Monday, July 27, 2009

Mustard-Roasted Fish

Mustard-Roasted Fish

Anytime I make a dish by Ina Garten (Queen of The Food Network) Mike likes to pretend he is Jeffery. Jeffery is the husband of Ina Garten aka The Barefoot Contessa. We laugh because we think Jeffery must be the luckiest man in the world. He drives around in a fancy BMW, works from home a lot, lives in a beautiful house, has fantastic friends with exquisite tastes and always gets served great food by a lovely woman who seems to love him for better or worse.

I have made Ina's mustard-roasted fish several times and no matter what type of fish I use it just seems to work out. The red snapper that the recipe calls for is best, but it's sometimes tough to find in land-locked Indiana. I call this a "having company" recipe. Everything can be made before your guests arrive - 15 minutes in the oven and dinner is ready. You get to enjoy your guests instead of staying in the kitchen.  What's not to like about that?

Mustard-Roasted Fish

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves 4

  • 4 (8 ounce) fish fillets such as red snapper 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces of creme fraiche
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons drained capers

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. (You can also use an ovenproof baking dish.) Place the fish filets skin side down on the sheet pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Combine the creme fraiche, 2 mustards, shallots, capers, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Spoon the sauce evenly over the fish fillets, making sure the fish is completely covered. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until it is barely done. (The fish will flake easily at the thickest part when it's done) Be sure not to overcook it! Serve hot or at room temperature with the sauce from the pan spooned over the top.

Thanks Ina and Jeffery for letting us all live the dream. Life is short-enjoy!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chili's Guiltless Black Bean Burger

Mike has started a new job that requires about 50% travel. Everyone knows what a nightmare it is to try to eat well when traveling. The portions are huge, the fat and sodium are extremely high, fiber is non-existent and you can hardly find a whole grain product. Last week, while flying to Houston, via Charlotte, NC Mike had dinner at Chili's Grill & Bar. He tried their guiltless black bean burger with steamed vegetables. He liked it. When he got home I thought I would try to duplicate it. I found a website called The Recipe Link which describes itself as "Your Guide To What's Cooking on the Net!" They lifted this recipe from a book called Famous Restaurant Recipes: Copycat Recipes From America's Favorite Dishes written by Sallie Stone. 

Late Sunday I put the burgers together and I just couldn't bring myself to cook them. The thought of mushy beans acting like a hamburger just didn't appeal to me. Yesterday I finally got up the nerve and cooked them. Yes - they do mash when you bite them but they turned out quite tasty and you feel pretty good about yourself finally figuring out how to eat the beans that nutritionists have been telling us to eat for years. I have adapted her recipe a bit to help reduce calories.

Chili's Guiltless Black Bean Burgers

For The Black Bean Burgers:
  • 1-1/2 cans black beans (24 ounces), rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped white or red onion
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • about 1/2 of an egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped (fresh works best)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the Sandwich:
  • 4 whole wheat hamburger buns
  • low-fat ranch dressing
  • shredded lettuce
  • tomato slices
  • pickles
  • red onion
  1. Mix one egg in a bowl (Only use half the mixture)
  2. Combine black beans, onion, bell pepper, cayenne, egg, bread crumbs and herb in a food processor and blend. If mixture is to wet to shape into patties, add more bread crumbs.
  3. Form and shape into four patties. For best results make 24 hours ahead and refrigerate so patties will set well.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry patties for 3 minutes on each side. They should be crisp on the outside and hot in the middle.
  5. Arrange sandwich with patty, low fat dressing, red onion, pickles and tomato.
I read many of the comments that were made about this burger. One man said he eats this without a bun served atop basmati brown rice and topped with mango salsa. That sounds good to me. Life is good- enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Blueberry Pie

My friends Jessie and Dan brought me a pint of blueberries as a thank you for watering their plants while they were on vacation. It got me to thinking about a pie I made in July of 1997. I only remember the date because it was in the July/August issue of Cuisine Magazine. July is the perfect time to make a blueberry pie - the berries are fresh and inexpensive. I liked this recipe not just because it tastes so good but because it is beautiful and different from the way most pies look. I really struggled with the crust this go round. It was so fragile that I could hardly work with it. I used the food processor instead of my hands to make the crust and I didn't get enough water in it. Next time I'll know better.

