Tuesday, August 28, 2012

SHH - Wild Salmon Part 2 - Alaskan Halibut

I'm not gonna lie, this halibut meal was delicious... but it was expeeeeeensive. We had a salmon meal recently that our dog got plenty of, so it's not more expensive than throwing food away. My husband, who is not a picky eater at all really doesn't like salmon, no matter what you do to it. And the best salmon I have had was not that great. I might like it if it were prepared by Gordon Ramsey, but it's not going to wow me when prepared by Applebee's. And, if I'm ever served by Gordon Ramsey, I've got my heart set on the Beef Wellington they always have on Hell's Kitchen.

I may or may not blog about our epic fail salmon meal. I'm still under the impression I can somehow make salmon delicious. But, this halibut meal was amazing. We really are trying to do the right thing and eat a few good meals a week at least. The book lists Alaskan Halibut as a "sidekick" to salmon, so off I went to my fish monger. We are in quite a landlocked state in middle America. But, we do have an exceptional fish market. I asked him how much a portion should be, like what you would get in a restaurant. He told me ten to twelve ounces per person. I think that's on the high side, but I didn't want one of those limp thin strips like you get of tilapia. Next time I think I'll get about six or seven ounces per person. That would be plenty. The filets he cut for me were ten ounces and at least an inch and a half thick, and I had him take the skin off. It came to $26 with tax. OUCH!

Once I was home, I checked the internet to see how to cook it. Oh, the pressure of cooking $26 worth of food. And I've always been nervous about cooking fish. Turns out this was one of the easiest things I've prepared. Back to the internet, though, I have to say, one person said "fifteen minutes in 375 degree oven" and another person said "an hour and a half in a 350 degree oven". Jeez, that's a giant window of potential error. I guess it depends on the thickness, but I realized I was going to have to wing it and pray to the fish gods. The following is a pictorial on just how simple this was...

You need halibut filets, parchment paper, seasoning (I used Louisiana Fish Fry Products' Cajun Seasoning. You can use Old Bay or Emeril's Essence, or any other seasoning you like), pats of butter, lemon slices, rosemary sprigs.

One at a time, place a halibut filet on a piece of parchment paper in a baking dish. (The baking dish is necessary for easy cleanup later. This won't leak much, but it does a little.)

Season it well with your favorite fish seasoning. 

Lay pats of butter on top, or you could be healthier and drizzle EVOO. I might try melting the butter next time and see if it makes a difference. 

Lay lemon slices over. Like little owl eyes. Yes, I'm silly. 

Add a sprig of rosemary. Or thyme. Or the whole Scarborough Fair song. 

Roll it to seal the sides, then fold the ends under. Repeat the process with more filets.  Place the baking dish in a 375 degree oven. This size took about 30 minutes to cook. 

Open your prezzies. They should be white and flaky. You can poke the side of them in the middle with a fork and tell if it's going to flake. These were perfect. 

I served this with an arugula and parmesan salad with my favorite lemon vinaigrette and rosemary roasted potatoes. Oh, and wine. Must have wine. If you want the dressing recipe, you can find it here

Saturday, August 25, 2012

SHH - Oranges Part 2 - Tangerines

I'm embarrassed to say that until recently, I thought Clementines were just a small variety of orange. Nope. They are tangerines. And here I thought I was smarter than a fifth-grader. Anyway, they are still in the family of oranges and they are pretty tasty. I won't post a video of me singing "Oh my darlin'..." to them. But, I do have a certain fondness for the little cuties.

They are pretty yummy just to eat as a snack. After I peel one to eat, I put the peel in the pitcher of our Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker and let it lightly flavor the tea. You can strain it out when pouring. It's pretty delicious.

As I was surfing the internet, I came across Nigella Lawson's recipe for Clementine Cake. Well, I love Nigella and this cake sounded delicious and easy. It's so easy, if you can use a food processor, you can make it. (Note: there's a little toggle button on this website that lets you switch from metric measurements to imperial. Wish I'd seen that before I did all the Googling for conversions. I'm not the most observant sometimes.) Oh, and 190 degrees C is 375 degrees fahrenheit.

