Monthly Archives: March 2011

Oven-Roasted Fish with Wine-Braised Fennel

This recipe caught my eye in the April 2011 Food and Wine magazine as part of an article with healthy wine and food pairings with recipes from Alexandra Guarnaschelli.  I love the fresh anise-y taste of fennel, but had never cooked it myself.  I found some beautiful small fennel bulbs at the grocery, had the tilapia I’d found on sale in the freezer and thought, why not?!  I adjusted it just a bit–choosing tilapia over halibut, leaving out 1/4 cup golden raisins from the fennel.

You need just a few things to make this beautiful, healthy and yummy meal:

  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 2-3 fennel bulbs, cut through the core into 1-inch thick wedges.  (Figure 1 small fennel bulb per person.  Leave a bit of the core intact to hold the leaves of the fennel together.)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup plus 1 TBSP dry white wine  (Serve the rest with dinner!)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1-2 pound of fish  (Figure about 1/2 pound per person.)

Preheat the oven to 450F. 

In a large skillet, heat 2 TBSP olive oil.  Add fennel wedges cut side down.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Cover and cook over moderate heat until fennel is browned–12 minutes.  Turn halfway through the cooking time.

Add 1 cup wine, water and bay leaves.  Simmer over low heat, turning the wedges a few times until most of the wine is evaporated and the fennel is tender.  15-18 minutes.

Mmmmmm–this smells so yummy!  I started my fish during the time the fennel was browning, so it was in the oven for the time the fennel was braising in wine.  The timing was perfect!

Spread minced shallot over the space your fish will occupy on a sided baking sheet.  Sprinkle 1 TBSP wine over the shallots.

You’ll be seasoning the fish with salt and pepper on both sides.  If your fish has a skin side, season that side first and place it skin side down on top of the shallots.  Rub 1 TBSP olive oil on the top side of the fish and season with salt and pepper.

Roast the fish on the top shelf of the oven for about 12 minutes, until it is barely opaque in the center.

Plate a portion of fish with it’s cooking juices along side the braised fennel. 

I also cooked some black “forbidden” rice to add a starch and some color; starting it just before the fennel.  Everything was done within minutes of each other–a beautiful, healthy and yummy meal in about 40 minutes.

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Crostini Three Ways

Crostini is one of the fastest, easiest, yummiest appetizers around.  Basically it’s toast with toppings.  The toppings can be sweet or savory or in between.  Think about flavors you like and put them on crunchy, toasted bread and you’ve got crostini!

Here are 3 ideas, ranging from sweet to savory.  Make all three or bunches of your favorite, serve with wine and you’ve got an appetizer for date night or a party!  Yum! 

I used a sesame semolina bread–any light crusty bread will be yummy!

For Strawberry Citrus:

  • sliced strawberries
  • cream cheese or mascarpone
  • goat cheese
  • lemon zest
  • a bit of sugar

Slice bread and toast it–in the oven or in a toaster.

Mix a half-and-half spread of cream cheese and goat cheese.

Spread slices with cheese mixture, top with sliced strawberries, lemon zest and a sprinkle of sugar.

For Pear Arugula:

  • thin pear wedges (I leave the peels on)
  • baby arugula leaves
  • goat cheese
  • balsamic vinegar

Slice and toast bread–in the oven or toaster.

Spread bread slices with goat cheese, top with 4 or 5 baby arugula leaves, then 3 thin pear wedges.  Sprinkle with balamic vinegar.

For Tomato Pesto:

  • roasted grape tomatoes
  • pesto
  • pine nuts

Roast tomatoes on a baking sheet with sides: place on sheet, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast 10 minutes at 350F.

Slice and toast bread–in oven or toaster.

Spread bread slices with pesto, top with roasted tomatoes and pine nuts.

Three crostinis in no time at all!

Next time you have a few people over or just want to make a pretty and yummy start to a meal, make crostini!  I’d pair a citrusy-floral white wine with the strawberry citrus–Whitewater Hill’s Muscat Canelli would be fabulous.  For the pear arugula, a crisp, fruity white like Reeder Mesa’s Riesling would be lovely.  And for the Tomato Pesto, I’d serve an earthy pinot noir from Alfred Eames Cellars.

Crostini+wine=yummy!  It’s all about knowing the method–usually a spread with a starring flavor or two and a topping to bring it all together.  What flavor combos will you create? 

