Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blackened Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa

Here are some thoughts regarding these recipes:
  1. I don't like combining fruit with savory ingredients. At all. Ever. EXCEPT when it comes to mango salsa. And I truly LOVE this mango salsa. So don't be scared.
  2. I have no idea what the difference is between salsa and pico de gallo or any other forms of chopped vegetables. This is chopped mango. Whatever that means. Yum.
  3. I LOVED the blackened fish, I thought it added a nice amount of spice and slight crunch. I'm sure this could be made grilled or any other way you prefer.
  4. You truly don't need a lot of toppings for this. We had colby jack cheese, avocado, sour cream, and the mango salsa. I could take or leave the cheese (which is rare, for me). I liked mine with sour cream, hubs preferred his without. The key is the spice of the fish, the sweet of the salsa, and the creamy addition of the avocado.
  5. We used flour tortillas, which we heated in the microwave separately between two paper towels for about 20 seconds.
  6. My belly is still happy.
  7. Oh, did I mention how awesome the mango salsa is?

Blackened Tilapia

for two Tilapia filets:
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
salt & black pepper

Use a fork to mix the spices in a shallow bowl or dish. Feel free to adjust the seasonings to taste. I thought this was quite tasty, but could probably have kicked either the chili powder or paprika up a notch. Coat both sides of the fish filets in the seasoning.

Heat oil in a frying pan or skillet until it is almost hot enough to start smoking. Cook the fish on one side for about two or three minutes, just long enough to cause that side to blacken. Flip over and finish cooking, about three to five minutes, or until fish flakes when poked with a fork.

Mango Salsa
adapted from a couple recipes I think we found on Food Network

1 mango, chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 - 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
juice of 1 lime
2 - 3 tbsp. cilantro
salt & pepper

I'm going to defer to Pioneer Woman for a tutorial on chopping mango.

Combine all ingredients except the salt and pepper in a bowl. Season to taste. Easy AND amazing!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Delicious Fish

We try to eat a lot of fish around here. Most of the time it hits all the important categories: it's easy, tends to be healthy(er), and it's delicious. I've never really met a fish that I didn't like. I broke out an old cookbook one day to try to find something new for fish. We found a recipe for a ginger basil butter sauce to have with tuna. Having never actually cooked tuna ourselves, I was excited to give it a try. Our local grocery store usually carries a good selection of fish, so I was all set. Except that this one time they didn't have any tuna.

They did, however, have swordfish steaks. I decided to go ahead and give it a try. They smelled so fishy when we opened them up. I did get a little nervous, but luckily they grilled up deliciously. And the sauce. Oh man. I could have eaten the entire batch with a spoon. No fish needed. Although, it was fantastic on the swordfish as well. I definitely recommend making this sauce and make it for anything! Don't be scared of the number of different flavors going on, they work perfectly well together.

Swordfish with Ginger-Basil Butter Sauce
adapted from Fast Entrees by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison

2 lbs. fresh swordfish steaks
1/3 c. dry white wine
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. finely minced ginger
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
3 tbsp. minced basil leaves
1/4 c. soy sauce
6 tbsp. unsalted butter (cut into 6 pieces, at room temperature)
3 tbsp. heavy cream
salt & black pepper
Coat the swordfish steaks in the soy sauce and marinate prior to grilling for at least ten minutes. Grill over medium-high heat until the fish flakes when poked with a fork.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Combine the wine, vinegar, and ginger over high heat in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until sauce has reduced to about 1/4 cup. This took me about 3 to 5 minutes. Combine the lemon zest, basil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl. At this point the ingredients can all be refrigerated and saved for later, if necessary. If you refrigerated the mixture, bring the liquids to a rapid boil. Otherwise, just continue from where you left off and add in the butter and cream all at once and whisk until nearly smooth. Remove the sauce from the heat and add in the lemon zest mixture.

Spoon the sauce over the swordfish and garnish with a lemon wedge, if you like. Try to avoid licking your plate clean. But I can't promise anything.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Saturday Night in NC

Saturdays in our neighborhood typically consist of a group getting together and grilling and hanging out. This weekend we showed up at our neighbor's house with a steak we had been marinating for a couple hours. And got made fun of. But I know everyone was just jealous because they had to eat hot dogs and we had a glorious steak.

