Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia Salad

January 10, 2009

As I mentioned in the previous post, I cannot resist any sort of ocean-dwelling animal that has been coated, dredged, or crusted in something. I love all of the many options-almonds, macademia nuts, pecans, cornflakes, various cheeses, basic flour, and in this case, cornmeal. I made cornmeal-crusted tilapia salad earlier in the week, and it was not only flavorful and light, but quite a lovely presentation. The tilapia emerged from the pan with its light and golden layer of crisp cornmeal, and I promptly placed it atop a fresh green salad flecked with chopped purple onions and red bell pepper. A delicate garnish of thinly sliced, toasted corn tortillas finished it off! Hmmmmm!

I found the recipe in “Cooking Light: Annual Recipes 2008”-I’m beginning to grow attached to Cooking Light, although I find it a bit sad when I get to the dessert sections of the cookbook and the recipes are so tragically low in cream and sugar. Anyway, another highlight of the salad is that I was able to add a can of black beans to the leftovers to make our lunch for another two days.

Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia Salad

4 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1/4 inch strips
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon chili powder, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon onion flakes, crushed (I didn’t have these on hand-didn’t make a difference!)
4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
7 teaspoons canola oil, divided
6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 1/2 cups chopped red bell pepper (about 1 large)
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup preshredded reduced-fat 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Place tortilla strips on a baking sheet lined with foil; lightly coat tortilla strips with cooking spray. Sprinkle strips with 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes or until crisp, set aside.
3. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, cornmeal, onion flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder in a shallow dish. Sprinkle fish with 1/4 teaspoon salt, dredge in cornmeal mixture.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.
5. Combine romaine and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine juice, mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add 4 teaspoons oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Drizzle juice mixture over lettuce mixture; toss gently to coat. Place 1 1/2 cups salad mixture on each of 4 plates; sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese. Place 1 fish fillet on each salad; top with 5 tortilla strips.

Definitely a great weeknight dinner!

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Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia Salad

January 10, 2009

As I mentioned in the previous post, I cannot resist any sort of ocean-dwelling animal that has been coated, dredged, or crusted in something. I love all of the many options-almonds, macademia nuts, pecans, cornflakes, various cheeses, basic flour, and in this case, cornmeal. I made cornmeal-crusted tilapia salad earlier in the week, and it was not only flavorful and light, but quite a lovely presentation. The tilapia emerged from the pan with its light and golden layer of crisp cornmeal, and I promptly placed it atop a fresh green salad flecked with chopped purple onions and red bell pepper. A delicate garnish of thinly sliced, toasted corn tortillas finished it off! Hmmmmm!

I found the recipe in “Cooking Light: Annual Recipes 2008”-I’m beginning to grow attached to Cooking Light, although I find it a bit sad when I get to the dessert sections of the cookbook and the recipes are so tragically low in cream and sugar. Anyway, another highlight of the salad is that I was able to add a can of black beans to the leftovers to make our lunch for another two days.

Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia Salad

4 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1/4 inch strips
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon chili powder, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon onion flakes, crushed (I didn’t have these on hand-didn’t make a difference!)
4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
7 teaspoons canola oil, divided
6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 1/2 cups chopped red bell pepper (about 1 large)
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup preshredded reduced-fat 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Place tortilla strips on a baking sheet lined with foil; lightly coat tortilla strips with cooking spray. Sprinkle strips with 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes or until crisp, set aside.
3. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, cornmeal, onion flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder in a shallow dish. Sprinkle fish with 1/4 teaspoon salt, dredge in cornmeal mixture.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.
5. Combine romaine and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine juice, mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add 4 teaspoons oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Drizzle juice mixture over lettuce mixture; toss gently to coat. Place 1 1/2 cups salad mixture on each of 4 plates; sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese. Place 1 fish fillet on each salad; top with 5 tortilla strips.

Definitely a great weeknight dinner!

Broken Florentine Lasagna Bake

January 7, 2009

After enjoying this meal for two evenings, I determined that I had to write and share it with the blogging world. It is SO good! Not surprisingly, I found it in my newest Rachael Ray cookbook. I was initially tempted to make the lasagna bake because all of the ingredients, save for the spinach and chard, were things I keep stocked in my pantry. I made a quick stop at Trader Joe’s to purchase the greens-they’re only $1.99 a bag there!-and I was ready.