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Twice-baked Potatoes

If you bake a potato once it’s pretty yummy, right?  A pretty yummy (and common) side dish for a steak dinner.  So it stands to reason, if you bake it twice it will be amazing, and take your steak dinner to a whole new level–a Date Night worthy level! 

While your steak marinates, you can make this yummy side dish.  Gather up some baked potato-y ingredients:

 Ingredients for 2-4 servings:

  • 2 baking potatoes
  • 3 TBSP butter
  • 1/4 cup-1/2 cup plain yogurt  (or sour cream if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chives snipped into small pieces for garnish and extra flavor!

You’ll also need a ziploc bag and a baking sheet.

Preheat your oven to broil.

Scrub and pierce potatoes with the tines of a fork to release steam as they bake.

Bake potatoes however you want.  I baked mine in the microwave–pushing the potato button twice.  🙂

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise, and scoop out the centers with a spoon, keeping the potato you scoop out in a bowl and leaving a 1/4 inch shell.  Place shells on a baking sheet.

Add butter, cheese, yogurt, salt and pepper to the potato centers in the bowl.  Mix with an electric mixer until fluffy.

Place whipped potato mixture into a ziploc bag.  Snip off one corner.  (You’ll be using this ziploc as a piping bag.)

Squeeze the potato mixture down into the corner, twist the excess bag around close to the potatoes and squeeze the potatoes into the shells, dividing the mixture evenly.  (Make fancy patterns if you want…or not!)

Place pan under the broiler for 3-5 minutes or until as browned as you like.

Place on serving dish, garnish with chives and await the compliments!  “Wow!  You’re amazing!”  “These are so yummy!”  “How did you do this?!”

Jazz up the recipe next time with some garlic powder….or chopped rosemary….or a different cheese….  Once you have the method, you can become the twice-baked potato master!  Yummy!

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Marinated Steak Salad

Looking for a perfect date-night meal?  Here it is!  Super easy, impressive presentation, and mmmm-mmmmm yummy!  My friend Carol was searching my blog for something to do with a sirloin steak a few weeks back and found nothing!  I rarely eat red meat, so I had neglected recipes containing it.  Well.  Carol inspired me, I found some nice little sirloin steaks at the grocery last week and voila!  A meal that made DH say yum!

Only a few things are needed:

 Ingredients for 2 servings:

  • 2 small sirloin steaks (about 8 oz each)
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBSP dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 2 handfuls baby arugula
  • parmesan cheese ribbons, cut using a vegetable peeler
  • dressing of your choice–a balsamic vinaigrette is perfect!
  • small handful chives, snipped into tiny pieces for garnish

You’ll also need a ziploc bag and a grill–indoor or out, grill pan or broiler.

Place an open ziploc bag in a bowl.  Add balsamic vinegar and dijon.  Whisk to combine.

Add steak, press out air and seal.  Place in the fridge for 15 minutes to overnight.  (The longer you marinate, the stronger the flavor and the more tender the meat.  Turn the bag over occasionally for even marination.  If you have a tender cut to begin with, no need for long marinating.)

Preheat your grill when you’re ready and place steaks.  Grill for 6-8 minutes per side for medium rare-medium doneness.  (If you’re grilling indoors, remember to turn your exaust fan on high!)

Remove from grill to a cutting board.  Tent with foil and let rest 3-5 minutes. 

Prepare a baby arugula salad by placing a handful of arugula on one side of a plate, adding as much chopped shallots as you like and make some big ribbons of parmesan using a vegetable peeler.

Slice the steak against the grain on a diagonal.  Use your knife to lift the steak onto the top of the arugula salad.  Top with salad dressing and chives.  Add a side dish, such as a twice-baked potato (recipe tomorrow!), and Voila!  It’s date night!

Ya gotta love it when something so pretty and so yummy is so easy!  I marinated for just 15 minutes–giving the steak just the slightest tang, but providing a coating that seared beautifully.  Yummy!

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Eggs Malagueña

Decades ago, a group of college friends and I traveled to Mazatlan, Mexico for spring break.  We drove from Alamosa, Colorado to Nogales, Arizona and continued by train to Mazatlan.  We stayed on the less expensive “Mexican” side of town in a quaint hotel across from the ocean.  Right next door was a tiny restaurant that soon became our daily breakfast place.  For breakfast every day?  Eggs Malagueña–an amazing dish of eggs, asparagus, shrimp, tomatoes and cheese.  I still remember it all this time later–it was that yummy!