Blueberry Pie
(1- 9" Deep-Dish Pie)
Work Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons Crisco shortening, chilled
1/2 cup ice water

1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

Egg Wash & Glaze
1 egg white
1-1/2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar

  • Combine dry ingredients. Cut butter and Crisco (I use sticks) into fourths lengthwise-dice
  • Cut in butter, then Crisco with pastry blender. Shoot for pea-size and smaller bits
  • Lightly mix in ice water 1 tablespoon at a time. The curst is done when you can gently form a ball.
  • Divide dough in half. Form into disks and place in gallon sized Ziplock bags. Chill 30 minutes (or day ahead).
  • Rinse the berries . Mix the sugar, corn starch, salt and butter in a large Ziplock bag. Next add the berries, seal the bad and shake it all up. Turn the bag several times to make sure the berries are all coated.
  • Remove one dough disk from the refrigerator. Cut the seams of the bag and begin rolling with the dough still in the bag.
  • When dough is 3/8" thick turn it out from bag onto a floured surface. Flour top of dough. Roll from center out in all directions, to approximately 1/8" thick.
  • Gently lift dough to pie pan. Trim edges flush; cover and chill. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • When chilled dock the bottom crust (poke holes with a fork) and paint it with the egg wash to keep the crust from getting soggy. Dump in the berries!
Making Leaves and a Braided Edge

  • Prepare the top crust as we did the bottom by rolling to a 1/8" thickness. The braids are made by cutting linguini-width strips (3 at a time). Make braids by weaving 3 strips together (like braiding hair). Paint the pie's edge with water and secure braids along top edge.
  • Make the leaves by cutting ovals in dough. Remove each oval and press (don't cut) with the back of a small knife to make veins.
  • The berries tend to "pop" and bleed when cooking. So make two layers of leaves to keep them afloat. Now arrange them like a crown of laurels. Brush with egg wash/water mixture and sprinkle with sugar.
  • Bake in bottom 1/3 of oven. Check in 20 minutes. Foil any part that's browning too fast. The filling bubbles when pie is done, but berries in center remain whole. Total baking time is 40 minutes.
The leaves are really easy to make, but I did see where King Arthur Flour sells a nice set of cutters that you can use to make this pie for $6.95:

Life is good - enjoy!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Skirt Steak Tostadas

Like any good foodie I like to watch the Food Network. I also tend to get caught up in the reality shows featuring cooking contests.  This year, for the first time, Mike and I started watching The Next Food Network Star. Several weeks ago the contestants were given the following challenge:
Create a great all-American dish using all the items in their baskets of mystery regional ingredients. The winner was Melissa d'Arabian who had a New Mexico themed basket of assorted chili peppers, honey and skirt steak. She created a skirt steak tostada with a zesty mango salsa. The prize for winning the contest was having your recipe published in the July 3-5 edition of USA Weekend. Mike and I decided we would try to re-create her dish for Saturday supper.

We headed out to do our shopping at The Fresh Market. They always carry skirt steak and their produce selection is wonderful.  This recipe has three different kinds of chilies - some I am familiar with some I'm not. I asked the young man in the produce section to show me the habanero chili. His knowledge of chilies was worse than mine. After speaking with the produce manager we had what we needed
This is a habanero chili

Don't let this tiny chili fool you. It is hot - hot - hot! Below is the scoville rating for the habanero as depicted on Wikipedia.

SR: 100,000-350,000

I wore a plastic bag on one hand when I removed the seeds, but I neglected to cover the hand that was holding the pepper. I decided to gently lick my finger to test for taste and heat. OMG it was so hot it took my breath away.   Don't let this scare you. The marinade for the skirt steak where the habanero resides is wonderful. This recipe is a bit time consuming so have someone give you a hand

Skirt Steak Tostadas

Marinade Ingredients:

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup olive oil

Juice of 3 lemons

1/2 cup honey

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 habanero chili, seeded and chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-pounds skirt steak

Mango Salsa Ingredients:

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 large, ripe mango, peeled and finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

1 poblano chili, seeded and minced

1/4 cup honey

Juice of 3 limes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Other Ingredients:

