Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fresh and Easy Fish Tacos

I've been posting some slightly more complex recipes lately, and frankly, that's not really my intention.  My intention is to share with you how I manage to cook for my family every night (after working a full time job all day) using fresh, local ingredients without losing my everlovin' mind. One of my secrets for maintaining sanity?  Shortcuts. Not quite Rachel Ray shortcuts. (I won't buy pre-diced vegetables, but thanks) and hell no to Sandra Lee's shortcuts (If you don't know who I'm talking about, Google Sandra Lee - I swear there are whole blog posts and you tube videos dedicated to justifiably mocking the first lady of Manhattan) but still, technically shortcuts.  Some of my favorites involve frozen proteins from Costco.  I like the tortellini, and lately, we're loving a panko crusted tilapia they have.  I try to cook seafood 2 - 3 times a week for health reasons, and things like frozen tilapia, shrimp and catfish are simple to use, taste yummy, and go over well with the littles.
By keeping that central protein simple, and already prepped, I'm able to build a healthy dinner by adding fresh ingredients to the dish, with out spending hours in the kitchen.  And a hunk of frozen fish? It's no where near as evil to me as a box of Hamburger Helper or an entire frozen entree.  It's still a pure, natural ingredient.  It's just already been cleaned and veined, you know? Have some fresh fish on hand you want to use for this?  Just sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper, and saute it a few minutes on each side in a preheated pan with some olive oil. 

We've still got a counter full of green tomatoes, so this dish uses one of those, plus some of the beautiful cabbage we came home with last week. I love tacos.  These have the goodness of the fish, whole grain corn tortillas, and I pile on the cabbage and the produce based sauce to insure we're getting our fruits and veggies.

See that sauce there? That's the real star of this dish.
Fish Tacos with Cabbage and Green Tomato "Tartar Sauce"
Serves 2 - 4
4 filets of panko tilapia, prepared in the oven according to package directions
4 - 8 corn tortillas (2 per person) warmed in the oven during the last few minutes of fish cooking
1/4 onion, finely diced
1/2 cabbage, shredded
Green Tomato Tartar Sauce (recipe follows)
Grated Cheese (optional - pictured without)
Slice the fish into strips, and assemble as you would any taco - fish, onion, cabbage, sauce and cheese

The real star of this show?  This sauce:
Green Tomato Fish Taco Sauce

1 large Green tomato, finely diced
1 medium mild green chili pepper, very finely diced
2 tbsp finely diced onion (optional)
2 tbsp capers
1 small diced dill pickle
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp mayo
2 tbsp (or more – depending on how “saucy” you want it) light sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl, and spoon over fish

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Green Garlic, Green Tomatoes, Green Onions, and a green breakfast that has nothing to do with ham

I've been avoiding posting traditionally Southern recipes because, well, I'm not Southern, and how dare I, right? The gall! But I do live in a Southern state - or at least, one that claims to be Southern when it's convenient.  And if it means co-opting the recipes of the south, well that's convenient enough for me. In any case, I've learned something in the past few weeks. I used to wonder why there even were green tomato recipes.  I mean, if you have to cook 'em to eat 'em, why not just let them ripen to red when they're perfectly tender? But now, with this wacky fall we're having, green tomatoes make perfect sense. When you live where it is warm enough to plant tomatoes in the fall, but then suddenly cold enough that they all must be harvested while they're still green, you better have a few tricks up your sleeve. So I've been playing with some Southern classics.
Green garlic, green tomatoes, and green onions.
For me, cooking is about having fun. I want to use the ingredients I have available and play, and I don't want to take all morning or evening perfecting a new technique or building a million little elements.  I'm trying to balance that place where I use fresh, healthful seasonal ingredients, and I live a full, happy, productive life outside of the kitchen.  On weekends though?  That's when I spend a little more time. So today, you're going to see a few more elements than you normally would. But only in the interest of a beautiful brunch. This weekend I had a farm share filled with goodness. Green tomatoes. Red tomatoes. Dill. Hot peppers. Green Garlic.  Green Onions. Cabbage.  Butternut squash.  Chard! Oh, the list goes on.  But this was our third week with green tomatoes, and I just had to play. Which is why God invented Sunday Brunch - my unofficial religion.*
Fried Green Tomatoes and Pimento Cheese Scrambled Eggs for the kiddos, and Fried Green Tomatoes topped with Poached Eggs and Pimento and Green Garlic Hollandaise for the adults
Here are all the component pieces - you don't need to make all of these at once, or even together.  But I thought I'd give 'em to you all at once, since that's how we were rollin' this weekend.

