RECIPE: Fish Tacos

Mmmm…. fish tacos!!!  There is no better summer dinner. None…
Here’s where I started… mahi mahi, corn tortillas, a green onion or two, cilantro, cabbage and the amazing Southwest Dressing…
Oh yeah… and you must, must, must use the Liquid Gold aka the garlic-infused olive oil … promise me you’ll keep this on hand in your kitchen.  You won’t regret it!
Here’s the quick run down on how the Lite Southwest Dressing is made… greek yogurt, cayenne pepper, cumin powder and chili pepper.
Several dashes of chili powder, a dash or two of cumin powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper…
And some kosher salt and black pepper…
Mix it together.  Taste to see if it needs anymore kosher salt (it probably does) or black or cayenne pepper.  Just make this to your own tastes.  You can’t go wrong with this… and whatever is left over can simply go in a container in the refrigerator for several weeks (just like the yogurt).
Next attack those greens… cabbage (sliced rather thin), green onions, cilantro…
Line ’em up where they will await their final calling in life…
Next is the fish… add about a tablespoon of garlic-infused olive oil to the skillet and bring it up to HOT!  Then add the salted/peppered fish to the skillet and let it cook through, turning over half-way through.
While the fish is cooking you can throw the tortillas on a griddle to warm up a bit, on medium heat… turning over once they bubble a bit.  Don’t let them get too crispy… they’ll just crack in half when you use them.  And you don’t want that to happen…
Once the fish is done you can remove it to another flat surface cut into strips…
Then the assembly process starts…  line up your warmed tortillas, schmear them with a touch of Southwest dressing, topping them with a couple slices of fish…
Then add the cabbage, green onions and cilantro… and be prepared…
to enjoy a really yummy (and rather healthy) dinner!!!
We typically serve these up with a small side dish:
sharing a can of clam chowder
corn on the cob
black bean soup
there really are so many options…
the only thing that ISN’T an option is making these tacos…
enjoy your time in the kitchen…

FOOD IDEA: Encrusted Mahi Mahi

Let me share a secret with you… shhh…

I learned a secret while watching Secrets of a Restaurant Chef. (It’s just between me and you ok?!)

Chef Anne Burrell was talking about a tip she learned from Chef Mario Batali. And Mario Batali can do no wrong. So of course I perked up and listened even more intently.

She said he used instant potato flakes as a coating (aka “crust”) on the outside of fish.

WAIT, wait, wait!!! WHAT?!

That’s not very “chef – y” !!! Are you sure it was Chef Mario and not someone else?!

So I resolved to try it for myself… but on mahi mahi instead.

Using herbs from my own herb bowl out front … I graved the italian flat-leaf parsley and thyme. And some chives from the store. These are used to flavor the potato flakes ever so slightly.

And I headed towards the dredging station… egg, herbed potato flake crust (but only crusting on one side)… and into the hot pan.

Judging the thickness of these fillets, I cooked them for about 4-5 minutes on the crust side (until the crust was golden brown). And then once they got flipped over they got another minute or two.

We had the fillets with Spinach Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

But don’t take my word for it, or Chef Mario Batali’s or Anne Burrell’s for that matter… make it yourself! You can thank me later!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

RECIPE: Quinoa with Almond-crusted Tilapia

If I could eat NOTHING but almond-crusted tilapia for the rest of my days… I’d be one happy girl!

Confession – I’ve eaten it many times but I’ve never made it myself. UNTIL TONIGHT! Go me!!!

Tonight I’m also playing with quinoa for the first time. Again… I’ve ENJOYED it before. But I’ve never MADE it… before tonight.

(And I do believe my hero-of-a-hubby isn’t that much of a fan. But I WILL try one more time with some slightly different flavors – just for him. But that’s NEXT time. And right now we’re working on tonight!)

This is what quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) looks like… it cooks into a nice fluffy texture and can often replace rice or cous cous in most recipes. (Some people even use it for breakfast, like oatmeal… adding flavors suitable for breakfast.)

But tonight we are going to make a veggie quinoa and serve it up with almond-crusted tilapia. Oh heck ya!

It’s this easy… 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring it to a boil. Put a lid on it… and it’s ready in approximately 15 minutes.

While that’s cooking I’m moving on to the tilapia… starting with almond slivers (toasted and unsalted). Cut, chop and slice until it looks more like a powder.

Mix together the ingredients for one of the dredging stations… I used heavy cream and agave nectar. (Another recipe I found online used coconut milk and agave nectar. THAT would be good too!) I don’t have measurements for this… so if it tastes too sweet, just add more cream.

Lightly season the fillets with kosher salt and set out your dredging stations. Here I have (from left to right)… corn starch, cream/agave mixture and almonds.

One step at a time… move the fish through the dredging stations and into the hot saute pan. Medium-high heat… a few minutes on each side… and voila!

