolled, place a slice of lemon on top of each roll, then sprinkle the remaining panko mixture on top of and around the rolled filets.
Bake the fish in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the fish is opaque and the middles of each roll have warmed through. The panko on top of the fish should just be starting to turn golden.