Green Onion Pimento Cheese Spread
1 lb Cheddar cheese
1 jar pimentos** (reserve about 1 tbsp if you're going to make the Hollandaise below)
1really big green onion (scallion), roughly chopped
1/2 cup mayo
salt & pepper
Obnoxiously, I use a wonderful cheese made locally by the same farm we source our raw milk from. You could use any Cheddar you like, or a mixture of Cheddar and jack, or a similarly textured cheese. (I've always thought this would be cut with a big of Gouda, for example, or even a nice smoked Gouda.)
Grate the cheese.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the pimentos, scallion, mayo, salt and pepper and pulse to combine well.  Add the cheese, and give it a few quick pulses until it forms a cohesive mass.  And really?  That's it.  Yep, just whip together a handful of ingredients and you have homemade pimento cheese spread, using a gorgeous onion, locally grown. You'll never buy the stuff made from processed cheese again.

Pimento Cheese Scrambled Eggs:
Fork whisk 4 eggs together in a medium sized bowl, with a small glug of milk and a pinch of salt a pepper.  Preheat a saute pan over medium heat, and melt a tbsp or so of butter in the dish.  Just as the butter starts to bubble and brown, ad the eggs, and stir.  When the eggs are still very lose, but starting to form their scrambled little curds, add 2 - 3 heaping tbsp of pimento cheese spread, in 2 - 3 parts of the pan.  Stir the eggs lightly as they finish cooking, and serve on a plate with 2 or 3 fried green tomatoes, and maybe a piece of buttered toast.
(Alternately, you could just scramble some eggs, and serve the pimento cheese ON the toast.  That's good, too. Or heck, go crazy, and dollop the pimento cheese spread right on the friend green tomatoes.  It's a little rich for my blood, which means it tastes really, really good.)

Fried Green Tomatoes and Pimento Green Garlic Hollandaise with Poached Eggs
For the Fried Green Tomatoes.
Slice 2 - 3 green tomatoes into 1/2inch - 3/4inch slices.
Mix together 1 cup corn meal and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour.  To this, add 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp white pepper and 1/2 tsp black pepper.  This is your dredging flour.
Whisk 1 egg and 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk together.  This is your dredging liquid.
Using your right hand, dip tone slide the liquid, and then drop it gently, without touching the powder, in the flour. Using your left hand, cover the slice with flour, then flip it over and make sure it's evenly covered with the seasoned mixture completely.  If you continue with each slice this way, using one hand for the wet and one for the dry, you'll avoid thick sticky doughy fingers.  Yes, you'll still get messy, and yes you'll end up with lightly battered digits, but your hands will remain usable for the duration - rather than having to wash them every other slide or so.

Have you ever made hollandaise? You should be scared if you haven't. Not because it's hard to make, but because once you know what it's made of, you'll never enjoy it without feeling a wee little bit guilty again. Let's just say it's not the most heart-healthy thing you'll ever eat. Just the thing to pour over some fried produce, right?  Here we go:

Pimento Green Garlic Hollandaise
1 bulb green garlic, washed and thoroughly cleaned (like in this recipe) .
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut in 5 - 8 slices (just cut it into smaller pieces so it melts evenly)
The juice of one lemon
3 egg yolks
1 big tablespoon of pimento (I reserve an eye-balled tbsp from the pimento cheese recipe)
a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
Finely dice all the tender pieces, green and white, as long as they're tender of the green garlic.  In a small glass liquid measuring cup, combine the green garlic and the butter.  Melt the butter in the microwave - I go 20 - 30 seconds at a time until it's melted, to avoid boil overs.
In the meantime, squeeze the lemon into the jar of a blender, making sure you use a strainer or your hand to catch the seeds. Add the egg yolks, pimentos and salt and pepper, and give it a whirl. Once the butter is melted and as hot as you can get it without it boiling over, pour it sloooooowwwwly through one of the small openings in the lid of your blender, with the blender running on a low speed.  Once you have all the butter added, you have hollandaise!

Now here's what I do.  I poach a couple of eggs, and place them on an overlapping circle of 4 slices of fried green tomatoes. And I spoon several generous tablespoons of hollandaise over that.

I really want to try making a grilled cheese sandwich using the pimento cheese, and slices of NOT FRIED green tomatoes, but I haven't had a chance yet.  I'm hoping the process of making the grilled cheese would warm the tomatoes and make them tender the way frying does, without the, you know, frying.  I'll update you when I finally give this a test. 

*Officially?  I'm Lutheran.  I know you didn't ask, and yet, I just had to let you know.
**Now, you could conceivably use some of the lovely red peppers grown locally and make your own pimentos.  As could I.  But when would I do laundry if I did that?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I promise!

I have a lovely series of recipes based on pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes on the way!
Oh, and a yummy, yummy soup full of chard and beans and goodness, too!
I just need to get the photos from my camera, to my horribly slow home computer, and in "the cloud" so I can complete the posts and share them with you.  I swear!
In the meantime, because you KNOW I love peanut butter pie, would someone make this for me?  Please?
Thank you!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

30 Days with a Grateful Heart

Just popping in to alert you to a December blog-extra I'll be keeping, inspired by Jote.
The link is just over there, see it? in the upper left hand corner - Ending on a Grace Note.
Feel free to visit me over there, for a little less about cooking, and a little more about me.