1-16 oz can of black beans, drained

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup red wine

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

Vegetable oil, for frying

6 corn tortillas or tostada shells


  • In a large, shallow dish, whisk the soy sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, onion and habanero, plus salt and pepper to taste. Add meat, cover and refrigerate. (I use a large zip lock bag.) Marinate for at least 1 hour, but preferably for several hours.
  • Combine all salsa ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Let is sit for at least 20 minutes so the flavors will develop.
  • Simmer beans, olive oil, wine and jalapeno in a saucepan for 20 minutes.
  • Heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Carefully slide one tortilla into the oil and fry until crisp, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with thongs and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
  • Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Remove meat from dish and discard marinade. Place steak on the grill, and grill for about 4 to 6 minutes for medium-rare to medium, turning once. Remove from the grill and let meat rest for about 5 minutes. Thinly slice, at a diagonal, into strips.
  • To serve, place fried tortillas or tostadas on a large platter or individual plates. Drain the bean mixture, then spoon some onto the middle of the tortillas. Top with steak slices and the mango salsa.

A few notes:

  • Next time I make this I will break the fried tortilla into pieces. The tortilla was difficult to cut. I think you could even use tortilla chips.
  • I only made half the recipe - it is easy to cut it in half.
  • The marinade is really good. I think you could use it for chicken or any steak. 

Life is good - enjoy!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Aldi's - Tip # 1

One of my favorite grocery stores is called Aldi's.  This store was started in 1976, in Iowa, by a man named Karl Albrecht. Old Karl is one of the richest men in the world according to Forbes Magazine. He has an estimated net worth of 21.5 billion and is the wealthiest man in Germany. There are now over 1000 stores in 29 states.

I have many friends who have never stepped foot in an Aldi's although they don't think twice about going into a Sam's Club or Costco.  Aldi's is a lot like the big box club stores except you don't have to buy a year's worth of stuff or pay for a membership. Here's why you should shop there:

  • Your car will never be dented by a grocery cart, and the cart you get will always be in working condition. In the parking lot, under cover you will find the carts. Put a quarter into the slot to release the cart, return your cart and get your quarter back. No other store in America (that I know of) will do this.
  • You have to bring your own bags. I like how forward thinking this store is. They were green before going green was cool. Remember this store was started by a European - where bringing your own bags is the norm not the exception. You can also purchase bags if you like.
  • The produce is a bargain.  You just won't get a better price. With few exceptions, they only carry what is in season. So if you want strawberries in November you'll have to go somewhere else.
  • Frozen fish. Last week I found a pound of wild salmon that had been flash frozen in 4-oz. portions with no preservatives for $3.99. Granted it came from China not Alaska but for $3.99 and the convenience of the packaging you just can't beat it.  I also got a pound of peel and eat shrimp for $3.99.
  • Dairy. Milk has been steady at $1.98 a gallon for the past year and large eggs are $.89 a dozen. Sometimes you can even find fresh mozzarella.
  • They sell products called "Fit & Active". They list calories, total fat, fiber and sodium on the front of the product. These products cost much less at Aldi's then your typical grocery store.
  • Special purchases. This weeks special is a laminating machine for $19.99. I got an electric tea kettle for $9.99. Where in America can you find an electric tea kettle? Each week they have a theme and the special purchases seem to adhere to the theme. 
  • Chocolate. They have European chocolate bars at an unbelievable bargain. They also have a wonderful assortment of Easter and Christmas chocolates.  Get there early. I've seen people fill up a grocery cart with these beautiful Belgium treats.
  • Guarantee. If you are unhappy with your purchase you can return it and they will not only replace the product but they will also give you back your money.
I hope you will give it a try and let me know what you think. Life is good - enjoy!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mock Lobster Bisque or Langostinos If You Please!

Langostinos have been in my life since I was eighteen years old. I used to eat them drenched in butter at our local Red Lobster in Knoxville, TN. I thought I was so sophisticated ordering the "fancy" fish from the "fancy" restaurant. I smoked cigarettes and ordered Bahama Mama's a frozen blend of tropical fruit flavors mixed with Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum and topped with a splash of Myers's dark rum. They still serve them today.

Bahama Mama's

I still have fond memories of Red Lobster. It was one of the first big full service restaurant chains that I remember. They had bars on the porches where you stood and smoked and drank while you waited for your table - I was cool - I was eighteen!

