Monthly Archives: April 2011

Fish Goujons with Smokey Tartar Sauce (serves 6 as appetizer)

Last night was not what I had had in mind. I had worked all day and thought I would have a nice quiet evening. My husband was not going to be around; just me and the kids. Well, my friend Lisa called and put an end to that! There was a noisy event taking place in her town last night, and, rather than sit there boiling mad because she couldn’t hear herself think or for that matter get to sleep, she sensibly planned to get out of town and come to my house!

We decided that drinking should take priority over cooking for a change so she volunteered to pick up some pizzas on her way here, with her husband and son.  After our phone call I started to think about some little thing I could cook before the pizza? I don’t know what compels me to cook every evening, but, I invariably spend a part of it over the stove. It must be my medicine and, I take it diligently.

battered fish - yum..

I thought about a salad, a vegetable side dish, even a soup, but, nothing was grabbing me. Fish came to mind and I racked my brain for something that we could just pick up and eat with our fingers? I decided on small pieces of battered fish with some sort of sauce. I wanted something like tartar sauce, but not tartar sauce!

A few weeks ago my husband bought an enormous tub of mayonnaise to make a sandwich! I never use the stuff and asked “why so big?” “On sale” was his reply. I was then stuck with an ingredient that was going to take up tons of room in my already crammed fridge! Thinking on the lines of a tartar sauce I was sure I could come up with something a bit more interesting , while also putting a dent in my mayonnaise supply?

I didn’t want complicated so I used it as a base to make a “smokey tartar sauce”. Chipotle peppers was my smokey element and it was terrific with the crispy on the outside and break-apart-lovliness on the inside of the battered cod fish. It was so good that the pizza was an afterthought. Even Lisa’s son Lucas who claimed to hate fish dove in and gave me his nod of approval – no small feat, coming from a cool 16-year-old teenager!

bite-size fish appetizer..

What a lovely night we had. We drank lots of delicious cocktails,  chatted and ate until out eyelids started to feel leaden. This pizza night might just have to become a Friday night staple…

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You will need: 2 lbs firm white fish, ( I used cod), 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, (I use Rumford brand),1 tsp coarse sea salt, 1 1/2 cups water, 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 tbs chopped chipotle peppers, 1 tbs chipotle sauce (from the same can you got the peppers from), 1 tbs fresh lime juice, 2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro, salt to taste, vegetable oil for frying fish.

1 – Make batter: Put the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl and mix with a manual whisk to incorporate. Add the water and whisk in until you have a lumpy sort of batter. It should be thick. If it seems too thin add a little more flour or more water if too thick. Cover and set aside for 20 minutes.

2 – In the meantime, wash and dry the fish. Cut  into big bite-size pieces (2 bites really). Put on a plate in the fridge.

Smokey Tartar Sauce..

3 – Make tartar sauce: In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, lime juice, cilantro, chipotle pepper and chipotle sauce. Taste and add salt if you think it needs it. Store in fridge until time to serve.

Fry the fish on high heat - don't crowd pan and don't worry about the hissing oil!

4 – Fry the fish: Take a baking sheet and add the fish in a single layer. Pour the batter over everything , covering the fish. This will make the frying stage much more fluid.

5 – Put big saute pan on high heat and add 6 tbs oil. When the pan is very hot add fish to pan in a single layer with space between each piece; no crowding the pan! Don’t touch the fish for 2 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side. Drain on paper towels and continue until you are done. Add more oil as you need to.

Top with a little tartar sauce and cilantro..


Pork Tenderloin Roasted with Tomatoes and Fresh Oregano (serves 6)

Sometimes creativity is born from necessity? This was the case last night when it came time to prepare dinner. I was home by 6 pm and had defrosted pork tenderloin, knowing this would cook quickly and, dinner wouldn’t be on the table at an hour when hunger pangs were replaced by foul moods.

The savior of last night's dinner (oregano & parsley)

As I walked up the steps to the back door I remarked on how, all of a sudden my oregano and parsley had come back to life from last year and was now sporting bunches of tender, luscious leaves! That quickly gave me an idea. I was not about to run to the market for anything and I crossed my fingers in hopes of finding something to go with this?

