Asian/Italian Fusion: Tilapia Filets, “Chicken Marsala Style”

With the new addition to our family I don’t get a lot of time to cook the way I used to.  I keep it pretty simple on the weeknights with just one meat and just one veggie (no starch), which has also helped a little with losing those last 10 lbs I’ve been trying to get rid of after mommyhood.  That said, I recently discovered how wonderful the fish is at Crystal Springs Fish & Poultry and have been making a point to get a few fish filets on saturday to cook during the week.  While I’ve had years of experience with chicken, beef & pork, cooking fish is relatively new to me and there have been a few misses along the road.  This recipe however, which is a riff on my favorite chicken marsala dish at buca’s, is definitely a keeper.  🙂

I also included my favorite recipe for lacinato kale.  I am seriously addicted to this preparation–poor hubby gets it at least once a week!

Tilapia Filets, “Chicken Marsala Style”

2 Tilapia filets, 1.5 lbs total weight
1 shallot, minced
1 T butter
3 slices ginger
3 T flour
6 white mushrooms, washed and sliced
Salt & Pepper
3T Choya Umeshu Plum wine

Rinse the tilapia filets and season both sides with salt & pepper.  In a non-stick pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the ginger, then the shallots and let butter brown.  Dredge tilapia filets in flour and immediately place into the pan (don’t do the dredge part beforehand, everything will get soggy).  surround the filets with the sliced mushrooms.  Let cook without flipping for ~5 minutes, until a golden brown crust forms.  Flip filets to the other side and repeat.  Remove the filets to a serving plate, reserving the mushrooms in the pan (when cooked through tilapia is white with no pink in the center).  Deglaze w/plum wine, and reduce about half, then pour over fish filets.

Sweet & Spicy Lacinato Kale 

1 bunch lacinato kale
3 dried spicy red peppers, or 1 t pepper flakes
5 cloves garlic
2T grapeseed or other vegetable oil
3T mirin
2T soy paste

Wash the kale and cut crosswise (across the stem) into half inch slices.  Heat the oil in a frying pan and add spicy pepper and garlic, cook for 1 minute to let the flavors permeate through the oil.  Add the kale and toss to coat relatively evenly.   add mirin and cover for 1 minute.  add soy paste and stir to distribute. cook for another minute to caramelize a little, and you’re done!!

** As a side note, I also learned recently that not all farmed fish is bad.  At Crystal Springs Fish and Poultry they carry Loch Duart farmed salmon, which is raised in pens in the ocean.  So…no overfishing of wild salmon and you don’t have to ingest gross antibiotics.    But the best thing is this salmon is absolutely delicious…tender and marbled with all those good-for-you fish oils.  In fact, they serve this salmon at the french laundry and Prince William and Kate’s wedding!  If it’s good enough for the duke of cambridge, it’s good enough for my family. 😉

Valentines Day at Home

Hubby and I tend to celebrate Valentine’s day early to skip the crowds, and have a quiet evening at home when Feb 14 rolls around.  This year he requested rack of lamb, which is a favorite of mine as well.  I am particularly proud of this recipe which features a delicious chocolate balsamic vinegar from Sigona’s market–a fitting way to celebrate my favorite holiday.  

Mike & Sophie’s Rack of Lamb

1T Instant Coffee
1T Water
2T pure Maple Syrup
1 dried chili, cut into small pieces
2T Sigona’s Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar
1t coarse sea salt
1 Frenched Rack of Lamb, ~1.5 lb
1 butternut squash, washed and cut into quarter inch slices, seeds removed
1 package mushrooms, washed and quartered
1/4 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine Instant coffee with water in a small bowl and mix until coffee is dissolved.  Add Maple syrup, cut chilis, balsamic vinegar and salt.  Microwave for 15 seconds.  Cut the rack of lamb into pieces, with 2 ribs per piece.  Put into quart size ziploc bag, add microwaved mixture and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.  Put a single layer of butternut squash slices in the bottom of a baking dish.

In a medium skillet, heat a bit of oil on medium high heat and sear/brown the lamb pieces on all sides (reserve marinade).  Place on top of butternut squash in the baking dish, and bake in oven until internal temp ~ 160 degrees F for medium rare.  Meanwhile, add the mushrooms to the skillet containing pan drippings and toss quickly.  Add marinade & stock, scrape bottom of pan, cover and cook ~ 3minutes. Remove the cover, reduce liquid in pan until about a quarter remains and sauce becomes slightly thicker.  Remove lamb, & squash, let sit a few minutes, serve with mushrooms & sauce.  I paired this with a “bacony” buttermilk cornbread (recipe from joy of cooking), which worked well!

Californian Springtime Soup (for cold weather)

Here is another recipe I put together last night.  we have some fairly bitter dandelion greens from our CSA box, and I wanted a “white bean” soup to provide richness and balance the flavor.  In my mind, bacon was definitely part of the equation as well.   Here’s what I came up with, will be eating some tonight so will report back.

-3 slices bacon
-3 stalks green garlic, sliced finely
-1 medium onion, chopped fine
-8 red-skinned potatoes, cut into half inch cubes
-1 cup dried lima beans
-1 quart chicken stock, preferably home made
-a few sprigs thyme
-salt, pepper to taste

**Gruyere Cheese, for shaving

before:  Rinse lima beans and remove anything that looks like it doesn’t belong there.  put lima beans in 3 inches of water, bring to a boil.  Let simmer for a few minutes, covered, then turn off heat but keep pan on the stove with the cover on, for ~2 hours.