This morning, DH decided he wanted scrambled eggs with the leftover fish from the other night.  My first thought was “ewwwwww!”  Then I wondered how in the world I could make that yummy, and Eggs Malagueña somehow came to mind.  I also had leftover steamed asparagus!  And tomatoes!  Let’s see if the recipe will be yummy with fish instead of shrimp.  And it was!

Here’s what you need for two servings:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup steamed asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2-3/4 cup cooked mild fish, cut into bite-sized pieces  (Or shrimp!)
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Place a skillet over medium heat.  Spray it with oil.  Whisk eggs and milk in a small bowl.  Add to skillet and cook until almost set.

Heat asparagus and fish in the microwave.  When eggs are nearly set, reduce heat to low and add asparagus, fish, and tomatoes.  Stir to combine.

Add cheese and red pepper flakes, stir and remove from heat.

Divide between two plates, top with green salsa and avocado….YUM!

(This is a salad-sized plate)  What a breakfast, and really no more difficult than plain ole scrambled eggs.  I personally prefer eggs over-easy, and I think (for me) this recipe would be even yummier with eggs that way–with the other ingredients melted together and served underneath the eggs. 

This was a super way to stretch leftover asparagus and fish–I just had a wee bit of each–not enough for anything else, really.  Next time you have a tiny bit of something leftover, think about breakfast!  Yummy!

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Sweet-tooth Saturday: Chocolate Cheesecake Cups

I have a realtor friend who occasionally sends out recipes on a card that also reminds me to use her realty company.  One of them was for Chocolate Cheesecake Cups.  These little cheesecakes are impressively yummy and easy to make–in less than an hour.  I make them with fat-free or “lite” ingredients without any sacrifice in flavor or texture.  This recipe has been a real “go-to” for me when I want a special dessert.  Thanks to BFF Becky for reminding me of these little cheesecakes and suggesting them for Sweet-tooth Saturday!

Here we go! 

  • 10 Oreo cookies
  • 8 oz cream cheese  (I use fat-free)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream  (I use lite)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 2 TBSP corn starch
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 12 cupcake liners

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Break Oreos into a food processor or blender. 


Process until ground into crumbs.

Divide crumbs evenly among liners and press with a small glass–twist as you press to avoid the crumbs sticking to the bottom of the glass.  Set aside.

Place cream cheese and sugar in a bowl, cream together using an electric mixer.  (I just wiped out the bowl of my food processor and used it–only one bowl to clean!)

Add sour cream, eggs and vanilla.  Mix until combined and smooth.

Blend in cocoa and corn starch.

Spoon mixture evenly into the 12 crumb-bottomed liners.

Bake 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with chocolate chips while still hot.

At this point you may choose to carefully spread the melt-y chips into an even layer or leave them as they are.  I leave them–I like the look of the chips.  Wait until completely cool and enjoy.  Refrigerate any not consumed on the spot!

Be creative with the serving–I’ve plated with a strawberry.  Last time BFF Becky made them she served them with a dollop of whipped cream and a raspberry.  I think the recipe lends itself to variations–such as including espresso powder in with the cocoa, using a different flavor of sandwich cookie for the crust, using different flavors of chips for the top, using orange extract or mint or almond in place of the vanilla, toffee chips on top, pretzel crumbs on top…..or any combination (espresso powder with toffee chips?!)  You’re only limited by your imagination!  Yummy!

Chocolate Cheesecake Cups were invited to a Sweets Linky Party!  They’re #168, and part of some super yummy-looking sweet recipes!

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Linguine with Asparagus and Egg

Egg?!  Yes!  Egg!  Egg and asparagus, pasta and cheese….the flavor of all things spring (except the chocolate bunny!) in one dish.  So easy.  So fast.  So, so yummy!  It was so yummy, it took every shred of my will power to not eat all of it.  I could have eaten my serving, everything left in the pot and then distracted the DH and eaten his share as well….well, maybe not his share…he has a habit of applying a fair amount of hot sauce to nearly everything.  But I would have eaten the rest!  Yup!  You’ll love it too.  This recipe came from the same Everyday Food as the salmon and risotto recipes–great issue!

Get just a few things ready:

  •  coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3/4 pound linguini or fettucini  (1 package)
  • 1 large bunch thin asparagus (1 pound), ends trimmed, cut in half
  • 3 TBSP butter
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan (I used closer to 1/3 cup), plus more for serving
  • 4 large eggs

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package directions.

While pasta cooks, poach the eggs. 