Nigella had already made this pretty healthy, using no flour and using ground almonds instead. I used her recipe exactly as she wrote it, but I added a shot of Triple Sec (wishing I had Grand Marnier, but oh well). Not for health's sake. Just because I had it and I wanted to throw it in.

Here are my little Clementines after they've been boiled and cut to remove the little stem part. Nigella said to remove "the pips". I had to look that up. Apparently it's the seed, but mine didn't have any seeds.

Nigella didn't say what size springform pan to use, so I transferred the batter to my Pyrex bowl to see how much there was of it. It was 5 1/2 Cups.  Then I realized that didn't help because my springform pans weren't marked for volume. Oh well. 

I used a 9" springform and it worked perfectly. Isn't that the prettiest batter you've ever seen? I didn't know whether to bake it or paint my walls with it! 

Must wait to dig in. Must wait to dig in. Must wait to dig in. 

The resulting cake is very simple, very dense, so much moister than you'd expect. As Nigella said, it's even better the next day.  I had some with my dark roast coffee for breakfast the next morning. 
This cake will stay moist as long as you have it. It never loses moisture. You can wrap in foil or a ziploc baggie and leave on the counter for a few days. If you're going to have it around longer than four days, put it in the fridge to keep it from getting moldy.

Finally, we need a little Tangerine music, don't we? Who knew there were so many songs about Tangerines?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

SHH - Quinoa

In the SuperFoods Rx book, quinoa is a "Sidekick" to Oats. I've had quinoa before, but it was in the form of pasta. I wanted to try actual quinoa and see what I could do with it.

I bought this box at Wal-Mart, so it should be relatively easy to find now.

I'm going to say up front, I didn't love it. At least not plain quinoa. You cook it and use it similarly to rice. A friend told me they commonly eat it for breakfast in Bolivia.

To prepare it, I rinsed it, even though the box said "no rinsing". Someone on the internet said they always rinse, and if it's on the internet, it must be a good idea, right?

First, I took about a tablespoon of quinoa and toasted it, then added butter. I got this idea from something I saw on "Sweet Genius". Their mandatory ingredient was quinoa and one of the contestants used toasted quinoa atop a cupcake. This was nice, crunchy, nutty with a little "brown butter" flavor, although I didn't purposely brown the butter. Nice garnish. A little "seedy".

Next, I cooked some quinoa according to the box instructions. It had a mild, but not particularly pleasant, earthy flavor. I added brown sugar, cinnamon, and honey. But, while there is not a lot of flavor to this, there is a hint of a vegetable-like flavor that can't be covered up with the brown sugar and honey. Well, maybe if I'd kept adding, but I felt like I was already using too much.

Here's what the cooked, undoctored quinoa looks like. You are supposed to see those little white rings in it when it's done.

The "doctored" quinoa with brown sugar, cinnamon, and honey. 

But, then I had the most wonderful brainstorm. Shrimp and grits! Decadent, homey, Southern shrimp and grits. I had some cooked quinoa leftover (that's the toasted quinoa on top).

I sauteed some chopped garlic with some butter in a big pot. I took about half the quinoa and added it to the garlic and butter, then used my immersion blender to make this sort of creamy. Then I added the rest of the cooked quinoa, some heavy cream, some sharp cheddar, a little Velveeta for creaminess, lots of Louisiana Cajun seasoning, lots of cayenne pepper, some black pepper, some garlic powder and Tabasco. I added each of these until I got the heat right for me, knowing my hubby would add even more. Then, I quickly cooked up some shrimp (about a half pound for two people, maybe about eight medium sized shrimp each).

Creamy, cheesy, garlic, and hot. Mmmmm comfort food. 

This is a big cereal bowl. We got stuffed on what appeared a small portion and fed a couple of our shrimp to our grateful little doxy. 
I'm sorry for the lack of measurements in this recipe. I was cooking while HUNGRY! For the next quinoa experiment, I may tried a fried rice recipe. The texture reminds me of fried rice.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Smokie's BBQ in Broken Arrow

Well, folks, this is my new favorite place. My parents live out past this joint and watched every day for months waiting for it to open. Smokie's teased us by putting the sign out front back in March. Then they had people working there almost every day getting it ready until they finally opened in late July. Every time I'd drive by there on my way to visit my parents, I'd say my little mantra "Open, open OPEN".  Anyway, they finally got everything just the way they wanted it and opened their doors.