Unfortunately I didn't bring the camera, so we didn't get any pictures. The neighbors all kept asking if I was going to put the recipe up (they may have still been making fun - and I'm ok with that), so here it is without pictures! Recipe for marinade + recipe for Jamaican Rum Punch and you have an idea of what another awesome summer evening is around here!

Sweet Maple & Rosemary Steak Marinade

makes about 1 cup:
1/2 small red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, smashed or coarsely chopped
1/2 tbsp. rosemary, chopped
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper

Combine the onion, garlic, and rosemary in a bowl or tupperware. Season to taste with salt & pepper. In another small bowl whisk together the Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar. We taste-tested the proportions, and this is what worked for us. It can definitely be changed to suit your taste. Mix the liquids with the onion mixture. Use a fork to poke holes in the steak. Lay the steak on top of the mixture. Spoon some of the marinade over the steak. Cover and refrigerate. Flip the steak a few times if you remember. Cook steak to your preference and enjoy the deliciousness, as well as the jealous glances from your neigbors.

Jamaican (Myer's) Rum Punch

makes just under 64 ounces:
3 cups orange juice
3 cups pineapple juice
3 cups dark rum
1/2 cup white rum
4 tbsp. lemon juice
4 tbsp. sugar
Grenadine (use to color preference)

Mix all ingredients except Grenadine in a punch bowl or pitcher. Stir in the Grenadine until the punch becomes an acceptably pink color (it will be decidedly brown before you do this). Chill. Don't forget to re-mix the punch after chilling, as the liquor will separate from the juice.

Follow the above steps for a fabulous weekend!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

But It Can Always Have Carbohydrates

It's cool to eat carbs again, right? Clearly a soup made with potatoes needed a little extra starch on the side, so I decided to make some biscuits I'd been wanting to try. I do love me some bread products though, in basically all their forms. I've been trying to make biscuits and bread a little more often and these will definitely help me in that feat. They were super easy to make and really tasty.

My only thoughts are that they are a bit blue cheese heavy. I liked them, but I was a little sad that I couldn't taste much of the scallions. I think if I were to repeat this I might only use about one cup of blue cheese and I might go a little heavier on the scallions. This would also be tasty with cheddar instead of blue cheese and I would imagine that jalapenos instead of scallions would give it a nice little kick.

The important thing is that the biscuit itself was DELICIOUS. So light and fluffy, not to mention easy to make on a weeknight. Highly recommended from this kitchen!

Blue Cheese Scallion Drop Biscuits
very slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) cold, unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 - 1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese
5 - 6 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Whisk or soft together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter and blend with your fingers or with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles small crumbs. Add in the blue cheese and scallions. Add the buttermilk and stir until combined but be careful not to overmix.
Drop dough in large (very large) spoonfuls onto a buttered baking sheet. This should result in twelve equal mounds. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Don't be scared of the large size of the mounds and the fluffiness of the biscuits. They will turn out perfectly!

Because It Can't Always Be Pasta

Recipes like this are the reason that I wanted to create a blog. They're also something I hope to have more of one day. I love the idea of family recipes. Something you probably made the first time with the person who used to make it for you. The recipe that looks well-loved. Stains on the important words and all (not that it matters because you practically have it memorized). This recipe for leek and potato soup fits all the criteria.

Mom used to make this and then I helped once. From then on it has become a staple in the household. I'm not always the best about eating leftovers, but if this is in the fridge you can bet I'll have it gone in a couple days. I love the flavors of the soup. I tend to cook it possibly more than what I should, but I love the stewi-ness of it and the way the leeks and spices come together with the potatoes.

And let's face it, not everything I post on this page can't be pasta-related!

Leek and Potato Soup
5 or 6 leeks
3 tbsp. butter
3 c. diced potatoes
1 qt. chicken broth
2 tsp. salt (to taste) (or vegetable for a vegetarian version)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour

Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the broth.