And now for the veggies…

Everyone in … please…

Zucchini, tomatoes, oil/paprika mixture… then beans…

And the cooked quinoa…

Give ‘er a stir…

Taste and see… yep, it needed a little more kosher salt.

Plate up the quinoa and vegetables… and top with the fish.

I’m telling you… just LOOK at that beautiful crust! And just wait until you taste it… oh man!

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Vegetable Quinoa
Recipe courtesy Lori Tisdale

1 cup quinoa
1 can black beans
1-2 small roma tomatoes, diced
1 cup sliced zucchini
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon paprika
Kosher salt/pepper to taste
4 tilapia fillets
1/3 cup sliced green onions

– Following directions on package, cook quinoa.
– In small ingredient bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and paprika.
– In a saucepan over medium heat, cook beans and vegetables with oil/lemon juice mixture until warm, about 5 minutes. Salt/pepper to taste.

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

RECIPE: Saffron Risotto and sauteed Mahi Mahi with anchovy dressing

Well, I wasn’t sure I could get my hubby to eat this dish. I was going out on the ledge with so many vegetables! And I simply didn’t think he would be OK with the anchovy dressing.

But eat it he did! AND he enjoyed it…

Confession time: I may or may not have told him what the sauce was called before he ate it. OK, I did tell him… and he wasn’t as weirded out by it as I thought he’d be. Then I broke it to him that there are anchovies in a classic caesar salad dressing.

Starting with the risotto… thank you Mario Batali for giving me a recipe to start with. I’ll be tweaking it a little in the future. Hope you don’t mind…

I’ve been waiting to make this risotto ever since I bought saffron. And I’d been waiting to buy saffron ever since I ate at CinCin! in Poway, California. It was there that we enjoyed an appetizer that was my inspiration.

So come with me on a journey… and every journey begins with the first step.

Here is the first step… sweating the onions.

Then I added the saffron to the hot chicken stock so it would infuse the flavor nicely.

Next add the arborio rice to the onion and oil, stirring well to make sure all of the grains are coated with oil. Let the rice toast up for several minutes…

… add a little wine, a good dry white wine. The wine will evaporate pretty quickly but leave behind a really great flavor.

Then the process of ladling starts. And get ready for some stirring…

Look at that color! I can’t wait to eat this!

Keep ladling… one ladle at a time…

Yes, just keep stirring…

To break up the monotony a little I’ll take a break and get the veggies started. Tonight I’m grilling these in my panini pan. But first I tossed them in a little bit of olive oil and kosher salt.

AAAANNNNND… we’re back to ladling and stirring…

And more ladling and stirring… I know that my persistence will eventually pay off! I just know it…

In the meantime, it was time to start the mahi mahi. I sauteed it in just a little bit of oil and butter, seasoned with some kosher salt.

After checking the risotto, giving it a taste and checking for doneness, I put the final touches on the risotto (nothing like a lil’ butter and parmesan to top it all off!).

Still stirring… but almost done.

…and then it was ready!

And this is where the anchovy dressing comes into the picture. It will get ladled over the fish once it’s all plated up.

Can I have another piece of mahi mahi now?! That dressing is so darn GOOD!!!

Saffron Risotto aka Risotto Milanese
Recipe courtesy Mario Batali

1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, cut into ¼” dice
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
2 cups chicken stock, hot
1 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for sprinkling

In a 12-14″ skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile add the saffron to the stock, stirring to infuse. Once the onions are translucent add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until toasted and opaque, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the wine to the toasting rice, and then add a 4-6 ounce ladle of the saffron-infused stock and cook, stirring, until it is absorbed. Continue adding the stock a ladle at a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Cook until the rice is tender and creamy and yet still a little al dente, about 15 minutes. Stir in the butter and cheese until well mixed. Serve as desired… makes two “healthy” portions.

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

Easy Shrimp Fajitas…

I so love making Fajitas <— check out my prior entry on WHY I love making fajitas and showing how easy they are. Quick recap: They are full of flavor. They are rather healthy. They are pretty fast to both prepare and make. And I don't have to stand over the stove for a long time to put a tasty meal on the table.

Confession: Last night I cheated a bit to make it even easier and quicker. (I do NOT like spending time in the kitchen when it’s hot outside!) So, I stopped by my favorite authentic mexican restaurant on the way home from work (Casa de Bandini) and bought part of dinner. I got a pint each of their amazing black beans and their even more surprising arroz amarillo.

And all I did was make shrimp fajitas:
I slightly crushed 4 cloves of garlic and threw them into 1/4 cup of olive oil.
(Crushing opens the clove enough to extract flavor when heat is added.)
I set the stove to medium-low heat and let the garlic and oil ‘get friendly’.
They hung out together while I prepared the shrimp, sliced up the veggies, etc.
(They hung out like this for about 10 minutes, just barely sizzling in hot oil.)
I sliced red/orange bell peppers and a red onion.
I then removed the garlic-infused oil from the pan, leaving just a tiny bit behind for the veggies.
The veggies went into the pan and sauteed until they just started to brown.
(Over medium-high heat, they hung out for about 10 minutes.)
(I tossed them several times to make sure they browned on all sides.)
Once soft enough, I removed the veggies to a bowl and set them aside.