The recipe is straightforward, and can easily be put together in 20 minutes or so. The baking time, however, is 30 minutes, so it’s not technically a 30 minute meal-even for you, Rach! It’s a very low-maintenance dish though, a simple cheese sauce and sauteed greens. Unfortunately, I had not been able to purchase the no-boil lasagna, so I had to add that whole extra step, but it wasn’t too much of a hassle. The final result is very tasty, and you don’t even feel guilty about the cheesy sauce, because you’re also eating 3 POUNDS of greens! My husband usually rebels against any dish that doesn’t contain some kind of meat (even fish really doesn’t quite satisfy him!), but he seemed to enjoy it. It’s comforting, easy, and great heated up the next day.

Broken Florentine Lasagna Bake

4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups milk (I used lowfat, and the dish was still creamy and delicious)
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg (I did NOT go out and find myself a whole nutmeg for this purpose)
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tbsp EVOO
1 garlic clove, cracked away from its skin
1 bunch of green chard, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (I removed the stems from my bag of chard, and didn’t bother chopping, as it was already torn into largeish pieces)
2 pounds spinach, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (again, I didn’t bother chopping, and it made no difference at all)
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles (As I mentioned, I had to resort to regular lasagna noodles, but I didn’t use a full pound)

1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter, whisk to combine, and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk the milk into the butter-flour mixture, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and cook for a couple of minutes to thicken. Stir in half the Parmigiano (about 3/4 cup). Set the sauce aside.
3. Heat the EVOO in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Toss in the cracked clove of garlic and cook for a minute or two to release its aroma and flavor. Add the chard and cook, turning occasionally to wilt down, 2 minutes. Add the spinach a few handfuls at a time, wilting each batch before adding more. Season the greens with salt and pepper.
4. Break the pasta sheets into large pieces. Toss them into the pan with the greens and give them a good stir to incorporate them. Pour the sauce into the skillet, stirring again to incorporate everything evenly. Smooth the top down and sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup Parmigiano into the skillet. Cover the skillet with foil, transfer to the oven, and bake the lasagna for 30 minutes. Remove the foil from the pan and let it finish cooking uncovered for about 15 more minutes to brown the cheese. (I found this extra 15 minutes unnecessary, as my oven is freakishly hot, and the lasagna bake was golden and bubbling.)

I’m still working on developing decent food photography skills-perhaps my husband’s new fancy camera will help-so you’ll have to excuse my amateur efforts. I do like the steam emanating from my skillet o’ greens. In case you’re wondering, my bag of chard was full of rainbow AND green chard-that’s why you see strange purple greens.

As it turns out, Top 5 THURSDAY (holiday edition)

January 1, 2009

**Yes, I failed to post my weekly Top 5 until today. This just goes to show you our dependency on wireless connections.

I can’t believe this is happening! It’s Top 5 Tuesday, and I am STRUGGLING to come up with an interesting list. I have to admit not only to feeling a bit uninspired, but also to an intense feeling of inadequacy-many of my favorite blogs have just been so good lately! The goings-on of my mind seem so trivial! Granted, I am on Christmas vacation. There is usually not a whole lot accomplished during Christmas vacation. It’s for relaxing, after all. I say this knowing that I probably have more than my fair share of relaxing time, being semi-retired and everything.

I ran my final and only idea for Top 5 Tuesday by my loving siblings, but they both strongly objected. For some unknown reason, they both felt that talking about my top 5 holiday treats was ridiculous and lame. My brother informed me that he wouldn’t find a blog interesting that discussed such things. My sister did not approve of my final list. Not that we didn’t have a great time laughing, dissecting my ideas, and getting new ones for the future because we certainly did. I decided to write about my holiday favorites anyway, despite the protests, and mostly because while writing about the food that I enjoy is part of my original purpose for my blog, it often evokes warm, comforting feelings of familial bliss and treasured memories. While the five holiday treats that I include here are not necessarily elaborate or fancy, they are still the things that I remember indulging in, specifically around the holidays.