When you walk in, you will be greeted by a sweet smell of smoke and the warm, friendly owners. The owners here might be the most genuine and earnest people in the restaurant business right now. Eager to please, eager to hear feedback, and so good-natured. It's clear they aren't experimenting or testing things out, though. They honed their smoking skills well before opening because they are proving to be consistent... which is the hardest thing about serving barbecue.

You will not go wrong with anything you order here. But, just in case you can't decide... and I just love this... they have a "Two meat plate" that includes 2 ribs on top of your two meats. Ha! So, I can daintily order a two meat plate and get three meats? They just get me. Anyway, I've now had their ribs, sliced brisket, pulled pork, and hot links. And since they were all good, I might need them to add a four meat plate.

Here's the menu...
I cut off the smoked meat selections. They have Brisket (Chopped or Sliced), Pork, Ribs, Bologna, Sausage, Hot Links and sometimes they will have chicken as the special of the day. 

Now, a word about each of the meats. I'll start with the ribs. These are the best ribs I've had in the Tulsa area and perhaps further out. They don't fall off the bone, but are very tender and come clean off the bone when you eat them. They are not fatty or chewy. They have a nice pink color to them to prove they've been smoked long enough. They have a flavorful rub. Before I forget to mention it, Smokie's has a sweet choice of barbecue sauces. They don't make their own. Instead, they have bottles of Oklahoma-made Head Country, Ranger Creek, Sa-mokin', and Hot at the table. I like mixing and matching. The ribs go really well with the Sa-mokin' sauce, which is on the sweet side. Next, the hot links. These impressed me because I immediately knew they made their own, and owner Aaron Latsos confirmed this. The flavor is sort of breakfast-sausage-y, but with more heat. I liked these with the Sa-mokin' sauce as well, because the heat and the sweet played off of each other so nicely. This might be the best bite of food I've had in quite awhile. On to the brisket. Here was something that surprised me. I tend to like a thick slice of brisket, but theirs is sort of shaved. It's very lean... leaner than I usually like, but still tender and just sort of flakes apart on the fork. I like the Head Country sauce on the brisket because the tanginess works well with beef. But, I alternated with the Ranger Creek because I was having trouble deciding. Finally, the pork. I kind of expected it to be "pulled pork", but this was sort of thin slices like the brisket. The pork had a deep pink smoke ring and was well-seasoned, which gave it sort of a hammy flavor, but not a hammy texture. That's a win in my opinion. The pork went well with all the sauces.

I contend that people will drive anywhere for good 'cue. Unlike other cuisines, barbecue just tastes better after a little drive. And BBQ snobs never like meats smoked inside city limits. So, yes, this is way out east, but it's well worth it. Aaron's dad, also an owner, told us he wanted Smokie's to become a destination spot. They are building out a deck on back and want to have music. Plus, he did all their artwork, including the juke-box front door and the mural of Broken Arrow businesses on the wall inside. I hope this place becomes the destination spot they dream of and that it brings people out for years to come.

Two Meat Plate with Ribs, sliced brisket (peeking out from under the ribs) and hot links. The beans are a family recipe, thick with added meat and very onion-y. The fries are freshly fried and well-seasoned. 

Really yummy onion rings! 

Hubby had a brisket sandwich and cole slaw. He loved their slaw! 

The juke-box styled screen door welcomes you. 

Smokie's BBQ on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 2, 2012

SHH - SuperFoods Rx Part 1: More Tomatoes & Lycopene

It's been HOT here. Last night at 11pm, it was still 100 degrees outside. It's been too hot to think about cooking. But, I'm still playing with making tomatoes as delicious as they can be.

