Monthly Archives: February 2013

Seafood Pasta Salad

When one of my husband’s former students was getting married, friends threw a “Kitchen Shower” and they asked for a recipe to go into a file box for her. I gave her the recipe below, since she was a Catholic marrying another ‘good’ Catholic. I put a note saying, “This is good for Fridays during Lent”. He sister said, “No! It’s cheese enchiladas every Friday during Lent!” Their father was of French descent, but their mother was Mexican. Her enchiladas were delicious, if a bit hot for me…even her ‘mild ones’. It seems some of their children had her taste buds, but some of them had their French genes show up there and the Mom had to make both types.
However, in keeping with the seafood theme I have been running, this is a recipe that is not only good for Lent, but we eat it often in the summer. It is cool and can be made up to a day ahead of time,(and earlier, if you add the lettuce later.)

It is versatile; You can use any grilled fish, crab meat or lobster,(although I have never used lobster). I usually use ‘imitation’ crab meat, but only those that are made with crab meat and real whitefish,(usually Pollock). Read the labels; many ‘imitation crab meats’ are made with Surimi, which is the fish equivalent of ‘pink slime’ that has been creeping into ground beef. These are made from scrap flesh that have been processed. It is considered ‘natural’ but I find it tasteless and rubbery. I avoid it .Brands made without it is about the same price; I see no reason to buy the ones that contain surimi.
Vegetable pastas add a bit more nutrition and flavor, and the color makes it all the more attractive.

Today’s is made with shrimp,(not farmed; the smaller they are the more affordable) and bow-tie pasta. I usually use rotini or fiori; they hold together through the mixing process better and looks much more impressive.

One-bowl easy meal for warm weather or Lent

One-bowl easy meal for warm weather or Lent

Seafood Pasta Salad

½ lb of sturdy pasta, preferably ‘garden or tri-colored'( rotini, radiatore, wagon wheels or fiori,), slightly under-cooked

2 hard-cooked (hard-boiled) eggs, minced or riced

½ lb(or more) grilled fish, small shrimp ,crab meat or imitation crab

½ cup shredded carrot

¼ cup sliced or diced black olives (optional; one son does not like them)

1/3 cup thinly sliced celery

1/8 cup minced onion, (green onions or yellow bulb onions

¼ tsp. celery salt (or regular/sea salt)
1 tsp paprika

½ tsp celery seed (optional)

1 ½ cups shredded lettuce,(leaf or red can be used, but iceberg holds up the best)

1 cup prepared mayonnaise

Cook and cool the pasta and eggs.
Place the mayo, celery seed,(if using), paprika, and onion in a large bowl. Mix.
Add carrots, celery and olives,(again, if using), and mix well.
Fold in pasta and then gently fold in lettuce.(If serving more than 16 hours ahead, wait to add lettuce).
Chill and serve.

You have a nice, one –bowl meal that is wonderful for a Spring or Summer luncheon, light dinner or potluck

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Mahi-mahi/Fish with Dirty Rice, Pasta, Potatoes

Judy,” Petit4Chocolatier” asked to see my Mahi-mahi recipe. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, “Mahi-mahi” means “very strong” in Hawaiian and it is a strong-flavored fish, although I would not say that the flavor is ‘fishy’. Although it does not taste the same, the type of flavor-strength is reminiscent of salmon’s flavor strength.
I will give you my recipe below, but not a picture. I had not be able to purchase Mahi-mahi where I live,(I used to make ‘food runs’ out of town to a bigger city), and I just hadn’t looked lately. When I did find it in frozen filets at the biggest supermarket here, I found that it is priced at $20.00 a pound! That is a bit steep for my budget this year…(I’m planning on winning the lottery next year.)
Below is a way that went over big when I was where I could get nice, fresh Mahi-mahi.
You can make this with any type of fish filets, which is in fact, what I do. I found that Mahi-mahi and broccoli go well together. You may substitute or add cauliflower, California-blend or Italian-style frozen vegetables, instead of cooking fresh.

Mahi-mahi, (again, like salmon) comes in filets, often with a thick skin on one side. If you choose to grill or bake it, leave the skin on; if you want to pan-fry the filets, remove it first. This is done by placing the fish skin-side-down on a flat cutting board or a counter covered with a towel,(so that it will not slip). Take the longest sharp knife you have. Slowly slice between the flesh and the skin. Hold the fish down with your fee hand and continue slicing through the fish. If you are less than confident in being able to judge, place the fish skin-side-up, and knick the corner between the flesh and the skin. Slowly and gently cut the skin away lifting the skin with your free hand. Be very careful so the knife does not slip and you cut yourself.