Wash and cut the leeks. To do this I usually cut off the end and then peel off the outermost green layer. Then I cut them in half lengthwise. Then I thinly slice them, starting at the white end. I place all the slices in a colander, and once all the leeks have been cut I spend some time rinsing off the grit. Leeks are really not scary to work with, and so delicious they're worth the extra rinsing!
Saute the leeks in the 3 tbsp. of butter until soft, usually about 5 minutes. Add in the potatoes and broth. Bring this mixture to a boil and let it go for about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer (covered) until the potatoes are tender. This could take about 25 minutes to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes you diced. Once tender, season the potatoes with the cayenne and nutmeg.

Create a roux for the soup. Melt the two tbsp. of butter over medium-low heat and stir in the flour. When this is well mixed, add the reserved 1 1/2 cups of broth. Stir this until it becomes thickened and bubbly. I used to have trouble making a roux until I learned not to be scared of the heat. You don't want it too hot, as it can burn, but without the heat it will NEVER thicken.

Add the roux to the soup and heat through until the whole thing is hot and bubbly. Serve it with an extra pinch of nutmeg or cayenne (for the brave). Enjoy!

A Perfect Summer Evening

I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend evening than sitting on the deck eating delicious food and drinking some delicious wine. Add in some of my favorite people and you'll have a hard time getting me to end the evening. This is exactly how I spent my last Saturday evening. Mom came to visit and along with the hubby we sat outside for a few hours while we enjoyed a wonderful grilled dinner and some delicious wine.

For those in the area I have to put in a plug for the Chapel Hill Wine Company. This is the only thing I hate about living on the east side of Raleigh, I am about an hour's drive away from my favorite wine store. The prices and selection are amazing. Their knowledge is great but they never make me feel badly for asking stupid questions. We bought a bottle of red wine called Calma (a Spanish Rioja?) and it was stellar. I picked up a couple bottles of other wine, so I'll make a note of those when we have those as well.

I'm not going to type out a drawn out post about grilling burgers. I assume everyone can handle that! I'm just going to tell you about the "accessories" to dinner. We topped our burgers with guacamole (and also ate a ton of guacamole with chips). We also made a pasta salad for the side. It was a perfectly delicious dinner, and the hubs is a stellar grill man. His burgers were fabulous, but our guacamole definitely took it to a new level.


2 avocados (ripe, but not too squishy)
1/2 small, yellow onion, finely chopped
1 - 2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 lemon
salt & pepper

Scoop out the avocados into a small bowl. Add the onion and garlic and mash the avocado. I prefer to do this by hand with a masher because I like chunks of avocado in my guacamole. Add the juice of one lemon, tasting to make sure you don't go overboard! Add salt and pepper to taste. Make sure you continue to taste the guacamole throughout to make sure the flavor is balanced. Just try to leave some for whatever it's planned purpose is!

Make It Up As You Go Along Pasta Salad

The best thing about this pasta salad is that you can turn it into whatever you want. Add or remove veggies, change the dressing, anything you like!

1 orange (or your other favorite color) Bell pepper
1 green Bell pepper
1/2 red onion
2 - 3 tbsp. chopped, fresh parsley
1 - 2 tbsp. chopped, fresh basil
1 container/package good mozzarella
salt & pepper
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 package pasta of your choice

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

Chop the peppers and onions (and any other vegetables you choose to add). When the pasta is slightly cooled, add the vegetables and herbs to it and mix in a large bowl. Meanwhile, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar. Add some salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Make sure to taste the dressing to make sure it is to your liking before you add it to the pasta. Once you are satisfied, add the dressing to the pasta mixture and chill it in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Before serving add the mozzarella and mix in.
Note: For added crunch I would try some toasted pine nuts or even some drained black eyed peas. Go wild!

I heart Italian food

I have ALWAYS loved Italian food. I am notorious for being the slowest eater in my family. I would finish dinner way after the rest of the family had left the table. As a matter of fact, I still finish dinner later than everyone else, but most of the time they're nice enough to wait for me to finish before they get up now. It also helps that I eat only what I cook (for the most part) and I get to make only things I really, really like. The only exceptions to me being the last person at the table occured on the nights when we had my favorite dishes.

