29 June 2011

tonight's dinner: baked snapper

If you're anything like me, you don't eat enough fish. I know you can buy it frozen, and I currently have 2 salmon fillets in the freezer, but I prefer fresh. But then most of the times I do get fresh fish, I don't use it soon enough and I've wasted some cash money. No one likes to waste cash money in this economy!
I just so happened to have a piece of red snapper, and determined not to let it go to waste, this was tonight's supper. I baked some zucchini along with it in my attempt to eat more veggies, too. I paired it with brown rice for a well balanced meal.  An awesome well balanced meal, by the way. The fish was perfectly cooked and not dry at all. The panko topping was so crunchy and is where most of the flavor comes from. Good mix of texture and taste right there. I'm definitely adding this to my dinner rotation.

Baked Snapper
adapted from about.com

1  4-6oz red snapper fillet
1/2 tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
3 drops Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp Cajun seasoning
few grinds black pepper
1 tsp freshly minced parsley
2-3 Tbsp panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400.

In a small pan, combine butter and oil over med-low heat until butter is melted. Add the next 5 ingredients and  mix over the heat for 1 more minute.

Lightly sprinkle fish with a bit of salt, then brush both sides of it with the oil mix and place in a glass baking dish. Toss the panko to the remaining oil mixture. Top fish with the panko mixture. Bake for 12 minutes.

If you plan on making the zucchini: Before you prep the fish, cut a small zucchini in half. Cut one of the halves in half again, lengthwise. Cut into 1/2" half moon slices. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a bit extra of the cajun seasoning. Put it into the oven at the same time as the fish, stirring/flipping the pieces halfway through cooking.

19 June 2011

a toast to my family!

Happy Father's day to all you proud pops out there. That includes you, Dad. You rock. Today is also my kid brother's birthday, thus the dual celebration. Cheers to the two of you!
I love this drink almost as much as I love my family. Slight exaggeration? Maaaaybe, lol. It's bright and tangy thanks to the citrus, then the strawberries adds summer sweetness. I didn't add that much extra sugar since I don't like my drinks overly sweet, but that just made it that much easier to drink. This recipe makes about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 quarts which was perfect for the 3 of us, but if you're planning it for a larger picnic or BBQ, double (triple?) it and put in a large beverage jug. Then just kick back and enjoy it on a hot summer day.

Strawberry Lemon-Limeade

3 limes
2 lemons
2 C hulled strawberries
1/3 C sugar
1/2 C plus 6 cups water

Make simple syrup -- Combine sugar with 1/2 C water in a pot over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Then set aside to cool.

Juice the limes and lemons. Pour juice into a blender. Add strawberries. Blend. Add simple syrup and blend again. Pour into a pitcher* and add water. Refrigerate until cold.

Garnish with a strawberry and/or wedge of citrus.

* There'll be some strawberry seeds at the bottom, but you can easily get rid of those if you strain before storing.

12 June 2011

Carne Machaca in taquitos and nachos

This month's Girls Potluck theme made up for the Cinco de Mayo celebration we didn't have last month, lol. Thus, it was Mexican Month! There were berry mojitos and carne asada (thanks Julia!) and shrimp veracruz (thanks Ang.!) and plaintain chips and watermelon margaritas (thanks Jenn!) I wanted to make tamales, per my 2011 hit list which I am horribly behind on, but I realized I don't have a steamer. So what're my other favorite Mexican restaurant meals? Easy: the carne machaca from The Torilla Factory, and my take on machaca is what I brought to the table.
What is machaca, you ask? In a couple words: spiced, shredded beef. It's full of flavor thanks to overnight marination, then cooking with onions and peppers for hours (translation: plan ahead, this recipe takes time!)... then it's shredded and cooked down even longer. It makes an excellent filling for burritos, tacos, or enchiladas, or you can eat it with eggs and/or potatoes for breakfast. I didn't use it in any of those ways today, though... today I used them to make oven taquitos and nachos, and they were AWESOME.
adapted from David Bulla

1/4 C Worcestershire sauce
juice of 2 limes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 C canola oil

3 lbs chuck roast (or skirt steak), fat and silver skin trimmed, cut into 3/4 - 1 lb pieces
2 tbsp oil
1 large Spanish or Vidalia (or other sweet yellow) onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded then diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and diced
1 serrano pepper*, seeded, deveined and diced
1 10oz can original Rotel tomatoes with green chiles
1 or 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 C beef broth
1 Tbsp dried Mexican oregano
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp tabasco sauce
few grinds of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Prepare the marinade - combine all ingredients and whisk to form an emulsion. Pour into a 1 gallon zipper bag, and add meat. Massage so meat is evenly coated. Put bag in a bowl or baking dish in case it leaks. Refrigerate overnight.

Make the machaca - Take meat out of the fridge and leave out for about 30 minutes to come to room temperature. Remove from marinade, pat dry, and discard the marinade. Prepare all your veggies.