I had half a somewhat sad-looking onion wrapped in foil and a few straggly looking cloves of garlic; it would have to do. I had no celery, carrots, actually no vegetables of any kind. I did have a big can of tomatoes and that would pull everything together? My husband offered to run out for a decent onion and maybe some celery, but, I had made up my mind to survive with what I had!


Well, hate to sing my praises but, dinner was excellent. I give all the credit to the oregano and tomatoes. As I have said over and over again; where would my cooking be without fresh herbs? They truly save me every time. If you have only 1 square foot of dirt I suggest you jump in your car or on your bike and buy some herbs to plant for the summer. I have some regrets in life, but planting herbs is not one of them !

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You will need: 2 pork tenderloin (about 1 lb each), 2 tbs olive oil, 1 onion, diced, 4 cloves garlic, sliced, 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh oregano, 1/2 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley, 28 oz can peeled whole plum tomatoes, thickly sliced, (I used San Marzano), 1 doz baby red potatoes (optional), 1/2 cup white wine, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 tbs cold unsalted butter (only if you are cooking pasta), coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning, 1 lb penne (no need for pasta if using potatoes in this dish. I cooked both just to have more choices).

Preheat oven 375*

sear tenderloin until browned on all sides..

1 –  Season pork well with coarse salt and pepper. In big saute pan on high heat add the olive oil and let it get hot. Sear the tenderloin until browned on all sides. Remove to a plate and turn down heat.

saute onions, garlic & potatoes (if using)..

2 – Add the onion, garlic and the optional potatoes and saute for 5 or so minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add herbs, wine & tomatoes..

3 – Add wine and let it come to a boil. Cook until it is reduced by half and then add the chopped tomatoes and their juices (as well as the thick juice from the can). Add the herbs. Give a stir and let the liquid come to a simmer. Turn off pan and add the tenderloin. Cover with lid or foil and place in oven for 40 minutes.

4 – Remove from oven and let everything rest for 5 minutes. Remove meat to a chopping board and slice into thick pieces. Place pan on stove top on low heat and add cream to tomatoes and stir in.

5 – If serving with the potatoes only: lay some sliced tenderloin on a plate and spoon potatoes and sauce alongside. Garnish with another sprinkle of parsley.

This was what I ended up with last night - very scrummy!

6 – If serving with penne only: do everything through step 4. Put pasta water on 20 minutes before meat is done and cook according to instructions. Before draining scoop out a half cup of pasta water and reserve.  Add pasta, cold butter and meat to sauce and loosen with a little reserved pasta water if necessary. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley,  (and maybe some Parmigiano Reggiano?)

Goat Cheese & Red Onion Burgers (serves 4)

Every now and then I like to have burgers for dinner (like last night!). I had some goat cheese left over from the weekend and wanted to use it up (I find that goat cheese spoils quite easily?). Everyone in my house likes  slow-cooked onions in the meat but I only had a red onion at my disposal, so, I used it. I never have burger buns in the house but I think the majority of them are inferior. Besides, I think a juicy burger deserves a nice piece of bread in one form or another, not a squishy, putty-like thing disguised as a bread bun! I use baguettes, crusty French or Italian rolls, or, sliced loaf bread, lightly toasted. It gives everything a lovely crunch and holds together well. Washed down with a cold beer or glass of crisp white wine completes the meal for me!

Biting into this burger and releasing the melting goat cheese is heaven..

You will need: 1 1/4 lbs of minced lamb and beef (or just 1 kind of meat if that’s what you have got – the mixture is nice though..), 1 large red onion, diced, 1 egg, 4 thick slices of goat cheese (1/2″), romaine leaves, strong mustard, 4 slices of good crusty white bread or 4 pieces of baguette bread (5″ long), 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

saute onions for 20 minutes..

1 – In medium saute pan on medium/low heat add the oil and fry the onions for 20 minutes (cover after they have cooked for 5 minutes).

2 – While onion is cooking crack the egg into a big bowl and whisk it with a fork. Add the meats, salt and, several grinds of pepper. When onions have cooked add to the meat mixture and mix everything together with your hands.

Goat cheese stuffing..