Which include almost all things Italian. But particularly lasagna and stuffed shells. My two favorites from my mom's list of Italian cooking. This doesn't mean I can't put away a mean plate of pasta in all of its versions, but we've got to narrow it down, at least for now. Today we'll focus on the stuffed shells. I'm sure there are many variations of stuffed shells that are delicious. I'm going to be stubborn and say these stuffed shells are the BEST and I could never get tired of them. I don't even know where this recipe comes from originally, but it's a keeper!

Stuffed Shells

1 package frozen, chopped spinach (although an equivalent of fresh works as well)
3 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic
2 eggs
1 15 ounce container of Ricotta
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
1 tbsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
pepper, to taste
24 giant shells
1 jar Prego or your favorite pasta sauce or make your own!
Cook the shells according to the package while you prepare the stuffing mixture.

If you're using frozen spinach, cook it according to the instructions on the package, although you can stop it a minute or two before it is completely cooked. Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the onions and garlic until softened. Add the spinach and cook for about three minutes. Instructions say to cool the spinach/onion mixture, but I always get impatient and move on.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir the two eggs into the ricotta until well mixed. Add the spinach and onions. Then add everything else. Stuff each shell with a large spoonful of the stuffing mixture. Pour a layer of sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Place the shells on top of the sauce and then cover with another layer of sauce. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the shells are hot and bubbly.

Note: the recipe calls for baking the shells covered, but I think we have always baked them uncovered.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Trust me, the title of this post just HAD to be in all capital letters. Now if you read my intro you know that my husband loves meat. I mean, loves. So for our Memorial Day cook out, complete with 25 plus people in my pefectly clean house (!!) I was convinced that we should have brisket. I let the husband take the reins on this. I can't say I wasn't concerned.

I was, however, quite pleasantly surprised! And I actually didn't really have to do any work. I watched. Gave a few suggestions. And mostly stood back and watched the hubs work his meat magic. We got really good brisket from a local meat shop. We thought 12 pounds would work (or he did, and I was trying to be nice). When I asked for 12 pounds, the butcher brought out a 13-pound piece and I said it would work. After the hubs saw how much meat that was, even he thought we went overboard! He said I should have erred more on the side of 11 pounds, whereas I thought 10 pounds would have more than covered it.

45 minutes after cutting into this thing... we were both wrong. It was gone! I don't even think everyone was there yet. It was truly delicious. Just as meat or as a sandwich. It was a bit of a process, but worth it in the end!

Hot Rod's Brisket
Adapted from... Google? I think he found a couple different recipes just to get ideas, but nothing specific.

For 12-13 pounds of brisket:

1 lb. bacon (browned)
2 small yellow onions, chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, smashed or sliced
80 oz. barbecue sauce (to taste)
5 oz. apple cider vinegar
bamboo skewers, soaked in water

Slice the brisket down the center lengthwise. Stuff it with bacon, onions, and garlic. Use the skewers to fold the brisket back over and secure it. Mix the barbecue sauce with some apple cider vinegar to thin the sauce a little bit. Pour about half of the barbecue sauce into the bottom of a roasting pan. Place the brisket on top of the sauce, fat side up (we had to cut ours in half to fit it). Cover the brisket with barbecue sauce. Use whatever amount you think will suit your taste. We used the above amounts. The taste was fantastic but we did have a lot of sauce leftover.

Cover the brisket in the roasting pan with foil. Place the brisket on a grill or in an oven on medium heat. Once the meat is going (about half an hour), cut the heat back to low. Continue to cook the brisket for approximately 20 - 25 minutes per pound. We cooked the entire thing for about five hours. Every hour to hour and a half, flip the brisket so that the juices from the fat keep it moist. Continue to baste the brisket with the barbecue sauce throughout this process.

Pull it off the grill... smell... and enjoy!

** We used Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce. Ideally I would have loved to make our own, but the hubby's logical side won out and we bought instead. I found it delicious, but I would by no mean call myself a connosieur. Use what you like!