5. Christmas Morning Breakfast. I can see how this might be confusing-breakfast is a MEAL, not a treat. What a way to start such a non-original top 5! All I can say is that my favorite part of Christmas with my family is always our Christmas morning breakfast. It’s the same every year. As Frances the badger would say about routine and predictable favorite foods, (hers being bread and jam-see previous post relating to children’s books), “I always know what I’m getting, and I’m always pleased.” We all roll out of bed, usually around 7:30 or 8:00-it’s grown increasingly later through the years as the youngest in the family have matured past the age of frantically waiting in nervous anticipation to see what Santa brought. After the gift-opening, we all pile our plates with delicious scrambled eggs, fresh biscuits, and spicy sausage (patties, not links!). Cups of steaming coffee or hot chocolate are passed around. I usually pour a decent-sized pool of syrup onto my plate, into which I swirl my bites of sausage. Yes, it’s a simple breakfast. But there is something so wonderful about crowding around the tiny kitchen table in my grandparents’ house or having to seek out a spot amongst the remnants of our wrapping paper and boxes, balancing plates precariously on laps and hoping that the large silver urn of coffee will be constantly replenished. I absolutely love it.

4. Memaw’s Rolls. Memaw is my grandmother, as you might have guessed, from the aforementioned Christmas morning tradition. She is truly the most wonderful and amazing grandmother, like an angel on earth. That may sound trite, but it’s just really the best way to describe her. An angel on earth. As though heaven is where she has belonged all along. She works tirelessly to make Christmas a special time for everyone, taking on far too many tasks, including the making of her famously delicious rolls. Yes, I know that I use the word “delicious” frequently in my posts. It must be my favorite word. These rolls, a basic yeast roll recipe, feel light, but taste buttery and rich. Of course, they’re best piping hot and slathered with butter. The boys usually devour at least 2-3 rolls per meal, so you can imagine what a tremendous job it is to provide enough rolls for 18 people. Someday, I’ll have to attempt them myself, but I feel they probably won’t ever be quite as good as Memaw’s.

3. Queso. Again, I am completely aware of the simplicity of this dish. Every restaurant has a version, there are millions of recipes, in every cookbook for it. All kinds of cheese and mix-ins have been employed, I’m sure. I must admit, the best, and my favorite, queso is my mom’s, and while we have had it on other occasions (besides Christmas), we ALWAYS have it over the holidays, usually on Christmas Eve to accompany a fairly light meal of roast beef and ham sandwiches. My family has always eaten quite a bit of Mexican food-enchiladas, chile relleno casserole (definitely worth a post someday), and concoctions of meat, chiles, and potatoes were frequently on our menu-so we like everything pretty spicy. My mom’s queso is no exception-it’s full of finely chopped green chiles and tomatoes. I like it better that way, spicier instead of cheesy.

2. Chocolate Praline Bars. I’m including the recipe for this sinfully wonderful dessert. See, this post isn’t completely without substance! I’m sharing a recipe! My mom found it in a Christmas cookbook many years ago, and the bars are trooped out every year at holiday parties or just for us to devour when we’re home. She modified the recipe, coming up with the brilliant idea of the layer of chocolate chips herself. Thus, I’ve never tried the original quick praline bars, because they’ve always been covered in chocolate. Which is as they should be. It’s a very simple dessert, and can easily be doubled. I would suggest you run, not walk, to your kitchen to make these, IMMEDIATELY.

24 graham cracker squares, or enough to cover the bottom of your pan in a single layer
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup chopped pecans
chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350. Arrange graham crackers in SINGLE layer in ungreased pan (8 x 8). Heat brown sugar and butter to boiling; boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour over crackers; spread evenly. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake until bubbly, 8-10 minutes. Spread chocolate chips generously over the top. Cover pan with foil; let sit for 3-4 minutes. Uncover, spread melted chocolate chips evenly over surface with a knife (it should be a thick layer). Place cookies in the refrigerator or freezer, covered.

1. Viscochos/Bizcochos. I wish that I had a picture to capture the loveliness of these precious little Mexican wedding cookies, flavored with anise. They’re very delicate, usually in an unusual shape, like stars or hearts, and absolutely doused in cinnamon sugar. Now, if you were to come across a recipe for bizcochos, you might blanch from the inclusion of lard in the recipe. Keep in mind that these are holiday treats-they are all unhealthy, rich, and calorie-laden. The lard is a crucial ingredient-it gives the cookies that “melt-in-your-mouth” quality. My mother attempted to make them once, without the lard, which resulted in a completely ordinary cinnamon cookie. Typically, we’ve had to find a friend or acquaintance who makes them at home, and then buy several dozen for Christmas or any other special event. You won’t find them in stores, in other words. My mom usually arranged to have them for Christmas when I came home from college, and I insisted on having platters of them at each table for my wedding. I would actually rather eat bizcochos than wedding cake (unless my sister made the cake, of course) or any other dessert for that matter. Tiny bites of heaven-that’s how I would describe them. Interestingly enough, when I was searching for a decent picture to include, I came across this article from the New York Times. Not only did the recipes look great (and there is one for bizcochos!), I appreciated reading about El Paso, the closest city to my hometown (and by close, I mean SEVERAL hours drive).

