Sunday, July 27, 2008

In the Kitchen This Week

Monday - Tomato soup, squash and spinach fritatta
Tuesday - Santa Fe Enchiladas, salad
Wednesday - Spicy pork chops, curried cauliflower, salad
Thursday - Grilled chicken, saffron couscous, salad

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ohhhh, Mexico

Some of my best travel memories are of the food I've eaten on the trip. I can honestly still taste the chocolat chaud and croissants from my first trip to Paris when I was 7. The hot dogs and mashed potatoes we ate on my second trip to France when I was 12. {My brother was 3 and that was all he wanted. But something about those French weiners and potatoes were mouthwatering. Truly.} The shwarma I had from a roadside stand in Israel. The espresso and pizzas from Tuscany.

As yo
u may know, we went to Mexico for a week in May for my best friend Lainie's wedding. Everything about that week was incredible, from the people we met, to the time we all spent together, to the romantic fairy-tale wedding at sunset on a clifftop with a crashing-waves-and-mariachi-band soundtrack.

But, oh...the food. Aside from the people memories, the food memories will stay with me forever. A favorite restaurant in Sayulita is the eponymous Sayulita Fish Taco. Fresh, crispy fried fish, crunchy cabbage, and creamy, dreamy sauce--it was a party in my mouth. I could have eaten it every day. In fact, we did have it no less than three times that week.

Well, I've been missing that place, those I decided to make some of my own fish tacos. For a little extra something, I made a slaw to go on the tacos instead of plain cabbage. {It turned out to be great--we even had it on its own with burgers.} While these tacos aren't quite the same as the ones we had in Sayulita, they hit the spot. Light, fresh, and yummy...a simple midweek taste vacation.

Dreaming of Sayulita Fish Tacos
serves 2

2 medium-size fillets of cod, mahi, snapper, or any mild fish
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
Pinch kosher salt

4 corn tortillas
Creamy Lime Slaw (recipe follows)
1/2 jalapeno, sliced very thinly

Sour cream
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
1/2 lime, cut into wedges

Pat fish fillets dry. Heat oil in a medium skillet
over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish on both sides with salt, and add it to the pan. Sear until fish is firm and opaque, about 3 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of the fillet).

When the fish is cooked, transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Wipe out skillet, and put it back over medium heat. Place tortillas, one at a time, in the skillet to warm, being careful not to burn them.

Cut or tear fish into bite-size pieces, and then divide into 4 portions. Fill each tortilla with some fish, then garnish with a bit of the slaw, a few slices of jalapeno, cilantro, sour cream, avocado, and onion. Serve with lime wedges.

Creamy Lime Slaw
serves 2 as a side

Juice 1/2 lime
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
Scant tablespoon mayonnaise
Pinch kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thinly

In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice and oil. Whisk in mayonnaise, then stir in salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as you see fit. Add cabbage to bowl, and toss to combine. Refrigerate for 10 minutes or up to overnight before serving.

All Up in My Grill

So I told you I got a new grill, right? Well it took us a few tries to get it just right, but it's been a wonderful addition to our summer kitchen, especially now when Birmingham has decided to whop us with 100-degree days. But...I have a feeling that we'll be out there, checking the coals and flipping burgers even when it's 40 degrees outside.

Our first meal on the grill was mixed-herb chimichurri-marinated pork chops (and a chicken breast for Rebecca). It was an Emeril recipe, and was just OK...I tweaked it a good deal, which made it delicious, but I won't link the recipe. Going forward I would certainly use chimichurri as a marinade again. This one employed a mix of basil, cilantro, and parsley...but the classic is still my favorite. Just making it is fun and fresh, as evidenced on my colorful, herb-strewn cutting board.

Anyway, the dinner didn't turn out to be very photogenic (beigey brown chops, yellow saffron couscous and bright yellow corn on the cob--monochromatic, but yummy). The corn, simply wrapped in foil with a smattering of butter and a sprinkling of salt, looked like pretty little treasures just waiting to be unwrapped.
Finally, for dessert, we had a lovely strawberry and peach shortcake. The recipe was from epicurious, and while it was good, it wasn't great. So I won't link to that one, either. It was your basic flour-butter-sugar mixture with a touch of whole milk to bring it all together. I'd try another recipe before I went back to this one. But the summer-sweet fruit and cream (which I whipped by hand, thankyouverymuch) were delicious.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What I'm making...

Monday - Bunless burgers, charred onions and eggplant, salad
Tuesday - Heidi's Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup, salad, crusty bread
Wednesday - Dreaming of Sayulita Fish Tacos, black beans, creamy lime slaw

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Solo Birthday Meal

This year on my birthday, I was alone for dinner. Before you think I’m complaining, I must say, I was really tired from a crazy weekend, so the solo time was actually appreciated. Plus I’d had a totally indulgent Belgian waffle and a side of sausage-cheese grits. (Yes, that’s right. And it was amazing.)