Fish with ‘Dirty Rice*’
1 lb fish filets (Mahi-mahi or?)
2 Tbsp. regular olive oil, peanut oil or other cooking oil
2 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. Lemon juice (You can use Balsamic, Malt or other vinegar)
1 ½ Tbsp. butter
½ cup chopped green onions (or other onions, diced)
½ cup minced green peppers
1 ½ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt

2 cups prepared rice*[see footnote]

Rinse and dry filets; brown quickly in the oil and salt. [You may add other herbs or spices as you like. See “Lent/Easy Baked Fish” post for ideas.]
Remove the fish and drain the oil from the pan, but do not clean it. Add the butter, melt it and , using a spatula, pick up any bits of stuck fish. Add the lemon juice, onion, peppers, paprika and salt. Cook until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the broccoli or mixed vegetables. Fold in the rice and warm thoroughly. Place on platter and place fish over top.

I often make the ‘Dirty Rice*” and omit the mixed vegetables, or place them on the side. It rather depends on the type of fish, how big the pieces or if I have made them another way, or with more herbs and spices.

One way is :

Lemon –Pepper Fish

Fish filets, any type
Lemon juice
Butter
Salt,
Pepper (preferably cracked or course-ground)

Melt butter in a pan,( the amounts of ingredients will vary depending on how much fish you will be cooking; use your best judgment)
add 2 tsp-1 ½ Tbsp (1/2 to 1 lb of fish) lemon juice
cook on med-high until bubbly and the lemon has reduced,(evaporated) somewhat
add the fish; salt and pepper it
cook it quickly until brown underneath and turn quickly. Cook until just done.(Time will vary by thickness of fish. “Done” will be when the flesh is completely opaque).
Remove the fish, keep warm and repeat with the recipe above for ‘Dirty Rice*, but omit lemon juice or vinegar.

* Note: Another twist is to use pasta, potatoes or couscous instead of rice.
I like to use/vegetable couscous or any type of small pasta instead of rice. Vegetable pastas, such as the tomato-carrot one picture above, adds more flavor and nutrition.
It is also tasty and easy to grab a bag of frozen ready-to-cook hash browns
potatoes ,
make your own potato cubes or to grate them and cook them in the
butter/pepper/onion mixture.

fish with pasta

I will leave you with one curious piece of information. Mahi-mahi is also called
“common dolphinfish”; but it is a true fish, not at all related to the animals we normally
call ‘dolphins’. It also has the name of “dorado” .
Unrelatedly, but curiously, the word “mahi” means “fish” in Persian.

Creamed Tuna/Tuna Salad

In keeping with our fish and seafood theme, consider the lowly can or packet of tuna. Humble, but convenient, easy to prepare and although the price has risen, it is a good buy. I stock up when it is on sale.

Open a packet or drain a can of tuna, toss a little mayonnaise in it and I am happy. I had been out of touch with a cousin for many years but when we reconnected, I found that she eats it with crackers, as comfort food. She remembered my mother giving it to her that way. I love it with cottage cheese and dry bread crumbs.(Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.)

If you add a little minced green or yellow onion, a dash of celery salt and a bit of minced celery, I am very happy; add a little minced dill pickle, put it on a nice Kaiser roll and I am more than happy…stuff it in a tomato and I am ecstatic. That makes a wonderful hot weather meal and a nice luncheon entrée or first course.
The salad alone or in a tomato can be made ahead of time and will last several days in your refrigerator.

Easy to make, delicious to eat, a great tuna sandwich is ready in minutes.

Easy to make, delicious to eat, a great tuna sandwich is ready in minutes.

Tuna Salad, my favorite way:*[see note]

1 packet or drained can of tuna
1-2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. minced onion
1Tbsp. minced celery
1 Tbsp. minced dill pickle
½ tsp celery salt

Serve on toasted bread,(rye is wonderful,), Italian or French bread, rolls or stuff into a tomato, top-off and seeded. Serve on a bed of lettuce with toast, crackers or plain rice cakes.
*note: Alternatives include using salad dressing “Miracle Whip” instead of mayo, if you prefer it a bit sweeter, and my husband opts for a bit of tartar sauce or sweet pickle relish. You can also add melted cheese of whatever type suits your fancy.

Another hit that I grew up with is Creamed Tuna. Easy to make, it is a warm and different take on tuna and can be served in a variety of ways.