First, I made this beautiful and delicious salad. Yeah, I said delicious salad. There was a time when I wouldn't eat anything containing the word "salad". No pasta salad, no tuna salad, no egg salad, no jello salad, no anything salad. Salad was how you ruined pasta and tuna and eggs and jello. Well, jello didn't have much of a chance in the first place, did it?

Anyway, I realized one day that all of the traditional salads I'd tried had started with iceberg or romaine or some other lettuce that had those thick veiny stalks in them. So many people told me lettuce didn't have flavor, but I could taste it, and didn't like it. But, one day, I realized something. I loved small leafy things that were called fresh herbs. I didn't hate all things green. I might never like "lettuce", but surely I could eat a single leaf if I had to, right? So I started trying things like baby spinach, which I found I really like. And arugula and other baby greens. So, after almost forty years of life, I found I actually like salads (well, some of them). Here's one I really loved!

First, the SuperFoods Rx book had a really delicious idea that helped me get past that other issue I had with fresh tomatoes. It suggests as a snack, simply roasting cherry tomatoes with EVOO and salt and pepper in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes. I did that and used as a garnish for the salad. I also made a fantastic and simple lemon vinaigrette that I highly recommend.

See how pretty! It's just baby spinach with roasted cherub tomatoes and a little grated cheese and a lemon vinaigrette dressing (recipe to follow). 

If you can find this cheese - BellaVitano Gold by Sartori, I highly recommend it. This is what I grated over our salads. It has a flavor like parmigiano reggiano, but is creamier like a white cheddar. Otherwise, parm is a good choice.
The lemon vinaigrette was so simple. Just add these ingredients to a jar with a lid and shake them all together. Use the same day.

1/2 Cup EVOO
The juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp Dijon
Fresh thyme
pinch black pepper
lemon zest to your taste preference
two cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar (optional)

I was making this earlier in the day, so I kind of smashed the garlic cloves and took the skin off, but didn't bother dicing it. I also left the thyme on the stems and put several pieces in. I shook everything together in the jar and served after the garlic and thyme had time to impart flavors. It was easy to pour out just the dressing, leaving behind the used thyme and garlic cloves.
It just felt right to use a jam jar for this homey and simple recipe. 
Another hot day, I felt in the mood for a BLT. In my whole life, I've never eaten a true BLT because... you guessed it... I don't like the "L" or the "T". So, for my very special and lycopene-rich BLT, I made a sandwich using sun-dried tomatoes and baby spinach for my "T and L". I'm currently experimenting down the bread aisle for major-brand-healthy-but-still-tasty breads. What I used for this sandwich was Oroweat Health-Full Nutty Grain. (I never noticed the Oroweat brand doesn't have an "h" in it until now. How weird.) Oh, and this was supposed to have homemade mayo on it, but I couldn't get it to emulsify, so once I master that, I'll share the secret. The internet said it would be easy. The internet lies sometimes. Also note, there are FOUR slices of bacon on my sandwich, because this was dinner, not lunch. And I buttered that bread with Smart Balance spread, 'cause I like it that way. 

I'm particularly fond of Neuske's bacon, but have to order it. This isn't anywhere near Nueske's, but it's a nice thick sliced Applewood smoked that was readily available at the store. My second favorite is Boar's Head bacon, but that requires a trip to a specialty store. 

Finally, on my little lycopene trip, I decided to mix it up. Yes, tomatoes are the richest in lycopene, but the book also says you can get lycopene from pink grapefruit. I found suggestions on the internet for sprinkling brown sugar over grapefruit halves and broiling them. I've never really liked grapefruit, but I love brown sugar. This seemed like something that could work. I should note that my "sprinkling" of brown sugar was more like "packing it on". I then sprinkled a bit of cinnamon. Broiled for 5 - 7 minutes. 

As they are broiling.

This really wasn't bad. In fact, I actually liked it. Did you know there's such a thing as a grapefruit knife? I didn't. 

At the end of another hot day, I thanked my lucky stars for air conditioning and drank a glass of red wine. It's never too hot for wine.
This VistaMar "Brisa" Cabernet was crazy cheap and actually delicious.  A medium body and great flavor.