Thursday, August 9, 2012

Foiled again! (Fish in aluminum foil pouches.)

“Best way to guarantee that I'll make a pitch for going out to dinner is for me to thaw fish. Funny thing - I want to go to a seafood restaurant.” 

That was my Facebook post today.  But as the afternoon turned to evening and about 20 minutes on the deck listening to the cicadas with a glass of wine in hand, we decided to stay in.

I still wasn’t in the mood for messing with much in the kitchen. So I whipped out my trusty aluminum foil and made some tasty packets of seafood delight. 
 You can do just about any fish this way with any combination of veggies.  Served up with some pasta or rice and you are home free with little to no clean up. I often add some lemon slices, but tonight's version had more of an Italian flair.

Fish in aluminum foil pouches
Note – this is a very mild dish.  If you like things spicier, add more herbs.  Regardless, the fish stays super moist and is really yummy.
Serves two

  • 2 tilapia fillets or other mild fish
  • ½ zucchini, cut into matchsticks (julienne)
  • A hand full of grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • ¼ Vidalia or other sweet, mild onion, cut into thin strips
  • ½ stalk celery, cut into thin strips
  • 8 – 10 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 TBS butter
  • Splash of white wine if you've got it
  • Salt and pepper 
  • Four large pieces of aluminum foil

  • Pre-heat a grass grill to 350 – 400 degrees
  • Lay out one sheet of foil for each piece of fish
  • Pile the half of the veggies atop each piece of foil.  Reserve a few slices of onion and half of the basil.
  • Place the fish atop the veg. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Dot the fish with the butter and lay the basil atop the fish.
  • Scatter the remaining onion slices over everything.
  • Add the wine if you've got it.
  • Top with the remaining sheets of foil and crimp all the way around.

  • Place the foil packets on the grill and cook for 10 – 12 minutes
  • Remove and let rest 5 minutes
 Now for the big reveal.  This is so coo:
  • Carefully remove the top sheet of foil.  Place a serving plate atop the packet of fish. Hold the foil by the edges with the plate and flip quickly.  Remove the foil.  Voila!

Serve with rice or pasta with a bit of butter and fresh chives if you have them.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Time to Relax (Raw Corn, Tomato and Zucchini Salad with Lime Vinaigrette)

Even Maggie the Lab knows
how to relax on the lake
 There are a few places on the planet where I am able to relax within minutes of arrival.  Hyco Lake is one of them.  So needless to say I was very happy to receive an invitation to spend the Fourth of July there with our good friends Rusty & Debi.

Casual is the order of the day at The Lake.  As it should be.  Nothing is really planned out – we have a general idea of what we’ll do and who will be there, but beyond that things happen as they may and everyone is happy.

Crunchy, tangy and refreshing.
This summer salad is a crowd pleaser.
Case in point – I prepared a raw summer salad before we left Tuesday night, thinking we’d have it for dinner that night.  But as evening closed in a boat ride, a few hors ‘d oeuvres, and some early fireworks was a much better idea.  

The salad finally made its debut Wednesday afternoon served alongside a grilled pork tenderloin. What little was leftover made a nice dipper for tortilla chips as we eased into evening.

Use a sharp knife to slice
the corn kernels off the cob.
That’s what makes a salad like this a great thing to make ahead when you’re not really sure about a weekend schedule.  You can prep it well ahead of time, and dress it when (expected or unexpected) guests arrive.  And once you add the dressing, it gets better with time.   Heck, I think you could even toss it in a skillet and cook it up for a hot side dish with great success.

I hope you give this a try this summer.  And feel free to make adjustments along the way.  I think it would be great with cucumbers rather than zucchini and cilantro or even dill rather than basil.  The main thing–relax and have fun this summer!

Raw Corn, Tomato and Zucchini Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

Salad Ingredients
(Serves 10 - 12)
  • 4 years of fresh corn, kernels cut off (see photo)
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, some cut in half and some cut into quarters
  • 2 zucchini, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2/3 cup green onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped fine
  • 2 pinches of Kosher Salt
  • Lots of fresh cracked black pepper
  • Lime vinaigrette (see recipe below)

Salad Method
  • If making ahead, put all of the ingredients in a large zip lock bag and refrigerate.
  • When ready to serve, toss with lime vinaigrette

Lime Vinaigrette
Mix in a glass jar:
  • 3 large limes, juiced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 big squeezes of honey from a Honey Bear (probably 3 tablespoons)
  • Pinch Kosher Salt
  • 6 grinds of black pepper

Taste and adjust seasoning – you may or may not want to add more honey, salt or pepper
Refrigerate until ready to toss with salad.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Party Time (Low Fat Herb Garden Dip)

Inspired by my herb garden and served up in a
Scottish Terrier bowl with a sprig of tarragon flowers
Nothing like a garden teeming with fragrant herbs to inspire a tasty appetizer, served up in a whimsical bowl and garnished with a sprig of tarragon flowers.  

This inspiration hit at just the right moment, since we are headed to a cocktail party this evening.  I think it will be a hit – and it is figure friendly, to boot!  I entered the ingredients into the Weight Watchers Points Plus Calculator and it told me that the entire recipe is 7 points and I figure it makes about 16 TBS so a 2 TBS serving is 1 Point!

Use this as a guide – not an exact recipe.  I started mixing stuff up and it was so tasty I had to share. 