Mom’s Creamed Tuna

2 Tbsp, butter or margarine
2 Tbsp. flour[use part corn starch or arrowroot if you are not using whole milk]
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups milk (can be soy or rice)
2 packets or well-drained cans of tuna
[opt: ½ tsp onion powder &/or ¼ tsp. white pepper]

Melt the butter or margarine in a heavy saucepan. Mix the flour in to make a smooth paste. (This is a ‘roux’; do not brown it.)
Add the milk slowly, (a wire whisk may come in handy), and cook over medium heat until quite thick, stirring constantly. If you are called away, return as soon as possible and stir briskly with a wire whisk. As long as the bottom has not scorched, it will be OK.
When thickened, add the tuna and stir over low heat until it is blended and warmed thoroughly.
Serve over cubed toast, (traditional), rice or small pasta and side vegetables. Green beans are a good choice with it; the flavors truly compliment each other.

In a container by itself, it can stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days, be warmed on the stovetop or in a microwave and then spooned over fresh toast or warm rice /pasta.
(Do not let it boil or scorch).

It can be also made in a bigger batch, in a bit thinner consistency and layered on rice,(preferably), or pasta with green beans in a casserole dish. It, too, can stay pre-made in the refrigerator for a few days. Warm in a slow oven (325F) before serving.

Give it a try!

Spicy Adriatic Fish

I had someone who wanted to read this recipe, so I made it and took a picture:

Spicy Adriatic Fish (1)

I wish it was a bit clearer.

I stumbled across a recipe very close to this one, played with it and it has been a big hit for me. Depending on the fish you use, it tastes barely fish-like to almost no discernible fish taste…just good.

I made this for my late grandmother–in-law about 25 years ago. Her people were from the Adriatic, from Croatia. She had been living in California near her daughter’s family. The son-in-law’s people had been a long line of Portuguese fishermen, and she asked me to give her the recipe. I was so pleased, as she was a fantastic cook. I don’t know if she ever made the fish dish, but my father-in-law recently send a box of the recipes she kept, and there was my recipe for this fish, right on top. I was quite touched.

Spicy Adriatic Fish

1 lb of whitefish filets, (whiting, perch or cod, preferably)
2 Tbsp oil, (basic olive, preferably)
½ cup of onion, minced
1 ½ Tbsp paprika
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced, (or 2 tsp prepared garlic)
3 Tbsp. Tomato paste ( tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes do not add the ‘zing’ you are looking for here
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. vinegar ;Balsamic,( preferably), apple cider, white or rice vinegar,(do not use flavored or fruited ones)
OR lemon juice
1 ½ cups prepared rice, small pasta or couscous

Thaw and dry the fish, (see previous post). Place oil in a non-stick skillet; heat. Add the onions, paprika and salt; when the onions are translucent, add the garlic and the fish, upside down. Fry until the fish tops are browned, then turn gently and barely cook on the other side.(Time will depend on the thickness of your fish). Remove from the pan gently onto a plate. [*see note] Add the bay leaf, lemon juice or vinegar ,the tomato paste and water. Simmer for a few minutes until the liquid is slightly reduced in amount. Return the fish to the pan right-side-up and baste it with the sauce. Cook gently for 10-15 minutes. Remove the fish again, as well as the bay leaf. Add the prepared rice, pasta or couscous to the sauce and warm them together thoroughly. Serve alongside of fish or with fish on top.

[* NOTE: If at any time your fish breaks up, don’t worry! It will still taste fine; after all, you are going to cut it up anyway! My family has eaten it all mixed together on more than one occasion, trust me!]

I hope you try and enjoy!

Lent/Easy Baked Fish

Lent sneaked upon me!. Although time sure got away, here I am, back in time for Ash Wednesday anyway. I hope that you learn a bit about cooking fish and try some of the recipes in the upcoming weeks, especially if you have had bad experiences with seafood. [Please check into the July and August Archives for meatless protein combinations to add to your repertoire of Lenten meals.]

If you have read the “About ” of this blog, you’ll know it started out as an answer to a
plea for help with Lenten dishes, and more meatless recipes throughout the year.
Where I now live was once considered “The Holy Land of the South”, where it was highly Catholic, but even the Baptists here do not eat meat on Ash Wednesday.