This wraps up my holiday edition of Top 5 Tuesday-make sure to eat some black-eyed peas today! Happy New Year!

Turkey Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie-Hmmmm….it’s Good!

December 18, 2008

Tonight my dinner was so delicious and satisfying that I immediately had the urge to blog about it! Now, certain beloved family members who do not love sweet potatoes might want to skip over this post. I’ll understand 🙂

However, anyone who has any affection for sweet potatoes, comfort food, turkey, or even casseroles would do themselves a favor by making this dish, pronto! The recipe, not surprisingly, is from Rachael Ray. I’ve actually made it once before, with equally good results. Essentially, it’s a basic shepherd’s pie, only made with ground turkey (it’s from a Thanksgiving-themed menu in RR’s newest cookbook) and covered with a layer of mashed sweet potatoes instead of the usual mashed potatoes. The turkey mixture is chock full of vegetables, bright green peas, crisp celery, and grated carrot and onion, and the healthy factor only increases with the creamy sweet potatoes (well, they may be creamy due to the presence of a large pat of butter conveniently mixed in). An unusual, but absolutely perfect element of the dish is a ripe banana mashed with the potatoes. I know it sounds weird, but it REALLY adds to the flavor. The pie is topped with a layer of sharp cheddar and browned for a few moments in the oven.

On a cold, wintry evening, this dish was exactly what we needed. It’s warm, comforting, and has the added bonus of not leaving you with that loathed too-full feeling. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s an easy weeknight dinner-grating the vegetables is time-consuming. If you have a decent hour or so of free time, though, this is an excellent dinner! Now, my pictures really don’t do it justice, but it’s not exactly photogenic food, as you can imagine. Notice my Christmas dish towel-one of my favorite things to do in various holiday seasons is take advantage of Target and all its perfection and buy holiday dish towels. Once you’ve torn your eyes away from the mess of the kitchen, you might also be able to spy my adorable vintage-y kitchen timer, a very appropriate birthday gift from my sister-in-law.

Before I copy the recipe, I could not help but include my first introduction to shepherd’s pie.

Yes, it was Rachel’s attempt at cooking a Thanksgiving dessert, which I have watched and laughed at literally hundreds of times, that first piqued my curiosity in shepherd’s pie. You gotta take a bite with all the layers!

Here’s the recipe:
(I made a few comments)

2 tablespoons EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil, as if anyone doesn’t know what that means)
2 pounds ground turkey (or chopped leftover turkey)
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
4 celery stalks from the heart, chopped
4 tablespoons (half stick) butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 (10-ounce) box frozen peas
1 very ripe banana, sliced
a few dashes hot sauce
2 cups shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a deep ovenproof skillet or a Dutch oven, heat the EVOO over high heat. Add the turkey and break it up with a wooden spoon; season with salt and pepper and the poultry seasoning.
3. Place the sweet potatoes in a pot with water to cover. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then salt the water and cook the potatoes for 15 minutes, or until tender.
4. Grate the onion and carrots directly into the skillet with the turkey. (I actually chopped just half an onion, because my box grater has yet to turn up and I’ve just been using a Microplane-way too tedious, and small, for an onion!) Add the celery, stir, and cook for 5 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a small pot over medium heat. Add the flour to the melted butter and whisk for 1 minute, then whisk in the stock and season with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire. Cook for a few minutes, until thickened then add to the turkey mixture. Stir in the peas into the turkey mixture and turn off the heat.
5. Drain the potatoes and return the hot pot to the heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and melt over medium heat. Add the banana and potatoes to the pot and season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Mash the potatoes and banana to combine, and adjust the seasoning. (I saved on dishes by melted the butter directly into the potatoes, then adding the banana)
6. Spoon the potatoes onto the meat, and cover the potatoes with the cheese. Bake uncovered for 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

(from Rachael Ray’s Big Orange Book)

On a more domestic note…

December 15, 2008

I’ve obviously been spending far too much time on various entertainment websites and rereading the Twilight saga-I’ve cooked several blog-worthy meals, and I haven’t even written about them! I know that I decided a few months back that I should just write about whatever pleases me, but the original purpose, after all, was to write about my meals and my reading.