Wikipedia defines the langostino, when used in the restaurant trade, " the meat of the squat lobster, which in neither a true lobster nor a prawn. It is more closely related to porcelain crabs and hermit crabs." I rediscovered langostinos tails at my local Trader Joe's. They come frozen in a 12 oz. package. 

Langostino Tails from Trader Joe's

While they don't quite compare with my old memories, a bit more tough, dense and watery from the deep freeze I did discover a way to prepare them that takes less than 30 minutes.

I lifted this recipe from written by Annette M. Hall. I adjusted the amount of langostino meat to match the package that came from Trader Joe's.

Mock Lobster Bisque

Ingredient List:

12 ounces of langostino meat

1/3 cup dry sherry

1/4 cup butter

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk (I use skim)

1 teaspoon steak sauce

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Seasoned salt to taste

Preparation Guide:

In a small bowl, combine langostino meat and sherry; set aside.

In a medium sauce pan melt butter over low heat. Blend in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and bubbly. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly.

Continue cooking and stirring until mixture is thickened; stir in steak sauce, salt, pepper and seasoned salt. Add langostino meat and sherry mixture; cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Makes 4 cups.

A salad and a loaf of crusty bread completes this meal nicely. Life is good - enjoy!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Salmon & Asparagus Pasta

Photograph taken by Mike Johnston

Some of the best food I've eaten comes from recipes found while doing a Google search. On Tuesday I had picked up some wild Alaskan salmon and beautiful asparagus with stems no larger than the diameter of a pencil. I knew I needed to use the salmon but I wanted it pared with pasta. A google search of "salmon pasta" led me to a blog called "Delish Food".  Delish is written by a self-described "twenty-something wife and food enthusiast" named Ashley. There is lots to see and read on her blog - I hope you have time to give it a look.

The following is Ashley's original recipe with a few changes to suit my taste.

Salmon & Asparagus Pasta
Serves 4

1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
8 oz. of pasta
1.5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
12 oz. of freshly cooked salmon, cut into small pieces
Cavender's All Purpose Greek Seasoning

Prepare salmon first. You will reheat it at the last moment after the pasta and asparagus are complete.
Preheat your grill until medium-high. Wash salmon and pat dry. Cover one side (both sides if skinless) of the salmon with Cavender's All Purpose Greek Seasoning. Grill until cooked through - timing will differ depending on the thickness of the salmon. Remove from grill and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add cut asparagus and cook until tender but firm, about three minutes. Scoop out the asparagus and put in an ice bath to stop cooking. Add pasta to a pot of boiling water and cook until desired firmness. Drain when done. Return pasta to pot and drizzle with olive oil and stir to prevent sticking.
Put your pasta bowls in the microwave and heat until hot. Meanwhile melt butter in a skillet and add asparagus tossing to coat. Add heavy cream and cayenne pepper. Heat until cream begins to thicken. Add pasta, salmon, Parmesan cheese. Toss and serve in your hot pasta bowls.

If you have never purchased Cavender's All Purpose Greek Seasoning you're in for a treat. It is a blend of 13 different spices and is delicious on fish, chicken, steamed broccoli and squash. You should be able to find it in the spice section of any major grocery store.

A simple salad will round out this meal. This is grown-up comfort food. Life is good-enjoy!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Grilled Lime-Curry-Rubbed Hanger Steak With Fresh Melon-cucumber Chutney

Gourmet Magazine published a recipe for a grilled lime-curry-rubbed hanger steak with fresh melon-cucumber chutney in their June 2009 issue.  I thought it would be perfect for a hot summer night mixing the richness of the steak with the coolness of the chutney. I knew I would have a problem finding the hanger steak, so I began my search by calling my local Marsh Supermarket. I spoke with the butcher who informed me that they didn't carry it, but I could probably fine it in a Mexican or Oriental (did he really say Oriental?) market. I immediately wondered if Marsh was no longer carrying beef from outside the US now that all meat has to be labeled with it country of origin. From there I called The Fresh Market who said they did indeed carry hanger steak. When I arrived the steak couldn't have been more than a quarter of an inch thick. Since the recipe specified hanger steak that was an inch thick I opted for skirt steak. A tougher cut that I ended up marinating, for a couple of hours,  in a mixture of honey, red-wine vinegar, garlic, soy sauce and olive oil. This would be a great meal to have with company. You can make the chutney several hours in advance and the steak takes less than 10 minutes.