Easy, baked fish for Lenten meals or any time

Easy, baked fish for Lenten meals or any time

For those of you who do not understand, going meatless on Ash Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent,(and in past times, on all Fridays and certain other days), were considered ‘penitential’ or done as a sacrifice. That is why instead of the year-long Friday ‘abstinence’,(abstaining from meat),the faithful in many parts of the world have been given the option of doing something different, perhaps giving up something more in tune with sacrifice for them or ,( even better), for them to take on something…do good works, help someone, give of themselves. I am in favor of that, because, frankly, many meatless meals are far from penitential.
For example, a great couple I knew happened to be one of Old New York Presbyterian money who married Irish Catholic Boston/Philadelphia money. When their nest was empty one Lent, she bemoaned the fact that she did not want to cook fish just for herself. He gallantly stated that he had felt like a good steak anyway, so he took her off to a fine restaurant. They were seated and she left for the ladies’ room. When she returned, they were at the table for some time when she asked, “Where is the waiter with the menus?” He replied, “Oh, he came right away before you came back; I ordered for you?”
“What did you order for me?” she asked.
He replied, “Lobster”.
“JACK!”, she cried.
“What?” he answered, “It’s not meat”.
“That’s not the idea!” ,she practically wailed. Believe me, it would have been far more penitential for her to have gotten a cheeseburger at McDonald’s.

However, we’re going with the flow and going meatless when proscribed and any other time we wish, even if they end up being better meals than quick, meat-laden ones.

Before we start, let me say that I happen to be living in an landlocked area in the United States, and have been for many years. I miss my fresh seafood. Unless you are in another part of the world where you know your seafood is safe, or if you live in the U.S. on a coast and can get truly fresh seafood, your best choice for fish is fresh frozen filets , (alliteration unintended), or shrimp and the like. Most of the fish are caught and processed onboard ship, so they are ‘fresher’ than the ‘fresh’ fish you may be buying from your grocer’s seafood case. Check labels, fine print and ask the counter people. You may find that what they are selling had been previously frozen anyway. They have thawed it, and it’s been sitting around. You better cook that seafood immediately and don’t even think about freezing it again at home.
My next statement may be controversial, but let me tell you why I do it: I buy mostly wild-caught fish. I am concerned about over-fishing; I would like to see food and the fish be sustainable, but most fish and shrimp that are farm-raised are done so in countries where there is little to no inspection or standards, indeed; some are literally raised in sewerage. They are then treated in the muck with anti-fungals and insecticides that are illegal to use in the United States, Canada and a few other countries, but, despite the fact that they then contain levels of the poisons, they are allowed to be sold in your local markets. Until standards are raised and safety standards are consistent, I will continue to buy wild caught seafood, or farm-raised only in in the U.S. and Canada.

Are you worried about your fish being ‘fishy’? Lemon juice is a fish cook’s best friend.
Thaw your fillets in tepid water with a generous squirt of lemon juice. I prefer cod to any other fish for most dishes; it is the least fishy, but whiting and perch can be used, even flounder and you can do it for the halibut.(If you are allergic to lemon, vinegar can be used; apple cider is the best choice, wine or balsamic is you like the taste …and can afford it.)

Herbed and spiced fish with pasta...easy!

Herbed and spiced fish with pasta…easy!

And I will leave you today with the easiest and most versatile recipe I have.

Thaw the fish filets in lemony water and drain. Press dry with paper towels,(or I have a big Little Mermaid beach towel that I use for the fish alone and wash with my kitchen towels.)

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper, if you wish, but with them or plain, brush it with olive, peanut or vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt,(preferably sea salt, but any will do.) Place the filets flat on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and herbs or spices, [combination suggestions listed below]. Sprinkle with more oil,(and more lemon juice if you’d like), and bake at 375F until well done,(may brown at edges), but not until the fish is rubbery. Serve with rice , pasta or potatoes, with salad or side vegetables.

Some spice or herbs good on fish can be as complex or simple as you’d like. It depends on your taste and if you’d like to serve the fish with seafood sauce or tartar sauce,(then use less herbs and spices). I find it doesn’t need either. There is no right or wrong, just your own personal taste.

Some toppings I use are :

Parsley,(which I usually add with most of the others listed below)
Dill weed
Italian spices (parsley, basil, marjoram, rosemary, all or mix&match)
Oregano
Dehydrated sweet pepper and tomato flakes
Garlic
Minced onion
Cracked pepper
Lemon peel\
Celery salt/celery seed
Tarragon
(mix or match any of the above)

Chipotle
Garam Masala (it is a bit sweet if you are unfamiliar with it, but it is interesting)
I hope you give these a try.