Once I finally descended upon my new, very-own kitchen, I felt inspired to cook all new recipes for a while. In spite of my vast cookbook library being safely tucked away in storage for the past few months, I have managed to accumulate something like 8 or 10 additional cookbooks. I’m pretty sure I have a dangerous cookbook buying addiction, by the way. A few of my favorites (from this new mini-collection): Simply Organic-a beautiful cookbook with very simple recipes, organized by season, which is perfect for the bounty of produce in California; Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2008-I’ve grown attached to Cooking Light, and I made a delicious Frozen Peanut Butter Pie this summer, courtesy of this cookbook; and my most recent acquisition, Rachael Ray’s Big Orange Book. Granted, that last one is a given-I always pre-order new Rachael Ray releases.

Several of the meals that I’ve found in these books have turned out to be delicious, and definitely worth repeating. From Simply Organic, there was the heavenly salmon salad with raspberry vinaigrette. It literally could not have been an easier dish-I simply pan-fried two salmon fillets, made the vinaigrette with fresh raspberries while the fish cooked, and quickly rinsed arugula for the salad base. The fillets sit atop the salad, dressing drizzled on top. My husband was still hungry when he finished his portion, but that could be easily remedied with a larger piece of salmon or perhaps a small side dish.

One of the first substantial meals I made in the new house was Buffalo Chicken Chili Mac. Rachael Ray loves twists on macaroni and cheese, so she often creates cutesy little recipe titles like this. I know it’s not the most creative. Anyway, the recipe is a fairly straightforward chicken chili, spiced up with the usual buffalo ingredients: hot sauce, blue cheese, carrots, and celery. I came to my love of buffalo wings rather late in life, and I don’t know what took me so long. I can’t even really think of a flavor combination that I love more than the happy marriage of hot sauce and blue cheese. When I lived in Austin, my husband and I refused to watch a movie anywhere but the wonderful Alamo Drafthouse, where you can eat and drink while enjoying your movie. Without fail, I ordered the buffalo blue cheese burger, which came smothered in hot sauce and coated in delicate crumbles of blue cheese. Yes, every movie I watched for two years I watched at the Drafthouse, and every time I ordered the same burger.

I digress…the buffalo chicken chili mac is actually a healthy and flavorful weeknight dinner. The recipe calls for whole wheat elbow macaroni, which is tossed with a saute of finely chopped chicken breast, celery, carrots, diced tomatoes, and hot sauce. The mixture is poured into a casserole dish, sprinkled with a combination of pepper jack cheese and blue cheese, and placed under the broiler for just a few minutes, allowing the cheeses to become golden brown and delicious. Yes, that might be my fifth use of the word “delicious” thus far…that just happens a lot when you’re fortunate enough to find great recipes! My husband and I both enjoyed the dish tremendously, and it lasted for several meals, which is especially great in these troubled financial times.

Yet another success was Bacon-Wrapped Salmon with Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli, another offering from Rachael Ray. My mother-in-law likens salmon to candy, and I have to agree with her-it’s got such a distinctive, heavenly flavor, and you don’t have to do a thing extra to make that flavor stand out. Of course, adding bacon to anything only increases the delicious factor, and that wasn’t any different for this dish. It was exceedingly easy-I started with the potatoes, because I knew they would take a while to be just right for mashing, and the salmon and broccoli went into the oven at just the same time. The recipe called for two interesting additions: cream steeped with thyme and lemon peel for the mashed potatoes and maple syrup melted with soy sauce to baste the salmon. After I heated the pot with the cream, I tossed the broccoli with garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. It took approximately two minutes to wrap each filet in bacon (one slice per filet), and the fish and broccoli roasted for 20 minutes. By that time, my potatoes (a lovely mix of red, yukon, and purple baby potatoes that I purchased at Trader Joe’s) were done. The final product was very tasty, and it looked rather fancy, if I do say so myself.

You’ll have to excuse my food photography. I’m no Smitten Kitchen. Thankfully, my husband has considerable skill when it comes to great pictures, so I’ll hopefully be able to employ him more frequently in the future. I neglected to take a photo of the salmon salad, but I was able to find a good representation online. I’m really enjoying seeking out new recipes, though it’s probably a bit too ambitious to try to go all new. Beans and rice will be back soon, I’m sure.