My mom gifted me with this fabulous little contraption that results in perfectly poached eggs that stay in one piece.

Water goes in the bottom of the pan, and I spray oil the little egg cups. (Because they are so not non-stick, even though the box said they were!)  It goes over medium-high heat until it starts steaming up through the vents.

When it steams, crack eggs into the cups and replace lid.  Cook 3-4 minutes–until white is cooked and yolk is still runny.

If you are not lucky enough to have a poacher, fear not!  You can still poach eggs.  Heat 2 inches of water and a splash of vinegar (vinegar helps keep the white together) in a high-sided skillet over medium high heat until bubbles start to rise to the top.  Crack each egg into a small bowl and gently pour into the skillet.  Cook until whites are firm and yolk is still runny–3 to 4 minutes.  Lift from water with a slotted spoon onto a parchment paper-lined plate.

Add asparagus during the last minute of pasta cooking time.

Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid and drain pasta.

Melt butter and return pasta and asparagus to the pot.  (Adding the butter before returning pasta and asparagus will help them not stick to the pan.)

Add parmesan and toss to combine.

Add enough of the reserved cooking liquid to make a thin sauce.  (I used about half.  The starch in the liquid helps to create the sauce.)

Divide onto 4 plates, top each with an egg, parmesan, salt and pepper.  ENJOY!

I chunked a small bit of salmon I had left over and added it to the pasta mixture.  It blended really well with the other flavors.  Wow.  The egg yolk mixes with the sauce to make it uber-yummy.  Take advantage of asparagus season and make this yourself!  Yummy!

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Freakin’ Fabulous Fish Tacos!

We really like fish tacos and up until today, I’ve always resorted to frozen fish tenders.  (One step up from fish sticks.)  This week I found tilapia on sale at the grocery, this blog is giving me a lot of cooking bravery, so I thought, why not?!  Guess what?  I did it!  I cooked yummy fish from a package of actual fish–not the pre-breaded, frozen kind!  Yay me!  It was easy and certainly more cost-efficient.  Plus, I knew exactly what was in the breading–I can spell and pronounce every ingredient!

So raid the fridge and the pantry for:

  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 3 TBSP butter 
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound fish filet   (I used tilapia, but any fish would be yummy)
  • lettuce, torn into small pieces  (Or use shredded cabbage if you prefer.)
  • cilantro, rough chopped
  • scallions, chopped
  • avocado, sliced
  • soft corn tortillas  (Or if you prefer, hard shells.)
  • grated cheese
  • green tomatillo salsa

Place your largest fry pan over medium-high heat and add butter and oil.  (The combo of oil and butter allows you to have that nice buttery flavor without the butter burning.)

Set up a dredging station of low, wide bowls next to your stove and the pan.  Place milk in one, corn meal, salt, pepper, and cayenne in the other.  Use a fork to combine the corn meal and spices.

Dip the fish in the milk, then corn meal mixture, shake off excess corn meal, then place in the pan.  Work in batches if necessary.  (If you crowd the fish it will steam and get soggy rather than crunchy.)

Cook fish 5 minutes for every 1/2 inch of thickness, turning halfway through cooking time.  Fish is fragile and difficult to turn–use two spatulas, one in each hand to turn without tearing the fish or its coating, and to avoid splattering.  Drain on paper towels.

Wow–look at that pretty golden, crispy coating!  Mmmmmm.  Cut fish into strips.  Heat your tortillas and chop/tear/slice scallions, cilantro, lettuce, and avocado.  Layer tortilla-cheese-fish-tomatillo salsa-veggies.  Enjoy!

OMGosh these were yummy!  The fish had a nice, light crunch and a mild spiciness.  If you prefer more spice, up the amount of cayenne.  1 pound of fish was enough for at least 8 tacos.  I like to have fish tacos all green and white, so I use a green salsa and white cheese and don’t put tomatoes on them.  Of course, make them how you and your family will like them.  They are light and healthy and best of all, yummy!

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Inspired Tuna Melt

Inspired by the Dreamy Creamy Tuna with Tarragon recipe, that is.  When the weather starts to warm, I get hungry for tuna salad.  But, since I’m trying to shed a few winter pounds, I didn’t want to add mayo like I usually do.  I didn’t want it to seem like catfood, though.  (No offense, Pook.)  What to do to make it yummy without adding fat?  I got to thinking how yummy cold leftover Tuna with Tarragon is and voila!  Use the same tarragon and dijon, hold the noodles!