3 – Divide meat into 8 even pieces and flatten into thick discs. Divide the goat cheese into 4 pieces and place a piece in the center of 4 meat patties.

Ready for the pan..

Cover with the other and shape into a burger. Fry on a dry pan until browned on each side (cook according to your taste; rare, medium or well-done).

romaine lettuce and strong mustard round out this burger nicely..

Serve with  whatever toppings you like. I used a strong mustard, romaine leaves and put it between some toasted fresh bread.

Shrimp with Herby Rice (serves 4)

Quick herby dinner!

Last night was one of those quickly put together dinners. I love when I open the fridge or cupboard and the ingredients sort of fling themselves at me. I usually start with the protein and then look at my herb selection. If I didn’t have fresh herbs on hand there would be no reason for me to cook! I love the intense aroma and pungency that they bring to a dish. I happened to have cilantro and flat-leaf parsley in the crisper, mainly because I grabbed what I thought was 2 bunches of parsley and 1 turned out to be cilantro! Why not use them together with a quick rice and shrimp dish? It was zesty and light and the whole family (including our neighbor Lori who dropped in bearing lovely refreshing wheat beer!) had a good time around the dinner table.

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You will need: 1 lb shrimp, peeled & sliced in half lengthways, (Use the 31-40 count per lb size), 2 cups rice,(I used an aged long grain) 4 1/3 cups chicken broth, 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley, 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro, 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 3 cups chopped romaine lettuce, 2 tbs canola oil or any neutral tasting oil, 1 tbs unsalted butter, coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning. Garnishes: sour cream, chili garlic sauce, lime wedges.

herbs for rice

1 – Prep all the above ingredients before you begin to cook. Put big saute pan on low/medium heat and add 2 tbs of canola oil. Add onions and garlic and saute for 10 minutes.

onions and herbs..

2 – Add the herbs and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

add broth to rice and herbs..

3 – Add the rice and stir and cook for about 2 minutes before adding all but 1/3 cup of the broth, 1/2 tsp coarse salt and several grinds of black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cover. Simmer very gently for 20 minutes. Check rice and continue to cook if it needs to. Make sure to leave it a little “toothsome” however.

cook shrimp in butter, broth and lime wedges..

4 – When rice has 5 or so minutes left to cook put a saute pan on medium heat and add butter. When it has melted add shrimp and cook for 2 minutes before adding 1/3 cup chicken broth and the lime wedges. Cook for another 3 or so minutes (after it comes to a gentle simmer). When cooked toss into cooked rice. Add the chopped romaine leaves, stir and serve.

Shrimp and Herby Rice with a Fresh Crunch!

I served this with another fresh squeeze of lime juice, sour cream and chili garlic  sauce.

Trout with cilantro & Jalapeno Pepper Baked in Foil (serves 4)

Rainbow Trout

This (above) is what I got at the market yesterday. I had a request for fish and this happened to be the cheapest fish in the sustainable world. If I’m completely desperate I will give-in and buy something that is not fished or farmed responsibly, but I try really hard not to make a habit of it. Rainbow trout falls into the category of ” good choice”  so I went ahead and gave my conscience a rest!  How do you know what the Good Choices are when you are standing at a fish counter? I can’t say that I keep up with what is going on, so, I do the next best thing; let someone else guide me. I use the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide. They created a down-loadable list (which I keep in my purse) of the best choices, good alternatives and fish to avoid for one reason or another. After that, I have to go by what I can afford. Rainbow trout is available all year round and if you buy it whole (it will always be gutted) it is very affordable.

It was a really hot day and I wanted minimum kitchen time. Fish is wonderfully fast, without compromising on taste. I wanted a little heat in my fish so I decided that if I cooked each one in some foil everyone could custom-season their dish! I and my husband choose cilantro, garlic, hot peppers and lemon and the kids wanted lemon and garlic. I added a tablespoon of white wine to each packet and that created a sauce along with the fish juices. Try cooking fish this way. It is so easy, especially for nervous “fish cookers”

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You will need: 4 Rainbow Trout, gutted, (mine had heads on and back bone and skin in tact, but feel free to use a trout fillet), 1 clove garlic, finely chopped, 2 tbs freshly chopped cilantro, 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped, (remove seeds if you prefer it to be milder tasting), 4 lemon slices, 4 tbs white wine, coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper.