I can’t tell you how much leftover guacamole I’ve eaten.

November 23, 2008

Today was spent, as most of our weekends have been (and will be, for the foreseeable future) on further preparing our house for real living! Most of the kitchen cabinet doors have been attached, and I have found almost all of our dishes. Thus far, there has been only one Fiestaware casualty-one of my peacock coffee mugs. I wanted to take a picture of how lovely all of the plates, bowls, mugs, and various serving ware items look in the white cabinets, but I figured the effect would be even better once the kitchen is completely finished.

I prepared my first official meal (grilled cheese sandwiches and beans and rice do not count!) on Thursday night. For the inaugural meal, I selected cold chicken satay noodles, one of my most favorite dishes. It’s a very simple dish, mostly because it calls for a rotisserie chicken. I’ve really come to appreciate rotisserie chickens-flavorful, relatively inexpensive, and very little preparation involved! The chicken is tossed with whole wheat spaghetti, thinly sliced spinach and carrots, and an absolutely heavenly AND addictive peanut and soy sauce. I could eat buckets of these noodles, and I’ve even been known to sneak a small bowl in the morning! They are also the only dish that I make with whole wheat pasta that my fairly non-discriminating husband will eat. No matter how hard I try, I cannot get him to really enjoy whole wheat pasta. Needless to say, we had the nicest little meal together at our own dining room table, and I was bursting with happiness at having been able to cook in my own house.

We spent the morning raking leaves and mowing the lawn. Actually, my husband mowed the lawn, and I followed along behind, picking up the 1000’s of tiny avocados that have been tumbling from the tree in our front yard. I’m going to have to read up on avocado trees and make sure I’m doing everything I can to make ours healthy. As you can see,

the tree in the front is certainly producing a plentiful amount of fruit, but they are immature. Imagine how much money that blue bucket would be worth if it was full of ripe, mature avocados? It’s mind-boggling! By the way, I don’t know why my hand is so freakishly swollen-looking here. It’s the angle, I promise!

We set up a little table in the kitchen, a breakfast nook of sorts, and I couldn’t resist including this picture:

Look at that beautiful bowl of Meyer lemons! From my own tree! For the non-cookbook obsessed crowd, Meyer lemons are a highly coveted, expensive variety of lemon. They have a more spicy aroma and taste than a conventional lemon. Lucky us.

By far the highlight of the day, however, was using my new avocado picker (a long pole with a hook and basket attached to the end) to pluck a slew of avocados from my healthy tree in the backyard. It was a delightful feeling to yank the avocados down! We’re still not sure about the ripening process, so we’re just going to try putting them in a brown paper bag to see if that helps. Of course, I had to photograph them first.

My idea of heaven…

November 17, 2008

…would be this dish:

I came across it in my latest issue of Food and Wine. I recognized Michael Schwartz as a former guest judge on Top Chef, and I tried to read the accompanying article, but I was distracted by the picture of the BLT salad. I racked my brain to try to come up with a more appetizing combination, but alas, I could not. Bacon + blue cheese = divine.

The recipe, taken from Food and Wine magazine, December 2008, pg. 198:

BLT Salad with Blue Cheese

8 thick slices of bacon (4 ounces)
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large head of frisee, torn into bite-size pieces (8 cups)
2 pounds assorted tomatoes, large ones sliced or cut into wedges
6 ounces blue cheese, such as Stilton, cut into 4 equal wedges

1. In a skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Cut the slices in half crosswise.
2. In a small bowl, combine the shallot, vinegar, and olive oil and season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss the frisee with the vinaigrette; mound on plates. Arrange the bacon, tomatoes, and blue cheese around the frisee and serve.

You can read the article here:

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/miamis-got-good-taste

the BEST fish tacos

August 30, 2008

I recently made the MOST delicious fish tacos. Not that I’m bragging about my culinary skills, because the recipe certainly wouldn’t register a high level of difficulty, but the tacos were wildly successful. I’ve made fish tacos several times, and they’re actually one of my favorite things to eat or even order in a Mexican restaurant. The other recipes I’ve tried were all good, but this one has proved to be the best. It came, of course, from Rachael Ray, in the May issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray. The picture that I’ve posted is actually from the magazine, as my husband and I were too busy scarfing them down to take our own picture.