Low Fat Herb Garden Dip

  • 1 cup Fage Fat Free Greek Yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon Mayonnaise
  • About 3 TBS of herbs from the garden – I used tarragon, dill, thyme, basil, and chives  --  chopped as fine as you can
  • 1 clove of garlic, boiled in water for about 3 – 5 minutes and then mashed into a paste (boiling the garic will give you the taste of garlic, without the sting of fresh.  A trick I learned at a cooking class at A Southern Season)
  • Juice of 3/4 of of a lemon
  • About ¼ teaspoon Beau Monde Seasoning.  Then add more to taste.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix it all up and put into a serving bowl for dipping veggies. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Quiet Night In (Armadillo Potatoes)

After a long day or a tough week many people want to go out to dinner. But not me.  My favorite way to relax is to chop, chop, chop and then do something creative in the kitchen.   Steve pours a couple a glasses of wine.  Assumes his position at the counter that overlooks the kitchen.  And  watches as things unfold.

Make slices almost thru each
potato about 1/8 inch apart
With an event and a launch underway, I had one of those days and weeks at work. My knives called out to me last night as I hung up from the last of many conference calls. I also had this little bag of local fingerling potatoes that I’d been wanting to do something special with.  Kismet.

Headed to the oven
This one is more of a method than a “recipe,” but first a bit about North Carolina potatoes.  They are freakin’ unbelievable.  The white ones are tender and almost creamy.  The sweet potatoes are in a class all their own. And the best kept secret in the culinary world, if you ask me.  Who knew?
Ready to serve. Perfect with a grilled
steak and crisp green salad

I’m calling these “Armadillo Potatoes"  cuz thant’s what they look like.  Steve called them “just plain good.”  And as you’ll see in the photos, they offer a great opportunity to slice away the stress of a long week.

Armadillo Potatoes
  • A small handful of potatoes per person.  I used fingerlings, but any small white or red potato will do. 
  • Olive oil to coat
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ TBS rosemary, minced and divided in half
  • A small handful of Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper   

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  • Using a small paring knife, make slices in each potato almost all the way through.  Make the slices about 1/8 of an inch apart
  • Toss the potatoes in the olive oil, and half of the garlic and rosemary
  • Place in a shallow baking dish
  • Bake for 30 minutes, turning twice throughout the process
  • After 30 minutes, check for doneness.  They should be cooked through and tender. If this is not the case, return to the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes. 
  • When they are cooked to your liking, toss in the remaining garlic and rosemary.  Return to the over for another 5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and serve.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cozy Sunday (Winter Veg/Roast Chicken)

Ready for the oven

It's in the 40s today - too cold for golf in Steve's book and a great day for hunkering down for some football, inside chores and cooking.  After making a run down to 9th Street for some new Zumba shoes (yes, shoes do make a difference - they don't just look cool) I set out this afternoon to make one of our favorite Sunday dinners, roast chicken.

Like so many people, I have been searching for years for the “perfect” roast chicken recipe.  Last year I hit pay dirt – with the Roast Chicken with Fennel and Spring Onions recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Cooking in the Moment by James Beard Award winner Angela Reusing of Chapel Hill’s Lantern Restaurant

I just can't help myself.  While Angela's version is AMAZING, I’ve stuck to her method of starting at a high heat and dropping it down for the second half of cooking, but have adapted the ingredients here and there to match my general mood as well as what’s in season and available on a given Sunday.  Here’s the version I made today, featuring some of this winter’s fennel and leeks and a zestier twist with a compound butter.

I hope you give it a go yourself – and if you make some good adaptations of your own, let me know – that’s half the fun. 

The caramelized veg

Winter Roast Chicken with Fennel and Leeks

  • 1 (3 ½ to 4 lb) chicken, washed, pat dry and allowed to come to room temperature by sitting covered for about an hour.
  • 13 leeks, white portion and about 2 inches of the green, split
  • 2 fennel bulbs cut into quarters
  • 1 head of garlic cut in half, plus 3 cloves of garlic that you will use for the compound butter.
  • 4 carrots cleaned and left whole
  • 4 ribs of celery cleaned and left whole
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 4 Tbs of butter at room temperature
  • A handful of fresh parsley, for the compound butter and garnish

  • Make a quick compound butter (fancy name for butter with stuff mixed in) made my combining 3 tablespoons of the butter, 2 Tbs chopped parsley, 2 Tbs chopped garlic, a generous pinch of kosher salt and about 8 grinds of black pepper.

Chicken Roasting Method - a riff on the one from Cooking in the Moment
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  • In a large roasting pan, lay the vegetables in a criss-cross pattern to make a “rack” for the chicken 
  • Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken, then gently lift the skin off the breast and slide about ¼ of the compound butter directly onto the meat. 
  • Rub the remaining compound butter all over the outside of the bird, then season it a bit more with a sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper. 
  • Use some kitchen twine (or if you have none, believe it or not, dental floss works for this in a pinch!) to tie the legs together.
  • Put the chicken on top of the veggie rack.
  • Roast the chicken for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, reduce the oven temp to 375, roast for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the chicken is done.  The skin will be crisp and golden brown, and the internal temperature of an instant read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh will read 165 degrees.  If it doesn't look or read done, pop it back into the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes.  
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and tent it loosely with foil for 10 – 15 minutes.
  • If the veggies are not caramelized, return to the oven for 10 minutes or so, but I've never had to do so. Then turn off the oven.
  • Using oven mitts, place the roasting pan to the stove – have those mitts handy – don’t go grabbing the pan when you are stirring!  Pull the edible veggies out of the roasting pan and into an over-proof dish.  Splash on some extra broth and pop them in the oven to keep warm.(some will be a tad overdone, just leave those in the pan for now.  
  • Now use the white wine and the broth to scrape the bottom of the pan.  Simmer for 5 minutes or so until it starts to reduce and get syrupy.  Then add a tablespoon or so of butter to give it some body. At this point I like to strain the sauce to remove the veggie remnants. 
  • Carve the chicken and spoon the sauce over the meat and veg.  Serve with your starch of choice if you’d like – tonight I did brown rice with chopped parsley stirred in right before serving.