Chop the bacon slices into very small pieces.  In soup pot on medium heat, cook the bacon until alot of the fat has been rendered out (in other words, the fat basically melts into oil, leaving behind the meat, which will eventually turn dark brown like bacon bits). Do not allow to burn!  Add green garlic, chopped fine.  add onion and cook until the veggies are translucent.  As the veggies are “sweating” at this point, you should be able to use the liquid which comes out to scrape off any fond, or carmelized bacon juice, from the bottom of the pot.  🙂 Add potatoes & thyme, cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add chicken stock, lima beans, and some of the bean water as well.  bring to a boil, and simmer for 2 hours.  season with Salt & pepper.  finally, add the dandelion greens, and possibly some toasted bread crumbs to thicken.  (you could also dip chunks of bread if you like).  enjoy!

Update: Hubby and I had this soup last night and it is a winner.  The finishing touch is to shave some gruyere cheese on top of each soup bowl, ideally while it is piping hot so that the cheese melts on top.   It’s delicious.

an otherworldly parsnips recipe

One of the things I like most about subscription to our CSA box is that occasionally we’ll get veggies that I’ve never tasted or even seen before.  it was through these means that Sunchokes, agretti (a relative of the tumbleweed family!), and nettles were introduced into our lives–despite their wild-west heritage, agretti are delicious and I liked sunchokes so much I actually sought them out at the Farmer’s market once, nettles I can live without, or maybe I prepared them incorrectly. 

Another more common produce item which I’d just not experienced before was parsnip.  Parsnips are not super-prevalent here in the US and indeed, the only place I’ve ever even seen them sold is the farmer’s market.  Apparently this is because of how difficult they are to grow and store.  That said, they are delicious and if you’ve never had them before, imagine something starchy like a potato, but sweet like a carrot.  Parsnips are downright heavenly when roasted in the oven, and drizzled with maple syrup, giving them a brittle, carmel-like glaze:

Roasted parsnips with Maple Syrup (Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine & the Two Small farms recipe page)
2-4 parsnips, peeled and quartered–parsnips should be white, firm and not spongy inside. 
olive oil
maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

pre-heat oven to 400F.  line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and spread out the parsnips out.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss briefly and arrange in a single layer (do not allow to overlap or touch, they will not carmelize correctly).  put in oven for 45 minutes, until the parsnips begin to brown at the edges.  Remove from oven and drizzle 1/2-1 teaspoon maple syrup onto each parsnip piece.  put back in oven for about 15 more minutes.  Maple syrup will reduce and turn into a brittle-like candy on the outside and bottom of each parsnip.  peel off the aluminum foil and eat, or serve.

What to do with Pumpkin

We had a bunch of leftover pumpkin (yes, still) from our Two Small Farms subscription last season, and I’d been brainstorming in my head about what to do with it.  I invented this recipe which uses pumpkin in many forms:  Pumpkin gnocchi.  Reading my copy of Silver Spoon, I was surprised to find that gnocchi are traditionally made from all kinds of things in addition to potato, including crushed bread with herbs and even amaretti cookies. I love gnocchi, and wondered to myself why you couldn’t make gnocchi out of pumpkin, the same way it’s made out of potatoes?  The results were mixed, but if I’m motivated I’ll tweak the recipe a bit more next time.

Beforehand: De-seed pumpkin and cut into quarters or smaller.  drizzle with olive oil and a bit of sugar, roast at 400 degrees for about one hour.

The pumpkin I had was relatively stringy, so I pureed it in a food processor after roasting it, yielding about 2 cups of pumpkin.

1 cup pureed roasted pumpkin
2 cups flour
pinch salt
one egg

Mix flour and pumpkin together until combined.  Add salt, and egg, then continue to mix until dough is soft and somewhat elastic.  I don’t think I got the proportions completely right here as my resulting gnocchi was a bit hard, but I was wary of the dumplings falling apart if not enough flour was added.   Knead a bit, then form into thin rolls and use a knife to cut into three-quarter inch pieces.  Boil in salted water until the gnocchi rise to the top.  Remove with a slotted spoon.

1/5 remaining raw pumpkin, peeled and cut into thin pieces
olive oil
4 garlic cloves
white wine

heat the garlic in olive oil, then add the pumpkin pieces and cook on medium heat, flipping the pieces occasionally until they begin to carmelize.  when a medium-brown fond has formed, deglaze with white wine, add salt and pepper to taste.  cover and allow the remaining wine to be absorbed into the pumpkin.

Pumpkin cream sauce:

1.5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree

melt  the butter in the pan, then add the flour, cook over medium high heat whisking with a small wire wisk continuously so that it doesn’t burn.  slowly add the milk as you continue whisking until the sauce reaches the consistency you’re looking for.  Salt and pepper to taste.  mix in pumpkin puree.

Combine sauce, gnocchi and cooked pumpkin pieces then transfer serving dish, finish with parmesean gratings, and serve.

Lovely Salmon w/Fava beans

-1/8 can TJ’s cuban mojito sauce
-1 package TJ’s steamed fava beans
-1 small onion, sliced
-1 piece salmon
-chopped cilantro, fresh or frozen

night before: cover salmon with mojito sauce, wrap and refrigerate. 

using a non-stick pan, pan fry salmon over medium heat, skin side down (if no skin, use a bit of olive oil).  Add Fava beans to leftover salmon marinade sauce while you cook the salmon.  Salmon should take about 5 per side.  be patient,  using medium heat the outsides of the salmon piece will get nicely browned and carmelized, while the inside is cooked sufficiently.  don’t overcook!  remove salmon and allow to rest.  Deglaze the salmon bits with a small amount of white wine (whatever is in the fridge), add sliced onions and sweat briefly.  Dump fava beans into pan, cook until warm, add cilantro at last minute and stir through, transfer to serving dish.  Place salmon on top and you’re done!