I will be back; I have more easy fish tricks up my sleeve which include Mahi-Mahi, Salmon, (canned and filets,;BBQ, Salad-Stuffed Tomatoes, Salmon Patties), Stuffed whole fish, Fish Tempura, Smelt, Codfish cakes, Seafood Pasta Salad, Tuna Salads, Creamed Tuna, non-dreadful Tuna Casserole, Twice-baked Potatoes with Shrimp , Oyster Stew, Adriatic Fish,  Cajun Fried Fish, Lemon–Pepper Fish…I’ll think of more.

Anything sound interesting? Any requests or questions? Leave a message…(don’t wait for a tone…just Tonette!)

Refried Beans/Layered Bean Dip/Tortilla Roll-ups

Here is a quick and easy, but impressive and substantial dish. This is easy to make, you can make it ahead and it is an impressive contribution when joining with others to watch a game or to take to any gathering…or to serve at home game for or movie night.
It is gluten-free and can be made fat-free and dairy-free or vegan, (if made without sour cream; vegan ‘sour cream’ can be substituted, if desired. Check the labels to be certain no traces of gluten are included in the beans, or make your own; “You Know Beans” August Archive.)

Bean dip

Here is how I made it for the Superbowl,[with Crab Cheese Ball (December Archive), Hummus-stuffed olives and Tortilla Roll ups],but you can make this in any plate or shallow bowl. (Once I made it into the shape of a Christmas tree, used sour cream as ‘garland’ and ‘hung’ olives and  jalapeño peppers on it.)

 

This can be made as mild, (the way I like it), to very hot, depending on the ‘heat’ if your salsa and the option of additional jalapeño peppers. Without knowing that your guests like it hot, better to err on the side of caution and make it mild. You can place extra jalapeños on 1/3 to ½ of the dip.

You can make your own refried beans or use canned. You can make your own Black beans,(“You Know Beans” August Archive), or you can open a can of those, too. Simple, right?

Layered Bean Dip

1 Large can of Refried Beans (Frijoles Refritos) plus 1-2 tsp. chili powder
Mix these together in a bowl and set aside.
In another bowl, add:

1 regular can of Black beans (Frijoles Negro), plus  2 tsp. lime juice
(slightly mash the Black beans with a fork , a wooden spoon or a potato masher, but keep them chunky; add the lime juice

¾ cup red salsa or picanté sauce (mild-to-medium)
½ cup green chili salsa,(mild)
½ cup sour cream or vegan substitute (if desired)
optional: chopped black olives or jalapeños

Spread the Refried bean mixture to about ¾ inch thick. Spread the Black bean mixture on top, leaving about ¾- one-inch of the Refried beans showing.
Top the Black bean mixture with the red salsa, again, leaving a ¾-one-inch border and do the same with the green salsa. (If using, now spread lines of sour cream or substitute).

Take a spatula or wide, flat spoon and insert all the way down from the middle of the dip and . without lifting it, cut a curve toward the outside. OR, take a Tablespoon and push it down into the dip and do a half-twist. Repeat this about an inch or more apart throughout the dip. This will slightly mix the layers and flavors. If desired, garnish with the olives and/or jalapeño slices. Chill; serve.

Refried Beans (My mother-in law’s recipe)

1 pound of pinto beans, cooked (see “You Know Beans” August Archive) reserve some of the liquid,
(or used canned, cooked pinto beans)
Mash with potato masher or food processor until the desired texture is reached…some like their frijoles smooth, others, quite chunky.

Then add:
1/8-1/4 cup minced onion
1 Tbsp. (or more) crushed,(or minced) fresh garlic
½ tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
OPTIONAL:1 Tbsp. bacon grease or vegetable oil ( I have found that it is really better with a little oil, but omit for ‘fat-free’;. If using olive oil, do not use ‘extra virgin’; it is too fruity and the flavors will be in conflict.)

Place in a heavy pot and simmer for at least ½ hour, stirring occasionally to keep the beans from sticking. Add reserved liquid,(or a little water), if the beans are too thick to stir. Cool and use for the recipe above, other recipes, (upcoming), or topped with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, jalapeños, mild cooked peppers, onions, &/or salsa.

[The Tortilla Roll-ups are known at our house as “Superbowl Food”. My sons and I saw these ridiculously easy finger foods demonstrated at our local grocery store just before one Superbowl many  moons ago.We have had them ever since and everyone loves them…and they are no effort!]

Tortilla Roll-ups

1/2 cup Neufchatel (light cream cheese) or silken tofu,

one 1/8 cup salsa or picanté sauce,(mild-medium)

Approx. 4 large flour tortillas or  6 small ones

Mix the cheese and salsa; spread fairly thinly on the tortillas.Roll the tortillas and slice about 1 1/2 inches thick. That’s it.

Any questions?