Picture lifted from Gourmet Magazine

Grilled Lime-Curry-Rubbed Hanger Steak With Fresh Melon-Cucumber Chutney
Serves 4 to 6

2 cups chopped firm-ripe honeydew melon (10-oz.)
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeno including seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin

For Steak
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 pounds (1" thick) hanger steak or chuck blade steaks

Make Chutney:
Stir together honeydew, cucumber, onion, lime juice, cilantro, jalapeno, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle with spices and let chutney stand while grilling steak.

Grill Steak:
Prepare a gas grill for direct-heat cooking over medium heat; stir together lime juice, oil, curry powder, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Coat steak with curry mixture.
Oil grill rack the grill steak, covered, turning once for 9 minutes total for medium-rare. Let rest on a cutting board 5 minutes, then slice thinly across the grain. Serve with chutney.

I found an heirloom tomato at The Fresh Market and made a caprese salad and jasmine rice to serve with the steak. Life is good-enjoy!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bar-B-Que Beans

I've been going to potluck dinners for most of my life.  Now that I live in the mid-west I go to pitch-in dinners. They both deliver the same result - lots of fantastic food shared between friends. Not once have I ever seen anyone leave hungry.

Most of the time women bring the dishes.  Occasionally a man will bring a favorite dish. It is my opinion that a man will share a recipe with anyone who asks.  Just being asked is a reward for him. It is also a reward for women, although  many women won't share their recipes.  I never liked those women, somehow I thought they should just be gracious and share.  But then I realized that I had become just like them. I have this recipe for baked beans that most people tend to like - especially the guys. People have asked me for the recipe numerous times and I always said sure - but I never, not once, gave it away. I can't remember the name of the woman who gave it to me.  It was a friend I worked with in Nashville, TN over thirty years ago. So today I'm giving it up.  I hope you enjoy it. If I run into you at either a potluck or a pitch-in and were both carrying baked beans I'll be sure to ask you for your recipe.

Bar-B-Que Beans

1 pound ground beef
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, choped
3 150z. cans of pork and beans
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
7 oz. of catsup
1 tablespoon. worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili sauce
3 tablespoons bar-b-que sauce
2 to 3 pieces of bacon, cut up


Brown ground beef, bell pepper and onion in a large skillet. Drain.
Add pork and beans to a large bowl.  Pour ground beef mixture on top of beans and gently mix. Try not to smash beans.
Mix the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl then pour over beans and beef. Mix well. Pour into a 9"x 13" greased casserole dish and top with 2 to 3 slices of bacon that has been cut up. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Do not cover. Life is good-enjoy!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Grilled Salmon With Fruit Salsa

I am a charter subscriber to a cooking magazine called Cuisine. The first issue hit my mailbox in January of 1997 and have continued ever since. I adore this magazine. It has wonderful recipes that are developed around seasonal ingredients and shows the home cook cooking techniques necessary to be successful.  The May/June 1997 issue had a recipe for Grilled Salmon with Fruit Salsa that has become a staple in my household. I have also been served this exact recipe in restaurants.

Grilled Salmon
(Serves 4)
Work Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

1 fillet of salmon

1 cup maple syrup
2 T. cracked peppercorns

When the grill is very hot, put the salmon on at a 45 degree angle.  Then rotate it 90 degrees after it is cooked 1/4 way through for great grill marks. Halfway through cooking, flip the fish, keeping a 45 degree angle to the grill.  You'll rotate it again for the last bit of cooking to finish grill marks. Doneness can be checked with a thermometer. 130 degrees is optimal.
Grilled Salmon - Note Mike's Beautiful Grill Marks

Fruit Salsa
(Makes 2 Cups)

1/2 cup cantaloupe, diced
1/2 cup fresh pineapple, diced (I have used canned with great results)
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 1/2 T. lime juice
1 T. light brown sugar, packed
1 T. fresh mint leaves, minced
1 T. jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. lime zest, minced

All the peppers should have their ribs and seeds removed.
Refrigerate until the salmon comes off the grill.  Garnish the salmon with the salsa

I usually only make two pieces of salmon unless we are having company, but I always make the entire batch of salsa and we tend to eat it all.  Life is good - enjoy!