The recipe actually calls for using two layers of tortilla for each taco-a corn tortilla hard shell and a flour tortilla. I deviated from this aspect of the recipe, mainly because I don’t really love store-bought flour tortillas (I’m from West Texas, the land of sublime Mexican food!) and I LOOOOVE soft corn tortillas. I found the perfectly sized package of corn tortillas at Trader Joe’s and used them instead, with only one tortilla per taco. I also used tilapia instead of mahi-mahi, another common practice of mine. Tilapia is a good sturdy fish, with a subtle, non-fishy flavor, that happens to be very reasonably priced!

These tacos are unique because of the addition of jalepeno and red onion-spiked black beans, which act as a spread for the tortilla. They’re topped with the nicely flaked fish (I made sure to season my fish well with salt and lime juice) and a red cabbage slaw, a condiment traditionally used for fish tacos. It was the first time that I’ve made the cabbage slaw for fish tacos, and it made a huge difference to the intense flavor of the dish. I was quite liberal with the hot sauce that goes into the slaw, so the tacos were extra spicy. I also made fresh guacamole, which the recipe didn’t call for, but made it all the more delicious!

Making guacamole is one of the most satisfying activities for a cook, especially when the avocados are just right. I mashed two avocados, a finely chopped jalepeno, chunks of two red plum tomatoes, and sliced scallions all together, then squeezed a generous amount of lime juice over the mixture and added salt and pepper. I dolloped the guacamole on top of the fish, and we dove into the tacos.

While they weren’t the neatest dish and the added layer of beans caused the tortilla to bend a bit under the weight, the tacos were heavenly. It felt a bit like eating a barbecue dinner so good that you don’t care about how much sauce is getting on your face and hands. I definitely plan to stick to this recipe when I make fish tacos again!

Here’s the recipe:
http://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipes/30-minute-meals/my-oh-mahi-thats-a-good-fish-taco/article.html

Creamy Chicken and Asparagus on Toast

March 2, 2008

Here is yet another dish from 365: No Repeats (otherwise known as the Rachael Ray cookbook that I rely upon the most) that was utterly satisfying and yummy. I have combed through this particular cookbook many, MANY times, and often my eyes lit upon the recipe for “Creamy Chicken and Asparagus on Toast.” Somehow I always felt the ingredient list was rather decadent, including Black Forest ham, chicken, half and half, and (my mouth is watering thinking of it), Gruyere cheese (Gruyere cheese, like rice cookers, deserves its own special post). Needless to say, after dismissing it time after time with healthy eating in mind, I finally decided that I must give in and try it.

One of the best parts of the dish is the Provence-like flavors that result in the combination of sauteed onions, thyme, garlic, and salt and pepper. This central element delicately permeates the rest of the dish, in a wonderful, non-overpowering way. After the aforementioned ingredients are sauteed (until the onions are translucent-the “rule” for sauteed onions), they are removed from the pan to make room for chicken breast, which is then nicely browned in preparation for the toasts.

The “toasts” are created from a single slender baguette, which is split in half lengthwise and then quartered into 4 roughly even portions. The recipe calls for scraping a bit of the extraneous bread from the cavity of the loaf and discarding it, but as I had a rather small baguette to begin with, I dispensed with this instruction and used all of my bread. Each piece is then buttered with a delicious compound butter of sorts, which I made in one of my trusty green ramekins by churning a cold chunk of butter with chopped flat leaf parsley and freshly ground pepper and salt. The bread is then placed into the oven until it is a light golden brown.

While the bread is toasting, the onion mixture is tossed back into the pan with the chicken and dusted with flour. A bit of white wine, chicken stock, and half and half are added to create a thick, creamy sauce. Bright green lengths of asparagus and chopped ham are then stirred in. The toasts are removed from the oven, and spoonfuls of the creamy chicken are lightly settled onto each large piece. Each “toast” is topped with a mixture of shredded Gruyere and bread crumbs. They are promptly shoved back into the oven to melt and brown the cheese.

While the final result may not be the most attractive dish I have ever made, appearance most certainly belies taste. The toasts are delicious, with a heavenly combination of flavors-a bitter bite of asparagus, salty ham, hearty chicken, creamy sauce, all topped with sharp Gruyere….hmmmmm! I’m almost tempted to make it this very evening!