Here’s the stuff:

For the tuna salad:

  • 1 large can of tuna (12 oz)
  • 1 hard boiled egg, chopped
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped
  • 1 TBSP dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried tarragon  (or 2 sprigs fresh, chopped)
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the tuna melt:

  • 1 bagel, toasted  (Flavor of your choice–this one is jalepeno green chili–yum!)
  • grated cheese  (Again, flavor of your choice–this is white cheddar.)

To make the salad, mix tuna, egg, shallot, dijon, tarragon, salt and pepper in a sealable container.

To make the melt, toast the bagel. 

Spoon out as much tuna salad as you want into a microwave-safe bowl.  Nuke for 30 sec or so, depending on how much tuna salad you have.

Spoon hot salad onto toasted bagel bottom, add grated cheese.  Nuke for an additional 30 sec. to melt the cheese.  Top with the bagel top!

 You could also put the bagel with tuna and cheese under the broiler to melt; which might be preferable if you’re making more than one.  Lettuce and a tomato slice would be a nice addition–mmmmm!  I made this one for Mr16, he’s a sandwich purist–no lettuce, no tomatoes.

I took the tuna salad for lunch and wrapped it in a lettuce leaf.  It was yummy and surprisingly filling for being so low-fat.

Pookie really thinks an open can of tuna must be for him, so must be distracted with a catnip toy.  This keeps him from twining around my ankles and trying to jump up on the counter (Where he is NOT allowed anyway!) while I’m cooking.

Get inspired by the flavors of your favorite dinners and turn them into summertime salads and sandwiches!  Yummy!

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Mmmmmm! Mushroom Risotto

The same copy of Everyday Food with yesterday’s salmon recipe also had this recipe for Mushroom Risotto.  I LOVE risotto!  So creamy and yummy with just the perfect amount of texture.  Mmmmm!  Risotto has a reputation for being difficult.  There IS a lot of stirring involved, but really–you don’t have to stir it constantly.  Really.  I had time to get ingredients together for the salmon’s sauce, measure them out, and photograph them in between rounds of stirring.   I was also able to chop the herbs for this recipe after I started risotto-ing. 

The idea for the entire meal came from perusing the magazine and for me, were reminiscent of spring.  If you like risotto and have a wee bit of patience, you CAN make this risotto.  And once you do, you’ll have the technique to make all sorts of fancy risottos!  (Or is it risottoes?)  Gather up these ingredients:

  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup butter, divided  (1/2 a stick or 4 TBSP)
  • 1 large shallot, diced  (These shallots are from last year’s garden and are on the small side.  I decided 3 small=1large.)
  • 1/2 pound cremini or button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • 1 cup Arborio rice   (Regular rice will NOT work.  The plump, roundish grains of arborio rice contain the startch you need to make the creamy sauce.)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine  (I used a Reeder Mesa Riesling.)
  • 2 TBSP grated parmesan
  • 3 TBSP chopped mixed fresh herbs  (I had chives and parsley.  The recipe also suggested marjoram.)

In a medium saucepan, bring broth to a simmer, reduce heat and keep warm.

In a 10 inch heavy bottomed skillet or pot, heat 2 TBSP butter over medium high heat.  Add shallot and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper.  Cook until beginning to soften, 4 minutes.

Add rice and cook, stirring, until rice is translucent at edges, 1 minute.

Add wine and stir until evaporated, about 2 minutes.

With a ladle, add about 1 cup of broth to skillet.  (My ladle holds almost 1/2 cup, so I used 2 ladle-fulls.)  Cook, stirring constantly (it’s ok to take a quick break) until broth is absorbed, 4 minutes.  (The stirring is important to help the rice release its starch to create the creamy sauce–so don’t just let it go on its own.)

Repeat, gradually adding broth by the cupful and stirring constantly until rice is tender but still al dente and sauce is creamy.  (20-25 minutes)  You may not need all the broth.  (I used all but 1/3 cup of mine.)

Remove skillet from heat and stir in 2 TBSP butter, parmesan and herbs.

(Not sure why the flash fired for the herbs.  This really is all the same batch of risotto, even though the flash made the color weird in that last picture.  Could have something to do with my “high quality” cell phone camera!)

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve!

There ya go!  An impressive and yummy side dish!  The flavor was perfect with the salmon and asparagus and was enhanced by serving the same wine I used in the risotto.  Mr16, who doesn’t much care for rice, had seconds!  (And then I hid the leftovers for my lunch the next day!)

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