This next part goes quickly…
The garlic-infused oil went back into the pan (without the garlic cloves).
I lightly salted the shrimp and added it the oil.
Approximately 30 seconds later, I turned the shrimp over.
I added the veggies back to the pan, waited about 30 seconds and tossed a few times before serving up.

These went perfect with corn tortillas that I warmed ever so slightly on the cast iron tortilla warmer.

Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and cotija cheese…

You WANT to make these. I promise.

Sidenote: let it be known, it is my goal this summer to figure out how to make the special arroz amarillo that Casa de Bandini rocks! I may have to go back time and again for more test tastes. Oh darn…

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

the PERFECT (yummy and quick) summer lunch…

It hit 90 degrees F here this weekend (which doesn’t make me very happy – I’m more of a cold-weather gal)… in fact, let me ask: am I the only one who plans my summer meals around how long it would require me to stand in front of a hot stove? I CANNOT stand the heat!

So on to more positive things… I took the opportunity to make a yummy, quick summer lunch.

(Um, have I said yet how yummy and quick this was?! )

First, asparagus in my (NEW) cast iron grill pan… drizzle with a lil’ bit of olive oil and garlic salt.

Next, panko-crusted shrimp. But this isn’t just any ol’ plain panko crust… to the panko I added onion powder, garlic salt and chili powder. Just adds a few layers of flavor … they aren’t over-powering flavors, just a background of flavor.

Quick steps for panko-crusted anything…

1) One egg, beaten. Place shrimp (or anything else, for that matter) in egg and thoroughly coat it. 2) Transfer to separate bowl that has panko in it (don’t forget to season it for some extra flavor). 3) Toss shrimp in the panko a few times to ensure it is completely covered.
4) Transfer shrimp to medium-hot saute pan with a bit of olive oil in it so it fries up nicely.
And last …
5) Once fried on both sides, transfer shrimp to paper towel to drain off excess oil.

And voila…

Aren’t those beautiful!

Quick sprinkle of kosher salt (not too much – just a touch)… and it’s ready to plate!

So let’s take another look at it…

You could sprinkle some lemon juice over the top … but I didn’t have any lemons on hand. So I hit it with a few sprinkles of orange zest.

Wow… I’m a genius! (baa haa haa!!!) What a great flavor layer! Try it for yourself…

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

how we do our ribeyes…

When we celebrate a special occasion (at home), or splurge for a date night (at home), or find a great deal on good-lookin’ ribeyes… this is how we do it…

What we look for: good “marbling” in the meat, a thick steak, and fresh looking meat.

How I prepare them: generously salt/pepper the steaks on both sides, allow them to come to room temperature for at least an hour before grilling them, and talk to them nicely… they like to be talked to.

Then I pre-heat the stove top grill… it’s a griddle pan that stretches out over 2 burners. And I set the burners to just over “medium” heat. I allow the griddle pan to warm up for about 5 minutes until it just starts to smoke. The steaks get transferred to the griddle… and grilled to our desired done-ness (in our opinion, this should only ever be “medium-rare”). (As you can tell, I didn’t include pics of the grilling steaks – I’m sure you know what that looks like…)

Tonight we were celebrating a week into a new job for my hero-of-a-hubby. So, we threw in the scallops too…

How we do scallops: tonight I cooked bacon to go with the baked potatoes, so I left about a tablespoon of bacon grease in the pan. Then I added two pats of butter and heated the griddle until nice and hot, but before the butter started to brown.

(Oh wait – it’s important to pat the scallops dry on both sides with a paper towel – this helps with the browning.)

Just slightly salt one side of the scallops and gently place into the hot saute pan (salt side down – you can salt/pepper the other side while they are cooking). And then don’t touch the scallops for at least 2 minutes… you might want to, but don’t do it. While they are cooking, but don’t touch those scallops… you’ll want to do something… so now you can slightly salt/pepper this side of the scallops. OK, ready?!

After 2 minutes, gently nudge the scallops off the bottom of the skillet with a pair of tongs – and flip over in the saute pan. (They might stick slightly – so move slow and gentle.) Since scallops cook rather quickly they don’t need much more time. After flipping them over, they only need about 1 1/2 minutes.

Oh, and for the potatoes… a couple years ago I found Alton Brown’s take on the perfect baked potato. I’ve been making them this way ever since.

Now, pardon me… we’re off to celebrate and “do our thing”… I love my life! (and I love my husband! And I’m so proud of him… )

enjoy your time in the kitchen…