In large pot (I used my 6 qt. dutch oven), heat oil over medium high heat until hot. Add meat and sear - you want each side to be a rich caramelized brown. You may have to cook in batches if there's not enough space in the pot for all pieces. Set aside on a plate.

Add the onions and peppers to the same pot and saute for about 3 minutes, scraping all the brown bits from the bottom. Add the garlic and saute another 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Add the meat back into the pot. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 2 to 2.5 hours.
(mmm look how brown the meat got)

Remove beef to a cutting board and shred with 2 forks. It should be tender and pull apart easily. Add back to the pot, then simmer, uncovered, until there's almost no liquid left. This took almost an hour for me., and I had it on low heat.

Taste again and add any additional seasoning/heat to your liking. (*This recipe is pretty mild with just a hint of heat from the peppers. It's a friendly recipe for people who don't like spicy stuff. Personally, the next time I make this I'm adding at least 1 more serrano pepper.)

One note - this makes a LOT of machaca, about 8 cups worth. I used half between the taquitos and nachos, then packed and froze the rest for future use.

Oven Baked Taquitos:
6" flour tortillas
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean up later.

Spread 2-3 tbsp of machaca in a line about 1/4 the way up the tortilla, then roll. Repeat with as many taquitos as you want to make. Spray with cooking spray. Place on baking sheet seam side down. Bake 10 minutes. Take out of the oven, turn them so the other side browns, and bake another 5 minutes until golden brown.
Take out of oven, cut in half on the diagonal. Serve with guacamole, sour cream, and/or salsa.

Machaca Nachos
tortilla chips
cheddar jack cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread tortilla chips across a baking sheet. Add a spoonful of machaca to each chip. Sprinkle cheese over each chip. Bake until cheese is melted - about 5 minutes. Serve with sour cream and/or guacamole.
(not pretty, but pretty delicious)

07 June 2011

Iced Tea Month: peach and ginger iced tea

National Iced Tea Month is in full swing, which is great because the temps are rising here in NoVA. Supposed to be 100 degrees come Thurs, ew. This week's tea concoction was inspired by the Republic of Tea's ginger peach tea. I figured I'd be able to mimic that using actual ginger and peach. Plus, peaches are one of my favorite fruits (see the peach pocket pies and peach salad recipes), so here's another way to use them.

Here's a nice recipe you can make all year round, even when fresh peaches aren't available. I also used vanilla sugar to give it a nice mellow note, and because vanilla makes everything better, lol, but it's not too sweet. I'd like to hit the farmers market soon and try this again with fresh peaches, too. In any case, this is a very mild, light drink.

Peach and Ginger Tea
adapted from Emeril and Food Network

6 C water
2" section of ginger, peeled and sliced
1/3 C vanilla sugar
8 green tea bags
1 can no sugar added peach slices

Combine first 3 ingredients in a pot and heat until small bubble start to form and water starts to steam. Add tea bags and steep for 13 minutes. In the mean time, pour the peaches and juice into a blender and blend until fine. Remove the ginger from the tea, then add the peaches to the tea. Refrigerate until cold.

If you don't like the bits of peach, feel free to strain it out after it's cooled so the flavors have time to blend. 

01 June 2011

Celebrate National Iced Tea Month

Any time a server asks, "What would you like to drink?" I say, "Iced tea, lots of lemons. Yes, lots please." And the server arrives with a tall glass of tea, usually with one wedge on the rim, and (hopefully) a plate of lemon wedges. I squeeze 3 wedges into the glass, add 2 packets of Splenda (or 3 of sugar), stir, and consume approximately 1/3 of it before I put it down and continue with my conversation. Throughout the course of the meal I suck down 3, possibly 4 glasses (and inevitably hit the little girls room at least 2 times before I leave, lol).

Why the play by play of my drinking habit? Because June is National Iced Tea Month! 
Iced tea is so refreshing and easy to make - at its most basic, all you need is tea, water, and time. It's perfectly satisfying on its own, but you can dress it up any which way you like. I like iced black tea, iced green tea, iced herbal tea... do I sound like Forrest yet? So in honor of National Iced Tea Month, and because every summer shindig should have delightful liquid refreshments,  I shall be sharing some of my favorite recipes each week this month. First up: the classic iced tea you'd get in any restaurant. Try it with 3 lemon slices and some sugar and you'll get a taste of how I <3 it. 

Basic Iced Tea

2 quarts water (preferably filtered)
8 lipton tea bags
*2 tbsp Splenda (or 4 tbsp sugar)

Heat water in a pot over on the stove until the bottom just starts to bubble and it begins to steam. Add 8 tea bags. Steep for 5 minutes. Remove bags. *If adding sweetener (and what I put there is JUST enough to give it a hint of sweetness so if you like it sweet, keep on adding more) mix it in now. Put in a heat proof pitcher. Cool in the fridge overnight (I put it on top of a folded up kitchen towel just in case the heat would do something not so good to the cold glass shelves, but I could just be overly precautious). Enjoy over ice.