Preheat oven 425*

Season, then lay cilantro, lemon & garlic atop fish..

1 – Wash and dry trout and generously season with salt and pepper, inside and out. Lay fish on a big square of foil that has been doubled. Divide the cilantro, pepper, lemon slice and jalapeno into 4 portions and place on top of each fish. Add 1 tbs of wine and pull the foil together and close in a tent-like fashion at the top. Place in oven on baking sheet for 12 minutes.

Served with potatoes and spinach - very good..

2 – Remove from oven and open carefully. Lay fish on a plate and pour the juices onto the fish and whatever else you are serving with this.

I served our fish with fried baby red and white potatoes and fresh spinach quickly sautéed in extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper flakes.

Crostini topped with Tapenade & Tomatoes (appetizer for 12)

This quintessential french spread is made with olives, capers and anchovies, and then, anything else you want to add! I made it for my Easter Goat Feast this past Saturday (Type goat in search box to read post – very fun). I made it to quell the hungry crowd while I continued to make sure dinner made it to the table in a timely manner.

ready for spreading on whatever..

However, it is also a great spread on a piece of toast with your scrambled eggs, or, to pep up the flavor of a lack-lustre piece of meat. You don’t need to run out to buy a fresh loaf of bread. It does better on bread that is a few days old, even bordering on stale. If you are shopping for it especially then choose the day-old option; cheaper and better!

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You will need: 1 or 2 good quality loaves of good quality bread, sliced evenly, (I used 2 batards, but,  a baguette or Italian bread are great too), 5 plum tomatoes, seeded, cored and diced, 1 cup black pitted black olives, 1 tbs capers, rinsed well, 1 shallot,finely chopped, 1 anchovy fillet, rinsed, 1 garlic clove, chopped, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbs freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional).

Put ingredients in a food processor (except the tomatoes, oil and parsley)..

1 – Prep all ingredients as directed and add all but the oil,  tomatoes and parsley to a food processor. Process for a few seconds but leave it sort of chunky looking. Turn on processor again and pour oil into the funnel and blend until combined. Taste to see if it needs more mustard, garlic, capers etc??

2 – Just before serving place the slices of bread in a single layer on a baking sheet and broil until just starting to brown. Brush each piece with extra-virgin olive oil, followed by a thin layer of tapenade and a sprinkle of tomatoes.

A great snack to stave off the hunger..

Sprinkle with a little chopped fresh parsley if you like and serve.

Roasted Portobello Mushrooms with Zesty Goat Cheese (serves 6)

This is a great way to start dinner. It is so packed with flavor, from the mushroom to the lemon zest! I made this for my big Easter Dinner where goat was on the menu (type goat in search box to see post).  There was so much food in my fridge last night that all I had to do was assemble and reheat for dinner. I was lucky to have one of these lovely mushroom caps leftover. Being the absolute ruler of my kitchen, I got to claim it, guilt-free might I add… yum!

You will need: 6 Portobello mushrooms, wiped & stems removes, 4 oz  goat cheese (buy a good quality one), zest from 1/2 a lemon, 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped, 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, coarse sea salt.

Preheat oven 425*

1 – Rub a little olive oil on each mushroom and Lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle each with a little salt. Put in oven and roast for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the mushrooms.

goat cheese with garlic and lemon zest..

2 – Slice the cheese into 6 pieces and press some garlic and lemon zest into the top of each one.

If you are not serving these immediately, prepare both components up to this point. Leave mushrooms on baking sheet and cover with foil and put cheese on a plate and cover.

3 – Put oven rack on second shelf from top and turn on broiler. Place a piece of cheese on each mushroom and sprinkle everything with extra virgin olive oil. Place until broiler until cheese begins to soften and the zest starts to brown (about 3 minutes or so)

Roast Portobello mushroom with zesty goat cheese!

Remove from oven and serve with a little more oil if desired. You could also add a drop of good balsamic to each one? (I usually don’t as it has plenty of flavor without)