However, it was my birthday, so I did want to treat myself to something delicious for dinner. I chose some beautiful salmon from Whole Foods, a bundle of soba noodles, a package of nori, some veggies, and a bottle of Asian-style dressing. (I was feeling indulgent, but also too lazy to make my own dressing.) The salmon seared quickly, the veggies didn’t require much besides a little bit of chopping, and the noodles cooked in a lightning-fast dunk in boiling water—this is my kind of fast, easy, but totally delicious birthday dinner. I call it a sushi bowl because all the sushi flavors are represented. You could definitely substitute sticky white rice for the noodles for an even more sushi-like concoction.

Sushi Bowls with Soba Noodles

serves 1 birthday girl with leftovers for lunch (though it would easily double)

This was great the night of, and actually even better the following day, cold. You could make this ahead, chill it, and serve it cold for an easy, satisfying summer dinner when it’s just too hot to cook.

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 (8- to 10-ounce) salmon fillet (make sure you ask for the thickest piece available)
Pinch of salt
6 ounces soba noodles
3 to 4 tablespoons store-bought Asian soy ginger sauce*
1/2 cucumber, peeled, and chopped into matchstick pieces
1 ripe avocado, peeled, and chopped into bite-size pieces
2 green onions, cut thinly on the bias
3 sheets nori (look for it in the Asian section of the grocery store)
1 to 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Rinse and pat dry salmon fillet, and sprinkle with salt. When oil is very hot and shimmering, carefully place salmon in pan. Sear for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn and continue cooking until salmon is just cooked through, about 3 minutes more.**

Meanwhile, add soba noodles to a medium saucepan of boiling, salted water, stir gently, and cook for 4 minutes, or until al dente. Drain noodles, and rinse well with lukewarm water.***

In a small dry skillet, toast nori sheets until they are warm and crisp to the touch, about 2 minutes.

In a wide serving bowl, toss together the cooked noodles and the dressing, to taste. Toss in the veggies, then top with the salmon. Crumble the toasted nori on top, sprinkle on sesame seeds, and drizzle with additional dressing, if desired.

*I used 365 Organic Soy Ginger Sauce
**I like my salmon on the just-barely-cooked side. If you like yours more done, cook 1 to 2 minutes longer, but don’t let it go too long or it will be dry.
***Rinsing the noodles is very important; otherwise they will stick together and lose their delicious texture.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fiber? I barely know her!

We hear it all the stinkin’ time—fiber is an uber-important part of maintaining good health. But seriously, sometimes fiber is just not tasty. Though Jason and I do enjoy the new(ish) Fiber One bars (check out the oats and chocolate kind), it’s not always the easiest task to cook a high-fiber meal that doesn’t taste like a bucketful of horse feed.

Recently, though, I discovered medium-grain bulgur, which is coarser and chewier than the fine-grain kind used in tabouleh. It’s seriously delicious. It’s kind of like brown rice’s way better looking and more impressive cousin. Bulgur has more than twice the fiber, less fat, fewer calories, and nearly four times the folate as brown rice. Plus it cooks in half the time. It’s nutty, pleasantly chewy, and inexpensive, too. Oh, and topped with roasted veggies, this dish packs a ton of vitamins and fiber—a superstar of a meal.

Bulgur Bowls with Roasted Veggies
serves 2
Toss in some prepared rotisserie chicken or sautéed tofu (if you’re into that kind of thing) for some protein, if desired.

1 cup bulgur
2 cups chicken broth or water
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 lb broccoli, chopped into small florets
1 large zucchini, chopped into bite-size chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-size chunks
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 (1-inch) piece of ginger, grated
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice or rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the bulgur and the broth. If using water, add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir and cover, and bring to a boil. When bulgur boils, lower heat to medium-low, and let cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed and bulgur is tender.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°. Place vegetables on a large rimmed baking sheet, and toss with pepper, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and olive oil. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes, tossing about halfway through cooking, until vegetables are tender and caramelized in places. Remove from oven and set aside.

To make the sauce, whisk together ingredients in a medium bowl, adding vegetable oil to reach desired taste and consistency. When bulgur is cooked, spoon an even amount into each serving bowl. Top with roasted vegetables, and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon sauce, or to taste.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Menu

I got a grill for my birthday, and I can't tell you how excited I am to have my very own black robot-like little charcoal buddy. I've been wanting one for a long time, so I'm looking forward to my first on-the-grill dinner tonight. We're doing grilled pork chops with chimichurri and grilled corn on the cob. Yummm. I can't wait.

The rest of the week...
M - Roasted broccoli and zucchini with bulgur
T - Chicken enchiladas with green salsa
W - Big salads with grilled chicken (yup--on the new grill!)
Th - Soba noodle "sushi" bowls with fish, nori, and cucumber